(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): I’m Todd Matthews. This is Missing Pieces and tonight we have a friend of mine, Ra’vae Edwards, Public Information and Investigations Advocate for ‘Missouri Missing,’ and she’s also a reporter in Missouri. Welcome, Ra’vae.
RA’VAE EDWARDS: (Guest): Thank you, Todd.
TODD: I think I actually got to know you more so as a reporter.
TODD: I actually interviewed one of your friends, Marianne Asher-Chapman…
TODD: …regarding her daughter Angie Yarnell (Featured in Episode 63). She talked about a reporter that was very special to her and I wanted to talk to you. And a lot of things have happened since we had some of those first conversations and interviews with Marianne. ’Missouri Missing’ now exists.
TODD: And it is a non-profit organization dedicated to…give it to me in your words.
RA’VAE: Basically, we’re dedicated mainly towards missing adult cases in Missouri.
TODD: And I’m honored because they did ask me to be on the board of directors with them in an advisory-type role, but I’m not in Missouri, obviously, I’m in Tennessee, and I hope I can always provide something for them. I don’t know if I can or not but I’m trying and hopefully…they’re such good friends, they’re such good people and I know they’re trying to get a lot of stuff done. Tell me about, you know, when ‘Missouri Missing’ was forming, how hard was that?
RA’VAE: Well, you know really, it wasn’t hard at all, Todd. Everything just seemed to fall into place like it was just meant to happen, and it’s just been…it’s been really easy, it’s been…everything is flowing smoothly and things are getting accomplished at a rapid rate and it’s just…it’s amazing. It’s just amazing.
TODD: Now how do you balance the role? Because you’re in the same boat that I’m in a lot of times; you’re also in media, but you’re also a family advocate.
RA’VAE: Well, you know, I’ve been in the media for 8 ½ years and I cover a very wide area of mid-Missouri, about 100-mile radius of Jefferson City, and that encompasses about 10 counties, and in that 8 ½ years, I’ve established a relationship with a lot of law enforcement and they know that if they tell me something and they say, “This is off the record,” they’re guaranteed that it’s not going to be printed, and they know that, and so when I work with the families and then talk to law enforcement, they’re comfortable knowing that they can talk to me just as a person, not as a reporter, and I always make it clear to them that I’m not wearing my reporter’s hat today, today I’m calling you about ‘Missouri Missing’ and this is what I want to talk about and they’re just really good about it.
TODD: Often, you have actually encountered things that, had you not been wearing your ‘Missouri Missing’ hat, it would have been a different story.
RA’VAE: Right. Right.
TODD: Now, is that…how do people feel about that? Do they worry at times?
RA’VAE: You know, maybe they have some underlying worries, but they certainly don’t express it. They will often say, “Please don’t print this,” and…
RA’VAE: …they know that I reassure them, “Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen.” I feel like, as a reporter, my job is to give the facts to my readers; my job is not to compromise any investigation, and I’m not a…maybe, I don’t really want to call it a ‘headline hunter,’ but that’s not my job. My job is to find out what’s going on and report that to my readers, but if it’s going to be something that would compromise an investigation in any way, if I find out about it, and they want if off the record, it remains off the record.
TODD: So, the good thing is that a responsible media person tries to actually improve the situation instead of just reporting on it or inflaming it.
RA’VAE: Right. And in Missouri, we have a lot of reporters who are like that. Just because we find out something, if law enforcement says, “Come on, you guys, please, really don’t print this,” or “Please don’t air this,” we, you know, we’re really good about that. It’s important to not compromise their investigation. It’s important to let your readers know that this danger is out there, but at the same time, you don’t want to do anything that could cause that suspect or person or interest to be let go or to be acquitted in court because you compromised the investigation by writing an article that, you know, gave away some information that you shouldn’t have given away.
TODD: And it’s hard to do that.
RA’VAE: It is, and sometimes you get a little close to the story and you have that fear that you’re going to write something not even realizing that you’re compromising it, so that’s just something that you have to deal with and you just have to know where to draw that line.
TODD: Even in our short time of knowing each other, I can think of several incidences where we have found data or discovered something that it’s kind of creepy for us because we want to correct the situation but we also want to be delicate with handling things, and I think we’ve done well with it. I think it stressed us out a few times, I’ve bitten my fingernails and toenails off worrying about some of these things, but definitely, we just try to find the best route, you know, and not always just kick somebody in the gut because you think something, but, “Okay, how can we fix this?” and as long as you’re receptive to trying to fix it, it’s good and I think that that’s what’s happening with ‘Missouri Missing.’ I’m very, very, very proud of what you guys have done. One thing that you and I have talked about in our short time that we’ve known each other so much, and I’ve blurbed this in the media before, I’ve always wanted to see something like an unidentified person’s day, and that’s never been something that’s been received very well, you know, who is going to sit there and wave their little flags and signs, you know, who’s going to be there, who’s going to be the family? We had conversations about the possibility of combining ‘Missing and Unidentified Persons Day’…I only talk about it; you went out and did it. You, Ra’vae Edwards, did this. You wrote a letter to your governor. You made this happen in Missouri. To my knowledge, this is going to be the first ‘Missing and Unidentified’ combined, ‘Persons’ event. I’d like to see it at the national level, but you know, you have to get the ball rolling at the state level, and hey, here it is.
