About one year after Crystal A. Arensdorf went missing in July 2001, her mother, Barbara Beam, read an article about the murder of Kenny Joe Johnson, which had gone unsolved for 15 years.
She said she remembers hoping it wouldn't take that long to find out answers about her daughter.
This year marks 14 years since Arensdorf, 20, was last seen at a Dubuque bar.
"It's really heart-wrenching," Beam said. "You think about it every day and the different scenarios that go through your mind. ... We just want to find out what happened to her."
Arensdorf's disappearance is one of several Dubuque Police Department cases that remain unsolved. But a new campaign announced Tuesday will strive to help investigators shed new light on cold cases.
Members of the Social Justice Committee of St. Raphael Cathedral and St. Patrick Church, along with Dubuque/Jo Daviess Counties Crime Stoppers, have launched a $10,000 fundraising campaign to secure leads in unsolved cases.
Key cases mentioned during a press conference Tuesday include Arensdorf's disappearance, as well as the murders of Johnson and Marlon Barber Jr.
Johnson, 14, was found strangled and wrapped in a carpet in Maus Park in October 1987. Barber, 15, was fatally shot in October 2012 after leaving a party near Jackson and 21st streets.
Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter said he believes a substantial reward will help convince people withholding valuable information to come forward, which could potentially lead to arrests.
"It's unfortunate that we have to use money to try to develop leads or pursue leads (but) I think we're at that point with a lot of these cold cases," Baxter said.
He said investigators are very close to making arrests in the Barber and Johnson murders, as well as bringing closure to the Arensdorf disappearance, but are missing crucial links in each case. He said being that close but unable to make arrests has been incredibly frustrating for investigators.
For Arensdorf's sister, Jennifer Puetsch, it still feels like the disappearance happened yesterday.
She said she was with Arensdorf at a party earlier in the day, but Arensdorf decided to go out to the bars after. Once family members realized Arensdorf was missing, they immediately retraced her steps and interviewed those who last saw her, Puetsch said.
"It's hard to think of what would she be like today, if she would have children, what would she be doing with her life," Puetsch said. "It's been 14 years and we have no clue. There's no more information than the night she disappeared."
Jim Rafferty, a member of the social justice committee, said committee members will solicit donations for the cause. He said the Crime Stoppers' Facebook page is now equipped with a PayPal online donation account.
Rafferty said he has already heard from a person who is contemplating a $1,000 donation to the cause, though he anticipates the goal will be met through smaller donations from community members. He said he believes the group will exceed its $10,000 goal.
Dubuque County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Dave Boardman, a liaison for the Crime Stoppers, said the rewards given for tips will be based on their value to the investigation. He said a citizen board will decide the amount of any reward given out.
Boardman said investigators vet the tips that are given to Crime Stoppers. Probable cause needs to be found before any arrests can be made, he said.
"Probable cause is a very high standard," Boardman said.
Puetsch called the fundraising effort a wonderful way to get the community involved in the fight to solve cold cases.
She said not knowing what has happened to Arensdorf has been a difficult burden for the family and urged anyone with information to come forward.
"You wouldn't want to be in the position the families with unsolved cases in Dubuque are," Puetsch said. "It only takes one piece of information to find out what happened, whether it's big or small."