‘Missing in Florida’ Day Event To Be Held in Tampa on October 19

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Missing in Florida Day is an event that is meant to provide resources to the families of missing persons and to spread awareness for missing persons cases in Florida. This event is free and open to the public. We strive to provide equal access to justice for all communities in Florida.

Family members can file a new missing person report, receive updates on existing missing persons reports, and submit DNA samples for genetic testing for new and existing cases at no cost.

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Presentations from shareholders of this issue will also be given throughout the day. Certificates of participation for the symposium will be provided to those who are interested in continuing education.

Two cases from Flagler County will be included in the Art of Forensics display (one Flagler County case and one that is under FHP jurisdiction).

Missing in Florida Day is a state-wide initiative supported by many partnering agencies dedicated to solving cases. Highlights of the event include:

1)      Law enforcement will be available to make a report on long-term missing persons. Jurisdiction is not an issue for anyone coming in to file a new reportIn the past, jurisdiction was often a problem and families were turned away. This event seeks to correct that. Participating agencies include the Tampa Police Department, St. Petersburg Police Department, and the Sheriff’s Offices from Citrus, Hillsborough, Hernando, Polk, Pinellas, and Lake Counties.

2)      Free DNA kits for Genealogical testing for families of missing persons are being provided by Innovative Forensic Investigations and Gene by Gene. Victim assistance is provided by the State Attorney’s Office of the 13th Judicial Circuit. ** Normally these kits are about $100-120 and have to be paid for by the families. Also, many times the families submit samples to ancestry.com but they do not realize that it is not open to law enforcement and so cannot be used to help identify unknown/missing persons. Therefore, they need to submit a new sample to GedMatch for this purpose.

3)      A half dozen new facial reconstructions created for long-term John/Jane Doe cases will be presented as part of the Art of Forensics Exhibit.

Families of a few of the area’s missing persons will share case updates and talk about their experience in the long-term search for their missing loved ones:

  • Drew & Joyce Kesse, joined by their attorney Paul Sisco, are the parents of Jennifer Kesse who went missing in Orlando, 1/23/2006. They have been in the news lately with updates about her case.
  • Sid and Hattie Crespo, the parents of Joshua Simmons, Missing from Tampa Since 3/4/2022
  • Donna Pettis, the daughter of Don Lewis (who was featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King”), who went missing in Tampa 8/18/1997
  • Iris Morton and Roxanne Burgess, the family of Sandra Yeomans, a 12-year old who went missing in Thonotosassa on May 28, 1974
  • Joe Dages, the family of Bonnie and Jeremy Dages, who went missing in Brandon 4/28/1993

Other speakers include:

  • Erin Kimmerle, Ph.D. Director of the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science, University of South Florida
  • Sheriff Michael Prendergast, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office
  • Major Patrick Messmer, Tampa Police Department
  • Chief Anthony Holloway, St. Petersburg Police Department – speaking about the 1969 case his agency just solved!
  • Sean Visners, Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecutors, will be discussing their new Cold Case Initiative
  • Beth Celestini, Black and Missing Foundation
  • Ryan Backman, Project Cold Case
  • Loren O’Keeffe, The Missed Foundation, An Australian Based Organization
  • Bernadine Beyale, Navajo K-9’s Searching for Missing People on Tribal Nations
  • Det. Dave Nutting, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, A Case Study in Collaboration to Identify a 1984 Murder Victim
  • Special Investigator Dan Bendig, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Missing Person Call to Action

Numerous organizations will also be available to answer questions and provide information about resources available to families of the missing including the Black and Missing Foundation, Project Cold Case, The Missed Foundation, the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecutors, The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and NamUs.gov.

PROGRAM

11:00am            Media briefing

12:00-12:45      Introduction & Welcome

  • Erin Kimmerle, IFAAS -USF
  • Sheriff Michael Prendergast, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office
  • Major Patrick Messmer, Tampa Police Department
  • Chief of Police Anthony Holloway, St. Petersburg Police Department

12:45-1:00        Sean Visners, J.D., Attorney General’s Office, Statewide Prosecutors Cold Case Unit

1:00-1:15           Natalie Wilson, Black and Missing Foundation

1:15-1:30           Ryan Backman, Project Cold Case

1:30-1:45           Loren O’Keeffe, The Missed Foundation

Break

2:00-4:00           Families of Missing Persons ~ Updates & Experiences          

·         Drew, Joyce Kesse & Paul Sisco

Parents of Jennifer Kesse, Missing from Orlando 1/23/2006

·         Sid and Hattie Crespo

Parents of Joshua Simmons, Missing from Tampa, 3/4/2022

·         Donna Pettis

Daughter of Don Lewis, Missing in Tampa, 8/18/1997

·         Iris Morton & Roxanne Burgess

Family of Sandra Yeomans, Missing from Thonotosassa, May 28, 1974

·         Joe Dages

Family of Bonnie and Jeremy Dages, Missing from Brandon, 4/28/1993

·         Special Investigator Dan Bendig, Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office

Break

4:00-4:30           Bernadine Beyale, Navajo K-9’s Searching for Missing People on Tribal Nations

4:30-4:45           Det. Dave Nutting, Case Study in Collaboration to Identify a 1984 Murder Victim

4:45-5:00           Erin Kimmerle & Sheriff Prendergast, Concluding Remarks & Discussion

Numerous organizations will also be available to answer questions and provide information about resources available to families of the missing including the Black and Missing Foundation, Project Cold Case, The Missed Foundation, the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecutors, The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and NamUs.gov.

Missing in Florida Day will be held at Italian Club of Tampa | 1731 E 7th Ave | 12PM-6PM

You can learn more about the event and register for the event at www.usf.edu/forensics. This event is free and open to the public.

By Kim Hunt

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