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A Child Coming Home: Surviving A Family Abduction

By Steven Slinkard
Slinkard family during better times

Slinkard family during better times

Almost 20-years ago, my ex-wife had our three children on a court-ordered visit. After our divorce some time before, I had been granted custody of our two sons and daughter in our hometown of Greenfield, Indiana. But I wanted them to have a normal relationship with their mother, and so off they went for a brief visit.

They never came back. They remained missing for the next 18-years.
Nathan, Andrew, & Sydney Slinkard

Nathan, Andrew, & Sydney Slinkard

The personal impact was devastating. My desire and willingness to do anything to bring my kids home never faltered. However, my hopes of fulfilling that dream developed into a nightmare of despair. I became withdrawn and depressed as time went on – years passing without any knowledge or likelihood of finding my children. I stopped socializing with friends, while attending family functions became difficult and church no longer was a place of solace for me. I listened to my friends and family talk about their children, but I wasn’t able to add anything to the conversation since my sources of inspiration were no longer part of my life.

I began to think I was being punished for something I had done and that I didn’t deserve to be happy. Unfortunately, I did not seek professional counseling because I didn’t believe anyone could help me without experiencing the same type of loss. My lifecycle became robotic in nature…sleep, eat, and work.

My spare time was spent surfing the Internet, placing information about my missing children on various websites. I sent flyers and letters to various organizations, schools, police stations and hospitals around the world to keep their abduction story alive. I hoped that someone, somewhere, someday would recognize a picture of my children and advise authorities of their location.

The best thing I did was to become involved as a parent advocate with Team Hope, an association of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I might not have taken advantage of counseling for myself, but I was able to positively impact other parents suffering a similar fate. It helped me to help them understand the process, show them how to locate resources, and give them an avenue to discuss their feelings with someone who could relate.
Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

But my story – at least partially – ended far more happily than is the fortune of many parents of missing children. On January 27, 2014, my son Nathan, whom I had last seen when he was five years old, walked into the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico. He had been living in that country under an assumed name since 1995. He told them his American name and said he wanted to go home.

Nathan was able to provide the consulate agents with his original birth certificate, social security card, a picture of him with me when he was about four years old, and other important documents. He was also able to show identifying body marks to confirm his identity. DNA comparison was not necessary since they were able to prove his identity without it.
Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

Although Nathan is 18-years older and his facial features have matured from those of a little boy to a man, it only took a couple of seconds of looking at his picture to recognize him as my little brown-eyed, blond-haired boy whom I love more than life. The U.S. Consulate, National Center, F.B.I., and Hancock County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Department coordinated their efforts to quickly bring my boy home.

Now, nearly 20-years after my children went missing, I have one of my children back in my life. I cannot begin to describe the elation and new sense of wholeness I feel. Nathan’s return has provided me with a rejuvenated, renewed awareness in life’s vigor. While I still don’t have complete closure, as I have had no contact with my other children, I have a renewed degree of resolution. Nathan’s assurance of Andrew and Sydney’s safety and good health gives me great comfort and relief.

The old saying, “as one door closes, another one opens,” has always held strong meaning for me. Having Nathan back and the probability of someday becoming reacquainted with Andrew and Sydney has closed a long and painful chapter of my life. But it isn’t over yet. There are more aspects to closure than simply being reunified with your missing loved one. Unfortunately, I hadn’t allowed myself to fully process my grief back when my children were taken from me and I didn’t process it over the many years they were missing.

I now find myself working through the remaining stages of grief, as well as feelings of confusion, anger, and anxiety. I am anxious to understand the experiences my children have had over the hears and about them accepting me, wanting to be a part of my life, and allowing me to be a part of their lives. I am angry when I think of the milestones, memories, the hurts and joys of their lives that I missed out on while they were growing up. I am confused by how my life has changed, once again, on a dime.

The life, routine, and norm I lived the past 18-years changed. I am a dad again. I no longer have to suffer the complete unknown and uncertainty about my missing children’s wellbeing, safety, and welfare. I now can worry in the same fashion as most other parents for their adult children. My daily routine, as well as my spare time, is no longer spent in the same way as I did for so many years.

Looking back over the past two decades of my life, I am now able to better scrutinize my actions and thoughts. Of course there are some things I wish I would have done differently. No two people react to tragedy in the same way; everyone responds in their individual, unique manner. There is no right or wrong way for a parent or family to approach the fear, pain, and uncertainty of a missing child. Although Nathan is the only one of my children who has returned home so far, I maintain hope to be blessed with a relationship with Andrew and Sydney om the future.

