Virtual News Room
Missing Young Adults
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is not only dedicated to helping families and law enforcement when it comes to cases involving missing children, but also cases involving young adults- ages 18, 19 and 20. The PROTECT Act of 2003 contains a provision, known as Suzanne’s Law, that recognizes the U.S. Congress’ concern for the safety of missing young adults. With the passing of this provision, and at the request law enforcement, NCMEC resources can also be utilized in cases involving missing 18, 19 and 20-year-old individuals.
Suzanne’s Law was put into place in part by the tireless efforts of Mary and Doug Lyall whose 19-year-old daughter Suzanne Lyall disappeared as she was heading back to her dorm room at the State University of New York in Albany. Suzanne, “Suzy,” Lyall has been missing since March 2, 1998.
When Suzy disappeared, anyone over the age of 18 was considered an adult and therefore was not listed as missing with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The Lyalls felt their 19-year-old daughter should be considered a missing child and fought hard for what became known as “Suzanne’s Law.”
“When Suzy first went missing, we had nowhere to turn,” said Mary Lyall, explaining why she fought for Suzanne’s Law, which has helped many searching families. “We were ordinary everyday people and didn’t realize we could have such an impact.”
As of early August 2018, NCMEC has 266 active cases involving missing young adults.
As investigators continue the search for missing 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts from Brooklyn, Iowa, all of us here at NCMEC remain hopeful that Mollie and all the other missing young adults find their way home.
19-year-old James “Martin” Roberts was last seen on April 21, 2016 at a bus stop near the Appalachian State University Convocation Center in Boone, North Carolina. At the time of his disappearance, Martin did not have his cell phone with him nor did he have access to a vehicle. There is no explanation for his sudden loss of contact with loved ones, which makes his case even more troubling for his family members. Martin would now be 21 years old. Anyone with information about James Martin Roberts is asked to contact 1-800-THE-LOST or the Boone Police Department at 828-268-6900.
The last time anyone saw Tyarra Williams was on Jan. 7, 2016. The 19-year-old was outside of her family’s apartment complex in Greensboro, North Carolina with her brother and boyfriend. She mentioned that she was going to walk to a friend’s house nearby and would return shortly, but Tyarra vanished without a trace. Tyarra was due to start taking classes at a nearby community college and had arranged to go school shopping with her mother the following day. With plans that indicating that Tyarra was looking toward the future, her sudden disappearance was alarming. Tyarra would now be 22 years old. Anyone with information about Tyarra Williams is asked to contact 1-800-THE-LOST or the Greensboro Police at 336-373-2222.
Mary Lyall will never stop looking for her daughter until she finds the answers she desperately needs. Mary is also a member of NCMEC’s Team HOPE, an army of volunteers who have had a missing or exploited child and work with other families going through similarly tough times.
Here at NCMEC we echo Mary’s commitment and dedication to searching for the answers that so many families need. Click to learn more about Suzanne's Law.
They are loyal companions, fierce protectors, and in some cases, real life superheroes…I’m talking about our K9 pals of course! Many law enforcement agencies across the country enlist the help of K9s when it comes to searching for a missing child or attempting to locate remains.
As a member of NCMEC’s Team Adam for the past 9 years and a K9 trainer and handler for over 30 years, Edwin Grant has high expectations and is committed to utilizing the best K9s in the country to assist in the recovery of missing children. Dr. Lisa Briggs, also a member of Team Adam, has worked alongside Grant to train her trusty K9s, Wes and Laila. And talk about success…Laila, the Golden Retriever has located 10 victims over the past 4 years!
“The K9s can be very helpful in searches if they are well - trained and reliable with a professional handler,” explains Dr. Briggs. “When it comes to recovering a child, locating them as quick as possible is key because typically the probabilities of survival rates decrease with time.”
Throughout this summer alone, many K9s have been called into action to help find a missing child.
In early July, a 7-year-old child diagnosed with autism, went missing from home. After the child’s mother contacted the New Castle County Police Department in Pennsylvania, the unit’s go to search tool was the police K9, Ace. Ace and his handler set out on the search for the missing child. After a few hours, Ace and his handler ran into a couple in the area who found a pair of sneakers in the area. After giving the sneakers a good sniff, Ace continued down the path, tracking the child’s scent. After tracking the child through the woods, Ace and his handler found the young child running over a small wooden bridge. After petting Ace for a short time, the child became more and more comfortable with the officers who were then able to lead the child out of the woods and into the arms of a desperately waiting mother. Thanks to Ace, his super sniffer, and a patient handler, another missing child was returned safely back home.
In addition to using human volunteers while out on a search for a missing child, enlisting the help of a K9 brings more than just an extra pair of eyes.
As Dr. Briggs explains, “The canine’s scent ability is far superior to humans; while the research varies, some data suggest it's up to 100,000 times greater. Human beings leave behind scent with every step they take; live search canines can be used to track or air scent.”
During the early evening hours in late July, the Trempealeau County Sherriff’s Office in Wisconsin received a call about a missing 11-year-old. The child left home after getting into an argument with family. The sheriff’s office enlisted the help of their department canine, Leo. After learning that the child was last seen walking toward a wooded area with no shoes on, Leo set out on the hunt. After just 15 minutes, Leo located the child who was found unharmed. The child was quickly returned home thanks to the quick work of Leo the canine…and of course his loyal handler!
While these cases resulted in the safe recovery of a missing child thanks to the hard work of our K9 friends and their handlers, sometimes K9s are used to help locate human remains. When K9s and their handlers are deployed out on searches for human remains, it can be an emotional journey. One thing Dr. Briggs tries to keep in mind while working these types of cases is the idea that although someone has lost a loved one, the family may finally have answers to some long unanswered questions.
“While it is very sad that a person has perished, especially a child, it is important- on so many levels- to be able to find their body,” explains Dr. Briggs. “Imagine being a parent and never knowing what happened to your child. Imagine the dedication and emotion of emergency personnel/search teams to not be able to have closure on a case and to have to carry the burden that they were not effective in locating a child.”
Keeping the Faith: A Family's Search
“I just try to keep the faith. I guess that’s why my mom named me Faith,” says Faith Bradley-Cathery. “I say a prayer every night for them, every single night from the time they went missing until now.”
