Unauthorized Video

The damage that unauthorized video tapes can do to a person professionally and personally is unmeasured.  

Unfortunately, we currently have private family footage of our four-year-old daughter, "Sissy," smiling while using her hand and armpit to replicate the unmistakable sound of loud flatulence.

It is obvious that she spends too much time with her two brothers.

If these tapes are released to the public in the future, it could very well cost her an important election, a job or promotion, or maybe even prevent her entry into Harvard or Yale.

For the time being, she is focused on the short-term and content with impressing her father and siblings.



No, I did not correct Sissy's stance and arm angle to deliver maximum noise. 

Ok, maybe a little. 

Well, at least my instruction was not recorded...

Low Speed Chase

With the interest in corn thefts from my last post on Tuesday (7/27/10), I'll have to highlight one of these crimes in a future post. 

Today, I offer this in relation to rural crime...

Ok, remember last week when I posted about the family encountering an Amish buggy while visiting a local farm market? 

Well just to clarify, this is not the same buggy:
(LEON, NEW YORK)  Levi Detweiler, a 17-year-old Amish youth, allegedly led sheriff's deputies on a mile-long, presumably low-speed chase, after running a stop sign in his horse and buggy and refusing to pull over...

Deputies said they spotted Detweiler ignoring the stop sign last week. According to police, the teen then led them on a chase that ended when he lost control on a sharp turn into a driveway and overturned the buggy into a ditch.

He then fled on foot...

The Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office said that after a week-long investigation they have arrested and charged Detweiler with underage possession of alcohol, overdriving an animal, reckless endangerment, failure to stop at a stop sign and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

The Amish teen was arrested, charged and is being held on $500 bond at the Cattaraugus County Jail.
Did you notice that one of the charges was "Overdriving an Animal?" 

I had to research that obscure law, but the action is covered by NY Code Section 353 and is a violation chargeable as a misdemeanor.

Anyway, I think young Levi may be soon shoveling lots of horse dung as part of his community service for this grand equine escape.

The photo is from the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office.

Flashing Red

This is from a small town newspaper...
The stoplight at the intersection of Main and Twelfth Streets went down Tuesday evening causing motorists to be confused by a four-way stop sign and flashing lights. Guymon's Director of Transportation explained that the part to fix the light was immediately ordered and the light should be working by mid-morning Thursday.

 What is more entertaining about this story:

A) That the "four-way stop sign and flashing lights" confused local motorists; or

B) That the newspaper considered the light malfunction important enough to cover?

Living in a small community, we find humor in the "hot crimes" and police activity featured in our hometown newspaper (not that I subscribe or anything).

Mailbox vandalism, corn theft, and property damage traffic collisions are all of interest and discussed by the locals. 

After a frustrating drive through construction near our home yesterday, perhaps our local press will educate area drivers with Guymon's traffic story--reinforcing the meaning of flashing red lights at an intersection.

The photo is from here. 

Jenna Lord Homicide Victim

The following features a missing person case that was updated to a homicide investigation last week.

Case Summary

Jenna Lord, a 23-year-old mother who lived near Philadelphia, was last seen alive by her relatives at a July 4th family barbecue.  On the morning of July 5,  she called her family from a train station in Camden, New Jersey to say she was on her way home. 

She didn't arrive and was reported missing soon thereafter.  Investigators found video footage to verify that Lord had been at the Camden train station on 7/5.

For the next two weeks, Lord's mother, Desiree Caruso, and other relatives spent time daily walking through Camden, distributing flyers, and talking to people about the missing woman.

On July 18, over 50 volunteers along with a police escort conducted a ground search in Camden.  Sadly, Jenna's decomposing body was found by one of the searchers (her uncle) in a vacant lot behind some bushes.


I had a few observations on this case:

1) The Victim's Family Was Outspoken and Proactive

Unhappy with the progress of the investigation, the family searched for the missing woman on their own.  The victim's mother and other relatives made multiple trips to Camden, and the large search conducted on 7/18 was coordinated by family members via a Facebook group.

2) The Victim's Background

The victim had reportedly been arrested several times and supposedly had substance abuse issues. When a person with those characteristics go missing, it adds more complexity to the investigation--as in the individual's disappearance is more likely to be viewed as he/she chose to vanish and/or is hiding intentionally (as compared to a missing person with a clean record).

