There are more than 100 open missing persons cases on Long Island. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn and Newsday senior law enforcement reporter Tony DeStefano report. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas, Howard Schnapp; File Footage; Photo Credit: Susan Dimino, Tom Lambui, Newsday File Photo, 1955 / Maguire, Bob Savage, U.S. Coast Guard Tri-State

Norine Higuchi Brown went to Pathmark in New Hyde Park on Dec. 12, 1990, to pick up Christmas items. She never returned home.

Authorities found the car she drove to the store the next day; it was at the far end of the parking lot. But the married mother of two toddlers — who would have turned 32 that day — was nowhere to be found.

For the past 33 years, the mystery of what happened to Brown has haunted her family and friends. Despite efforts by the Nassau County Police Department, which classifies the case as an active investigation, no leads have developed, and no remains matching hers have been found.

The case is one of many of the tens of thousands of open cases across the country, including more than 100 active cases on Long Island, that keep investigators searching, sometimes for decades. Officials in Nassau and Suffolk said unsolved missing persons cases are all considered active until the lost are found. They are using new investigators to give the cases fresh sets of eyes from time to time, check national websites on the missing for possible updates, field family concerns and look into tips when there are new leads.

Suffolk has 103 cases and 24 unidentified remains, including three cases in the Gilgo Beach probe, in a nationwide database as of Wednesday. The oldest case goes back to 1969.

Nassau has 36 missing persons cases going back to 1955 and 15 unidentified remains. By comparison, New York City’s listings are extensive, totaling 390 reports and 1,250 cases of unidentified remains.

Men make up the bulk of missing persons reports: 60% of the 104 missing cases in Suffolk and 61% of the 36 Nassau cases, according to reports complied by NamUs, a national information center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed persons cases across the United States. In terms of race and ethnicity, the majority are white: 52% in Suffolk and 56% in Nassau. Black people account for 16% of Suffolk cases and 6% in Nassau.

There are no Hispanic cases in Suffolk, but 32% are categorized by NamUs as being of mixed race or ethnicity, including white, Black, Hispanic or Latino. In Nassau, Hispanics account for 11% of missing cases, and Asians also make up 11% of the missing. Nassau has 8% of its cases labeled as being of unknown ethnicity, while 1% of Suffolk cases included people classified as American Indian. According to NamUs, 8% of missing in Suffolk and 31% in Nassau are under the age of 18.

The pain of not knowing what has happened to a loved one stays with families year after year. Adrienne Tesoro, of Babylon, the sister of Peter Farrell, who disappeared while sailing in 2019, told Newsday her family's loss is difficult to discuss.

“It is like an open bleeding wound that never stops,” Tesoro said.

Authorities say some of the cases involve teens, who often return after a few days or weeks. Others simply abandon their families and friends. A few commit what some call “suicide by sea,” walking into the waters surrounding Long Island. 

Parental custody disputes can lead to child abductions where the youngsters are rushed away, sometimes outside the reach of American authorities.

Then there are people who suffer misadventures, like 72-year-old Farrell, who left for a voyage to the British Virgin Islands on his boat from Fire Island in October 2019 and was never found.

Other cases turn into homicide investigations.

In April, Isaiah Henriquez, 20, of West Babylon, was last seen exiting a car on the Poospatuck Reservation in Shirley, according to the Suffolk Police Department, which listed him as a missing persons case early in his disappearance. Henriquez's body was found three months later in the bushes off the Southern State Parkway near Exit 40. Police say his case is an active criminal investigation. 

Investigators say some of the missing can be murder victims whose fates remain unknown until their remains are found, often placed in garbage receptacles, shallow graves, wooded areas, sandy beaches and lonely roadsides.

The arrest of 60-year-old Rex A. Heuermann of Massapequa Park on charges he killed four of the Gilgo Beach homicide victims not only dramatically brings the case back into the public consciousness but underscores the problem facing the nation. While the Gilgo Beach investigation is focusing on 10 victims, nationally the list of those in the United States is believed to be so large that it has been called the nation’s ongoing silent mass disaster.

“Very few people — including law enforcement officials — would think of the number of missing persons and unidentified human remains in our nation as a crisis,” Nancy Ritter, an editor at the National Institute of Justice, wrote in a groundbreaking report published nearly two decades ago. “It is, however, what experts call a ‘mass disaster over time.’ ”

“This is our buzzword” to describe the dimension of missing persons cases, said Colleen Fitzpatrick, a genealogist from California, in describing how Ritter’s characterization has become part of the current lexicon in describing the dimension of the missing and unidentified persons problem nationally.

