Cleveland case sparks hope for families of missing Hoosiers
Three Cleveland women found alive after disappearing years ago is sparking new hope and interest in some of Indiana's most vexing missing persons cases.
The women had been missing almost five times longer than IU student Lauren Spierer, who disappeared nearly two years ago. Although her parents accept that Lauren is likely no longer alive, Charlene Spierer texted Tuesday, "Everyday we hope someone will come forward. Everyday we hope for answers. Today is no different. Just as determined."
Late Tuesday, Spierer's father, Robert, also sent Eyewitness News a text message regarding the Cleveland case.
"We are happy for the families of the young women found in Cleveland and admire their strength and courage," he wrote.
Molly Dattilo, a 22-year-old IUPUI student, vanished from Indianapolis almost nine years ago. Eyewitness News spoke with her sister in Terre Haute Tuesday.
"I really don't think she is alive, but you always have to hope," said Celestra Dattilo Hoffman.
For years, the family has labored to make sure Molly isn't forgotten, that justice is served on her abductor and, like in, Cleveland there are answers.
"Whenever you hear these stories you hope it will finally solve your mystery, missing persons case," Hoffman explained.
We asked Thorntown Town Marshal Russ Voils, "Do you have more hope now?"
"Yes, I do," Voils replied.
He's one of two full-time police officers in a small community that's home to one of Indiana's longest and most frightening missing persons mysteries.
It's been more than 26 years since six-year-old Shannon Sherrill vanished while playing near her home. The girls remains were never found. Police never found any physical evidence of a crime and the community has never forgotten.
Beth Height owns a small store on Main Street. She says hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't ask about Shannon.
"To find her alive, like the girls they found yesterday is just...it's beyond hope. But I think there is a chance. There's always a chance," she explained.
Voils, who is new to the job but grew up in Boone County, frequently reviews the case file, talks with state police and other investigators, and thinks of Shannon everyday. Pictures of her then and how she might look now are on his bulletin board.
"The case is not dead. It's a cold case, it's not unsolvable," he insisted.
Indianapolis police investigate about 6,000 missing persons reports every year. Most are runaways or involve children taken by a non-custodial parent. There are, however about 35 long-standing unsolved cases. When detectives retire or transfer, the investigations are passed to newer detectives, with the hope of finding that person, or at the very least answers for their families.