When former MU student Nick Coppola vanished in December, his family was left heartbroken.
His disappearance is one of 1,176 active missing persons reports in Missouri, statistics from the Missouri State Highway Patrol show. Although Coppola is listed as missing in St. Charles County, there are 17 active searches in Boone County.
Highway patrol Cpl. Erik Eidson said any time a person is declared missing by a Missouri law enforcement agency, his or her name is added to the Highway Patrol’s database. When in the database, investigation and contact information is provided for every entry.
“We serve as sort of a liaison between the public and the law enforcement agency,” Eidson said. “We’re the middleman, I guess you could say.”
So far in 2011, 339 adults and 674 juveniles have been reported as missing in Missouri. Of those, only 61 adults’ and 112 children’s whereabouts are still unknown. There are 665 adult and 511 juvenile total active cases, which date back to 1953.
Eidson said the number of missing persons reports stays fairly steady.
“It’s pretty consistent,” Eidson said. “Obviously it might vary by like 100 or so from year to year, but for the most part, it doesn’t change much.”
Because cases in the database can be more than 50 years old, many are no longer being actively pursued by their respective law enforcement agencies. Even if this happens, the responding department is always looking for tips that could lead to a conclusion in the case, Eidson said.
“Whether a search is called off or not is up to the individual officers that are there at the scene,” Eidson said. “If they feel a thorough search has been completed and there’s nothing else they can do, then obviously they would call off the search.”
A specific instance is the case of Kristina Bishop. Bishop, who vanished in 1994 at age 13, and over 15 years later, her family is still left clueless.
On the morning of Oct. 19, 1994, Bishop prepared herself and left for school at Jefferson Junior High School. But she never actually ended up at school, officials later told the Columbia Police Department. She didn’t return home either.
Eidson said it is highly likely, though not certain, that Bishop or anyone in a similar situation could still be alive today.
“Just because they’re listed as missing, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are endangered or in harms way,” Eidson said. “It might just mean for one reason or another they just decided to not be in contact with anybody anymore. Anybody can report anyone as missing.”