Covering The Heartbreak Of Missing Children | What Remains Podcast Episode 9
The cases I absolutely hate to cover are those involving missing, injured or dead children. This comes from a place of being a mother myself, and having had to knock on so many doors over the years of the parents of dead children. It literally makes me sick to think about doing it, and having to do it.
But Monica Caison, a mother of five, is somehow able to navigate these cases as a community advocate without falling apart emotionally. She has a strength and fortitude like no other when it comes to handling cases of missing and murdered children. I interviewed her many times over the years and knew her insight would be perfect for the What Remains podcast. She took over the reins of the Community United Effort, also known as the CUE Center for Missing Persons, in 1994 and never looked back.
The North Carolina Case That Changed Monica Caison
Monica was just a few years into her role as the leader of CUE when she got involved in a case that almost broke her. CUE was asked to help search for 9-year-old C.J. Wilkerson. He was reported as a missing person on January 12, 2000. He had called his mother at work and told her he missed the school bus. His uncle, who lived just across the street, went to check on C.J. What he didn’t realize was that at the same time, the boy’s stepfather, Derrick Glover, was in the back of C.J.’s house murdering the child.
Monica and the CUE Center started searching the neighborhood where C.J. disappeared. Hundreds of volunteers fanned out across the rural suburb that was made up of about 18 square miles of rolling farmland and woods. They came up empty. Cadaver dogs even joined the search, and still nothing.
Search for C.J. Wilkerson Ends In Tragedy
Four months later, Monica, emotionally drained and physically exhausted by the case, got a devastating call. Investigators had found C.J.’s remains in a wooded area, stuffed in a suitcase in Southeast Raleigh about 20 miles from his mother’s house.
C.J. Wilkerson was a heartfelt case for me. He broke my heart and he laid me down in the bed for quite a few days, that child.
But eventually, Monica did get out of bed. An anonymous donor offered to pay for C.J.’s funeral and Monica agreed to help organize it. She couldn’t let the family down. And beyond that she knew she needed to learn to cope with her own emotions so that she could focus on helping the next family. And she’s been able to expand her efforts dramatically over the years, amassing a volunteer network that started with just a few dozen people in North Carolina in 1994. Now she boasts 15,000 volunteers nationwide and can mobilize a search almost anywhere in the country. She works hand-in-hand with law enforcement agencies offering the services of her volunteers and search dogs.
Every Missing Person Matters
One of the things Monica shared with me is that she believes every missing person, every murder victim is important, because every human being is someone’s child.
It has to be important and it has to matter because what I have found, I don't care what age the kid is—4, 14,40. They are still that child. When you talk to that mom or that family member, they're still that child. Monica Caison