Families of missing children can face years of agony, police call online predators a 'true threat'

Posted at 1:36 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 13:36:29-04

(WXYZ) — "I had bad thoughts ... terrible thoughts I didn't want to think about as far as my son being gone," said Mike.

Mike is the father of a 13-year-old boy who recently went missing. Thankfully Detroit police located him Saturday all the way in Flint. But the days and nights in between were agony for this father.


"That he might have been dead. I would have never thought he made it all the way to Flint. He's never done this before ... he was the average kid," Mike said.

Currently in Michigan, there are 654 children under the age of 18 reported missing, 131 missing children are age 13 and under. And sadly, some may never find their way home.

"When I see these posts, that parents are terrified about the white van driving around in the neighborhood, I'm not saying that that doesn't happen, because it does. However, you should be concerned about who your kid's talking to sitting on the couch next to you. That's your major concern. Because there's no doubt that your child has friends in their contact list on social media that could be predators, that could be groomers, posing as friends to your children. And that's a true threat," said Lt. Sarah Krebs with the Michigan State Police.

If your child ever goes missing, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says to immediately call law enforcement, and then contact them at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

And don't overlook these places when searching:

- Closets
- Piles of laundry
- In and under beds
- Inside large appliances
- Vehicles, including trunks
- Anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide

"If your child is missing, I think that law enforcement should be your first option instead of Facebook. If it's under the age of say, we really use the age of 13 and below, because we considered age alone being endangerment at 13," said Lt. Krebs.

Lt. Krebs started the non-profit "Missing in Michigan," and she knows the agony loved ones face, like the family of Ciara Stacho; she was 15 when she went missing in 2015.

"And, unfortunately, Ciara, we haven't had any clue of where she's gone since she left Inkster that day," said Lt. Krebs.

Ty Martin believes his twin sister Carolyn Martin was murdered in 1981 when she and her 2-year-old son Mark went missing. They left Michigan with her boyfriend.

The boyfriend returned but Carolyn and her son did not. This photo shows how Mark might look today at 42 years old:

"I refuse to give up, just like today I refuse to give up. And when it's been almost 40 years," said Ty.

Ty believes he's alive and was given to someone to raise as their own.

"I miss the sound of Mark, his voice, the ringing of his laughter, his little arms around my neck, you know? That's what it's like every day. So I'm not going to give up," said Ty.

Krebs said there is pain for so many of these families.

"So many of these families cannot change their phone number. They can't move from the location they lived at when their loved one went missing, no matter what type of life events they have. They really hold onto that. Because what if they come home?" said Krebs.

Lt. Krebs said parents and guardians should always have updated photos of their children saved in their phones, and to make sure those pictures are not filtered. Those photos can best help police and the public find them if you should ever have to report them missing.


Missing in Michigan Facebook Page:

Missing Children from Care Database:

Victims and Family Support: