NJ mom has been waiting for decades for missing son to come home
When the Missing in New Jersey event takes place on Saturday — a major outreach initiative to help solve the state's thousands of missing persons cases — in New Brunswick, Maureen Himebaugh's story will feel familiar to many of those in attendance.
Her son Mark has been missing for the past 26 years.
Mark Himebaugh was 11 and a half when he vanished in 1991. Maureen Himebaugh, the keynote speaker for the event, said on that day she told her son she was dropping off a neighbor to pick up their car at a repair shop in Middle Township. But he didn't want to go along because a fire had broken out in town, and he wanted to watch what was happening nearby.
When she returned from the errand, her son had vanished.
A convicted child sex offender who remains behind bars, Thomas Butcavage, has been described by police as a person of interest in the case. But he denies involvement, and the case remains officially unsolved.
Himebaugh said she’s still not sure what she’ll say during her speech. In fact she’s never really done any public speaking, but her desire has always been to do something positive in connection with the disappearance of her son — and she believes she can encourage other families that also have missing loved ones.
“I think it’s just speaking from the heart as to who I am, and how long it’s been for me. It’s something that I wanted to do someday, so maybe this is the beginning of it,” she said.
She added: “I did go back to work, I have moved on, I’ve grown from it, and it gives you a different perspective. You appreciate life more,”
She said not everybody’s alike in how they deal with grief.
"Nobody could ever, unless it’s happened to you, realize how hard it is — especially the not knowing,” she said. “I don’t know, I have an inner strength. I feel that Mark might not be with me. That’s OK. I really just want closure.”
She said families with missing loved ones face many different scenarios. Some don’t know what happened. Others have a sense of closure because the body of a missing loved one has been found. Still others have been told someone has admitted to taking a loved one and has been convicted of the crime, but a body has never been found.
Himebaugh said she’s considered all kinds of possibilities about what might have happened to her son.
“I’ve been through 'a cult down here took him,' (because) there was cults. I’ve been through the 'a flying saucer could have landed and took him.' I’ve been through the, you know — everything,” she said.
Even after all these years, she maintains a sense of hope.
“You know they have somebody that they think might have done it, but there’s a good possibility he may not have done it, and Mark would fight somebody. He was like that, and he wouldn’t go with just anybody," Himebaugh said.
She said she feels "like he’s all around me, and that doesn’t mean that he’s died. I just feel spiritually even if he’s out there and alive and does get home, it could be a possibility.
"I believe that my son, if he came home, that he would be (scarred), and who knows, maybe a good family took him. But the hardest part of not knowing is he could have been used or abused or sold.”
She said everyone goes through difficult experiences in life “but nothing as devastating as losing a child, and nothing as devastating as not knowing.’
“I live in the same house. I won’t move because of it. I have the same phone number. It’s never changed," Himebaugh said. "Even if they found Mark and he didn’t know me, that would be okay, I’d work with it.”
She said she’s glad her local police department continues to keep the book open on the case, even though it’s been 26 years, and she would encourage other families to ask police and go back and review their cases, because authorities may have missed something during the initial investigation.
She also said people never think this could happen to them but “people never think they’re going to get cancer, but sometimes they do, or get into a car accident. It’s hard.
"It can happen to you. this can happen to you.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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