After 17 long years, Faith says her family has not given up hope that her missing nieces will be found. The two sisters, 10-year-old Tionda and 3-year-old Diamond vanished from their apartment near 35th and Cottage Grove in Chicago on July 6, 2001, while their mother was at work. Their disappearance sparked one of the largest manhunts in Chicago history as search teams tracked open fields, railroad cars, and thousands of abandoned buildings. Today, there are still no answers.
We sat down with Faith and asked her to share some personal insight about the girls, personal thoughts that go beyond the headlines.
Question: Tell us a little about your relationship with the girls. You used to take care of them a lot?
Faith: Yes, I took up a lot of time with them, a lot of time! I named Tionda. Well, we had a female neighbor and her name was Tiona. I liked that so instead, my sister named her Tionda with a “D.” TIONDA - that’s how she got her name. I was real close to Diamond too. Diamond spent a lot of time with my mother but Tionda, I was real close to her. She was like my baby. Tionda was very energetic. She was in every talent show. She knew how to dance. She knew how to do gymnastics. She was just a girly girl. It’s just sad we don’t have any leads or anything. How can two kids just disappear like that?
Question: What do you think happened that day?
Faith: I really can’t say because I don’t know. I wasn’t there, but I know deep down inside whoever got them knew the situation, what they was going through as far as their mom leaving them in the house. Whoever took them knew they was being left in the house. It’s probably somebody Tionda was familiar with. Tionda was just not gonna’ open no door for strangers.
Question: Your sister, the girls’ mother, found a note the day the girls disappeared, saying the girls were going to school and a nearby store.
Faith: The letter was Tionda’s penmanship but truly in my heart, I think she was coached into writing that letter. Tionda always wrote letters because she loved writing. When she wrote letters or certain words, she wouldn’t spell it correctly. So this didn’t match up with her writing. I don’t think she ever left the house on her own because Tionda knew not to leave out that house. They would not just walk out. Diamond was three at the time so she’s gonna follow her sister wherever she goes, they were so close. They loved each other, all four sisters. They always had each other’s backs.
Question: Throughout these 17 years, you and your family have worked very hard to keep Tionda and Diamond’s story in the media. How do you manage to stay positive?
Faith: I visualize what they’re doing now, in college, their career, living a normal life. I try to keep it positive in order for me to stay positive. I just visualize them just living life to the fullest, not being neglected and abused because that negativity will kick in and then hope will deteriorate. I try to keep it hopeful, you know? I think about Tionda & Diamond all the time. I hope & pray that my Mom is still here because it deteriorated my mother’s health tremendously so I’m hoping & praying they come back while my mom is still around.
Missing in Chicago: Tionda and Diamond Bradley Tionda and Diamond Bradley were last seen in the vicinity of 3526 South Lake Park Avenue in Chicago, Illinois on Jul 6, 2001.
Today, Tionda would be 27 years old and Diamond would be 20. Faith hope the girls will be able to read this:
To my Nieces, Tionda and Diamond,
If you are able to read this message, I want the both of you to know that I love and miss you all dearly. The both of you is a gift whose worth cannot be measured except in my heart. We had a bond, and whenever you all return, my heart will be filled with so much love and happy tears. I hope, wish, and will continue to pray you all to be returned back to me.
I love and miss you Tionda and Diamond.
Your Auntie Faith
Images of Hope
When a child is missing or when remains of a unidentified child have been located, the Forensic Artists here at NCMEC combine their artistic talents with forensic science to create something amazing every day. They are responsible for creating an image that might help solve a mystery. Whether they are working with the family members of a missing child to create an age-progression image or conferring with medical examiners about uncovered remains, the images that they create are sometimes just what is needed to bring a child home or give a child their name back.
With a day to day job that is this interesting and unique, the journey of how these artists arrived at NCMEC is just as inspiring. Colin McNally, Supervisor of the Forensic Imaging Unit, walks us through his journey to NCMEC and his day to day work as a forensic artist.
I have been a forensic artist at NCMEC for 9 years. Working in the Forensic Imaging Unit has been the most rewarding job as an artist that I could have ever imagined. I am working with dedicated and creative artists whose mission is to create images to assist law enforcement and searching families who are investigating cases of missing and unidentified children.
I remember touring NCMEC in 2008 as an art major at James Madison University and seeing the forensic artists at work on real cases. After a long final year of college, I was fortunate to be hired as a NCMEC artist. As a forensic artist, I am part of a mission dating back to 1989, creating age progressions for long term missing children and facial reconstructions of unidentified remains of children. Applying a combination of skills developed since childhood and regularly updated new technology, NCMEC forensic artists create images that represent a beacon of hope for cases. With these images, we draw the public’s attention and highlight important details that may help generate leads or lead to a recovery or identification. We are part of the collaborative effort in the search for missing children and could not do our work without tremendous support from NCMEC case managers, who work with the searching families and provide forensic imaging with the necessary photographs to create an effective age progression. Facial reconstructions are another representation of our collaboration with NCMEC resources and forensic anthropologists who donate their time to the Center and allow us to create accurate depictions of what these unidentified deceased children could have looked like when they were alive.
As of 2017, NCMEC’s forensic artists have age-progressed more than 6,500 images of long-term missing child and created more than 500 facial reconstructions for unidentified deceased children. To learn more visit our website at http://www.missingkids.org/theissues/longtermmissing.
New images of two unidentified John Wayne Gacy victims
July 23, 2018
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children along with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office are releasing new facial reconstructions for 2 of John Wayne Gacy’s unknown victims.
Gacy raped and murdered young boys and men between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois. He was arrested in 1978 and was convicted of murdering at least 33 young boys. Six of those boys/young men remain unidentified. Gacy found some his victims hitchhiking and at bus stops. The remaining unknown victims could be from anywhere.
NCMEC worked with Cook County Sheriff’s Office to create new facial reconstructions for 2 of those victims, John Doe #10 and John Doe #13.
In addition to the new facial reconstructions, NCMEC is releasing a video, Gacy - Unsolved , highlighting the work of Detective Sgt. Jason Moran and Sheriff Tom Dart with Cook County Sheriff’s Office to identify the remaining victims of Gacy.
