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Holding out hope: QC Missing Persons Network speaks on the period families wait for a body to be identified

"Hang on to whatever it is to get through one more day, whatever strength you can muster."

DEWITT, Iowa — For families of missing persons, waiting for answers is a game that has no timeline. Dennis Harker is the founder of QC Missing Persons Network. He’s worked with plenty of families and loved ones of missing persons. 

He works with them right from the start of the case, helping search for missing individuals, spread awareness on social media, and guide the family members through the investigation.

He has personal experience in the matter, having lost his own son. Harker saying, “When my son went missing it was very heavily followed by the news.” 

He found out about the potential of a recovered body from a friend, and the first thing he did was call the detective working the case. “The first thing I did is call the detective and say is this my son and at that time he said I’m on my way there now it sounds like it. Get your family together so you can be prepared.”

He’s taken that experience and learned much more about what happens in the time in between a body being found and it being identified. 

After human remains were found outside of Dewitt, Iowa, News 8 sat down with Harker to learn about how he walks a family through that process. “You just have to sit back. Your brain goes will we ever find him? Will we ever know?”

He says for most families after a few days the hopes of finding their loved ones alive are low. “What they presume is can we find them, can we have closure, move forward, can we have a body, remains, now we know and there is no question.”

Harker shared that after police found the remains, odds are they reached out to local families of missing persons to learn more information about the person when they went missing. 

“Find out what DNA do you have available? What were they wearing at the time? Tell us something the public doesn't know, anything, like that that would help them identify it.”

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For now these families wait in the middle. Harker saying it’s this time where they hope for closure. “Whether it was yesterday where you didn’t know, or today where you might know, or tomorrow if you do know, regardless you still need to hang on to whatever strength you can muster.”

Police have offered up little in the forms of information on the case as they wait on DNA results, because the last thing they want to give families waiting for an answer is false hope. 

“When you’re really thinking oh my god that’s it, I found my loved one and then oh it’s not, so you’re back to where you were beforehand.”