Still Standing: Daughter’s Loss Leads To New Beginnings

By Rebecca Petty
Andi Brewer

Andi Brewer

I stand for a moment, on the lawn of the Arkansas State Capitol, and think about what I am getting ready to do and what has brought me here. Briefcase in hand, I head towards the building determined to set out on a course to help make the state a better place. Why? Because of my daughter, Andi. She is why for the past 15-years I have devoted my life to children and crime victims. Today, I will file to run for Arkansas State Representative for District 94, the House of Representatives. Me, a woman, daughter, a mother, a person who would never have thought anything like this could be possible.

Andi Brewer

I gave birth to Andi three days shy of my seventeenth birthday, a baby with a baby. I never experienced true love until I laid eyes on that wonderful creation. I loved her desperately and raising her to the age of 12 was a blessing. Then on a fateful day, Andi went missing from her father’s rural Arkansas home. After a three day state-wide search, authorities informed me she had been kidnapped, driven down an old logging road, brutally raped, and strangled to death by a predatory monster. Part of my heart withered and died.
Rebecca Petty

Rebecca Petty

I cannot explain in words what it feels like to have a child who has been savagely murdered. At first, I felt like a tamed animal who had gone feral. My mind could not process the pain and suffering she must have endured in those last moments. Thoughts of my child begging for her life were pure and utter torture. For several months, I could barely breathe. Then help came in the form of a letter from Marc Klaas from the KlaasKids Foundation. Marc offered words of strength and encouragement, even in the midst of his own tragedy of losing Polly. Other families who had suffered a similar tragedy began to reach out to me as well, and I began to rise up slowly from the depths of hell on earth.

Because of the tragedy of the abduction, rape, and murder of my child, unbeknownst to me, I became the expert on this horrendous type of criminal behavior. I knew I needed to learn everything I could to fight this kind of crime or my daughter’s legacy would be at risk – and so would other children.

I began to speak to law enforcement, my community, parents, children and eventually law makers. I studied everything I could on the issues, walked the halls of Capitol Hill in Washington DC, encouraged President Bush to sign the Amber Alert into federal law (what an honor that was), and this past fall I graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. I have currently been accepted into the masters of leadership and ethics program at John Brown University.

Which leads me back to standing in front of the Capitol building in Little Rock, Arkansas. My state senator, Bart Hester, impressed with my determined nature and what he calls me “pizazz,” asked if I would be interested in running for state office. Due to term limits, my state representative was leaving an open seat in my district. After much thought, I realized that though I wasn’t a career politician or a woman who was seeking the next rung on a political ladder, I was a woman who had had the worst of the worst happen to her and was still standing. And that must mean something.

I also have an agenda: to help make sure that children grow up safe, that civil liberties are protected, and my state and the United State Constitutions are upheld.

These thoughts rush through my mind as I walk up the stairs in the state Capitol to sign up to run for the House of Representatives. In the end, I hope and pray one day I will be able to hold my daughter again in the heavenly realm and kiss her sweet face and say to her, “It was all for you. I fought for you.” And to feel her hug me back and say, “Thanks, mommy,” will be all I ever needed.

Rebecca Petty is a candidate for Arkansas State Representative District 94

www.rebeccapetty.com

Missing Michaela

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht, has been missing for over 25 years, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. She was nine years old on November 19, 1988, when she and her best friend rode their scooters two blocks from home to the neighborhood market. They parked the scooters by the door while they went into the store, but when they came out one was not where they had left it. Michaela spotted it first, in the parking lot, and went to get it. As she bent over to pick it up, a man jumped out of the car parked next to it, and grabbed her from behind. Michaela screamed and her friend, Trina, turned to see the kidnapper throw Michaela into his car, and take off with her.

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

The police were called and responded immediately. By the time I found out what had happened, they were already looking for her, and I had no doubt with the quick response time and with the eyewitness description, she would be found quickly. But she wasn’t. Despite the efforts of the police, the media, and the huge and heartwarming outpouring of love and support by the community, she was not found quickly. She was not found at all.

