Locating a Fugitive: An Example

The following is not meant to disclose any clandestine law enforcement approaches used to locate a wanted person--I have been away from the profession long enough not to remember any.

This is a simple exercise showing how a search engine can help to find a fugitive.

Unfortunately, with over 17,000 police departments, sheriff departments, and other agencies enforcing laws in the 50 states, the return process of the individual in question can be frustrating and confusing--as in finding him/her may be the easy part.

STEP #1: Review the Fugitive's Information 

Year of Birth: 1982
Charge: Probation Violation
Agency: Metropolitan Nashville Police (TN)

My Notes: The unusual spelling of her first name will make it much easier to find information about her--or tell you quickly that there is little to be located online.  Also, "probation violation" does not offer much about her original convictions--the charges could have been anything from shoplifting to DUI to armed robbery.

STEP #2: Use the Search Engine
Googling Vanessia Compton in quotes returns two pages of records.  

The first link is a Myspace page to Vanessia Lynn Johnson, a 28 year old female in Michigan.

What is relevant on this Myspace page?    
  • Her birth date and the photos.
  • She states she is married.
  • She lists a married name. 
  • She describes her employer and also the jurisdiction that she lives.
  • She logged into the account last month. 
  • The photo commentaries describe how her mom and step-father live in Michigan while her Dad and step-mother live in middle Tennessee. 
  • She has a list of friends. 

STEP #3: Rerun the Searches and Exam the Results
When I conducted this search a few weeks ago, on page two of the record, a bridal registry account was listed at the popular retailer Target (it no longer appears). 

Why is this important?
It revealed that she was married within the last year, and that her new husband's name is Johnson--with the first name Baylen.

Over on her Myspace page friends, Baylen is friend #1 and he describes his employer in Rockwood, Michigan.

STEP #4: Summarize the Information and Submit It to Authorities
I have reason to believe that fugitive from Nashville, Vanessia Compton, also known as Vanessia Johnson or Vanessia Compton-Johnson, is now married and lives in Michigan.  

Her home address is not known, but her husband's employer information and address are listed--as well as possible specifics about where Ms. Compton-Johnson lives and works.

She has family in Michigan and Tennessee.

STEP #5: The Result
Unfortunately in this case, Ms. Compton-Johnson's warrant does not include extradition from Michigan, so police in Michigan will not arrest her.

Often for charges that do not involve violent crime, the issuing jurisdiction will not want to pay to return a wanted person from several states away as they can't afford the transportation costs.  As a result, authorities will not authorize an out-of-state arrest for a fugitive.

So what do Tennessee authorities do?

They can contact the fugitive and try to talk her into turning herself in, or they can just wait for her to return to their state so that she can then be apprehend.

What is the most important thing that Tennessee authorities gleaned from the information submitted?

That Ms. Compton is now Ms. Compton-Johnson or Ms. Johnson.  

Without this information, if the wanted person is detained during a traffic stop, she may hand the officer a Michigan Driver's Licence with the name Vanessia Johnson.  

The TN officer could run the name for warrants and have the computer return nothing--since the warrant is for Vanessia Compton.
Now, they can associate Compton to Compton-Johnson and Johnson; and, thereby increasing the chance that her outstanding warrant is served so that she is returned to court to face the pending charges.  
Complex?  Yes.

Frustrating?  Yeppers.

Policing in America?  Prime example. 


Momma Fargo said...

Right on. You rock. And no extradiction stinks. Hate those type of warrants. Course, I like to get rid of other state's problems, so I want to send them back. Perhaps we could change the system as a whole and the US wouldn't have so many fugitives. Wishful thinking.

Dan said...

I worry about the other side. The people falsely rousted for having the same name. The people who are in no way related to the person of interest.

I think our forefathers got it right - better to let a guilty man go free than to falsely imprison anyone. Same goes for using easily falsified internet information to assign fault.

Creepy Query Girl said...

wow. Its crazy that you could find so much information and that the police hadn't even thought of going that extra step. Can I ask something? What does it take for a fugitive to be of national interest?

chuckmullis said...

It's amazing what you can do with the internet, much less, Google. It's also amazing how a little "elbow grease" can produce results if your willing to work at it a little bit. Very informative! Thanks.

Slamdunk said...

@ Dan: This is why Step #5 is important--notifying the authorities so that they can verify and pursue the person in question.

There is no more concern of "false imprisonment" due to Internet tracking than with any other type of approach to locating fugitives. With Internet tracking, I would argue that it offers a better chance and providing accurate information to police since you get to compare photos, birth info., etc.

With this case, I only used an example where authorities verified the individual in question.

@ CQG: Great question. If I understand it correctly, federal agencies, state agencies, and locals each have lists of fugitives that they select to market to the public as wanted. The FBI's Most Wanted is the most widely known, and they use criteria to determine who makes the list. The media also can play a role in publicizing who they think are fugitives of national concern.

So, in answer to your question, a number of factors play into what fugitive cases draw national attention.

WomanHonorThyself said...

thanks Slam...I had no idea that type of info was readily accessible..Have an awesome day..another scorcher in NYC!..:)

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
The extradition problem, and the records problem, seem to me to be huge for local agencies. To have this made a national database seems really important to me.

1. I have also seen where it is important for bad medical personnel, who are charged/convicted for bad things but just move to another state and resume practice.

2. Every time the locals have to start from scratch it delays things.

That's not a well-framed argument, but . . . just thinking out loud.

Thanks for a great post.
Ann T.

Clara said...

That was awesome Slam. You`re like my new superhero! And she was very careless! I mean if you are a fugitive, the last thing you`d want to do is put on a facebook page.

Oh well!

J. J. in Phila said...

I kind of agree with Dan, at least to an extent.

My name is not unique and I've occasionally had calls from people for the wrong person.

I think it is a good start, but if the police are not willing to get the person, why should we be looking for them?

An "extraditable fugitive" list might be better.

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Very intersting post. Now I know what NOT to put on my social media pages!

Kristin said...

Their jobs are certainly not easy. That's for sure!

izziedarling said...

This is excellent,SD. At my former job, I had to do all sorts of internet sluething (sp?); love it. Law & Order is a mess in this country.

jodeeluna said...

Ok, this is freaking me out a little. Some crazy could find me. We bloggers really leave a google trail.

I will keep this post in mind when I want to locate my daughter the next time :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

Unbelievable frustrating. So technically, one could commit a minimum of 50 crimes and just keep moving?

Rachel Cotterill said...

I'd never really thought about how these things would work across state boundaries - not an issue we have in the UK. Interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Lmao wow I see her all the time didn't know all this about her though.

Anonymous said...

Lmao wow I see her all the time didn't know all this about her though.