On April 26, 2010, Venus Stewart was abducted -- but her body has never been found. Her aunt, Mary Hopkins, says she feels the loss of her beloved niece every day. And Mary is doing whatever she can for her.
The case of Venus Stewart, whose estranged husband Doug was convicted of murder in 2011, aired on Dateline NBC Sunday night.
As producer of the program, I know how much Mary has taken Venus's loss to heart. From the beginning, she organized searches for Venus's body throughout the vast western Michigan countryside of fields, woods and farms.
And today, she and other dedicated friends and family are still searching, "about twice a month, as tips come in," Mary said in a telephone interview. The searchers look in places where Doug Stewart "rode his four-wheeler," she said, and wherever leads about possible shallow graves take them.
Besides frequent searching, Mary Hopkins is also working to keep Venus's memory alive. After the trial, Mary and Venus's parents -- Therese and Larry McComb -- started The Venus Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to domestic violence victims and their families.
According to The Venus Foundation website, "funds collected are used for education on domestic violence ... and distributing material, such as posters, information on steps to take when a person becomes missing ... and helping communities form search groups."
The Foundation hopes to use some of the money it raises to establish safe homes, where victims can live when they leave abusive relationships.
Mary said she hopes The Venus Foundation will help Venus be remembered as "more than a victim," not only for Venus, but for the two people she cherished most in the world -- her daughters, who were 3 and 5 when she went missing.
Since that day, her daughters have been living with Venus's parents.
To find out more about The Venus Foundation, visit www.thevenusfoundation.com.