Community Conversations

Looking for help in finding a missing person? You’ll want to attend this event

Samantha Steinberg, forensic artist at the Miami-Dade Police Department, will be at the FIU May 4 free event. Everyone can attend to report missing persons and help solve cases that involve unidentified remains.
Samantha Steinberg, forensic artist at the Miami-Dade Police Department, will be at the FIU May 4 free event. Everyone can attend to report missing persons and help solve cases that involve unidentified remains.

When an old Cheetos bag was found near unidentified skeletal remains, Brittney McLaurin, investigator for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department, called the manufacturer for help.

“It didn’t look like the Cheetos bag we know today, so I contacted them and asked what years that bag was made,” McLaurin said. “It helped narrow down the time frame.”

Every clue is considered, but many cases are still open. Now, the public can step in, and maybe help with identifications. Cases involving missing persons can also be opened at a free event 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 4, hosted by the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department, in a partnership with Florida International University.

It’s the first of its kind in Miami-Dade County, McLaurin said.

“The goal is to offer support to families of missing persons, but also to bring community awareness to these cases. I can only imagine how many people in the community could recognize one of these unidentified people … or if the community knows the [number] of individuals that are missing within our county,” she said.

The oldest unidentified persons case is from December 1957. Skeletal remains were found in a field at Southwest 11th Avenue and Lucy Street. That same month, remains from another unidentified person were found in a tomato patch. Both cases are still open.

In Florida, there are more than 3,000 missing persons, and that only counts those that have been reported. Many people have had difficulty over the years filing a report. At this event, they can show up and get help.

“They’ll have face-to-face time with a detective. We’ll have people who also speak Spanish and Creole,” McLaurin said.

“We are offering the public a way to make reports to detectives if they haven’t been able to in the past. Back in the day, not all police departments would take a report from a boyfriend, for example. This will be a day they can show up and report a missing loved one,” she said. “We want to help everyone.”

McLaurin pushed for the event after talking with a family that had traveled all over the country seeking a loved one. They told her about the benefits of missing and unidentified persons events they attended in other cities.

The Miami-Dade County event will have running slides with renderings and reconstructions as well as clues that could help with identification.

“Sometimes there’s a clue like an earring that people might recognize. The general public can help us,” McLaurin said.

The event is kid-friendly and a representative from the National Center for Missing Children will be there with kits for parents to set up and keep in case a child goes missing. Representatives who help find missing persons with forms of dementia or autism spectrum disorder will also be at the event to offer safety resources.

The Miami-Dade Missing and Unidentified Persons Event will be at FIU’s Student Academic Success Center, 11200 SW Eighth St. It’s open to all. You don’t have to register to attend. Visit Eventbrite at https://bit.ly/2VpcgyI. You can also check out more from the Miami-Dade County Police Department at https://bit.ly/2I0vZOX.

Free parking is in FIU Lot #3. Refreshments will be served. For more, call 305-545-2460.

Young Musicians Win Gold

Congratulations to the talented South Florida Youth Symphony musicians for winning another gold medal, this time at the prestigious International Youth Bohemia Prague 2019 music festival.

Their award-winning performance marks the second time in two years the group has achieved gold awards. In January 2017, SFYS won the Gold Trophy in the Heritage Music Festival in Washington.

“The kids performed spectacularly,” said Marjorie Hahn, executive and creative director. “In addition to their performance, these young musicians were exposed to a wide variety of international music, made lasting friendships with kids from other countries, and got to see and learn about a historic venue.”

Joining Hahn in conducting duties on the international trip were associate conductor Richard Zogaib; Alberto Bade, adjunct professor of the Miami Dade College Film Score Orchestra; and Lowell Thomas, SFYS director of winds, and music director at Ferguson Senior High School.

Events of the four-day festival included a parade down the streets of Old Town Prague with SFYS kids carrying the organization’s banner as well as the City of Miami flag.

“Many of these 56 youngsters — who come from the underserved areas of South Florida — had never even been outside of Miami-Dade County, let alone flown internationally,” said Zogaib. “It was just a great trip and a memorable experience.”

For more, visit www.SFYS.net or call 305-238-2729.

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The South Florida Youth Symphony musicians and chaperones presented a City of Miami flag during the opening ceremonies of the Young Bohemia Prague 2019 music festival. The students were awarded a Gold Medal at the prestigious event.

UM Hall of Fame inductions

The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame will host its 51st annual Induction Banquet at 6 p.m. May 2 at Jungle Island.

Celebrated will be eight of the UM sports stars who have excelled at their sport. This year, the Class of 2019 includes Cesar Carrillo (baseball); Constantin Popa (men’s basketball); Scott Nicolas, Stephen McGuire, Antrel Rolle and Vince Wilfork (football); Tabia Charles Collins (track & field); and Jenny Krawec, the first rowing team member inducted.

“Every year we induct exceptional athletes into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame and this year’s class is no exception,” said UMSHoF President Tracy Kerdyk. “These student-athletes represent the very best that have excelled in UM athletics over the years.”

Tickets are $135 each, or a table of 10 can be purchased for $1,350. A Super Table of 10 tickets can be purchased for $1,850, which includes preferred seating and a half-page ad in the program. Call 305-284-2775 or visit https://bit.ly/2GySOHI for tickets.

Have tea and help kids

It’s always a good idea to celebrate moms. Now you can treat those special persons in your life to afternoon tea, and help kids in need too.

The Coral Gables Woman’s Club will host a Pre-Mother’s Day Tea with mimosas and yummy treats at its historic clubhouse, 2-5 p.m., May 4, 1001 E. Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables.

Cost is $50. Proceeds benefit the Coral Gables Children’s Dental Clinic, which provides $250,000 in free dental care annually to children in need. Learn more and buy tickets by contacting nancy_desmangles@yahoo.com or purchase online at https://bit.ly/2GDNz9Q.

If you have news for this column, please send it to CHRISTINAMMAYO@GMAIL.COM.

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