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Category Archives: missing adult

Missing Kids on Facebook

Bryce

We see and hear about these stories all the time. Some hideous pervert, masquerading as Johnny Cool, befriends a young girl on Facebook and entices her to a clandestine meeting at a remote location. By the time she realizes that she has been duped it is too late. We then read the disturbing results online or watch the grisly aftermath on Nancy Grace or any of a number of True Crime television shows. Well, that’s not what this is about. This is about how Facebook has become the milk carton project of the 21st Century.

 

The most enduring symbol of the missing child issue is the flyer. They have been with us ever since 4-year-old Charlie Ross was kidnapped in front of his Germantown, PA home on July 1, 1874. Since then very few things have changed. Flyers are printed on paper, and people post them in storefronts and on telephone poles. As technology advances, so do the places that you will find missing child flyers. First they were in newspapers, then on TV, and now on the Internet. For a short time in the early 1980’s they were even reprinted on milk cartons.

 

Polly was the Internet’s first missing child. But, instead of that representing an evolutionary step forward the Internet simply became another missing child flyer destination. The only difference is that instead of taping them to telephone poles, various organizations stacked missing flyers like cordwood on their website.

 

BM WebsiteIn 2001 I co-founded BeyondMissing.com, to provide law enforcement with a cost effective, efficient means of using the Internet to create and distribute missing flyers to targeted recipient lists. This was the first time that missing flyers were able to be easily created and distributed en-mass by America’s law enforcement community. Although the program had a 95% recovery rate lack of Federal and industry rival support forced us to shut our doors earlier this year. The BeyondMissing parent flyer tool has been accessed and utilized over 3,560 times by families and organizations searching for a missing child, and will be available on KlaasKids.org in the very near future. BeyondMissing was evolutionary in that it represented the first and only option beyond print media utilized to create and mass distribute missing flyers.

 

Facebook has changed all that. Instead of a static, forlorn photograph staring  back at you from a missing poster, Facebook has enabled the families and supporters of missing persons to post multiple photo’s, videos, links to news stories, and testimonials from friends and family in one easy to reach destination. Missing person Facebook pages are not static so they can be updated in real time. Pending fundraising events or press conferences can be advertised, as can case updates. There are missing person communities on Facebook that share missing pages far and wide. They talk about the kids, create forums, share ideas and find commonalities. There is no charge for this dynamic, user friendly application.

 

LinneaMy advice to anybody with a missing child is to use the Facebook advantage. You don’t have to be particularly computer savvy, and in fact you don’t even really need a computer. FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s) has all of the hardware and software tools, including online access that you need to create a missing person FB page. If you still don’t feel that you have the skill set to accomplish this objective ask friends and family to help you.

 

Of course, there is a downside to all of this. There are no restrictions on who can create these pages. Unfortunately, I know of many cases where either fake or misleading pages have been posted.  People who have no attachment to the case and don’t even know the missing person or their family have also exploited this opportunity for one reason or another. Therefore, you must be careful and try to determine if the page that you have landed on is real, or is it fake!

 

I think that we can all agree that technology has and will continue to change the way we approach child safety and missing kids. However, Facebook above all other technologies or applications has evolved the imagery of missing children in ways that were unimaginable during the 20th Century.

We Found Something

It has been a busy weekend for KlaasKids. We facilitated a meeting between the Sierra LaMar Search Center, her family and Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) on Saturday morning. Simultaneously, we participated in an important grass roots rally on behalf of Proposition 35 in Elk Grove. After that Violet and I drove to Sacramento where KlaasKids Foundation SAR Director Brad Dennis was facilitating a weekend worth of searches for missing UC Davis coed Linnea Lomax. Then we found something.

 

Congressman McNerney is the first member of Congress to visit search center since Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15) visited on June 6. Both members of Congress have expressed support for a legislation being considered as a result of Sierra’s disappearance. The new law would close the loophole that allows schools to wait until the end of the day before notifying parents that their children did not attend school.

Violet Klaas, Daphne Phung, Rosario Dowling & Me!

