CINCINNATI -- Marcus Fiesel would be 13-years-old right now.
There is not one person in the Tri-State who can forget the day the toddler was reported missing from Julifs Park, exactly 10 years ago Monday.
His foster mother, Liz Carroll, claimed her 3-year-old autistic son went missing after she had passed out due to low blood pressure. On that day, almost 3,000 people searched for the missing toddler, only to find that he was never really missing at all.
Carroll and her husband had wrapped little Marcus in a blanket, bound him with tape and stuffed him into a closet for two days while they took their other son -- and their dog -- to a family reunion.
Holly Shlaack is the director of Invisible Kids Project, a nonprofit devoted to giving a voice to children in the child welfare system. She remembers the day Marcus “went missing.”
“All these people just dropped everything that they were doing and they went to the park to search for this little boy,” Shlaack said.
Some of the people who searched for Marcus ten years ago returned to Julifs Park Sunday evening to remember the blue-eyed little boy and to make sure what happened to him never happens again.
Mike Connelly returned to the Julif Park where he searched for Marcus a decade ago.
“When I heard about this -- about Marcus -- I wanted to be here because I’ve thought of him over the years a lot, and I just wanted to be a part of it today,” Connelly said.
Shlaack said a lot has changed since Marcus’ death. Extensive background checks are now ran on foster parents, which is something that Shlaack said might have saved Marcus.
“...Had that been in place when Marcus was living with Liz and David Carroll, that would have been flagged and then he would have probably been moved from that home,” Shlaack said.
While there have been some movement in the right direction, nine children within the foster care system have died due to abuse or neglect since Marcus’ death. Shlaack believes more can be done.
“We have seen massive cuts to job and family services in the past 10 years, massive cuts to juvenile court, a lack of foster homes and I think these are all important things for the community to sort of get behind,” Shlaack said.
Like Connelly, Andrew Pappas was among those who looked for the toddler. He returned to the park Sunday night to remember Marcus and to bring attention to children’s rights.
“Any type of attention is good,” Pappas said. “We are talking about people’s lives here and when she told the story about going in some of these foster homes and seeing the conditions of the foster’s children’s rooms. It rips your heart out.”