With several families now coming forward wondering if “Maria” could be their child, the case in Greece is renewing hope for parents of missing children, including some in the Chicago area,
60-year-old Kathy Teague is one of them. She’s still carrying the void in her heart that 30 years couldn’t fill.
Teague and her husband went out for a night on the town in June of 1983, leaving 18-month-old Vinyette with family. That’s where the story gets fuzzy. A neighbor was holding her and set her down in the hallway. Many people were around, but no one knows who took the baby.
“I want to think in my heart of hearts, somebody saw a little baby and wanted to raise her. That’s what kept me going for 30 years,” said Teague.
When Teague last saw her, Vinyette was still being potty trained. Today, she would be 31-years-old. Her picture has been on milk cartons and billboards and it is posted on the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with more than 100 other children who vanished from Illinois.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office investigates missing juvenile cases in unincorporated Cook County, and last year Sheriff Tom Dart started the Child Protection Response Unit. The team of four deputies is devoted to finding missing wards of the state.
“When juveniles are missing, particularly juveniles from the age of 11 and up, our concerns are that they’re being trafficked, or are at the hands of a pimp or using drugs. Nothing good comes from a kid on the run,” said Cara Smith, Chief of Policy and Communication for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Teague says she is in regular contact with Chicago Police. There have been sightings and tips, but no big breaks in Vinyette’s case. Still, she keeps searching. She keeps her faith and hope.
“I will never give up hope,” said Teague. “Hope is what keeps me alive and keeps me fighting.”