Hundreds of thousands of people go missing every year for varying reasons. It is impossible to predict how each case will end.
Fortunately, thanks to good policing and investigative work, many missing cases are solved. Some people are found within hours, others weeks, and some—like the stories below—take years before the case is solved. Based on the popularity behind the case or the dramatic rescue, the following is a list of five famous missing people who were eventually found alive.
Jaycee Lee Dugard
Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped while walking home from school in 1991. She was 11 at the time. Her kidnappers were Phillip Craig Garrido, a sex offender, and his wife Nancy. Garrido reportedly used a stun gun to subdue Duggard before driving her to his home. Despite a massive search around the community, the police were unable to turn up any leads. As the days turned into months, and months into years, most people began to lose hope that Dugard would be found.
Dugard was held captive for 18 years. During the period she had two children for Garrido, both daughters aged 11 and 15. The Garridos kept her handcuffed and chained in their home and even constructed tents behind their fenced property where her kids could live. As time went by, Garrido allowed her and her kids more freedom around the house, which lead to neighbors catching glimpses of the children. Dugard was found in 2009 after a series of events. Attention was drawn to Garrido after an officer noticed the pale coloring and odd attitude of the two children who accompanied him during a visit to UC Berkeley. The officer alerted his parole officers to this fact, and the investigation led to the discovery of Jaycee and her kids.
In 2002, Brian David Mitchell kidnapped Elizabeth Smart from her bedroom home in the middle of the night. Mitchell reportedly held a knife to her chest and forced her out of her home. Elizabeth’s sister who witnessed the kidnap alerted her parents after both left. Mitchell (known at the time as Emmanuel) had been hired by Smart’s mother to repair the roof of the family home. Mitchell held smart captive for nine months.
Smart was rescued nine months later when an alert biker, who had learnt of the kidnapping on America’s Most Wanted, recognized her. His tip of led to Mitchell’s arrest in Utah. As punishment for his crimes, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison. His accomplice, Wanda Barzee was sentenced to 15 years.
In 1972, while returning from school, Kenneth Parnell kidnapped Stayner. After the first week, Parnell informed the boy that his parents had granted him legal custody because they could no longer afford to care for their kids. Passing himself as the boy’s father, Parnell kept Stayner captive for seven years. But as Stayner began to get older, his interest waned and he snatched a 5-year old by the name of Timmy White. Distressed, Stayner freed Timmy, snuck out of the house, and reported the case to the police who swooped in and arrested Parnell.
The Castro Kidnapping
Ariel Castro wasn’t responsible for one but three different kidnappings. Between 2002 and 2004, he kidnapped Amanda Berry, Geogina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. All three women were kidnapped within a 3-mile radius of his home where they were held captive.
Ariel Castro kidnapped Michelle Knight on 22nd of August 2002. Knight, a 21-year old was leaving the home of her cousin. She accepted a ride from Castro who subdued her and took her to his home. Castro then kidnapped Amanda Berry a year later. Barely 17, Berry was returning from her job at Burger King when she disappeared. Eleven months after this, Castro kidnapped Gina Lynn DeJesus. DeJesus was last seen at a payphone in the afternoon on her way back from middle school. In an odd twist, the last person to see DeJesus before her disappearance was her close friend, Arlene Castro, Castro’s daughter.
Despite a lot of publicity on Berry and DeJesus and the promise of a $25,000 reward, very little headway was made in the case. But in 2013, all three women were discovered after Berry managed to escape and contacted the police. While in captivity, Berry had given birth to a daughter fathered by Castro. Castro was arrested and charged with over 900 counts of kidnapping, rape, and murder. After being sentenced to life in prison, with an additional 1000 years added to his sentence, he committed suicide a month into his sentence.
A recurring theme with most missing person’s case is the fact that the victims realized they had been kidnapped. But Steve Carter’s case was different. He didn’t realize that he had been abducted until he tried to find his biological parents. Steve Carter always knew that he had been adopted. His birth certificate listed him as a half-native Hawaiian. However, during his search he stumbled across a website for missing children and found the image of a missing boy who looked a lot like he did. The name of the missing boy was Max Panama Barnes. It turns out Carter was Barnes, and that his mother had kidnapped him before he was one. Shortly after that, his mom was admitted into a mental institution and Carter was sent to a Hawaiian orphanage where he was adopted.
A high percentage of missing cases are closed. In 2012, the FBI logged up to 661, 590 missing person’s case. Of this number, 659,514 were cleared through good police work, private investigations, and/or the subject simply returning home alive. Most missing person cases are resolved within the first 96 hours. However, as the cases above proved, even after decades missing people can still be found.