HOUSTON -- The Harris County Sheriff’s Office hopes a new website, profiling the multitude of missing persons and runaway cases in the county, will help them solve these lingering mysteries for hundreds of local families.
Jeannie Jensen, 51, is one of those cases.
The former elementary school teacher vanished last October. In her last phone call to her younger brother, she said she was near Cullen and Reed in southeast Houston and that her prepaid phone wouldn’t be working much longer.
"I've called all of the hospitals, called the medical examiner,” said her brother Jeff Jenson who says his sister’s life and mental state started to change the day their father passed away after a long illness.
"She took it really hard instantly,” he said.
There were diagnoses of depression and schizophrenia. But still, she would always pick up a phone to call her little brother, as much as eight to ten times a day.
"I mean sometimes it got to be annoying she would call so much. Now I wish she would just go ahead and annoy me again,” said Jeff Jensen.
"I think something bad happened to her physically, unfortunately. Because I normally like 'feel' her but I don't feel that anymore,” he said of his connection to his sister. “So we don't know where to go to from here.”
Their hope now rests with a Harris County Sheriff’s website: hcso.BeenMissing.org. In 2012, the missing persons unit at HCSO processed more than 500 missing persons cases and more than 2,400 reports of teen runaways. But their staff consists of Sgt. Doug Thomas, four investigators and two clerks.
Not enough eyes, time, or resources to look for and find them all said Thomas.
"We (only) have four investigators, but we have a lot more now,” Thomas told KHOU 11 News.
The Been Missing website, created and donated by Houston company TISA Software, gives detectives a chance to profile their cases, publish pictures of the missing, and give the public a chance to help with as little as a single click. The website comes with social media apps and a mobile app that allows anyone to use their smart phone to take photographs of someone they might have seen on the website, upload the picture, and have it sent directly to a Harris County detective for review.
"We just went from four investigators to a whole lot more because we have a lot more eyes on the street looking for us,” said Thomas. "We want people to know it's there and that it's a new website. And it's really going to help us out a lot."
"I didn't know how many people were actually missing,” said Jensen. “And this (website) is a big deal."
For now, Jeff Jensen will keep looking on his own at every bus stop, every homeless corner, every hospital emergency room he passes hoping that he will find his sister alive. But with the new sheriff's website, he hopes the rest of the eyes in Harris County will be helping him look for her too.
"If anybody sees my sister just please write a letter or make a call just say she's ok. And for everybody else that's out there missing just do the same."
In addition to missing children and adults and runaways reported in Harris County, the site also profiles one “unidentified” case. Investigators are still searching for information that will lead them to the identity of a teenage girl found last year in Houston wearing a blue-green Smurfette t-shirt. The girl is believed to have been between 15-17 years old but her exact age is unknown.
Click here to visit the Been Missing website.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jeannie Jenson was found alive in Houston on Tuesday. She saw this story on Tuesday's KHOU 11 News at noon broadcast and contacted her brother to say she was OK.