3) Jurisdiction Confusion Caused Delays

There was confusion over who should conduct the investigation which resulted in delays:
Collingdale (PA) Police Chief Robert Adams said that the police search for Lord had been delayed by a question of jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania, he said, police in the town where the person goes missing lead the search. But in New Jersey, the search is headed by police where the missing person lives, Adams said.
An article from 7/13 shows more of the confusion in who is the lead investigating agency:
...It's still unclear which police department is in charge of the investigation. Caruso reported Lord missing to the Collingdale police, but Adams said the investigation should be conducted by a department in New Jersey.

"She's in the [system] as a missing person, there's no argument there," he said. "She was last seen in [New Jersey]."

Caruso said she was dealing with the Camden police but a spokeswoman said the case was being handled by Collingswood. Collingswood authorities said they checked out the apartment Lord visited but that's all.

"We're not really handling it," said Collingswood Police Chief Richard Sarlo.
A week into the case and three agencies are involved and following leads, but no one is spearheading the investigation? 

4) Less than One-Third of a Mile

Running the relevant addresses on MapQuest (Where she was last seen: Walter Rand Transportation Center and where her body was recovered: Division and S. Fifth), Jenna Lord's body was found by family members four blocks or about 1,700 feet from where she was last seen.


According to this article, representatives from the three police agencies involved met on July 15 to discuss the jurisdiction problems--assuming Lord was reported missing on July 6 or 7, that would mean 8-9 days elapsed with no one in charge of the case.

Recently, I was critical of NYC authorities about jurisdiction issues--and that was over a non-violent theft report. 

I can't imagine the Lord family's frustration with the lack of visible leadership in this now-turned homicide case.

I hope that having the family members of a missing person scouring the high-crime neighborhoods of Camden on their own initiative only to find their loved one's deceased body 1,700 feet from where she was last seen, is enough to convince Pennsylvania and New Jersey authorities to meet and quickly decide how to better handle the jurisdiction questions presented by this type of case in the future.

I am not necessarily criticizing police for not conducting a ground search near the train station, but do believe that citizen moms, dads, spouses, and other relatives of missing persons deserve more than the run-around, confusion, and avoidable delays after reporting a woman missing--a case that morphed into a violent crime.

The photo was used from here.

July 24th: A Rerun

Thank you to blogger Hilary of The Smitten Image for recognizing my recent post "Low Sodium Diet" with her Post of the Week award.

I am honored that others humor me as I continue to share my embarrassing moments on this blog.

In any event, I am running the following post a day early since 7/24 is Saturday. 

I posted these thoughts, entitled simply July 24th,  last year on this memorable day from my past.

Is there one date on the calendar that has enormous significance to you?


I hope everyone has a great weekend. 

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. 

Summer Dream on the Farm

Note: "Luka" is our just-turned four-year-old son who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder called Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and "Sissy" is his energetic twin sister.

Waves of corn encompass us as we watch the playful pig wallow.

A rooster crows.

Two goats pace high atop their wooden perch waiting for a handful of pellets.

An early start to visit our favorite farm is always a welcome adventure for the little ones.

A great time made even better knowing that with only Dad around, the odds of eating ice cream at the farm's market before 10 am are excellent.

Sissy sprints to the top of the S-shaped slide and then drops to the ground with a smile and a whoosh of body motion under the cloudless azure sky.

Luka climbs on a rusty red tractor and pretends to drive--a piece of machinery that is now an integral part of the farm's playground.

A horse and buggy carrying an Amish family approaches us along the road--the bearded father in his traditional outfit and straw hat holding the reins while his wife, wearing a long dress, is seated next to him. A young child with overall straps and wearing a hat like his dad sits facing the back.

Luka sees them and yells: "Look, Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

He then breaks into a loud and stuttered rendition of the classic nursery rhyme Old MacDonald complete with the appropriate neighing in honor of the stocky work horse that is passing.

Hearing the comment and the song, the Amish family turns and smiles in unison.

The father and mother wave to little Luka who is still singing atop the tractor.

The carriage then disappears beyond a copse of trees.

