Family of missing Lumberton woman celebrate her birthday

    Family and friends gathered together Saturday to pray and release balloons on missing Abby Patterson's 22nd birthday. Patterson has been missing from Lumberton since September 5th, 2017.

    It has been nearly a year and a half since Abby Lynn Patterson disappeared from a street in Lumberton.

    Saturday her loved ones celebrated her birthday, and tried to keep her light and her case alive.

    On a cold day in February, the warmth of family and friends.

    "I'm her voice and her advocate," said Abby's mother Samantha Lovette. "I just felt like it would give me a chance to get her name out."

    Hope and happiness, aloft on a cold winter wind that still offers few answers to where Abby Patterson is today.

    "Abby's got a lot of supporters," Lovette said. "Abby's loved by so many and she's touched so many lives."

    It was September 5th, 2017 when Abby--then just 20 years old--was last seen getting into a car on 9th Street in Lumberton. It's now the second birthday Samantha Lovette has spent without her daughter by her side.

    "Her thing was always making everybody happy and laughing," Lovette explained. "Now everyone's kinda turned it around and I just wish she could see that."

    Saturday, instead of laughter and time spent with family, those same loved ones could only write messages to Abby on whiteboard and balloons.

    "I felt like I had to do something," Lovette explained. "Just sitting at home is not my thing."

    Some prayed, others cried, trying to fill the emptiness of the unknown with the hope they said Abby would want them to hold onto.

    "I want Abby to look down on me and say 'That's my mom; she never gives up,'" Lovette said.

    Abby's mom said she had overcome so much the day she disappeared, and things finally seemed to be falling into place for her. She had a job, good friends, and was always most connected to her mom.

    "She had a lot of struggles, but she was getting through it," Lovette recalled of her daughter.

    On a cold day in February, the warmth of being together, balloons of every color, aloft on a cold winter wind. It's a quiet moment of relief for a mother who refuses to give up.

    "Releasing those balloons just released some of my grief and my anger," Lovette said.

    Abby's mom said she hears from investigators at least every week, and that they are still working leads to try and find out what happened to her. Family and friends are offering a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for her disappearance.

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