Payton Johnston organized a get-together in a coin-operated laundry to mark the 33rd birthday of her mother, Marilyn Renee “Niqui” McCown.
The 13-year-old chose the Corner Laundry, formerly the Richmond Coin Laundry, in the 1000 block of South E Street because it was the last place her mother was seen before she disappeared on July 22, 2001.
A small group of family members, friends and strangers met to light candles, say prayers, express their feelings and to sing “Happy Birthday” to McCown.
“I thought it was good,” Payton said. “I wanted everyone to come out and have a moment of silence on her birthday.”
Payton read a poem in which she asks, “Why, why was it you? Why did they take you?… Why don’t I have a mom? … Why can’t I just go back in time to that Sunday and save you? Why you, why?”
The family often celebrates McCown’s birthday by themselves, but this year Payton wanted to make a special effort to keep her mother’s story in the media.
Crews from two Dayton television stations were present and an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” that shares McCown’s story had been repeated recently.
As white and dark purple candles burned, McCown’s sister, Terrilyn Jett, talked about how her life has changed since McCown disappeared in 2001.
“It’s just like we woke up out of a bad dream. Thank God that I have a peace now. I may not have my sister, but I have peace,” Jett said. “He knows the answers and he’s going to give us the answers.
“Four years ago, we were really bitter. I was the bitterest.
I wanted to seek out revenge. God’s given me peace. It’s a beautiful thing,” she said.
The group clasped hands to pray for McCown.
“All we ask for right now is closure,” prayed family friend Cairo Hardin. “…Let Niqui’s name not be forgotten.”
“We miss you Niqui and love you,” said McCown’s sister, Tamie Hughes.
“We don’t have closure, but we are able to forgive,” Jett said. “…If there is someone and they know something, our family, we forgive you.”
Valerie Taylor of Richmond doesn’t know McCown’s family, but she came to the vigil.
“I bless you,” Taylor said.
As she talked with Jett about the comfort Jett has found in faith, Taylor said that through her disappearance, McCown “has reached people to reach God…
“Look how many people have been touched and turned to God.”
“It’s through God that we’re strengthened each day,” Jett said. “It gets easier and easier. We’re able to reach out and help others.”
She said the family, especially Payton, has been able to share its experiences and support with other families who have a missing member.
Payton’s aunts admire her strength.
“She’s our rock,” Hughes said.
Reporter Rachel E. Sheeley: (765) 973-4458 or firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been more than four years since Niqui McCown was last seen at a Richmond laundromat.
Today holds special meaning for her family for it is Niqui McCown’s 33rd birthday. A day her family wishes they could spend with her, but instead they are still doing what they can to bring her home. Niqui was last seen in 2001.
According to her sister, she stopped by her mother’s house and told her some guys were giving her a hard time at the laundromat. She then went back to that laundromat to get her belongings and never returned.
Her family believes she was taken against her will. Her car was found later in Dayton. Her family is hanging on to hope that someone will come forward.
They last spoke to 2News back in the summer of 2005.
“I’m really angry at the system at the whole structure of justice. We don’t want no money. We don’t want any of that. All’s we want is Niqui back,” is what Niqui’s mother Barbara McCown said then.
Niqui’s family will hold a vigil in her honor Friday evening at the laundry mat where she was last seen on South East Street in Richmond. That will take place at 7:30 p.m.
RICHMOND, Indiana — Niqui McCown, who disappeared five years ago, was remembered Friday night at a candlelight vigil n what was her 33rd birthday.
The vigil took place at a Laundromat in Richmond, Ind. That is where her family last saw her.
Authorities said McCown car was found in Harrison Township at an apartment complex. She reportedly knew a man who lived there, but he said he never saw her.
In the four years that her mother has been missing, Payton Johnston was content to let other family members as well as friends speak on behalf of Marilyn Renee “Niqui” McCown.
But on Friday, which marked another anniversary since Niqui’s disappearance, the 13-year-old addressed the crowd. She finally wanted to speak her mind.
She told parents to kiss their children each day before they go to sleep because they never know which kiss will be their last. She doesn’t want them to end up like her, spending years missing a loved one.
“For four years, I haven’t had a mother,” Payton said.
Niqui McCown hasn’t been seen by her family and loved ones since she disappeared from a coin-operated laundry at 1100 S. E St. on July 22, 2001.Her family and friends are as passionate about the cause as ever. Terrilyn Jett, Niqui’s sister, said the march was about something bigger — stopping violence in neighborhoods and bringing communities back together.
“We’re still very much hopeful,” Jett said. “It’s been really tough.”
As 60 or so people marched from the 600 block of South 10th Street, near where Niqui was last seen, to the Richmond Municipal Building, they carried signs and shouted statements condemning domestic violence.
“Something happened to her, somebody knows, they never came forth for whatever reason,” Michelle McCown said, also Niqui’s sister. She said determination, love and respect for all of the Niquis in the world is what keeps them vigilant about trying to find missing people.
“We’re basically their voices, and they need to be heard,” Michelle McCown said.
Dominique Hampton, Niqui’s nephew, said “a bunch of broken hearts” is what he thinks of when he thinks of Niqui.
As Niqui’s mother Barbara McCown spoke at the podium, surrounded by her daughters and granddaughter, she expressed hope that Niqui will be found but expressed frustration at the results the investigation has turned up so far.
The attention given to the “Runaway Bride” on the national news earlier this year made her especially upset.
“It seems that if you don’t come from the elite you don’t matter,” Barbara McCown said.
The McCowns have spoken with local and regional news media and have also taken Niqui’s story on shows such as Unsolved Mysteries and The Montel Williams Show.
Unfortunately, Niqui shares her missing status with more than 100,000 other Americans. According to Nation’s Missing Children’s Organization and the National Center for Missing Adults, about 55,000 of those cases are juveniles.
In Richmond though, Niqui’s case is the highest profile missing person investigation of late. Richmond Police Sgt. Brad Berner said since the beginning of the year, 89 people have been reported missing to the department. Most of those turned out to be runaways or people who returned or made themselves known after a short period of time.
Berner even said Gerald Leroy Goble, also known as Chop Chop by many people, has been reported seen often enough for police to now believe he’s around the community somewhere. Goble has been reported missing since mid-2003.
Besides McCown, only one other missing person case remains open in Richmond. Carl Holland was 23 when he was reported missing in June 1983. Police suspected foul play, and even dug up some area wells in search of evidence. They never turned up enough information to locate Holland.
Mayor Sally Hutton, who attended the Friday march, said she has met with the McCown family a few times and admires their faith and tenacity to solve the case.
“They want closure and I think that’s only fair for them,” Hutton said. “We can only hope and pray that it will happen sooner rather than later.”
Barbara McCown said all the family wants is justice for Niqui and other missing people.
“Four years ago, something was taken from me,” Barbara McCown said. “No mother should have to feel this.”
Reporter Rebecca Helmes: (765) 973-4478 or rhelmes@richmond. gannett.com