Proposition 35 continues to pick up support as Election Day approaches on November 6. Currently, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier lead a list of more than 60-elected officials who publicly support the anti-trafficking ballot measure that will also bridge Megan’s Law into the 21st Century. They are joined by law enforcement groups representing more than 90,000-sworn police officers and more than 125-child advocacy organizations throughout California.

 

Linnea Lomax is a 19-year-old coed student who disappeared on the early afternoon of Tuesday June 26 after walking away from an outpatient mental health facility near the American River in Sacramento, California. The day before, June 25, Linnea had been released from a psychiatric facility where she was recovering from a psychological breakdown. On July 4, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department absolved themselves of any responsibility for locating Linnea, despite her fragile mental state, when they said, “Circumstances suggest she is, by all accounts, voluntarily missing and choosing to stay away from friends and family.” Potential sightings, theories and tips that initially flooded the tip line set up by Linnea’s family have since been reduced to a trickle.

 

Left to their own devices the family hired a private investigator to lead the search for Linnea. He focused his investigation on human sex trafficking. KlaasKids assisted this effort by monitoring known websites that advertise escort and erotic services up and down the West Coast, but nothing of consequence turned up. Despite no real evidence that she was involved in the trafficking trade valuable weeks were devoted to that singular scenario. Finally, the family let the private investigator go and eventually asked the KlaasKids Foundation to conduct a search of Linnea.

 

Linnea’s family runs a Christian kids adventure camp near Sacramento. She has grown up among the pristine hills, canyons, valleys, and rivers of Northern California’s Sierra foothills. She was raised near in and around nature, and has a very strong sense of natural surroundings and the environment. She would not leave an orange peel at a camp site out of a concern that the next camper might be offended.

 

This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday KlaasKids sent 230 search volunteers on 40-search assignments. Search volunteers were a combination of family, friends, others drawn from the faith based community, complete strangers, and KlaasKids friends from the Bay Area. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was in the high 80-90’s range. We focused the search on the American River for two reasons. It was near the mental health facility that she was last seen at, and she was familiar with and loved the American River. It almost always makes sense to focus a search near the last place the victim was last seen.

 

Linnea’s Notebook

On Sunday afternoon one of the search teams found it. Linnea’s notebook, the one she was holding when last seen was there…in the bushes only two blocks away from the mental health facility. It was near a foot path heading toward the river. It seemed to have been flung into the bushes. Our team leader contacted the search center and the authorities. Linnea’s father confirmed the sighting. Now the evidence needs to be processed.

 

Fifty-four days after she disappeared we have developed our first solid lead. We believe that Linnea tossed her notebook into the bushes. Much can be read into that, but it is not my place to do so. What I do feel comfortable pointing out is that in the past five months we have sent out somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,000 volunteers on approximately 900 search assignments in and around Morgan Hill and we have not found anything relating to the disappearance of Sierra LaMar. Stay tuned for updates.

Connecticut Justice or a Travesty of Justice?

 

On Friday, August 10, 2012, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Corradino awarded $52,666 in damages to Madeline Gleason, the former girlfriend of missing person and presumed murder victim Billy Smolinski. Gleason had sued Smolinski’s family members for severe emotional distress, claiming that they had posted missing person posters about Billy near Gleason’s home and the bus route that she drove. That the Judge agreed with her is nothing less than a travesty of justice.

 

One of the proven techniques for recovering missing runaway children and adults is to post flyers of those children in neighborhoods where they are thought to be hiding out, and at venues where they are known to hang out: places like malls and fast food outlets. The goals are many: to acquire credible leads; and to hopefully flush out the missing person and encourage them into returning home. An objective of this technique is to see if the flyers are removed from a particular location. If so, you may be closing in on the missing person or the person responsible for their disappearance.

Jan & Bill Sr. with their son’s missing flyer

When your child is missing, you want to get the word out. You talk about it, you post flyers and you beg for television time. If you can make enough people award of a missing child, you have a greater chance of affecting a recovery, whatever that means. In fact, that is the theory behind the Amber Alert program.

