Identification of woman after 13 years offers hope to other families of the missing

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 5:03 PM CST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Hundreds of families in Wisconsin with loved ones classified as ‘missing’ may be finding a little bit more hope in the last week.

As we first reported November 23, the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office positively identified remains found by hunters 13 years ago as those belonging to 18-year-old Amy Marie Yeary of Rockford, Illinois.

Once only known as Jane Doe, technology and genealogy advancements led to the breakthrough in her identification.

Fond du Lac authorities say she was a victim of sex trafficking, but what exactly happened to her is still under investigation.

That kind of news stirs up a lot of emotions for other families whose loved ones are still missing, but it also provides hope.

“It was shocking, but it’s always such a relief to hear that law enforcement doesn’t give up on these cases. They’re old cases, and to hear that she has her name back now is just huge, and my heart goes out to her family,” says Marsha Loritz. “As sad as the story is, it’s also a relief because now they know where she is and they know some of what happened.”

Marsha Loritz knows many of those feelings all too well.

She keeps a daily count of people classified as ‘missing’ in Wisconsin.

She has since her mother, Victoria Prokopovitz, was added to that list in 2013, vanishing from her rural Brown County home without a trace.

Loritz founded the non-profit Wisconsin Missing Persons Advocacy, Inc., creating a network of support and encouragement for all those families facing the same uncertainty and questions.

“You’re always searching. It’s not something you can just shut off. I’ll be driving down the road and looking in ditches and in faces in the crowds. It’s just very typical for a family with a missing loved one to always be searching, so until they find their missing loved one, they’ll always wonder,” explains Loritz.

Families share pain and heartache in that wonder, but when there’s a big development in a case, they also share relief that another family has answers.

That happened three times just last week with the discovery of two missing men in northern Wisconsin and Amy Yeary’s positive identification in Fond du Lac County.

“It’s huge. It brings hope in our cases,” she says. “Happily ever after would be the best ending, but that’s not usually the case. And to get some sort of answers, some sort of resolution is the goal.”

2021 has been a tough year for Loritz and her family, sitting through the trial of her father, James Prokopovitz, who was convicted by a jury in February of killing Victoria.

Loritz still doesn’t know where her mother is, but even now, she finds herself keeping the same hope she always tells others to hold on to.

“I was surprised that I did have that hope, but she’s out there. She’s still missing, so I hope that one day we find out where she is. Even if that means we can’t actually retrieve her remains, at least we would know,” says Loritz.

The fact that law enforcement worked on Yeary’s case for 13 years shows they don’t give up, and Loritz doesn’t want families to either.

She says it’s a good reminder to submit DNA and other critical information not just to police, but to genealogy websites or similar places that may connect the missing links.

While they all wait, her advice has not changed.

“Never give up,” Loritz says through tears. “Never give up.”

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