‘Missing in New Jersey’ event brings together families searching for answers

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A Filipino family is holding on to hope that their son John Paul Fernandez — who has been missing for more than a year now — is still alive.

Now, after the state’s police held its first ever missing person’s event, they are hoping to find some answers.

Ninia fernandez feels the overwhelming guilt everyday since her son, John Paul, disappeared on December 132015.

Police found JP’s cellphone on the side of the road near his running trail.

JP, a 22-year-old accounting student at Seton Hall University, left a six page letter — which the Fernandez family says is not a suicide note.

“You try to think. People have been seen,” said Fernandez. “If he’s gone, they’d found the body. But this long, it gives you more hope that he’s out there, that he’s driving, he’s alive.  You just want to know if he’s well.”

Ninia is hoping she might find some answers here,  at a first-ever missing persons event put together by the New Jersey state police.

“It’s important for us to do this for the families. Cause we’ve identified this hole, this need that they have, to really come together and understand that they’re not alone, and offer them some sense of encouragement, hope and healing,” said Detective Sgt. Joel Trella.

New Jersey has more than 350 unidentified bodies.

At the event, authorities are also hoping to collect some DNA samples from family members.

In older cases, officials say, there’s a chance advances in technology can improve the odds of making a match.

Sergeant Trella says they know the process could be frustrating for families.

“It’s difficult for the police to express that.  That they are also very helpful. They want to find John Fernandez well.  They really are looking to do that. Sometimes it’s difficult for that to come across to the family. And this event, we want to show them that we do care, that we are actively looking.”

There are about one thousand one hundred long term missing people in New Jersey alone.

It means they’ve been gone for more than 30 days, and that includes JP Fernandez.  The families here tell me that they might not find their loved ones today, but at least they found new friends in helping them keep hope alive.

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