A mother's intuition is almost never wrong. So when Anita Walters had a strange phone conversation with her daughter Christine one day, she feared the worst was about to happen.
"I felt like her essence had just left my body," Walters said. "It's a feeling a mother gets, that she was gone."
It was November of 2008. Christine had taken a break from fall classes at UW-Stevens Points and was visiting friends in Oregon. The 23-year-old mysteriously wound up in the hospital toward the end of her trip for what appeared to be mental health-related reasons. After she was released, she was never seen again.
"At first I had hope," Walters said. "That first year I was full of hope. The second year, not so much."
This November marks five years since the Deerfield woman disappeared on the west coast without a trace. The case has since gone cold, and many loved ones have come to terms with the reality, she may be dead. Until they heard news Tuesday of another family's long-awaited reunion.
"I don't usually turn on the news," said Christine's cousin, Rachel Ballmoos. "I was working. And today just for some reason I decided to turn it on. At 7:00 I watched TODAY and that was the first story. I just, I mean, I get goosebumps just talking about it right now. It was crazy."
Ballmoss called her aunt Tuesday to tell Walters about the story out of Cleveland, where three women were kidnapped 10 years ago, and found alive this week.
"After hearing about these three women, that hope that was so dormant and dead it was rekindled, ignited. And I feel hope again," Walters said. She says she is more encouraged now than ever to continue to search for her daughter, and remains optimistic she'll too be found alive.
"With all the sadness that I felt, that all of a sudden," Walters said, "there's a spark again, that there's a possibility."