They found Amanda Berry today.
I'm stunned beyond words.
She's been missing for over a decade. If only her mom, Louwana Miller, could be here to see her "Mandy" alive again.
Here's the last column I wrote about Louwana, the week she died.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Every few months she called.
She always wanted the impossible: Find Mandy.
She wanted me to do more. Write another story. Call the FBI. Get the TV cameras rolling.
"Please, honey," she begged.
She always called me honey, though she was younger than I.
I never met anyone like Louwana Miller, whose daughter Amanda Berry vanished after her shift at Burger King on April 21, 2003. She had told her sister on a cell phone, "I've got a ride. I'll call you back." Then she vanished between Burger King and her home a few blocks away on West 111th.
Louwana lived in the upstairs of an old house. When I knocked from the porch, she hollered for me to come up.
"Shut the damn door," she barked.
She wasn't crying. She didn't act the way moms of missing children do on TV, delicately wiping tears with folded tissues while whispering pleas for help
Louwana was angry. She chain-smoked Marlboros. She didn't trust the police, so she put her own phone number on the fliers.
She would cuss out the very people who tried to help her, then she would apologize and sob like a baby, tears rolling down her big, puffy cheeks.
When I was there, she was watching a psychic on Montel. "We need her," Louwana hollered at the TV as a friend wrote down the number.
Before that psychic did her in, Louwana tried everything else.
She pestered the police and FBI for clues. She got people to knock on doors, staple fliers on telephone poles, hold candlelight vigils and prayer rallies.
She begged the media for more coverage, and we let her down.
She called me, angry, the day she saw the TV news offer a reward for a missing dog.
"What about my Mandy?" she bellowed. She called when CNN covered the woman missing in Aruba.
"How come she gets so much publicity?" she cried.
She told me she named Amanda from a Conway Twitty song, "Amanda, the light of my life." She still bought Christmas presents for Amanda and sat on her bed listening to her music.
Louwana started every conversation angry, cried in the middle, and ended saying, "Thank you for doing whatever you can, honey."
The last time we spoke, she demanded, "I want her on the news. She's faded away from the whole world. It just kills me. This is killing me." It finally did.
She got her wish to see psychic Sylvia Browne, who told her about a short, stocky Burger King customer in his 20s wearing a red fleece coat. The psychic said Mandy died on her birthday, that she didn't suffer, that her black hooded jacket was in a Dumpster with DNA on it.
The psychic promised, "You'll see her in heaven." That was Louwana's final hope.
Around Christmas I heard Louwana was in the hospital. It still shocked me when she died Thursday. I couldn't help thinking of how she took the faded yellow ribbons off the front yard fence, washed them and put them on Mandy's bed. How she cried, "No one cares."
The truth is no one cared as much as she did. No one could. She was a mother facing a fate worse than death: not knowing.
Every time I called the FBI, special agent Bob Hawk, who has since retired, would tell me, "We are working on it every day. We haven't given up."
She died of heart failure.