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Case offers families of missing some hope

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 11:45 p.m.

Leah Keeney says her emotions welled when she heard about the Cleveland women found alive after more than a decade of captivity.

“It's hard to talk about,” said Keeney of Glassport, whose sister Toni Lynn McNatt-Chiapetta vanished in Clairton in 1981 at the age of 14. “When I saw it on the news, my heart went right to my throat.

“It's mixed emotions. ... I'd be elated to find my sister, but to know what she went through, the mental anguish, the missed birthdays.”

Dennis Bair believes no family has reason to ever give up the search when someone goes missing.

Bair, 38, of Squirrel Hill, the founder of BairFind Foundation, worked with the families of two of the women freed on Monday in Cleveland.

Police arrested three brothers, ages 50, 52 and 54, in connection with the abduction of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Berry led police to the home after breaking free and placing a frantic 911 call. Authorities say the women vanished when they were in their teens or early 20s.

“These three women fought for 10 years and won,” Bair said. “We owe it to the other missing children who are still out there fighting not to give up on them.”

Allegheny County Police Lt. Jeffrey Korczyk, who oversees missing person investigations, thinks the case holds surpris ing similarities to one in McKeesport.

Korczyk recalls Tanya Nicole Kach, who wrote a book about her experiences in McKeesport living with Thomas Hose, a security guard at her middle school who lured her to his parents' home in 1996 when she was 14 and kept her captive until 2006.

Kach could not be reached for comment.

“These cases are more and more common and give people hope,” said Kach's attorney, Lawrence Fisher.

“It's odd that in both instances these women were kept very close to home, which we don't often see,” Korczyk said.

The Cleveland women were tied up in a home about three miles from where they separately vanished, police said. Kach had lived less than a mile from Hose, who is in prison.

Suspects in abductions typically avoid staying near the scene of their crimes, said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Adam Reed.

“In most cases, they are running,” he said. “That's why it's critical to have as much information as quickly as possible.”

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children lists 62 Pennsylvanians, including 17 from the Pittsburgh area, as missing. They include Marjorie West, who vanished 75 years ago on Wednesday while picking wildflowers during a family picnic near her home in Bradford. A widespread search failed to find West, who went missing when she was 4.

Her case, Reed said, is far more typical than the events that occurred in Cleveland.

“For law enforcement to see a positive conclusion like the one in Cleveland is rare,” Reed said. “Unfortunately, the more time that passes after a person is reported missing, the chances that we'll end up with such a good result decreases.”

Yet cases in which missing people turn up alive should buoy families whose children disappear, experts say.

“You hear this every once in a while, and it does give hope to family members,” said Mark Miller, founder of the American Association for Lost Children in Unity.

Living with such a loss is difficult, Keeney and others said.

Marcie Smith, whose daughter Alicia Markovich, 15, disappeared near Blairsville in 1987, said she wonders every day what happened to her child.

“It changed my whole life,” said Smith, of Stoystown.

Smith has shared the ordeal of what it feels like not to know where your child is. She has come to realize that her daughter is gone.

“I believe she's dead,” she said.

In Glassport, Keeney said she holds out hope her sister will be found alive.

“You have to,” she said.

Tony LaRussa and Craig Smith are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach LaRussa at 412-320-7987 or Reach Smith at 412-380-5646 or

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