Real Name: Heath Brian Vess
Case: Lost Brother
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Date: May 1974
Details: Sharene Vess Davis and her siblings are searching for their younger brother, Heath Brian Vess. The Vess's parents, James and Wanda Vess, were married in 1956; seventeen years later, they had nine children (six sons and three daughters). The oldest child was sixteen and the youngest was six months. James worked in construction and Wanda was a housewife. By all appearances, the Vess family was a happy and loving family.
However, in reality, James Vess was a dangerous alcoholic; by 1973, James's drinking binges had strained the Vess marriage. He was often too drunk to work; he also was abusive to his wife. Sharene remembered on one occasion that her father had beat her mother because she hid alcohol from him. Finally, Wanda Vess had enough; after James moved out of the home, she filed for divorce. She was determined to make a new life for herself and her children. With little work experience, however, Wanda was forced to work as a waitress at a local bar.
On May 27, 1974, at around 1 am, James entered the bar that Wanda worked at (it was Wanda's 34th birthday). James tried to reconcile with Wanda, but she refused. A few minutes later, James returned with a shotgun and told all of the patrons to leave. He then shot Wanda multiple times. James Vess was arrested at another bar an hour later after confessing to Wanda's murder. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison; he died in 1983.
After losing both of their parents, the Vess children were separated. The oldest son, James Jr., was taken in by his grandmother. Sharene and three brothers, Russell, Kenneth, and Wayne, were placed in foster homes. Kendra, Heath, Dawn, and Kevin Vess were all put up for adoption. Just three months after Wanda's murder, fourteen-year-old Sharene ran away from her foster home and began living on the streets. She sometimes slept in apartment hallways and other times outside. However, she was able to escape the streets and eventually went to business school. She later got a job as an office manager and now lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and two daughters.
In 1987, she began searching for her missing brothers and sisters. In less than two months, she was able to locate four of her brothers, James, Russell, Kenneth, and Wayne. Two years later, she was reunited with her oldest sister Kendra. In December 1990, she was able to get in contact with her youngest siblings, Dawn and Kevin. However, one Vess sibling, Heath, is still unaccounted for. He was just six years old when the family was separated.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the December 11, 1991 episode.
Results: Solved. Heath Marksch, who is now married and living in Ohio, was watching the broadcast, and called the telecenter. The next day, he spoke on the phone with Sharene. Four weeks later, he and his wife Robin traveled to Los Angeles, where they were reunited with his siblings.