DANSVILLE — Families spoke out for the missing and gave their stories a voice.
On Sept. 1 Hope For The Missing had their first benefit at the Dansville Community Center.
Genesee Country Express sat down with two families as they shared their story about those they lost, and the hope for answers.
Laurie Travis of Dansville has fought for 32 years to bring justice to her sister, Rose Marie Gayhart, who went missing in Cape Coral, FL in March 1985. She was 23 years old.
Barb Sullivan of Churchville will never stop searching for answers in the case of her son, Brian Sullivan’s disappearance on July 8, 2007 at a Burger King in Gates. He was 19 years old.
“Brian was funny and caring. He always looked out for the underdog,” she said. “He would stick up for everyone.”
Travis and her niece Monica Collister started Hope For The Missing in order to bring awareness for those who are still missing.
Many of those like Travis and Sullivan met each other at the Alonzo Williams Awareness Event. Williams went missing in 2011 and was found deceased in 2012.
Travis said for her older sister, Rose Marie Gayhart, she went with her boyfriend, Robert Paddock to live in Florida. They left on Christmas Eve 1984 and only the boyfriend and his mother would come back in April 1985. What happened in those three months is what has been on the minds of her family for over three decades.
“I knew something was wrong when I got a return to sender letter,” Travis said. "We just want answers.”
Donna Collister recalls Paddock being very abusive to her sister when they were together, and the family has suspected he did something horrible to her for decades.
“We loved going to her house and visiting her,” she said. “I remember my sister being very loveable. I knew Bob was very abusive. He would beat her, and that was one of the reasons why he scared me.”
Collister said the last time any of them heard from Rose it was to find out she was pregnant, and Paddock wanted her to abort the baby.
“I hadn’t grown up with abuse in the family, so I didn’t know what to do,” Collister said. “I was 15 years old at the time. I just remember being scared for my sister.”
“The sad part is no one remembers her, or has a clue what happened to her down there,” Collister continued. “They didn’t investigate it for four years. We wanted to put it on Unsolved Mysteries but they claimed we didn’t have enough information.”
The Gayhart Family did not want her going to Florida with Paddock. It turned out their feelings were justified when Rose never came home. Rose worked at Big Howies Hot Dog Stand in Cape Coral, FL. The last time she called her family was to tell them about the fear she had for her baby and herself. Rose never went back to work to pick up her paycheck, and never wrote back to her little sister. This beautiful woman and her unborn child went missing in March 1985. The family said their lives have never been the same.
Sullivan said that Travis has done a lot of work on missing people, and always tries to find out who these people were.
“They (police) can’t get away with what they used too,” she said. “Now they report the missing immediately, and use that time to trace back where the person was last seen. If it is a run away they need to know immediately, and will find the child. Time is very critical in the case of a missing person.”
Brian Sullivan ordered breakfast at Burger King at 6:10 a.m. in Gates. He was 10 minutes away from his home. Brian liked ordering cinnamon buns, and was talking to the lady at the drive-thru about them.
Brian’s car would be found abandoned a mile down the road from Burger King. The search to find him, and what happened to him began immediately.
“Within a couple of weeks we had tips that he had been something horrible happen to him,” Sullivan said. “We were told they thought he was murdered. Bad things happen everywhere. You don’t know who your neighbors are, and what they are capable of.”
Brian was a handsome bright young man who was going to change the world through music. He had just finished his spring semester at Monroe Community College. Brian wanted to mix music, and had purchased two spin tables to mix records on them. Brian loved all music, but not country music.
“Last year they had a suspect who died a couple weeks later,” Sullivan said. “He is still considered missing. They told us they will release something soon.”
“You just want to bring them home,” Sullivan continued. “You want to burry them the place you chose, not where someone dumped their body. We still don’t have Brian. We want to bring Brian home.”
All of the families who go through missing persons have formed a support group, and keep the stories of their missing alive.
Monica Collister said that although she never met her aunt Rose she feels like she has known her all her life. Collister sees her aunt in her mother and other aunt Laurie.
“This tragedy goes into the way I parent,” she said. “I don’t let my children out of my sight. I can’t trust people. My family has suffered from this for over 30 years.”
Collister wanted to do this event for the people who have suffered like her family.
“I have done a lot of benefits, but this one has a lot more meaning to me,” she said. “I am glad it is bringing the community together.”