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Author Topic: Cases of Missing Adults Harder to Handle  (Read 43347 times)
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« on: November 30, 2008, 10:31:30 AM »

Cases of missing adults harder to handle

Nov 30, 2008 - 04:05:25 CST

Bismarck Tribune

Your son is missing. Or your sister. Or your grandfather, who has Alzheimer's disease.

But in any case, the missing person is older than 18 - an adult. And adults have the right to leave without telling anyone where they are going, who they are with or why they left.

For law enforcement officials, cases of missing adults are among the harder ones to handle. Adults have the right to do what they want and go where they want, but loved ones left behind wonder where they are and seek to know that they are OK.

Law enforcement officials have to balance the missing person's right to privacy with the desire of family or friends to know what's happened, and a bill being proposed to the 2009 North Dakota Legislature would set out procedures for law enforcement to follow.

Bismarck Police Lt. Randy Ziegler said he was asked to write the department's policy on missing adults a few years ago following the disappearance of an elderly Bismarck man. The policy sets out the responsibilities of officers, investigators and supervisors, and how to proceed with reports and disseminating information to other agencies and the public.

The policy includes instructions for what information needs to be gathered and what kinds of people would be considered "high-risk missing persons" based on the gathered information. From beginning to end, the policy sets out how police should proceed when an adult is reported missing.

"We consider missing persons very serious cases," Bismarck Police Chief Keith Witt said.

When a child is missing under unknown circumstances, law enforcement agencies know what to do, Ziegler said. Amber Alerts go out to the public, and officers begin searching.

But when the missing people are adults, police enter a sort of gray area.

How to handle the cases depends largely on the information gathered. If the missing person has dementia, is sick and does not have the necessary medicine, or may have been abducted, police are likely to get information out quickly in an effort to find the person.

"Based on that, obviously we would do some initial notifications" to other agencies or the media, Witt said.

But if the person is a healthy, capable adult, law enforcement agencies are cautious in proceeding.

In a recent case, Kimberly Cooklin, 26, was reported missing by her employer as well as others in the community. Police visited her apartment, which was still full of her belongings. She had contact with family members, but her whereabouts still were not known. People worried that she may have been taken against her will, so police continued searching and trying to contact her. The department gave the media information to put out about Cooklin in the event that someone in the community knew where she was.

Eventually, Cooklin contacted a detective and was able to give enough information about herself that the case was closed. Police still were not positive where she was, but she told them she wanted to be left alone. Even though the incident was out of character for the woman and still left questions unanswered, police decided to close the case.

"If you don't want to be found, that is your right," Ziegler said.

Sometimes, the person who is reported missing actually has been hiding out from the person making the report, such as in cases of domestic violence. In those cases, the person making the report would be told that the "missing" person is safe and given no further information.

In some instances, the Bismarck Police Department has used a community emergency notification system, in which a recorded call goes out to all landline phones in a certain area. That way, if a person disappears, as many people as possible in the immediate neighborhood get direction information about the person and can be on the lookout for him or her, Ziegler said.

If a person is never found, a "cold case" investigator maintains the case for the Bismarck Police Department, Witt said.

"Those will stay open indefinitely," he said, noting that Bismarck has several "cold cases."

Though the Bismarck Police Department and other large departments in the state have policies regarding missing persons, not all departments do, said Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Dickinson.

Johnson attended a conference in Philadelphia put on by the Department of Justice in 2005. At the conference, she learned that there are many unidentified human remains in the country, but no national system to link the remains to the identity of a missing person. Legislators at the conference were encouraged to work toward state laws setting up law enforcement procedures for handling cases of missing persons and unidentified human remains.

In 2007, Johnson sponsored Concurrent Resolution 3056, which directed the interim Judicial Process Committee to study the search for and identification of missing persons.

"It's too big of a deal to just dump into a bill" without studying, she said.

Coming out of that committee, of which Johnson is a member, is a bill that would set out procedures for all law enforcement agencies to follow when someone reports someone else missing or when unidentified human remains are found.

The bill, based on model legislation from the Department of Justice, would require law enforcement agencies to take any report of a missing person, set out procedures to follow in the case of a missing person or found remains, and require information about missing persons or found remains to be entered into national databases.

Witt has problems with the legislation, though it is similar to his department's policies and he plans to incorporate parts of it dealing with unidentified human remains into the department policy. Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert also said he thinks the legislation contains good ideas for policy, though he thinks there are too many variables involved in investigations to put it in state law.

"There are some good things in it," he said.

Witt said placing detailed law enforcement procedures in state law can make it hard to change how things are handled when new technologies become available or if a situation calls for a different procedure, and Heinert doesn't think state law should instruct law enforcement agencies in how to run an investigation.

