Psychic Detectives & Other Nonsense

Psychic detectives are the vanguard of a second wave of predators that also includes tabloid journalists, cheesy defense lawyers and photo-op politicians.  They use tabloid newspapers and talk shows to boast about their accomplishments and predict success.  They materialize whenever children are kidnapped and circle the cases like vultures on a fresh carcass.

They scan the media for the haunting eyes of desperate parents willing to do anything to recover their children and then they show up on your doorstep, literally or figuratively, to make the pitch.  They claim to be on the cutting edge of communications, able to predict future events and reach into heaven and hell with their mind.  They hold your hand, massage your psyche and convince you that the only thing separating you from their extraordinary gift is your money.  However, some simply require airfare and living expenses, what we call a vacation.  They seem to answer the prayer that ends the nightmare, but only if you can afford the ticket.

Frantic parents will do anything and they offer something, which is better than nothing.  Few of us posses the resources to underwrite crisis, let alone psychic detectives so they should be reminded that a substantial reward awaits whoever solves the case and returns the stolen child.

Although that strategy eliminates most psychics, some maintain a foothold by appealing to superstitiously vulnerable family members.  They make provocative predictions.  In California, rolling hills, a road or highway, perhaps a building or a bubbling brook.  In Arizona, sand dunes replace rolling hills and cactus substitutes the bubbling brook: In other words, they describe ninety-five percent of the geography of the western United States.

Psychic detectives do not posses supernatural insight, they do not converse with the missing or the dead, they never bring children home.  However, their rambling predictions may have filled in enough gaps to pad their resumes and claim the reward.

A few months after Polly was recovered a psychic claimed that she solved Polly’s case on the television program Hard Copy.  Not only was she using my daughter’s death to promote herself, but she also dismissed all of the wonderful people: police, media, and volunteers who worked so hard and tirelessly to locate my child. 

In truth, that psychic detectives contribution to the case was counter productive.  As always seems to be the case with psychic predictions, her interference created distraction.  Law enforcement resources are diverted toward useless endeavors as phantom leads disappear into thin air.  One cold and dark November evening many of us were lurking around somebody’s property because the psychic said that it held the key to my daughter’s disappearance.  With the heightened sense of paranoia that already existed in the community that property owner would have been well within his rights to blow us away on the spot for trespassing.  We were very fortunate that night, because although he did angrily confront us, he had absolutely nothing to do with the crime we were investigating. 

In the end, and despite their protests, there is not even one case of a psychic truly assisting or solving a missing child case.  It’s just smoke and mirrors.  Their references do not support their claims and law enforcement cannot acknowledge their existence.  Instead, their wishful thinking collides with your desperate hope and leaves you diminished. 

Unfortunately, the next time a little child is kidnapped and mom and dad reach the end of their emotional string the vague, empty promises of the psychic detective will rebound off the stark walls of the missing child’s bedroom and a photo or toy will be palmed as the negotiations are engaged.  It is inevitable: I predict it.

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.

Where is Hailey Dunn?

Until Jan. 3, a week after she disappeared on December 27, 13-year-old

Colorado City, TX middle school cheerleader Hailey Dunn was classified as a runaway. Police Chief John Bevins declaration has been parroted by local media, most notably local radio station owner Jim Baum, who told the local NBC affiliate, “To tell you the truth, this is the first time, and I’ve been here 30 years, that we’ve had a runaway like this. It’s so uncommon”. Calling a missing child a runaway has always been law enforcement’s fallback position. It allows them to defer responsibility and puts the onus of recovery on the shoulders of the family, because runaways are considered a family issue. This action also reflects an exaggerated and distorted sense of what is happening to America’s children.


A child who seemingly disappears off the face of the earth deserves our attention, not our indifference. Like Ashley Pond, Miranda Gaddis, and Lindsey Baum before her Hailey stepped out of her front door and vanished. She was headed, first to her dad’s house across the street from where she lived with her mom, and then to a girlfriends home to spend the night. She never arrived.