- John Doe #10 - The remains have been determined to belong to a white male, 17-21 years old. He stood approximately 5’7” – 5’11” tall. His hair color and eye color is unknown. He had sustained an injury to his left clavicle prior to his death that had healed well over time. The male also had been treated by a dentist in life as a few dental fillings were observed. It’s estimated that the male died between 1972-1978. The images shown are a facial reconstruction created by a NCMEC Forensic Artist and depicts what the male may have looked like in life.
- John Doe #13 - The remains have been determined to belong to a white male, 18-22 years old. He stood approximately 5’9” – 6’02” tall. He had dark brown wavy hair. One of his upper teeth was displaced behind another tooth. It is possible that this characteristic would have been noticeable to others that knew him well. It’s estimated that the male died between 1972-1978. The images shown are a facial reconstruction created by a NCMEC Forensic Artist and depicts what the male may have looked like in life.
If anyone has information about these unidentified boys contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or 1-800-843-5678 or the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at (708) 865-6244.
25 Years With No Name
On June 15, 1993 in the Pike San Isabel National Forest in Douglas County, CO, a sightseer was wandering around while taking some photographs of the scenery. The sightseer came upon a makeshift campsite at the Rainbow Falls campground located between Woodland Park, CO and Deckers, CO right off Highway 67. As the individual drew closer to the campsite, they made a gruesome discovery…a decomposed body.
Upon further investigation by the medical examiner, it was determined that the white female victim had most likely been deceased for about 3 days prior to discovery. She was approximately 13-20 years old with shoulder length light brown or blonde hair that was possibly dyed. She was between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds. While the color of her eyes could not be determined, the medical examiner noted a surgical scar that indicated that the victim had previously undergone a splenectomy at some point during her lifetime. The victim had pierced ears and her teeth were in excellent condition with no fillings. Lastly, the medical examiner determined that the manner of death was homicide due to blunt force trauma to the head.
The victim was found wearing several pieces of jewelry (pictured below), but the clothing that she had on gave investigators their first and most promising lead.
The unidentified female was wearing a black short-sleeve “Harley Davidson” t-shirt with a picture of a motorcycle (pictured below). This was a significant piece of evidence because just days earlier between June 12th and 13th there was a convention of the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club. The convention was held at the Horse Creek campground, located just south of Deckers, CO. After running down the lead, investigators were not able to determine if the victim was associated with the out of town motorcycle club.
“Right now we are just hoping to work on an identification,” explains Detective Cirbo with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit. “Without knowing who she is we cannot do any backstory investigation on her to find out why she had been in that area or who she may have been with.”
Several years ago, investigators created a clay depiction (below left) of what the unidentified female may have looked like. Then in October 2012 the body was exhumed for further DNA collection and was used to create a new composite (below right) of what the victim may have looked like.
June 2018 marks 25 years since this young woman’s body was discovered.
25 years since she lost her identity, her name, her life.
25 years searching for answers.
Can you help solve this 25-yearlong mystery?
If you have any information about Jane Doe1993 , please contact NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (Colorado) at 1-303-660-7500 or the Douglas County Coroner’s Office (Colorado) at 1-303-814-7150.
Suspect arrested in April Tinsley Case
“After 30 years, there is finally justice for little April Tinsley, her family and anyone who has hoped and prayed for answers in this horrific case,” said John Clark, president and CEO of NCMEC.
Investigators spoke out for the first time since the arrest in the 1988 murder of 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley at a press conference on Tuesday. Authorities say 59-year-old John Miller has been linked to the crime through DNA. He is expected to be formally charged later this week.
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards thanked all the agencies involved in April’s case, as well as the media, during the press conference. “NCMEC has been so helpful to us, I want to tell you how much I thank them,” said Richards. “And Parabon, they have done a fabulous job in this case. Our community is forever in the debt of the folks I just mentioned.”
It’s a mystery that has haunted the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana for 30 years. It was every parent’s worst nightmare…a child, walking home from a friend’s house, simply vanished. That was April 1, 1988.
Courtesy of the FBI
Law enforcement quickly began an exhaustive search for April. They had a witness who said she saw April forced into a blue pick-up truck by a man in his 30s. But quickly after the search began, April’s body was found in a ditch 20 miles away. Police say she was raped and murdered.
As leads dried up, the mystery continued to unfold. Two years after April’s abduction and murder, a disturbing message was found scribbled on a barn door close to where her body was discovered: “I kill 8 year old April Marie Tisley (sic). I will kill again.”
A few years after that, cops say threatening notes appeared on several girls’ bike in the Fort Wayne area that referenced April.
No one could have imagined that the investigation into who killed April Tinsley would continue for decades.
In 2009, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children hosted a meeting at its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia to help find answers in the case. It brought together about 50 law enforcement officers, including local Indiana police and the FBI. Shortly after, the case was brought to a nationwide audience when it was featured on FOX’s, “America’s Most Wanted.” The hit show, hosted by NCMEC founder John Walsh, featured the case again in 2012, keeping April’s case in the national spotlight.
Then, in 2014, NCMEC and Fort Wayne Police coordinated phenotyping of the unknown offender’s DNA with a company called Parabon NanoLabs. This process uses DNA sequencing to predict what a person might look like.
Courtesy of Fort Wayne Police Department
“We applaud Fort Wayne Police and so many other investigating agencies who worked tirelessly over the years, utilizing every advancement in technology available,” said Clark, who flew to Fort Wayne to attend the press conference. “I am honored to be here, representing NCMEC, standing in solidarity with law enforcement and a whole community that never gave up hope.”
Answers finally came after NCMEC, Fort Wayne Police and Parabon came together to use genetic genealogy to develop a possible suspect. According to an affidavit, that suspect was arrested after DNA linked him to April’s murder.
“These kinds of cases should remind everyone that no matter how much time goes by, the answers are out there,” said Clark. “It’s up to all of us to never stop searching.”
