Families of missing persons turn to web for clues

Jeff Earley and his sister Lisa Beebe discussing the nearly 30 year search for his mother, Amy Hurst. / Chad Brittion

It's being called the nation's silent mass disaster. More than 100,000 people are actively missing and another 40,000 bodies are unidentified.

There are now websites to help investigators and families of the missing find their loved ones.

Not a day goes by for Diana Anderson without a thought of her older sister Randa Jawhari.

You never forget about it. It TMs in the forefront of your mind.

Randa was 42-year's old at the time she vanished from her apartment in Fenton in February 10th, 2009.

"It's hard. It's like your life goes on but you can't ever get past the fact that there's something missing," said Diana.

Diana says Randa suffered from bi-polar disorder and led an unpredictable life. The only consistent thing she did was call family. She relied on us a lot.

"There were phone calls to tell us that she was watching a game show or needed cigarettes or soda. She always kept in contact."

Diana and her family tried in vain to find Randa. They put up fliers, bought space on billboards and held candle light vigils hoping someone would come forward with information. They had no luck.

"By now we should know something or something should have turned up, said Diana.

"It's been very difficult. W e just don't have any new information," said Fenton Police Detective Ron Skarzynski.

Det. Skarzynski was frustrated with the lack of leads and turned to the internet. He starting using several sites including the National Missing and Unidentified Person's System or NamUs.

The good thing about NamUs is that it's a place for me to put in all my data in regards to a missing person and that is kind of difficult. This way it's all processed on one website," said Det. Skarzynski

NamUs was created in January 2009, just a month before Randa disappeared. It TMs a national database filled with missing or unidentified person's dental records, DNA, photos and anything that could help detectives solve a missing person case.

Det. Skarzynski has already gotten a few leads. "I had one medical examiner call me from Los Angeles and another one call me from Texas."

Skarzynski says NamUs is primarily used by medical examiners and investigators but believes more cases could be solved if family members of missing people used the site. "The biggest problem is that a lot of people don't know about it."

"I've heard of these websites but I didn't know. I thought they were more for other authorities to look at, said Diana.

Read more NamUs The Doe Network Amber Alerts

Diana said she plans to start checking the NamUs website. "I'm at the point where I want to know the truth."

For nearly 30 years Jeff Earley and his sister Lisa felt just as helpless as Diana in their search for their mother Amy Hurst who disappeared shortly after moving with her husband to Florida in 1981.

"We both knew something had happened and it probably wasn't good, said Jeff.

"She wouldn't not contact my brother and I. She would not leave us behind, said Lisa Beebe.

Decades passed with no leads until one day Jeff could take it no more and asked his wife Julie to search the internet.

Julie says thousands of Jane Does showed up in a Google search. "I just clicked on one of them not realizing it was the Doe Network"

The Doe Network is similar to NamUs. It is a national database filled with information on missing person's and unidentified bodies.

The one and only case Julie looked at described a body being wrapped in a green blanket, one that Jeff and his sister recognized.

My whole family has afghans these colors, we all got them, we all still have them. I have a picture of me jumping on a bed with that bed spread.

Amy's body was actually found by fishermen shortly after she disappeared but her identity remained a mystery for 29 years.

Jeff sent his DNA to Florida investigators and this past July he and Lisa got the news.

"I was good for a few minutes then it overpowered me and I lost it, " said Jeff. Two months later Amy's husband, 59-year-old William Hurst was arrested in Kentucky in connection with Amy's murder.

"I always knew that he probably had something to do with what happened to her," said Jeff.

Jeff and Lisa say if it weren't the internet they would have never found their mother or her alleged killer. They say while it's not easy they're trying to move on.

"You're upset, you are angry you're relieved. There are so many mixed emotions, " said Lisa.

"For me it comes in waves. Some days are better than others. I'm getting my closure in pieces," said Jeff.

There's is not the type of ending Diana wants but as the third anniversary of Randa's disappearance approaches, it's one she's prepared to get.

"I'm going to always search for Randa until she's found. I want to know the truth no matter what the outcome is," said.

Amy Hurst's alleged killer, William Hurst was extradited to Florida in September to face murder charges.