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Pipi Mayfield, Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune, Published January 19 2009

New interest surfaces in longtime missing person case

FRAZEE, Minn. – On Jan. 1, Mary Andersen turned 50. Her family wasn’t able to help her celebrate, though. They haven’t seen her in 26 years and have no idea where she is, or worse, if she's even alive.

“She was always going,” Wendy Ketter of Frazee said. But she added that her sister always called their parents, Wilfred and Eileen Andersen, to check in from time to time.

“She had her problems, but everybody does,” Ketter said. “She’d always call to talk to Mom and Dad.”

The family last heard from Andersen in 1982, when she was living in Wyoming. Since the family’s contact with Andersen was sporadic, it wasn’t until a couple of years later that they filed a missing persons report with the Becker County Sheriff's Department.

But now there is renewed hope Andersen may be found, the family says, because of new interest in the case by the Sheriff's Department.

Due to an error by the deputy who originally handled it, Andersen’s missing persons report was never filed.

Family members discovered the error last June when they saw a television report on a Jane Doe found in Orange County, Calif. They wanted to compare Andersen’s personal information with the woman found in California, but the deputy had never filed the report. The family tracked him down in Florida, where he had retired, and he found the case in his home. It's now back with the Sheriff's Department and has been handed over to an investigator.

"There's actually been quite a bit of things taking place," Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon said. "We have more tools available than when she went missing."

First, her dental records have been filed with the state and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which means her records will now be cross-referenced with any missing persons found nationwide.

Second, Gordon added, is that DNA testing is now available.

Ketter's family has submitted DNA to the Sheriff's Department, and that information has been entered into state and federal databases for searches.

Since making contact with the Sheriff's Department again, Ketter has received several apologies from authorities.

Ketter said she regularly checks the Internet to search for her sister and to spread the word about her.

"Maybe she's out there and thought we don't care (enough to look for her)," she said.

She said she used to pray for her sister to return home, but one day realized perhaps she was praying for the wrong thing. Now, she said, she prays, "Just bring her home."

Sheriff Gordon said Anderson has not been forgotten, and he hopes technology will develop new leads.

"Now it's a wait-and-see game," he said. "We rely on these databases right now. It's amazing because cases are being solved every day by them throughout the country. You just never know, when somebody runs a test somewhere, there it is."

The Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.