A letter to christopher
On July 15, 1986, our family’s life was changed forever. The previous evening was a quiet summer night and you took your first steps around the coffee table. There were flowers on the table and you laughed when I smelled them and sneezed. I pretended to sneeze again. You thought that was the funniest thing and laughed a deep laugh I will never forget. I was the one who fed you your bottle that night and you fell asleep in my arms. Mom was right behind me as I walked upstairs and laid you down in your crib. It was Mom who covered you in a light blanket and we said your goodnights to you. The next morning I was awoken by mom’s frantic scream, “Christopher, he’s not here, where’s Christopher?” You were not in your crib...you were gone.
You are the baby of a close-knit family with six older brothers and sisters who adored you. Your birth brought us so much joy. The reason your kidnapper had to steal you in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness is because there was never an opportunity to take you as you were always surrounded by your family.
We don’t know the young man you have become, but we have an obligation to you. The day you went missing, our parents devoted their lives to finding you. Even through the hardest of times, when others seem to have forgotten about you, they never wavered in their sense of purpose and that was to find you. Despite the feeling of an overwhelming sense of helplessness and the days turned into weeks, months into years, and years into decades, Mom and Dad travelled the country and investigated every tip that came in, spending whatever money they had continuing their selfless search for you.
In 2016, Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and leaving her with only months to live. Even though Mom’s health was rapidly deteriorating and she was so weak just getting up to go to the kitchen left her drained and exhausted, she continued to advocate for your return. Right before she finally succumbed to cancer, we arranged a meeting with the District Attorney to discuss your case and request additional resources from law enforcement. That day, when we arrived at the District Attorney’s office, I wanted Mom to use a wheelchair so she could save what little precious energy she had left, but she insisted on walking in to his office with the same strength and determination that had sustained her in your search over the last three decades.
Family photo of Christopher.
We don’t know what your fate was that summer night in 1986, but know we have never given up seeking answers. Your kidnapper’s actions changed the course of our lives. Mom made it very clear that if you were found after all these years she wouldn’t want to disrupt your life, but she wanted you to know that you were loved and we never gave up looking for you. Not having answers and not knowing if you are safe or even alive does not come with any closure. We continue to plea to your kidnapper and those that have information to do the right thing and come forward. And if you were harmed we seek justice. We promise you we will continue.
This letter was written to Christopher by his sister Denise. It has been 32 years since his disappearance. If you have any information, please call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
Missing in the park
Throughout the year, especially during the warmer months, many children and their families take the opportunity to explore our nation’s vast national parks, amusement parks and water parks. While more often than not, these adventures end with great memories and new stories to share, sometimes the unexpected can happen…a child goes missing in the park.
In October 2006, 8-year-old Samuel Boehlke and his father began their camping adventure at Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. Samuel and his father set up camp at one of the various campsites located around Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States. On October 14, 2006, with over 170,000 acres and a variety of wildlife to see, Samuel and his father set off to explore the park. Around 4 p.m., Samuel and his father were driving around the park and pulled over to explore a nearby slope. When it was time to return to the car, Samuel took off up the slope and his father quickly lost sight of him. After attempting to find Samuel with no success, his father contacted the park authorities. Over the next several days, hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement authorities searched the park for Samuel. Authorities utilized helicopters, dogs, and dive teams to aid in the search, but the searches turned up nothing.
Samuel Boehlke has been missing for over 11 years. He would currently be 19-years-old. The image on the right shows what Samuel may look like today.
September 17, 1992, the fair had come to town and set up at
the Puyallup Fairgrounds in Tacoma, Washington. As a 14-year-old, ready to
start spreading her wings and gaining some independence, Misty Copsey was given permission to go to the fair with friends and take the bus back home with a
friend. When it was time for Misty to head back home after enjoying some time
at the fair, she separated from the group and went to catch the bus; however,
she had accidently missed the bus already. Misty contacted her mom, who was
working, and was told to try and get a ride home with a friend. Misty’s mom
asked her to call her back once she had a ride figured out, but Misty never
called. Misty’s mom contacted some of Misty’s friends who had been at the fair
with her that night, but no one had any information as to where Misty may be.
Misty’s mom reported her missing to the authorities. Over the years, a few
leads have turned up in the case, but Misty remains missing.
As your family heads out on different adventures this summer, NCMEC encourages you to educate your loved ones on the topic of child safety. Before you head out, download the NCMEC Safety Central app to store information you would need should your child ever go missing.
When you get to your destination, whether that be a water park, amusement park or a national park, make sure your family has a plan in the event of an emergency. Identify a meeting spot and/or create a boundary that your child must adhere to. Consider giving older children a cell phone for the day in the event they need to contact an adult.
There are several resources provided by NCMEC you can use to educate yourself and your family!
Happy Birthday, Erica
June 22 is Erica Baker’s 29th birthday.
She disappeared from Kettering, Ohio when she was 9-years-old.
It was a cold Sunday afternoon in early February 1999 when Erica took her dog for a walk. Hours later when she didn’t return home, her dog was found wandering alone. But there was no sign of Erica.
For nearly 20 years, her family has never stopped searching. They still hope that their little girl, who was in 3rd grade and wore a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt and a pink raincoat, will come home one day.
Today, Erica’s grandmother, Pam Schmidt, works with other families of missing children.
She is an active member of NCMEC’s peer support group, Team HOPE. We sat down with Pam to talk about her time volunteering for NCMEC.
Q: How did you first find out about the National Center?
A: “My granddaughter, Erica Nicole Baker, went missing on Feb. 7, 1999 and that was my first introduction to the National Center. I had the opportunity to come here and meet my case manager early on, and every time I saw that blessed gentleman he would say, “We’re gonna find that baby.” I’ve carried that with me all these years.”
Q: How did you become involved with Team HOPE?
A: “Early on, when Erica went missing, I learned about Team HOPE and I wanted to pay it forward – I guess is the word I would use – I couldn’t help Erica because I didn’t know where she was or what was happening to her…but I could help somebody else’s child with the hope that someone would help her.”
Q: With everything you’ve been through, it’s hard to imagine the strength it takes to assist other families who are experiencing their own worst nightmare. Why do you volunteer?
A: “I think each of us has a talent and a passion, and my passion for Team HOPE was developed when Erica went missing. And with that passion, I can reach other families. I may not change the world, but I have an opportunity to make life a little easier for some families, for some people. And there’s such a blessed joy in being able to help someone else. I’m not one that works with a nonprofit, other than the National Center; I haven’t set up my own nonprofit; I’m not into legislation. I can’t change the world…but I can change it for a few people. And that makes me happy.”
