The Patriot Ledger

May 8, 2013

New Hope For Local Kin - Families of missing women riveted by rescues in Ohio

By Chris Burrell

Aday after the rescue of three women who had been held captive in a Cleveland house for 10 years, the news riveting a nation has stirred a little hope in the hearts of some local families whose loved ones have been missing for years.

"The first time I turned it on this morning, it just said there was three missing women that had been found. I was sitting on the edge of my seat. Oh my God, my heart was pounding.," said Patricia (Patty) DeMoura, whose sister Debra Melo vanished 13 years ago.

DeMoura hoped for those few seconds that the TV news would announce that one of them was her sister. In 2000, Melo's husband, Luis, told police he and his wife had argued, and she had gotten out of their car on a wooden stretch of Route 18 in South Weymouth. No sign of her was ever found, and no arrest was ever made.

"We don't have any final answer," said DeMoura, a Taunton resident. "You always have a string of hope that maybe she is out there. You don't know a hundred percent."

A similar response was felt by the family of Jennifer Lee Fay, who disappeared on a November day in 1989 in Brockton when she was 16 years old.

"It certainly always gives us hope that something like that can happen in Jennifer's case," said Michelle Little-field, a private investigator who has worked Fay's case since 2005.

But mixed with hope is heartache, said Littlefield.

"As much as you want to be hopeful, at the same time, after 23 years, you also have to be realistic," she said. "So it's bittersweet for us."

DeMoura said she watched the television news from Cleveland for much of Tuesday as police recounted how Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held captive in a house there since their teens or early 20s. "It just breaks your heart. We don't even know where to look," said DeMoura. "I talked to her daughter this morning, and she felt the same way. This really makes me feel like, is she really out there? What more can we do?"

Both Fay's and Melo's families hope the good news from Cleveland makes more people aware of the plight of families still wondering what happened to loved ones who have gone missing.

Another South Shore resident who has been missing for years is Maura Murray, a Hanson resident whose car was found on a rural road in New Hampshire.

Murray disappeared in 2004 when she was 21, and neither police nor private investigators have ever found viable clues.

Nationally, there are as many as 100, 000 active missing persons at a given time, according to a federal database of missing persons.

In cases of children, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children states that it is rare for abducted children to be murdered.

Enterprise reporter Amy Carboneau contributed reporting to this story. Chris Burrell may be reached at