http://detnews.com/article/20090818/METRO/908180372/1409/METRO/Families-of-missing-kids-struggle-for-hopeLoved ones wait, wonder
Families of missing kids struggle for hope
George Hunter and Christine Ferretti / The Detroit News
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Canton Township --
Lucy Larrow has stopped praying for her daughter to come home.
"I buried her," Larrow said of the child she hasn't seen in 28 years.
On the afternoon of June 8, 1981, 15-year-old Kim Larrow left her Canton Township home to visit a friend. She's been missing ever since.
"For years, I kept hoping she'd show up, but after about 15 years, I gave up and stopped thinking of her as being alive," Lucy Larrow said. "It's easier now to some degree."
Most missing children eventually return home safely. Others, including 5-year-old murder victim Nevaeh Buchanan, meet a grislier fate.
But for some families of missing children, the news, good or bad, never comes.
"I think that has to be the hardest part -- not knowing one way or the other what happened," Larrow said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children lists 39 open cases in Michigan, 13 from Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties. Four Metro Detroit children were listed as runaways, while three were abducted by family members.
That leaves six Metro Detroit families grasping for answers.
"It's like those families of Vietnam vets who are missing in action: Some give up hope, and others still believe they're alive. But there's no way to know for sure," said attorney Shawn Patrick Smith, who represents Nilufa Begum, the mother of Tangena Hussain. Tangena was 2 years old when she disappeared from a Detroit gas station in October.
Despite the lack of progress in that case, Begum holds out hope that her daughter is alive, Smith said -- although he said she was so haunted by the case that she recently moved back to her native Bangladesh.
"She had to get away," Smith said of Begum. "It was killing her to be around here, where there are constant reminders of Tangena. Being in the same apartment where Tangena used to play, and being constantly reminded of her -- it became too much. She was severely depressed, so going back to Bangladesh was probably the best thing for her right now."
'At least she's home now'
Jennifer Buchanan knows how Begum feels. Her daughter, Nevaeh, was missing for two weeks before her body was found June 4 buried in a shallow grave on the bank of the River Raisin.
"When the police found her, it was obviously tough," Buchanan said. "But it was even harder when I didn't know where she was: whether someone was hurting her, or if she was scared. So after they found her, there was a little bit of closure, even though the killers still haven't been found.
"At least now I know where she's at, and I know nobody can hurt her. I'd have rather she come home alive than dead, but at least she's home now. She's in heaven."
Buchanan said her plight is worsened because people have suggested she knows more than she's telling about her daughter's disappearance and murder.
Dwanna Jackson knows what Buchanan is going through.
Jackson also heard from people who suspected she wasn't telling the truth after her son, D'Wan Sims, disappeared from Wonderland Mall in Livonia on Dec. 11, 1994. She said the years since then have been "very tough."
"You've got to try to stay positive," said Jackson, 40, who moved to Durham, N.C., last year. "Everyone was convinced I had something to do with (her son's disappearance), and that makes it a little bit harder than it already is."
Unlike Larrow, Jackson holds out hope that her son will return home safely.
"I haven't given up," she said. "When it's time for him to come back home, he'll come home. If he was deceased, I think someone would have found a body by now. I feel someone has him and is taking good care of him.
"When D'Wan finds me, everything will be all right. I still have family in Detroit, and when he does come home, they'll be waiting with open arms."
A constant reminder
Jackson said she keeps photos of D'Wan on her bathroom mirror and on her car's dashboard.
"I look at his face when I brush my teeth every morning, and whenever I get into my car," she said. "He's everywhere."
Although Lucy Larrow has given up hope that Kim will return home, other relatives continue to pray she's alive.
Although things have slowed in recent months after Kim Larrow's case was turned over to a new detective, Robert Cooper doesn't regret the two years he's dedicated to finding his missing cousin.
Cooper, 47, of Milan pressed cops to re-energize the search and put up a $2,000 reward for credible tips.
"It's a lot of elations and then big letdowns, but it's worth it," said Cooper, a former Toledo police officer.
"It's the voice for Kim. No matter how frustrating it gets, no matter how sad it gets or happy, the bottom line is, it's worth everything and every effort."
Cooper had advice for others who are agonizing over a missing child.
"I encourage them to keep fighting on," he said. "I have not given up hope."