BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – There are nearly 500 missing person cases in Louisiana according to LSU’s database, and some date back to the 1960s.
These disappearances leave families in pain as they wonder where their loved ones are and if they’re even alive.
BRPROUD looked into how this trauma impacts loved ones who are left to pick up the pieces in cases like these, and what mechanisms are available to help them track their missing family members.
Cynthia Landy is all too familiar with the pain of trying to find a missing family member.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she told BRProud, “I just want my daughter home.”
Landry’s daughter Mary has been missing for over a year.
“It made a year in June, so it’s 15 months now that I have not seen or talked to my daughter,” Landry said.
Her daughter is a mother of three and her disappearance left a hole in the hearts of her loved ones.
“It hurts so bad when you know your child is out there and you don’t know where to find them,” Landry said when speaking with BRProud reporter Ariel Salk via a zoom call.
She described Mary as a kind and loving person.
“Mary was a good person, she loved working, waitressing was her thing, she just loved being around people,” Landry said.
But Landry added that after leaving town with her boyfriend in June of 2021, communications from Mary stopped.
“She was here in Morgan City, she was picked up by her boyfriend to go back to Baton Rouge, and I have not heard from her or seen her since,” Landry said.
Landry made every attempt to get in touch with her daughter and when there was no response, she realized something was very wrong.
“Every time I tried to call her, text her, whatever, I was not getting any response whatsoever,” Landry said. “And after a week I knew something was not right.”
Landry reported her daughter missing with local law enforcement in Morgan City and contacted Baton Rouge Police Missing Persons Detective, Chad Montgomery.
“We’ve worked closely with our neighboring law enforcement officers here,” Montgomery said.
Detective Montgomery is primarily responsible for handling missing persons cases in the Baton Rouge area, but he assists neighboring parishes where possible.
When asked Montgomery how large his team is, he paused and chuckled as he said, “You’re talking to him.”
Montgomery receives continuous calls about people who’ve gone missing.
“It never stops, it’s always every day, one, two, three a day,” he said.
Despite the heavy workload, Montgomery is passionate about what he does.
“My wife understands that most of the time I’m going to be working, you know, very rarely you get a whole night without your phone going off,” said Montgomery. “A lot of overtime, you get called out, you got to go, you don’t want to, but you got to help, somebody’s family is in need of services right now, so you do the best you can, and you work through it and you get it done.”
The Police aren’t the only people aiding the search of missing people. After legislation passed in the early 2000’s, Louisiana State University’s FACEs LAB was tasked with categorizing all who are missing and unidentified in the state.
“The thing about the repository is that it is constantly changing, so every day it might be a new number just because people are found, and more people go missing,” said Teresa Wilson, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Research Department of Geography and Anthropology.
Dr. Wilson is a Forensics Anthropologist and while this isn’t what she envisioned for her career path, she finds her work fulfilling.
“This work can be very stressful, it can be very sad, however, when we do have resolution, when we are able to help a family in any way it is very much rewarding,” Dr. Wilson said.
Details of every missing person are listed on their website, and they collect DNA samples to aid in the investigation.
“We will ask the families for reference samples and family reference samples are just buckle swabs, just cheek swabs that law enforcement and coroners’ offices can take from the family,” Dr. Wilson said.
Landry, mentioned earlier, took up the offer to giver her DNA to the lab and she’s grateful for the opportunity.
“There was a few bodies that had been found up in Baton Rouge and I just didn’t think I could actually go and identify her, so when they asked me if I could do a DNA and I told them yes because that way they will do a DNA with her and your DNA and if it matches then that when they will contact you to let you know,” Landry said. “I’m glad I did it because it took a lot off my chest just not knowing if I was going to get a knock on my door or a phone call saying we need you here.”
While searching for her child, Landry has found countless others online who are also looking for their loved ones.
Landry gave way to tears as she explained, “It’ so hard because you know you see things like this, and it doesn’t touch you that much until it happens to you and then you realize what these other people that their children are missing is going through… You see so many of them found but not the way you want them found and that’s got me so scared after being fifteen months now I’m just really really scared.”
She said, deep down, she feels the worst has happened to her child.
“Deep in my heart, I think my daughter is gone I really do,” Landry said. “A mother’s intuition in my heart I just feel that she is in heaven, I just feel that she has passed on but I need to find her body because I need to put her is a proper burial place.”
Even so, Landry is holding on to hope.
“God, Mary,” Landry said, “if you see this come home, try to call me try to text mama, I love you and I miss you so much.”
Anyone with tips on Mary Landry’s whereabouts or any other missing person should immediately contact Crime Stoppers at 225-344-STOP.