Thursday, August 04, 2005

I Long to See Your Face

For 11 long years, Vicki Voux has not seen the face of her beloved son, Mark Hamilton. Mark became mentally ill as a young man, and fled the care center where he was staying.

For all of those 11 years, she had never once spoken to someone who knew personally what it is like to have a missing loved one. Family members had a difficult time in dealing with Mark’s disappearance, even to the point of denial. Vicki was alone in her grief and nearly alone in her search.

In January of 2005, Vicki was given a glimmer of hope when authorities in Florida spoke to Mark. Sadly, they did not comprehend the seriousness of his need for help, and they let him go. Vicki was not even informed of this for three days…three days too late to be able to find him again.

Authorities in Missouri, where Mark disappeared from all those years ago, closed Mark's missing person case. Neither they, nor the Florida police, would reopen the case despite Vicki's efforts. They considered Mark “found”. His mental illness had no bearing whatsoever.

In mid-June 2005, Vicki did find someone, although it was not Mark. Vicki found Project Jason on the Internet, and sent me a brief email about her situation.

I remember that night well. I was sitting at the PC, catching up with emails and various tasks. The time stamp on the email was 12:21am. I read it minutes after it came in.

This woman was still up. She pleaded for help in her email. I picked up the phone and called her right then and there. After 11 long years, Vicki finally had someone to talk to who truly understood what it is like to live with a missing son. There was relief in her voice, even with a major hurdle in from of us.

We did not have a reported missing person’s case.

Due to privacy issues regarding adults, agencies like ours must be able to verify that there exists an open missing person’s case with a law enforcement agency, otherwise we face possible legal issues with that missing adult. Our hands are tied without it.

As we were talking, Vicki explained the St. Louis connection to Mark’s disappearance. It is their hometown. Bells went off in my head. I knew an officer from St. Louis, Major Robert Lowery.

I met him while at the National Conference: Identifying the Missing, held in Philadelphia earlier this year. He struck me as being genuinely concerned about the missing. As we have another family we assist in St. Louis, I had made it a point to approach him about that. He told me to contact him at any time if I needed assistance. I was now going to take him up on his offer. I told Vicki that I made no guarantees about what he could or would do for her, but that I would try.

I wrote him, and within days, Major Lowery had the case re-opened and Mark's information added into the NCIC. Now Vicki could receive assistance from the various agencies that help with missing adults cases. There was great joy in St. Louis and in Omaha that day.

When I shared this story with the Project Jason Board of Directors, I admit to choking up. It was another moment when the bittersweet pain of my own missing son surfaced. The tears were of joy for Vicki and Mark, and the bittersweet was that these things had all taken place because of our own situation. We have the privilege and blessing of being to affect the lives of others in Jason’s name.

Vicki has one battle behind her, but now others begin. Her battles consist of educating anyone who may be in the position of locating Mark so they understand enough about his situation and mental illness so as to not have a replay of last January. The others are the ongoing battle to get any media attention at all, and yet another is to find a way, should Mark be located, to be able to get him into a treatment situation.

She is now keenly aware of the situation in regards to the homeless. She wonders if Mark has food to eat and shelter everyday. The homeless may be an ignored segment of society, but not in Vicki’s eyes. Her son might just be one of those people. She wishes “I would like to see each family adopt a homeless person and help them. They may simply be lost and need someone to help them get to their loved ones. They may not even understand that they are missing.”

Vicki and I exchanged thoughts about the lack of media coverage in these types of missing person’s cases. What she had to say was simple but true: “The media needs to be educated before it is able to educate the viewers.”

I asked Vicki to write a letter about Mark when I introduced his case online. She wrote:

“Mark Hamilton is my son. He is 35 years old and has been missing for 11 years. He originally disappeared from St. Louis, MO. He has a mental health condition and this prevents him from understanding that he has a family and a home waiting for him. I had previously experienced resistance in getting a Missing Person Report filed. Because of the efforts of Project Jason, I now have an Endangered Missing Report filed, and I can now seek your help.

Every day I think about how Mark has missed most of the best years of his young adulthood. I think about him every time I eat, wondering if he was able to eat that day. I think about him when it rains and wonder if he is able to protect himself from the rain and storms. I think about him each night when I go to bed and imagine how horrible it must be to sleep in the woods, swamps or on the side of a building.

Mark was a very kind, sensitive boy growing up. He was an incredible artist, musician and was very athletic. I believed he would have a bright future. But then in his late teens to early twenties, he became mentally ill. I desperately tried to get him help, but while he was in a special program 11 years ago, he left in the middle of the night and has been wandering and homeless ever since.

A few sightings of him have been reported in the last couple of years throughout Florida; but by the time I received the information, he was long gone. At least I know that he was alive as of January 2005. He was, at that time, thought to have lived in the woods and swampy areas by himself, and was seen with a cat on a leash. His mental illness makes him paranoid of people.

I pray for his return and for the many other missing loved ones out there. I am still hopeful that I will be able to hug Mark and tell him how much he is loved once again.

Thank you in advance for any prayers for my son and/or action you might take to aid in his location.


Please help in any way that you can to find Mark so that he can be helped, and a mother can be at peace, knowing where her son rests his head at night.

You can read updates on Mark on our forum. A printable poster is located here:

A special thanks to Steve Huff, respected crime story blogger, who recently began a blog about missing persons, Twilight Kingdom. Steve posted a write-up about the Project Jason blog, and he also mentioned Jason. We’re glad for the help in gaining readership, who will become our eyes and ears, and we hope, join in our battle.


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