‘Wish you were here…’ Families seek closure, answers to missing persons cases


Breanna Smith


Photos by Quinn Welsch

Tears and fond memories were shared under the dim glow of candles as family and friends held a vigil for Brenda Johnson at the Old Ferry Landing in Port Allen on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Brenda Johnson, of Addis, has been missing since Jan. 3, 2014.

Friends and family of Brenda Johnson, Jessica Johnson, her boyfriend James and her mother Pamela Johnson, embrace during candle light vigiil at the Old Ferry Landing in Port Allen.

“I would do anything to hear that loud mouth one more time,” Brenda’s sister Jessica Johnson said.

Everyone had different stories of Brenda’s kindness and silliness, but they all want just one thing: Closure.

“My family needs answers,” Jessica Johnson said. “Her daughter needs answers.”

The hardest part was trying to explain to Brenda’s then 9-year-old daughter why her mother wasn’t coming home, Jessica Johnson said.

The family has teamed up with Tina LeClerq the mother of Jake Latiolais, who has also been missing from Baton Rouge since August of 2014.

“She’s been helping us cope a lot and talking to the news channels,” Jessica Johnson said.

LeClerq is a board member of Bring Our Missing Home, a national non-profit organization that helps reunite missing people and their families. The organization has been helping the Johnson family in their efforts to find Brenda Johnson.

“They’re helping us get through it,” Jessica Johnson said, “and give us hope.”

Bring Our Missing Home was founded about a year ago. The organization helps families organize events, make flyers and send press releases. It also operates a tip line and has the capability to send flyers via fax to every business in the U.S.

Most importantly, the organization is there with a shoulder to cry on and hand to hold, founder Cathy Rhodes said.

“Every missing person needs a voice.” Rhodes said. “Every family of a missing person needs help.”

In its first year of operation the organization has helped reunite more than 100 missing people with their families, according to Rhodes. It currently has 40 active cases, but receives new cases every day, Rhodes said.

Initially, the Johnson family had problems getting a missing person report filed. Brenda’s residence was in Addis but she was last seen in Baton Rouge, which is why authorities in West Baton Rouge could not file the report, Jessica Johnson said.

Jessica has organized balloon releases for each of Brenda’s passed birthdays and organized a Facebook page to spread awareness.

Leaving was not like Brenda and she kept in touch with her mother at least once a week up until her disappearance, Jessica Johnson said.

“She wouldn’t leave that little girl,” Brenda’s adopted sister Lynette Girior said.

Bring Our Missing Home does not stop their efforts until closure is found for the family of a missing person.

“If it takes two years, God still willing, I’ll be here,” Rhodes said.

The Johnson family plans to remain vigilant in their search for answers, and justice. The family will continue to hold balloon releases each year on Nov. 29 to celebrate Brenda’s birthday and raise awareness in the community through social media.

“Maybe somebody will see something we don’t and bring justice,” Brenda’s sister Misty Johnson said.

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