In McCleary, Washington ten-year-old Lindsey Baum was walking home from her girlfriend’s house on June 26, 2009 and is still missing.  In 2002, on January 9, Oregon City, Oregon resident, twelve-year-old Ashley Pond disappeared after leaving for school. Her friend and schoolmate thirteen-year-old Miranda Gaddis vanished from the same location two months later, on May 8. Neighbor Ward Weaver was arrested on August 13. Ashley’s body was found buried under a concrete slab in Weaver’s back yard. Miranda was found in a box in his tool shed. Like his father before him, Ward Weaver sits on death row awaiting an execution that will never occur.

 Hailey Dunn’s family, friends, school, teachers and other kids parents are the only thing that given this case traction. They took a stand and said, “Not in our community.” A temporary search center was established at the Colorado City Middle School cafeteria for volunteers wanting to help. They have saturated the community with thousands of flyers. An estimated 750 people, out of a population of about 4,000 turned out for a prayer vigil on the evening of Jan. 2. An anonymous reward that began at $1,000 for Hailey’s safe return has now been raised to $25,000. Members of the community created a Facebook page for Hailey, and many others, including me, have put photos of Hailey in their profile pictures.

The Police Chief said that all of the evidence points to Hailey being a runaway. However, there is no evidence, and his declaration is based solely upon statistics. She didn’t tell any of her friends that she was going to run away. She hadn’t threatened her parents that she was going to run away. Nobody saw her run away. She didn’t take anything with her. She had never before runaway. Thirteen-year-old Hailey Dunn was classified as a runaway due to a total lack of evidence, not the preponderance of evidence.

According to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children (NISMART-2), considered to be the definitive publication on missing child statistics, “The total number of children who were missing from their caretakers in 1999, including children who were reported missing is estimated to be 797,500”. Of these 357,600 (45%) were runaway/throwaway situations. Therefore, if you conclude that a missing child has runaway you will be right about half the time. But, that does not mean that you turn your back on those children. Given what we know about violence in America and the challenges that our kids face, it is our duty as responsible adults to recover and help kids who have run away or thrown out of their homes.

 The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth runaway in a year. Half of all runaways are girls. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution or pornography. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. For boys, the entry age is 11-13. Approximately 55% of street girls engage in formal prostitution. Of the girls engaged in formal prostitution, 75% work for a pimp. Per international definition children under the age of 18 who are exploited for sex are not criminals, they are victims and all victims deserve our attention and our assistance.

So, where is Hailey Dunn? We do not know, but we do care. We will seek her until she is returned to her family. Numerous law enforcement agencies including the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Department, the Mitchell County District Attorney, the Texas Rangers, and the Texas Department of Public Safety are involved in the search. We are Americans and Americans, whether we are Police Chiefs or common citizens, do not turn their backs on children in need.

Home for the Holidays

During our whirlwind tour of Spain I took pains to avoid the news, preferring instead to live in the moment and focus on Spain’s rich heritage. Although Violet occasionally read the news online or watched BBC, the see no evil, hear no evil approach enabled us to take advantage of adventure, planned excursions, tasty food and complex wine.

For instance, we were unaware that our president had broken a core campaign promise by capitulating on tax relief for the wealthy or that our new Speaker of the House and his Senate counterpart were prone to tearful crying jags in contemplation of their own circumstances, not those of the public that they served. My free Holiday advice to Barak, John and Mitch is simple: Man up gentlemen, it’s a long and tough road ahead and America needs real leadership, not schoolyard shenanigans! Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Of course we knew about and toasted the recovery of kidnap victim Jean Marie Berlinghoff over plates of sumptuous paella, but with our minds still dwelling on the Iberian Peninsula and Christmas and New Years looming, we were ill prepared for immediate immersion into missing child cases.