I am not sure how this day could begin any better.

Guest Blogger: Missing Child Kyron Horman

The content of the following post on missing child Kyron Horman is the opinion of today's guest blogger, Crime Buff, based on his personal and professional experience.  

Case Summary:

Seven-year-old Kyron Horman was last seen in the early morning hours on June 4, 2010 at a science fair at Skyline Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.   He was reported missing that afternoon when he did not return home from the school.  Authorities have reportedly administered two polygraph examinations on Kyron's stepmother, Terri Horman.    

A comprehensive list of stories and court documents related to the case are listed here. 

And now Crime Buff...

I am a licensed private investigator with 23 years of experience in civil litigation. I have answered several questions about Kyron’s case based on my experience and accounts published on the internet.

Who is responsible for Kyron’s disappearance?

There are three possibilities: 1. Terri Horman alone is responsible for Kyron’s disappearance. 2. Terri Horman is responsible for Kyron’s disappearance, and had the assistance of a third party. 3. Some third party is responsible, acting alone or with other third parties.

Will Kyron Horman be found alive?

No. The probability of finding Kyron alive after more than 30 days is exceedingly low.

Is Terri Horman a suspect in Kyron Horman’s disappearance?

Yes. In such an investigation, detectives must first rule out certain individuals who history indicates are most often culprits. The first group is the missing person’s immediate family. The next group is the people who were last seen in the company of the victim. Terri must be examined closely because she is part of the victim’s immediate family, and she was the last person seen with the victim. Until she is ruled out as a suspect, she will remain a focus of the investigation – rightly or wrongly.

Do the police have probable cause to arrest Terri Horman for Kyron Horman’s disappearance?

Not likely. If the police had probable cause to arrest her they most likely would have done so within the first few weeks of the investigation, in order to attempt to secure an incriminating statement or confession within the context of a custodial interrogation. Because of the dearth of independent evidence, this would have been their best opportunity to establish her involvement in Kyron’s disappearance.

Would a grand jury indict Terri Horman for kidnapping or murder?

Yes. A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.

Would a jury convict Terri Horman of kidnapping or murder?

Yes. A Multnomah County jury would jury convict Terri Horman of kidnapping or murder or terrorism or any number of other offenses.

What’s the big hold up then?

The biggest problem at the moment – based on information available to the public – is that there is no direct evidence that Terri Horman carried out any criminal act. Moreover there is no impressive circumstantial evidence that she did anything illegal.

What about the cell phone pings on Sauvie Island and the failed polygraph tests?

The pings on Sauvie Island are circumstantial evidence that she was on the island. This would be relevant if the victim’s body (or other evidence of a crime) were found on the island. No such evidence was ever identified despite numerous searches. Accordingly the pings are irrelevant to the case at this time. The polygraph examinations are unreliable, inadmissible, and insufficient to establish guilt in a legal sense.

Could she actually be responsible for Kyron’s disappearance, and yet leave absolutely no evidence with which to convict her?

Yes. It’s possible. Remember CSI was her favorite show; she might have spent months cooking up a scheme that left no trail.

If she’s actually responsible what should she be doing right now?

If she’s actually responsible, the best thing for her to do is to hire the best criminal defense attorney she can afford, keep her mouth shut, and stay inside her house.

If she’s actually innocent what should she be doing right now?

At this point, if she is actually innocent, the best thing for her to do is to hire the best criminal defense attorney she can afford, keep her mouth shut, and stay inside her house.

If she had assistance in causing Kyron’s disappearance, who would help her do such a thing?

Her 16-year-old biological son, from a previous marriage. She seems skilled at manipulating other people to achieve her own objectives. Children crave their mother’s love and approval. They are particularly susceptible to manipulation. If she had help, the person most likely to help her would be her 16-year-old biological son.

Is it possible that she is not involved?

Yes. Kyron may have been the victim of foul play at the hands of an unrelated person. The school was open to the general community on the day of his disappearance. It is entirely possible that he was kidnapped from the school, or he was victimized on the school grounds, and his body removed thereafter.

Who would have the confidence to do such an act?

Someone who knew the school and grounds well, possibly a former employee, a family member of a past or present school employee, or a sibling of one of the students.

