Rivera Report

I offer this for a Missing Person Monday.

Last week, authorities in Canton, GA released an independent report regarding their police department's handling of a missing person investigation conducted in December of 2011.

The case in question was that of seven-year-old Jorelys Rivera.

Jorelys was lured into a vacant apartment (at the complex where she lived) by one of the complex's maintenance workers, Ryan Brunn.  She was sexually assaulted and murdered there.

Brunn then dumped the child's body in a nearby trash compactor.

A few days after she was reported missing by her mother, authorities found the girl's body and arrested Brunn.

Brunn pleaded guilty in January, but was found dead last week in his prison cell after committing suicide.


As with other cases, I would rather read the cited reports myself rather than depend on media summaries, and after some digging, I found what is entitled the Rivera Audit Report.

The consultant and author of the report is LaGrange (GA) Police Chief Louis Dekmar.

You can go here to read it (19 pages), but the following are three items that jumped out at me:

1) First Impressions

The responding officer told the consultant that, from the initial information, he believed the girl was a runaway.  She had been missing more than once before.  Seemed like a runaway.  It appeared to be like many of the dozen or so other missing persons cases that the agency had handled previously that year.  Those persons had all returned, and why would this one be any different?

In sum, the officers were looking for a what they believed to be a girl who had left by her own choice and not as someone who could be a potential crime victim. 

At incident/potential crime scenes, first impressions are important, but keeping an open mind is essential.

As things aren't always as they seem.

When the young child was characterized as someone who had disappeared before, rather than leap to a label like "habitual runaway" (a seven-year-old habitual runaway makes little sense anyway), there is a more reasonable consideration. 

A seven-year-old who goes missing regularly is one that likely suffers from lack of supervision.  Not having responsible eyes on her regularly would make her a more appealing target for an offender looking for an opportunity to abduct.       

2) Supervision

The responding officer is fairly criticized for several shortcomings.  Those include failing to follow departmental policy on securing the scene, and for not entering the missing girl's information into registries in a timely manner.  But, I think the officer's supervisor should have shouldered this burden as well--even more so.

When the call was dispatched, the Canton Police Department was staffed with three officers and a supervisor--this was two officers below their minimum staffing level of five.

Because two of the on-duty units were out on other incidents at the time, the sergeant acted as the back-up officer on the missing girl call.  So, the sergeant had to focus on other duties besides supervising the investigation of a missing girl.

In any event, it was the sergeant's job to ensure that the child's room was secured and processed, and that her information was entered into national databases in a timely manner--evidently this was not done.

The need for proper supervision does not vanish just because an agency is short-handed.

3) Location of the Command Post

When officers realized that this was going to be a prolonged incident involving multiple agencies, personnel established a command post to better coordinate activities.  They chose the apartment complex's leasing office as their HQ.  Unfortunately during the incident, the leasing office was open for business and security at the site was limited/non-existent.

Who was charged and convicted of killing the little girl?

Ryan Brunn was--a maintenance worker at the complex.

This is an individual who had access to the leasing office and in theory, the command post.

Could Brunn have overheard tips and information about the case?

Could he have learned what police actions were going to be and then moved evidence or planted false information to hinder officers?

You can see where this is a serious problem. 

NOTE: The little girl was abducted and murdered prior to police arrival, so the issues discussed in the report were related to the investigation and not to actions taken to protect her.  Nevertheless, Canton Police Chief Jeff Lance resigned shortly after the report's release--several parts of the review did not make him look professional.


I hope the Canton Police Department and other departments will learn from this agency's mistakes, and where applicable, make changes to investigative practices as well as provide better training to improve services related to missing persons in the future.

My condolences to the family, and my appreciation to Chief Dekmar for his honest insights on what was a horrible crime.   


A Doc 2 Be said...

It takes a strong person to admit mistakes, and the work to correct them in the future.

Condolences to the family. Adorable little girl!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I have no words. Oh My!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Slam Dunks .. unfortunately Chinese whispers ensued and so inevitably not all information is correct .. It's terrible that crimes like these go on ..

My heart goes out to the family and I hope their daughter is resting in peace now ..

With thoughts - Hilary

Miss Caitlin S. said...

I've been reading about this story non-stop but you added so many additional thoughts to it, thank you. And yes, I agree that a seven-year-old run away doesn't sound too plausible.

Such a sad tale. Ugh, why couldn't he just fight his disgusting urge?

Nas Dean said...

Horrific crime. Poor little girl and her family.

Jax said...

Sexually assaulting a 7 year old makes me sick. Then murdering her? People really have no conscious and that scares the crap out of me. And then to take such a sickening case involving a child and mess up the entire investigation? You think the tragedy of this case would've caused for a more meticulous detective.

The Blonde Duck said...

So sad.

Miranda Hardy said...

I hadn't heard of the offenders suicide in jail. Such a horrible crime. Some of the things in the report made me sick. I can't understand some people's rationale.

Pat Hatt said...

Some people are just plain sick, how anyone can even rationalize doing such a thing is beyond me. That third one was the worst, he could have easily tampered with everything, really a dumb move on their part.

Stephen Tremp said...

My condolences to the family. I can't imagine a seven year old running away, unless its to a trusted relative's house close by. ANd glad the killer is dead. No reason for him to live IMO.

Diane said...

I hope for future cases, there is a more serious effort and professionalism involved. Very sad. Can not imagine if that was my child.

Bossy Betty said...

So sad. I really couldn't imagine the incredible anguish of the family...

LadyFi said...

Oh gosh - I can't read the whole report. Too horrifying.

Brian Miller said...

ugh...sad case...and nothing we can do about the mistakes now but learn from them for sure...

Clarissa Draper said...

I understand that being a police officer is difficult work but they have to find ways to avoid all the mistakes.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I can't imagine a 7 year old going missing....multiple times :-(

It's a terribly sad story.

Ciara said...

This breaks my heart. This case is too close to me and it frightens me. I will say, the girl was not well supervised from the rumor mill in the local area. In any case, we failed that little girl.

Lisa said...

These types of stories just make me sad about the state our world is in these days.

Carol Kilgore said...

Habitual runaway at age seven? I think not. Not a single officer should have believed that.

Lydia Kang said...

What a terrible case. Thank you for shedding light on some of the intricacies.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

oh my.

rachelsjunkinthetrunk said...


Elisabeth Hirsch said...

That runaway part really got me! How sad they didn't take things more seriously.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is horrible!

Living in a big city, I forget how difficult it can be to do an investigation like this in a small town that is understaffed.

I feel awful her family.

BragonDorn said...

It is better to correct your mistakes then to leave them as mistakes :)

JJ.in.Phila said...

It reminds me of a case in Waynesboro, Angie Lynn Daley. She was 17 and had a habit of leaving home for several weeks at a time. I think it was more than a week before her family disappeared. Everybody thought she met up with a man and ran away.

They found her remains 15 years later. :(

Bob G. said...

It's always sad when this happens and then the police add to it with mistakes.
The REAL issue is to encourqage much better PARENTING in our society...today's world is a far cry from just 30 years ago.

Good post and comments.

Stay safe out there.

BragonDorn said...

That shit always used to happen to me and my brothers... It is rediculous

Momma Fargo said...

Interesting case. These cases are unfortunate and even one is too many. What's worse, is when we (cops) make mistakes that may cost the investigation. Lessons learned for us all. Admitting them is one step, but still a tragedy for the girl and family.

Holly Lefevre said...

A sad horrible crime. The fact that an honest assessment was given is amazing and probably the best way for any improvement to be made.