April 02, 2017 11:00 PM
When young people disappear, their families are left with broken hearts and unanswered questions. It's even more frustrating for families who feel their missing children don't get enough attention.
JoJo Boswell is a young Native American woman who vanished in 2005. Boswell's family believes her disappearance failed to make the headlines because of her race.
An Internet search for information on Boswell produces her picture on all kinds of missing-person websites. But not a single news story can be found from July 2005 when the 19-year-old from Minneapolis disappeared.
After some digging, we found her mother, Geraldine Jackson, and sister, Dolly Boswell.
"The last time I talked with my sister was July 3" Dolly Boswell said. "That's the year she was missing."
The women were eager to tell us about JoJo Boswell because they feel she's been forgotten.
Jackson's fondest memory of her daughter involves eating green beans.
"That was the first time she ate and I ever let her feed herself," Jackson said. "She had green beans all over her high chair, all over her face and on her hair."
JoJo Boswell grew up a fairly normal kid. She was the youngest of Jackson's three daughters. She got good grades and also got into trouble with the law now and then. But she loved her family very much.
Dolly Boswell says it was unusual for her sister to just disappear and not tell anyone where she was.
"She checked in with me daily, like I either see her daily or speak to her on the phone daily," she said.
Added Jackson: "I just miss being able to give her a hug and give her a kiss. Every time they go, I always tell my girls goodbye, I love you. And I haven't been able to say that to her for almost 12 years."
JoJo Boswell's story takes a mysterious turn in Owatonna, about an hour south of the Twin Cities. She had been arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court on a theft charge and spent a few days in the Steele County Detention Center. She was released July 11, 2005 at 2:36 p.m., and she started walking.
The last time anyone saw JoJo Boswell she was about a mile from the detention center, in front of the Mills Fleet Farm store off of Interstate 35.
"It appeared that someone just kind of walked up and talked to her. And kind of slowly walked away with her," said Minneapolis police Sgt. Joel Sandberg.
He said JoJo Boswell was seen with a white male. "Somebody else appeared to have met her. And there was no identification, no nothing on that person either," he said.
Nicole Matthews is the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition.
"And so it's as if she just vanished," Matthews said.
Matthews said young women like JoJo Boswell rarely make the news.
"We often times don't hear the stories, we don't see the faces, we don't hear their names when native women go missing," she said.
Native families with missing loved ones do what they can to get anyone to listen, Matthews said. That was the case at the Women's Memorial March on Valentine's Day, where JoJo Boswell's family was carrying signs and trying to raise awareness.
Matthews said societal values are to blame for why families of missing young Native Americans not believing they have a voice.
"I think it's about who has value in our society," she said. "And I think by and large, native women have less value."
Said Sandberg, the Minneapolis police sergeant: "I think every person on this earth has value. Regardless of what gender you are, what color you are, every case that comes across my desk is treated equally. And people are people, you have to respect people for who they are, for what they are, and give them equal justice to the best of your ability."
Sandberg said the fact that JoJo Boswell has not been found is disturbing.
"Everybody has questions about her whereabouts," he said. "Obviously after 12 years you probably tend to believe it's not a good outcome. However, there are still questions out there: What happened to JoJo Boswell?"
Sandberg hopes to one day have the answers JoJo Boswell's family needs. Jackson hopes her daughter's story isn't over.
"She was only 19," Jackson said. "She would just be beginning her life. She was just starting out, she was just a child. She needs to come back so she can live and grow and be with us."
JoJo Boswell's family has provided DNA samples, but there has never been a match with unidentified remains.
Anyone with information about JoJo Boswell is asked to call Sandberg at the Minneapolis Police Department at 612-673-5373.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can be reached at 1-800-THE LOST. NCMEC works to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization. Find out more about the organization here.
The Jacob Wetterling Resources Center provides assistance to families with missing loved ones. More information about JWRC can be found here.