Saturday vigils set for missing Maine, California women

Posted July 16, 2014, at 6:38 p.m.
Danielle Bertolini
Contributed Photo
Danielle Bertolini
Courtesy of Melisa Walstrom

BANGOR, Maine — As friends and family of former Mainer Danielle Bertolini gather at Cascade Park for a vigil Saturday, the loved ones of Sheila Franks of California will be launching balloons coast to coast.

Both women will be remembered on Saturday, which is Franks’ birthday, according to Bertolini’s mother, Billie-Jo Dick of Plymouth.

Dick said last month that she believes her daughter is dead. Franks’ family members have expressed similar worries.

The Bangor event is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. at Cascade Park in Bangor, according to Richard Bowie of Down East Emergency Medical Institute, who is helping to organize the vigil.

Meanwhile, Franks’ family members are asking people from around the country and the globe to release balloons with notes to Franks attached.

Bertolini, 23, was reported missing to Fortuna, California, police on Feb. 19. Her family last had contact with her on Jan. 29, according to her mother, Billie-Jo Dick of Plymouth.

Dick said at the time that this was unusual behavior for Bertolini, a former Nokomis High School student who usually maintained daily contact with her sister, Mariah Bertolini.

In a followup interview late last month, Dick said she fears her daughter is dead.

Police initially told Dick they considered her daughter a “voluntary” missing person because of her age, and as such, their ability to assist was limited. Police now believe her daughter’s disappearance is suspicious.

That’s because Bertolini went missing at roughly the same time as Franks, 37, of Rio Dell and Loleta, California, who last was seen on Jan. 11, according to a missing person flyer posted on the Internet by her sister, Melisa Walstrom of Alaska.

Both women have blond hair and blue eyes, are similar in appearance and build, and travel in the same social circle.

Family members of both women, who have joined forces in the search effort, say that police have told them that they believe the two missing persons cases are linked because Bertolini and Franks are believed to have last been seen with the same 43-year-old Fortuna man before they vanished.

The man’s name is being withheld because he has not been charged in connection with the disappearances.

 

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