Still Missing: Russell Mort

6:04 PM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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WHEATFIELD, NY - The hearts of a nation were raised earlier this week, when three kidnapped women, some of whom had spent more than a decade in torturous captivity, were rescued in Cleveland.

But the news may have touched one Western New York family more than others.

A family whose loved one has been missing for more than three decades.

When she heard of the incredible news from Cleveland, Ruth Mort's heart skipped with a beat of joy.

"Especially for those families," Mort told WGRZ-TV. "Statistics normally state they (the missing women) would have expired," she said.

The rescue of the Cleveland women came 31 years and one day, after Mort's 2-1/2 year old son Russell went missing from where the family lived in a trailer park on River Road. Despite an all out effort by police and volunteers to find him, he was never seen again.

"And when I heard (of the story in Cleveland) I thought of Russell and said a little prayer...again," Mort told Channel 2 News.

However, Mort stopped short of saying her hopes of finding Russell have been actually raised.

"It didn't increase our hope because we are aware of the statistics," she said, referring to research which shows the longer a child has been missing the less likely it is that they will ever be found again.

Ever since Russell disappeared, when he was left alone for less than a minute to play outside in a fenced yard on May 5, 1982, there have been theories as to what happened to him.

One is that one he fell into the Niagara River, which was less than 100 feet away from where he was last seen, and was swept away in its swift moving waters.

The other theory is that he was kidnapped, which is the theory his mother most subscribes to.

"There's never been any evidence whatsoever as to what actually happened to him, so therefore you cling to hope that he is alive someplace, unless you hear something otherwise," Mort said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children features information on Russell Mort, including an age progression photo, which depicts what he might like today at age 33.

In 2005, a man from Texas who thought he might be their son contacted the Morts.

The man, who had been adopted, noticed that pictures of him as a child bore a striking resemblance to those of Russell, and his younger sister. The man also had the same blood type as Russell's father.

However, DNA testing eventually ruled him out as being the Mort's long lost son.

"But we still stay in touch with that young man to this day," Mrs. Mort said.

Another Mother's Day will come on Sunday.

Another Mother's Day... without this mother's son.

"I think about Russell most every day...we had two other girl's after Russ disappeared and we're busy now with grand babies, and it's helped an awful lot," Mort said.

Russell Mort's case has an interesting distinction in that in the 1985, his was the first picture of a missing child from upstate New York, to be depicted on a milk carton. It became a common method used to try to locate missing children before the advent of the internet.

In her home, Mrs. Mort keeps two thick scrapbooks of news articles, photos, and other items related to her son's disappearance, including a flattened, now 28-year-old milk carton with his picture on it.

Ruth says if there are currently any leads in the case of her son's disappearance, she would not necessarily know of them, explaining that in more recent years investigators have changed their practices, to avoid notifying families of potential leads until and unless they pan out.

This diminishes scenarios by which hopes are raised; only to be dashed, which in years past she describes as a like "being on a roller coaster".

"It's a two edged sword...sometimes I wish they would share all tips with us...but sometimes I'm thankful that they don't," Mort said.

Click on the video to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley, and Chief Photojournalist Andy DeSantis. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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