If you were on a jury, would you vote to convict Terri Horman, based on her bizarre behavior and the circumstances described in the press accounts and on the internet?

No. Although we have all concluded in our hearts that she is most likely responsible, the available facts are simply insufficient. It is a basic principle of American jurisprudence that it is better to let ten guilty people walk free, than to convict one innocent person.

Thanks again to Crime Buff for his analysis on this sad disappearance. 

*The photo was used from here.

25 Secrets Revealed

The talented LisaF over at Peripheral Perceptions tagged me with disclosing 25 things about me.

So here are 25 dark secrets bland revelations about the all too often clueless author of this blog:
1) I have been told that my eyes appear green or blue depending on a variety of factors.

2) I was always known as the fastest running kid in school. I finished first in fitness in my police academy class. I am certainly now not considered the fastest dad.

3) I have little fashion sense. If I can exit the house without hearing a "Oh, you are not wearing that," I assume I have passed the daily wardrobe test.

4) In the school district that I attended, I went to the smallest elementary school in the state and then graduated from the largest high school in the state.

5) At 21, I was the second youngest person in my police academy class, and a few years later was the youngest supervisor in my agency.

6) My mother passed away several years ago, but she met and married my father in Somalia (I have blogged before that she worked for the CIA and my father was an active-duty Marine).  About two years before her death, they bought a retirement home across the street from the ocean in South Texas on North Padre Island. Both agreed that the wicked heat and humidity reminded them of the good times they had in Africa.

7) Our twins celebrated their 4th birthdays recently. I have no idea where the time has gone.

8) My drug of choice is salt.  I would definitely choose salt and vinegar potato chips over any dessert offering.

9) I like spicy foods, but my wife hates almost everything with kick.  As a result, I rarely eat spicy foods.

10) I took several years of Spanish in high school and college, and have always been disappointed with myself that I have not developed a working knowledge of the language.  It is just from lack of practice.

11) I don't sleepwalk, but my brother does.  It can be scary.  As a child, I would always tell him of what weird things he said and did walking around the house in the dark.

12) Since moving north, the long winters and the general unfriendliness of the people around here have been the worst part.

13) As a police officer, I learned to drive primarily with my left hand--since the right was busy answering the radio, activating lights, flipping switches, holding maps, etc.  Who knew that I was preparing myself for later in life when I now need my right hand to distribute drink boxes, snack bags, books, and DVDs to demanding kids in the back seat?

14) I put mustard on many things that I eat.  The family joke is that I would likely consider cereal with mustard--which is not far from the truth.

15) My first teen job was working at a zoo in food concessions.  On weekends they assigned me to a cart selling ice cream.  I enjoyed the work and the talking with people immensely.

16) I am not sure that I would have been a blogger had I fully understood how much sleep I lose per week writing posts, commenting on blogs, researching topics, and responding to emails.

17) I can belch on command--I have not figured out how to list that skill on my resume though.

18) We have a home phone number that is so simple that it reminds others of pizza place's desired number.  At least it is easy for the kids to remember.

19) We can watch our town's fireworks show from the field behind our house.  My responsibility is to make sure that there is an area of low cut grass for the neighbors to put the chairs, and to bring extra seats.  It sure beats having to worry about parking though.

20) I don't sleep enough (ok, who does).

21) I have mentioned before that our family adopted a mix-breed dog from the humane society.  My responsibilities?  Feed him, brush him, walk him, remove his droppings from the yard, take him to any vet appointments, train him, and throw his toys/play with him.  Isn't that how "family" things always are with pets?  Everyone wants one, but they all disappear when there is work.

22) My baseball career ended (in my opinion) because I have a lousy throwing arm.  I was accurate, but had what was described as a lollipop arm.

23) I have never competed in a running race longer than a 10 K.

24) I have several email accounts--each I use for a different purpose (work-related, personal, blogging, etc.).  The blogging email is open these days more and more--enough so that the Mrs. will holler at me to check the personal email account when she has sent me a message to review.  In other words she is saying, shut the stupid blog email and look at the "real you" inbox.

25) I was told by my mom that I was born with lots of curly black hair on my noggin. If only I had known, it was downhill in the hair department from there.
As Lisa stated: this is a difficult exercise.

