FOREST HILLS, Mich. (WOOD) — As one family found closure after nearly 35 years of missing their daughter, sister and friend, another West Michigan family is clinging to a renewed hope that their missing loved one will be found.
“It’s horrible. I mean nobody, unless you’ve been through it, can even slightly understand it,” Ardene Herbert said.
She’s a family friend of Deanie Peters. In February 1981, 14-year-old Deanie went missing from Forest Hills Middle School. She was never seen again and her body has never been recovered.
Herbert was with Deanie the day the she disappeared.
“It’s just unbelievable that someone can wave at you and say, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and then vanish. Just totally vanish,” Herbert said.
This past year, Herbert, who says she can’t begin to estimate the amount of time she has dedicated to finding Deanie Peters, lost hope. In a fit of depression she thought Deanie would never be found.
But when investigators down in Louisiana positively identified a Jane Doe as Carol Ann Cole, a Kalamazoo teen who had been missing for 35 years, Herbert regained some of that hope.
“I am very happy for the family, I can tell you that,” Herbert said as she talked about the Cole family. “I just thank God she’ll be able to come home and be buried because that’s all we’ve ever wanted.”
“After 34 years, you get to the point where you just don’t know what to do next,” she continued. “You’ve done everything, you’ve exhausted everything, you’ve knocked on every door. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people; that’s how we got the cold case team to open up. After you’ve done all that, what more is there to do? I’ve dug ground, I’ve made searches. There’s just nothing else.”
After so long and so much searching without any results, she said, she began to feel hopeless.
“This (identifying Carole Ann Cole) does give you a little bit of hope because maybe she (Deanie) is somewhere and maybe we will be able to bring her home,” Herbert said. “That’s all we ever wanted was to give her a proper Christian burial. We’re not out to hurt anybody or persecute anybody. We just want to have some answers. We want to bring her home and we want to give her a Christian burial.”
Herbert still says she’s positive someone out there knows what happened to Deanie. She pleaded for anyone to come forward with any information so family and friends to put closure to the sinking, sickening feeling they’ve had for more than three decades.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 34 years,” Herbert said. “Because in my heart, it was like yesterday she disappeared. And that pain’s still there. It rips your heart apart. Only people who went through it can truly understand it. I remember like it was yesterday. And I remember the day she disappeared like it was yesterday. It sort of like burns in your brain and it’s not like you can forget it. It’s not like it fades because when something as tragic as that happens, it doesn’t go away, it just stays there. You’ll think about it at some of the oddest times. There’s a lot of memories. There’s the smile, the laugh, the way she threw her hair in the air.”
For now, memories are what drive Herbert as she continues her hope and search for any answers at all.