Local News

Family hopeful missing Durham woman will be found

Posted February 22, 2013 12:07 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2013 7:14 p.m. EST

— A Durham man whose mother has been missing for more than two weeks said Friday that he fears the worst but hopes for the best.

Pearlie O'Briant Johnson, 65, last spoke to her daughter on Feb. 5, and Durham police said Friday that she was last seen near North Carolina State University in Raleigh – about 25 miles from her downtown Durham home.

George O'Briant reported his mother missing a week ago, but the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons didn't issue a Silver Alert for Johnson until Friday morning after police determined that she might have some onset of dementia.

"We thought there could’ve been more expediency with their effort," O'Briant said. "I’m just wondering why she couldn’t have fit that (Silver Alert) criteria earlier."

Developed in 2007, the Silver Alert system quickly notifies the public about missing endangered people who suffer from dementia or other cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Police declined to provide other details of their investigation into Johnson's disappearance.

"It's so uncharacteristic," O'Briant said, noting that his mother retired from her job as a housekeeper at Duke University two years ago.

Johnson told her children she planned to attend a conference in Las Vegas this month, but they found she never boarded a plane or went to the conference.

The soft-spoken woman doesn't have a car – she uses buses to get around – or a cellphone, O'Briant said.

"She is everything to our family," he said. "I'm keeping hope alive because of Christ. He is my foundation."

Johnson is described as black, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 105 pounds. She has shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a long, dark coat and dark pants.

Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to the Durham Police Department at 919-560-4427.