Thanks for bearing with me on this one, and have a good weekend.

The Barefoot Bandit and a Troubled Society

A song has been written about him.

T-Shirts are sold by his "fan club."

His Facebook following includes over 70,000 admirers.

I am not talking about a sports legend, rock star, actor, or humanitarian leader.

The mystery celebrity is the 19-year-old fugitive Colton Harris-Moore.

What is Moore, AKA "The Barefoot Bandit's," claim to fame? 

He is a thief and a fugitive. 

Well, allegedly a thief and now a former fugitive after his arrest.

And he is allegedly involved in burglary, robbery, and assault as well.

He is certainly guilty of wasting boatloads of tax payer money to fund enforcement agency activities where personnel meticulously tracked him across the US and into the Caribbean. 

Maybe taunting authorities to catch him was not the brightest idea.

One blogger is so captured by his persona that she defends Harris-Moore in that he committed only property crimes and that his gun may have been unloaded (not sure if she means every time or in one specific instance?).

 She offers him respite, if he ever makes it over to their place on the islands. 

That type of thinking makes me sad.

With all of the heroes that we could be honoring, people choose the young misfit Colton?

I have used this Dr. Eugene Peterson quote before, but I believe it certainly applies to the Barefoot Bandit phenomenon:

The puzzle is why so many people live so badly.

Not so wickedly, but so inanely. Not so cruelly, but so stupidly.

There's little to admire and less to imitate in the people who are prominent in our culture. We have celebrities, but not saints.

Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs.

Infamous criminals act out the aggressions of timid conformists. Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators.

People aimless and bored amuse themselves with trivia and trash. Neither the adventure of goodness nor the pursuit of righteousness get headlines...
With Colton's recent arrest, perhaps those 70,000 Facebook followers will now focus their talents and attention on any of the host of life-threatening problems that plague modern society.

And, to Mr. Barefoot Bandit: I hope you enjoy your prison stay future movie star.  I am sure there will be 70,000 admirers waiting to see your story on the big screen since it was purchased by 20th Century Fox. 

The photo was used from here.

Low Sodium Diet

Background: I entered the kitchen area, grabbed a potato chip from a partially hidden bag on the counter, and the resulting conversation took place. 

One additional note, "Sissy" is our loquacious just turned four-year-old daughter.

ME: Yuck!  These chips taste awful.  What kind are they and why did you buy the unsalted?

THE MRS.: I didn't.

ME: Are you sure? Try one of these bland chips then.

THE MRS.: (smiles) No.

ME: What? Why not?

THE MRS.: You have not seen Sissy's new trick?  She licks the salt off of the chips and then furtively slips them back into the bag.

ME: Wow, I wanted to reduce my sodium intake, but this is not what I had in mind.      

Missing and Not White: Does Race Matter?

On the television show Everybody Hates Chris, African-American comedian Chris Rock details stories from his youth in New York City.  The great acting and humorous story lines work well as Rock skillfully uses hyperbole to describe his world back in 1985. 

His father was so cheap that... 

His mom was so mean that...

He was the not the first black student at his all-white school, but the first black student to actually make it through the front door still breathing...

Rock, known for his rants on race,  has plenty to say through the characters about different cultures and beliefs.

In one episode, the young Chris and his brother skip school to try and get hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky's autograph. 

His mother learns that the pair is not in school, and begins searching for them.  She calls the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to report them as missing and once she states that the kids are black, a uniformed officer states,"Sorry ma'am, we can't help you" and then hangs up on her.

She calls the NYPD back to report her missing kids again, but this time describes them as being "white with dark tans."  

To hammer the parody's message, an officer knocks on mom's door the second she hangs up the phone. She thinks: "Now that is service."

After reflecting on Rock's dig on police for their disinterest in missing persons who are not white, I happened to read an article by Jeff Mays comparing two recent cases involving missing children:
Anthony Thomas* is considered a critically missing child from Washington, D.C. That means police think he is in severe danger. He was last seen Saturday on a D.C. street.

Kyron Horman was last seen by his stepmother at his Portland, Ore., school as he walked back to his classroom, after a science fair. He never returned home and police also have strong concerns for his safety.