 

That is why missing person flyers are ubiquitous in our society. They are in storefronts in communities where children are missing, and they are a staple on cable television shows like Nancy Grace and Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell. Broadcast television features missing persons regularly on shows like Dateline, 48 Hours and 20/20. Missing person profiles, discussion groups and real crime forums have proliferated in social networking communities in recent years. Even Walmart features missing persons in all of their facilities through the United States. In fact, it is difficult to avoid missing persons in modern society, so for a judge to legitimize the convoluted claims of an ex-girlfriend, who was caught on camera tearing down those flyers, is unconscionable.

 

Of course, there is more to this story than missing person flyers. We know that Madeline Gleason was cheating on Billy Smolinski with another man, a married local politician, and that Billy disappeared shortly after finding this out. We know that a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task force believes that Madeline Gleason’s son killed Billy Smolinski. Unfortunately, we also know that the Smolinski family continues to grieve and search for their beloved son.

 

Billy Smolinski and his dog Harley

I’ve known Jan Smolinski for many years. She is an honorable woman who is heartbroken that her son has been missing and presumed dead for nearly 8-years now. Like me, or the family of Sierra LaMar or any of the other parents of missing kids who stare teary eyed into the camera and say that, “We will never give up hope,” and defy stark realities, Jan Smolinski is a crime victim. The state should be protecting her, ensuring that she has the right to maintain her dignity and be treated with respect. Instead, because of the actions of Superior Court Judge Thomas Corradino, she and her family are being re-victimized by the power of an entire state. They have not only lost their son, but are in jeopardy of losing their life savings.

Madeline Gleason holding Billy Smolinski missing flyer

One of the fundamental functions of government is to protect the innocent and shield victims of crime. Instead Connecticut has chosen to pile indignity upon loss. This is heartbreaking and should not be allowed to happen. When a culture choses to devour the downtrodden, than that culture has lost its way.

 

Posting missing person flyers is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Or is it? What kind of message is being sent if one can become liable to legal action for simply posting a flyer of a missing person, regardless of whose neighborhood or bus route it is posted in?

 

One Year Later – Where’s Lauren?

Lauren Spierer

A year ago today, 20-year-old Indiana student Lauren Spierer went missing shortly before dawn. She was last seen walking home alone after a night out with friends, clearly intoxicated, barefoot and without her cell phone at 4:30am. Her friend saw her reach the corner of his street, and that’s the last that anyone has seen of the young student.

 

Lauren’s story captured national headlines quickly. She reminds many of their own daughter, sister, friend; Lauren is young, beautiful, loves apparel and fashion, and was simply enjoying life like many other young 20 somethings do. Fortunately, most people and families aren’t touched by the tragedy that Lauren and her family are enduring every day. But for the Spierer’s, today marks an unbearable 365 days.


Living with the unknown for a year is truly unimaginable. Your emotions are suspended in limbo; how do you progress forward without moving on? Your heart, mind and memories are attached to a happier, sturdier past, where life was still normal and you didn’t have pained questions that bear you no answers.You grasp to quirky details of how your loved one laughs, or talks, or gives you a hug. There is still a chance, you say, of them walking through your door safe. Alive.

 

During a search, time is an impossible concept. It flies swiftly by, leaving you wondering how so many days passed when every minute seems to drag on. When are you allowed to grieve? Do you go back to work? Do you strive to get your life back to normal even though your entire being wants to be out searching for them? I remember feeling guilty for laughing, sleeping or relaxing, knowing that my loved one may be out there struggling to survive. Unless every decision and action I made contributed to her search; I lived and breathed it. How do the Spierers make it through 365 days of that?

Father Robert, Sister Rebecca,and Mother Charlene Spierer

Oh, and all the scenarios that your imagination wanders through are torturous. Smoke and mirrors. What if they’re locked up somewhere, held captive? What if they were sold to a sex trade, being trafficked in Mexico? How much money should we start saving for any psychiatric or physical recovery? What if… what if we tried hard enough, passed out enough fliers, conducted enough searches, raised enough reward money, got in front of enough cameras, that someone out there will finally give us an answer? Or better yet, if we just tried hard enough, will someone out there finally have the decency to give her back to us?

 

But out of all the stories that you tell yourself, not one of them includes your loved one being dead. Not one. It doesn’t matter the statistics and slim chances, the accusations, charges and arrests – until there is solid, tangible evidence that your loved one is gone, there is always positivity. There is always hope. Hope is the only lifeboat you have when you suddenly find yourself drowning in the life you were thrown into.