RA’VAE: …but I hope that it’s an example for surrounding states, who then will set an example for their surrounding states, and eventually, maybe in the next five or six or seven years, we might see a day as ‘National Missing and Unidentified Persons Day.’ And, ‘Missouri Missing’ our motto is, “United as One Voice for Missouri’s Missing,” and unidentified persons, just because we don’t know what family they belong to, they are still a missing person somewhere, somebody loves that person. That person has a mother, a father, maybe children, brothers, sisters, and so they’re missing too, so to leave them out would have just been so unjust and wrong.
TODD: Well, it has been wrong. It’s been wrong for many years. Nobody really embraces an unidentified person unless there is something unique about them or they’re possibly paired with a missing person so it’s not a glamorous thing when you actually get down to the nitty-gritty, there’s…it’s really bad.
RA’VAE: It is. And you know, I think that kind of jumped up and hit us, in the proverbial punch in the face, when there was a body found here in Missouri, near the Missouri River, and she was a Jane Doe…
RA’VAE: …and there was a glimmer for 24 hours, we thought that maybe we knew who she was. Well, it turned out that we didn’t, but for a whole month, from April 20th to May 20th, we had no idea who this woman belonged to and ‘Missouri Missing,’ Peggy Florence, one of our co-founders, and Marianne Asher-Chapman, those two women took it upon themselves to basically embrace this Jane Doe, and they held the memorial service where her body was found, and Peggy did a press conference and just told everybody, “Look, this isn’t my daughter, but she’s somebody’s daughter, and until we find out whose daughter she is, she’s our family.” And, you know, that was just like, wow! And then, a month later, they did find her identification and they did identify her in the public and it turned out that she had been listed as a missing person, which just solidifies the fact that just because they’re unidentified, doesn’t mean they’re not missing somewhere. Obviously they are, and so that was one of the reasons that we definitely wanted to include the unidentified in this special day.
TODD: So, had June 17th already had a day for missing persons? Was that already set aside?
RA’VAE: No. No.
RA’VAE: This, to my knowledge, this was the first time that Missouri has ever had an awareness day for this type of thing.
TODD: Now, I’ve got your letter to the governor, and today, in fact, it was actually signed that he’s actually declared June 17th as the day.
TODD: How did that make you feel to get that?
RA’VAE: It’s overwhelming but, you know, it’s something that I really wanted to do for ‘Missouri Missing.’ It’s something that really needed to be done for all the families in this state. Our board of directors, when we decided to do this, we all were just really excited and it’s been a couple of months since we sent that letter and we just kept waiting every week, we haven’t heard, we haven’t heard, and we didn’t know if it was going to be approved, so when we finally found out that it was and that he had signed it, it was an overwhelming sigh of relief and an overwhelming emotion that’s really…I can’t even put it into words. It was an accomplishment that we’re extremely proud of…extremely.
TODD: I can’t get over reading it, “Now, therefore, I, Matt Blunt, Governor of the State of Missouri, do hereby proclaim June 17th, 2008, as ‘Missing and Unidentified Persons Awareness Day.’ ” I really like that. That’s…hopefully, the biggest benefit I think we can get out of this, it’s not only the state of Missouri, but the other states that we can share this with. This is the foundation for something a lot more.
RA’VAE: That would be incredible to see this in every other state in this nation, and then, not only would I like to see every other state have their own individual days, but I would like to see an umbrella day for the entire nation, you know, a day that the president sets. I want to see this same kind of proclamation, only signed by the United States president, and that’s my mission, and that’s the mission of ‘Missouri Missing’ and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to stop and I think that by getting this proclamation signed by our governor, not only are we bringing about the awareness to the people in Missouri, we’re also saying, “Hey, look, we’re here. We exist. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve got to have some changes. There is something that needs to be done in this state. We have over 1,400 missing persons and at least 48 unidentified bodies, and that’s just unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable.”
TODD: I just see all the connections we talked about, the level of trust that you built with government leaders, law enforcement and the public, it has paid off for this organization, already. I don’t think this could have happened without that level of connection that you have, so you’re a cornerstone to this organization and we’re all proud that you’re part of it. We all have to keep switching hats; I have to be a lot of different people and you do too, and I think that so far you have done it very well.
