http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20130323/ARTICLES/130329837/1177?p=1&tc=pgFamilies, friends remember missing loved ones at annual vigil
By Wayne Faulkner
Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 11:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 11:10 p.m.
Katie Towner's cousin, Brian Sullivan, disappeared July 8, 2007, from Gates, N.Y.
“He's been gone over five years,” Towner said Saturday night as she sat in the chilly twilight along the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington.
“They have some leads they are working on, but we're not close to bringing him home. We're without answers,” said Towner, of Rochester, N.Y.
She wasn't alone Saturday night, as 200 to 250 people gathered for the CUE Center for Missing Persons' 18th annual national candlelight vigil.
The center helps to find the missing and works with law enforcement and other organizations across the country. It is now working on 1,600 cases.
The center also has coordinators in 18 states and hopes to have a representative in every state within three years, said founder Monica Caison .
The public vigil was held as part of the center's ninth annual missing persons conference, which ends Sunday.
Members of the crowd, bundled against the cold, spoke softly Saturday night, waiting for the ceremony to begin.
It was Dylan LaMadrid's first visit to the CUE conference and now she's the center's state coordinator for California. “I volunteer for CUE Center and for other search and rescue organizations,” she said.
She's seeking former partner Kathy LaMadrid
, who disappeared Dec. 17, 2004, from Fort Bragg, Calif.
“It's a big deal for me to be here tonight,” LaMadrid said. “Kathy is a new CUE case.
“It took me many years to find this non-profit. They are actually going to come out to do a search for her using cadaver dogs.”
Dylan still hopes to find Kathy. “It's coming soon,” she said. “It's not going to be a good outcome, but we'll get closure for her family.”
The vigil brought together not only those who have family members and friends who were or still are missing, but a whole fraternity of law enforcement officials, first responders, and search and rescue groups who gathered to support the center.
Some of those received “Keeper of the Flame” awards.
Twenty-one members of the Wilmington Fire Department were honored for their work last April in recovering Marine Lance Cpl. John J. Pruitt, who fell into the Cape Fear River and drowned.
The Floyd County, Ga., Sheriff's Posse also was recognized.
The group got involved in search and rescue about eight years ago, starting with “three or four guys on horses,” Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said.
That's now grown to about 100 people with the added power of motorcycles, boats and helicopters to help in their work.
“We look for missing people. We respond to airplane crashes,” Burkhalter said. “Just last week we had tornadoes in the area. We activated the posse to help in search and rescue and bring water and food.”
The vigil meant many things to many people, but it meant support to Towner.
“It's for myself,” Towner said, “but it's nice to be here with other people who are going through the same thing. I hope to bring my cousin home,” she said, “but also to help other people at the same time.”
It meant strength to Patricia Baker.
Her son, Travis Lee Baker, disappeared in Catawba County, N.C., in 2007 and his body was recovered in 2009.
“We come back every year to support everyone else,” Baker said. “It's our fifth year.
It just makes you stronger,” she said, choking back tears, “to know that they know what we went through and how we feel.”