This week remains were positively identified which were found in 1989, nine years after Melinda Harder went missing in 1980. This is a landmark case on so many levels. It holds out hope to those who are still searching for their missing mothers, some also for almost 30 years, that they NEVER give up. Talking to several children of missing mothers has taught me that it is a mission, a life's work, a "calling" that reaches into their core.
"28 years ago, three children who were 3, 4, and 5 did not know what happened to their mother," said Brenda Stevenson, a civilian investigator for the St. Petersburg Police DepartmentFor the children of Melinda Harder, and family friend Monica Caison it is an inspiration to continue to help, to continue to search and to continue to bring answers to families who so desperately need them.
For years, Caison wondered what happened to Harder, who she remembered from her childhood as friendly and happy, sometimes pulling three young children in a red wagon.Caison said the mystery became an inspiration for her life’s work – searching for the missing.
This case also shows the importance of DNA and the need for samples of all recovered remains to be listed in the FBI database, as well as DNA from families of missing persons to also be collected and entered. All organizations for missing persons, along with family members should be lobbying for this to be standard procedure and enforced. It could hold the key in so many unsolved and cold cases throughout the country.
If it had not been for a persistant cold case investigator, Brenda Stevenson, a friend who carried the torch for missing persons, and children who knew in their hearts that they were not abandoned, Melinda Harder's case may have remained a mystery.
May Melinda now rest in the peace she has not known for 28 years, and may her family and friends begin the healing process and continue to travel the paths they have chosen with a renewed spirit to find their answers.