RA’VAE: Thank you, but I don’t want to take any credit for anything. Peggy Florence (Guest on Episode 77) and Marianne Chapman (Guest on Episode 63), these two women live a life that I thankfully do not have a missing person in my family, so I don’t know how they feel, but I know that I’ve watched both of them travel on this rollercoaster of emotion that is just indescribable, and I say that a lot because I just don’t know how to put it into words. But, you know, had it not been for Peggy’s loss of her daughter (Jasmine Haslag)…
RA’VAE: …in June of last year, ‘Missouri Missing’ would never exist. That is what…that is what sparked the whole idea for ‘Missouri Missing.’ She met Marianne and the two of them together just decided, you know, “This is unacceptable in this state. There is no place for us to go. There is no place for when a family member does go missing. We have nobody to call, nobody to talk to, nobody to serve as an advocate for us, we are going to step up and we are going to do this.” So had it not been for their involvement in the horrific life that they have to have, ‘Missouri Missing’ would not exist, and June 17th is special for a lot of reasons. The reason that I picked that date is because that’s the last day that Jasmine Haslag spoke to her children. She has three small children, pre-teen age, and they lost their Mom, and it’s sad. It’s sad to see the children, you know, they have this loss, and like I said, here comes that word again, it’s indescribable, and they’re beautiful children, and they’re sweet, and they’re just loving, and they’ve not had a voice at all. Children very rarely get to speak out about these kind of things, and this day is going to be special to them for the rest of their lives; this is their mother’s legacy for them.
TODD: You’re absolutely right. You’ve channeled a lot of pain and made a lot of positive energy out of a lot of bad energy.
RA’VAE: And, at the same time, that day is going to be special to every family member in this state that has somebody that’s gone missing. Every one of them is going to remember June 17th, 2008, this happened. This is the day that we finally got a voice in our state.
TODD: It’s amazing. I wish I could be there. I’d love to be there. I’ll be at NamUs that day, but we do have friends and we will be talking about this while I’m there. There are a lot of things that we’re trying to get and this first event might not be a huge gathering but it might be, I mean, we don’t have a lot of time, basically, we don’t have a lot of time, but even if it’s not a huge event, it will be remembered almost like Woodstock because it’s going to be the start of something a lot more. So don’t worry if you can’t get a lot of things together in time, the biggest thing has already happened.
RA’VAE: We discussed that yesterday and in fact, we decided, you know, this year we don’t have a lot of time, but we know that, okay, we managed to get this accomplished this year, it should be much easier every year after that, so this year we want to make the big splash, ‘Hey, look, we’re here, this is accomplished. This is our day, and next year we’ll follow it up with even a bigger event” and you know, we’ve got several family members that have said, “If you find out that this is going to happen, let us know, we’ll be there.” So, right now, we’re working with the scheduler for the Capital Rotunda…
RA’VAE: …so it looks like the event is going to take place in the Rotunda on June 17th. I don’t have any details about what all is going to happen yet, but we’ve not got long to scramble and get this together.
TODD: Well, that event, that day when this happens, that’s going to be the day when a lot of people first hear of this, people that will be included in it next year. It’s going to be their…it’s a day of awakening, I have a feeling, it’s really going to echo out across the nation. We’re going to try.
RA’VAE: I certainly hope.
TODD: We’re going to try. We’re going to write a lot of letters. We’re going to do a lot of coverage, various levels of coverage to try to adhere other states. “Would you like to join us?”
TODD: And I think that will be on their agenda this year. If we could have our next year’s event and say, okay, three more states, you know I’m thinking low, I’d like to have all of them, but the more states that actually join this effort and have actually declared their day as well.
RA’VAE: That would be just incredible.
TODD: So, we’ve got a lot of work to do and I think we’re going to get to do it and I’m going to let you go because I know you’ve got a lot to do. And I’ll be talking to you, we’ll be sharing a lot of emails, we’ve all got a lot of work to do. So, until next time, I think I’ll be having you back, hopefully, after the 17th, to see what happened.
RA’VAE: All right. I’m looking forward to it.
TODD: All right-y. I’ll have you back again soon. Goodnight, everybody.
According to the FBI and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) there were nearly 51,000 active missing adult cases and more than 40,000 unidentified bodies in the United States as of January 31, 2007.
It is hard to imagine what that means. It is hard to imagine the impact having a missing loved one can cause to a family.
Unfortunately, unless a person actually experiences the loss of a missing loved one, chances are they never think about how they would be affected.
Among the many things that need to be done to assist the families who suffer from the loss of a missing loved one, Missouri Missing intends to serve as an outreach service for the families while educating the public on the severity and impact of missing adults on society as a whole.
In order to do this, we need your help. Whether you have a missing loved one or not, every little thing helps.
If you are interested in helping?
Resources for this episode: