The men and women of our nation’s police departments are amazing public servants who work passionately to seek justice for the criminals in our society and their victims. I am sure that every violent crime that goes unsolved and every missing person who cannot be found have an effect on our officers. However, the demands of the job understandably require that some cold cases receive less attention over time. When the person whose face is tied to that case, though, is your sister, the desire for answers never fades. And, in this amazing age of forensic technology, some questions that have stood for decades are being resolved.
Priscilla Ann Blevins disappeared from her home in North Carolina in July 1975. Her parents led the efforts to find her until their own deaths a little more than a decade ago. And in 2000, Priscilla’s sister Cathy Blevins Howe decided to step up her investigation into the disappearance. While she assumed after all these years that her sister likely was dead, Cathy wanted the opportunity to bring her home for a proper goodbye. That wish came true just a couple of weeks ago when the state medical examiner’s office in Chapel Hill called to let Cathy know that the body of a Jane Doe who could be her sister had been in its possession for more than twenty years.
This revelation came about when DNA testing was refined as a powerful tool in criminal investigations. Cathy submitted her mitochondrial DNA and hoped some records out there would provide a match. Years later, as North Carolina got around to entering the long unknown Jane Doe’s DNA into the system, one sister no longer had to wonder where her older sibling had gone.
Cathy Howe now plans to bring her sister’s remains home for a memorial homecoming and enjoy some bittersweet closure to a lifetime of wondering.
This story offers (at least) two important lessons. First, never underestimate the power and the length of a sister’s love. And second, forensics is a fascinating field that is changing lives every day. Howe has shared that anyone who is grieving a missing loved one should get that person on the DNA database. This story of sibling love and welcome closure could be theirs as well.
* * *