A missing person report concerning a Burlington resident attracted the attention of a reality television series this season.
This fall, interested viewers can watch as the Burlington Police Department investigates the disappearance of a local woman on an episode of “Find Our Missing” on TV One, a cable channel based in Silver Spring.
The show will follow Staff Sgt. Mark Yancey and his partner as they search for 43-year-old Debra Sellars, who was reported missing April 24, 2012.
“I don’t know at this point in time if (the show) will have an influence on the case,” Yancey said. “We are hoping it will bring in more information about the possibility of her whereabouts.”
Producers for “Find Our Missing,” which focuses on locating missing people of color, contacted the Burlington Police Department requesting to film the episode after finding information about Sellars on the internet, according to Yancey.
With the main portion of filming complete, TV crews have now moved on to the editing process. Because he has never watched the show, Yancey said he isn’t sure how the search will be portrayed by the final product, he said.
“At this point, we know what we’ve told them is true and accurate information about the case,” he said.
Elon senior Alexandra Bard, a criminal justice minor, has watched several different reality TV programs centering on police investigations and typically views the shows without skepticism.
“I assume it all to be relatively true,” she said. “Sometimes what I’m watching seems like it has been scripted or fictionalized, but it all seems to be true for the most part.”
Although Bard initially felt concerned to learn that a woman had gone missing near Elon and that the case was still open, her experience as a criminal justice minor has helped reduce her uneasiness, she said. Bard’s studies revealed such instances are not as prevalent as expected, she said.
“I guess watching these shows makes it seem like serious crimes happen all the time,” she said. “But by studying the statistics for my classes, I’ve learned that this isn’t always the case.”