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"The Doe Network" : International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons
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Doe Network Member Profiles : Shelly Denman

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Bitten by the "bug"

This weeks featured member is Shelley Denman. Doe Network Area Director for Alabama and Missouri.

Some may ask how a 40-something, mortgage loan underwriter, mother of two and grandmother of five got involved in a seeming murder mystery? Shelley often asks herself that question, why did she start a project that has now taken four years of research, knocking on doors, asking for documents, a generous PI, and e-mailing known ex-cons? The answer, she wanted to find her husband's missing family members.

"Four years ago, my sister, Shannon Stevens, and I set out to solve my husband's family heartbreak and mystery. With the naiveté of beginners, we started gathering information." says Shelley. They soon learned just how naive they were as they fully expected it would be a matter of just looking them up. They pictured a phone call, and the happy reunion. "WRONG! What we really had was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle - one of those with no picture, just a bunch of gumballs! But like a jigsaw, once we started putting the pieces together, we could not stop." exclaims Shelley as she describes something familiar to many others who were "bitten by the bug".

Shelley's sister in law Freda Denman had married a career criminal and disappeared, never to be heard from, again. She vanished in November of 1974 along with her two children, Sheri Lynn and Michael . Freda's parents passed away without knowing what happened to her and her children. The family held out hope for many years that they would re-appear.

Shelley and Shannon worked on researching the circumstances of their disappearance for three years, until February 2003. They decided to really expand their efforts into cyberspace and needed somewhere to post their disappearance. In that effort they found Wes Neville one of the Doe Network's Forensic Artists. They corresponded with him and he drew an age enhanced picture of Freda's criminal husband for them.

It was then that they found the Doe Network. But they did more than post their case.... "From the day we went on the Doe Network, I was enveloped in such caring as I could not imagine. I was astonished there were people that tried to give faces to the faceless, bring unidentified bodies home to their loved ones and generally support and give visibility to the still missing and their families." exclaim Shelley. Shelley corresponded with a "patient Angela Ellis" as they submitted her cases. Shelley says Angela would answer her numerous e-mails and cheer her on as she made positive steps. In June of 2003, Shelly was invited to join the Doe Network, and she happily accepted. So now not only was Shelley looking for her husbands family members but through her work with the Doe Network she was also helping so many otherr families in their desperate search and for that she should be commended.

Shelley relates to the concept of "loss"..."When I think of my children and grandchildren, I consider the heart ache of ever losing any of them. My husband's parents lived 25 years of their lives not knowing what happened to their daughter and her children. I really cannot imagine their pain. I can remember my husband's mother asking me if I knew the story about their daughter. I listened to the other family members speculating on what might have happened to her. The sense of loss in these conversations was overwhelming."

Shelley feels that her family members did not vanish of their own free will and have strong theories as they continue to pursue the fate of their missing loved ones.

Author: Todd Matthews

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