Part XXVI: Brianna Maitland Missing Person

Guest Blogger Bob continues his insights on the Brianna Maitland Missing Person case.

Since Brianna’s case is currently active, it’s best I think, to just summarize... a conclusion of sorts. Some things I haven't covered, some more about Brianna, and Theory Two - the Serial Stalker, the Stranger Abduction, the Ring of White Slavery.

Anything is possible, truthfully, but there is no indication from what I learned that such was the case. Someone stalking her, very possible. A stranger, in my opinion unlikely. I believe there are those who know what happened... but of course, of course there are those who know.

Just who are they is the question I have. Is it CB, who posted recently knowing where Brianna was buried, or the person who did know? Or the guy in prison, known as Joker, who claimed he had Brianna killed? For a drug debt!

Doubtful as Brianna was frugal, and only bought a joint now and then according to her friends. The trouble is, there are too many stories about what happened to Brianna. Which surprises me, frankly. What was it about Brianna that inspired so many stories?

I was asked again, about the things Brianna liked, what sorts of things did she do, what did she read, what was she like? I didn't ever know her, but I was told:

Brianna did like to read, a lot, and she liked vampires. Seriously; she told her aunt how much she enjoyed reading Anne Rice’s vampire novels; and she’d read most of Anne Rice's other novels too, those “romance novels” written as A. N. RoQuelaure, as well as Anne Rice's own version of Lolita, called Belinda. She liked reading everything.

She liked to dream. She liked gardening, she loved animals, especially her pet cat (I’m so bad with names, I forgot her cat's name, Shadow, Sundown, something like that!), but she loved her cat. She was a happy child, and grew up getting along well with her parents, brother and others.

She was independent in nature, smart, attractive, her friends listened to her and liked her company. When she became a teenager I guess the rules changed...

I don’t know what else to tell you other than she was a normal teenager, not much different than her peers, except in her own unique way that she was aspiring to be someone. Things weren’t always great at home… she eventually hated living there – so far from her friends.

At 17 she got her parent’s permission to move out, and she did. She didn’t dislike school, school got to her. She adapted.

Brianna pretty much started partying around age 15, if not earlier. This is NW Vermont, and that’s not unusual… my own sister was partying at 13 (NY).
Around about 1999, Brianna probably could have gotten alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and coke. Other unexpected exotic drugs might have appeared from time to time.

How do I know this? Speculation, I admit.

I worked for years in schools, colleges, universities. I learned things. The important thing to understand is Brianna stood out no more than her peers, in what they did, if anything.

What is known, is that shortly after the terrorist attack on NYC, things in the NW Kingdom of VT started to change. According to an inside source, monitoring traffic in the area, for an official entity, an influx of visitors from NYC began showing up. And with them, drugs like crack and crystal meth.

I don't know how this affected Brianna personally. She pretty much went with the flow... but also pretty much made up her own mind about things.

So, by the time Brianna turned 17… all sorts of stuff was out there, and the world has changed.

Brianna knew how to take care of herself. Her friends admit she could be naive. She was also sophisticated, for example, a story began circulating after her disappearance, about a possible wedding engagement, “Brianna was getting married”… She was seen wearing a diamond ring.

This story, like most of the others I tracked down, was simply interesting. Her best friend Shauna admitted they bought the ring out of a gum-ball machine, so that when she and Brianna went to Montreal, Brianna could pretend she was married. She got rather annoyed with getting hit on as much as she did. So the ring would be a good excuse.

Given Brianna's unique nature, it appears likely that someone she knew is involved in at least knowing what happened with/to her, and where she is now. We welcome comments, and ideas... this case is not closed.

Future posts will be subject to the weather…

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Brianna Maitland" on the right margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Inequality and the Titanic

After a couple of days chasing little ones through the nooks and crannies of a relative's home built in the 19th Century, I did not imagine I would find today's blog post in a magazine* long-forgotten on a basement shelf:

..Miss Hart, who was seven at the time of the sinking, lost her father but rode a lifeboat to safety with her mother...Of the Titanic's final moments she says simply: "I saw that ship sink. I saw all the horror of it sinking. And I heard even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people..."

The relief of the rescue was tempered with a grim statistic: While all children in the first and second class were saved, two-thirds of the children in the third class perished...
In all the history about the Titanic that I remember hearing and reading, I don't recall anything as troubling as that 66% of the children in the cheap seats suffered such a horrific death.


*Source: National Geographic, December 1985, "How We Found the Titanic" by Robert Ballard

Hate Crimes on the Rise? Maybe or Maybe Not

The criminologists over at the General Blog of Crime linked to a keen observation in what I like to think of as the media's "Annual Misuse of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)."

Note: I realize that others call it the misuse of hate crime stats, but with all of the "most dangerous states/cities" lists based on the UCRs that appear in print, I think the more general title is applicable.