After Michaela was kidnapped, I was tortured with thoughts of what she might be enduring right that minute. But I thought about those poor parents who had lost their children to illness or accident, and thought maybe I had it easier because in the very worst times I had that hope to carry me through, the hope that my daughter would come home safely. Every time a police car pulled up in front of my house I would run to the window, expecting to see Michaela sitting in the back seat. I would stand at my front door and gaze down the street where I’d watched her disappear from sight, hoping to see her little blonde head bobbing towards home.

But a year passed then two years, five years, ten, twenty, and now twenty-five. I discovered that hope is not always a brightly colored helium balloon that helps keep your spirits up. Sometimes it is dark and filled with lead, a weight that drags on you with every step you take, making you so weary you just don’t think you can go on. But you do. You have to,, because your child, who would now be an adult, your child who now would be just a little older than you were when you lost her, is still missing.

After a while, there is not much more that can be done, but you keep doing it anyway. For me, buoyed by the hope presented by other long-missing children having been found, I reach out to my daughter herself. I keep a BLOG in which I write to her, and even provide maps to help her get to embassies in other countries where she might be. I continue to talk to the media whenever asked, not because I want to, but because I continue to hope that perhaps Michaela will see it someday, somewhere.

Not many, but some people have criticized me for not being realistic, for not recognizing that after more than 25 years chances are Michaela is not alive. I do recognize that. But if I continue to knock myself silly looking for her and she is not alive, no harm is done to anyone but myself. On the other hand, if she is still alive, she may be suffering, and she needs me to keep looking for her. So that is what I do, and what I will continue to do, to look for my missing child, until the day she is found.

The Long & Winding Road To Recovery

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

The past two years have offered much opportunity for personal reflection. 2013 was the 20th anniversary of Polly’s tragedy, which I wrote about in the last edition of the KlaasKids Foundation newsletter Klaas Action Review. The year 2014 now marks 20 years since the founding of the KlaasKids Foundation. Earlier this year I penned an open letter to Polly on her birthday, reminiscing about that horrible experience two decades ago, and I blogged about being honored by the president of the United States as I battled debilitating grief.

 

This is the first post in a four-part series on the theme of reflection as three other parents, all friends of mine, who lost their children have generously offered to share their stories. Only one has been reunited with their child.

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

Nine-year-old Michaela Garecht was kidnapped in front of witnesses from a supermarket parking lot in Hayward, California, on November 19, 1988, and hasn’t been seen since. Tomorrow, her mother Sharon Murch, who continues to search for her precious daughter, shares her story with a focus on the endurance of hope and the therapeutic value of writing: How it has helped her to reconcile emotions and define her feelings.

Andrea Brewer

Andrea Brewer

On Friday Rebecca Petty will share a remarkable tale of triumph over tragedy. On May 15, 19999, 12-year-old Andi Brewer was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Three days later, Karl Roberts led the FBI to her remains. Andi’s mother, Rebecca Petty rose from the ashes of despair and recently graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is currently pursuing her vision of ensuring that children grow up safe by running for the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

Next Monday Steven Slinkard, who was recently reunited with his son Nathan after nearly two decades will share his story. Steven was completely unprepared when his ex-wife failed to return his three children after a court-ordered visitation and then disappeared in October 1995. He spent the next 18-years afraid that he might never see his kids again. Yet that did not stop him from reaching out through his own pain, doubt, and uncertainty to help others in a similar situation. Steven shares the elation he experienced just recently, on February 4, 2014, when he was finally reunited with a son he hadn’t seen on almost 20-years.

 

I thank Sharon, Rebecca, and Steven for sharing their stories. For all of them, it would have been much easier to reject my request. Introspection is difficult at the best of times, but when done in the context of a dead or missing child, the challenges can become debilitating. However, as Sharon Murch says, the redemptive qualities of writing can also be profoundly therapeutic. Their generosity affords us a glimpse into the range of feelings and emotions that can span decades in a parent’s quest for answers.

