EVERETT, Wash. -- Carrying signs with their mother’s photo on them, Tara Bishop Ernst and Angela Bishop fought back tears outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. Their mom, Esther Mae Gesler, disappeared 40 years ago.
“I was 13 and Angela here was 18 and we've been looking for her ever since,” said Bishop Ernst .
Gesler left Kent to go study for a college exam and disappeared. The lack of answers never gets easier.
"Every night when you go to sleep and every day when you wake up, that's what you think of,” said Bishop Ernst.
There are 548 families in Washington like them who are dealing with the devastation of a missing loved one.
“When people who have somebody missing, they don't know what the outcome is of that person and they're going through trauma just like somebody who's been the victim of crime,” said Marge Fairweather with Victim Support Services. The nonprofit organized the event in recognition of Missing and Unidentified Persons Month.
Victims like Jane Doe, who was strangled and then shot in the face seven times in Snohomish County. Forensic artist Natalie Murry used her skull to create new composite showing what Jane Doe may have looked like.
“I've also shown her with her mouth open a bit as her maxillary central incisors are crooked, so that's something people would notice about her,” said Murry.
Detectives know she had her two front teeth reconstructed.
"If you know that there's a missing girl that was in some kind of accident and broke her front teeth, then that's the person we need to check out to see if it could be our Jane Doe."
Her case is one of 123 people whose remains have been found but who are still unidentified. For example, a hiker found a man’s remains last June near Hay Stack on Mount Si.
The mystery man was wearing a pair of Nike shoes popular in the '90s and had REI camping equipment with him. A new composite also created by Murry shows what he may have looked like.
“So what we're hoping is that it looks close enough to the individual that it stirs a memory in somebody to say oh, it looks like so-and-so and I haven't seen him in years,” said Washington State Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Kathy Taylor.
Whenever a person is reported missing to law enforcement, they are entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). When police have contact with that missing person, they remove that person from the NCIC system. For a number of reasons, there are many times that missing people have been removed from NCIC without having been located. Because of these errors, it is important to correct the error and get that person back into the NCIC system as still missing.
One example is that if a girl was reported as a runaway when she was a juvenile and then she turned 18, she was probably removed from NCIC, because she was now an adult, even though she had not been contacted to know she was safe. What should have happened is that her status should have been changed from Runaway to Adult Missing Person.
Because of this error, detectives need to have someone who knows her to report her as missing again to get her back into the NCIC system. This will cause a possible match to be made with any human remains found and the forensic experts can verify the match.
That being said, if someone knows of a missing person that was reported missing years ago and has never been found, detectives recommend that they check with law enforcement to verify that the person is still listed as missing in NCIC. They can do this by providing the full name and date of birth of the missing person to local law enforcement. A check can be run to verify the person is still in NCIC. If they are no longer listed in NCIC, a new missing person report needs to be filed.
"If you know somebody whose missing, report them missing and then don't take no for an answer. Be persistent,” said Taylor.
If you have any information about this or any other case, please call the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office at (425) 438-6200.
Please check our website for this and other Snohomish County cases that remain unidentified at http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/unID. Call 911 to report someone missing.
If you have reported someone missing over 5 years ago and they are still missing, call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office at (425) 388-3393 (then press “0”) with the person’s full name and date of birth to check that they are still entered as a missing person; older cases may have been inadvertently removed from the database.