Perhaps you saw a news story this week about "Hate Crimes Increasing" or something like this deceptive bit from CBS News:

Hate crimes rose slightly in 2008, with bias-motivated attacks based on race, religion and sexual orientation all increasing, according to new data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Overall, there were 7,783 criminal incidents reported last year. Those incidents involved 9,168 offenses. In 2007, there were 7,624 criminal incidents involving 9,006 offenses reported...
Why is this article misleading?

Mark Thompson at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen offers this:

The problem is that these particular FBI statistics are virtually useless for evaluating year-to-year trends – always have been, always will be.

This year, the FBI itself went out of its way to warn against such readings, stating “our Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program doesn’t report trends in hate crime stats—yearly increases or decreases often occur because the number of agencies who report to us varies from year to year...”
Thompson also lists other reasons why current offense counts in the UCRs should not be compared to the data of previous years including differences in state laws and/or prosecutorial attitudes and priorities, as well differing rates of individual agency participation by state.

In sum, the Uniform Crime Reports can be a useful tool in examining frequency and dispersion of crime in the US, but understanding the initiative's limitations are essential in detecting the false assumptions used to generate mainstream media articles.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuber of the Week #22: Self-Control

Super blogger Erin over at the Fierce Beagle sent me this humorous video awhile back.

After laughing at some of the kid test subjects trying to resist the temptation of marshmallows, it dawned on me that many adults would struggle as well with the researchers' "deal."

The depicted study is also discussed in this New Yorker magazine article.

Note: Erin saw this originally on the blog A Cup of Jo.

Taken and Never Returned: An Update

In the summer, I posted about the case of a missing child named Morgan Nick who was kidnapped from a baseball field in Alma, Arkansas in 1995.

I have two updates regarding Morgan's investigation.

First, as with other families suffering through horror of a missing loved one, the recent return of Jaycee Dugard (now a young adult) who was kidnapped as a child in California has offered Morgan's family renewed hope.

On August 27, 2009, Morgan’s mother Colleen Nick said this:

Our hope has never wavered. Our hope has been resolute that we would find Morgan. But when you find a child that has been stranger abducted, missing for many years, it really reinforces that we are on the right path. We are doing the right thing, that our fight is worth fighting.

And it really encourages and strengthens all those people around our family that are fighting with us.
After working with representatives of the Nick Foundation and the victim’s family, establishing email contact and receiving replies from the Director of Morgan's foundation, and Morgan's mom (Colleen), "Jashrema" developed this list of known information pertaining to Morgan’s disappearance:

1. She was abducted from a ballpark in Alma, Arkansas, a very small town, and very mountainous region. The ballpark itself is surrounded by mountains.

2. To this day, there have been NO viable suspects.

3. The suspicious vehicle was a Red Ford pickup with a white camper. The camper is possibly damaged at the right rear, and was described as four or five inches too short for the truck, which has a short wheel base and paint dulled by age. The truck is believed to have Arkansas license plates.

4. Yes, there was a witness that saw a man talking to the children, but there were NO witnesses to the abduction itself. This description is based on the man who was observed talking to the children as they played. The description is the same as the composite shown. The only composite that is considered VIABLE is the one currently on Morgan's missing poster at the site:

The man was described as white, 6 feet tall, with a medium to solid build, a mustache and a 1-inch beard. At the time, he was believed to be 23-38 years old. The information about curly, salt pepper hair, slicked back, hillbilly accent, is NOT VERIFIED as correct by Morgan’s mom or the Director.

5. There were NO attempted abductions around the time of Morgan’s abduction, or for that matter, no stranger abductions in the state of Arkansas before or since Morgan. The only other "attempted abduction" that was reported was the child in a nearby laundromat. This was followed up on and found to be a custody dispute between separated parents where the father took the child while the mother was in the laundromat.

6. Alma is a city in Crawford County in the western part of the U.S. state of Arkansas, along I-40 about 13 miles from the Oklahoma border (So, could be looking for Oklahoma predator). The city has a total area of 5.0 square miles. Interstates 40 and 540, as well as U.S. Routes 64 and 71, pass through the city. Also, as of the census of 2000, there were 4,160 people

7. It is unknown to the Director of her foundation that there may be a person in custody (as suggested by a poster on the WebSleuth's site), so that has not been confirmed.
Jashrema reports that the family does not consider their daughter's investigation as a "cold case" in that leads are still be received and investigated. She also stated that some of the information listed on the Charley Project's site appears to be outdated or in some way inaccurate.

Anyone with tips or questions about the case should contact authorities at the Alma Police Department (the lead investigating agency) at 479-632-3333.

Anyone with questions for Jashrema, or who would like to know more about this case or other missing persons are invited to go to the WebSleuth Forum.

Thank you to Jashrema for the great work she has done in compiling accurate information on Morgan’s disappearance, and allowing me to share on this blog.

The Yuppie 911

Here is an example of how technology can make the lives of public safety officials much more difficult:

Emergency responders around the U.S. are concerned about a growing trend, a practice they've dubbed "yuppie 9-1-1." It's when someone with limited survival skills goes out into the wilderness and then relies on technology as a safety net.

Locator beacons that hit global positioning satellites are increasingly being taken into the remote back country. And while the devices have saved lives, there have also been a number of false alarms and calls for help where there really was no emergency at all. Search and rescue leaders say hikers who cry wolf cost taxpayers money and put other lives in real danger.

The typical misuse involves inexperienced hikers who get cold or caught by some bad weather. Instead of waiting out the storm, they hit the 9-1-1 button.

But one case in Arizona was an extreme abuse. A father was camping with his son. He hit the S.O.S. on his GPS locator three times in three days. The last time was because he was dehydrated and drank from a stream. He panicked because the water tasted salty. Search teams did find the pair and after the third 'rescue' they order the two out of the wilderness.
And urban police officers thought they had the market cornered on job frustration.

Part IV: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person

Here are more of my thoughts on the Kathleen McBroom missing person case.

Ms. McBroom has not been seen since October 27, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska. Four days later, her truck was discovered abandoned by family members on a highway south of Anchorage. The vehicle contained her cell phone and other personal items.

In the previous post, I talked about Ms. McBroom's journal writings that appear to reveal a very stressful time at home (a teen daughter returning from a Utah rehabilitation center and forgoing some of her favorite foods in favor of dieting) as well as at work (problems with her supervisor, feeling overworked, and concerns about her professional future).

Note: I selected items from Kathleen’s blog that seem to fit within a plausible theory of her disappearance (accidental fall, left her present life to start over somewhere else, crime victim, etc.).

The case remains open, and my posts should not be considered conclusive proof of anything, but rather highlights of her writings.

And now more from the journal:

A) She enjoyed Alaska, but the limited federal career opportunities (for her to find another equivalent position) in the state added to her stress level.

For instance, in April of 2008, when asked where she would like to retire, Ms. McBroom responded that she never wanted to leave Alaska. She said that she moved to Anchorage 20 years ago and “fell in love with it instantly.”

Four months later, she reiterates her refusal to move from Alaska, and adds that she would outlast her current boss. She had 21 years in at the federal level and did not want to surrender that by leaving her position.
B) She had written at least two blog posts about abuses that she had suffered in her teen years (I don't see a need to provide the direct links from her journal).

C) She was attached to and seemed to crave the attention of friends that she had met through blogging.

D) In the months prior to her disappearance, back problems caused by a fall down a flight of stairs were affecting her physically and mentally.

--Despite wanting to attend, she stated that back pain kept her from her grandmother’s funeral.

--In at least two posts, she describes “zooming” and “being wasted” on her pain medications.

--Though she describes herself as an insomniac who needed little sleep, she admitted that her pain medications were making her drowsy. In this post, she discusses how her husband found her asleep in her truck which was parked in the driveway. Ms. McBroom wrote that she had intended to go mail some letters in the early evening, but obviously did not make it.
E) In previous posts, she provides some insight into life and death.

--She discusses death, and how you should not wait to tell your loved ones how you feel.

--In a series of personal questions and answers, she states:

“(If you were to die tomorrow…Would you tell anyone you were going to die?) probably not.”

--In another response she writes:

“(Where do you see yourself in 5 years)…not here. but wherever i am, i hope i will strive to be find the joy in the moments and those in my life.”

--Finally, when asked about suicide she offers this two-word response:

“an itch.”
I am going to stop here with this post. I apologize for not getting into some of the case issues raised by readers in the comments section, but hope to address that next time.

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Blowing 50 Grand in 48 Hours

There is a lesson to be learned from this:

NEWARK -- After just two days of operation, a gun buyback program in Newark was shut down today because it ran out of money.

"I didn’t expect this quick turnaround," Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said.

Newark police at a news conference today said they collected 339 weapons during a two-day gun buyback program held this week.

The 339 firearms collected in the 48 hours depleted the $50,000 in funds that were available for the program. The last time Newark held this program, in 2005, it collected 489 weapons over a 2 1/2-month period...
In the past two years, leaders in large US cities including Miami, Oakland, and San Francisco have become smitten with the idea of buying guns from citizens to make communities safer. Gun buyback programs offer residents cash (and in some amnesty) for pistols, rifles, and shotguns turned into police.

These events offer some politicians and police executives the chance to host a feel-good show and reassure others that their community is much safer now that dangerous firearms have been removed from the street.

So, what is wrong with gun buyback initiatives?

Repeated empirical studies have shown that this approach has little if any effect on violent crime rates.

In his seminal work entitled PREVENTING CRIME: WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T, WHAT'S PROMISING, criminologist Dr. Lawrence Sherman said this:

…Gun buyback programs are based on two hypotheses. One is that the more guns in a community, the more gun violence there is. There is substantial evidence to support that claim (Reiss and Roth, 1993).

The second hypothesis, however, is not supported by the evidence. That hypothesis is that offering cash for guns in a city will reduce the number of incidents in which guns are used in crime in that city....

There are several reasons why buyback programs may fail to reduce gun violence:

• they often attract guns from areas far from the program city

• they may attract guns that are kept locked up at home, rather than being carried on the street

• potential gun offenders may use the cash from the buyback program to buy a new and potentially more lethal firearm; the buyback cash value for their old gun may exceed market value substantially.

The enormous expense of these programs is instructive.

When St. Louis invested $250,000 in gun buybacks in 1994, the same funds could have been used to match 250 children with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Those 250 children would then have enjoyed about half the risk of becoming drug users, at least for the first year (Tierney and Grossman with Resch, 1995). But the opportunity cost of the programs never entered into the debate.

Given their high cost and weak theoretical rationale, however, there seems little reason to invest in further testing of the idea...
The issue is not whether one opposes or supports gun control, but rather recognizing that funds are being spent on flawed initiatives.

Hey officials in Newark: please do some research into what works in reducing violent crime, invest your federal and local funds in strategies and programs with proven track records, and let your officers go back to policing.

If you do this, I am certain you'll be able to better invest the $50,000 spent in 48 hours instead of being concerned with grandma’s 1861 .58 caliber Enfield muzzleloader mounted above her fireplace.

Help I'm Alone Today: A Dad's Survival Guide

Note: I am still finishing a few of my missing persons posts (a topic that I like to start with on Monday), and hope to have at least one ready later in the week.

Until then, I offer this...


You’re a dad. Your wife is spending a well-deserved day away from home—shopping, visiting with friends or family, or just enjoying some child-free time.

Unfortunately for Dad, it is a cold and rainy day. There will be no outside activities. No park visits and your non-urban area offers little to assist fathers with kid-friendly entertainment (no mall, amusement parks, arcade, etc.).

How is a father supposed to entertain three children and still negotiate a stop at a hardware store to purchase a few odds and ends?

With a little creativity and patience, the information in this post may just turn you into a hero playmate in the eyes of your youngsters and perhaps even be considered a clever and responsible parent with respect to the Mrs.

I propose taking the kids to the giant box hardware store near you, Lowes or Home Depot, for a couple hours of directed fun for all.

How can a store containing treated lumber and hex bolts be interesting to children?

Well, here are my top 5 ways to kill 90 minutes with the family at this type of retailer:

Number 5: Cleaning Supplies
Kids can’t get enough of cleaning. I am not sure what age that this interest in scrubbing vanishes, but I say take advantage of it now. At the hardware place, the cleaning aisle is a hands-on playhouse for kids. Mops, brooms, scrub brushes, car washing accessories, and even a variety of different colored toilet brushes will keep those little ones busy for awhile.

Eventually, when the broom sword fighting becomes dangerous to innocent pedestrians, you can still buy a few additional minutes by grabbing a large yellow car wash sponge and doing your best Sponge Bob Square Pants impersonation.
Advantage: Home Depot—All this good stuff is in one place and in an area not frequented by paying customers.

Number 4: Carpets, Flooring, and Rugs
Carpet patches displayed in book-like setups at little kid eye level are a big hit. After watching them flip through 4 books of 30 carpet styles, I am even weary. Feeling the different textures on the flooring and the rug displays are also a big hit.
Advantage: Home Depot—Their rugs are hung on a vertically display and the kids can hide somewhat from their siblings.

Number 3: Toilets and Bathrooms
What can be more fun than trying a few commodes on for size? And why are children always interested in bathtubs until it is time to actually take a bath?
Advantage: Lowes—Their stylish sink displays including the metallic looks hold the children’s attention for more than a few minutes.

Number 2: Faucets
This is the favorite regular aisle for the little people. Numerous faucets, shower fixtures, and kitchen hoses, hanging at lower levels are irresistible for kids wanting to turn, push, and pull. Even displays of plumbers tape with different colored containers like red, green, and yellow have made for improvised games of matching.
Advantage: Home Depot—Lowe’s displays are all out of reach for the little ones, while HD has faucets at just the right height for a three-year old.

Number 1: Outdoor Sheds
Nothing is as close to a kid’s clubhouse as an outdoor shed on display at one of these stores. The kids take advantage of the variety of sheds and go in and out numerous times before eventually identifying a favorite.

Many of these wooden and metal structures contain display cases that always need to be rearranged according to a kid’s needs and desires. A few models even have front and side doors that allow for a guessing game of which door will the child enter through next?
Advantage: Home Depot—The sheds are lined up against a curb which means I don’t have to worry about cars on any road behind.

Seasonable Honorable Mention: Holiday Displays
If you are fortunate enough to have access to the Halloween or Christmas displays at these stores, your kids can be in for a real treat. The giant snowmen, Santa Claus on a teeter-totter, or Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer always bring a smile (pumpkins or whatever for Halloween is neat as well).

And what is better than watching little kids push the demo buttons on 26 (yes, I counted) large display snow globes so that they are all playing holiday music simultaneously?
This is not a comprehensive list of ways to play at a hardware store, and with a little creativity, I am sure you will develop other ideas for entertainment.

In sum, follow this tour guide the next time you visit your favorite box hardware store with young sons and daughters, and you’ll leave the store’s parking lot with tired children as well as the few needed parts for that home project.

Most importantly, upon her return, the Mrs. will receive glowing reports from the children regarding how great of a host Dad can be.

Homeless Man Speaks

People start online journals for a variety of reasons.

Some connect with their friends and family. Others want a pulpit to speak from on specific topics. For some, blogging is simply a good way to practice writing.

Still other journals were started with a greater purpose. They contain poignant and unique messages that bolster a reader’s understanding of an issue or the world.

One such journal is Homeless Man Speaks; a blog that features citizen "Philip’s" regular exchanges with a homeless man named "Tony" in Toronto, Canada:

...I’ve known Tony for about 5 years. I estimate that he’s about 55 yrs old. Tony spends most days coaxing a dime or a quarter or a dollar or a fiver from folks walking by, familiar and not.

From what I can tell, Tony finances his life one meal at a time, plus the cost of a bed for the evening when he can collect enough money. Most mornings, I find him perched on a stack of milk crates, near my favourite coffee shop.

Tony’s cap acts as a nest for loose change, and his small cardboard signs attempt to catch your eye and your heart. I see him most days at around 8am when he’s generally “working on” breakfast...
Philip has detailed Tony’s experience (including jail, illnesses, and hospital visits) for about four years now.

One post of Tony and Philip that caught my eye dovetails well with a story that Cst. Sandra Glendinning (Vancouver Police Department) told about a homeless man who helped her during a fight with an arrestee. Tony's post is entitled "Just Doing Their Job":

“You hear about the old guy who got jumped down Ronces earlier?”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know but next thing you know, there’s six cop cars right there. You can say what you want about our cops but they sure can do their job when they need to.”
Very few of us citizens will experience life as a police officer or as a homeless person, but the wealth of information available through blogs like these will certainly give us a better understanding of the world around us.

Part III: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person

This is my third post on the disappearance of Kathleen McBroom.

On October 27, 2008, Ms. McBroom did not arrive at her workplace, a federal government facility in Anchorage, Alaska, and was reported missing by her family the next day. Her truck was found abandoned on a highway south of Anchorage along with her cell phone and other personal items (recovered inside the vehicle).


3) In my novice opinion, what aspects of the case are odd and/or important?

In General

--I am not familiar with the area, but believe that Ms. McBroom lived in Anchorage and the news articles list her employer as the US Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage. I mapped the approximate location her vehicle was recovered, and that section of the Seward Highway near Girdwood is well south of her employer (and I assume her residence as well).

--Assuming that she started work at 0800 or 0830 like most federal jobs, if she was encountered by police at 0830 on a road well south of her job, she had either changed her mind about work or something happened to cause her to detour from her planned route.

--In the news article, it states that she was wearing walking shoes and not shoes typically worn to work.

--The land surrounding the Seward Highway near Girdwood is described as rugged. The specific area where Ms. McBroom's truck was recovered includes cliffs, drop-offs, and an estimated 30 foot surf in the waters below the highway on the day she went missing.

--Another article states that she had struggled in the past with bipolar disorder.

From Her Journal

--Her 16 year old daughter had just returned home from a residential treatment center in Utah for a week’s visit. Ms. McBroom was concerned how her daughters would get along, but stated things were going well with her family.

--Her professional life was very important to her. She indicates several times in the journal that she was unable to be proactive due to the volume of her workload, and it bothered her. She was concerned about the future of her career:

...i think i am bored and wanting to move on, to step outside of my comfort zone. and i think the thought of staying in my present career field until i retire at age 55 (that’s 15 more years) sounds stifling. i feel this urge that i want to explore something else and staying another 15 years in the same field feels depressing to me. i’m not sure what to do...

--She felt her career was missing something:

…but i crave something career wise that i can’t quite put my finger on yet. and i think i am kind of afraid to do something about it right now. but i feel this some kind of itch that i can’t quite reach yet. and i think i likely will keep feeling this itch until i find what it is. i’m not done looking.

--The federal fiscal year ends on September 30, and Ms. McBroom makes mention that her workload had become almost unbearable-—but she reported it getting better due to less overtime as noted on September 24.

--She was aggressively dieting. Ms. McBroom reported losing over 33 lbs. since JAN of 2008, had changed her eating habits, and increased her physical activity (e.g. climbing stairs).

I'll continue next time with several surprising entries from Ms. McBroom's journal.

Previous posts in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Note: Image was used from this site.

Questionable Safety Tips

The Mrs. handed me a sheet of paper that she had received at work. A co-worker had been passing them out to others, and felt it offered priceless advice to prevent abductions and attacks.

The title of the handout is: Safety Tips from Abduction or Attack.

Listed were 10 “…things to do in an emergency situation.”

I read the recommendations and the explanations. Some made sense, others were questionable. The list is a bit long so I won’t reprint it, but you can see the handout here.

Perhaps, you may have seen these recommendations previously or received a similar email.

As the historian in me took charge, I quickly Googled some of the handout’s contents to determine its origin—and Snopes provided the answer.

Versions of the list have been around for eight years and are believed to be derived from notes of an attendee of safety consultant Pat Malone’s workshops.

There are good common sense points included like: 1) avoid taking the stairs in large buildings, 2) be aware of your surroundings, and 3) if you are thrown into the trunk of a car, try to kick the back tail lights out as an option (looking to see if there is a trunk release lever is also wise).

As with many of these Internet lists, there is also questionable advice such as:

The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to your attacker to use it, do!
Using your elbow may be a good tactic, but chemical spray, stun guns, eye gouging, kicks to the lower lower mid section, or running and screaming may be more viable depending on the situation and the victim.

Advising folks to start swinging elbows in an incident as the best choice could certainly be counterproductive.

Some of the directive’s content is also concerning:
If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, Always run! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then it most likely will not be a vital organ…
Different situations may require different responses—telling a victim to “always run” does not recognize the diversity that exists in criminal encounters (I have never seen the 4% chance of being hit stat before).

Also, the "don’t worry, you are not likely to be shot in an appendage that you need" comment reminded me of the Old Western movie where the hero is pointing a two-shot derringer gun at a group of four bad guys. One of the bad guys says: "come on boys he can only take out a couple of us before we get him."

The hero then responds with: "Which two of you are going to take the bullets?" To which none of the four assailants advance.

Now which four of us "running victims" are going to take the bullets?

Finally, the last two recommendations relate to alleged ploys by criminals to get you to open your front door at night—one involving turning on all of the water faucets and another using recorded cries of a baby.

Being careful about opening your front door at night, regardless of the reason, is simply good advice, but the specific scare reference in the document to a serial killer using the latter tactic in Louisiana has been shown to be unfounded.

In sum, the document contains items to think about regarding personal safety, but falls short as an appropriate guide to prevent/escape from abductions and attacks.

What is the most surprising thing about the list?

That it is posted to the Carrington (ND) Police Department’s website as a form available for citizens. I hope this is an oversight, and they are not portraying this flawed document as the gospel on safety.

Now that would be a serious gaffe...


Note: The photo is of the Stun Master 200.

A Few Words on Fort Hood

I expect a few things after the recent tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas.

Leaders and politicians will assure us that measures are being adopted to prevent this from happening again. The media will publicize the stories of relatives, acquaintances, and co-workers of the accused shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan--trying to determine how many warning signs were missed.

The families of the victims will bury their dead loved ones: parents, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, soldiers, and comrades.

Finally, a few months from now, a report will be issued that, among many concerning issues identified after studying this mass murder, discusses how the executives and employees of federal agencies don't communicate very well with each other.

One element that I do not anticipate being covered in the media or the lengthy post-incident reports relates to organizational structure and control in the military.

The armed services use a very strict disciplinary and supervisory style. The "militaristic system" is designed to tightly control the behaviors of soldiers; especially the actions of lower-level employees (e.g, privates and corporals). The lower the rank of the solider, the greater the constraints and risk for disciplinary action.

With police agencies using quasi-militaristic organizational structures, this observation is applicable to law enforcement as well. The patrol officer has many more controlling eyes and ears on his or her behaviors as compared to a precinct's captain.

Is it easier for a major in the US Army or a captain in the city's police department to display troubling behaviors that go unreported? Is the Internet use of command staff watched as closely as entry-level workers? What about vehicle use?

Would lower-ranking employees be hesitant to document suspicious actions of their supervisors' supervisor?

In the armed services and in policing, fewer controls are applied to those with higher rank as opposed to the grunt or the beat cop.

I pitched this idea to career USMC sergeant major Dad, and his quick response was:

Sure, that major could have waltzed in the front gate of the base with a howitzer, and not been challenged. At least he could in that branch of the service.
Despite dad's reply sprinkled with the usual healthy dose of rivalry that exists between the Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force, I still think that the alleged gunman's high rank played a factor in the failure/slow pace involved in investigating his behaviors prior to the attack.

I don't expect to see this issue addressed because it is difficult to modify the militaristic system--it has always been that way. Unfortunately, this incident shows that lives are at stake and reports (without fear of punishment) from lower level employees about potentially dangerous behaviors of ranking officials should be encouraged and not suppressed.

More Honest Scrap

Thanks (I think) to Christopher for the Honest Scrap Award.

In compliance with the rules, I nominate the following seven great bloggers for the same award:

Mappchik, Expat (oops, looks like he received it in August), BobKat, Sean F., JJ (don’t think the Centre Daily Times would appreciate you deviating from your charged blog topic), Katherine MG., and the fantastic Angelcel.

Also, here are ten things about me:

1) Despite living in several places in the US as a military brat, if I had been asked in undergraduate where I planned to live, the Northeastern US (where I am now), would be dead last. Even the Mrs., who is a native of the state we reside, has to agree with my comments about how unfriendly the people are and the cold weather being an annoyance.

2) In my junior year of high school, a college baseball coach (from a tiny college in Nebraska) called the house and was trying to recruit me for his team. I thanked him for the call, but had to laugh that he was either intoxicated when he saw me play or he mistook me for another player on the team. I was a good contact hitter with speed, but my lollipop arm is best suited for throwing dirty shirts in the laundry hamper.

3) I was lucky to be hired by the first police department that I applied to. Each agency is different in what makes a good candidate, but at larger agencies, where those selecting have some leeway once applicants are assigned a rating, a good GPA can make a difference. Whatever major a student pursues, advising him/her to excel academically is a no-brainer.

4) I met the Mrs. through my dog; which is odd because she is not a dog person.

5) My parents met and were married in Somalia. My father was an active-duty Marine and in charge of security at the American embassy (which no longer exists there). My mom worked for the CIA-—which, after leaving, she was not permitted to list on a resume for decades.

6) I believe that I know a little about a lot of things, and a lot about nothing.

7) At a football practice near the end of my senior season in high school, a very quiet assistant coach that I respected a great deal, reprimanded me in front of the team during wind sprints. Among the things he shouted: “Slam, you are the biggest underachiever on this team!” To this day, I can relive that exact moment--I see the yellow of the grass, the setting of the October sun, the other coaches staring at me, and the pounding of my feet as I ran faster-—this criticism continues to motivate me today as I can still hear the coach’s shrill voice.

8) I like to think that I do well by being prepared. I tend to immerse myself in research looking at the pros and cons so that I can argue a perspective effectively.

9) Since becoming a father several years ago, I define a good pair of pants or a pullover by the number of pockets for holding stuff (diapers, juice, Kleenexes, etc.) that is included.

10) Recently, I saw a family Thanksgiving picture taken when I was eleven or twelve years old. Of the ten relatives there, four are deceased and three I have not talked with directly more than once in twenty years. This disappointing revelation certainly puts the upcoming holiday in perspective, and emphasizes the need for me to treasure every moment of time with family.

What Makes a Picture More than a Picture

I had several items to pick from for today's entry, but will go with an unplanned one after a visit over at William Twitty's photography site.

His post features this image that was the day before yesterday's winner of National Geographic's Photo of the Day competition.

Often, excellent photographs are backed by a powerful message. Gemma Collier's fantastic winning entry had this text attached:

My grandfather was born and raised on our New Zealand farm. He and my grandmother were married nearly 60 years. Preparing for a photo in the barley, my grandmother lovingly reached up to adjust his hat. This was his last harvest.
The photo, coupled with Chuck Mullis' reference to a blog post entitled "There's Always a Day Before", makes for an inspirational weekend reflection topic.

Should I Be Concerned?

After a recent visit to the Little League World Series Museum and sprinting the 60 feet from home plate to first base, should I be more concerned that I was sore two days later or that my three-year old daughter's best time was 4.70 seconds--uncomfortably close to my fastest run at 2.80 seconds?

Note: The picture is from this site.

Part II: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person

Note: This is my second post on the disappearance of Kathleen McBroom.

In sum, she did not arrive as expected at her workplace, a federal government facility in Anchorage, Alaska on October 27, 2008 , and was reported missing by her family the next day. Her truck was found abandoned on a highway south of Anchorage along with her cell phone and other personal items (recovered inside the vehicle).

After realizing that Ms. McBroom's blog contains several years worth of posts that I wanted to review, I have decided to make this a series (instead of two posts as I had indicated previously).

In the initial post, I stated that I wanted to address three questions.

1) Is it helpful that the missing woman kept an online diary or blog of her thoughts and activities?

