Petito case shines light on local missing person cases


(WEHT) – As the nation dives deep into the details of the Gabby Petito case, Tri-Staters who have reported loves ones missing hope their stories will be brought to the spotlight. They hope to bring about more answers and possibly closure.

Dawnita Wilkerson has been missing since June of 2020 when she was last seen getting into a silver 2004 Chevy Suburban at an Evansville motel. Since her disappearance, her family has been asking for all the help they can get to bring her home.

“We’re not going to stop. We want Dawnita home. And we’re going to keep looking for her… keep sharing it. Keep hounding. Keep calling the police, keep calling the state police, keep calling the FBI. Put it out there,” said Wilkerson’s aunt, Faye Cardin.

In Gabby Petito’s case, web sleuths have emerged from left and right, taking it into their own hands to try and solve her disappearance. YouTube bloggers, TikTokers, users on Reddit – they’ve all garnered national attention to her case, bringing about some tips and details that have helped law enforcement in their search.

Cardin hopes Wilkerson’s case can continue to gain social media attention.

“Just taking a picture of the sign and posting them on your TikToks, on your Facebook, whatever you use. That’s the way to get it out there and get the right thing done. I mean you can talk ‘til you’re blue in your face, but still we need help by the media, we need help from everyone to get the word out,” added Cardin.

Donnie Westfall and Haylee House-Dispenza are both missing from the Tri-state. Westfall was last seen in June of 2018 in Boonville, Indiana. His ex-step-daughter, Haylee, disappeared in July of 2021.

Westfall’s cousin, Cassi Meyer, said “social media is a tool that our family utilized daily. We try to keep his information current and his picture out there… Our platform and Facebook pages allow us to keep those in the public in the loop as far as the investigation and the people we are looking for. Without social media we would have half the answers we do.”

Cardin says her family is on a waiting list to potentially be on Dr. Phil and she said they will be reaching out to the Indiana-based podcast, Crime Junkie. The families say they will take any help they can get.

“You may be the one person who knows the truth. We need you to step up to the plate. It may be little to you, but it may be the right little we need to hear,” added Cardin.

The Wilkerson family said they will be at the Fall Festival handing out flyers and asking for any new information.

If you have any tips about Wilkerson, Westfall or House-Dispenza’s whereabouts, contact your local police department or FBI office.

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