Sen. Lisa Baker offered the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding her resolution, which was adopted, recognizing May 25 as Missing Adult Persons Remembrance Day in Pennsylvania:
“In the world of criminal justice and investigation, remarkable technology is used in finding fugitives, keeping tabs on wrongdoers, ferreting out all sorts of information, and shining new light on old crimes. We read how DNA has been used to solve cold cases and to reveal the innocence of the wrongly convicted and incarcerated.
Yet, for the families of missing persons, all this technological capacity and found knowledge can be disconcerting. It makes the complete lack of answers in their situation all the more emotionally difficult to deal with.
Years ago, a news story gave the scope of the missing persons problem powerful context – the national number is the equivalent of the population of the city of Reading. The number of Pennsylvanians counted among the missing is higher than we might guess.
When a loved one vanishes, be it family, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, it creates an unimaginable void. No finality, no closure, no answers, just endless suspicion and speculation that tears at the soul. Compounding things is the pain of hearing that the fate of your loved one is classified as a cold case.
Attention has been given to two cases in my district. In the one, a mother learned the day after Mother’s Day that the latest search for a daughter missing for fourteen years turned up not a trace. No way to see where Phylicia Thomas is. Her mother, Pauline Bailey has been search for 14 years. In the other, a mother departs her daughter’s graduation party, is sighted later that evening, and then nothing in the five years. The family of Shelva Rafte are still looking, still hoping and searching. There is a greater appreciation for the overwhelming emotional conflict the uncertainty over the fate of a loved one produces, the mix of hopes and fears, frustration and desperation, anguish and anger. People want to know the truth, and deserve to discover it.
There are steps available to help bring closure and justice. As with everything else individuals and groups seek, it is a matter of resources, of priority, and tenacity.
This resolution encourages people – officials and citizens alike – to never forget the missing and to never give up the search. Our obligation is to consider potential changes in law and procedure that could prove helpful in bringing closure. The more information that is gathered, the more that it is made accessible, and the more that information is shared between enforcement agencies and authorities, the better the chances that answers can be found.
We also show our respect and support for the efforts of the families of the missing and the various advocacy groups who provide much needed assistance and commitment. So on behalf of the families of Shelva Rafte and Phylicia Thomas, we raise up this resolution in their memory and in their honor and hope that we can bring closure to their families.”