Posts Tagged Monica Caison

The Legacy of Leah Toby Roberts and the  “On the Road to Remember Tour“ with the CUE Center for Missing Persons 2014 

 

“There are no good-byes, wherever we are, you’ll always be in my heart”. Anonymous

GONE MISSING at age 23! Leah was an adventurous young woman from Durham, North Carolina who was inspired and grieving. If this combination was flirting with disaster only Leah, her perpetrator(s), and perhaps the well honed experience of Monica Caison, Founder of the Community United Effort (CUE) Center for the Missing would know in their heart of hearts.

Leah Roberts, Road to Remember Tour honoree, CUE Center for Missing Persons

Leah Roberts

Leah Roberts’ story is not a story in the sense of entertainment, rather, it is a true account with certain known facts, but also shrouded in mystery, possibilities, hypotheses, innuendo and lots of unsubstantiated speculation. The fact that CUE Center volunteers decided to “form a caravan”  on a grueling 14-day trip to retrace Leah’s route and inform the media of all those who were missing while performing this search, is the heart and soul of the “On Road to Remember Tour” and the reason for this blog.

What is the Road to Remember Tour?  In the Words of Monica Caison:

 “On the Road to Remember, National tour ” is an awareness campaign focusing on missing persons cases that have gone cold or have not received appropriate media coverage on the local level – much less the national level.. The tour, which travels through many states annually, provides that attention. Each year particular regions of the country are selected with “more interest growing “along the way. 

In all cases of missing people, it is vital to inform the public of the missing person’s circumstances quickly and to disseminate that information to the media and the public. In most cases where details are released immediately to the public through an organized campaign, the public brings forth information that aids in the investigation and or the location of the victim. The media plays a significant role in getting the word out on the behalf of the missing person and should be recognized as a vital resource to any investigation.

Interest in many of the cases we have featured in previous tours has been renewed. The media have learned about local cases they were unaware of; case investigations have been renewed, and searches conducted. Information has resulted in new leads in some cases, and has even helped identify an unknown decedent and in 2008 solved a cold case of twenty-eight years. Finally, with each tour, some of the missing persons featured have been found through various efforts. This is the main reason the Cue Center conducts the tour despite the toll it takes on our all-volunteer staff.

It is the belief of the CUE Center for Missing Persons that all investigations, the public, volunteers and the media should work in collaboration on cases involving missing children and adults; until this happens, their will continue to be cases of the missing labeled “cold” or “inactive.”

WHAT IS A RALLY STOP?

A rally stop is a place that is pre set by anyone who wishes to host one for suggested missing person(s). Once a location is secured CUE will inform the host of time and date of arrival. Each stop is one hour and a half  long for whatever program the host wishes to have and feature;  this is the time to bring an awareness to your community of missing persons.

Returning to Leah Roberts:

Events and known facts will be listed here and  perhaps some of the “theories” if only for the purpose of creating legitimate leads, jogging memories or “growing a conscience;”

  • Vital Statistics: Caucasian Female; DOB – 7-23-1976; 5’ 6” 130 pounds; sandy blonde hair blue eyes;
  • Distinguishing Marks: Pierced ears, dimples, Surgical scar on right hip, metal rod- femur –secondary to  previous car accident
  • Habits- Lifestyle – Vegetarian, smoker, Fluent Spanish speaker, strong southern dialect;
  • Leah spent much time at Cup O’ Joe’s Coffee House
  • One person on-line had this to say about this spot on Hillsborough Street:  “Well, I spend my Saturday afternoons at Cup A Joe on Hillsborough Street. I sit in the back and smoke cigars and work on my laptop. To me, it’s comfortable and the coffee is strong and the cookies are good, but the clientele can be a little weird. They are interesting to look at, though.” (Driving distance from Durham to Hillsborough is 14 miles). This may have been the correct location;
  • Leah dabbled in poetry, and was influenced in outlook at that time in her life by poet, Author,  and Journalist, Jack Kerouac. His public persona and his talented works were a contradiction in terms.  His 1951 book ‘”On the Road” no doubt inspired Leah as she set out on her adventure to “find herself and her true calling in life after many losses.  (From Biography.com: “On the Road,” a barely fictionalized account of these road trips packed with sex, drugs and jazz. Kerouac’s writing of On the Road in 1951 is the stuff of legend: He wrote the entire novel over one three-week bender of frenzied composition, on a single scroll of paper that was 120 feet long.” Jack died in 1969 of alcoholism and an abdominal hemorrhage at age 47.)