"I'm not necessarily supporting that," Heinert said.

Johnson countered that the Legislature meets every two years and could change the law in case of a new technology that conflicts with statutes.

The bill would require law enforcement agencies to take any missing person report, regardless of whether there is any evidence the missing person had a connection to the area. Law enforcement officials worry that the requirement could be problematic due to jurisdictional restraints. While nationally people may have problems getting someone to take a report, North Dakota agencies typically want to help people, they said.

Mandan Police Chief Dennis Bullinger worries that someone in another state could report someone missing in California, then Mandan police would be responsible for following up on the report if they couldn't find a more appropriate agency willing to take responsibility for it.

"I don't know how Iwould have investigative duty" in another state or community, Bullinger said.

"I understand that concern," Johnson said.

However, she thinks people looking for a lost loved one may need to find a law enforcement agency willing to take a report to get the ball rolling. For instance, if someone from North Dakota has an adult child going to college in Minneapolis who plans to go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break but never makes it there, a parent might not know to whom to report the disappearance.

"Who do I call?" she said.

Police in Minneapolis may say the person left, so it's not their responsibility, and those in Florida may say they don't need to get involved because he never arrived, Johnson speculated. But law enforcement in the person's hometown might be able to take the report, then help convince law enforcement in the appropriate jurisdiction to take over investigations, she said.

"You need to have somebody take ownership," she said.

Johnson said a missing person who is not located can be entered into a national database that includes DNA. Then, if some day remains matching that DNA also get entered into the database, family and friends of the missing person could have some closure. Without that link, the missing person case would remain unsolved, and the human remains found somewhere else would remain unidentified, she said.

Witt and Heinert suggest a bill be put forward that requires law enforcement agencies to have a policy on missing persons that would fit each agency, instead of the detail bill proposed. Then, the state could help agencies develop their policies. Such a law was put in place requiring agencies to have domestic violence policies.

Johnson agreed agencies should have their own policies, but she worried that smaller agencies wouldn't have the time or resources to write their own.

"Would it get done? Would it get put into place?" she asked.

Johnson said concerns about the bill could be taken into consideration for possible amendments once the legislative session is under way. But she said she thinks the legislation could help people struggling to find out where their loved ones are.

"What's important to know is that no matter where your loved one might be, you can get some help,"she said, noting that such a law would be a success if it helped even one family get answers. "That's what it's all about."

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

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'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2008, 08:28:08 AM »

Sister of missing person case remains concerned
Nov 30, 2008 - 09:05:08 CST
Although 26-year-old Kimberly Cooklin, who was reported missing in early November, contacted police to say she was OK, her sister is not convinced.

The facts just don't add up, said Michelle Wickenheiser, Cooklin's sister.

When Wickenheiser looked through Cooklin's apartment after realizing she was gone, she found a chicken defrosting for dinner in the sink, cash and change out, and her medication abandoned.

Since then, she's checked her sister's cell phone records and found the phone number of the man she was last seen with:Jerry Schmidt, a convicted felon who is wanted in McKenzie County on a petition for revocation of probation for a 2000 felonious restraint conviction.

She's not turning the information over to police, she said. The case has been closed.

Cooklin contacted police on Nov. 11 saying she was OK and did not want to be contacted further; since then, she's sent short text messages to Wickenheiser and has had brief conversations with their father, Wickenheiser said.

But no one knows exactly where she is.

Wickenheiser said she's dissatisfied that the investigation into her sister's disappearance was closed, saying that, ideally, her sister should have to go to a police station wherever she is to prove that she's OK.

"Still to this day, (the facts)don't add up,"Wickenheiser said. "She doesn't call me; the only thing Iget is an occasional text. There's something going on, because she won't tell us where she is."

Wickenheiser had hoped the effort to find her sister hadn't been so short-lived; but after Cooklin called police and said she was OK, the case had to be closed, police said.


Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2009, 05:42:53 PM »

Another report today.....

The Bismarck Tribune
March 11, 2009 Wednesday 
Bismarck woman found months after disappearance

A Bismarck woman who police briefly searched for last fall has been found in Michigan, accompanied by a man wanted in McKenzie County.

Kimberly Cooklin, 26, was reported missing on Nov. 7 after failing to show up for work at The Bismarck Tribune. Police believed she may be with Jerry Schmidt, 35. Schmidt was wanted in McKenzie County on warrants for probation revocations. He also is a convicted sex offender, due to an indecent exposure conviction, who has been delinquent in registering with authorities.