 


For Lauren’s family, my heart aches for them as they seek the truth of what happened to their loved one. All of Lauren’s friends are accused of being too silent. Why would they let her walk home alone at that hour without shoes and a phone? Do her friends really know more than they are letting on? They all got lawyered up pretty quickly. Is she out there trying to find her way back home?

 

There is simply nothing fair in knowing that someone out there secretly knows more about Lauren’s whereabouts than her family does. It baffles me how her abductor’s conscience hasn’t budged since June of 2011; it’s monstrous.

 

Lauren Spierer is 4’11″, petite at 95 lbs with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing black pants and a white top. For more information about Lauren and her search, please visit www.findlauren.com.

Mickey Shunick and the Night Rider

Mickey Shunick is a 22-year-old college student who disappeared while riding her bicycle to her home in Lafayette, LA at about 2:00 a.m., on Saturday, May 19, 2012. Nobody believes that she is missing because she wants to be, so she is clearly the victim of a crime. Although law enforcement and volunteer searches, while extensive, have thus far failed to locate the petite 5’1”, 115 pound blond anthropology major, recent developments suggest that this case can be solved.

 

 

There have been two big breaks in the case. The first involves surveillance video images that confirm a timeline and the route she took after leaving a friend’s house. Discovered on May 25, the surveillance images also identify three vehicles driving the same route near the time that she disappeared. The second break, while more disturbing is equally significant. Her black Schwinn bicycle has been located 27-miles from her last known location.

 

Two of the vehicles identified in the surveillance images and their occupants have been located and cleared of involvement in Mickey’s disappearance. However, a late model white 4-door Chevrolet Z-71 pickup truck that was travelling the same direction as Mickey when she disappeared has not yet been found.

 

In a potentially stunning development, the white Chevrolet Z-71 was immediately recognized by Lafayette resident Tasha Patterson. Two months previously, the driver of the pickup truck offered her a ride while she was on her bicycle at approximately 2:00 a.m. Upon accepting the ride the middle aged white driver offered Tasha money for sex. She declined his offer. Before dropping her off unharmed the heavyset driver told her that he “Rides around town all the time trying to pick up pretty girls.” If this is true, a predator may be cruising the streets and byways of Lafayette, LA at all hours of the day and night.

On Sunday, May 27, two fishermen discovered Mickey’s bike 27-miles east of Lafayette, partially submerged in the Atchafalaya River, beneath the Whiskey Bay I-10 Bridge, in Iberville Parish. After family members confirmed that the bike belonged to Mickey, the authorities sent it to the Louisiana State Police Forensic Lab for testing. They simultaneously began searching the area under the bridge for clues and evidence using CSI units, grid searches, helicopters, and boats.

 

The Police do not believe that Mickey rode her bike to the bridge. Instead they suspect that she was the victim of a hit and run and that the bike was driven to and dumped in the river to cover up that crime. Because I-10 is a heavily traveled highway and it is difficult to pull off the road near the bridge without being exposed to traffic, they believe that the bike was driven to the shore and purposefully submerged in hopes that it would not be discovered. According to Paul Mouton, of the Lafayette Police Department, “We strongly believe that the person, or perpetrator, drove down to the edge of the water and dumped the bike into the water for it not to be found”. The search was discontinued on May 28, but not before authorities found tire tracks leading up to the spot where Mickey’s bike was junked. On May 29, police acknowledged that Mickey’s black Schwinn bicycle had a bent back rim and damaged back tire.

The authorities have the bike, but where is Mickey Shunick? Workable scenarios include: the route between her last known surveillance camera image and her home; the area where her bike was dumped; and finally that she is being held captive by a predator. If there was a fatal accident near her home, the perpetrator might have walked her body deep into the brush and hidden it. Law enforcement and volunteer search efforts should focus on that area and pay special attention to culverts, drainage ditches, debris piles and other possible hiding places. If that doesn’t work the focus should shift to the 1-10 bridge. The person who submerged her bike beneath the bridge might have felt comfortable enough to dispose of her body in the same area. It is troubling that the search was concluded after only a day. Dogs should be brought in, areas downstream should be searched and areas already searched should be covered again. Finally, and this is the only viable scenario for Mickey still being alive, a predator was cruising, in a Chevy pickup or possibly another vehicle, caused her to crash and snatched her off the street.