 

When Last Seen:

  • Wearing several pieces of gold, diamond and gem  jewelry including 14 carat gold earrings, .3 caret ruby stones, 3 rings on her right hand, 14 caret white gold ring set with .45 carat emerald cut diamond with 2 .07 carat baguette diamonds. (Jewelry may have belonged to her deceased Mother)
  • Leah left college in Durham, North Carolina during her senior year –Year 2000;
  • She left on a cross-country trip on March 9, 2000 and arriving om the west coast in just three days;
  • Leah did not  share her specific plans (in true adventurous spirit), but did notify her roommate that she was not suicidal;
  • Her 1993 white  Jeep  Cherokee was found down an embankment wrecked without her as driver or passenger  ~ 90 miles north of Seattle; The jeep was located on a logging road in Whatcom  County, Washington (setting from a Kerouac novel) nine days after she left North Carolina;
  • Belongings found and identified: Cat Food, guitar, compact discs, checkbook , movie ticket stub, and $2,500 tucked in the pocket of a pair of pants, credit card and driver’s license,
  • Other Observations:  No cat was located or signs of foul play, blankets covered the broken windows (as cover from the elements “for someone”);
  • Reportedly she spent just $100.00 in eight days of travel;
  • Sightings: A witness supposedly observed Leah and called in a tip from at a Texaco gas Station. The man claimed he and his wife observed her 30 moles from the scene of the crash. She was disoriented and did not know her identity. He abruptly ended the call, perhaps out of panic. Police feel this tip was credible. Reports of the Investigation Discovery show, “Disappeared” revealed that her Jeep may have been tampered with– to accelerate on its own;
  • In a Foothills Gazette.com article, Monica Caison is quoted as saying, “She could have been abducted as she walked out of there or that she ran into foul play and they staged it.”
  • “Theories” & Speculation: Picked up by a passing motorist while injured and disoriented on Mount baker Highway with an unknown assailant driving her vehicle where foul play ensued; Abduction & Kidnapping; Leah “staged the crash and decided to start a new life”; Leah wrecked her jeep, hitchhiked to get help, and was kidnapped by someone, Leah wrecked her jeep, hit her head, and is alive with some sort of amnesia.
    Leah was kidnapped sometime before her car crashed, and the kidnapper crashed her car.
  • Leah told two men at a bar-restaurant at lunch she was travelling alone; The perpetrator is a mechanic who tampered with her car and fled to Canada with-without her; She spent the night “in nature” and was removed from the car; A sexual sadist was involved as there was no robbery.  And on and on….  In the past, Leah’s sister, Kara, stated, “Leah was a young woman who was lost. You know by the time Leah was 22 she had lost both of her parents and here she is on the verge of graduating from college and I think she just really felt lost and didn’t have a lot of direction and I feel like she took this trip as a soul-searching trip…I think she just needed to go and get away to clear her mind.”
  • Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office
    Det. Mark Joseph
    (360) 676-6650
    OR
    Whatcom County Dispatch Center
    (360) 676-7722
    (360) 676-6711

 Tour Reviews from previous years:

……..   “a success, a blessing,  “a perpetual voice for missing persons everywhere.”

“This group of compassionate people who work harder than I ever imagined, stays on top of every detail, and at the same time, has time for the family, letting them know they are being heard, and helps in guiding them through what many have already endured first hand.” (Judi Jordan) 

Conclusion:

We honor Leah wherever she may be in 2014. We will never give up searching for her!  It matters not what her reasons were to experience her adventure in the manner she did. She was a free spirit, wanting to enjoy life until evil stepped in her path and the occurrence of circumstances beyond her control. The Community United Effort stands read to take action and mend hearts all across the nation for missing persons.

Donna Ingersoll, CUE Center for MIssing Persons, Road to Remember Tour 2014

Donna Ingersoll

I am so proud to be standing with CUE during their stop in New Haven, Connecticut this year as we honor  2014 National Honoree, Donna Ingersoll, missing from Waubesha, Minnesota since 1990.

PLEASE participate and support the Road to Remember Tour when it comes to your geographic location this year! It is vital to recognize these families and to create increased awareness such that loved ones can, at last be located and a sense of resolution achieved.”

IN THE AFTERMATH OF CRIME: For families of the missing and unsolved homicides who need assistance with completing a customized Victim Impact Statement, See link and contact me

 

 

References:

http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/r/roberts_leah.html

http://foothillsgazette.com/tag/leah-roberts/

http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/leah-toby-roberts/

http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/on-the-road-to-remember-national-tour2014/

http://unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com/wiki/Leah_Roberts

http://greenriverkillings.com/Blog/2011/01/06/disappearance-leah-roberts/

http://www.biography.com/people/jack-kerouac-9363719#synopsis

http://www.city-data.com/forum/raleigh-durham-chapel-hill-cary/242916-funky-comfortable-coffee-house.html

 

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

“No One Stepped Into Their Path”- the Prophecy of Monica Caison and the CUE Center for Missing Persons

Monica Caison, Founder CUE Center for Missing Persons

“The silence of ignorance can be deafening  and therefore we must break it whenever the opportunity is presented.” Donna R. Gore

The book “The Road Less Traveled” has made publishing history, with more than 10 years on The New York Times bestseller list, sales of more than 7 million copies translation into more than 23 languages. It’s been 36 years since its inception into the publishing world. Author M. Scott Peck’s timeless message concerns the nature of loving relationships and helps to distinguish dependency from love; how to become a more sensitive parent; and ultimately how to become one’s own true self. Its opening line is “Life is difficult and the journey to spiritual growth is a long one.” ‘So true…

Although books have their place, I submit to you that no author has made the impact as compared to “the school of hard knocks” on a person-to-person level, touching the flesh, the hearts and souls of humanity than Monica Caison., Founder of the CUE Center for Missing Persons.

Monica is a warrior in tune with the woods, the waterways, the alleys, the streets, ultimately the ramshackle lives of those ho “go missing” for inexplicable and heart wrenching reasons. The truly amazing attributes of the CUE Center for the Missing rest with their founding principles and the lack of judgment. No matter what the circumstance, the Cue Center is there to serve.Monica Caison, CUE Center for Missing Persons, Donna R. Gore

Particular phrases come to mind – self sacrifice, going way beyond the extra mile …”colorblindness,” volunteerism at its best, compassion, lots of tough love, strategic coordination, crying and laughing in the same conversation, never leaving a person without a “port in the storm.”” Never say never,” “All things are possible with the right plan of action.”

With an eye toward the future as all good CEOs should have, the organization not only carries on, but thrives with dedication and heart, including new projects on the horizon that will increase visibility and education, changing attitudes and putting the focus where it needs to be… on the victims and their families, as human beings deserving of respect, attention and the full complement of resources afforded everyone.

Offering a wide range of free services, CUE has since helped more than 9,000 families in what is often the most confusing and desperate times of their lives. In addition to providing services for the missing and their families, CUE offers college internships and youth mentoring programs.
CUE is entirely donation funded and staffed by volunteers, including Monica Caison, who takes no salary from the organization.
What was simply a dream, name and purpose, is now a nationally-recognized center that answers hundreds of calls for help each year.

Donations to CUE Center are gratefully accepted at their website: http://ncmissingpersons.org

10th Annual National Missing Persons Conference

2014ConfPosterThe Theme: “Breaking the Silence” Victim No More” speaks to breaking the silence by setting family members free to tell their story, educating, the public, law enforcement, and other agencies who have pre-conceived ideas about what it’s like to be a victim, to make the effort to really know who is missing and to communicate with the people who can provide the most assistance without regard to past history.

There is a liberation that a victim experiences and a sense of community and safeguarding when you first “reveal your painful soul” to an audience who well knows what you have experienced. Rather than “living in a fishbowl,” you feel a sense of relief like never before. I bore witness to this in the new connections made this year at the 10th Annual Conference (always a reunion for repeat attendees).