Police continued searching for Cooklin until she contacted police and told them she was OK and had decided to leave town. Though the concerns of family and friends were not alleviated, the search was called off and Cooklin was taken out of law enforcement databases.

Bismarck Police Lt. Randy Ziegler said Sgt. Bill Connor, who investigates missing persons cases, found out on Monday that Cooklin and Schmidt had been located in Michigan on March 6 after attempting to pawn some items at a pawn shop. Schmidt was arrested on the warrants, and Cooklin was returned to her father's home in North Dakota.

Cooklin was OK and did not appear to have been kidnapped, Ziegler said.

"As far as we know, she was with him ... on her own free will," he said.

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2009, 04:46:10 PM »

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico) 
June 11, 2009 Thursday 
Give Public Tools To Help Find the Missing  

Someone you love goes missing. In your grief you hope officials are doing everything they possibly can. That everything hasn't included letting average New Mexicans know about the case.

There are 1,142 active New Mexico missing persons cases entered into the National Crime Information Centers database - the tool law enforcement officials use. Around 400 are also entered into the New Mexico Missing Persons Clearinghouse, but a mere 18 are on the section the public can access.

So much for enlisting the help of the people who are driving, shopping, working, eating out, etc., across the state who might actually see your missing loved one.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish says "we need the public's awareness and watchful eyes on these cases. If someone is out there, alive and walking around, the public needs that tool where they could recognize that missing person and report them."

State law says all missing persons cases in New Mexico shall be entered into both databases. The Department of Public Safety oversees the state database and says all cases - except a few involving rapes and certain types of domestic violence that police don't want the public to see for safety reasons - should be available to the public. But lapses in training and paperwork have kept more than 700 cases from being entered.

Among them are the cases of the seven women found buried on the West Mesa who have been identified. Those cases prompted Denish to put together several working groups to come up with better practices. She says "going forward, there should be no excuse" for the databases not to match.

DPS Maj. Robert Schilling, who is responsible for the state database, says getting the public involved "generates tips for our investigations, and that is huge for missing persons cases."

First things first: It would be huge to let the public know who to look for in the first place. 

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2009, 02:57:47 PM »

Nutt, could show me where I could get more information on this?
snipped from above article:

In some instances, the Bismarck Police Department has used a community emergency notification system, in which a recorded call goes out to all landline phones in a certain area. That way, if a person disappears, as many people as possible in the immediate neighborhood get direction information about the person and can be on the lookout for him or her, Ziegler said.

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« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2009, 06:49:27 PM »

My only suggestion would be to contact the Police Department......
Police Department
700 S 9th
Bismarck, ND  58504

Phone: 701-223-1212
Emergency Phone: 911
Fax: 701-355-1927
Email: bismarckpd@nd.gov

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2009, 03:49:52 AM »

I wonder if we could do something like we do for advanced directives.

Have something drawn up that says, if I go missing, search for me, I would never leave my (child, home, employer, etc.) without notifying anyone.  Then give it to someone you trust.

If a person calls to say they are not missing, they could be calling under duress.  That is why you cannot take a note to the bank saying Granny gives Sonny Boy permission to withdraw xxx dollars from her account.  Sonny Boy could have put a gun to Granny's head to make her write it.  It's sad, but it happens.


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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2009, 07:27:08 PM »

When adults go missing: Police search, but wouldn't be able to force them to return home.
Publication: York Daily Record (Pennsylvania)
Date: Sunday, October 4 2009

Oct. 4--James Edwin Blymire Jr. went missing in early July, abruptly walking out of the home he shared with his brother in Red Lion following an argument, police said.

Barb Blymire, one of James Blymire's sisters, said her brother suffers from congenital brain damage and can easily be coerced

into doing things.

"How's he getting food? I wonder if he's eating, or if he's even breathing," she said. James Blymire's siblings haven't seen him since he left his home, but his image has been captured by several York County convenience store surveillance cameras, according to York Area Regional Police.

York Area Regional Detective Don Hopple has logged numerous hours in his search for the 48-year-old Blymire, talking with family members, former roommates, and even the person who cut his hair. Twice, Hopple's been about a day behind Blymire, he said.

If Hopple finds Blymire, the most he can do is tell him that his family is worried about him and that he might want to give them a call.

"If he says, 'I don't want to go home,' then that's where it ends," Hopple said.

That's because despite any mental deficiencies Blymire may have, he is an adult and is therefore entitled to choose where and with whom he stays.

"We can't force somebody to make contact with their family if they've decided for reasons best known to them that they don't want to contact them," Northern York County Regional Deputy Chief Mark Bentzel said.