 

Whether a predator is roaming the roads, or an accident is being concealed, this case can be solved. Social media and word of mouth have helped her case to become very high profile as hundreds of volunteers have assisted in community search efforts. Clues abound. Surveillance video has identified a vehicle of interest, and if Tasha Patterson is correct that the driver of the Chevrolet Z-71 constantly cruises Lafayette, it shouldn’t be long before that man and his pickup are located. The police have neither completed nor released the results of forensic testing, but the bike was only submerged in the river for days and not weeks or months. Therefore, as scientists scour the frame, handlebars, and wheels for fingerprints, DNA, or paint from the vehicle that may be responsible for Mickey’s disappearance, there is a good chance that they will find something. Then, hopefully, they will have enough pieces to finish the puzzle and solve this mystery.

Speed Freak Killer Gives It Up for a Candy Bar

Wesley Shermantine is the scum of the earth. On death row for murdering four people, Shermantine and his partner in crime Loren Herzog are suspected of killing as many as two-dozen people during an unchecked crime spree throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. At long last, more than a decade after being sent to death row, Shermantine is squealing like a pig, leading the authorities to where the bodies are buried. Thus far more than 1,000 bone fragments have been recovered from the first of three bone yards. Two victims have been identified.

Shermantine didn’t give up the killing fields to unburden himself before the Lord, and he didn’t have an attack of conscience. He wasn’t trying to do the right thing by giving resolution to the families of his victims, and he wasn’t negotiating for a reduced sentence or even to get off of death row. No, Wesley Shermantine wanted a candy bar.

That he puts such a small value on life should come as no surprise. Shermantine and his childhood friend Loren Herzog engaged a methamphetamine fueled killing spree that spanned two decades and terrorized a Central California community around Stockton, California. They killed in drug induced frenzy, they covered their crimes by eliminating witnesses, but mostly they killed for the thrill. Their victims were mostly young, defenseless women who had no idea what they were getting into, and were ultimately unable to extricate themselves from the grip of unrelenting evil. Shermantine bragged of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing more than 20 victims.

Last month Shermantine accepted Sacramento, California based bounty hunter Leonard Padilla’s $33,000 offer for information leading to the recovery of his victims. He claims that he wants to use the money to pay victim restitution, purchase headstones for his deceased parents, and fund an inmate account that will allow him to purchase candy bars from the prison commissary. We know that Shermantine is a narcissistic psychopath who lacks conscience, so dismissing victim restitution as motivation is a no brainer. Perhaps he does want to purchase headstones for his parents, but they will be tiny and cheap. In the final analysis it is instant gratification, the ability to stuff his fat face with Mars bars that really flushes Shermantine’s toilet: that and the fact that in September, 2010 Loren Herzog was inexplicably paroled for his complicity in their criminal enterprise.

On January, 17, 2012 the bounty hunter called Herzog and told him that his partner in crime was leading the authorities to their mass graves. Later that day Herzog hanged himself in his state-issued trailer just outside the gates of the High Desert State Prison in Susanville: one down one to go.

The debate rages on. Is Shermantine the beneficiary of blood money, or is this a legitimate means of bringing resolution to the families of the missing? Although they refused Shermantine’s offer to reveal their daughter’s remains in exchange for $10,000 years ago, Cyndi Vanderheiden’s parents are grateful to Leonard Padilla for finally bringing their daughter home. Upon learning that their daughter’s remains had been identified Chevy Wheeler’s mother told the Associated Press that, “This is a happy day. We can finally have some closure.” However, Susan Kizer, the mother of missing Gayle Marks, also believed to be a victim of the speed freak killers, said that she’s offended by the $33,000 deal. “He has been found guilty of murder,” she said. “Why should he get any kind of pleasure, anything that would bring him any pleasure from all that?”

