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Published Wednesday October 21st, 2009 at 3:35pm

Original Article by Brooke Cain

Troy Dunn is a man with a mission, and in tonight's episode of "The Locator," that mission to reunite loved ones and heal broken families once again brings him to North Carolina.

Dunn has been locating people professionally for going on 20 years, ever since he helped his own mother track down her birth mother. He knew then that helping people obtain closure -- for better or worse -- was the work he was meant to do. And for the past few years, that work has been chronicled on the emotional and inspirational WeTV show, "The Locator."

Locating people is work Dunn truly considers his life's calling, and it's a calling that keeps him very busy. Dunn told us in an interview last week that he receives about 20,000 emails a year from people asking for his help. Of those requests, Dunn and his staff are able take on about 15 "Angel Cases" per year -- the special or more urgent cases featured on his show.

But paring 20,000 requests down to 15 cases is not an easy task.

"That might be the hardest part of being The Locator," he said. "It's a hard process using gut and heart, and trying to figure out 'who today most needs a miracle.'"

He says he personally reads almost all of those 20,000 emails, but there are always a few that jump off the screen.

One of those special cases recently brought him to Greensboro, where he worked with a family searching for the little girl they fostered for five years nearly 20 years ago. The couple had been unable to have children and decided to foster a 2-year-old abused girl who needed emergency foster placement. Two years later, the women became pregnant and had a daughter, and they all lived together as a family.

But when little Tamisha was just 7 years old, Social Services removed her from the home without warning. The couple's daughter contacted Dunn and asked for help in locating Tamisha, hoping to give her mother closure through seeing Tamisha again and telling her how badly the situation had hurt the family.

Dunn, who often looks as though he'd be just as comfortable in a superhero cape as he does in his serious dark suits, says he has a continually changing list of deal-breakers he sticks to when considering which cases to take on: generally, no letters from prison, no searches for minors, no stalkers, and no deadbeats.

"If I find a man not paying his [child support] and he's got a sandwich in his hand ... I've got no time for that," Dunn says.

He also won't help you track down a celebrity, no matter how close you claim to have once been, but he has had celebrity clients. He can't discuss many of them, but can reveal that he has helped both Melissa Gilbert and Ray Liotta find their birth families.

Not every search has a happy ending, though. Dunn says when he feels his client is especially fragile, he puts on his "dad hat" and thinks, "is this person I'm locating someone I'd want to have in my son or daughter's life?"

Last season, he admits things got a little bit tense with a father he'd located. "I didn't even think we were on camera, but I said to him he better not let me down and be the man he's accused of being. He said he was a good father. I don't bring people into my clients' lives to make things worse."

Dunn says he will tell a client when he thinks they are better off not meeting someone he has located. "I have no hesitation pulling out of a case if I feel it's a bad situation. A few people want to press forward anyway. Sometimes they want closure. No matter whether the door is closed or slammed, it's still closure."

Dunn also talked about a North Carolina case from last season involving a father with cancer who was searching for the son he had not seen since the boy was about three years old. It was complicated, as most of his cases are. Dunn grilled the father about his early attempts to remain in his son's life, once satisfied that Mike Greco Sr. was a good man who just made some mistakes, Dunn moved forward and found the son. Mike Jr. was living in Concord, N.C., at the time.

"He was such a wonderful man," Dunn said of Greco Sr. "They went on trips together ... He just passed away three weeks ago on Sunday. There's often that sense of urgency. If either of them had waited, they would have missed each other here on earth."

Dunn, who is married to his high school sweetheart, has seven children himself and understands urgency. His daughter was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, but is doing well now.

"That's what I tell people -- you just cannot wait. If you even have an inkling, you have to reach out. It could turn into a huge blessing for everyone."