Todd Matthews, U.S. media director for the Doe Network,

an international volunteer organization for unidentified and missing persons, said that as an adult, "You have a legal right to go missing (but) it's not morally right."

According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, as of Aug. 31, there were nearly 100,000 missing persons, adults and children, in their record; 551 of them are missing from Pennsylvania.

In the past few months, there have been several missing adults on whom police issued news releases; mental illness, drug abuse, or a combination of both appeared to have played a role in all of the disappearances. All have returned home, except for Blymire.

Voluntary vanishing

According to Bentzel, "The first thing you have to do is evaluate if there's any threat or harm or risk to the person, either by their own hand or someone else's."

If the suspected reason a person is missing falls into one of several criteria, then they are entered into the NCIC, Bentzel said.

The criteria include if they are a harm to themselves or a harm to others; if they have a disability -- physical or mental; if they have had an involuntary disappearance; if they are endangered -- physical safety, illness, medication; or a catastrophe has occurred. A person over 18 not meeting the other criteria, but whose safety is a concern, also would be entered into the NCIC.

And even though the missing person may be an adult and can choose to go missing, police still put forth an effort to find them, York City Police Commissioner Mark Whitman said.

"First of all, anytime a missing person is reported, it's nothing that can be taken lightly," he said. "There's quite a bit to it. It's not, let me take a report and see what happens. Once you start that report, then it gets into a regular investigation. It's not something that you're going to blow off."

Police have a number of techniques at their disposal to locate missing persons, most of which they do not want to disclose.

"Each set of circumstances is going to dictate the method and what you're going to need to do," Whitman said.

Still searching

Hopple started his search for James Blymire with the missing man's family, getting a feel for who he was looking for. They gave him a photo, taken about a year before, but it was inaccurate -- the 6 feet, 2 inch Blymire was now rail-thin at about 150 pounds, when a year before, he had weighed about 100 pounds more.

Knowing what convenience stores Blymire frequented, Hopple was able to get surveillance tapes from the stores and soon found footage of Blymire.

He soon discovered another difference in Blymire's appearance: his bushy salt-and-pepper hair was now close-cropped. Hopple was able to determine it happened between July 3 and 4, soon after Blymire had left his home.

In addition, Hopple found out Blymire stopped using a bank card to an account he shared with one of his sisters on July 18. Without the use of the card, it is difficult to track Blymire, Hopple said.

Blymire's family thought he may have been kidnapped by a group of people living in York, but the footage showed Blymire "at different dates and times coming and going under his own power," he said.

Hopple interviewed a number of York residents -- including some that had seen him on Aug. 18. From that point, though, the trail has gone cold, with no sightings of Blymire, Hopple said.

Barb Blymire knows this, but said recently, "I've just got to keep thinking positive and moving forward."

tczech@ydr.com; 771-2033.


James Edwin Blymire Jr., 48, was reported missing July 9, according to York Area Regional Police. He was last seen at his residence on July 2.

He is described as a white male, 6-feet, 2-inches tall, about 150 pounds (he has lost a lot of weight) and has a tattoo of "Jim" on his left arm.

Anyone with information may call police at 741-1259.


--Tina Hunter of York said husband Donald Hunter, who has bipolar disorder, went missing in late August.

"He left his wallet, his keys -- just walked out of the house," she said.

On Sept. 16, Donald Hunter contacted his brother in Harrisburg, ending his disappearance, Tina Hunter said.

--A Dover area man was reported missing Sept. 14 in Adams County but was found five days later, according to Pennsylvania State Police in Gettysburg.

Jeffrey Glen Thomas, 51, had been last seen leaving a home in the first block of Barts Church Road in Union Township. Police did not provide information on why he left.

--A Manchester man was reported missing in July by his wife. She described him as a recovering drug addict, who had endured several relapses during his addiction, and feared he might have experienced another.

He returned home less than week later. He declined to be interviewed for this story.


--Ray Frank Gricar, 63, is white, 6 feet, 170 pounds, green eyes, brown and gray hair. For almost 20 years, Gricar served as the District Attorney for Center County. On April 16, 2005, Gricar's red and white Mini Cooper was found in a parking lot in Lewisburg, near the Susquehanna River, but Gricar was not found. Gricar may also use the names "Ray Lange" or "Ray Gray." He was last seen wearing a blue fleece jacket, jeans, and tennis shoes.

--Jason Knapp, who at one time lived in York County, has been missing since April 12, 1998. The then-20-year-old Clemson University sophomore's car was found shortly after his disappearance at Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, S.C., which is about 30 miles from the school.


How can people improve the chances that their loved one will be found? Law enforcement agencies need as much information as possible when trying to solve cases.