Philosophically, I am opposed to profiting from crime. Therefore, I understand and empathize with Ms. Kizer’s outrage. But as the father of a child who was missing for 65-days I can tell you that knowing enables relief. It provides resolution, and although the hole in your heart will never heal, you will be able to compartmentalize the tragedy knowing that resolution has been achieved. Knowing that your child is not being tortured, being able to bring them home for burial, so that they can at long last rest in peace is a benefit that cannot be calculated.

Let Shermantine gorge his fat face with Snickers and Almond Joy’s. Studies prove that eating too much sugar has serious health consequences. With a little luck he will contract diabetes and/or heart disease and die sooner rather than later. Unless of course Padilla doesn’t actually pay the money as promised and Shermantine’s lust is denied. Now that would be an ironic, and fair, resolution to the sordid saga of the speed freak killers!

Michelle Le Memorial Comments

It was a summer of conflicting emotions and fast paced events.

When I first met the Le family they seemed isolated, desperate, and hopeless. Their precious Michelle had disappeared. The Hayward police said that she was a victim of murder, yet she was nowhere to be found. Ultimately, the family led by brother Michael, cousin Krystine, and uncle Eric rejected that premise and promised to spare no resource in rescuing or recovering Michelle.

What began in isolation quickly morphed into collaboration: first with KlaasKids and law enforcement; ultimately with the Buddhist Temple, Safeway, Websleuths, countless local vendors, media representatives and a dedicated cadre of volunteers. One might wonder what drove these diverse groups and individuals to reach out to this family that had gathered in solidarity from all over California and whom most of us had only just met.

Was it their refusal to go quietly into the night? Was it their willingness to unblinkingly look the devil in the eye? Or, was it the face of a seemingly lost soul smiling angelically from missing flyers on telephone poles, storefronts, and media reports. Perhaps it was all of these things, but maybe it was something even more. Maybe, just maybe we were nurtured by the grace of angels.

Events were scheduled and searches were organized. Michelle’s family found strength in fellowship and resolve in the solidarity of purpose. Timelines were established, evidence was analyzed, and strategies were devised. Search teams were dispatched, time and time again, with little regard for personal comfort as a larger purpose drove us all. We looked and looked and looked yet again, but try as we might the angelic face that smiled from billboards and late night dreams continued to elude our grasp. But it mattered not, for we had climbed onto the wings of angels as the bright light of informed choice overwhelmed the darkness of despair.

Searches continued and an arrest was made. The Hayward PD provided us with new information, fueling hope, but the truth continued to elude our grasp. And then, seemingly, another angelic intervention. On the last afternoon of the last scheduled search for Michelle, a dog with the namesake of another stolen child owned by the mother of that child, led us to a tragic conclusion. The search for Michelle was over. She can now be put to rest with the dignity and respect that all good people deserve.

It is now autumn, and soon the leaves will be falling from the trees.

Son, my heart breaks for you, because I understand the agony of losing a child to the forces of evil. However, I am here to tell you that time will give you the gift of being able to recover a life of purpose, meaning and love. Eric, your leadership and intelligence positioned you perfectly as an interim Incident Search Commander. I would follow you anywhere. Michael, when we met you were a boy, but today you view the world through the eyes of a man who has experienced more than his youth would suggest. And Krystine, you put a promising career on hold to hold onto a promise you made to your beloved cousin, and you can always take solace in the knowledge that it was a promise kept, though not as you would have wished.

The experiences that you have recently suffered have the ability to sharpen your focus and make you stronger, better people than you otherwise might have been, because now you are guided by the spirit of angels.  

You might ask how I know these things to be true. The answer is simple: the angle on my shoulder has told me that the angel we were seeking was guiding us all along.

Big Reward for Bad Behavior

The other day I sat in a satellite uplink studio in San Francisco with an earpiece in my ear and a microphone clipped to my lapel, staring at a camera lens during a taping of the Nancy Grace Show. 2,854 miles away in Orlando, Florida Drew Kesse, the father of Jennifer, a 24-year-old woman who has been missing since Jan. 24, 2006, was sitting in a similar room, wired up in a similar fashion, during the taping of the Nancy Grace Show. The Topic of the program was Dr. Phil’s interview with Casey Anthony’s parents George and Cindy.