The cases haven’t diminished and are growing, with reports from Long Island, New York City and elsewhere. While the number of cases in the United States is hard to quantify with precision, most experts who study the issue think 100,000 is a solid, conservative estimate.

“There are tens of thousands a year,” said Samantha Jones, spokeswoman for the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. The center specializes in identifying remains from all over the country.

While the Nassau and Suffolk police departments have differences in the resources dedicated to missing persons investigations — Nassau has a dedicated unit while Suffolk doesn’t — both agencies approach the cases generally the same way other departments do. Hospitals and morgues are checked, and the New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse, a unit of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, is also available to help, particularly in sending out alerts about vulnerable people who are missing.

Nassau Police spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said the department's specialized missing persons unit is able to tap into numerous investigative resources to track missing persons. In the case of missing children, Amber Alerts are used, as are notifications to the media. Silver Alerts are also used when the elderly are involved, LeBrun said. The Division of Criminal Justice Services also will put out missing college student alerts when necessary.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigative procedures in Suffolk said that in missing persons cases, investigators search cellphone and social media records of the person for clues, particularly in the case of teenagers. In cases of adults, their bank and credit card records are examined. At times, old-fashioned searches are done in areas where a person was last seen, sometimes with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard if the subject disappeared near water.

Suffolk police coordinate their searches through Deputy Inspector Sean Beran, who regularly seeks updates from the various precincts where the missing person was last seen. Suffolk also uses special community liaisons who will canvas communities to put up flyers with information about a missing person.

Former Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison acknowledged the department doesn't have enough tools to help solve its active cases. “It is large, and the numbers of concentrated efforts in investigations wasn’t there the way I like it,” Harrison told Newsday in an interview weeks before he resigned from the department last year.

National data compiled by the National Crime Information System for 2021 stated that 521,705 missing persons reports were filed that year, a number that would be alarming and astonishing but for the fact that more than 485,000 cases were later “purged” because the missing subjects were either located, recorded as dead or otherwise accounted for.

In Nassau and Suffolk, daily missing persons reports of people under the age of 20 often are resolved when the missing are located safely, sometimes within hours. In Suffolk, that accounts for about 50% of recent missing persons cases, Beran said.

“A lot of it is kids who overstay curfews or don’t answer their phones,” said Det. Tracey Cabey, a spokeswoman for Nassau police who has worked in the missing persons unit.

That doesn’t mean the cases are brushed off, Cabey said. “Every missing [person] you have to treat like the person will never be seen again,” Cabey stressed, even if the odds are they would be located.

“But thousands stay missing for a year or more, which are then considered cold cases. There are also several thousand unidentified human remains found each year,” Jones said.

At least a handful of unidentified remains cases in Suffolk are of particular interest to Gilgo Beach investigators, who are trying to determine if there are more links to the Heuermann case.

Federal records show such cases stretch back to 1978, when a woman estimated to be about 22 years old was found buried in a shallow grave in a beach near East Islip, to the case of a woman about 30 who was found in a trash can by the side of the road in Medford with a tattoo on her upper left arm that said “Adrian.”

FBI officials and Suffolk investigators were able to identify the remains of Karen Vergata, a 34-year-old known as “Fire Island Jane Doe” in the Gilgo Beach investigation, by using emerging genetic genealogy techniques.

The technology is being pressed into service more around the country to identify human remains and — in some cases — suspects. Investigative genetic genealogy also was used to identify Gilgo victim Valerie Mack in 2020. Investigators are using it now to identify the three other sets of Gilgo remains, including a woman known only as “Peaches,” her infant daughter and an Asian male.

One problem plaguing missing persons investigators is that families often delay reporting a missing relative, causing leads to go cold, said private investigator Law Olmstead, whose nonprofit Missing Persons Center based in California investigates cases around the country, including Long Island.

“The truth of the matter is many cases start out cold,” Olmstead said. “You would not believe how many people are reported missing and the family cannot share a bit of useful information or photo.”

Families sometimes also are stymied by police bureaucracy. The family of Gilgo victim Mack said they tried to report her as missing status in September 2000 to New Jersey police but were unable to do so. Vergata’s family stated in court records that the NYPD wouldn’t take a missing persons report about her in 1996 because she was an adult.