--Contact information for the missing person's dentist so dental records can be obtained.

--Fingerprints (Did the missing person ever get a background check with fingerprints?).

--DNA samples. For example: a personal item that will provide DNA (hairbrush, toothbrush, etc.) or DNA samples from family members that can be submitted for DNA analysis.

--Good, clear photos of the missing person.

Source: www.findthemissing.org , the Web site for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 07:35:40 PM by Nut44x4 » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2009, 04:03:02 PM »

By Deputy Coroner Investigator David Van Norman, Unidentified Persons Coordinator



When a loved one is reported missing there is every right to expect that some large law enforcement investigative machine trundles into action; police fan out in all directions, and the search is on for the missing person. I am sorry to say that nothing can be further from the truth!

In the real world missing-person detectives are overwhelmed by the shear volume of missing persons cases and a plethora of other investigative duties, including investigating rapes, assaults, burglaries, etc. Most detectives receive no special training in missing persons investigation, which is unfortunate in light of the fact that the missing person assignment is like no other type of law enforcement duty – requiring an entirely different kind of focus and skill set.

This is the reality. We can cry about it, or we understand what to do about it! Until federal and state legislation catches up and mandates every law enforcement agency in the country investigate missing person cases properly, it is up to you to make the right choices and ensure that what must be done, is done correctly.


We must ensure that if a loved one is missing that we put everything into play that will ensure that they are detected when they appear on law enforcement’s radar. We must erect “Velcro Walls” in cyberspace; walls created from identifier records that relate to the missing person, and catch hold of corresponding identifier records for an unidentified person ANYWHERE in the United States (or beyond).

The fact is that a vast majority of missing persons return on their own, without any intervention by law enforcement (which is another reason that some police officers are loath to dedicate time and resources to a missing person, particularly runaways – believing that 95% of the time they just come home anyway!). However, for that small percentage that do not return, we all know that they are on this planet somewhere, and that they are either actively hiding from us, need our help, or are ignorant of our search for them.

It is estimated that there are over 40,000 unidentified persons under investigation across the US. This is a staggering number. Even more staggering is that only about 7,000 are being actively entered into the FBI’s NCIC (the National Crime Information Center)! Although most of the unidentified persons are deceased, it is estimated that as many as 30% to 40% are living. Some are unwilling to identify themselves; they are actively hiding from us. Some are unable to identify themselves; they are confused by Alzheimer’s, incapacitated by mental disability, or by injury – or they are dead. Whatever the reason, alive or not, how can it be that these persons have not been identified? How many must be on the rolls of the 111,000 active long-term missing persons cases in the US?

This is why:

Forget what you saw on last night’s episode of CSI! There are only three scientifically-acceptable ways to identify someone who is either unwilling or unable to identify themselves: fingerprints, dental records, and DNA.

Notice I did not mention photographs. It isn’t that photographs do not have their uses; statistically one in six missing persons returns home as a direct result of a photograph on a poster or a website. It is just that they do the unidentified person investigator no good. No competent investigator will swear in a court of law that a photograph matches a decedent – there are far too many post-mortem changes, and too many people appear similar. That mug-shot may be probable cause to stop a suspect, but that officer will next confirm the identity with fingerprints, or by some other means.

Keep the photographs on the posters and websites, but the only type of imaging that is of any use to a forensic investigator is a “smiling” photograph depicting the missing person’s teeth, or a “talking” video, showing the missing person’s teeth. Those can be compared to an unidentified person’s teeth by a forensic dentist.

Fingerprints, dental records, and DNA! These are the critical minimum records that must be submitted into law enforcement’s searchable databases.

Currently, on average missing persons records across the United States include the following records at the following rates:

Fingerprints – Less than 1%

Dental Records – About 4%

DNA – Much less than 1%

No wonder there are 40,000 unidentified persons!


The first step is the most critical: The missing loved one MUST be reported missing to a law enforcement agency, and that agency MUST enter the record into NCIC (the National Crime Information Center). This must happen IMMEDIATELY. Federal law prohibits the establishment of a waiting period to report someone missing. I don’t care if the person was last seen walking out the door ten minutes ago- they are gone now!

