Families of HOPE: Vicki Kelly
Vicki Kelly lost her son 14 years ago, but continues to honor his memory by helping other families with missing children. Read the first post in our ongoing series from volunteers with Team HOPE, a peer support program for families with missing or sexually exploited children.
On Jan. 26, 1999, my 17-year-old son Tommy Kelly disappeared. I called law enforcement the next day when Tommy didn’t come home. No one runs away and leaves his truck, his pager and his pay check. Law enforcement took a phone report. I was told by the deputy sheriff that Tommy was “just probably a runaway” and to give it a few more days.
An officer didn’t come to the house, Tommy’s picture wasn’t requested. We were told just to wait.
Four weeks after Tommy disappeared, law enforcement called the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I received a call from Gerry Nance, a NCMEC case manager. For the first time I felt someone was truly listening to me - that no one runs away and leaves his truck, his pager and his pay check.
I had total trust in Gerry. He spoke with the detective and got him to list Tommy as Lost/Injured/Otherwise Missing case. Gerry frequently called, and I had full confidence he would never keep information regarding the investigation from me. I can honestly say he was the only person who I did trust during our nightmare.
A year and a half after Tommy disappeared, a skull and 25 bones were recovered three miles from our home. When we asked law enforcement to show how they knew it was Tommy, we were told to take their word for it. Gerry immediately called me. At his suggestion, we retained a wedge of the tibia and a molar to hopefully one day receive positive DNA identification. Eight years later, we received that identification from the University North Texas Center for Human Identification. If it hadn’t been for Gerry and NCMEC, we would still in our hearts still be searching.
In 2002, Gerry recommended me for Team Hope. He knew I had made a vow when Tommy was recovered to support families of missing children. With a grateful heart, NCMEC and Team Hope, have allowed me to fulfill that vow through volunteering.
If your life has been touched by the heartbreak of having a missing or exploited child and you feel you need support contact Team HOPE at 1-866-305-HOPE.