The first one reached us the day after we returned, on December 15. A thirteen year old girl with medical issues did not return home from middle school the day before. It had been two days, her family was frantic and the local Sheriff was unresponsive, saying that it seemed a runaway. This has always proved a good excuse for law enforcement indifference as the sheer numbers of runaway children invites indifference. During a couple of consultations with the girl’s grandmother we decided to do the following things: blanket the already created missing child flyer throughout the community, including areas that a local runaway might frequent; focus upon the neighborhood where her best girlfriend and co-conspirator was thought to live, stakeout the neighborhood to see if anybody was removing the flyers and then follow that person home; and finally, continue to press the case through Facebook and other social media sites.

 The next day was problematic. She was still missing, the Sheriff couldn’t be bothered and the family was concerned about a worsening medical condition and possible gang involvement. This time it was decided that media needed to be notified in hopes of embarrassing the Sheriff into action. By December 17, she had been located and returned home.

Also on Thursday the plight of a two year old boy was brought to my attention via Facebook. His non-custodial father had not returned him to his mother. The father was in jail and most of the activity surrounding efforts to recover the child were being conducted via social networking. I told the family that they should re-format the photo essay into a missing flyer, contact local law enforcement to establish that a report had been made, and contact NCMEC to get a flyer posted on their website. The child was recovered by early Friday morning.

KlaasKids did not play a big part in any of these cases. However, we did consult the families, make pertinent suggestions, help with strategies, offer moral support and make ourselves otherwise available. Being involved in three successful recoveries in a row is kind of like the kidnap equivalent of a hat trick. It isn’t even important how the children were recovered because all were recovered alive and returned home in time for the holidays. Maybe there is a Santa Claus after all.

The House of Horrors!

The plan, although hastily conceived, was ready and it seemed like a good one. The shades were drawn making the house dark, because darkness was the preferred atmosphere. Latex gloves and a disposable plastic poncho were worn because it was a messy job. Goggles were secured to protect against flying bits. Two heavy duty trash bags were folded in the corner, on the other side of the toilet. The lid was down on the toilet to help contain the splatter. The gas chamber was topped off and the chainsaw was brought in from the tool shed. Once the job site was secured the bathroom door was closed, and although the house was otherwise empty, the hook lock was secured. After several attempts the saw roared to life. It was time to get busy.
She had been rented to the two men in exchange for a moderate amount of money. After all, times are tough, children aren’t cheap, and money is hard to come by. The men drank cheap whiskey and repeatedly raped the ten-year-old. When they were finally finished one of them, the leader, smacked her repeatedly on the head to stop the incessant sniveling. She stopped crying as she stopped moving. He wiped the sweat off of his brow with the tank top that he had been wearing for the past week and headed toward the living room. The other man, his brother, took the urine and bloodstained mattress outside and leaned it against the side of the house. A phone call was made and she was eventually removed from the premises.
The dark child was now the dead child. Ten-year-old Zahra Baker’s body was dismembered and her remains concealed in a bed comforter and car cover, then discarded in a dumpster behind a grocery store. Her prosthetic leg was wrapped in a white trash bag and thrown in a dumpster at the Fox Ridge Apartments, and the prosthetic liner was discarded off the side of Christie Road, a few miles from where Elisa used to live. Zahra’s father Adam and step-mother Elisa dumped her mattress and box spring at a trash dump in Granite Falls. The little girl who had trouble walking fifteen yards had been scattered over a fifteen mile radius from her home in Hickory, NC.
She could have been saved, but not even the authorities seemed to care until it was too late. Elisa Baker did not disguise the fact that she loathed the ten-year-old one legged, deaf cancer survivor. Elisa Baker was no stranger to the North Carolina Department of Social Services. Numerous reports were made to the Department of Social Services and numerous investigations were conducted regarding the abuse of Elisa’s biological children from as far back as 1999. In July 2010 a report was made to the Caldwell County Department of Social Services that Alisa Baker had physically abused Zahra Baker, resulting in a black eye. Friends and neighbors saw the abuse as instance after instance has been documented on various television and newspaper accounts. Zahra was able to survive two bouts of cancer, but not the malignancy of her home life.
There are some crimes that are so cruel, so evil that words cannot describe them. Zahra Baker’s tragedy rises to that threshold. The house of horrors that Zahra Baker lived in was not a home, but was instead a torture chamber. That her sweet smile even existed seems a miracle when one considers the amount of abuse that she suffered at the hands of cruel caregivers.