A week earlier Drew Kesse came out swinging. He called the Anthony’s “a disgrace and an insult to every missing person and their families,” and Dr. Phil “a pimp for (airing) this garbage”. I was looking forward to supporting Drew’s position on the program, but alas the opportunity was never presented. Therefore, I’d like to take a moment to explain why Drew is right, why Dr. Phil is wrong, and why the Anthony’s have outstayed their welcome.

Drew and I have some things in common with George and Cindy. Like the Anthony’s, we both experienced the loss of a loved one. My daughter Polly was missing for 65-days before her remains were recovered. Drew still doesn’t know what happened to his daughter. However, he does know that she was taken against her will and remains missing to this day.  That’s pretty much were our commonalities with the Anthony’s end, because from the moment that both of our daughters disappeared we had only one goal: to pursue the truth in recovering our girls. We didn’t pursue celebrity or wealth. We were willing to do whatever was necessary, including turning in members of our own families to get our children back.

On the other hand, the Anthony’s wouldn’t know the truth if it kicked them in the butt. Their daughter Casey is apparently unable to tell the truth, and even if she did, how could you believe her? George and Cindy, as was demonstrated again in the Dr. Phil interview, are not only unable to acknowledge the truth, but continue to excuse and justify their daughter’s narcissistic, homicidal behavior.

During the interview Cindy said that grand mal seizures, a brain tumor and possible postpartum schizophrenia could potentially explain Casey’s behavior. I’ve never heard of seizures prompting murder, and according to the Psychologist on the Nancy Grace Show postpartum schizophrenia is a mental disorder that doesn’t even exist. No, the similarities that Drew and I share with the Anthony’s begin and end with the disappearance of our daughters.

Generally, the families of missing or murdered children struggle financially. In our single minded determination to recover our lost children we put other worldly considerations aside. Families give up incomes, or become too depressed to work. Medical and psychological costs can devour huge amounts of our savings. Failure or inability to attend to mundane bookkeeping can result in home foreclosures and or mounting debt. I am not complaining; I am simply stating the truth as I understand it.

According to all credible reports Dr. Phil did not pay the Anthony’s for the interview. Instead he donated nearly $500,000 to a “charitable organization currently being formed to honor their granddaughter called Caylee’s Fund.” Truth be told, Caylee’s Fund does not yet exist, therefore it is not a charitable organization, and therein lies the rub.

The Anthony family is handsomely rewarded for abysmal behavior. Casey gets away with murder, George and Cindy lie and parry and deny the truth, yet they receive a huge payoff from a daytime TV program seeking sky-high ratings. Caylee is still dead and the truth be damned.

A Father’s Hope


KlaasKids has been helping the family of missing nursing student Michelle Le ever since her case was reclassified as a homicide. For the past two weeks we have offered advice, counsel, experience and our hearts as the family struggles to reconcile fear and confusion with a desire to recover their daughter. Today is the third day of the Michelle Le volunteer ground search, and despite my misgivings that anybody would show up early in the morning on Father’s Day, we have already dispatched more than 90-volunteers and it is not yet 9:00 am.

Instead of waiting helplessly for 26-year-old Michelle’s case to run its course, the Le family decided to become pro-active, and that’s when they called KlaasKids. KlaasKids Search & Rescue Director Brad Dennis flew into San Francisco from his home base in Pensacola, FL last Wednesday night to organize and facilitate the search effort. We instructed the family to secure a facility that could be, used as a staging area, to send a press release requesting search volunteers, and to keep an open line of communications with the jurisdictional law enforcement agency, the Hayward, CA Police Department.

Our design is to create an infrastructure that will endure beyond our departure.  To that end, we have been training family members as we dispatch volunteers. It is an enormous task, because there are so many moving parts including, but not restricted to: indoor staging locations with electricity, adequate parking, and plumbing; map acquisition and office supplies; projector for PowerPoint presentation; bottled water and food; administration and media relations; volunteers and directors.

So, here it is 10:00 am and we need to vacate this building within the next two hours. More than 100-searchers are in the field and all need to be de-briefed upon their return. Brad is flying back to Pensacola tomorrow morning and the search will be put on hold for at least a week. Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess, but have confidence that Michelle’s family will rise to the occasion.

