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National missing children’s group works to bring abducted kids home

Tears well up in Magdelen (Magi) Bish’s eyes as she talks about her daughter who had been missing. The homecoming was not what the family had hoped and prayed for.
The once vibrant Molly Bish, an honor student and soccer player, was abducted and killed when she was 16. Three years passed, though, before the family had proof that Molly was dead.
She was returned to her family ‘bone by bone,’ Magi said. And on what would have been Molly’s 20th birthday, 26 of her 206 bones were buried.
Almost six years have passed since the last time Magi, her husband, John, and their two other children saw Molly alive. They still don’t know who killed Molly.
I heard Magi Bish speak late last month at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s office in Old Town Virginia, Va. She was on the agenda for the two-day training seminar that my husband, Ray Saylor, attended. He was one of 50 police chiefs and sheriffs from all over the United States at the training.
Bish said she hoped the police officers would be ‘enlightened’ as she told her painful story about how it feels to be a victim, and what worked and what didn’t in the ‘largest and most expensive case’ of its kind in Massachusetts.
The town of Warren, Mass., isn’t very big; its population is about 4,800 and there’s just one traffic light in town. When it was discovered that the teenager wasn’t at her lifeguard post at the town lake, some assumed Molly had gone off with friends.
The Bishs’ ‘worst nightmare’ began several hours later when they were notified that Molly wasn’t at work and hadn’t been seen since her mother dropped her off for her eighth day of work several hours earlier in the day.
‘How does one prepare for the abduction, possible murder, of never seeing your child again?’ she asked, with a hint of pleading in her voice.
More than five years later, there has been no arrest in the case. ‘We still don’t know who took our daughter or why,’ Magi said.
A private, nonprofit organization, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was created in 1984 and provides services for families and professionals in the prevention of abducted, endangered and sexually exploited children. The NCMEC works with the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Many of the Center’s offices are housed in the Charles B. Wang International Children’s Building, a beautiful five-story brick building just a block south from Old Town Virginia’s main drag and the start of the residential district.
There’s little on the outside of the building to indicate what takes place on the inside. To date, the Center has helped law enforcement personnel with more than 111,300 missing child cases (96,900-plus of those children have been recovered). The Center has trained 212,500 police and other professionals, has handled more than 350,000 reports of child sexual exploitation through the CyberTipline, distributed more than 39 million free publications, taken more than 1.9 million phone calls through its national toll-free hotline (1-800-THE-LOST), and maintains a Web site ( that reaches a global audience with a multi-lingual data base of images and information on missing children, prevention tips and free resources.
I was allowed to tour most the Center on Jan. 23 with the seminar attendees. We learned that those assigned to the exploited unit work with the immigration department and the postal service.
Charles Pickett told the attendees that the Center’s role is to ‘complement what you do in the field.’ And if a department has no one to work a case, NCMEC will send someone to your state.
There are about 500 active cases being worked by staff on the third floor. Part of their job involves distributing pictures of those who are missing. One way they do that is through ADVO. You know, it’s those white cards you receive in the mail that almost cries out ‘Have you seen us?’ above two photos. ADVO is sent to 85 million homes.
I learned at the Center that the pictures are tailored by ‘zones,’ so while the children and adults pictured may have been abducted hundreds of miles from here, case workers believe there is a connection to our area. I hope each you will at least glance at those faces. Who knows? You might be able to help give a family closure.
Other NCMEC employees work on ‘cold’ cases.
And 24-hour phone lines at the Center average 600 calls a day. ‘There’s always some little piece that comes through’ that helps break a case, Pickett said.
The NCMEC also aids with Amber Alerts, a systems that started in January 1996 after a Dallas, Texas, girl was abducted and killed.
Indiana implemented its Amber Alert system in October 2002. Last year, it was activated 16 times.
A high profile Amber Alert for this area was the abduction of Katlyn (Katie) Collman in Jackson County in January 2005. Indiana State Police said that was the first time since the state adopted the system that a child had not been returned home safely.
Magi Bish said victims come from every social status but their needs are the same.
Since that tragic day in 2000, the Bishs have distributed thousands of identification kits. John helps fingerprint children. They know first-hand how crucial a current photo and other valuable information can be in the early stages of a search.
‘We owe our children a safe place to live,’ said Magi. ‘We all have a Molly.
‘It will take a collective effort to make the world a safer place,’ she said.
The Bishs have worked to change legislation in their state. What will you do to make Indiana better at protecting its residents?