Amber Alert Absurdity

How many children do we have to lose before California and the rest of the nation admit that the Amber Alert is broken? On November 10, 2010, 44-year old Charles Berlinghoff disappeared with his 15-year old niece Jean Marie Berlinghoff without her parents’ permission. They have not been seen since. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has steadfastly refused to issue an Amber Alert. They say that the case does not fit the criteria.

A convicted sex offender who hid his past from his family, Uncle Charlie suddenly reappeared after a decade long absence. In 2005, he exploited family ties and slithered his way back into younger brother Jake’s life. A bassist for metal bands in Los Angeles, Charlie would stay with Jacob and his teen-aged daughters during occasional visits to Northern California.

 During his most recent visit Jacob intercepted a text message in which Uncle Charlie called 15-year old Jean Marie “baby”. When confronted Uncle Charlie became defensive. The brothers nearly came to blows before Charlie agreed that he would return to Los Angeles that day. Jake did not know that he would take Jean Marie with him.

 Uncle Charlie left his open, half packed suitcase on the bed and drove off in his gray 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass with California plate 2DNX546. Many hours later, when Uncle Charlie had not returned and Jean Marie could not be located, Jake called Charlie’s cell phone. It had been turned off. The chase was on.

Charlie Berlinghoff is a dangerous predator who was convicted of indecent exposure in Shasta County in 1993. In 1998, he was charged with four counts of misdemeanor child molestation and one felony count of indecent exposure in Tehama County. On November 16, 2010 a $100,000 felony arrest warrant was issued for Uncle Charlie. He is wanted for detainment or concealment of a child from her father.

Despite repeated requests from the Shasta County Sheriff the CHP has refused to issue an Amber Alert. CHP spokesperson Fran Clader said that the disappearance, “Did not meet all the required criteria, which include the belief that the child is in imminent danger of serious injury or death”.

Jean Marie is not out for a ride with her “cool” Uncle Charlie: He is a known sexual predator The popular teenager, who always keeps in close contact with family and friends took nothing with her when she left. “Baby” has been held against her will for more than two weeks now and has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. If this doesn’t rise to the level of imminent threat, tha what case does?

Unfortunately, like Uncle Ernie in the rock opera Tommy, evil can manifest itself inside the family unit as easily as outside. Family abductions can be predatory. Adults who are not familiar relatives have sexual motivation associated with murdering children. In 1999, Edward Milka kidnapped and murdered his 11-year old niece Brittany Martinez. Uncle Karl Brewer sits on death row for the 1999 kidnapped and murdered 12-year old Andi Brewer. Jessie Dotson murdered his brother’s entire family in Nashville in 2008.

Among its many other faults the Amber Alert is illogical, arbitrary and broken. Two weeks prior to Jean Berlinghoff’s disappearance, the CHP activated an Amber Alert for a 13-year-old missing girl investigators believed was lured away from her home by an adult she had been communicating with on the internet. On August 20, 2010, a regional Amber Alert was activated in the Bay Area for the Oakland Police Department for a 2 year old female kidnapped by her father.

What I want to know is who decided that local law enforcement was not qualified to activate a local Amber Alert? A local activation would be based upon firsthand knowledge of the case, the family and the community. It would further save critical hours; the one issue that everybody acknowledges is the most important factor in the quick and successful recovery of children who have been kidnapped by sexual predators. After all, we trust local authorities with guns, why not the ability to activate an Amber Alert?

