The Waiting: Coping with Disappearances, Unsolved Crimes

February 21, 2011 by Julie Montanaro Part One

There are hundreds of disappearances and unsolved murders in Florida and for each one, there is a family who must now walk an emotional tight rope for months, years and sometimes forever.

Those families wait for closure ... for a body, for a suspect and an answer to perhaps the most difficult question of all ... why.

Ali Gilmore vanished in February 2006. No sign of struggle, no calls, no explanation, no body, no nothing. Still.

"I have no idea, but I'll tell you one thing how I feel. I feel that she's no longer with us and God forgive me if I am wrong," Gilmore's mother Laurvetta McLawrence said in a recent phone interview.

In the days and months following Gilmore's disappearance, there were signs and flyers and searches. Not anymore. Tallahassee Police consider it a "cold case" but not a closed case.

"Most of all, I would like to find out where is Ali? Basically it's the same thing year after year, no answers," McLawrence said.

Certified traumatologist Sally Karioth says for families like Gilmore's, the what if's can go on forever.

"Do I want to know that he's dead, or do I want to keep hoping he's alive?" There's always that piece in the back of their minds that says, "I just need some information, here," Karioth said. "Ali Gilmore's mother must think every single day, maybe today I'll get the phone call."

"Every day you say, I'm going to get that phone call, they're going to solve this," Helen Gainous said as she stood by her son's grave.

Helen Gainous knows all about waiting for that phone call.
Her son Sylvester Davis was shot and killed in his home five years ago and police have never been able to figure out who did it.

"I wish that person would call and say I killed your son for such and such a thing. Maybe I could understand, but can you really understand? I want to know why," Gainous said.

"Do you think you will ever get an answer to the question why?"

"I will. I will," she said.

Certified traumatologist Ken Fowler says many families dealing with unsolved murders and disappearances never really have a chance to begin the grieving process, because they are so wrapped up in the case itself.

"Families never really want to give up, because they feel like they are giving up on their loved one if they do that. They're still fighting for their justice, and they feel like no one else is carrying that torch," Fowler said.

Coming up tomorrow on "The Waiting" ... finding strength to move forward.

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UPDATED 2.22.2011 by Julie Montanaro Part Two

Dozens of families in our viewing area are still waiting for answers in shocking disappearances and unsolved murders. Many of them wait years. Some wait forever.

How do these families find the strength to get up every day and go on with their lives? Many will tell you God, family and friends and others simply say ... they don't have a choice.

"Every morning I get up, that's my first thought."

Sylvonia Banks' daughter Keira was killed in her Orlando home back in November 2007. Her mom calls it the perfect crime ... no clues, no suspects and no answers.

She credits God, her two other daughters and two grandchildren with giving her the will to go on and admits, she tries desperately to solve the crime herself.

"I actually watch 48 Hours which I had never done before. I watch Snap. I try to find similarities in my daughter's murder and try to see if I can solve the crime myself," Banks said. "It's become a passion and I guess that could be good and bad. I want to find my daughter's killers. i want them to know the effect they've had on our family."

"Families, they want answers," said cerfitied traumatologist Ken Fowler.

Fowler says it is very common for families of those whove disappeared or been murdered to become quasi-investigators themselves.

"They become irate with the police because they don't have anything to give them. They feel like they're not working hard enough," Fowler said.

"It's very frustrating, but I want to keep my sanity," said Laurvetta McLawrence.

Laurvetta McLawrence's daughter Ali Gilmore, vanished without a trace in 2006.

"No answers from no one. Everything they say they do or checking on it leads to a dead end," McLawrence said in a recent phone interview.

Traumatologists say it's important for families to realize their loved ones would want them to go on with their lives and have happy lives, but the questions will be a constant companion

"Who says you're supposed to be quote, unquote, over it in a year? You never get over a great loss. You learn to incorporate it into your life," Fowler said.

"You and I think we'd be face down in the bed, but this is what happens. They put their clothes on and go to work and are stunningly, exquisitely strong," said certified traumatologist Sally Karioth. "They don't want to be strong, they don't want to be the poster child for someone who goes on with their life, but most folks do and just carry that sadness."

One mother told me it gives her great peace to remember "If it's not solved here, it's going to be solved in heaven." But of course she - and lots of other families - are hoping for the "solved here" part.


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