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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

First National Retreat for Families of Missing Persons
To Help Families Cope With Unique Loss

“Keys to Healing” Retreat June 12-14 sponsored by nonprofit Project Jason to teach families methods for dealing with trauma, “living in the not knowing.”

Omaha, Nebraska – (May 2009) – Project Jason, a nonprofit that assists families of missing persons, announced the first national retreat ever to focus specifically on the wellbeing of family members who are searching for their lost loved ones. “Keys to Healing: Mind, Body, and Spirit” will take place June 12-14 at the Swanson Center at Camp Carol Joy Holling near Omaha in Ashland, Nebraska.

“There are resources that teach families of the missing the mechanics of what to do when someone disappears,” said Kelly Jolkowski, president and founder of Project Jason. “Until now, there were no opportunities for family members of both missing children and adults to focus on the emotional and physical trauma that understandably accompanies such an ordeal. We want the families who attend Keys to Healing to walk away with better coping skills, self-understanding and renewed hope.”

The retreat is open to family members of missing persons whose cases are listed with law enforcement agencies in North America. Sessions will be conducted by professional instructors, including a licensed counselor, personal trainer, dietician, missing person advocate, massage therapist, and a minister of faith. Attendees will learn how long term trauma affects the body, how to address that trauma, and how to recognize and handle emotions such as guilt, fear and anger that come into play. There will also be a session designed to answer the question of “How do I go on?”

Featured speakers:

Duane T. Bowers, LPC, is the nation’s foremost traumatic loss therapist and educator. Among his many services to families dealing with grief is providing support to families of abducted, missing, exploited and murdered children through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and to families of missing persons of any age through Project Jason’s Healing Harbor. Bowers is the author of “Guiding Your Family Through Loss and Grief” and “A Child is Missing: Providing Support for Families of Missing Children.”

Richard J. Hauser, S.J., is a professor of theology at Creighton University, a nationally-renowned speaker, and author of numerous books, including “In His Spirit: A Guide to Today’s Spirituality” and “Finding God in Troubled Times,” in which Hauser offers meaningful answers to all those who have found their faith challenged by difficult experiences.

For more information about “Keys to Healing: Mind, Body, and Spirit”
Project Jason Retreat 2009, go to http://www.projectjason.org/retreat.html

**Media attendance at the retreat, and interviews with Project Jason representatives and families, are accommodated upon request.

About Project Jason

Project Jason, founded in 2003, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting the families of missing persons, and creating and increasing public awareness of missing people through a variety of outreach and educational activities. Project Jason brings hope and assistance to families of the missing by providing resources and support. The organization is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

For more information about Project Jason’s objectives, activities and services, go to http://www.projectjason.org

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Amidst all the hoopla of recently passed legislation, Congressman Nick Lampson previously sought amendment  H. 160  of  the DHS Authorization bill H.R. 1684 to assist in recovery of missing children in cold cases. It would solicit additional assistance from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.

Amendment authorizes the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to assist the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in conducting reviews of inactive case files. Proposed: May 9, 2007. Accepted: May 9, 2007.

An amendment numbered 20 printed in House Report 110-136 to allow an Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to authorize his or her staff to provide assistance on and conduct reviews of the inactive case files, or `cold cases’ involving children or offenders outside the US, stored at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and to develop recommendations for further investigations.

Was it just political or will it help in finding:

Jason Jolkowski

Trenton Duckett

Bryan DosSantos-Gomes

Edwin Sanchez Gonzalez

or any of the other 2447 missing children listed at the NCMEC?

Related Posts: Missing persons connecting the dots

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Should police be required to collect DNA evidence for people who are missing as well as from unidentified bodies and put them in a national database for possible matches? They already encourage parents to keep DNA from their children as a preventive measure should they go missing.

Several states would like to establish:

  • criteria for police to determine whether an adult is a ‘‘high risk missing person”
  • require police to provide family with contact information for missing-persons organizations
  • collect DNA evidence for anyone missing more than 30 days

The model legislation suggested by the Justice Department has been adopted in some form in Washington, Colorado and the District of Columbia, said Kelly Jolkowski, founder and president of Nebraska-based Project Jason, a group that helps families.

Jolkowski said a key of the proposed legislation is the DNA procedures, which would allow law enforcement with a missing person in one jurisdiction to link the case to an unidentified body in another place.

Currently, she said, many states allow unidentified bodies to be buried or cremated without ever obtaining DNA that could be used to identify them later. The bills would prevent unidentified bodies from being cremated.

“This is about connecting the dots,” Jolkowski said. “There’s an average of about 105,000 open missing-persons cases at any one time, and there’s an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 unidentified remains. Who knows how many other bodies out there have been buried or cremated without identification, with families somewhere without knowledge of what happened.”

Please click here to view a PDF of model legislation.

The following are a couple cases where the families are trying to connect the dots.

The family of a missing 61-year-old Corpus Christi man will be the first to have DNA samples collected in an effort to identify recently discovered human remains, police said….

If the Salas family is not a match, investigators will begin collecting samples from about six other families who reported a missing person.

Daughter holds hope in search for missing mom

It’s been half a century since Elizabeth Fern Rathjen, a patient at the Stockton Mental Hospital, wandered off the grounds and was never heard from again. But her daughter has never stopped searching.Joyce Tafoya, now 62, thought she’d hit pay dirt, literally, when human remains were uncovered in late 2005 at the site of the hospital, which closed in 1996. A burial site with as many as 30 bodies was discovered during the early stages of construction of a California State University satellite campus now located there.

In this ABC News article from May 2005, the Justice Department was supposed to be spending millions of dollars to expand the use of DNA technology. Why would they not support legislation to take DNA from missing persons as outlined above? The NCMEC recommends it for missing children so why not missing adults.

Brooke Wilberger, a 19-year-old college student, was last seen in May 2004 at an apartment complex near Oregon State University.

Wilberger is one of more than 100,000 people the government lists as missing. Police say the people may have disappeared for personal reasons or were the victims of accidents or crimes where little evidence was left behind.

Should her remains be found, would DNA not be valuable in identifying her?

Her body has never been found, but Joel Patrick Courtney, 39, was indicted in August on 19 counts, including aggravated murder, kidnapping, sodomy, rape and sexual abuse in connection with Wilberger’s disappearance.

The FBI believes there may be victims in the following areas:

Albuquerque, N.M.
Anchorage, Alaska
Beaverton, Ore.
Bernalillo, N.M.
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Grants, N.M.
Pensacola, Fla.
Portland, Ore.
Rio Rancho, N.M.

Update 12-08-07   Missing ‘runaway’ found 8 years later  

Three-quarters of unidentified bodies in U.S. morgues and cemeteries come from just four states, and Arizona is one of them. There were 569 collected in Arizona from 1980 to 2004, according to federal statistics

Update 09-22-09: Family, friends express relief Wilberger’s body is finally found

Brooke Wilberger’s memory has faded on the BYU campus, but former roommates of the BYU sophomore who vanished five years ago in Corvallis, Ore., embraced with a sense of release Monday the news that her body had been found.

“It has felt like an eternity to every person involved in this,” said Brittany Bennion, one of Wilberger’s Deseret Towers roommates. “I’m happy that there is closure and I’m happy that they found her body. I know that this is what Brooke’s family was hoping for.”

The search for Wilberger, who disappeared from an apartment building near the Oregon State University campus in May 2004 shortly after finishing her freshman year at BYU, ended Monday when a man pleaded guilty to her murder after leading police to her body near the rugged Oregon coast.

Defendant Joel Courtney’s confession concluded one of the most publicized murder investigations in Oregon history.

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