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Families turn to social media for help in finding missing loved ones

By Sandra Yi | Posted - May 7th, 2013 @ 7:09pm

WEST JORDAN — More than 800,000 kids are reported missing every year, and most of them are runaways. Desperate parents often turn to the police for help, but there isn't a lot officers can do.

To help with the search, parents are turning to social media sites. Spreading the word over Twitter and Facebook has helped fuel searches for missing loved ones.

When Amie Trejo's 17-year-old son Samuel didn't come home from school Friday, fear set in. Trejo called the police, and then turned to Facebook.

"It was the scariest three days of our lives," she said.

She started by creating a Facebook page for her son. Soon, family, friends and strangers knew Samuel was missing.

"I just got it out there, messaged all my friends," Trejo said. "Within the first five hours, there were 1,000 on it and it was spread. I don't even know how many times the picture was shared."

Trejo's son was found safe just three days later. He called his mother after riding a bus to Seattle.

That same response is what Emily Stone is hoping for in the case of two teens missing from West Jordan. Michaela Kerby and Brittney Marriott are friends and presumed to be runaways. They were last seen together on April 30.

I just got it out there, messaged all my friends. Within the first five hours, there were a thousand likes on it and it was spread. I don't even know how many times the picture was shared.

–Amie Trejo

"I learned about them through Facebook," said Stone, who is volunteering her time to help find the missing teens.

Stone doesn't know Kerby or Marriott, but still felt compelled to help, and she's been helping through social media. She speaks with Kerby's mother every day and posts updates.

When 14-year-old Charice Beaumont disappeared in March, her picture was everywhere — on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The social media efforts helped mobilize an army of searchers. Dozens of neighbors, friends and family gathered to canvas the neighborhood where she was last seen.

Beaumont was missing for 24 hours and was found in an LDS meetinghouse in Pleasant Grove. While she was ultimately found after reaching out to her mother, Stone says the message is still important.

"There's always hope," Stone said. "Never give up."

Police wouldn't comment Kerby and Marriott's disappearance, but they said every missing person is listed in a national database. At that point the facts of each case determines other levels of response.

"It always makes us worry in the back of our mind, ‘Is there something that we could do? Is there something we should be doing, something more than we should be doing,' " said Sgt. Dan Roberts with the West Jordan Police Department.

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