Missing 11-year-old inspires new bill to create day of awareness in Tennessee

Adam Snider - NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - A mother on a mission is teaming up with lawmakers more than a decade after her daughter vanished.

Bethany Markowski was last seen in early March 2001, and the day of her disappearance may soon be recognized across the state as a day of awareness for countless families still searching.

According to her mother, Bethany was a kind, smart, sassy 11-year-old.

"Loved to sing, didn't want you to watch her, so you had to turn your back while she would sing into a brush and dance," explained Jonnie Carter. "She's got a really good heart, really kind heart."

Bethany reportedly visited a mall in Jackson, Tennessee, with her father 16 years ago.

"She was on second visitation with her father," said Carter. "He had taken a nap out in the parking lot... He let Bethany go into the mall, and she's gone."

Bethany hasn't been seen since.

Unconfirmed "sightings" have poured in through the years, 16 years of leads that led to nowhere, leading to questions from Jonnie.

"Bethany is not 11 anymore. What if she doesn't like me?" asked Jonnie. "What if she doesn't love me? What if she blames me for not finding her?"

It's a case that's haunted Jackson police as well.

"It's very close to me. Bethany and my daughter would be the same age," said Captain Mike Holt to WBBJ-TV back in 2014. "Always want to believe that we're gonna find her alive."

This case has now inspired lawmakers with close friend Rep. Darren Jernigan filing legislation this session to honor Bethany and all missing people.

"I can't find her child, but I can help bring awareness to it," noted Jernigan.

Awareness would come through a new bill marking Bethany's disappearance date, March 4th, as Tennessee Missing Children's Day.

"With nearly 70 children missing in Tennessee, it's an opportunity to pick a day," said Jernigan. "Share with these families that we care about what they're doing."

"I cried for three days when he told me that. I cry every time I think about it," added Jonnie.

Now, as the bill makes its way to the floor, Jonnie hopes this March 4th will be for her and other Tennessee families who refuse to give up.

"It's beyond anything I could ever imagine," said Jonnie. "I know Bethany would be proud of this."

Anyone with information in Bethany's disappearance is urged to contact TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

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