48 Hours Mystery…or Travesty?

Many were looking forward to the 48 Hours Mystery episode that featured the family of Amber Dubois.  We knew and trusted the producer, having worked closely with her over the course of nearly two-years.  Good things had resulted from the brutal kidnap and murder of 14-year old Amber at the hands of the sexually sadistic psychopath John Gardner. Friendships had been forged, legislation written and passed, and new understandings about the nature of evil and the shortcomings of California’s criminal justice system had been exposed. Why then, did 48 Hours focus on false accusations, bogus aspects of the investigation, and providing a bully pulpit to a self proclaimed monster?

Amber Dubois disappeared without a trace on her way to Escondido High School on the morning of February 13, 2009. Within 2 weeks the KlaasKids Foundation and Laura Recovery Center sent representatives to the San Diego suburb to organize a volunteer search and rescue effort. We worked for and with Amber’s family for more than a year, until her remains were recovered. KlaasKids S&R Director Brad Dennis facilitated Amber’s funeral and I hosted her memorial service.

48 Hours Mystery focused much attention on Amber’s step-father Dave Cave as a possible suspect. As Dave said during the program they did it because, “That is where the statistics lead.” He withstood multiple interrogations and polygraphs, yet he was always there for Amber. When Amber’s mother Carrie moved out of his house he held his head high and covered her back. When friends and family suspected that he was involved he “manned-up” and worked to bring her home.  48 Hours took a tabloid approach to Dave’s travails and chose to portray him in a less than flattering light, but unlike 48-Hours, who grovels on the floor looking for kernels of tragedy that they can exploit for personal gain, Dave Cave stands tall in my eyes.

KlaasKids and the Laura Recovery Center search and rescue teams have worked together numerous times to successfully recover missing children.  Neither organization charges for that service, nor do we fundraise once we have arrived at ground zero. Our complete focus is upon working with law enforcement and in this case helping Amber’s family to recover their missing child. Therefore, I was shocked that 48 Hours chose to ignore our contribution and instead focus upon a live-scent mercenary K-9 team that supposedly followed Amber’s 8-month old scent 50-miles along a Southern California freeway. Anybody with any S&R experience knows full well that even under optimal conditions scent eventually dies. Therefore it is ludicrous to think that a paid K-9 team followed Amber’s scent along a road used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles per day after week after month. The television show notes that the dogs hit upon a spot a mile away from Amber’s still undiscovered remains. They forgot to mention that in terms of search and rescue a mile might as well be 10,000 miles and that the route the dogs followed was entirely different that the one Amber and her killer traveled on the day that he raped and murdered her.

Finally, 48 Hours provided a national, primetime television audience to the monster who killed Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. Both families thought that they were done with him, that he would be forgotten and die in prison. Instead they watched him opine about his potential victimization behind bars. They saw his face and heard his voice. The producer said that the interview did a “Great job illustrating that these predators live among us and they don’t look like Charles Manson.  They look like average Joe’s.” Really, that’s the best you can come up with? The Dubois and King families were re-victimized by a tabloid television program devoid of human decency.

Watching Gardner on primetime television reminded me of my own similar experience. In the days prior to the sentencing of the goon who killed and murdered my Polly, I received a phone call from Geraldo Rivera. He told me that he had been offered an opportunity to interview the killer on primetime TV. He said that he would take the killer down and expose him for the piece of shit that he really was. Then he said that he would only do so with my permission. I asked him not to do the interview as the thought of that monster ever again appearing in public made me physically recoil. Geraldo honored my wish, but two days later another reporter aired the interview on Hard Copy! I correctly accused her of using Polly’s tragedy to further her own career. I told her that any person convicted of raping and murdering children deserved to be locked away and forgotten, not provided with a national television audience. I told her that she, just like 48 Hours Mystery, was nothing more than a tabloid whore!!!

I am mystified and embarrassed by third rate journalism that purports to do anything more than entertain at the expense of truth, clarity and useful information. 48 Hours cherry pick facts in order to portray real life tragedies as nothing more than twisted, grotesque fantasies that re-victimize people who have already been victimized enough.

