Two fathers' painful search to bring their missing children home

Missing children of color #BringThemHome

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD., (WUSA) - Michael Muse has not been able to shake the agonizing feeling of abandonment for nearly five years.  

"I find myself, what I call, waking up from my dreams with my soul crying. No physical tears, but all the feeling of sorrow, like God himself is no longer with me," Muse said.

His dreams, filled with images of his son Christian, often take him on an emotional roller coaster.

Muse describes his son as a brilliant, athletic, rough and tumble young man who worked through his growing pains.

Christian refocused, learned a trade and graduated with a certificate from a community college.

"Oh, I was so proud of him," Muse said. "To see him smile as he walked across that stage, like, 'See dad, I told you I could do it!'"

His reoccurring dreams of the missing 19-year-old now haunt the local Go-Go legend. He had no idea July 15, 2012 would be the last day he would lay eyes on his son. 

"He said, 'dad I'll be back'," Muse said.

He did not come back home -- after no word from Christian for two days, his father called county police to report him missing.

"With his age, they immediately deemed it non-critical, for whatever reason.  There was no media coverage on it at all until 16 months after he was gone," Muse said.

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"My kids were on the run for three years," John Howard said.

Fatherhood was a life passage Howard was looking to for most of his young adult life.  

"I loved it from day one. I was there for both of my sons' birth. I was there for their first words," he said.

But the single father found himself in a downward spiral when his boys and their mom disappeared, after she lost custody in March 2013. Howard hit a road block when he tried to file a missing persons report with the police.

"They were like, no it's not missing because you know who has your kids, " he said. "And I was totally blown away. As a parent of a child of color, I didn't feel like my child was that important."

"This has been going on for years which is the reason why we started our organization," Derrica Wilson said.

Wilson's organization, The Black and Missing Foundation, is a non-profit organization with a mission to bring awareness to missing persons of color across the country.

"Because they've been swept under the rug," she said. "When we first started the organization back in 2009, 30 percent of missing persons in the United States were persons of color, and that number has since increased to 40 percent."

"Going into our community, our people didn't think there was an issue with missing persons of color because when they turned their televisions on they didn't see anyone who looked like them," Wilson said.

Instead, they'd see the faces of Natalie Holloway, Caylee Anthony, Elizabeth Smart -- missing cases the Poytner Institute for Media Studies sais was extensively covered by nightly network news for months, even years.  

The disappearance of 8-year-old Relisha Ruddd in the District never reached that saturation of national attention.  

The Black and Missing Foundation works to bridge that gap to help what they see as an underserved population.

"It's important to get these stories out because their missing loved one lives are valued. The worst thing is the unknown, not knowing if your loved one is hungry; if they're cold; if you're even going to see them again," Wilson said

Black and Missing coaches families so that they can get awareness for their missing to the media immediately. In addition, the organization provides investigative, counseling, medical or other services to prepare them once they are reunited with them. 

Howard's sons are back home now. After years of posting fliers and searching on his own, Wilson, a former law enforcement officer, armed him with the language to push police into action.

"If it wasn't for Derrica putting everything together, saying no, it's a parental abduction," he said. "It was almost scary because it started rolling within, like twenty minutes. I got nine phone calls from different detectives.

"A lady recognized the vehicle that they were in and she called the tip line. That day, it was just so many emotions.  So, I just kinda hugged them, hugged them and we all cried," Howard said. 

Muse's son remains missing.

"You know, me being in the entertainment field, I have to kind of mask my emotions a lot of times," he said. "So I can't carry that sorrow outwardly. I'm hoping, I'm praying and I'm believing that in 2017 I will see my son."

"I empathize and sympathize with anyone who's going through this, but that's my son and we just want him back," he added. 
 

PHOTOS of Missing Children of Color: 

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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