***UPDATE, Monday, 2 p.m.: News outlet WDEF.com in Missouri is reporting that Davis Hodge was found in Mississippi. The report states that a search for the teen had been under way in wooded areas of Marion and Grundy counties in Missouri.***
"We're way past the point of the milk carton these days," says Shellee Hale, a nationally known victims advocate, when discussing the impact that social media played in the case of missing Johns Creek teen Davis Hodge.
Hale, at the request of Hodge's parents Penn and Cynthia Hodge, launched the Find Davis Hodge Facebook site Sunday around midday, and as of that evening it had more than 1,000 followers. Hale estimates that the page had more than 1 million visitors. The Twitter hashtag #FindDavisHodge also received thousands of retweets.
Both the Facebook and Twitter sites as well as Johns Creek Patch had numerous pleas, prayers and calls to action from people who live in the immediate area to as far away as Korea. Hundreds of fliers, with nothing more than a headshot and #FindDavisHodge, were distributed throughout Georgia.
Hale believes this led to finding Hodge safe and sound.
"It had a huge impact. We were immediately able to mobilize a large group to get out fliers to get more people aware," she said.
Hale says that not all of her cases — which she does pro bono — receive a reaction of this magnitude, but "in this case we had a very good kid who is very connected with his schoolmates and the community. A lot of people like him, and his parents are involved in the community."
Hale warned, though, that while using social media in these cases is extremely helpful, it can have consequences.
"The hard thing for me in terms of missing teens is that you also want to protect their privacy rights," she said. "This digital footprint can haunt the child forever, but, with that being said, there comes that point where we need to get the best information out there. We need to get the word out to bring them home safely."