When Mary Yadon first heard Friday that the skeletal remains of an Appalachian Trail hiker missing for two years were found in the mountains of western Maine, she got goosebumps. She has been waiting 32 years for news of another missing hiker: her mother, Jessie Hoover.
After that news broke, she thought for a moment that “it could’ve been my mom.” But what will be an important development for the family of Geraldine Largay of Brentwood, Tennessee, sheds no light on what happened to Hoover all those years ago.
“I sure hope they find my mom,” Yadon said by phone Friday from her home in White Settlement, Texas. “It would be nice to get some closure.”
Closure, however, has proved elusive for Hoover’s family. Yadon hasn’t heard from her mother since May 16, 1983, when Hoover called from a Bangor motel to tell her family she had made it to Maine and would be headed to Millinocket to start the first leg of her hike on the Appalachian Trail, from Mount Katahdin to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
According to a 1983 Maine Warden Service investigation report, Hoover was last seen May 20, 1983, near the Abol Bridge on the Golden Road, heading in the direction of the trailhead of the 100-Mile Wilderness, the most remote stretch of the entire Appalachian Trail. Six weeks passed before she was reported missing to the Maine State Police.
A brief search by the Maine Warden Service in July 1983 failed to find Hoover or her belongings. No other searches have ever been conducted for the missing Texan.
Coming to terms with her mother’s disappearance hasn’t been easy.
“I can’t imagine her being missing so many years and not ever getting in touch with us,” Yadon said. “But I know she loved us.”
The passage of time hasn’t dimmed Yadon’s hope that she will finally learn what happened to her mother and get the closure she has long sought. In fact, with renewed interest in her mother’s case, Yadon has taken steps that could help find the answers her family has waited for.
After talking with the Bangor Daily News in March about her mother’s disappearance, Yadon started a Facebook page to share information about her mother’s case and “get her face out there.”
So far, the page hasn’t unearthed any breaks in the case, but Yadon said she has received a lot of support from friends and neighbors who were, until recently, unaware of what happened to her mother.
Then what they hope will be a promising development came in August: Yadon and her brother, Eugene Daniel Hoover, submitted DNA samples to a national missing persons agency, thanks to the help of a network of volunteers who work with families whose loved ones are missing.
Volunteer Patrick Day of Rockland helped get the ball rolling. Day is known in Maine for his work to advocate for the creation of a cold case squad to work Maine’s unsolved murders and missing persons cases. Recently, Day said he has been working more closely with the families of Maine’s missing persons.
“I started working with them and reaching out to the families of missing persons … to help them get DNA testing done and [get the samples] into a database that can be tested against other samples across the country,” he said.
When he read the BDN report about Jessie Hoover in May and learned her family still lived in Texas and did not have any answers, “I called [Yadon] right away.”
With his help, Yadon got in touch with Christina Siragusa, the Maine area director of the Doe Network, a volunteer organization that assists families and law enforcement agencies to find missing persons and name unidentified bodies. Siragusa said the Doe Network primarily focuses on cases such as Hoover’s that have sat unsolved for at least nine years.
Siragusa connected Yadon with a caseworker from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a unit of the U.S. Department of Justice, who coordinated with the Fort Worth Police Department to get a DNA cheek swab from her and her brother. The samples were taken in August.
According to the NamUs website, the samples have been received but testing is not yet complete.
Siragusa said that once NamUs processes the samples, they will be run through the agency’s database to see whether there are any matches. After that point, it can be a waiting game: Any law enforcement agency from coast to coast can run DNA samples through the NamUs database to look for matches.
Yadon said she hopes that with her DNA on file, “if they happen to find my mom’s remains, she can be identified.”
Eugene Daniel Hoover said he also is hopeful the DNA could be key to identifying any remains, if they are found.
As of Oct. 1, 2014, NamUs has directly resolved a total of 821 missing persons cases since its inception in 2007.
Even though Yadon and the Largay family have never met, they share the uncommon experience of having lost a loved one somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. According to the NamUs database, Jessie Hoover and Largay are the only two people out of 11,678 open missing persons cases who have been reported missing along the iconic trail.
Yadon extended her sympathies to Largay’s family, who wait for confirmation from the state medical examiner’s office that the remains found last Wednesday are those of Geraldine Largay.
“I understand how [George Largay] feels,” she said. “Even though it’s sad that it’s come to an end, at least he has closure. I’ll keep him in my prayers.”
Retired game warden Dave Sewall, who led the brief and unsuccessful search for Hoover in 1983, said Friday it is unlikely Hoover will ever be found.
“I think, unfortunately, the odds would be very, very slim,” Sewall said. “But miracles do happen.”
Hoover’s case with the state police remains open, according to a police report.