Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Beating the Odds

Posted December 21, 2006 5:06 p.m. EST

It's not every day that a missing person is returned home safely, especially in a situation that involves domestic violence.  In fact ,most women who are killed are killed by their boyfriends or husbands.  An even more startling fact is that most of them who are killed are killed when they leave.

Sherry Massa was missing for nearly seventy-two hours.  Her car was found still running abandoned in a ditch with a window busted out.  Her teenage daughters handed out hundreds of fliers in Sanford and in surrounding towns hoping for her safe return.  Investigators and the family suspected that Massa was abducted by her estranged husband, a man who she had accused of assault in the past, a man she had an active restraining order against.  Now they say that's exactly what happened.

As more hours passed,  the girls remained optimistic that their mother would come home unharmed.  I have to admit I was not so optimistic.   Being a journalist we're used to  expecting the worst.  Unfortunately,  that's what seventeen years of seeing  people killed in tragic circumstances does to you.   I've literally interviewed hundreds of families who have lost a loved one.  I'm used to seeing dead bodies and their family members literally overcome with grief to the point that they cannot stand or even speak.

I've learned that missing  people are often never found.  Those who are found are  rarely found alive.  In the former situation the families have no closure.  They continue to hold out hope years after their loved one disappears.   We interview them every year on the anniversary of the disappearance.  In the latter cases families experience profound loss  even though they knew it was a possibility that the person might be dead.

But last night Sherry Massa beat the odds.  She walked in the front door of her house and hugged her daughters.  She will be able to celebrate Christmas with her family.  She is one of the lucky ones.  I'm glad she proved me wrong.

About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.