Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FOR BOYS MISSING 3 YEARS, TIRELESS SEARCH; the Pair Walked Away from Paxon School in 2005 and Were Never Seen Again

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FOR BOYS MISSING 3 YEARS, TIRELESS SEARCH; the Pair Walked Away from Paxon School in 2005 and Were Never Seen Again

Article excerpt

Byline: BRAD GOLDBACH

Darlene Briggs opens a photo album she's created for the grandson she hopes to see again one day.

The Arlington resident's eyes are full of hope as she slowly turns each page, as if not wanting the memories to fade away.

She has collected all of the newspaper clippings about him. All of the news releases. There are also family photos dispersed throughout the album. And there is still a pile she said needs to be added to the album when she gets a chance.

"I try to keep a little bit of everything, so he'll be able to read it later," Briggs says with a soft voice.

She doesn't know how much later that will be, but hopes it is soon.

Her grandson, Mark Degner of Arlington, and his friend, Bryan Hayes of the Southside, have been missing more than three years. After causing a commotion, the boys walked out of their classroom and away from Paxon Middle School after 1 p.m. Feb. 10, 2005. The teacher watched them walk away without calling police, probably thinking they were going home, Briggs said.

The boys were 12 and 13, respectively, at the time. They have been missing ever since. There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to their safe return. Information should be directed to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 630-0500.

"It has just been a long journey without someone you love," Briggs said. "It gets harder as time goes by."

The difficulty has not prevented Briggs from helping families in similar situations.

She is the founder of a support group for families of missing children called The Missing Abducted Runaway Kidnapped. There are about seven or eight families in the group who encourage and help each other through difficult times. Members also assist families who have recently lost someone by hanging up fliers and doing everything they would do to help out their own family. (For more information, e-mail themark.d@gmail.com.)

"Whatever I do for the boys, I do for the other families in the group," Briggs said. …

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