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Missing Persons Event Gives Hope to Families

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- People with missing loved ones drew attention to their cause Thursday afternoon in Wilkes-Barre.

At the region's Missing Persons Day event, relatives of the missing paired up with police and prosecutors who have not given up looking for them.

No one expects the friends and relatives they see every day to suddenly disappear from their lives. But it happened to many of those at the Missing Persons Day event at Wilkes University, including a woman now living in Texas, whose sister disappeared almost 50 years ago.

"My sister was 22 years old," said Anita Herless. "We just never knew anything. She went missing… We never located her or ever knew really what happened to her."

Ilonka Cann was last seen near Shickshinny in the spring of 1970. Her sister Anita Herless was a teenager at the time. 48 years later, she flew to Wilkes-Barre from Texas to do whatever she could to bring closure to a family heartache.

"My parents had to live with this for many years, and then they had both passed away without knowing whatever happened to their very beloved daughter," Herless said.

Shirley Masters is from Susquehanna County and hopes this Missing Persons Day event helps police solve cases like the one involving her sister, Shelva who disappeared from the Pittston area 12 years ago.

"Our family decided that just holding vigils wasn't enough; we needed to do more," said Masters.

At the event at Wilkes University, families of the missing met with state and local police from the area. Some may have had clues, others may be the kind of DNA matches investigators need to bring the missing cases to a close.

"That gives some peace to the families, that their loved ones haven't been forgotten. This is just another resource to try to find information about where they may be located," said Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Even cases that are 48 years old, like the disappearance of Ilonka Cann, last seen when she was a 22-year-old newlywed.

"there is a whole army, a team of people behind those families that is working for the same resolution," Herless said.

Relatives of the missing say the event brings them hope. It also lets them support each other while the search for their missing loved ones continues, often over many years.