The event was held to raise awareness of the missing Pell City woman, in the hope that some new piece of information would provide answers for a family locked in grief.
Howard has been missing since June 2, 2009. A 1986 graduate of Wellborn High School, she is from the Anniston/Oxford area but was living in Pell City at the time of her disappearance.
Howard was last seen at Family Dentistry in Riverside where she worked as a dental hygienist. She was 41 years old when she went missing.
“We want closure,” said Howard’s son, 24-year-old Shaun Derusha. His son, Howard’s only grandchild, was born just three months after Howard disappeared.
While they hold out hope she will be found alive, several family members expressed Derusha’s need for an end, no matter the outcome.
“I just want to bury my mother. Everybody deserves a funeral. Especially people that lived like she lived,” Derusha said.
Howard’s husband, Boyd, said that the two had been married for eight years when she went missing, and that the pain never eases.
“She was my whole world,” Boyd said. “I’m still married to her. The most important thing in my life now is to find out what actually happened to her.”
Through tears, and surrounded by family, Howard’s mother, Peggy Henderson, described her daughter’s powerful smile and warm heart. Henderson pleaded for anyone with information to come foreword.
“We know she’s gone. We know she’s not coming home. But if we could just have her remains back so that she could have a Christian burial. That would mean the world to us,” Henderson said. “That’s why we’re reaching out one more time.”
Derusha said that he wants most for people to know that the family will continue to look for his mother because “she wouldn’t ever give up on any of us ad we’re not going to give up on her.”
St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office investigator Rick Oliver said by phone Saturday that his department continues to actively work the case.
“It is ongoing. We continue to follow leads as they come to us,” Oliver said. He asked that anyone with information call the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Division at 205-884-3333. At the time she disappeared, Howard was 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 140 pounds and had blonde hair.
Anonymous letters can also be mailed to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office at 1610 Cogswell Ave. Suite 206, Pell City, 35125.
A $10,000 reward has been offered by the family, and an additional $5,000 reward by the Governor’s Office, for information leading to an arrest of anyone involved in the disappearance of Howard.
Star staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563 or on Twitter @EBurkhalter_Star.