Absolutely. It is evident that Ms. McBroom enjoyed writing. Her blog contains 82 posts between 2004 and 2007. In 2008, she published over 240 entries. Included in her posts were discussions about family, faith, career, life-perspective as well as several short stories and an unfinished novel.

A detective interested in learning more about Ms. McBroom, especially her thoughts and concerns, would be glad to have this online diary. As an added bonus for authorities, Ms. McBroom's posts are frequent and detailed up until the day she vanished.

I'll discuss specifics about Ms. McBroom's blog in a later post, but one example of the potentially valuable information that can be gleaned from the writings is her dislike of her current employment. She describes multiple times in the blog her distaste for her boss, and how it was negatively impacting her.

In reading the reports, her boss evidently was unaware of Ms. McBroom's difficulties. Her family would have provided this information to investigators, but having her personal writings allows for a better understanding into how this was affecting her.

2) What did readers of her blog do to assist in the missing persons case?

When I first learned of the case, I tried to Google "Sheila McBroom" and was disappointed to see only a couple of related news stories. Searching for her by her preferred name of "Kathleen McBroom" provides more news stories, other bloggers who have posted about the case, and a missing person discussion forum.

Ms. McBroom's blogger friends were disappointed at the initial attention given to the case by media. Determined to do something, Blogger Tara contacted the Anchorage Police Department, along with some of the local news organizations inquiring why Ms. McBroom's story had not been published/aired. At the time, the local newspaper indicated that they had not received notice from authorities.

To help things move forward, one blogger even provided a picture of the missing woman to her employer (since she had lost weight)--agency reps then distributed missing person flyers to neighboring organizations.

Television and newspaper reports did eventually get published about the missing woman, but it is the bloggers who have organized the information on this story and are keeping it alive on the Internet.

In a missing persons case, it is essential that the public be connected to the person's information. Oddly, I did not find any mention of Ms. McBroom on the Anchorage Police Department’s website.

In fact, the only listing of missing persons in the city is found on the agency’s Crime Stopper page—-the last case highlighted was 2004.

Further, the Alaska State Troopers website on missing persons lists 72 active missing person cases with photographs—-Ms. McBroom’s information is not listed there either.

By not posting recent cases that authorities are actively soliciting the public’s help (both locally and nationally) with, investigators could certainly be missing out on valuable leads.


I'll continue in the next post with the unusual aspects of this case, and a look at her blog. I'll also request that local and state authorities add her case to their online lists of missing person investigations.

The previous post in this series can be accessed by clicking "Kathleen McBroom" on the left margin of the home page or a list of historical posts is here.

Part I: Kathleen McBroom Missing Person

Note: Due to my usual long-windedness, I had to separate this into multiple posts. Here goes the first part...

Knowing my interest in missing person cases, talented photographer and blogger Oz Girl told me about the investigation into the disappearance of Sheila Kathleen (Beany) McBroom. Ms. McBroom has not been heard from now for more than a year.

ABC News in Anchorage (AK) summarized the story:

Along the Seward Highway, between the towering cliffs of exposed rock and the fast-icing waters of Turnagain Arm, an abandoned pickup found last month looked to be a promising lead in the search for a woman who vanished on her way to work.

Alaska State Police have been searching for Sheila Kathleen McBroom since she disappeared last month on her way to work.

But inside the green 1996 GMC, found some six miles below McHugh Creek on Oct. 31, the belongings of Sheila Kathleen McBroom, 40, remained untouched.* There were no signs of foul play, nothing wrong with the car suggesting mechanical malfunction, no suicide note.

In the days since the discovery, not a single person has reported seeing McBroom.

A wife and mother, McBroom, who went by Kathleen, was supposedly heading for work the Monday morning she vanished...
*Note: from the other articles on this story, the vehicle was recovered earlier than 10/31/08 (likely 10/27).

Several other aspects to the story are interesting.

On the morning that the missing woman did not arrive at work, police were notified about a pickup truck driving erratically. From some of the related comments, a truck driver reportedly saw the woman's vehicle strike a guardrail, and the driver appeared disoriented.

The responding officer stopped and interviewed the truck's driver Ms. McBroom. He reportedly initiated one or more field sobriety tests (which she evidently passed), and the officer released her. It was reported that Ms. McBroom was tired and going to take a nap in her truck on a pullout on the side of the highway.

Her family reported Ms. McBroom missing the next day when she had not returned home from work and had not answered multiple calls to her cell phone.

Blogger Tara over at "If Mom Says It is Ok" has done a fantastic job in organizing the scattered information available on the case.

Several questions that I'll explore:

1) Is it helpful that the missing woman kept an online diary or blog of her thoughts and activities?

2) What did readers of her blog do to assist in the missing persons case?

3) In my novice opinion, what aspects of the case are odd and/or important?
I'll continue this discussion in Part II

Photo was used from this site.