15 years ago, on August 18th, 1993, 12 year old Sara Anne Wood disappeared as she was walking along side her bike on a rural road near Utica. Three years later, Lewis Lent pleaded guilty to her kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. Today, what started out as the Sara Anne Wood Rescue Center, working out of a bowling alley. Is now an integral part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The office in Utica is one of six nationwide. From this one branch, thousands of posters of missing children are sent out across the nation. Frank Williams, a personal friend of the Wood family serves on the Center's Board of Directors. "We were chartered to take the love and devotion that was shown in the search for one missing child and extend it to all missing children." Williams told Action News.
The fliers that come from the Utica branch go to targeted zip codes where they're posted in key locations. You can also see the posters on the internet, along with necessary information about the child's possible whereabouts and which police agency to contact. Since the center got started in 1995, it has printed and distributed five million 576 thousand posters, featuring 4 thousand 130 children. Of that number 2-thousand 598 missing kids have been reunited with their families.
Cathy Latt has been volunteering with the center for 12 years. "I feel honored to come up here and stuff fliers and fold them and send them out because they have found a lot of missing children."
Center volunteers and staff also go into schools to teach kids to be aware of predators both in their communities and on the internet. They also train law enforcement on how to react to reports of missing children. One thing they realized 15 years ago was that Police nationwide needed to better coordinate such efforts to find missing kids.
But the one child who may never be found is Sara Anne Wood, the 12 year old whose disappearance united a community fifteen years ago and launched a movement to find thousands of missing children.