The Shark Tank

The sweet smile and angelic face of 10-year old Zahra Baker haunts my dreams. She survived bone cancer at age five, although she lost her left leg below the knee and had to use a prosthetic leg to walk. She survived lung cancer a few years later, but chemotherapy damages her high frequency hearing, causing her to rely upon hearing aids to hear.  Unfortunately, it does not look like little Zahra, who managed to smile through it all, was able to survive the malignancy of abuse, neglect and homicide that she was subjected to at home. It wasn’t until October 9, when Zahra was reported missing to a 911 dispatcher and an Amber Alert was issued that her neighbors, and then the world finally saw pretty little Australian immigrant with the freckled cheeks and trusting brown eyes. Before that, law enforcement had difficulty finding anyone who had seen or spoken with Zahra in a very, very long time.

On the day Zahra was reported missing there was another, earlier 911 call. Her stepmother Elisa reported a fire in the yard. The authorities found a ransom note, addressed to the Baker’s landlord, demanding $1,000,000 for the return of his daughter. The landlord’s daughter was not missing. Several hours later Zahra was reported missing.

On October 12, as Elisa Baker sat in jail awaiting arraignment on unrelated charges, law enforcement abruptly cancelled the Amber Alert and announced, without ambiguity, that they were now investigating Zahra’s disappearance as a homicide. Cadaver dogs had scented human remains in both of the family cars. Elisa Baker admitted that she wrote the ransom note, but her lawyer insisted that she is not a child killer.
Zahra’s stepmother Elisa is a shark, destroying whatever is in her path. She is constantly moving forward, never looking back. She holds no job, and lives a semi-transient lifestyle, never staying in any one place long enough to establish roots or expose her true nature. Elisa’s bio-daughter fears for her own life when she is around her mother. Over the past summer Elisa used the Internet to bilk an Englishman out of $10,000. And now, the little girl who Elisa called the ‘dark child’ on her Goth inspired MySpace page, and to whose care she was entrusted, is missing and presumed dead.

The FBI recently had Elisa, chained in the back of a black SUV, visiting potential crime spots, many of which are in close proximity to her past residences. It is speculated that she is cooperating with the authorities. If so it is a self-serving cooperation. Elisa does not self reflect. Like all sharks she survives by always moving forward, sinking razor sharp teeth into whatever blocks her path; but unlike the shark, she chose to be a predator, it was not a right of birth.

Zahra’s father Adam sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil, but according to arrest warrants he does write bad checks, and may assault people with deadly weapons. His convoluted 911 call reporting his daughter missing was filled with misdirection, tangents, nervous laughter, and sophomoric justifications. As reports of his wife’s abuse against Zahra surfaced, Adam admitted that it was possible his wife could be involved her disappearance, and that his relationship with Elisa, which began on the Internet two years ago, just might not be everything he thought it was. The little girl he wrenched from a safe and secure home in Australia can neither defend nor deny her dad, for she is presumed dead.

Zahra was discarded. They discarded her mattress, which was found in a landfill covered in DNA. They discarded her prosthetic leg, but it was located along the side of a road, hidden in the bushes. They discarded her memory and tried to discard her history when they removed her from society. The only question that remains is where did they discard her little broken body?

The sweet smile and angelic face of 10-year old Zahra Baker haunts my dreams.


KlaasKids will be taking Attorney General Jerry Brown to task at the Governor’s debate this evening for turning a blind eye to the illegal prison release of tens of thousands of potential sexually violent predators.

In 2006, Californian’s voted to pass Proposition 83, otherwise known as Jessica’s Law. Among other things Jessica’s Law mandates that, prior to release from prison, violent sex offenders who meet certain offense criteria be evaluated in person by two expert psychiatrists or psychologists. If the experts agree that the prisoner is a violent sexual predator with a high risk of reoffending the prisoner must be referred to the District Attorney for civil commitment proceedings.

