WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas - A nonprofit called Project Absentis helps both families and law enforcement with missing persons cases.
"We offer the compassion to meet with the families, to kind of be that bridge between the families of the missing and law enforcement," Abel Pena, director of Project Absentis, said.
The organization is mostly made up of retired FBI agents with more than 100 years of investigative experience combined. The mandatory retirement age for the FBI is 57.
"We still feel pretty young and many of us have the same drive, the same purpose, to continue to help people, to be public servants with the wealth of knowledge we have," Pena said.
They take on cases both within and outside of Texas.
"It's all collectively, we get together and we kind of formulate a plan on how best to investigate," Pena said. "Our aim is just to offer hope to the families and be there just as maybe additional eyes on cases that we've looked at, interviews, followed up on leads."
One of the cases they're working on is that of Timothy Perez.
In October 2022, Perez's skeletal remains were found in Williamson County. Detectives say no foul play was suspected.
Perez had been missing since March 2022. His parents said he drove from Conroe to Austin to visit his brother.
He called his parents saying he was lost, and cell phone data showed him driving erratically through Central Texas for several hours. Eventually, he ran out of gas, abandoning his car on the side of the road in North Austin. He was seen at a church in Round Rock and received a criminal trespass warning.
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In Perez's case, Pena says they're working with the family on advocacy when it comes to laws about alerts for missing people struggling with mental health, like one in Florida.
"I know the Perez family was, we spoke about that, and I know that they were very, very anxious to pass a similar law. Texas does have a law similar to that, but I think they were looking at passing a similar alert system," he said. "Upwards of about 80% of missing adults, adults that go missing, suffer from some kind of mental illness. That's a pretty staggering number."
Whether it's advocacy or investigative work, Project Absentis wants to be a helping hand.
"Law enforcement does get tied up with a lot of other cases. Our role is not to take over, not to take credit. Our role is to kind of remain under the radar and just assist whenever they need assistance," Pena said.
To learn more about Project Absentis, click here.