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Residents pray for missing teen

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

SALEM -- A steady stream of residents came to church on Monday to pray for a local teen-ager who has been missing since late May.

Sponsored by the Salem Ministerial Association, an open prayer vigil was held at the Seventh Day Baptist Church on East Main Street for Michelle Mero, 16, who was reported missing on Aug. 30 by her mother, who lives in North Carolina.

At the time of her disappearance, Mero was under the custody of her father, Mark Mero, of Salem.

"We're praying for the police to find her or for someone who knows about her to convey a message to them," said the Rev. H. Gene Burnside, pastor of Enon Baptist Church and one of eight ministers on hand for the vigil.

Dr. Dale Thorngate, pastor of the host church, said the local churches have often come together to help the community in time of need.

"We're known as one of the safest cities in the safest state in the nation, so to have a situation like this where we don't know what has happened, it's not natural for us.

"We wanted to get a higher power at work, God's involvement through His Holy Spirit, to help provide support and security to the family and the community," Thorngate said.

Salem Police Chief Todd Howell and two of his officers also came to the hillside church on Monday, and spent time talking with the pastors. Howell said his department continues to follow up on leads given to them by people in the community.

"The entire department is focusing on every piece of information we get and tracking those leads down, but there's nothing conclusive at this time," Howell said.

He commended the pastors and the community for the prayer vigil and for all the support his department has received since the search for Mero began.

"It really shows that people in the community care about one another and about one of their own children. We've received wonderful support as police officers, people telling us they will help with whatever we need. My whole department is very proud," Howell said.

Michelle Mero is white, 135 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. Those with any information about her can leave an anonymous tip with the Salem Police Department at 782-1313, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department at 623-6655 or the West Virginia State Police at 623-2300.

Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at gmarsh@exponent-telegram.com.

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