By Brandon Carte
Three down, 250 to go. And that’s just in Ohio.
While the missing persons files for Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight can be stamped “Found” as of last week, other files remain open and unsolved, including a handful of cases in this region.
After spending about a decade in captivity, Berry managed to escape from the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro last week, with DeJesus and Knight following close behind. Castro, who allegedly held the three captive for years in the basement of his Seymour Avenue home, is charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.
The unlikely development has sparked hope among the families of people who have been missing for years. Some pray their love ones return home. Others simply want closure.
The most prominent case locally is that of Michael Sheppard, of Perkins Township, who was last seen in April 2003. Sheppard’s mother, Rosalie Gottwald, of Milan, does not believe her son is alive. Investigators, too, suspect he is dead.
Sheppard was 35 years old when he went missing.
“I believe my son could be found, but I don’t believe he is alive,” Gottwald said.
Perkins police assistant chief Robb Parthemore said Sheppard’s case remains open.
“The way we file the cases, they will be closed by arrest or a final resolution to the case itself,” Parthemore said. “If there are no resolutions, arrests or more logical tips or evidence for us to lead us in any other direction, then this is listed as open and inactive.”
Another long-running case: Shiela Main, who was last seen in August 2006. Main is from Pemberville, a town just west of Gibsonburg.
“It’s still an active case and we are following up on leads,” said Wood County Sheriff’s Detective Jamie Webb. “We did something a week and a half ago on the case. It is just a matter of ultimately trying to locate her. It’s an unfortunate thing for her family.”
“People in these situations should never give up hope,” Parthemore said. “That is apparent in Cleveland. Miracles do happen. But unfortunately, it’s not always the case.”
In cases where missing persons are found, the ending is too often bittersweet. In Cleveland, for instance, many are rejoicing the return of the three missing women, although the reality is they’ll face untold challenges as they inch forward in their psychological and emotional recovery after so harrowing an ordeal.
“I wish more cases would have a happy ending,” Parthemore said. “It’s too bad that it took 10 years (for the case in Cleveland), but at the same time we are at the conclusion that they are alive and they can move on with their lives.”
Gottwald said she believes her son’s case will one day reach closure.
“I have to know what happened, I’ll never give up,” she said. “A lot what keeps me going is anger — anger and frustration and knowing that Michael is lying someplace in a hole, when he should be with the rest of his family.”