There is always that person who walks in the door not knowing anything about the CUE, having come as a result of a news story, an advertisement, an electronic link, a personal recommendation. No matter how they arrive, it doesn’t take long to feel the magic of camaraderie and Southern hospitality, regardless from what state members travel.

I am thinking of a woman who may have been tormented for answers concerning her mother who tragically went missing by a combination of forces, an athletic spirit for hiking, an iron will to “do it her way” and worsening dementia. Evidently, this was a lethal combination. Does it make it any less heartbreaking that she was participating in a sport she truly loved? Does it make it worse that her daughter had plans to implement her “plan of action” concerning her mother’s worsening memory next week, when next week never came? I do not know. What I do know is that she spoke publicly, seemingly “blossomed like a flower” and came to her own peaceful conclusion with her former major regrets.

Presentations at CUE Center for Missing Persons Conference

  • Raymond Bechard- Author, Producer, Human Rights Advocate and Human Trafficking Expert;
  • David Sullivan – Retired Sheriff, Lead Instructor for Ground Search & Rescue;
  • Dr. Scott Bonn – Professor of Criminology, Media Expert, Author;
  • Sheryl McCollum –Law Enforcement Professional, Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute
  • Peter Hyatt- Civil Investigator and Statement Analysis Expert;
  • Gaetane Borders - Psychologist, Writer, Public Speaker and President of “Peas in their Pods”
  • Elaine Pagliaro- Assistant Executive Director of the Henry C. Lee Forensics Institute, Forensic Scientist and Attorney;
  • Karen Beaudin- Author, Advocate for Cold case Units, Public Speaker and Survivor of the Missing;
  • Holly Hughes- Former Senior Assistant DA Fulton County GA; & Legal Analyst;

CUE Center for Missing Persons Conference speakers

 

A good ending to an experience is like the icing on a cake or the ribbon on your favorite gift. Monica delivered just that, as she spoke from the heart about the epidemic of runaway teens.

As a group they tend to evolve into people they would otherwise never become, if not for forces beyond their control; sexual assault, rape, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution escalating to human trafficking, misdemeanor crimes and even felonies in the escape from and the running to something as a means of survival.

Her refrain in telling us many illustrative stories was “No One Stepped into their Path” meaning that no one offered a non-judgmental helping hand to show them a different way, show them their value as a human being with potential and ensure their safety from harm’s way. She seldom took credit as she spoke. Rather, she told of how she was able to peel away the layers, get to the heart of the matter, establish trust and a kernel of understanding, and in the process creating many life long bonds.

It’s like kicking the can down the road. Who will stop and do something about a bad situation rather than make excuses? You can rest assured that Monica Caison and her team will always step into the path when needed!

I, Donna Gore, am the CUE Center  State Outreach Coordinator for the State of Connecticut, and I know I will be stepping into the path of many lives in the future!

, , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

“On the Road Again…” Tribute to Former “Tours” and the 2013 CUE Center for the Missing “Road to Remember Tour”

CUE Center Road to Remember Tour, Donna R. Gore, Monica Caison

Historically, there have been many tours that forged the economic growth of our country, paved the way for change and sought to bring a sense of relief from everyday troubles…. And then there’s the “Road to Remember Tour,” created by Monica Caison and her colleagues nine years ago at the Cue Center for the Missing in North Carolina, who take honor, respect and remembrance of the missing to a whole new level….

Joint this writer on a historical retrospective of “the tours” from cattle herders, to entertainers…to the vastly important crime victim advocates who do a most honorable and necessary task.

We’ve “saved the best for last” Read and enjoy through the end… And…. please do SUPPORT Monica’s Tour for the missing….going on now!   [**Note: Ladyjustice gives her opinion of the value of the CUE Center and their Annual Conference too!

 HISTORY: “The Tour” Cattle Herding

  • Long-distance cattle driving was traditional in Mexico, California and Texas, The Spaniards had established the ranching industry in the New World, and began driving herds northward from Mexico beginning in the 1540s.
  • As early as 1836, ranchers in Texas began to drive cattle along a “Beef Trail” to New Orleans. In the 1840s, cattle drives expanded northward into Missouri. In the early years of the Civil War Texans drove cattle into the Confederate states for the use of the Confederate Army.  In October, 1862 a Union naval patrol on the southern Mississippi River captured 1,500 head of Longhorns which had been destined for Confederate military posts in Louisiana.
  • The first large-scale effort to drive cattle from Texas to the nearest railhead for shipment to Chicago occurred in 1866, when many Texas ranchers banded together to drive their cattle to the closest point that railroad tracks reached, which at that time was Sedalia, Missouri .