Both Nassau and Suffolk said there is no waiting period for anyone to file a missing persons report. An NYPD investigator said the same is true for that department, which can take a report at any time.

In an effort to help local police and medical examiners, the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007 created the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System — known as NamUs — to serve as a centralized database of about 23,000 missing persons and 14,000 unidentified cases of human remains, according to the International Symposium on Human Identification, also known as ISHI. The listings are available to the public and include details of the cases and often photographs of the missing. Cases are entered voluntarily into NamUs by local law enforcement and medical examiners, although there is a lag in having the information displayed, leading to fewer cases being shown than have been reported to police.

For Long Island, the official list of the missing includes notorious cases going back to at least 1955, when 2-year-old Steven Craig Damman disappeared after his mother left him in a stroller with his 1-year-old sister, Pamela, outside a store in East Meadow. Pamela was quickly found, but a massive nationwide search failed to turn up Steven, who would be about 70 today.

Barbara Ann Lane was a 38-year-old mother of three living with her husband in a stormy marriage in Franklin Square, which — according to court records — was marked by infidelity on her part. She disappeared in August 1990 and a report by a private investigator alleged that Lane was dead, the victim of foul play.

Robert Michael Mayer, a married father of two living in Carle Place, left his house in June 2013 to go to his job as an electrician in Brooklyn and never returned. Mayer’s car was found at the Deer Park train station and — despite an intense search by police, family and friends — he was never found.

Fifty-year-old business owner George Richardson was spending vacation time with his family in August 2012, heading to the beach early one morning, court records show. Richardson, an executive at Huntington Hospital, was never seen again.

Shortly after Christmas in 2014, Michael George O’Brien, an out-of-work business owner, left his house in Greenport after arguing with his wife and drove to the Cross Sound Ferry terminal in Orient, according to court records. Surveillance video captured him walking toward the waterfront, where he disappeared from view.

For those who stay missing for longer than three years in New York State, their families can petition the local surrogate court for a ruling that they are presumed dead, which allows probate and financial matters to be resolved.

Police and local medical examiners also can try to expand the searches nationally by sending information to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and following up on leads developed from other police agencies. DNA profiles can be compared with local and state databases, authorities said.

But there are a number of cases where the mystery surrounding the disappearances are never solved, and the lost remain missing for months, years and decades.

Their families are left wondering what happened. Ida Mayer, whose husband, Robert, has been gone more than10 years, expressed things in her own statement filed in Suffolk County Surrogate Court.

“Do I believe he is alive? No,” Ida Mayer wrote. “Rob never spent one night away from us. He loved me. He adored his children.”

Norine Higuchi Brown went to Pathmark in New Hyde Park on Dec. 12, 1990, to pick up Christmas items. She never returned home.

Authorities found the car she drove to the store the next day; it was at the far end of the parking lot. But the married mother of two toddlers — who would have turned 32 that day — was nowhere to be found.

For the past 33 years, the mystery of what happened to Brown has haunted her family and friends. Despite efforts by the Nassau County Police Department, which classifies the case as an active investigation, no leads have developed, and no remains matching hers have been found.

Norine Higuchi Brown

Age at time of disappearance: 31

Last contact: Dec. 12, 1990

Circumstances: She drove to a Pathmark store near her home in New Hyde Park after telling relatives she needed to pick up some items for Christmas. The next day the car was located at the far end of the parking lot, but the married mother of two toddlers was nowhere to be found.

The case is one of many of the tens of thousands of open cases across the country, including more than 100 active cases on Long Island, that keep investigators searching, sometimes for decades. Officials in Nassau and Suffolk said unsolved missing persons cases are all considered active until the lost are found. They are using new investigators to give the cases fresh sets of eyes from time to time, check national websites on the missing for possible updates, field family concerns and look into tips when there are new leads.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Long Island had 139 missing persons cases as of Wednesday, including 103 in Suffolk and 36 in Nassau. 
  • Officials in Nassau and Suffolk said unsolved missing persons cases are all considered active until the lost are found. They use new investigators to give the cases fresh sets of eyes from time to time.
  • Men make up the bulk of missing persons reports: 60% of the missing cases in Suffolk and 61% of the Nassau cases, according to reports complied by NamUs, a national information center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases across the U.S.

Suffolk has 103 cases and 24 unidentified remains, including three cases in the Gilgo Beach probe, in a nationwide database as of Wednesday. The oldest case goes back to 1969.

