Thousands of people remain missing in NJ — but this could help
New Jersey residents looking for lost loved ones will have a first-of-its-kind chance next month, when the State Police host their "Missing In New Jersey" event.
There, families and friends of the missing will gather to heal, network, learn and keep hope alive that their loved ones will be returned.
There have been 1,100 unresolved missing persons cases in New Jersey since 1962 according to Sgt. Joel Trella of the State Police Missing Persons Unit. There are another 300 unidentified remains.
"So this event aims to get identification information from families of long-term missing people, (to) potentially identify their loved ones as some of these unidentified deceased that we have in this state," Trella said.
Most missing people are found — over the year, about 14,000 to 16,000 people are reported missing, but about 99 percent are recovered, Trella said.
At this event, families and friends of the missing can bond over their individual cases, and form their own networks to foster encouragement, support and hope. They will be able to speak with canine handlers, victim advocacy groups, and the Team Hope family support group for long-term missing children.
Trella said families will also have the opportunity to discuss their cases with law enforcement personnel if they so choose.
The above gallery shows people still missing since 2010. For more ongoing missing persons cases in New Jersey, see here.
One keynote speaker at the event will be Maureen Himebaugh, whose son, Mark was abducted in 1991 at age 11. She will discuss how she's been coping all these years, and how she maintains hope her son will return.
The oldest missing persons case in New Jersey on record is that William Jones Jr., Trell said. The 3-year-old boy was abducted in Vineland in 1962. There have been many leads over the years, but the case has gone cold.
Among of the newer, more higher profile missing persons case is was of 19-year-old Sarah Stern, whom authorities say was robbed, murdered in her Neptune City home and thrown from the Belmar Bridge into the Shark River. Trella said she is still considered missing because her body has not yet been recovered. Update: One of the two young men accused in connection with Stern's death has taken a plea deal.
"There are cases purged out of our system that we are not investigating currently," Trella said. "We would like those people to come forward, to ensure that their cases receive top priority and receive investigative services that can be provided in 2017, (but) that in 1962 were all but impossible."
A frequent problem involves people from New Jersey who may have gone missing in other states and vice versa, Trella sad. One case, for example is that of Nicholas Zizzamia. The 22-year-old Cherry Hill resident is believed to have gone missing in Idaho in 1979. He has not been found.
"The Missing in New Jersey" free event will be held Saturday, May 20, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Rutgers University College Avenue Student Center in New Brunswick. Trella encourages people to pre-register on the New Jersey State police Facebook event page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.