The Chisholm Trail was the most important route for cattle drives leading north from the vicinity of Ft. Worth, Texas, across Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to the railhead at Abilene.

  • Cattle drives were a tricky balance between speed and the weight of the cattle. While cattle could be driven as far as 25 miles in a single day, they would lose so much weight that they would be hard to sell when they reached the end of the trail. On average, a herd could maintain a healthy weight moving about 15 miles per day. At that pace, it would take as long as two months to travel from a home ranch to a railhead.
  • To herd the cattle, a crew of at least 10 cowboys was needed, with three horses per cowboy. Cowboys worked in shifts to watch the cattle 24 hours a day, herding them in the proper direction in the daytime and watching them at night to prevent stampedes and deter theft.
  • The typical drive comprised 1,500–2,500 head of cattle. The “outfit “consisted of a boss, ten to fifteen hands, each of whom had a string of from five to ten horses; a horse wrangler who handled the horses and a cook who drove the chuck wagon. The wagon carried bedrolls and tents – a luxury. The men drove and grazed the cattle most of the day, herding them by relays at night.  Wages were about $ 40 a month, paid when the herds were sold. [Monica Caison takes no salary.]
  • Smaller cattle drives continued at least into the 1940s, as ranchers, prior to the development of the cattle truck and stockyards for transport to packing plants.

HISTORY: “The Tour” of Circus Life 

  • The circus came to the United States on April 3, 1793. John Bill Rickets, an English equestrian rider, used a ring and added acrobats, a rope walker and a clown to his equestrian act.
  • Initially, entrepreneurs put individual wild animals on display and charged admission. As time went on, exhibitors began adding more animals to their shows. By the early 1820s there were 30+ traveling menageries touring the eastern US. It wasn’t until the late 1830s that promoters figured out a way to combine the menagerie with the circus.
  • Eventually, menageries began using equestrians and clowns to present performances in circus rings, so the distinction between circus and menagerie gradually faded. They traveled at night in wagon trains over country roads often a foot deep in mud, covering only two or three miles an hour. These were the so-called mud shows. The longest distance they could cover was 10 or 15 miles. A hostler rode ahead of the wagons to find the shortest route and to “rail” every fork and crossroad by taking a rail from a farmer’s fence and placing it across the road that was not to be taken so that the wagons would avoid making a wrong turn.
  • An advance agent “ballyhooed” the show, arriving on horseback about a week ahead of it. On circus day, a clown would come into town a couple of hours before the circus enticing the townspeople with acrobatics, clown antics and jokes followed by the arrival of the wagons. The regular members of the troupe split the profits, with each expected to perform several jobs. Owners seldom paid salaries.
  • Circus “roustabouts” are people who “get sweaty and they’re proud to do so.” They dismantle the show and build it up again in the next town their jobs consisted of the physical act of carrying the “big top” and rigging to the empty lot for set-up, called, “the haul.”
  • Joshua Purdy Brown, a native of Somers, New York, put up the first circus tent in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1825. [The CUE Center is located in Wilmington, North Carolina.] The perfect innovation was the simple idea of a canvas tent that was easily portable, yet kept both rain and blazing sun off performers and spectators.
  • The 1850s ushered in the golden age of the circus. By 1852, about 30 circuses were touring the US. The decade of the 1850s represents golden age of the river, an era when river traveling in general and showboats in particular were at their height. Charles W. Rogers built the first circus showboat, called the Floating Palace, for $42,000.
  • Circuses could also choose which towns to play. Previously, a show was limited by how far its baggage stock horses could walk overnight. Many times this meant having to stop in towns that gave only limited patronage. As time evolved, trains carried circuses to towns hundreds of miles away, offering performers a good night’s sleep. Though P.T. Barnum took credit for it, it was William Cameron Coup’s [one of the co-founders of the Barnum & Bailey Circus]. idea to design a special circus train.

And Who Could Forget….Willie Nelson and Family Old Farts and Jackass Tour….On The Road Again… 

  • The Old Farts and Jackass tour began in Durham, NC on January 18th, 2013 at the Durham Performing Arts Center. On Saturday night, Willie Nelson and family performed in Bowling Green, KY at the Performing Arts Center before heading south to the Tabernacle in Atlanta.
  • After the annual bacon and egg luncheon, the Presidential Inaugural Swearing Ceremony took center stage. Willie stepped forward and placed his hand on the Bible.  The Joint Congressional Committee spoke of the logistics of presenting such a presidential event in an old church and security concerns plaguing the event from the beginning.
  • Fast forward to today… in October 2013, Willie is 80+ years old, [born April 29, 1933] and just keeps on rollin’…. LJ counted 30 tour dates from October 15th through the end of the year… Whew!   http://willienelson.com/tour/

AND NOW… the 10th “On the Road to Remember Tour”

In the Beginning…

Road to Remember Tour,Monica Caison, CUE Center for Missing PersonsThe  CUE CENTER Annual Tour was created to generate new interest in cold cases of missing people across our nation. The inspiration came in 2004 from the case of North Carolina college student Leah Roberts, who went on a cross-country trip of self-exploration. Her wrecked and abandoned vehicle was found. However Leah is still missing to this day… Leah’s case went cold and interest faded until CUE volunteers began a grueling 14-day trip to retrace her route  informing  the media of her case and all those who were missing along  the path of the tour. In the years to follow, interest was strong to keep hope alive for other families across the country who requested help and who supported the concept and vision of the tour. (http://ncmissingpersons.org)

Each year the tour covers a different route. This year  the following states are featured:  North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama offering the opportunity for all families with missing loved ones, or those who advocate for them, to participate.

2013 marks the TENTH YEAR for  the CUE Center for Missing Persons ANNUAL On the Road to Remember Tour spanning thousands of miles across the United States to bring awareness to missing persons and unsolved cases, many which have never been featured in media.Michael Austin Davis, On the Road to Remember Tour Honoree

Anyone can volunteer to sponsor a rally stop in their community held in various venues including public parks, churches, schools, law enforcement departments or any location in which media can partake. It is vital that the media ha the opportunity to provide information about the missing persons represented at each rally stop. Each stops lasts about an hour with Founder of the CUE Center, Monica Caison, other CUE CENTER representatives and family who assist in obtaining media coverage of their event,

Examples of creative past events: balloon/butterfly/lantern releases, candlelight vigils, prayer circles, safety events, guest speakers and any variation of events to draw public attention, and needed CLUES from the public!  RESULTS: In 2008, this event assisted in solving a cold case of twenty eight years!

It Takes A Village! Monica’s philosophy is that all investigations require the efforts of the public, volunteers and the media working in collaboration on cases involving missing children and adults, it is only when such collaborative efforts take place, that cold and inactive cases have the best chance to finally be resolved and bring resolution for families.

For daily updates on the current tour see posts from Monica at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CUE-Center-For-Missing-Persons/136501784957?sk=app_57675755167

To Donate: PO Box 12714 Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 343-1131 / (910) 232-1687
Contact CUE

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_drives_in_the_United_States

http://www.history-magazine.com/circuses.html

http://www.pbs.org/opb/circus/circus-life/talking-circus/

, , , , , , ,

4 Comments

“HUG FEST” (Reflections of the 9th Annual CUE Center Conference for the Missing)

CUE Center National Conference

 

Photo by  Cynthia Hayden Guinn

People talk about the major milestones in life that leave lasting impressions – the birth of a child, marriage, the death of a loved one, transitions of achievement such as graduations, religious rites etc.   However, the average person will never know the extent of the life changing experience noted at the Community United Effort (CUE) Center for the Missing Conference until you are a participant and active observer.

The recent 9th Annual Conference held at the Courtyard Marriott Carolina Beach Hotel was a sight to behold on so many levels.  Ladyjustice was treated to this incredible event for a consecutive year along with 2-300 others…

Familiar faces, southern jargon, a tireless network of volunteers at the ready, a meeting of the minds for information exchange,  the crossing of hearts and many, many, many HUGS throughout the four days – essentially a non-stop HUG FEST!

