TAMPA (FOX 13) - There are more than 84,000 unsolved missing persons cases in our country and that number grows every day. The national institute of justice calls it the nation's silent mass disaster.
Law enforcement teamed up with USF forensic anthropologists for the state's first ever Missing in Florida Day Saturday to fight the epidemic. The event is aimed at generating new leads for cases that've gone cold in the sunshine state.
In 1989 20-year-old university of Florida student Tiffany Sessions vanished while exercising near campus. Her mom, Hillary, became her loudest voice after she was never heard from again, taking every opportunity to tell her story. A story shared by thousands of families across the state.
“We didn't know anything about it. Missing children were only on TV. Famous words from everyone is, ‘This will never happen to me.’ And it does. It happens to everyday people all the time,” Leah Martin, the mother of Morgan Martin, who disappeared in 2012, told FOX 13 News.
Morgan was 17 when she told her sister she'd be right back, as she stepped out of their St. Pete home in her pajamas. It was the last time anyone else heard from Morgan again.
In June, St. Pete police charged Jacobee Flowers with her murder. Just as in Tiffany's case, detectives believe Morgan was killed. Yet despite decades of advances in forensic technology, her body has also never been found.
They're two of the many cases highlighted at the first Missing in Florida Day. Organizers hope to spread awareness about the state's missing persons cases in order to generate new leads and share crucial tips to keep loved ones safe.
When her daughter went missing, Leah says she didn't know the pass codes for her daughter's cell phone and social media accounts. Leah now urges parents to have their kids write down the information, just in case.
“Those are things that took forever for us to get into her phone, her text messages. We had to get a court order to get all of it,” Leah explained. “I know they think you're just being overbearing, but in this day and age, there is no overbearing, I promise.”
Another safety tip shared by victim's families is to make sure the GPS feature is activated on your cell phone. The tracking service helps if your phone is lost or stolen, and also provides crucial insight to law enforcement if you or someone you love goes missing.