Nassau has 36 missing persons cases going back to 1955 and 15 unidentified remains. By comparison, New York City’s listings are extensive, totaling 390 reports and 1,250 cases of unidentified remains.

Men make up the bulk of missing persons reports: 60% of the 104 missing cases in Suffolk and 61% of the 36 Nassau cases, according to reports complied by NamUs, a national information center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed persons cases across the United States. In terms of race and ethnicity, the majority are white: 52% in Suffolk and 56% in Nassau. Black people account for 16% of Suffolk cases and 6% in Nassau.

There are no Hispanic cases in Suffolk, but 32% are categorized by NamUs as being of mixed race or ethnicity, including white, Black, Hispanic or Latino. In Nassau, Hispanics account for 11% of missing cases, and Asians also make up 11% of the missing. Nassau has 8% of its cases labeled as being of unknown ethnicity, while 1% of Suffolk cases included people classified as American Indian. According to NamUs, 8% of missing in Suffolk and 31% in Nassau are under the age of 18.

The pain of not knowing what has happened to a loved one stays with families year after year. Adrienne Tesoro, of Babylon, the sister of Peter Farrell, who disappeared while sailing in 2019, told Newsday her family's loss is difficult to discuss.

“It is like an open bleeding wound that never stops,” Tesoro said.

When people go missing

Authorities say some of the cases involve teens, who often return after a few days or weeks. Others simply abandon their families and friends. A few commit what some call “suicide by sea,” walking into the waters surrounding Long Island. 

Parental custody disputes can lead to child abductions where the youngsters are rushed away, sometimes outside the reach of American authorities.

Then there are people who suffer misadventures, like 72-year-old Farrell, who left for a voyage to the British Virgin Islands on his boat from Fire Island in October 2019 and was never found.

Other cases turn into homicide investigations.

Isaiah Henriquez, who went missing in April, was last seen...

Isaiah Henriquez, who went missing in April, was last seen in Shirley. His body was discovered in the bushes off the Southern State Parkway. Credit: SCPD

In April, Isaiah Henriquez, 20, of West Babylon, was last seen exiting a car on the Poospatuck Reservation in Shirley, according to the Suffolk Police Department, which listed him as a missing persons case early in his disappearance. Henriquez's body was found three months later in the bushes off the Southern State Parkway near Exit 40. Police say his case is an active criminal investigation. 

Investigators say some of the missing can be murder victims whose fates remain unknown until their remains are found, often placed in garbage receptacles, shallow graves, wooded areas, sandy beaches and lonely roadsides.

Silent mass disaster

Police conduct a grid search on Cedar Beach in Babylon on April 5, 2011, a day after three bodies were discovered in the area along Ocean Parkway. Credit: James Carbone

The arrest of 60-year-old Rex A. Heuermann of Massapequa Park on charges he killed four of the Gilgo Beach homicide victims not only dramatically brings the case back into the public consciousness but underscores the problem facing the nation. While the Gilgo Beach investigation is focusing on 10 victims, nationally the list of those in the United States is believed to be so large that it has been called the nation’s ongoing silent mass disaster.

“Very few people — including law enforcement officials — would think of the number of missing persons and unidentified human remains in our nation as a crisis,” Nancy Ritter, an editor at the National Institute of Justice, wrote in a groundbreaking report published nearly two decades ago. “It is, however, what experts call a ‘mass disaster over time.’ ”

“This is our buzzword” to describe the dimension of missing persons cases, said Colleen Fitzpatrick, a genealogist from California, in describing how Ritter’s characterization has become part of the current lexicon in describing the dimension of the missing and unidentified persons problem nationally.

The cases haven’t diminished and are growing, with reports from Long Island, New York City and elsewhere. While the number of cases in the United States is hard to quantify with precision, most experts who study the issue think 100,000 is a solid, conservative estimate.

“There are tens of thousands a year,” said Samantha Jones, spokeswoman for the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. The center specializes in identifying remains from all over the country.

How Nassau and Suffolk handle missing persons

A Suffolk County Police K-9 unit searches brush at Gilgo...

A Suffolk County Police K-9 unit searches brush at Gilgo Beach on Dec. 5, 2011. Credit: James Carbone

While the Nassau and Suffolk police departments have differences in the resources dedicated to missing persons investigations — Nassau has a dedicated unit while Suffolk doesn’t — both agencies approach the cases generally the same way other departments do. Hospitals and morgues are checked, and the New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse, a unit of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, is also available to help, particularly in sending out alerts about vulnerable people who are missing.

