Parents hold out hope missing children will return home - FOX 35 News Orlando

Parents hold out hope missing children will return home

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Rachel Mellon Rachel Mellon
Rachel with age progression Rachel with age progression
Jeff Skemp Jeff Skemp
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On the one year anniversary of the release of three Cleveland women who had been held captive for nearly a decade, local parents are still holding out hope their missing children will return home safe.

A suburban Chicago man is still wondering what happened to his daughter, after 18 years, and hoping for a miracle.

“I always think up different scenarios in my head and I dream of the day that Rachel's gonna come home,” said Jeff Skemp, who is Rachel Mellon's father.

Rachel was just 13-years-old when she vanished without a trace from her Bolingbrook home on January 31, 1996. She had been home sick from school that day and the only other one home was her step-father Vince Mellon. He claimed he went out for walk with the dog and when he came back Rachel was gone. But she had left behind her coat and her shoes.

Vince Mellon was questioned by police, failed a polygraph, and was called before a Will County grand jury, but never charged.

“I probably, years ago, have accepted the idea that Rachel's probably not still alive,” Skemp said.

Bolingbrook Police said Rachel’s disappearance remains an active investigation. The department's website still lists the case, along with a link to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has an age progression image of what Rachel might look like today. She’d be 31-years-old.

Skemp said he has closely followed the case of the three Cleveland women rescued after nearly a decade in captivity.

“I'm so happy for them and their families,” he said, but is less hopeful for his daughter’s case ending the same way.

“There's always a bit, a part of me inside that thinks someday the miracle's gonna happen and she's gonna pop up. But realistically, in Rachel's case I don't think they're gonna find her alive,” Skemp said. “I just hope that someday they can find her, that's the hardest part.”

There are several other missing children cold cases in the area. Diamond and Tionda Bradley went missing in July of 2011, 13 years ago. Back then, it was a national case and it continues to be an open investigation.

The two sisters reportedly left a note that they were going to play at a park and go to a local store, but they were never seen again. 

The FBI and Chicago Police Department searched fields, railroad cars and 5,000 abandoned buildings - but nothing was found. 

If they are still alive, Tionda would be 23 and Diamond would be 16 years old. The mother of the two girls has since moved away from her South Side home and changed her phone number. But, the family continues to search for the two girls.

The FBI and Chicago Cold Case Division will continue to keep the cases open. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children still have them listed as missing. If you have any information, they would love to hear from you at 1-800-843-5678. 

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says advances in science can help people that have missing children. He says those advances are helping his team with a 1980 murder case.

"They believe now they have connected who the person is based on (facial) identification. With the advances in technology and forensics, there is so much more we can do. It is a question of people understanding that and people coming forward on things they may have thought were insignificant," Dart said.

A new system allows parents to put their child's DNA into a system, so if they are ever lost, officials have a better chance of finding them.

"If you allow us to take your DNA and put it into this national database system, it will kick in matches that may occur," Dart explained.

FOX 32's Anita Padilla contributed to this story

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