Personally, I get great satisfaction from a job well done. There are many missing persons in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the only one people are talking about is Michelle Le. Coverage of her disappearance has dominated local television and radio. Approximately 450 volunteers have responded over the past three days and we have eliminated many high probability search areas. We have created a strategy for the future and the Le family understands the dynamics of our operation.

Will any of this bring Michelle home? I don’t really know. However, I do know that without KlaasKids involvement and our mentoring things would have gone quite differently for her family. Now, they have the tools to match their determination. They have the infrastructure to support their need. And, they have the structure to support their vision.

Fifty in Fifty

Last week I was invited to participate in an interim HLN series that is scheduled for a daily, 10-week run. Nancy Grace: America’s Missing, proposes to feature 50 missing person cases on weekday evenings during primetime in an effort to generate the leads that might return the missing to their families. I thought it was a terrific idea and immediately agreed to participate. For years missing child advocates, the families of the missing and other concerned citizens have been hoping for a television program focused on this singular issue. Imagine my disappointment then when the vast majority of comments linked to a story about the program were scurrilous, petty and mean spirited.

I have been providing television commentary on missing children since October 1, 1993, the day my twelve year old daughter Polly was kidnapped from a slumber party in her bedroom. Although i totally appreciate these opportunities they have been ad hoc and have occurred in numerous formats, from local morning shows, to network newsmagazines, to staged reenactments. There has never been a program that dealt with this issue on a regular ongoing schedule. The episodic drama Without A Trace was popular for a few years. John Walsh has always featured missing kids on America’s Most Wanted and Larry King Live often highlited missing child cases. Unfortunately, Larry retired from television about a month ago. Nancy Grace has been the most passionate high profile missing persons advocate and she has featured hundreds of missing person cases on her program since it began running on HLN in February 2005.

There is no question that Nancy’s advocacy has had positive results. Last December a viewer in San Francisco recognized a missing twelve year old girl that had been featured on Nancy Grace and called the police. The case was solved and the girl returned to her family.

Strong advocacy raises the profile of any issue informs the public, and promotes solutions. Just look at the progress that has been made as it relates to the missing. In 1993, we didn’t have sex offender registration or community notification, now Megan’s Law has been adopted throughout our country. Back in the day, law enforcement didn’t have any protocols to deal with missing person investigations, now there are national, regional, and local protocols, not to mention the Amber Alert. When Polly was kidnapped, America had a turnstile system of justice that regurgitated the same high profile offenders again and again, who systematically committed crimes of ever escalating violence. Now we have truth-in-sentencing and three-strikes-and-you’re-out. Crime is down, violence is reduced and more missing persons are being recovered.

By the time the second episode of Nancy Grace: America’s Missing aired on Jan. 18, it became obvious that the show had struck a chord. Two of the missing children profiled in the first program had been recovered and a real time tip was phoned in as the show profiled Lindsey Baum, who has been missing since June 26, 2009. On the third show we learned that the maltreatment of children with disabilities is 1.5-to-10 times higher than of children without disabilities, and that immediate family members perpetrate the majority of neglect, physical abuse, and emotional abuse.

The Associated Press story, reprinted in the Huffington Post, dealt with the substance of the new venture, but the comments it generated were inspired by anger and jealousy. The vast majority of the commentary completely ignored the issue or the fact that this limited series provides a long sought breakthrough for those invested in the plight of the missing. They paid no attention to the broken hearts, lost souls or desperate families who are pinning their hopes on the prospect of having a previously dead case profiled in primetime. They chose to ignore the fact that for many people this is an important issue and for some it is the most important issue. Instead they seemed to mock tragedy, advocacy, and hope. The people who read and comment on the Huffington Post consider themselves sophisticated, intelligent, socially and politically aware. However, at least in this forum, and there is nothing else upon which to judge them, are mean spirited, small minded, and cynical.

I used to think of my heart as a walnut, because for some years I lost the ability to cry. If that is true, then the anonymous posters on the Huffington Post must have hearts the size and consistency of a pomegranate seed: small and bitter with a hard core.