Americans observe National Missing Children’s Day on May 25 each year. It’s an opportunity to remember more than 50,000 youngsters who become victims of abductions by someone outside their respective families every year, according to Holiday Insights.
Former President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as the special date in 1983. The U.S. Department of Justice sponsors each National Missing Children’s Day. The observance took its inspiration from several child abductions that captured the country’s attention in the 1970s and 1980s. The earliest disappearance was that of Etan Patz, who vanished on May 25, 1979 while headed for school in New York City.
One of the most unusual unsolved cases is that of Melissa Lee Brannen, who was just 5 when she disappeared from a holiday party in her family’s apartment complex in Lorton, Virginia, on December 3, 1989, the Charley Project reports. Right before she and her mother were to leave, she set out to get more potato chips. No one has seen her since.
Authorities quickly found a suspect among the 80 guests. Caleb Hughes, who had been a groundskeeper for just two weeks at the complex, was sitting near Melissa. He left the party at around the same time her mother discovered she was missing. Although Hughes had a prior criminal record, he had no convictions for sexual or violent offenses.
An FBI laboratory analyzed fibers, blood, and hair from Hughes’s car and determined that they could have come from Melissa Brannen, along with 40 percent of the general population. Additional tests showed stains in the vehicle were not linked to her, but that rabbit hairs found in it matched those in her jacket. Fibers matching those in her skirt and her sweater were also in the car. In 1991, Hughes was convicted of abduction with the intent to define. His sentence was 50 years in prison.
How to Observe the Day
National Missing Children’s Day is the perfect time to go over safety awareness with your children. It’s a day when you can exercise extra vigilance and talk to your neighbors about setting up a volunteer neighborhood watch program.
The occasion is also a good time to post information on electronic community bulletin boards and in newsletters about how to report suspicious behavior and how to become involved in local efforts to protect children from would-be non-family abductors.
If you’ve already created records of your children, including fingerprints and photos, you should update them at least once a year. If you have yet to create them, consider starting on May 25.