The Sad Tragedy of Jeremiah Oliver

  • In May, 2013, five-year-old Fitchburg, MA preschooler Jeremiah Oliver’s mother begins a relationship with Alberto Sierra
  • May 20, 2013 was the last time a court ordered social worker visited with the troubled and abused little boy. The social worker assigned to Jeremiah’s case failed to conduct the required in-person, monthly checks on the family from this point forward
  • In June, Jeremiah’s mother informs his daycare that the family is moving to Florida.
  • September 14, is the last time Jeremiah is seen alive by a relative
  • On December 2, Jeremiah’s eight-year-old sister tells a school counselor that her mother’s boyfriend abused her and that she hasn’t seen her brother in a very long time
  • After the statements Jeremiah’s sister and another brother were placed in protective custody
  • At a December 13 hearing Jeremiah’s mother and boyfriend were arrested when they could not explain Jeremiah’s disappearance
  • On April 18, 2014 a tip from a jailhouse informant led authorities to the remains of a young boy wrapped in a blanket and placed inside of a duffel bag near a central Massachusetts Interstate Highway about 13-miles from Jeremiah’s house
  • According to a Washington State study 76% of abducted/murdered children were found within a 12 mile radius of their last known location
  • On April 20, 2014 the remains were positively identified as being little Jeremiah Oliver.

 

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said the body was found at about 9 a.m. Friday by a police search team about 40 feet off I-190 near Sterling, which is about 12 miles from Fitchburg. He said it was wrapped in blanket-like material and packed in material that resembled a suitcase. He said the site is near an area that is regularly mowed on the side of the highway but would not have been visible to passing cars. Jeremiah’s father Jose Oliver, who has been cleared from suspicion, believes that his son’s remains were recently placed at that location. The medical examiner should be able to determine whether or not Jeremiah Oliver’s body has been in the location where it was found for the long term or short term based on decomposition fluid leakage. Body fluid would have leaked through the blanket & duffel bag and left an imprint in the ground that would likely appear as a burned area.

 

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families had been monitoring the Oliver family for two years after allegations of neglect, but an investigation into Jeremiah’s disappearance found that the assigned social worker had missed mandatory monthly visits between last April and his sister’s December report that Jeremiah was missing. The governor asked the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF but resisted calls from some lawmakers to fire Olga Roche, the agency’s commissioner. The decision to commission an incident report from an agency not affiliated with MA Govt. makes sense, but given that this child fell through the cracks on DCF Commissioner Roche’s watch provides ample justification for firing her. We have the technological means to monitor abused children, but have failed as a society to prioritize the need.

Fake Abduction Video

This video has zero educational value. It is a variation of cell phone snatch & grab where an unsuspecting citizen has their cell phone snatched out of their hands. However, cell phone snatch & grab videos warn people of the dangers of using a smart phone in public and being unaware of your surroundings. Wearing a ski mask to snatch and grab a little child out of a park provides no similar benefits. There are no viable benefits to this prank unless they are suggesting that we shouldn’t take children to parks, or that they should be on leashes like dogs. It is a stunt that simply fosters fear in those who witnessed the event and instill outrage in those who view the YouTube video.

Fake abduction videos can have value if they are done correctly. If the environment is controlled and the authorities and adults involved are totally up to speed on what is happening. For instance, a mother watching her child being lured away from a safe place to look for a puppy, in exchange for money or candy, or any of a number of lures can send a powerful lesson that children are vulnerable to the manipulations of a determined predator. However, this second rate scare tactic is nothing more than the irresponsible and immature antics of a couple of no taste pranksters.

Missing: What To Do If Your Child Disappears!

KlaasDVD

Your child is missing. You are confused, even panicked. What do you do? Every case is different and the timeline escalation listed below is dependent upon your unique situation. Pick and choose carefully, but remember: Never Give Up Hope!

 

  1. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts. Could your child be hiding or with other family members of friends?  This is a good time to conduct a cursory search and contact relevant parties.
  2. If you have a missing child smart phone app (Polly’s Guardian Angel) you should activate a missing alert. Among other things this will immediately alert others application holders in your immediate vicinity.
  3. Immediately call (911) and all other local law enforcement agencies. This should include the city police or county sheriff, and the State Police. If you have one, present your child’s Sentry KIDS Bio-document to the responding officer. Insist that they enter the information into the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) at once.
  4. If predatory abduction is a real possibility notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI experience and resources are unsurpassed in law enforcement.
  5. Create a local media (TV Stations, Radio Stations, and Newspapers) contact list. Notify all local media assignment desks. You are your missing child’s best advocate so work with the Media – keep in mind that the public’s awareness about your missing child could be expedited if you share pictures, videos and other details.
  6. Create a social media campaign to inform the public about your missing child. Create a Facebook page that includes photos, videos, articles and links to television segments. If these elements do not yet exist they can be easily inserted after the fact. Also, create a Twitter feed that directs the public to your other social media profiles. This is the fastest and least expensive way to get the word out.
  7. Contact the KlaasKids Foundation’ Search Center for Missing Children.  Our services are free of charge. Our center will assist you with flyer creation, distribution and creating an action plan.
  8. If you have a home (landline) phone make sure that it is staffed and is being traced at all times. Do not turn off your cell phone: even when charging.
  9. Find a printer. Volunteers will help you to post flyers in highly visible areas.
  10. Your best chance of recovery is to encourage a coordinated response effort by law enforcement; media; your child find agency; and volunteers.
  11. Take care to preserve your physical well-being. Seek emotional and psychological support from your church or social service agencies. Make sure that you sleep and eat regularly. Refrain from alcohol or other mind altering substances.
  12. Remember – Never Give up Hope!