Both cases are potentially heart-breaking tragedies. It is a scary and sad experience anytime a child goes missing.

Type Horman and Thomas' name in to Google, though, and the results are equally as frightening. Thomas' case was reported as a brief in the Washington Post and some local television stations. He was also featured as the weekly Black and Missing person here on Aol. Black Voices.

On the other hand, Horman's story has made it on to People's website, CBS News, and Good Morning America. In addition, a full story has appeared in statewide paper, The Oregonian, and several other websites.

Now guess which child is black.

Unfortunately, the disparity in the coverage of missing people of color still exists...
So, are Mays and Chris Rock accurately describing a problem?

In some respects, I do agree that race can be a factor in how much exposure that a missing person case receives. 

But, I will argue that it is not the only determinant and believe that if the child described by Mays, Anthony Thomas, had disappeared from his school after a science fair display like Horman did, he would have received similar coverage from the media.

I also think the media, in the business of making profits, is more to blame for this problem of missing person coverage than law enforcement. 

After media execs find a marketing pitch that they believe works with a story, like the one labeled the Missing White Woman Syndrome, and news outlets will offer it to viewers on a weekly basis.

What then do I believe is a better explanation of what drives media attention of certain cases?

Here are five factors in the order of impact:

1) Physical Attractiveness
Unfortunately, this is number one. If the missing person is considered beautiful/handsome he/she will likely attract more attention than those disappearances involving someone who is considered less physically appealing.   

2) Children
Missing children will likely trump missing adults; especially those that involve possible stranger abductions. 

3) Community power and prestige
An adult who is from a wealthy family or has a highly visible and powerful job is more likely to attract attention.

4) Vocal spouse/parents/loved ones
If the missing person's loved ones are not visible and vocal with police and the press, the case may not be covered by the media at all (unless the victim has lots of appeal due to physical attractiveness as described above).  The squeaky wheel can apply to disappearances, and often parents and loved ones play a pivotal role in being able to loudly communicate the missing individual's story.

5) Circumstances
Odd cases certainly play well in the media, but I believe this one falls behind those items listed above.


Isn't it a shame that in 2010, despite all of the improvements that societies have made through the years, it is a missing person's attractiveness that contributes heavily as to how much attention the case receives? 

*Note: Anthony Thomas safely returned home to his family a few days after Mays' article was published.  The young Horman is still missing, and a case that I hope to have a guest blogger detail next week.   

I am a Guest Blogger Today

Today, I am a guest writer for the multi-talented Raindog--police officer, poet, and photographer.  His blog Raindogblue is definitely a worthwhile stop.

My post over there is entitled Failing Floyd: A Life Lesson and it discusses me as a young officer and a disappointing mistake that I had to deal with.  We all make bad decisions from time to time, but often we can find inspiration in the learning process.

Fortunately, that was my experience.

2 Observations on the Missing Little Girl Alisa Maier

I usually don't have back-to-back missing person posts, but I did want to comment on what may be the latest incident involving a child abducted by a stranger.

This week, an Amber Alert was issued for four-year-old Alisa Maier.

Case Summary

Around 8 pm on July 5, Alisa was playing with her five-year-old brother in the front yard of her family's home in the small town of Louisiana, Missouri.  The children's mother was inside the home.

According to her brother, the little girl was seen entering a four-door black vehicle with front-end damage that was driven by a white male. 

The mother contacted police. She became impatient while waiting for officers, and instead quickly drove her vehicle around the area looking for her daughter.

Various news sources stated that the mother chased the suspect's vehicle, but that apparently is misinformation.

The FBI's special response unit used in conjunction with child abductions was contacted and is now a part of the investigation.

I wanted to highlight two aspects about this case.

1) Finding additional witnesses of the vehicle is essential

In abduction cases, the vehicle information can be the critical piece of information.  Provide authorities with a good description and even a license plate number, and chances are high that the wanted car or truck will be located quickly.

The current suspect and vehicle description was provided by the five-year-old boy.  Show a vehicle to most of the adults that I know for a few seconds and then ask them to describe it, and I wager you won't get much more than the color. 

