Bernadette Stevenson Caruso was a warm, friendly twenty three year old young woman. Her friends and family describe her as a loving and devoted mother to her three year old daughter Nicole. Bernadette was the youngest of seven children in a close family. Our lives were all entwined in the usual family ways, hanging out with siblings, getting our children together and celebrating family events. Bernadette was also a survivor from a rocky, volatile marriage, awaiting her divorce. She had asked the Baltimore County States Attorney to open a stet for domestic violence charges against her husband, Paul Michael Caruso, a former police officer dismissed form the Baltimore County Police Department for brutality. It was not an easy time for the young mother but she was happy and positive about getting back on her feet again and making a life for herself and her daughter.
On September 27, 1986 Bernadette Stevenson Caruso, vanished into thin air after getting off at her job at a mall jewelry store. She was suppose to testify in court the following week about the charges of domestic violence. She has never been seen again. The car she was driving ( our mothers) has never been recovered .Bernadette had talked to family members shortly before she left work that day. Co-workers recall her estranged husband calling her that day and Bernadette saying “ that she may meet him and see what he wanted.” Nicole was with her father and his parents that day for his weekend visitation. Bernadette was to meet back up with her work friends that evening but never showed up. Her friends were unable to contact her after she left the Eastpoint Mall at 5:00PM. Bernadette and her car just vanished.
The lives of those she touched has never been the same. For her family and friends, the time since her disappearance has been a mix of pain and hardship, not knowing what happened to her. We have continued looking for Bernadette for twenty three years, looking for the reason why someone would separate a mother from her child in such a terrible way. For her daughter, Nicole it has been years of confusion and frustration, never knowing her mother or what really happened to her. Wondering how different her life would have been if her mother had raised her. For twenty three years we have never given up searching for Bernadette. With the increase in prosecution of no body murder cases / crimes, we are hopeful that one day they will get for justice for her. With progress comes more hope.
As of December 31, 2008, there were 102,764 active missing person records in The National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC’s) Missing Person File Juveniles under the age of 18 account for 51,054 (49.7 percent) of the records and 12,648 (12.3 percent) were for juveniles between the ages of 18 and 20. There are an estimated, as of December 31, 2008, there were 7,134 unidentified person records in NCIC. Of the 7,134 active entries, 1,133 (15.9 percent) were entered in 2008. Think of the families of these 102,764 missing persons and think about what their lives are like. Imagine knowing that your loved one is out there and you don’t know if they are dead or alive. That every time you drive past a park or wooded area you think maybe there. Or every time you hear of a body being found your heart stops and you pray. You pray for closure.
You pray for answers. You pray for someone to have a conscience and come forward, you hope that you will not go to your grave before you have answers to your prayers.
These families will now have access to the nations first online missing and unidentified persons system. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUs, was created by the Department of Justice's Office. NamUs is a nationwide database, which will allow law enforcement agencies, investigators, and the public to search nationwide for missing persons by registering in the system. NamUs brings together two online, searchable databases: unidentified decedents database and missing persons database. The missing person’s database will improve the quality and quantity of missing person’s data and simplify the reporting and management of missing persons cases for the justice community and the public. Law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, and other members of the justice community, as well as the family members will be able to log on to the database to enter data regarding missing persons.
With progress comes more hope for the families like us, the family of Bernadette Stevenson Caruso, it gives us increased hope that one day Bernadette will be brought home and laid to rest. That maybe one day there will be the answers that we have searched for.
This year as we have for the last twenty six years we will say the promises that we have made in our hearts" Bernadette, We will never give up. We will bring you home."