Fat Cats & Bureaucrats

Let’s set the record straight.

 

Search - Brad

Brad Dennis & Cheyenne

On February 4, 2014 an FBI press release publicized the recovery of 16 children during a Super Bowl sex trafficking sting. Many of the children traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically to be prostituted at the Super Bowl. The children ranged in age from 13 to 17-years old, including high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families.  Additionally, more than 45-pimps and their associates were arrested during the Blitz the Traffickers sting operation. Arrests were made and victims recovered in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

 

A coalition of grass roots nonprofit organizations (NPO) partnered with law enforcement on Blitz the Traffickers, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was the only NPO mentioned in the FBI release. According to GuideStar, in 2012, NCMEC received a $31,715,505 grant from the United States Department of Justice to pursue their mission of helping to prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The NCMEC (2012) IRS Form 990 allocates $11,407,540 to, “Provide technical assistance and provide case analysis to assist law enforcement in their efforts to locate and recover missing children and victims of domestic child sex trafficking and to locate and apprehend noncompliant sex offenders”.

 

The NCMEC did not put boots on the ground at Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, they distributed names and photographs of children they believe might be trafficked to the authorities; and they equipped law enforcement with “hope bags” containing items like flip flops and toothpaste for children rescued from prostitution. This is not a lot of bang for your buck.

Stop Sex Exploitation

Under the leadership of Search and Rescue Director Brad Dennis, KlaasKids, which receives no government funding, has been working with the New Jersey State Police since May 2013 and has participated in several of their sting operations leading up to the big game.  We were embedded with the law enforcement Super Bowl operation from January 28-February 1.  During this time, KlaasKids worked in direct contact with Federal and State intelligence analysts providing information to the operational elements of the law enforcement operation. Our role was two-fold: Providing specific leads regarding online advertisements which had a number of indicators suggesting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Our most beneficial role was to provide additional analysis to any lead the FBI/NCMEC or other agencies provided to the intelligence unit. Our ability to conduct deep-web searches and scrub the initial ad looking for corroborative information enabled us to provide enhanced intelligence to the undercover operation, as well as, to the interviewers.

In Our BackyardThe KlaasKids Foundation was but one component in a nonprofit coalition that participated in the Blitz the Traffickers operation. For more than a year  Nita Belles worked with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and local trafficking task forces to overcome operational obstacles and ensure the success of Blitz the Traffickers. The Pensacola based Called2Rescue team provided monitoring services of online escort ads and forwarded over 200-leads to the KlaasKids team in New Jersey. KlaasKids then scrubbed those leads for additional corroboration and submitted 23-specific leads to law enforcement. Several of these leads were in neighboring areas/states and were forwarded to those respective units by the FBI analysts. Free International and StudentReach developed a school assembly program featuring a state-of-the-art 3D multi-media production to prevent child exploitation and features posters of several of the missing children to 30-schools and 6-colleges in New Jersey. Global Child Rescue and Stop Sex Exploitation mobilized local faith based partners to disseminate the awareness posters and missing child books throughout New York and New Jersey.

Free International School Assembly

Free International School Assembly

5000-booklets containing images of 43-regional missing children along with 75,000-football cards featuring 3-missing children were distributed in New Jersey and Times Square, NY.  40,000-human trafficking awareness posters, designed by the Attorney General’s office featuring the New Jersey Human Trafficking Hotline were disseminated. Specific highlights of the Blitz the Traffickers operation included: 16-minors rescued.  27-pimps and/or associates were arrested in New Jersey and 17 in New York.