Currently, California’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) Sex Offender Commitment Program managers are simply providing a cursory ‘paper screening’ or record review of potential predators by one mental health professional in lieu of an expert panel in-person evaluation. This violation of California law has thus far dumped more than 17,000 potential sexual predators back into society.
In 2007, convicted rapist Gilton Pitri was released as a result of a ‘paper screening’ and within 4 days kidnapped, raped, and murdered 15-year old Alyssa Gomez.  Petri is currently awaiting trial for Alyssa’s murder.

Are you as outraged as I am that California’s DMH is ignoring the law at the expense of public safety? If so, make your voice heard at the ballot box.

I’ll be endorsing Meg Whitman for Governor of California this evening at the candidate’s debate, as I take Attorney General Jerry Brown to task for turning a blind eye to the illegal prison release of tens of thousands of potential sexually violent predators.

In 2006, Californian’s voted to pass Proposition 83, otherwise known as Jessica’s Law. Among other things Jessica’s Law mandates that, prior to release from prison, violent sex offenders who meet certain offense criteria be evaluated in person by two expert psychiatrists or psychologists. If the experts agree that the prisoner is a violent sexual predator with a high risk of reoffending the prisoner must be referred to the District Attorney for civil commitment proceedings.

Currently, California’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) Sex Offender Commitment Program managers are simply providing a cursory ‘paper screening’ or record review of potential predators by one mental health professional in lieu of an expert panel in-person evaluation. This violation of California law has thus far dumped more than 17,000 potential sexual predators back into society.

In 2007, convicted rapist Gilton Pitri was released as a result of a ‘paper screening’ and within 4 days kidnapped, raped, and murdered 15-year old Alyssa Gomez.  Petri is currently awaiting trial for Alyssa’s murder.

Are you as outraged as I am that California’s DMH is ignoring the law at the expense of public safety? If so, make your voice heard at the ballot box.

Recovery & Redemption

It is said that losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. From 2000 to 2006 (the last year for which verifiable data is available) 367,844 children under the age of 19 have died in the United States. The parents of these children can attest to this nightmare. The parents of deceased children spiral into confusion whether the children were victims of violent crime, accident, suicide or infant death. They oftentimes feel betrayed by God and search for reasons to continue living. The challenge is finding the path to recovery and redemption.

Following the kidnap and murder of my daughter Polly, Violet and I joined the fraternity of survivors. We are trying to recover from the sudden, unexpected death of our child, and redeem our lives in the wake of her tragedy. We testify in Congress and State legislatures. We advocate in the media, in town hall meetings and in living rooms. We pursue righteous causes, and offer encouragement, support and hope to other families who are facing life without their children. We fear not, for we have nothing left to fear. For us, rejection is a hurdle, not a brick wall. We are everywhere, because family is universal, and death does not discriminate.

Our children give meaning to their lives, but it is up to us to give meaning to their deaths. We do this by fighting back. Instead of sleepwalking through life, we extricate ourselves from the abyss of grief by communicating the lessons that we have learned in hope of preventing future tragedies. We don‘t drown our grief in the sad downward spiral of substance abuse; we choose to give new purpose to our own shattered lives by ensuring that our children did not die in vain. We reject the unsustainable heartbreak of denial and instead try to ensure that tragedies are not repeated, that we can use our experience to support others similarly afflicted, and that some level of social benefit results from our actions. This is how we ensure that our deceased children are not relegated to data points.

Polly would want our lives to have purpose and value. She would want us to love and laugh and to find a future full of hope and substance. She would encourage us to take action, effect legislation, write poetry and touch lives. The process of burying our daughter exposed our emotions like dangling nerves. But, we survived the great depression. We take time to smell the flowers, listen to the music and appreciate all of the beautiful things that life has to offer.

The following dispatches were written in the spirit of recovery and redemption. We felt no guilt, harbored no malice and are forever grateful for the experience.