Nassau Police spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said the department's specialized missing persons unit is able to tap into numerous investigative resources to track missing persons. In the case of missing children, Amber Alerts are used, as are notifications to the media. Silver Alerts are also used when the elderly are involved, LeBrun said. The Division of Criminal Justice Services also will put out missing college student alerts when necessary.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigative procedures in Suffolk said that in missing persons cases, investigators search cellphone and social media records of the person for clues, particularly in the case of teenagers. In cases of adults, their bank and credit card records are examined. At times, old-fashioned searches are done in areas where a person was last seen, sometimes with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard if the subject disappeared near water.

Suffolk police coordinate their searches through Deputy Inspector Sean Beran, who regularly seeks updates from the various precincts where the missing person was last seen. Suffolk also uses special community liaisons who will canvas communities to put up flyers with information about a missing person.

Former Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison acknowledged the department doesn't have enough tools to help solve its active cases. “It is large, and the numbers of concentrated efforts in investigations wasn’t there the way I like it,” Harrison told Newsday in an interview weeks before he resigned from the department last year.

National data compiled by the National Crime Information System for 2021 stated that 521,705 missing persons reports were filed that year, a number that would be alarming and astonishing but for the fact that more than 485,000 cases were later “purged” because the missing subjects were either located, recorded as dead or otherwise accounted for.

When the young disappear

In Nassau and Suffolk, daily missing persons reports of people under the age of 20 often are resolved when the missing are located safely, sometimes within hours. In Suffolk, that accounts for about 50% of recent missing persons cases, Beran said.

“A lot of it is kids who overstay curfews or don’t answer their phones,” said Det. Tracey Cabey, a spokeswoman for Nassau police who has worked in the missing persons unit.

That doesn’t mean the cases are brushed off, Cabey said. “Every missing [person] you have to treat like the person will never be seen again,” Cabey stressed, even if the odds are they would be located.

“But thousands stay missing for a year or more, which are then considered cold cases. There are also several thousand unidentified human remains found each year,” Jones said.

Christina Ferreria, left, speaks with Suffolk police community ambassador Debbie...

Christina Ferreria, left, speaks with Suffolk police community ambassador Debbie Virga as she hands out flyers of missing persons at a mall in Selden in 2023. Credit: Tom Lambui

At least a handful of unidentified remains cases in Suffolk are of particular interest to Gilgo Beach investigators, who are trying to determine if there are more links to the Heuermann case.

Federal records show such cases stretch back to 1978, when a woman estimated to be about 22 years old was found buried in a shallow grave in a beach near East Islip, to the case of a woman about 30 who was found in a trash can by the side of the road in Medford with a tattoo on her upper left arm that said “Adrian.”

FBI officials and Suffolk investigators were able to identify the remains of Karen Vergata, a 34-year-old known as “Fire Island Jane Doe” in the Gilgo Beach investigation, by using emerging genetic genealogy techniques.

The technology is being pressed into service more around the country to identify human remains and — in some cases — suspects. Investigative genetic genealogy also was used to identify Gilgo victim Valerie Mack in 2020. Investigators are using it now to identify the three other sets of Gilgo remains, including a woman known only as “Peaches,” her infant daughter and an Asian male.

Cold case challenges

Valerie Mack appears in an undated photo taken during her...

Valerie Mack appears in an undated photo taken during her high school years. Credit: Mack family; Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

One problem plaguing missing persons investigators is that families often delay reporting a missing relative, causing leads to go cold, said private investigator Law Olmstead, whose nonprofit Missing Persons Center based in California investigates cases around the country, including Long Island.

“The truth of the matter is many cases start out cold,” Olmstead said. “You would not believe how many people are reported missing and the family cannot share a bit of useful information or photo.”

Families sometimes also are stymied by police bureaucracy. The family of Gilgo victim Mack said they tried to report her as missing status in September 2000 to New Jersey police but were unable to do so. Vergata’s family stated in court records that the NYPD wouldn’t take a missing persons report about her in 1996 because she was an adult.

Both Nassau and Suffolk said there is no waiting period for anyone to file a missing persons report. An NYPD investigator said the same is true for that department, which can take a report at any time.