If you have any information about the disappearance of Erica Baker, please call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Why We Ride
“The Ride for Missing Children has become like a pilgrimage for me ever since I started riding in memory of my daughter who was murdered at the hands of a pedophile in 1988,” says Ahmad Rivazfar.
Rivazfar has been a participant in the Ride for Missing Children for over 20 years. As a member of Team Hope, NCMEC's peer to peer support group for loved ones of missing and exploited children, he knows the importance and impact this ride has for many families.
“I have firsthand knowledge how empowering it is for the families of missing children to see and feel the passion of hundreds of riders and volunteers,” explains Rivazfar. “Throughout the ride the most amazing transformation happens when the families see how messages of safety reach thousands of children. With every pedal, this amazing and compassionate community of people dedicates themselves in keeping the memory of a missing child alive and are steadfast in making our children safer, one child at a time.”
The Ride for Missing Children that takes place in Mohawk Valley, New York is the largest fundraiser for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The fundraiser gained traction in 1995 when a group of seven men rode their bicycles from Utica, New York to the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C. with a mission to raise awareness about missing children in the United States. Every year, the number of participants has continued to grow and on Friday, June 1, 2018, there were over 450 riders who participated in the 22nd Annual Ride for Missing Children.
Every year, each rider generously raises a minimum of $500 to support missing children poster distribution and community education. In addition, the ride aims to raise public awareness about the issues surrounding missing and sexually exploited children. During the approximately 80-mile journey, each rider wears a pin with the photo of a missing child that they are riding for. Along the way, the riders stop at schools to share a message about child safety and prevention methods.
The success and awareness that this event brings is not only in part of the riders, but also the countless number of individuals in the community who dedicate their time and effort.
“Everybody is family on this day. A day that is built around a special and unique culture,” says Sam Fastow, first time rider and third time attendee. “It is a day that serves as a reminder that one community can really make a difference when everyone works together. From the volunteers who donate their time throughout the year to plan the ride and the families who cheer on the riders from the sidelines to the law enforcement officials charged with keeping attendees safe and the riders who push themselves over the finish line…all of their efforts make the event a success year after year.”
Not only is this ride physically taxing, but it can be an emotional one as well. For many riders and attendees, this day means something very personal to them. The ride brings together families who have gone through the tragedy of missing a child, but it also serves as a reminder that they are not alone in their search.
The ride is all about spreading hope for those children who are still missing and spreading a safety message in hopes that a community can be spared the tragedy of a missing child.
To learn more about The Ride for Missing Children please visit the website: https://www.therideformissingchildren.com/
Where is Morgan Nick?
On the day 6-year-old Morgan Nick disappeared, June 9, 1995, the fireflies had just started to pop and blaze, filling the twilight sky with twinkling lights. Morgan left her seat next to her mother on the bleachers of the Little League field in Alma, Arkansas to catch fireflies with her friends as the baseball game wrapped up.
The kids greeted the summer evening supported by some of the pillars of childhood – baseball and catching fireflies. They ran back and forth between the parking lot and the bleachers as the evening faded to night and the action on the baseball diamond concluded. As the players filed off the field at the conclusion of the game, Colleen glanced back to check on Morgan and the other children, but Morgan wasn’t with them. Colleen immediately went to investigate.
“I asked them where Morgan was and they said that she was taking sand out of her shoes, sitting by my car, but I could see my car and I didn’t see her,” Colleen recalls.
She checked inside her car but Morgan wasn’t there.
“That’s when the real panic set in,” Colleen said. “It’s a really small field and a really small parking area and it was just easy to see that she wasn’t right there anywhere. And by now people are leaving and cars are leaving, and I remember standing in front of my car and I’m thinking, if everyone would just stand still for just a minute that I would be able to see her, that we were just passing each other somehow. One of the coaches called 911 and within six minutes law enforcement was at the field and began what has turned into a 20-year search for Morgan.”
What Colleen experienced over the next four days was nothing short of chaos and panic as the official search for Morgan ensued with help from a number of different law-enforcement agencies. Many of the resources that exist today to help in the search for missing children were not available to Colleen at that time. She was asked to produce her own missing child poster, to field non-stop media inquiries and to keep functioning despite the constant fear.
Four days into the search for Morgan, Colleen met with the mother of an 18-year-old girl who disappeared from a neighboring community but was found murdered just six months before Morgan was abducted.
“I had this deep need to talk to her mom,” Colleen said. “It was about knowing that the mom had survived this terrible thing. She just looked me in the eye and she said, you can’t give up hope. And it was the most powerful thing anybody has ever said to me.”
That moment sparked the fight that Colleen brings to the search for Morgan every single day.
Colleen’s fight to find Morgan also includes her advocacy work through the Morgan Nick Foundation, as a volunteer with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and in annual events created to bring awareness to Morgan’s case.
Colleen created the foundation to educate children, families and law enforcement and to prevent the abduction of children. The foundation offers safety courses for schools using NCMEC’s prevention materials.
“You know fear-based safety doesn’t work for kids,” Colleen said. “A lot of times parents think that works, but when you empower kids and you give them the tools they need to stay safe we see kids reacting in ways where they are safer.”
Her foundation also provides tools for families of missing children, including media training and how to best utilize law enforcement.
As a volunteer with NCMEC, Colleen helped form Team HOPE, a peer-support program that provides mentoring and resources to families of children who are missing or sexually exploited.
“I never tell people my story, because my story scares people,” Colleen said. “They don’t want to be my story. They don’t want to entertain the possibility that their child might not be found. When in fact, most children are found. And are safely recovered and brought home. So, I say to a family that I’m on the phone with, we have a lot of different kinds of volunteers and a lot of different cases and everybody is different so let’s talk about your child. And I make it about them and their child because this phone call is not about me, it’s not about my child.”
One of Colleen’s greatest struggles is seeing Morgan’s new age progression every few years. Age progressions are a resource for families of long-term missing children. The idea is to help the public imagine what the child looks like now, not what the child looked like when he or she went missing. The process involves a NCMEC forensic artist using photos of the child’s parents and relatives when they were the age the child would be now and merging their physical features to create a likeness of what the child might look like. Photographs remain the single most powerful tool for finding missing children.
