WAUSAU (WAOW) -- For families of missing persons, not knowing is the hardest part; not knowing what happened, where they are, if they're alive or not.
The numbers are alarming. There are 100,000 active case missing people in the United States. There are 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains in evidence rooms across the country.
Experts at the Department of Justice call it a crisis, the Nation's Silent Mass Disaster. Because of that, in January 2009 NamUs.gov was launched. For those searching, it's a useful tool.
Hope Sprenger's teenage daughter, Kayla Berg, went missing just seven months after NamUs hit the World Wide Web. Since then, the Antigo mom has done all she can to bring her daughter home.
Sprenger says, "Most of my day is spent doing something, whether it be checking her website, updating stuff."
One website she frequents is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). For public use; pictures of Kayla, information about what she was wearing, and the circumstances of her disappearance.
"Anything that has a picture of her, a case file, is a big help in any missing person's case." adds Sprenger.
For investigator's use, it has Kayla's dental records and DNA samples -- all resources that could help bring her home.
Detective Dan Duley, the chief investigator on Kayla case with the Antigo Police Department says, "Working on the Kayla Berg case, I've been looking for any resources that I can. This is one that came to my knowledge and then I got on that right away, to get her entered as soon as I could into the system."
He says in her case NamUs has helped.
"We had some dental records from Kayla Berg, they were able to hook me up with a forensic odontologist and that odontologist, I sent him the dental records, he was able to code them and enter them into the NamUs system. If an unidentified body would show up somewhere, they could possibly make a match."
That's the overall goal of NamUs: take records of missing people and match them up with records of remains.
While it's not the outcome Sprenger is looking for, she knows it's a strong possibility.
"I've probably come to the reality that I'm never going to see my daughter again." Sprenger says, "That's hard. But it's something that you kind of have to prepare yourself for."
George Low has also come to the same reality about his daughter, Stephanie. She disappeared from her Wausau apartment last October. Since then, he and Stephanie's mother, Claudia Blake, have searched for her in woods and water, put up countless posters.
"I pretty much know it's bad and I knew that from the beginning." Low says, "That was the reason I went to the river that time. It obviously wasn't to look for someone alive in the river."
Although they haven't used NAMus in their search, both know it could be a powerful tool.
Blake says, "She could be thousands of miles away. God forbid, if they find remains, we can find out quickly if it's her or not."
That discovery can bring the closure these families so desperately need.
"She's not at rest if she is dead. She's out there in limbo somewhere." Blake adds, "It's a horrible, horrible feeling for me not knowing where she is.
Sprenger says, "I will never quit until the day I die or know what happened to her. I will never quit."
For more information on NamUs.gov and links to pages of other missing persons, click the links associated with this page.
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