Variations: This June 2009 "missing child" e-mail uses the same photo of Jewel Strong that is displayed above:
****AMBER ALERT ****
***3-YR-OLD GIRL ***
TAKEN BY A MAN DRIVING A NEWER SILVER TRUCK IN IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO.
** LICENSE PLATE NUMBER... 72B381. ***
"PLEASE KEEP THIS GOING!!".
WHAT IF THIS WAS YOUR LITTLE GIRL?
if she was your daughter, you would forward it.
Missing 3 year Old Girl -
You never know, who knows whom.
PLEASE HELP US BY FORWARDING THIS EMAIL UNTIL THIS REACHES A WORLD-WIDE AUDIENCE AND JEWEL IS RETURNED HOME
While the "help find this child" appeal quoted above does include a photo of Jewel Strong, uses the word "jewel," and describes the missing tot as being three years old, the rest is fiction. While Jewel Strong is missing, she was not abducted by a man driving a silver-colored truck or anyone else. She didn't disappear in Idaho, either, but in Florida. Also, she went missing in 2006.
Origins: The above-quoted missing child alert is one that is difficult to classify: It isn't a hoax, and the girl described (Jewel Strong) did disappear, but her "missing" status is the result of an accident rather
than a typical case of an abduction or a child run away from home, and the odds that the girl is still alive appear to be quite slim.
Over Memorial Day weekend of 2006, Jewel Strong (then three years old) of Jonesboro, Georgia, was vacationing with her family at a beachside spot in St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, Florida. On 28 May 2006, Jewel and her 18-year-old aunt were out on the water on a raft/float that drifted outside the park's waveless "kiddie pool" swimming nook and into an adjacent jetty channel with strong currents. Although rescuers managed to save Jewel's aunt, they were unable to find Jewel herself, and intensive searches of the area by divers, boats, and helicopters throughout the next few weeks failed to turn up any sign of her.
After the accident, Jewel's parents, Racharel and Simona Strong, expressed doubts that authorities made adequate efforts to investigate their daughter's disappearance and stated that they still held out hope she was alive somewhere. "I know she's safe ... safe and she's alive ... so you'll never hear us speaking past tense about our little girl," her father said a couple of months after the accident. "We have faith that our daughter will come home ... safe and alive," her mother added.
However, others involved with the search indicated there was little chance (if any) that Jewel survived the accident and might still turn up alive:
"I'm hoping just like they're hoping for a miracle ... I would pray every night that they do find their daughter and I would love to be wrong," says Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen. Sheriff McKeithen sympathizes with the Strongs. But, he also says, unfortunately, witness statements at the scene and conditions in the strong current on that Sunday afternoon suggest a different outcome. The Sheriff was personally involved in the search. Sheriff McKeithen says, "Things happen out there in the Gulf and under that water that people don't see everyday. I assure you ... if we had any indication ... the slightest indication that something different was going on, we would be all over it."
The Strong family has maintained that a girl spotted in a March 2007 security video taken at a Jacksonville, Florida, restaurant was Jewel:
The parents received their first solid piece of evidence when a customer at the Golden Corral on San Jose Boulevard thought she spotted the girl with three black women. The restaurant's surveillance video showed what the mother said are Jewel's unique mannerisms.
"(My) son has seen it, mother, sisters, aunts — everybody in our family has seen it. Everyone is completely convinced that it's her," Jewel's mother, Simona Strong, said. "We watched her walking around, dancing, bumping into people. We know our daughter."
The family expressed similar optimism about reports from Orlando, Florida, in August and September of 2007:
[T]he Strongs believe their daughter may be in Orlando. Over the past two months they received reports of Jewel sightings at Disney World and at an Orlando hospital. The latest clue that gives the family hope is an Aug. 22 video recorded by a security camera at an Orlando Walgreens store.
Authorities have not expressed the same level of optimism. Capt. Jimmy Stanford of the Bay County Sheriff's Office said of the Golden Corral video: "You can't say it's her, and you can't say it's not her."
Last updated: 20 June 2009
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WMBB-TV [Panama City]. 24 July 2006.
Burr, Ryan. "Family Holds Out Hope for 3-Year-Old."
The [Panama City] News Herald. 8 June 2006.
Ford, Faith. "No Sign of Girl Swept Away in Pass."
The [Panama City] News Herald. 30 May 2006.
Ford, Faith. "Safety of 'Kiddie Pool' in Question."
The [Panama City] News Herald. 31 May 2006.
Meinen, Andy. "Missing Rafter."
The [Panama City] News Herald. 1 June 2006.
UPI. "Missing 4-Year-Old Caught on Camera."
13 September 2007.
WJXT-TV [Jacksonville, FL]. "Video Gives Family Hope Daughter Is Alive."