Each year on the day of Morgan’s disappearance, the family releases pink balloons, her favorite color, as a reminder that they have not given up hope. On social media, they ask people to take some time catching fireflies with their children and to talk to them about safety.
“You know kids grow up, people go to college, lives change, but for our family, we’re still stuck in that moment of not having Morgan here, of having an empty seat at our dinner table every night,” Colleen said. “I still get up every day with that goal is to do everything that I can do today to find Morgan and to bring her home.”
Anyone with information about Morgan Nick is urged to call 1-800-THE-LOST. (1-800-843-5678)
Happy Birthday Erin
June 3, 2018 will mark 17 years since Erin Pospisil’s family last saw her.
This year, as they have done every year since Erin went missing, her family will gather at Jones Memorial Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a ceremony and balloon release to help raise awareness for Erin.
In 2016 Erin’s mom wrote her a letter to mark her 30th birthday.
The fact that this is your 30th birthday seems so unreal.
The 30th Birthday is a huge marker for everyone as we move through our lives. Most people have a list of the things we will “have achieved”, “have learned”, “have adventured”, or “have enjoyed” by the time we turn 30. You are a planner and a list maker. I know you had a list at 15: Actress of the highest caliber. Platinum award winning musician. Broadway star. Mom to three kids. Horse trainer. Veterinarian. All around amazing person. Your hopes and dreams when you were growing up were high. Then plans got interrupted.
Your 30th Birthday is an even bigger marker for us celebrating it without you. We celebrated 15 birthdays with you. This makes the 15th birthday celebrating it without you present. That is half of your life. It means you have been gone from us as many years as you were with us. When I realized the significance of this, about two months ago, I was in the car on the phone with my friend. I started crying as soon as the words were out of my mouth. You are 30. I want to celebrate. But sitting and crying seems just as appropriate.
I have NOT lost hope of finding you. I WILL celebrate a birthday with you. The biggest party ever! Some people have lost hope. I can’t blame them. We all have had to figure out how to get through the last 15 years with our heads still on straight. We have all done it in our own way. We carry you with us. But in our heads, you are still 15. We can’t see you as any other way. Even when the age progression pictures show us otherwise. None of those capture your smile. I know we’ll know you by your smile.
We are having a party for you this weekend. Pizza, games, cupcakes, streamers, all of the best things for a party. I know you can throw a better party than I can. You always got everything right, even the little details. Details like glitter and confetti. There will be no glitter. The glitter was yours. I don’t like glitter very much anymore.
We have invited your friends. I never realized how many friends you have. How many lives you touched. I hear such great stories all the time from people. From friends, family, teachers, and a dance coach I hadn’t met. Even the secretary at the high school speaks highly of you. We all miss you. We all want you home. Please come home.
We love you. I love you. More than I probably ever told you. “I Love you” doesn’t even seem to cover it in a way that magnifies it enough. Now that you aren’t here to say it to, it seems even more empty. It needs to be so much more. “Love is a rose. But you better not pick it. It only grows when it is on the vine.” I used to love singing you that song. I wish you were still on the vine. I still sing the song. To any little one that will lay still long enough. And I tell them about you. And how great you sang it too.
Happy Birthday Erin! Wherever you are. We love you. I wish that was enough.
Here Erin’s photo is shown age-progressed to 29 years.
National Missing Children’s Day
Friday is National Missing Children's Day, designed to focus attention on our families still longing to be reunited with their lost or exploited children, but the day also serves as a reminder to make child safety a priority.
The observance began in 1983 when Former President Ronald Reagan proclaimed every May 25 as National Missing Children's Day, marking the anniversary of the abduction in 1979, of Etan Patz, of New York, who disappeared on his way to school. Etan was never found.
A few years later, on July 27, 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a Sears store in Hollywood, Florida. After an agonizing two-week search, Adam was located deceased.
At the time, there were several high-profile cases involving missing children; however, many of these families were faced with the shocking reality that there were no coordinated efforts in place to find missing kids. John and Revé Walsh, Adam’s parents, turned their tragedy into advocacy and started a movement to bring to light the issue surrounding missing children in our country. The Walsh family, and other child advocates, created what would become the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to help find missing children and help keep kids safe.
“Missing Children’s Day serves as a reminder to everyone that there are many children still out there who have not yet been found,” said Robert Lowery, vice president of the Missing Children Division at NCMEC. “It also reminds us that there are countless grieving families desperately looking for their children who need everyone’s help.”
John and Revé Walsh with President Ronald Reagan, Photo courtesy of the White House
On this day, NCMEC reminds and encourages parents, guardians, caregivers and others concerned for the well-being of children to make child safety a priority. Here’s how you can take part in National Missing Children’s Day.
1. Rock One Sock
- “Rock One Sock” is the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s annual social media campaign to bring awareness to the thousands of children missing in America. NCMEC encourages everyone to join the campaign and get people talking about this important issue. It’s easy! Just put on one sock and take a picture, post it on social media using #RockOneSock and make a donation to NCMEC. It’s as simple as: Wear – Share – Care! Visit RockOneSock.org for more information.
2. Share a Poster
- Take a moment to share the poster of a missing child in your area on social media. Just one small act can bring a child home safe. Sharing a child’s image is the most effective tool in recovering missing children. To find kids missing in your area, go to missingkids.org and click “Help Bring Them Home: Search Missing Children Posters.”
3. Know What to Do
- For parents, it’s important to know what to do in case your child ever goes missing. Download NCMEC’s “Safety Central” app to create a digital child ID kit. This free app allows users to save potentially lifesaving information about their children, including photos and digital fingerprint images. The app reminds users when it’s time to update the photos.
4. Talk to Your Kids About Online and Real-World Safety
- Check out our prevention education programs, KidSmartz and NetSmartz. KidSmartz teaches personal safety to children in grades K-5 and has resources for parents and teachers on how to have these important safety conversations with children. http://www.kidsmartz.org/
- NetSmartz is our Internet safety program which teaches kids how to stay safer online through videos, presentations, games, etc. Check it out at: https://www.netsmartz.org/Home. All of our materials are free to download and use.
