BREAUX BRIDGE — Dozens of family and friends of Louisiana residents who have gone missing gathered in Breaux Bridge on Saturday for a march meant to call attention to the silent struggle of missing persons cases.
Many carried signs depicting lost loved ones, including Jeanne Savoy, whose niece, Crystal Dupuis Grebinger, is among those still missing.
Savoy, the event’s organizer, had written to Gov. John Bel Edwards last month asking him to name a Missing Persons Day. Edwards designated June 8 as that day.
“I requested a day to raise awareness in the community and the state that this is a tragedy that affects a lot more people than you know,” Savoy said. “You don’t know how it’s going to affect you until it hits home.”
Savoy said the goal of the day and the march was to bring the community, the families and law enforcement together so everybody can “trust each other and speak up.”
Grebinger was 32 when she walked out of a Lafayette shelter for abused women in February 2013; she hasn’t been seen since. She has four children, now ages 11 to 17.
State Police are now handling the Grebinger investigation and have kept the case open, Master Trooper Brooks David said.
Tyler Lauren Domingue’s family said they were at the march because they wanted to draw attention to the issue so their family might be able to find some form of closure.
“We have a little bit of hope that maybe she’s out there alive somewhere,” said Judy Hardy, Domingue’s aunt. “But we know she’s with Jesus. What we’re mostly hoping for is information to find out what happened to her.”
Domingue, 28, was last seen in May 2014 near her home on La. 182 in Opelousas, according to a KATC-TV report on her disappearance. Also missing was her gray 2004 Pontiac Grand Am.
The event was emotional for many as hard memories of those they had gathered to remember welled up once again.
Randy Dupuis, Grebinger’s father, was in attendance and said his daughter’s disappearance still haunts him. Seeing his granddaughters was hard for him.
“Those two girls, I see so much of Crystal in them,” Dupuis said. “I want to spend time with them, to be with them, but sometimes it’s just too hard and I just break down.”
Chester Cedars, 16th Judicial District assistant district attorney, spoke at the event at Veterans Memorial Park. He said the District Attorney’s Office has a policy of prosecuting someone accused of domestic violence, even if the victim drops the charges. He calls this practice the “no drop policy.”
“They’ve instilled in us the tools to maybe prevent someone from becoming a missing person,” Cedars said. “I would speculate that the majority of missing persons were a part of some sort of domestic issues or domestic abuse issues.”
Also in attendance were Breaux Bridge Police Chief Rollie Cantu, who knew Grebinger since she was a child, and representatives of the Acadian Counseling Center and the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancements Services Laboratory.
FACES is a forensics lab that deals with skeletal remains and missing and unidentified persons.
Teresa Wilson, an assistant professor of research with LSU’s Department of Geography and Anthropology and a member of the FACES Lab, said hundreds of people go missing in Louisiana every month, but most are found within a week.
However, Wilson said there are 245 active long-term missing persons cases in Louisiana. She also said one of the most important things when it comes to finding a missing person is immediately reporting it to the police.
“People assume they have to wait before they can report somebody missing, and it’s a misconception that people seem to have,” Wilson said. “The moment you know someone is missing, it’s important to call a law enforcement agency and report them missing. There is no time period where you need to wait. Finding them quickly can be very important.”