Different stories, same pain for relatives of NJ’s missing people
Back in December of 1962, Jill Jones was a happy 2 year old, playing with her 3-year-old brother Billy in their Vineland front yard.
She can’t recall what happened, but Billy suddenly vanished — and he hasn’t been seen since.
Two years ago, Heidi McCallum’s daughter Meg left their Bergen County home in the middle of the night.
Her car was found a month later in a garage down the shore, but there was no trace of Meg and her whereabouts remain a mystery.
Thousands of Garden State residents have loved ones who have gone missing in a variety of ways, but they all share a sense of anguish and loss.
On Saturday at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, the New Jersey State Police will host a Missing in New Jersey event that officials hope will collect DNA clues to help crack more than a thousand cold missing persons cases.
Jones said no one really has any idea what happened to Billy.
“I miss him every day. I still want to believe deep inside that he’s still alive. You know, I’m still hoping and waiting that maybe one day someone finds something out and brings him back,” she said.
Jones remembers a big investigation took place with lots of people looking for her brother.
“People think you forget about someone in time; I didn’t forget about him. I’m still looking for him. I’m still waiting for someone to say, 'This is what happened to him.'”
Article continues below video
McCallum said the key to Meaghan’s disappearance is her mental illness. She had been hospitalized many times with delusions.
“She had struggled for five years to get a handle on her bipolar condition,” she said.
“She was on and off medications and we all tried to keep her on the meds, but she didn’t want to and we were afraid that this would be the result. But honestly, we don’t know for sure whether Meg did take her life."
She said it’s possible Meaghan simply walked into the ocean and drowned. But “this is a woman who has travelled the world, who’s lived off the grid, who’s very capable of taking care of herself on her own.”
“It’s conceivable she may be a homeless person, or she may be living on some little farm somewhere. She was into farming and growing food.”
Jones said even after 55 years she’s always hoping she’ll see her brother whenever she goes somewhere.
"I’m looking for a male with blue eyes, 'cause Billy was blue eyes and blond hair, and you see someone that maybe could look like him — my heart beats; I panic,” she said.
"I want to run up and grab his arm 'cause there’s a scar on his left arm, but people think you’re nuts, you know what I mean? You can’t just run up to people and say, 'Hey, I think you could be my missing brother!'”
The disappearance of her brother has colored her behavior in different ways.
“I never let my children go out without me knowing where they are, and watching them. My grandchildren the same way. My yard’s fenced in. I can’t let them outside by themselves to play, not even with a dog,” she said.
“I have to constantly watch them because I’m just scared.”
Article continues below video
Jones said what’s most difficult is not knowing what happened.
“You can’t just disappear off the face of the earth and not know where you went. Like my mom, my dad, my brother passed away; I know where they’re at. I don’t know where he’s at. That’s what makes it so hard: no conclusions, no answers, nothing.”
“A policeman once told me: 'You know, Jill, you’ve been robbed, you’ve been robbed of your childhood, you’ve been robbed of your life.' And you know what? It’s so true.”
McCallum agreed not knowing is “really, really, hard, really hard.”
“There’s no evidence, nothing, not a shoe, not a jacket, nothing. The only way I get through it is by staying really, really busy, I’m in the position where I may have to endure this till the day I die.”
McCallum said she’ll attend the Missing in New Jersey event on Saturday to make connections with other people who are in a similar situation.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com