Columbus native Amber Garrett said she’s not giving up after 11 months of searching for her 21-year-old son, Joseph A. Voecks, who went missing on Jan. 14.
“In my heart and gut, I feel that he’s in danger,” said Garrett, who is a caregiver at Promedcare.
Because Voecks – a Columbus native – was last seen leaving Burger King in Norfolk, the case was handed to the Nebraska State Patrol. Ron Kosiba, the Nebraska State Patrol investigator leading Voecks’ case, said his department continues to investigate and follow up on any leads. Although there are people going missing daily in Nebraska, Kosiba said this is the longest missing person case that he has handled.
Garrett said Voecks’ stepmother was the last person to see her son. She said the stepmother took a trip down to Norfolk the day Voecks disappeared with the intention of taking him to Colorado. Garrett said the pair got into an argument at Burger King, which led to Voecks storming off by himself.
Voecks is Garrett’s oldest child among her four sons, an adopted daughter and two stepdaughters. Garrett said Voecks is clinically diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and bipolar disorder, among other conditions.
Since Voecks went missing, Garrett said family members have been actively spreading the word throughout the country. She said her husband, who is a truck driver, posts posters at every stop he makes. The posters containing Voecks' description and last whereabouts can also be seen throughout the community at the Columbus Police Department, along with at various storefronts and gas stations.
Garrett said she’s also spreading the word to Norfolk and through social media, as well as reaching out to several news outlets.
“I want to get it out there nationally,” she said. “I feel like because we are a lower-class family and we don’t have money, we can’t get national news attention…”
When Voecks traveled to Norfolk to meet with his probation officer, Garrett said it was in his nature to contact his girlfriend and family members. So when they didn’t hear from him, it sparked a red flag and prompted Garrett to lodge a missing person report on Jan. 15.
“(Joseph Voecks) always calls,” said Garrett, noting he was also absent on his social media page. “If he says he’s going to call, he calls. He has always been a momma’s boy from the get-go.”
Voecks was scheduled to meet with his probation officer on Jan. 16 in Norfolk. Because of that, the 24 hours following the initial report seemed like an eternity for Garrett, who was praying to receive news that her son made an appearance.
“I never thought that he was running from probation at all,” Garrett said. “Yeah, he gets in trouble a lot but he takes his punishment, serves his time … He has never run from his problems.”
Garrett said it has been a personal uphill battle since her son’s disappearance, especially with rumors of him being dead or that he has left the state spreading throughout the community.
As much as Garrett tries to be optimistic, she said she can’t help but to believe the worst.
“Honestly, I think he’s dead because I stopped feeling that connection with him about the beginning or middle part of February,” Garrett said. “But I still feel hope.”
Even if her intuition turns out to be true, Garrett said she's still determined to find her son to receive some semblance of closure.
Those with any information regarding Voecks' whereabouts are encouraged to contact local authorities or call Garrett at 402-910-9328.
“I want him back,” she said. “My kids are my life – all of them … They are what’s kept me going.”
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.