Upon arrival, LJ was asked at the registration desk when she would be presenting….which was very flattering and a bit amusing, as almost without exception presenters “get only one chance at bat.” Changing of the guard and the experts is healthy and keeps things fresh…

The pressure and responsibility was off for this crime fighter….  A year had passed with a much larger “resume” of radio shows and catalog of diverse blogs… a greater expanse of social media exposure  and Voila…. more credibility.

On the surface, the CUE Center Conference possesses the usual ingredients – a registration process, various gear and books for purchase, exhibit tables, an agenda filled with activity, entertainment,  Southern style food, endless donated gift baskets ad raffle opportunities,  an impressive lineup of speakers and many dedicated volunteers to address your every need. BUT, BUT, BUT, the most amazing aspect for this writer was the opportunity to observe the new connections made between people, between agencies and organizations,  between states, between “newbies” and veterans of the conference… AND the appreciation for what the CUE Center consists of at its core.

It’s as if a few hundred light bulbs were perpetually popping all over the place to Ladyjustice’s delight! Not only that, but two very special events enhanced the overall experience.

As a memorial tribute to friend, colleague, mentor, homicide survivor, victim advocate and intimate partner homicide expert, Susan Murphy Milano, heart shaped lanterns took to the skies…. From the water’s edge and hotel balconies, one witnessed a long line of illumination floating to greet Susan in heaven. Working in teams of two, participants released lights of hope and love against the backdrop of crashing surf….such a soulful reminder of SMM’s presence that will forever live in our hearts. Monica Caison, Founder of the CUE Center also created a special passages award, presented by Delilah Jones on behalf of our beloved Susan Murphy Milano.

Secondly, the Candlelight Vigil at Riverfront Park was a tapestry of emotion.  Uplifting song, a little levity delivered by the MC, interspersed with the sobering fact that we were there to honor the missing and perhaps presumed dead, the beautiful yet shocking wall of victims, inspirational words and prayers by religious leaders… the heart wrenching stories of surviving family members, award presentations to wonderful volunteers, the finale ritual of lighting candles were contrasted by the bitter cold air and ONE THOUSAND HUGS AND TEARS…

Reflections of Selected Presenters and CUE Members…. (Just a Few Highlights) 

“Inspirational, raw, spoken from the heart with great pride and frequent tears shed.” Such is an accurate description of Marilyn Gambrell- a pioneer for “disposable children” of incarcerated family members;

“Effervescent, high energy, caring, very creatively visual, medically based and “a little preachy for your own good.” Such is the essence of Dr. Dalal Akoury with her incomparable style of conveying information;

“Tell it like it is, wounded, but far from defeated, caring and legally precise…” Michelle Cruz readily admits her hard knocks, using her personal experience to the best advantage to present and future victims of crime;

“A friendly, approachable, down home story teller, motherly, keen observer and investigator with a huge network of colleagues…” Sheryl McCollum uses her common sense and her instincts to accomplish amazing things, taking another look where others have not been as successful;

“A snappy dresser, legal eagle commentator who gets to the heart of the matter in the courtroom and in the spotlight of television and radio.”  Holly Hughes is hard hitting and can match wits with anyone, is a staunch advocate for crime victims and law enforcement as well;

“Such a gentleman, dedicated and skilled rescuer and sonar technician” (as well as coffee delivery man)

“Loving, “huggy” dedicated, law enforcement and missing persons advocate, animal rights activist with a heart of gold.”  Yup… that’s Connie Braddock;

“A petit ‘tiger in your tank,’ loving mother, searcher/rescuer and a “find a way around every obstacle” kind of person.”  Kelly Osborn is the epitome of fearless perseverance;

“Offering help, kindness, spiritual support when it really matters and many, many photos….    Lisa Valentino is the consummate friend and volunteer, a virtual fixture around “the CUE water cooler;”

“Feisty to the nth degree,  takes no crap from anyone, gifted and compassionate friend to all people involved in missing persons.“ Yes indeed, that’s our Monica!

We highly encourage all readers to become familiar with all of these movers and shakers for the missing.  Do it today…Do it tomorrow… Just do it!

Website:  http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/

 

, , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers