Families of the missing deserve our respect

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, April 10, 2019

On Wednesday of last week, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald featured an article – written by Holly Taylor – on a prayer vigil held March 30 in front of the Northampton County Courthouse.

This event is held annually to lift the spirits of local families who have loved ones that vanished in the blink of an eye. It’s also held to keep these unsolved cold cases in the public’s eye.

I, like those family members, wish the event would soon come to a screeching halt….marked by the joyous reunion of those missing with their loved ones.

Working and living in a small, rural area means you typically have knowledge of or close personal ties with a lot of people. That’s true for me….I’ve known William ‘Buddy” Powell for decades. I’ve watched him (and written numerous stories over the years) as he valiantly puts his best foot forward in an effort to learn the fate of his little sister. Phyllis Lorrain Powell was only five years old when she went missing from her home in Woodland on Jan. 11, 1963. Her family has been searching for answers for 56 years.

Then there’s Shelia Moses….a gifted author from Rich Square whose work I truly admire. We’ve shared a lot of stories over the years about our respective upbringings in Northampton County. Perhaps that close association with Shelia is what caused my heart to ache when I learned of the disappearance of her brother, Daniel, on June 16, 2011. No one has seen him since that day.

Ditto for Shawn Alston of Garysburg who was last seen on Oct. 18, 2012 as he went to visit a friend’s house. Afterwards, I was able to forge a close connection with his mother, Lola Robinson. We chatted on the phone very frequently where she shared her heartbreak. I helped her promote several events, which were used to rally the public’s help in finding her son. My heart sank to its lowest depth when Lola passed away on March 7, 2016. She went to meet her Maker without knowing what happened to her son.

I make reference to these three particular cases involving local individuals due to what occurred late last week in Newport, Kentucky. There, for at least a happy 24 hours, it appeared by all accounts that the case of a young man who went missing in 2011 at the age of six had been solved.

My wife and I watched the story as it first broke on the national news. It appeared that a young man found “dazed and confused” wandering the streets of that Kentucky town just might be Timmothy Pitzen, a six-year-old in 2011 who vanished after his mother committed suicide.

The man found on the Newport streets claimed to be a victim of sex trafficking. He said he had escaped his captors from a motel room.

Turns out the claim – on both counts – was a hoax.

After a DNA test, law enforcement revealed that the young man in question was actually Brian Rini, a 23-year-old from Medina, Ohio who was recently released from prison after serving a sentence for burglary and vandalism.

And, after further investigation, it as learned that Rini had previously portrayed himself on two occasions as a juvenile sex trafficking victim. In both cases his true identity was learned after he was fingerprinted.

It’s so sad there are individuals in this world who stoop to such low levels to pretend they are a missing individual. That gives such false hope to the family members of the missing. Last week, the Pitzen family was on top of the world one minute, and experiencing a complete crashing defeat the next.

People like Buddy Powell, Shelia Moses, and the family of Shawn Alston deserve our upmost respect and love. They do not need individuals such as Brian Rini in their lives.

God will one day pass judgment on Mr. Rini….while Buddy, Shelia, and the Alston family will hopefully sit at the throne of their Maker, basking in the glory of a grand reunion with their missing loved ones.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.  


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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