Inside Story: Life Without Lauren Spierer
01/12/2013 AT 06:30 PM EST
For Robert it's the flash of a blonde ponytail on a city street that leaves him aching; for Charlene it's the arrival of the cell-phone bill that still bears her daughter's name.
Nineteen months after Lauren disappeared, her boxes from college remain stacked against her parents' den wall. Long ago they gave up hope that Lauren might unpack them herself.
"I can't bear to move them," says Charlene. "I know they're just boxes. But I can't."
It's difficult for the Spierers to grasp that it's been nearly two years since Lauren, 20, a bright, beautiful sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington, left a friend's off-campus apartment after a night out partying and never returned to her own. In that time their lives have utterly transformed.
For seven months in 2011 they lived in Bloomington, helping coordinate search efforts and hiring their own private investigator. And last year they planned a wedding without her, celebrating in October the marriage of their older daughter Rebecca, 26. Yet as much as their lives change, the status of the search for their daughter remains the same.
"They're not getting the same frequency of leads," says Robert of the investigators working on the case. "It's frustrating because 19 months later we still don't have answers, and we still don't have our child."