Imagine a mother whose daughter has been missing for 20 years, but has still not given up hope. In her hope and sadness, she recently penned a letter for her daughter, which was posted on the blog for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
"Bethany, this is because of you and for you!
We will never give up on finding you, loving you and praying that wherever you are, you are safe and happy," she wrote.
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What the mother, Jonnie Carter, is referring to is a bill she worked to get passed in Tennessee in honor of her daughter. The Tennessee bill denotes March 4th as Missing Children's Day in the state. During the candlelight vigil people mourn and release balloons into the air carrying pictures of their vanished loved ones.
This beautiful day occurs only because of a tragedy that befell Jonnie, whose daughter has been missing for 20 years.
Daughter Missing For 20 Years
Twenty years ago Jonnie spoke with her daughter Bethany Markowski on the phone. We can rarely predict when we will last speak to people. Such was especially the case when Jonnie concluded her chat with her 11-year-old daughter.
“She said ‘I love you,’ and I said ‘I love you, too,'” Jonnie remembered.
On March 4, 2001, Bethany was spending time with her father Larry Markowski, who was separated from her mom. While he napped in the car, Bethany walked through the Old Hickory Mall located in Jackson, Tennessee. After a couple of hours, Bethany had not returned so Larry went to search for her. She was nowhere in sight.
Larry searched the places Bethany mentioned she planned to visit, including the arcade and Claire's Boutique. She was in neither place. More oddly, police could not ascertain evidence of the young girl being at the mall that day. There were no security cameras. After contacting the mall security, they contacted the police.
Mom Refuses To Give Up Searching
The father was investigated with intense suspicion. An agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said, "he’s not been very cooperative, and he has not participated in the investigation at all." However, no evidence could be found, and Larry stuck to his story.
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His relationship with Jonnie was rocky from the start with dishonesty and heartache. That continued even after Bethany was born. Police wondered if Bethany’s disappearance was linked to a custody struggle, but also said she could have been abducted in the parking lot.
That weekend, Jonnie was supposed to have Bethany for the weekend, and when Larry and Bethany were late arriving at her house, she feared something was wrong. Something was wrong. And to this day, she’s been missing 20 years and there is no information on what happened to Bethany, the child who would be in her thirties today.
“I guess the thing that keeps me going is the fact that I’m her mom. If I stop, everybody stops. Not looking for Bethany is just not an option.” Jonnie said.
“We're still looking for her. We are not giving up. No mother ever wants to think that their child's not alive — especially without any proof. But there are days when I question that myself."
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Though the story hasn't yet had the ending she's praying for, Jonnie has brought some good, Tennessee Missing Children’s Day, from her tragedy.
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Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Gabriel’s Tree: A Tribute to Abused, Missing and Murdered Children