Global Child Rescue

Unlike the Arlington, VA based NCMEC and Washington, DC headquartered Polaris Project, the Blitz the Traffickers nonprofit coalition did not receive government funding. However, while NCMEC sent pictures and bags full of shampoo and water bottles, and the Polaris Project whined, the Super Bowl nonprofit coalition got busy. They directly assisted in rescuing children, apprehending pimps, and raising awareness about an issue that touches our soul deeply.

Called to Rescue

It seems to me that if American citizens are going to financially support missing child and anti-trafficking nonprofit organizations, they should expect a response that influences policy change through action, dedication and determination. Instead, our national treasure is being squandered on fat cats and bureaucrats.  As a nation we deserve better than that.

Endgame

polly-s-poster-cropped-irfan-480When Polly’s mother Eve Nichol and I were summoned to the Petaluma PD on November 30, 1993 my ability to reach reasonable conclusions had morphed into unreasonable and angry denial. We were in the Chief’s office with Petaluma Police Captain Parks and FBI Special Agent Mershon who told us that they had arrested the man who kidnapped Polly. They watched us carefully for signs of recognition, as we looked at the cold blank eyes staring back at us from the Polaroid snapshot. The kidnapper looked remarkably like the composite on the flyer in a crude unnerving way, but with harsh features. We said that we had never seen him before. They told us that we should get used to the fact that Polly was probably dead because the perp had a long history of violence and had spent most of his life behind bars. “What? You dare to tell me that Polly is dead without proof? Has he ever been convicted of murder?” No. “Then fuck you. I’m not interested in your opinion. Go find my daughter, and then we’ll discuss opinions.” Hobbled by a badly strained back, I shuffled out of the station, got into my car and returned to the donated apartment that Violet and I had been using and in which I was spending increasing amounts of time.

 

Confined to the floor by pain, my world was shrinking as the truth about Polly’s fate slowly played out on television. The kidnapper denied that he had kidnapped “the fucking little broad,” but his sordid criminal history included incidents of kidnapping, robbery, assaults with shotguns, handguns, knives and fireplace pokers. An old girlfriend had committed suicide by shotgun in his presence. He was diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath in 1978. On scene television correspondents breathlessly reported that Polly’s remains had been located seemingly wherever a dog had left its bone. I took comfort in the knowledge that any real break in the case would be conveyed to me by the police, in person and not through the irresponsible speculation playing out on television.

 

Words weren’t really necessary when Eve and I were next summoned to the Petaluma PD on Saturday night December 4. We were picked up in separate patrol cars. By the time I arrived in the Chief’s office Eve was already there, sitting with her face in her hands, crying softly. Captain Parks and Agent Mershon, the only other people in the room, also had tears in their eyes. They were sorry to inform me that the kidnapper had confessed and led them to the garbage pile near a rural highway off ramp where he discarded our baby. They recommended that we not view the remains, but instead remember Polly as she was in life.

 

I heard his words, but they hadn’t yet pierced my heart. I asked if we could tell our families before the news broke. Within fifteen minutes the Chief’s office was full of Polly’s relatives. I did not cry as tears welled up in their eyes and as they expelled sighs of sorrow with their heads bowed in anguish. I asked if we could inform the volunteers at the search center so that they wouldn’t have to learn the truth on the television. I called over and conveyed the sad news, my voice soft, but never wavering. Then we climbed into our cars and drove home in a slow, silent, caravan.

 

The little street on which we lived was covered in winter leaves and as I walked through our front door I remember thinking how beautiful they looked in death. Somebody started a fire, and Violet and I, drained from two months of futile battle, lay down in front of the fireplace. Only then did my emotions fully engage. The rumble began in my core, but quickly found primal voice. I jumped to my feet blinded by tears, a banshee scream escaping from my torched soul. I would have destroyed my home had the men in the room not held me and contained the explosion of my broken heart. Polly was dead and the only thing I wanted to do was to join her.

2 year old x-masFinally, the wire had snapped and I plummeted into the bottom of the abyss without a net to break my fall. I had hung my hope on the illusion that hard work would allow me to snatch life from the clutches of death, but death is irreversible and indisputable. It took a 65-day, high velocity descent to learn that the reality of death exists in its finality. When I hit bottom I shattered like glass and shattered glass cannot be easily reassembled. Even if you manage to precisely fuse the shards, the best that you can hope for is a bizarre mosaic of refracting light that bears little resemblance to the original. Instead of strength you have fragility; instead of clarity you have mirrors of illusion.

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.