The little boy's description is the best he can offer, but police know that the vehicle may be something totally different.  The articles mention that area store security cameras are being reviewed, as well as residents of the area are being interviewed--in hopes that authorities can learn more about the described car.

2)  About that carnival in town

Several articles mention that there was a carnival in town over the weekend that attracted lots of strangers.  Not only will authorities be interviewing registered sex offenders who reside in the area, they will also be painstakingly researching the employee lists of persons associated with the carnival.

As one can imagine, carnival work can attract transients with criminal backgrounds--folks that police are very interested in knowing more about.

My prayers are with the little girl and her family.   

The photo was used from here.


UPDATE: (7/7/10, 0830) Alisa Maier was found alive at a car wash in Fenton, MO.  Thanks to Missouri resident and blogging friend My Husband's Watching TV for notifiying me of the good news.

Part V: Christine Walters Missing Person

Miss Caitlin S. of Candyfloss and Persie requested that I comment on the missing person case of Kyron Horman, the missing seven-year-old boy. 

I am happy to announce that a new guest blogger is working on a post related to Kyron's case, and I am looking forward to adding my two-cents to the discussion then (especially as what is being reported about the missing boy's stepmother continues be more and more strange).

In the meantime, I want to provide an update on the Christine Walters' case.  

Case Summary

On November 12, 2008, twenty-three-year-old Christine Lindsey Walters was transported to a nearby hospital after being found nude and confused on the doorstep of a rural home in Arcata, California.

Evidently, Christine would not disclose any details to police as to her previous whereabouts, but did contact her mother in Wisconsin stating that she had been involved in a "ceremony", and believed that someone was following her.

She was treated medically, allegedly tested negative for drugs, and released from the hospital.

Christine, with the help of her parents, rented a room at a local hotel. Once she was settled, her parents then began arranging for a flight back to her home in Wisconsin.

On November 14th, Christine retrieved some paperwork at a local copy center that her mother had faxed to her. Workers described her behavior as paranoid.

Christine left the copy center and has not been seen since.


A new poster over at the crime discussion site Peace 4 the Missing, has stirred up quite a bit of discussion regarding Christine's case.

The new poster states that he is "Brian Schider" from Sedona, Arizona.  He describes himself as a psychic and is employed by a small business called the Angels of Enlightenment.

Brian states that he has been volunteering his time investigating the Walters' disappearance (he says has been to the area where she vanished and spoken with dozens of folks) and then is relaying his findings back to the missing woman's family.

What is he saying about the case?

I'll divide some of the new information into two categories:

1) Details Not Contained in the Publicly Available Media Reports
  • Christine checked her MySpace page the day she vanished.
  • The copy center she was last seen was not the closest to her hotel room.
  • Her hotel did not offer guests Internet use (so she had to go somewhere else for access) 
2) Claims about the Case
  • Police mishandled the investigation by focusing on her religious/activist friends 
  • The lead detective's part-time status shows that the police do not care about the case
  • The homeless in the area have not been adequately interviewed or investigated
  • That their have been other disappearances in the area similar to Christine's case  
I address several of these points in my response over at the discussion board, but I did want to highlight the misconception that a part-time detective for a small agency is incapable of bringing a resolution to the case.

*Note: I added a few things to this response for clarification purposes.
To Brian:

...You offer that the lead detective's retired-now-part-time status (Sgt. Dan Paris) shows that the police are disinterested in the case.
In a small agency like this one, having someone who is retired and is not full-time can actually be a benefit rather than a detriment.

The part-timer detective would be exempt from many of the administrative requirements that full-timer officers are burdened with--freeing up lots of time for police work. This would allow him to focus almost exclusively on the investigations that he is working.

The a glimpse of the small number of cases that retired Sgt. Paris is focusing on is contained in this news article.

I am willing to bet that this investigator still works there because he cares, does not need whatever little the county is paying him, and is fully engaged on these cases (likely performing three times the actual hours that are stated on his time card) because he wants to bring some resolution to the families involved.

In sum, it is important to note that part-time, retired, or consultant certainly does not translate into an individual who is unqualified or that the hiring agency is uncaring.

From the chatter generated after Brian's comments and his desire to post more information pertinent to the case, I expect to have more to report on Christine's strange and sad disappearance.

