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Hope gives way to heartbreak for some in tornado-ravaged Joplin

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Missing Joplin teen found dead
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Officials expediting process of body identification
  • NEW: At least 126 people are confirmed dead, coroner says
  • Lantz Hare, who was ripped from a car Sunday, was killed, teen's mother says
  • He was among those on a list of 232 people in Joplin who'd been reported missing

Did you experience the tornado in Joplin, Missouri? Send your photos, videos or stories. Tune in at 8 ET Saturday night for CNN Presents' "A Twister's Fury: In the Path of Destruction." CNN shows you how large parts of Joplin, Missouri, were reduced to rubble in minutes, yet hope remains with amazing stories of survival.

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) -- A Missouri mother said Thursday that her 16-year-old son was killed by this week's powerful tornado, one of scores who have been confirmed dead even as authorities try to track down many others who are considered missing.

Michelle Hare told CNN that her son Lantz, who was ripped from a car Sunday night by winds exceeding 200 mph in Joplin, is dead and his body has been located.

In the wrenching hours and days since the tornado, the boy's father, Mike Hare, said he'd searched hospitals and continually called his son's cell phone, getting no answer.

"It rang for the first day and a half, and now it goes straight to voice mail. But just in case he gets it, I want him to know his dad loves him," the father said earlier this week.

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Lantz Hare was among those on the list, released Thursday by the Missouri Department of Public Safety, of 232 people from the southwest Missouri city for whom missing persons reports have been filled out.

At least 126 people in Joplin had died due to the storm as of Thursday night, said Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges. That makes the tornado the single deadliest to touch down in any U.S. community since modern record-keeping began in 1950.

The Hares were among many around Joplin, still desparately searching for missing loved ones and clinging to hope.

Christina, Caleb and Robert Hayward, for instance, have not seen their mother since the tornado.

"She went for pizza and never came back. It was three, four hours, and we knew," Robert Hayward said Wednesday. "We all miss her. She was a great person. She didn't deserve this at all. Any one of us would trade places with her."

One of the frustrations for families desperately trying to find their loved ones was a holdup at the morgue. Some were told that they may have to wait for two weeks before they can visit the morgue to search for relatives.

Bridges told CNN that people who can make a positive identification of a relative, such as through tattoos, will be allowed to view a body matching that description.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said state officials were brought in "to get this information out much more quickly and respectfully for these families that need to hear the information about the loved ones who are -- have been lost."

Families of the missing have provided DNA samples and contacted dozens of hospitals, shelters and nursing homes in their bids to learn whether they have a "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" that could be their loved one.

Charles Writer, 74, is one of 12 residents of Greenbriar Nursing Home on the unaccounted for list. Ten residents and a staff member at the home were killed, a company official said.

Writer's family received conflicting reports on the Alzheimer's patient's possible fate, said Leah Mitchell, whose husband is Writer's nephew.

They have handed out flyers and used a spreadsheet to contact about several dozen facilities.

"There are two sides of the family," said Mitchell. "One has accepted he's deceased, the other side is not sure."

Patricia Dawson's family Thursday continued its search for the 74-year-old Joplin homemaker. They, too, have contacted many hospitals and nursing homes within 200 miles.

Daughter-in-law Sharyn Dawson said the missing woman "is an awesome granny to our 6-year-old," who hasn't been told about the situation.

CNN's Chuck Johnston, Joe Sutton, Marlena Baldacci, Phil Gast, Mike Pearson, Jessica Jordan, Sean Morris and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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