Families search for answers on annual Missing Persons Day

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - For the families of missing loved ones every day is a struggle not knowing where they are, who they're with, or if they're even still alive.

"Every Sunday we go to church and I pray for him. Hopefully he's out there," John Hodge said.

John's brother, Michael Hodge, went missing in March of 2004. His family said he was last seen near West 172nd Street. 13 years later, his three brothers still hold out hope and pray Michael will someday come back home.

"Even to this day, if I'm driving down the street and I still look, I still look out there, hoping for a miracle that someday we find him," said Bill Hodge.

The Hodge family isn't alone.  Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department Missing Persons Liaison Tanisha Knighton said it's tough to pinpoint how many people are missing because the number changes every day.

"What we can say is that in 2016 there were roughly 20,000 children missing in the state of Ohio and there were 3,174 reported here in Cuyahoga County in 2016," Knighton said.

There are 244 people listed on the Cuyahoga County's website. Some are missing, others bodies were found after they died, but investigators don't know who they are.

"I can't imagine what could be worse than having the uncertainty and not knowing where they're at, if they're in pain, if they're safe, and things of that nature," Knighton said.

Three years ago, Cuyahoga County decided to start an annual missing persons event and memorial. All types of organizations came together Sunday afternoon in downtown Cleveland to raise awareness and showcase resources the county uses to help bring missing people back home.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy George Taylor wants people to start speaking up.

"Sometimes it's the one little piece of information that they need to find that person and at least let the family know where they're at and their status," he said.

Chief Taylor said they use that information to help bring families, like the Hodges, answers and much needed closure.

"We just pray every day that someday we'll find out and get some answers and find out something because there has to be somebody out there," Bill said.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department needs everyone's help to finding missing people. Contact the Missing Persons Unit or crime stoppers to report information.

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