There is a “logic convention” in law enforcement that the person should be reported missing to the agency with jurisdiction over the place of residence. The reasoning seems to be that a person is likely to return to familiar locations, such as home. However, serious consideration should be given to the location that the person was last seen – particularly if the story is that the person was seen being bundled into the back seat of a blacked-out Mafia car! In California Penal Code 14205 is specific: “All local police and sheriffs' departments shall accept any report of a missing person, including runaways, without delay and shall give priority to the handling of these reports over the handling of reports relating to crimes involving property… the reports shall be submitted within four hours after acceptance to NCIC via CLETS.” Technically that means that it doesn’t matter whether the person was never in California, and was last seen on the Space Shuttle! If the phone rings at a police station in California, and a person is missing, the report should be taken. It doesn’t matter if little Jenny has just run away for the 10th time – for all we know, this time she ran straight into the arms of Jack the Ripper! The family will encounter some typical law enforcement attitudes: “There is no law against being missing!” True, but there isn’t any law against taking the report – and in fact, at least in California, there is a law against NOT taking the report! “There is no evidence that anything bad has happened.” True, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence! Since Jenny is missing we have no reason to believe she is safe, either. Unless the investigator believes that she is in the Penthouse Suite at the local Holiday Inn, eating bon-bons and sipping ice tea, then she is probably living on the streets with every scum-sucking ba***rd in society trolling like sharks for little girls just like her! Take the report and get the information broadcasting in NCIC!

Nothing happens without the NCIC record. The NCIC computer chugs away all night long looking for matches between unidentified and missing person records. If a possible match is found between two records, a teletype is sent to both agencies. We receive approximately 1,500 of these match-ups per year for San Bernardino’s 250 long term unidentified person cases. It is then up to the agencies to compare the identifier records, IF they were collected.

If one or the other record is not in NCIC, there IS NO WAY TO MATCH THEM TOGETHER!


The family MUST assist law enforcement in locating, securing, and submitting these records. Not only must they assist, but they must sometimes INSIST that law enforcement take these records, AND they must make sure that these records are properly submitted into the searchable databases. Many law enforcement investigators I speak to across the country do not know what must be done with these records. This is what must happen:


The missing person’s fingerprints may be located via a wide variety of sources, including (but not limited to): arrests, employment and background applications, military service, and even through check-cashing facilities and social services. If the missing person in California had ever applied for a driver’s license or identification card, a right thumbprint is available to law enforcement at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The fingerprints (yes, even the single thumbprint) should be “registered” (not just “run”) into Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS - State) AND the Integrated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS - FBI). Many investigators are under the impression that only criminal fingerprint records may be “registered” into AFIS. The fact is that AFIS is a database to be used for law enforcement purposes, and this is one of its purposes!

IAFIS has a much more enlightened and progressive attitude. Fingerprints can be submitted by mail (after submission to AFIS) to the FBI, CJIS Division, in Clarksburg, WV, or by FAX. IAFIS is broken into regions across the United States, each with a regional coordinator (information available on-line at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/iafis.htm).

Family members should assist the missing person investigator by locating any possible fingerprints sources, and assisting in getting these submitted.

It is critical that the fingerprint record (AFIS and IAFIS) be referenced by tracking number in the NCIC record. Such a comment may be stated as follows: “FINGERPRINTS ON FILE WITH SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF CAL-ID (909-890-5000) CAL-ID #9999999.”


These records are perishable, and MUST be obtained as soon as possible! California dental and medical providers are only required to maintain these records for 7 years. This sounds like a long time, unless you consider that the missing person may have not seen a dentist for five years, disappeared two years ago, and may not be found for another ten years. Lock down the records NOW!

Order copies – leave original records with dental or medical providers and tell them to “freeze” the file forever. Once obtained, these records must be mailed (or emailed) to your state missing persons clearinghouse. For a list of missing person clearinghouses by state refer to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website: (http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/ServiceServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=1421). The NCIC record must be updated to described the availability of dental X-rays and charts, and the dental characteristics must be coded for entry into the NCIC record:



1X 32X

2MO 31DO

3M 30V

4V 29V

5V 28V

6V 27/

7/ 26/

8/ 25V

9V 24V

10V 23V

11V 22V

12V 21V

13V 20V

14O 19MODF

15DO 18O

16V 17X

These dental characteristics are critical for the quick comparisons and rule-outs by a trained unidentified person investigator by comparing which of the missing person’s teeth have modifications (fillings or other dental work) with the deceased person’s (or unidentified living person’s) teeth. For example, if a missing person has a filling in tooth number 14, and the same tooth for the unidentified person has never been modified – it is a rule out: teeth don’t heal. These dental records (charts and X-rays) should also be entered into The National Dental Image Repository (NDIR), which is available to law enforcement through the FBI’s LEO network (Law Enforcement On-line). The NCIC record should be modified to state the following: “DENTAL X-RAYS AND CHARTS AVAILABLE ON NDIR.” The Unidentified Persons Investigator wouldn’t even need to contact the missing person investigating agency to check the dental X-rays directly.