Help support NCMEC and "rock one Sock"!
It’s that time of year again! “Rock One Sock” is NCMEC’s annual social media campaign to bring awareness to the thousands of children missing in America. The campaign is a simple way to show your support for missing children and their families. In honor of National Missing Children’s Day on May 25, NCMEC encourages everyone to join the campaign and get people talking about this important issue.
Participating is easy! Between May 21-25, just put on one sock and take a picture, post it on social media using #RockOneSock and make a donation to NCMEC. It’s as simple as: Wear – Share – Care!
The sock is a symbol of support. “SOCK” stands for “Save Our
Country’s Kids.” Let it start a conversation with your friends and family! And
if you haven’t already, follow @missingkids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
to stay up-to-date on NCMEC!
The sock is a symbol of support. “SOCK” stands for “Save Our Country’s Kids.” Let it start a conversation with your friends and family! And if you haven’t already, follow @missingkids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date on NCMEC!
We’ve also added new resources this year for schools! Teachers can visit RockOneSock.org and download the Rock One Sock Lesson Plan Pack, designed by NCMEC for students in grades 3-5 with age-appropriate activities, engaging videos and other interactive components. There are cool ideas for classroom fundraisers to support NCMEC and teachers can even enter a sweepstakes to win a $500 Amazon gift card!
So don’t forget, between May 21-25, NCMEC is asking you to WEAR-SHARE-CARE, and show your support for missing kids and their families!
I will not give up until i find you
On October 14, 2010, 19-year-old Yesenia Duval Del Rosario
disappeared from Hollywood, FL and has not been seen since. Her mother has written a letter to her daughter to remind her that she will never stop searching for her.
How are you sweetie? The day you were conceived I became the happiest and the most fortunate woman in the world. You are my eternal gift of a love that is so great that is undescribed. Although you've grown to a beautiful woman, you will always be my beautiful little girl.
I MISS YOU and your family misses you terribly. I have not stopped searching for you from the moment you went missing. It is a daily ongoing search for you. I LOVE YOU more than my life and you are extremely important to me.
These years have been incomplete without you and your safety keeps me awake. I pray daily for your protection, your safety and to one day find you and bring you home. I will not give up until I find you and you are back safely home.
These have been dreadful years not knowing where you are or if you are okay. With so much happening in this world, it is agonizing not knowing if you are safe, hurt or hungry. I LOVE YOU … I LOVE YOU my dear sweetheart forever.
You are and always will be my little girl. Your smile, your voice, your ways and your kindness…you have such a beautiful heart. I want to find you, to hug you, kiss you and tell you how much you are needed and how much you have meant to me from the moment you were in my womb. You are so ever present in my daily activities and I miss you so much.
If you see this video, know that it is you I am searching for. I am always loving you and want you back with us at home where you are needed and where you belong.
Yesenia would be 27-years-old and this image shows what she
may look like today. Yesenia is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall with black hair
and brown eyes. She has a scar on her upper lip.
If you have any information about Yesenia,
please call 1-800-THE-LOST.
Partner Spotlight: Honeywell
Honeywell Hometown Solutions was honored at our annual “Hope Awards” gala this month. They’ve helped bring the child safety program, “KidSmartz,” to kids across the country, educating families about preventing abduction and empowering children to practice safer behaviors. Thousands of their employees donate personally to NCMEC because they believe so strongly in our mission. Check out a Q & A with Honeywell Hometown Solutions’ president, Mike Bennett:
Q: Why does Honeywell choose to partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children?
A: It’s a great partnership. We formed the partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children back in 2004. And Honeywell…among the things that we try to do for society, for the world, is to make it safer, smarter, more sustainable. So safer, of course, is the first one and safety of our communities, safety of our children in this case…are very important and core to Honeywell. So, we found a partner that was able to help us get in to classrooms with good material to help children keep themselves safe.
Q: What’s next for the partnership between Honeywell and NCMEC?
A: I think we keep looking at ways to expand the message. We find that through promoting things together, we can expand the reach beyond schools. So we want our employees to be aware of these materials, we want them to take them home, show them to their families, show them to their friends and neighbors. I think that there are ways we can work together with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to just get more of the message out there.
I think the other important point is that this is free messaging. It’s a free service. So we want it to be readily available. We truly think it’s a lot of value for children to absorb these lessons, to talk to them in a way they can understand, and obviously, we’d like to drive toward zero incidents…zero problems. It may not be the world we’ll ever get to, but we want to work in that direction.
Q: What’s your reaction to receiving a Hope Award from NCMEC?
A: Well Honeywell is always grateful to be honored by partners and to have the recognition. It’s not just the work that one person in the company does but it’s many people. Employees have contributed into this fund. A lot of them take money out of their paycheck and say, “This is important to me and I want to support it.” So, you’re really honoring not just me, not just some Honeywell people, some leaders, but really the employees at Honeywell. I believe there have been over 8,000 employees over time who have contributed into this fund because they believe in it.For more information about the KidSmartz program, visit KidSmartz.org.
International Child Abduction
NCMEC’s CEO and President, John F. Clark, testified today before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary at a hearing which addressed international parental child abductions. Excerpts from Mr. Clark’s testimony are included below.
NCMEC was created in 1984 by John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates as a private, non-profit organization to serve as the national clearinghouse and resource center and to provide a coordinated, national response to the problem of missing and exploited children. NCMEC provides resources and services to families, victims, private organizations, law enforcement, and the general public to assist in preventing child abductions, recovering missing children, and providing services to deter and combat child sexual exploitation.
NCMEC’s Role in Family Abductions and Cases of International Parental Kidnapping
Since its inception, NCMEC has been heavily involved in combatting child abductions. Almost as soon as NCMEC began tracking cases and assisting families of missing children, it became clear that when a child is abducted, it is much more likely that the abductor is a parent or family member rather than a stranger or someone unknown to the child. Last year, NCMEC opened more than 1,400 new family abduction cases of which 179 involved children wrongfully removed from the United States.
