Seymour Survivors Inspire New Fight

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CLEVELAND --  Year after year, the family of Gina DeJesus rallied to make sure no one forgot. They stayed strong.

It's a tough battle for any family who has a missing loved one. Pastor Angel Arroyo is a friend of the DeJesus family and has been working tirelessly to help find those still missing, but he's still concerned that some people don't get the attention that others do.

"I told Michelle, I said Michelle, I have to a apologize," recalls Arroyo. "She said 'why.' I said for never looking for you. It's not your fault, it's not the police's fault, it's not the media's fault, we just didn't know."

Angel has taken the fight to Columbus and Attorney General Mike DeWine, by proposing a three-tiered system for letting us know about children who have disappeared. Tier 3 means a runaway child. While there could be trouble, it may not be a kidnapping. Tier 2 is a child that has been reported taken, but doesn't quite fit the Amber Alert criteria. Tier 1 is an Amber Alert, and all the immediacy that comes with it. Angel believes that encouraging the media to air all of the missing instead of just Amber Alerts, that we can keep more children safe.

"They know what the system is," Arroyo emphasized, "now we let the media know this is a better way to know what kind of missing person is, and so I use Channel 8.

The Fox 8 Missing Person Project started just days after the Seymour Survivors were rescued. In that time, a total of 226 people have been featured. One hundred-sixty have been found, thanks to Fox 8 viewers and police departments throughout Northeast Ohio. Sixty-six are still missing.

"There have been some stations, and yours is one of them, that continues to promote that," said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald. He was also inspired by the story of the Seymour Survivors. His office made a move for missing people by announcing the Cuyahoga County Missing Persons Unit website in May of 2013.

"We're getting much better," Fitzgerald said. "Until every person that's missing has been identified, either reunited with their families, or at least identified, we can never say that we're done."

Part of the initiative includes regular updates like a recent quarterly meeting at South University in Warrensville Heights. The communication lines are open, not only helping law enforcement share information, but allowing families to get the right information to the right people, and that includes state leaders.

"Ohio is the only state where the Attorney General has taken on and given people information like that," Arroyo noted. "Let's take it another step forward because there are still people missing."

The case of the Seymour survivors is not just a story of success, it's a story of inspiration, a story of hope for families who still have missing loved ones, and a lesson for us all.

"It was a lesson for me," said Arroyo. "But I think a lesson for everybody that you can't give up on those things, until it's conclusively solved, until the person has been found in whatever condition, you just can't give up hope."

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