The best source of a missing person’s DNA is from the missing person himself (or herself) – referred to as a “direct” DNA sample. Missing persons leave their DNA behind on toothbrushes, shaving razors, hairbrushes, finger and toenail clippings, unwashed clothing, hats, chewing gum, etc. Use your imagination. If these items were not left behind (and even if they were), “reference” DNA samples should be obtained from blood relatives.

The best “reference DNA” would come from the missing person’s identical twin siblings (monozygotic twins) or both biological parents. If one parent is not available, then the available parent (hopefully the mother, because it is the mother that passes down mtDNA) should be sampled, along with as many full siblings as possible.

The sampling procedure is simple; basically a q-tip is swabbed on the inside of the subject’s mouth. But, the sample should not be submitted to just any DNA lab. Since our goal is to have the missing person’s DNA profile to be available for comparison to unidentified persons nationwide, the samples must be entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS - FBI). There are only a few DNA labs certified to complete a DNA profile and submit to CODIS (a list of such labs are available on the CODIS website). California has one: Department of Justice, Missing/Unidentified Persons DNA Program (DOJ-DNA). They accept personal items (toothbrushes, etc.) and buccal swabs. If the missing person was reported to a California law enforcement agency, then regardless of where the missing person’s family member is located, the agency should contact California DOJ and request that the free kits be mailed to the investigator. If the missing person was reported to a law enforcement agency in a state that does not have its own certified lab, then DNA samples may be submitted to either the Federal Bureau of Investigation directly, or to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas (Phone: 800-763-3147 - Website: www.hsc.unt.edu/departments/pathology_anatomy/dna/forensic.htm).

On average it will take a period of months for a missing person’s DNA profile to be developed and entered into CODIS. The NCIC record must be updated to describe the availability of a DNA sample in CODIS, including any reference numbers.


After the identifiers have been entered into the searchable databases, I recommend that the family verify that the NCIC record has been updated. The NCIC’s position is that the NCIC teletype is for “Law Enforcement Use Only,” so many investigators will not show this printout to the family. I queried NCIC myself and was told that a copy of the NCIC may not be given to anyone, but that they have no objection to allowing the family to see record in order to verify its accuracy. I recently investigated an unidentified person case for which the identification was delayed 19 months because the Alaska State Police refused to take the missing person case for six months after the mother first reported that the 18 year old girl disappeared (a violation of Alaska State law), and then entered the Date of Last Contact as the date the missing person report was taken, rather than when the girl was last heard from. This effectively eliminated the chance that NCIC would match the two cases, because the girl is reportedly seen six months after she was dead in my Morgue! The 19 months that this mother suffered in fear, not knowing what had happened to her daughter, could have been prevented if the agency had taken the report (as required by law), and certainly shortened by a year had the family been allowed to review the contents of the NCIC record for accuracy. After all, the NCIC record is made up of information PROVIDED BY THE FAMILY.


A missing person is too important to be left to one person. Those family members who wish to “leave it to the professionals,” and sit back on the couch to let the police do the work will probably get out of this what they put into it. I prefer the Team Approach, with the family involved in a productive way. We must help law enforcement to accomplish this mission, and if they do not know how, we can show them the way.

Will law enforcement accept your assistance? Perhaps not willingly. We in law enforcement tend to think that we don’t need any help, and some investigators will view the family as hindrance. That’s too bad. The missing person is YOUR LOVED ONE. You may have to be insistent. You may ruffle some feathers. Is there anything more important?

If there is any way that I can assist, please contact me:

David Van Norman

Deputy Coroner Investigator/Unidentified-Missing Persons Coordinator

San Bernardino County Sheriff Department - Coroner Division

175 S. Lena Rd., San Bernardino, CA 92415

Office: 909-387-2978

Desk: 909-388-0159

FAX: 909-387-2989

Email: dvannorman@sbcsd.org

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2010, 06:36:59 PM »


JANUARY 17, 2010
GPD still in pursuit of ‘missing’ cases

GREENVILLE — The Greenville Police Department has 13 open missing person cases but the department, other law enforcement personnel, and concerned citizens around the country, now have a new tool to aid in their search.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a free web-based tool accessible to everyone. It’s geared to families of missing persons, law enforcement, medical examiners/coroners and victim advocates - to assist in solving the cases of missing and unidentified person cases in the United States.

“NamUs was developed with the help of experts in all areas of missing and unidentified persons case management including victim’s advocacy and families,” said Todd Matthews, a spokesman for NamUs. “Homicide is the number one cause of death for the unidentified and one of the primary reasons for missing people.”

According to Matthews, there are 98,058 open missing cases in the United States. Of that total, 551 cases are in Mississippi.

