• Police & Fire
Missing Mom's Family Still Searching
With a new detective assigned to the case, Bethany Decker’s mother tries to stay optimistic.
While Mother’s Day provides an opportunity for people to get together and celebrate the moms in their families, this year the day coincided with the 23rd birthday of Bethany Decker, an Ashburn mother who has been missing since Jan. 29, 2011.
Decker’s family set up a Mother’s Day/birthday tribute for the missing woman at the Junction Plaza Giant to remind people that she remains missing and to ask anyone who may have a clue to share it with investigators.
“My expectation for today is to help get out the word,” said Kim Nelson, Bethany’s mother, who directed the following comment to her daughter: “If you hear this, happy birthday and happy Mother’s Day to you.”
The newest detail regarding the case is that Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman, who was elected last year, reassigned it to a new investigator.
“We reassign cases to get a new perspective on a case and new eyes,” said Investigator M.F. McCaffrey, who attended the event at Giant. “There are a lot of questions we don’t have answers to and our real focus is finding Bethany. I’m confident that we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
The family appears to be prepared to hear the worst, but holds out hope that Decker remains alive and unable to contact them.
“We are praying that Bethany is alive and well and out there. I hope to see her again,” Nelson said, speculating that perhaps she cannot come forward because of threats against her or her family, or some other reason. “That’s what it has to be. That’s my positive optimism that she is out there. I can’t imagine her not being with us.”
The day Decker was last seen, she had made a trip to Columbia, MD, to visit family and then returned to her apartment. She had taken a trip with her husband and their child a couple of weeks earlier, but the two appear to have been separated at the time. She was living with Ronald Roldan, who investigators have said is the last person known to have seen Decker. Decker, who once lived in Chantilly, was about five months pregnant when she disappeared.
“Our main focus, of course, is finding Bethany,” Nelson said. “If anyone has any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, it may help the case.”
Investigators have instructed the family not to provide details about Decker’s relationships to the media as they examined leads, leaving a void for critics to cruel. Many comments on stories about the disappearance and on social media sites dedicated to Decker have attacked her character.
“The people that are commenting don’t know Bethany. I really feel sorry for those people who have nothing better to do than judge,” Nelson said. “We want to focus on the positive.”
However, the family has not been able correct false assertions about Decker because of the investigation.
“We don’t want to do anything to hamper the investigation,” she said, explaining that the family has attempted to tune the negativity out. “We stopped watching the news. We had to.”
Instead, Nelson said, Decker’s family has focused on doing what they can to find her.
“We have a very strong faith and it is our faith in God that has gotten us through these challenges,” Nelson said.
Nelson created a Facebook fan page and group with the help of those searching for the man who killed Morgan Harrington and raped a Fairfax City woman. Together they're working to keep Decker's disappearance in the media and in the minds of those who might help find her. They are also trying to keep attention focused a series of missing women in Virginia.
“They reached out to me because they had added Bethany to their map,” Nelson said. “The Harrington family has been absolutely wonderful … knowing what it’s like to be a parent with a child who’s missing and not knowing what happened.”
She said talking to people who have shared such an experience helps.
“When you haven’t connected with those people, it’s very isolating,” she said. “They put their arm around me. There’s a really important connection we have as moms. We don’t want any other moms or families to go through this. What can we do? It’s really important to me to do something.”
Ed Bayles, Decker’s grandfather, said speaking with Help Save the Next Girl was eye-opening.
“A lot of us didn’t realize the prevalence of it,” he said, referring to occurrences of missing women.
But at the Giant on Sunday, the family did their best to make the tribute a celebration of Decker’s birthday and motherhood, complete with a three-layer cake.
“Her favorite color is orange. That’s why there’s orange on the cake,” Evelyn Bayles, Decker’s grandmother said as she handed out fliers to customers.
Besides her mother and grandparents, son Kai Decker, husband Emile Decker, step-father Alex Nelson, brother Robert Littlejohn and step-sister Alyssa Nelson attended the event.
Nelson said Decker had just three more classes to finish before graduating from George Mason University on a global environmental change major, and that she had a 4.0 GPA at Stafford High School.
“She always looked out for people disadvantaged and people in need,” Nelson explained.
Details About the Case:
• Decker has a 2 1/2-year-old son named Kai. She was expected to her deliver her second child last August.
• She was last seen Jan. 29, 2011
• Decker’s family reported her missing Feb. 19, 2011
• She worked at Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Centreville
• She lived in an apartment on Orchard Grass Terrace, where her car was found.
• It is known that Decker did not leave the country.
• There has been no activity on her bank accounts, cell phones or e-mail.
During the three weeks after she was last seen, family members did not report Decker missing, in part, they said, because she is a 21-year-old adult leading her own life, as well as a college student. But on Feb. 19, Bethany’s grandparents decided to check her apartment as they traveled to see their great-grandson. When they found her car, but not her, they contacted authorities.