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Kin of Missing in Modesto Seek Leads

May 30, 2002

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MODESTO, Calif. (AP) _ Nearly 30 years have passed since 14-year-old Corinne Groenenberg walked to a Modesto highway, got into a truck and disappeared. Her parents still look for her _ as much as an ailing, elderly couple can.

``When you lose a child like that, you see the back of somebody, you stop and turn around to make sure it’s not her,″ said Corinne’s mother, Doreen Groenenberg. ``When we watch ‘The Price is Right’ or ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ my eyes go right across the audience. Or when you go to a park, you hope you’ll get a glimpse, or she’ll see us.″

Such stories of heartbreak and loss form the backdrop of missing-persons cases, including high-profile ones like that of government intern Chandra Levy, whose ties to Rep. Gary Condit kept her disappearance _ and now her death _ in the news for more than a year.

With barely a sliver of that public attention, most disappearances quickly stop generating the tips investigators need. So with the national news media in town to cover Levy’s memorial service Tuesday, Mayor Carmen Sabatino issued a plea: Don’t forget about seven other Modesto residents who are still missing.

Sabatino recited their names: Ruth Ann Leamon, Sylvia Standly, Susan Robin Bender, Dena Raley-McCluskey, Maria Dolores Pacheco, Michael Madden, Corinne Groenenberg.

Leads dried up in Groenenberg’s case long ago, so 70-year-old Doreen Groenenberg was delighted that Sabatino issued a new call for information.

By midday Wednesday, police in this central California city of 188,000 had received several calls from people around the country saying they knew a Michael Madden. As it turned out, none was the Michael Madden who disappeared while fishing with friends in 1996.

But it was a start.

``Anytime you have an opportunity to get cases out in the public, people who have not responded before, thought the case was gone, say, ’I wanted to call in last time but didn’t,‴ said Detective Doug Ridenour. ``Those kinds of things do help.″

Nationwide, 840,000 people were reported missing in 2001, with 119,000 considered abducted or otherwise ``endangered″ by another person, according to the FBI.

With so many cases to process, investigators need help from the public. The tips also provide some solace for people desperate for news about missing loved ones.

``All of us rely 100 percent on tips,″ said Donna Raley, the stepmother of Raley-McCluskey, who was 26 when she vanished in 1999. ``The police departments are understaffed and overworked.″

After Chandra Levy disappeared in May 2001, Raley introduced herself to the intern’s mother, Susan Levy. Soon after, Raley and Levy started Wings of Protection, a support group for relatives of missing people. The group now has about 20 members and is opening a branch in Los Angeles.

Doreen Groenenberg and her husband, Cory, 75, had moved to Modesto from Southern California just a few months before Corinne vanished in 1973. They left town not long after because Doreen was stricken with scleroderma, a crippling tissue disease.

Still, the Groenenbergs haven’t sold their original Southern California home, renting it out instead just in case Corinne ``might wander by to see her old roots,″ Doreen Groenenberg said.

``The more you get up there (in age), the more you hope,″ she said. ``You’ve got to go on with your life, but it’s always there _ first thing when you get up in the morning and last thing when you go to bed at night.

``Every time the phone rings and the person doesn’t answer right away, I say, ’Is that you, Corinne?‴

___

Modesto police missing-person page: http://www.modestopolice.com/missing%20persons.htm

Wings of Protection: http://www.wingsofprotection.org

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