He said there are 4,400 unidentified remains found every year and more than 1,000 of these remain unidentified. There may be more than 40,000 human remains that are unidentified.
Since the web site opened up last year, NamUs has been credited with having closed seven of 223 cases.

“I can see where this could benefit a lot of people, especially law enforcement,” said Capt. Andrew Kaho of the Greenville Police Dept. “It gives us another option to use in searching for people.”

And it appears that congress is interested in helping find the missing. U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-Connecticut, has sponsored legislation - House Bill 3695 Help Find the Missing Act - that would allow the FBI and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System to create a centralized public database for all missing persons and unidentified cases.

Matthews said not every missing person case is filed with the FBI. The legislation, which has been referred to the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, will allow the public access to many of the missing person cases.

“The sharing of information is so important, especially in missing person cases,” said Matthews.

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2010, 05:31:17 AM »

Missing adults getting more attention
Columbus police focus on high-risk cases

Saturday, August 21, 2010 02:50 AM
By Jeb Phillips


Columbus police distributed these fliers in their search for Timothy Eugene Fisher and Jeffrey Allen Stutton, two longtime missing and presumed endangered adults.In 2005, Columbus police placed three women who had been missing for a long time under possibly violent circumstances on a kind of high-priority missing-adults list.

The first, Ashley Howley, 20, disappeared in June 2004 after reporting that her boyfriend assaulted her. Police found her remains in Delaware County in 2008, where the boyfriend had buried her. He is serving a life sentence in prison.

The second, Crystal Wilson, 47, was last seen alive during a 2003 Christmas party at a Northeast Side tavern. Police found her body on Aug. 13 inside a car in a lake off Dublin Road. Authorities are still investigating.

The third, Carla Losey, was 20 when she was last seen on New Year’s Eve 2002 leaving a Hilltop bar with an unknown man.

“I want her home,” said Pam Conner, 54, Losey’s mother. “If it means we have a burial for her, or if it means we just have to make a psychiatrist’s appointment for her ... I want to know.”

After long criticizing Ohio law-enforcement agencies for the way they handle missing adults, Conner and others say the agencies are improving. But some of the old complaints still pop up.

Some critics say police departments often ignore reports because they believe missing adults are gone because they want to be. Or agencies work some cases harder than others.

Losey, who had been arrested for prostitution and worked as a stripper, might not have gotten the initial attention that she should have, Conner said.

It’s sometimes difficult to separate the reports that need immediate action from those that don’t, said Sgt. Jerry Cupp of the Columbus police’s missing-persons unit.

The unit received 5,726 reports last year, or about 16 per day. About 80 percent of those were for missing juveniles, Cupp said. The unit doesn’t divide the reports by age.

He said that 95 percent of all reports are resolved within two days.

Most adults are, in fact, voluntarily missing, he said. They didn’t come home one night but turn up a few hours later, or the report is the result of someone looking for an estranged spouse. In the latter, police will verify that the person is alive but won’t pursue it further, Cupp said.

A state law signed in 2007 requires law-enforcement agencies to take certain actions in missing-persons cases. They must, for example, immediately enter information into a national database if a missing person is between 18 and 21 years old. They have different time limits when the cases meet other criteria.

Last month, the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission issued revised legal requirements and recommended protocols in missing-persons cases. The Ohio attorney general’s office, which oversees the commission, has met with families and victims advocates in the past several months to address concerns about the cases, said Kevin Miles, president of Central Ohio Crime Stoppers.

Losey remains on a wall of the longtime, high-risk missing in the missing-persons squad room. Her mother said she now regularly hears from the detective assigned to the case and thinks it’s getting the attention it needs.

Others have joined Losey on the wall:

• Brian Shaffer, an Ohio State medical student who was last seen April 1, 2006, at the Ugly Tuna Saloona in the South Campus Gateway. He was 27 years old.

• Anthony Luzio Jr., of Powell, who was last seen July 4, 2005, leaving a party in southern Delaware County. He was 25.

• Jeffrey Allen Stutton, who was last seen Oct. 9, 2005, at his residence on Hodges Drive on the West Side. He was 46.

• Timothy Eugene Fisher, who was last seen June 5, 2005, at Bill’s Other Place bar, 733 Harrisburg Pike on the West Side. He was 45.

For more information on Columbus missing persons, visit www.columbuspolice.org/missings and www.ohiomissingadults.com.

Anyone with information on missing people can contact the Columbus police missing-persons unit at 614-645-4670.

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear  -- Rudyard Kipling

One who doesn't trust is never deceived...

'I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind' -Edgar Allen Poe
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