The photo was used from Christine Walters' family site, and my previous posts on this case are here.

Twighlight, Futbol, and Happy 4th

Since the holiday weekend continues for most into Monday, I'll hold my missing person post to Tuesday.

I'll leave you with a deep thought from an Okie friend Dr. Brad Duren:
The "Twilight" saga is a lot like World Cup soccer: everyone runs around for a few hours, no one scores, and the true fans say you have to watch it to understand and appreciate it.
Happy Independence Day to those in the States.

College Grades Are Written in Stone or They Used to Be

With the actual value of college degrees being questioned more frequently, I don't think that this story helps to support  the case of higher education:

...One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market...
What is more disturbing about this story:
  1. How little grades actually mean considering they can be changed across the board after the fact? or,

  2. That college execs would think that a hiring agency does so little due diligence on candidates that an applicant with a 3.40 grade point is much more appealing than the same person with a 3.10 GPA?
And where is the cut-off for enhancing Loyola graduates' GPAs? Three years of graduates get the bonus points? Five years? Ten years?

Wherever it falls, with my luck, I am sure I would be in the first year not included--if I had attended that Cali school.

The Run-Around, Police Style

Recently, writer Noah Lederman offered an example of how reporting a crime can be a problem:
...My girlfriend got pick-pocketed on Friday...

 ...The reason you should avoid Broadway and Houston is because trying to find the police who patrol this particular corner is more difficult than learning the art of pick-pocketing itself.
Just to report the crime we had to visit a good portion of the city’s precincts.

At precinct one the woman who took down the victim’s information appeared more miserable than the handcuffed felons being escorted into the holding cells.

“Actually you’re in the wrong precinct,” the officer finally told us after 45 minutes of waiting. “You definitely need to go here,” he said, writing down the address of the next precinct that “definitely” covered that intersection.

A twenty-dollar cab ride later, we found ourselves answering pertinent questions about the crime. However, the interviewer spoke incomprehensible English and made us sick by constantly hocking up mucus into a tissue. The only thing we understood was when he kept repeating:

“Maybe you lost your wallet” and “Are you sure you weren’t at a bar?”

When the information was handed over to the officer, the cop reviewed the sheet, commented that our accusatory, non-English-speaking interviewer had filled out the form completely wrong, and then told us that his precinct actually didn’t handle that particular corner.

“Each corner is under a separate precinct’s jurisdiction,” he told us after wasting more than an hour there. “Hey, fellas,” he yelled to two detectives, “Who covers that corner?”

The cop and two detectives agreed on which precinct we should visit next and we grabbed a ten-dollar cab ride to the other side of Manhattan....
Lederman continues that they found an officer at the next station who took the report, but then they received a call later and learned that the incident would be handled by another precinct.

I had a few thoughts on the dreaded jurisdictional issues of police agencies:

1) Just Write the Report
If permissible by agency policy, an officer should simply write the report.  Reports don't take that long and once inside the agency, the document can be sent to the appropriate investigator.  In my previous life as an officer, I worked with a few cops who could contrive and argue 40 reasons as to why they should not have to take a specific report--in the end taking as much time to complain about writing the report as it would have to simply complete the task. 

2) When Referring, Go the Extra Mile
If there is a policy reason why an officer can't complete a report, take a few minutes and contact the appropriate department/agency, inform them of the situation, get a name, and provide the specific information in writing on where to go and what to do to the victims.

3) Transport if Possible
If practical and necessary, give the crime victims a ride to the proper agency.  Obviously, this is not always possible, but can certainly be helpful to citizens.

Police officers are in the business of providing order and that often involves "messing with" folks.

They write tickets. They arrest mothers/fathers/spouses/daughters/sons.  They squelch really "kewl" parties.

Police officers are not firefighters--whose job duties are 99.9% helping people.

As such, cops are never going to win a public service popularity contest.

This does not mean that police are exempt from providing good service. Even if the victim is not in an officer's jurisdiction, he/she should make the process of reporting a crime as painless as possible.

Little things matter to people.

Providing good service by ensuring that a victim's complaint is taken seriously is something small that an officer can offer, which can pay large dividends the next time law enforcement agencies are seeking public support over a controversial issue.