In an effort to help local police and medical examiners, the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007 created the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System — known as NamUs — to serve as a centralized database of about 23,000 missing persons and 14,000 unidentified cases of human remains, according to the International Symposium on Human Identification, also known as ISHI. The listings are available to the public and include details of the cases and often photographs of the missing. Cases are entered voluntarily into NamUs by local law enforcement and medical examiners, although there is a lag in having the information displayed, leading to fewer cases being shown than have been reported to police.

Unsolved Long Island cases

For Long Island, the official list of the missing includes notorious cases going back to at least 1955, when 2-year-old Steven Craig Damman disappeared after his mother left him in a stroller with his 1-year-old sister, Pamela, outside a store in East Meadow. Pamela was quickly found, but a massive nationwide search failed to turn up Steven, who would be about 70 today.

Steven Craig Damman

Age at time of disappearance: 2

Last contact: Oct. 31, 1955

Circumstances: He disappeared while in a stroller outside a grocery store in East Meadow with his sister. Although his sister was found, witnesses said a man and a woman were seen carrying off Steven.

Barbara Ann Lane was a 38-year-old mother of three living with her husband in a stormy marriage in Franklin Square, which — according to court records — was marked by infidelity on her part. She disappeared in August 1990 and a report by a private investigator alleged that Lane was dead, the victim of foul play.

Barbara Ann Lane

Age at time of disappearance: 38

Last contact: Aug. 5, 1990

Circumstances: The mother of three was never seen again after leaving the Franklin Square home she shared with her husband. Their marriage was marked by infidelity, according to court records. Police ruled her disappearance a cold case, but her husband got a court decree declaring her dead. A private investigator alleged she was the victim of foul play.

Robert Michael Mayer, a married father of two living in Carle Place, left his house in June 2013 to go to his job as an electrician in Brooklyn and never returned. Mayer’s car was found at the Deer Park train station and — despite an intense search by police, family and friends — he was never found.

Robert Michael Mayer

Age at time of disappearance: 46

Last contact: June 14, 2013

Circumstances: After kissing his wife goodbye at their Dix Hills home, he went to work and was never seen by his family again. A distraught-looking Mayer was last seen on a surveillance video at a scrap yard in West Babylon, where he sometimes went to sell scrap metal. His car was found at the Deer Park train station.

Fifty-year-old business owner George Richardson was spending vacation time with his family in August 2012, heading to the beach early one morning, court records show. Richardson, an executive at Huntington Hospital, was never seen again.

George Richardson 

Age at time of disappearance: 50

Last contact: Aug. 28, 2012

Circumstances: While on vacation with his family in Montauk, Richardson went to sleep in the family suite but was gone when they awoke. Officials theorized that he had gone into the rough surf of the nearby ocean with a body board. His body was never found despite search efforts.

Shortly after Christmas in 2014, Michael George O’Brien, an out-of-work business owner, left his house in Greenport after arguing with his wife and drove to the Cross Sound Ferry terminal in Orient, according to court records. Surveillance video captured him walking toward the waterfront, where he disappeared from view.

Michael George O’Brien

Age at time of disappearance: 55

Last contact: Dec. 28, 2014

Circumstances: O'Brien left his Greenport home after arguing with his wife and drove to the Cross Sound Ferry terminal in Orient. Surveillance video captured him heading toward the waterfront before he walked off camera. He was not seen returning to his pickup.

For those who stay missing for longer than three years in New York State, their families can petition the local surrogate court for a ruling that they are presumed dead, which allows probate and financial matters to be resolved.

Expanding searches

Police and local medical examiners also can try to expand the searches nationally by sending information to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and following up on leads developed from other police agencies. DNA profiles can be compared with local and state databases, authorities said.

But there are a number of cases where the mystery surrounding the disappearances are never solved, and the lost remain missing for months, years and decades.

Their families are left wondering what happened. Ida Mayer, whose husband, Robert, has been gone more than10 years, expressed things in her own statement filed in Suffolk County Surrogate Court.

“Do I believe he is alive? No,” Ida Mayer wrote. “Rob never spent one night away from us. He loved me. He adored his children.”

Firefighters injured in Lattington fire … American thirft … Barbie movie concert Credit: Newsday

Gilgo victim remains go home ... Firefighters injured battling Lattington fire ... Fire truck crash ... Mets spring training

Firefighters injured in Lattington fire … American thirft … Barbie movie concert Credit: Newsday

Gilgo victim remains go home ... Firefighters injured battling Lattington fire ... Fire truck crash ... Mets spring training

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