Discovery of missing Cleveland women gives hope to moms in Victoria cases

There isn’t much that gives the mothers of long-missing local children hope — but the escape of three young women held captive for about a decade in Cleveland is one of them.

Both Crystal Dunahee and Jocelan Adkens said the discovery of kidnapping victims held since their teens leaves open the possibility that Michael Dunahee, missing for 22 years, and Jesokah Adkens, missing for 12 years, might one day be found alive.

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That’s why Adkens has never left the Sooke home where Jesokah, then 17, lived until she was last seen at a bus stop at Saseenos Elementary School on Sooke Road at about 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2001.

“I’ve never moved — I always have visions of her walking down the driveway,” said Adkens, whose daughter’s 29th birthday was May 1.

Stories such as the Cleveland case help bolster the hope she still holds out, although “reality tells me otherwise,” she said. “She’s always on my mind anyway.”

Dunahee, whose son Michael was only four when he disappeared from the playing field at Blanshard Elementary School on March 24, 1991 — leading to one of the largest police investigations in Canadian history — said she’s happy for the families in Cleveland that have their children back. “They’ve got a long road to recovery, for sure.”

The worst, she said, is the “not knowing, not having the answers.”

Shelley Fillipoff, the Ontario-based mother of Emma Fillipoff, 26, a trained chef who disappeared from downtown Victoria last November, said she is “profoundly happy” for the families in Cleveland but saddened that one of their mothers did not live to see it. “I said to my best friend, ‘She probably died of stress.’ ”

“I know what they would have been going through and after 10 years, I don’t think you would ever expect to see your child,” said Fillipoff, who spent about two months in Victoria hunting for Emma, and passing out posters to mail carriers, street cleaners and bus drivers.

“It sickens me to think that those girls were missing for 10 years and that nobody could find them.” In the end, one of the young women, with the help of a neighbour who heard her cry for help, initiated the escape.

Knowing your neighbours well is one of the best crime-fighting tools, said Victoria Police Const. Mike Russell. “That can help solve more crime and prevent more crime than we can ever hope to do just as a department.”

The smallest things lead to breaks in cases, he added, whether it’s a missing person, someone storing stolen property or running a grow-op. “We get paid to come out and investigate these things. Don’t be reluctant to call.”

Investigators have had no further tips on Emma’s disappearance, Russell said Tuesday.

Shelley arrived in Victoria Nov. 28 just a few hours after Emma spent 45 minutes talking to two police officers in a cruiser across from the Fairmont Empress Hotel. She walked away at 8 p.m. and was reported as talking to people on Blanshard and Burdett streets a short time later, but by midnight, she was deemed missing.

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