Bringing awareness to Wisconsin's missing people
For the third year in a row, Governor Scott Walker has declared April Missing Persons Awareness Month in Wisconsin. This afternoon, missing persons advocates came together in Brown County, hoping to spread awareness about their missing loved ones, but also to offer support.
This marks year number three Marsha Loritz has organized the event, as she continues to search for all missing people across the state.
Loritz’s mother, Victoria Prokopovitz, went missing four years ago next Tuesday, from her home in Pittsfield. Prokopovitz disappeared without her purse, keys or phone. Nearly four years after her mother’s disappearance, Loritz’s search has not slowed down.
“I’ve lived the last four years in desperation, for answers,” Loritz says. “Turning this focus into something positive and helping other families is good for me. It takes the negative from it.”
At today’s event, Lortiz paid tribute to all 178 people declared missing across the state of Wisconsin. Right now, there’s no clear way to know the exact number, because there’s no universal system for the public and police to track missing adults. Still, Lortiz’s event works to bring awareness to those law enforcement are positive are missing.
“Someone knows something in these cases,” Loritz says. “And you just never know who you speak to, and how you’ll make a connection.”
Since the disappearance of her mother, Loritz has made connections with dozens of families who are missing loved ones.
Jackie Kort’s mother, Donna May Bayerl, was last seen 38 years ago in Muskego, when Kort was just four-years-old. Last year she found solace with Loritz’s support, and others who are missing loved ones.
“With the support of families it's been different. It's been welcoming, comforting,” says Kort. “I don't know how I survived this long without it. Because 38 years is a very long time not to have answers."
“I just wanted to reach out to another family member of missing people, just to have that. To share in that experience,” says Jenna Wood, whose niece, Amber Wilde, has been missing for 18 years.
Wood says that while Wilde has been missing nearly two decades, their family has never given up hope.
"Answers to prayers are happening every day,” she says. “Just because Amber's not found, doesn't mean other family members aren't being found, because they are. And those are answered prayers. So that just helps me to get through, and trust God then. That yeah, I might not always get my answer that I want right now in this moment, but I know He's working."