Families attempting to locate and recover their abducted children face a daunting challenge, and when an abducted child has been taken across international borders, the path to recovery is even more difficult. NCMEC is vigilant in explaining to parents the full array of possible options that they may utilize to recover their child, including civil remedies, criminal remedies, and voluntary resolutions. If a child has been taken or retained in a country that is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention), then searching parents may be able to utilize this direct and powerful tool as part of their legal arsenal. Last year, 70% of the international abduction reports made to NCMEC involved children taken to a Hague Convention country. Not every nation consistently or fully complies with the terms of the Hague Convention after signing the treaty, however, and this can cause additional delays and hurdles and require parents to utilize alternative recovery options. When NCMEC assists a parent whose child is located in a country that is not a treaty partner with the United States or has not signed the Hague Convention, then the strategies often become more limited.
NCMEC’s Interaction with the Department of State
Today, NCMEC works closely with the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues to assist families in cases of international parental abduction.
NCMEC’s Assistance to Parents and Families
NCMEC provides assistance directly to parents, law enforcement, attorneys, and consular officers in NCMEC’s particular areas of expertise, including training and education, prevention, and support for victims and families. We utilize the range of expertise within NCMEC to provide this assistance, including our analytical and case management services, legal technical assistance, experienced trainers and data-driven materials, and counseling and family support services.
In the last ten years, NCMEC has trained foreign service and civil service officers, provided formal courses at the Foreign Service Institute, presented at dozens of regional and national conferences, and regularly provided informal presentations about NCMEC resources related to international child abduction in multiple venues.
The public also frequently contacts NCMEC with concerns about preventing an international abduction and questions about what obstacles they may face if their child is taken to a particular country.
Emphasis on Prevention
Prevention is at the forefront of NCMEC’s mission and strategy for all forms of child protection. In the context of international abductions, NCMEC’s safety programs are uniquely informed with data-driven lessons learned from actual cases of international family abduction and other relevant incidents of missing children.
More broadly, when providing information to help prevent international child abductions, NCMEC focuses on the risk of abduction, the obstacles to recovery, and the potential harm to the child.
With greater awareness and understanding of existing tools, international abductions can often be prevented before a child is already en route out of the country. Parents who are fully aware of the risks are more likely to raise concerns earlier.
We believe that these prevention programs along with insights, drawn from NCMEC’s experiences, have helped reduce international parental child abduction.
Support for Victims and Families
It is difficult to overestimate the long-term trauma that many children suffer as the result of a family abduction. A large body of research supports the reality that dozens of parents have described over the years during congressional testimony in hearings like this one – international parental kidnapping is extremely harmful.
Dedicated, experienced mental health and child welfare professionals at NCMEC work proactively to counter this harm by providing specialized counseling assistance and a support network for child victims and their families.
NCMEC’s Team Hope, comprised of hundreds of volunteers, helps families in crisis by providing peer support and the kind of inexhaustible empathy that only someone who has personally experienced the pain of a missing or sexually exploited child, can offer.
Sometimes, however, the form of assistance needed is different but still urgent, like the tremendous financial burden that can further strain a family’s stability following an international child abduction. In those instances, NCMEC administers a Victim Reunification Travel grant from the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime to provide financial assistance for families who could not otherwise afford to attend Hague Convention proceedings in another country or travel to be reunited with their child located in another country. This is often the only instance in which a parent may actually receive some financial assistance with the overwhelming expense to locate and recover their child. Since the Victim Reunification Travel program began in 1996, NCMEC has distributed nearly 600 awards involving more than 880 children.
Law Enforcement Relationships
NCMEC has extensive working relationships and years of experience providing technical assistance and training to law enforcement agencies in the prevention, investigation, prosecution, and handling of cases involving missing and exploited children. This network of connections can provide invaluable assistance to the families we serve by ensuring each case benefits from investigative best practices and direct referrals to the appropriate agencies to locate children, enforce court orders, and apprehend fugitives.
Current Trends and Issues in International Child Abduction
It goes without saying that the impact of an international child abduction is tragic for any family and, although practical and legislative progress has been made in recent years through the passage of the Goldman Act and the implementation of many of the bill’s provisions, international child abduction remains a significant problem for families in the United States.
A Need for More Comprehensive Solutions
The Hague Convention was drafted almost 40 years ago, and the United States has been a member for exactly 30 years. During this time, there have been many successes and periodic improvements that help to move things closer to the stated goals of the treaty. However, given the increasing complexity of global affairs and the current long-standing practical difficulties U.S. parents face when their child has been abducted internationally, it is important not to limit our perspective to a single potential remedy.
NCMEC helps to ensure that all reasonable and lawful options for recovery are considered and continues to contribute to conversations about alternatives beyond the Hague Convention. The long-standing relationships with U.S. law enforcement, and with our counterparts abroad in non-governmental organizations and foreign government and law enforcement agencies, make NCMEC well-equipped to provide comprehensive assistance for families.
NCMEC was founded on the principle that no family should have to suffer the tragedy and pain of a lost child. Prevention remains a significant part of NCMEC’s mission and is ingrained across all forms of assistance we provide daily to children, parents, family members, law enforcement and other child-serving professionals. While we strive to assist parents currently dealing with the tragedy of international child abduction, NCMEC also uses data and lessons learned from difficult cases to develop informational and educational resources to help other families avoid similar situations.
Just because a child has been missing for months, or even years, does not make that child any less important or their recovery less urgent to the families affected or to NCMEC. At NCMEC, missing children are never forgotten, regardless of the reason or length of time they are gone from their home. NCMEC works diligently to ensure that the stories of children wrongfully taken from the United States by a parent or family member remain at the forefront and continue to receive the attention they deserve.
A birthday for "bunny"
Today, April 19, is Teresa “Bunny” Fittin’s birthday. For more than 40 years, her mother, Jocelia Travisano, has been searching for her missing daughter. Bunny Fittin disappeared in the summer of 1975 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Do you know what happened to Bunny Fittin? Learn more: http://www.missingkids.com/poster/NCMC/1061256/1/screen .
A Night of Hope
Eleven-year-old Ashlynne Mike and her 9-year-old brother, Ian, were playing near their home on the Navajo Nation Reservation in New Mexico on May 2, 2016, when a stranger abducted them and drove them deep into the desert. When Ian was left alone, he frantically began searching for his big sister, then ran across the desert in the darkness for help. But it was too late. Ashlynne had been sexually assaulted and murdered.
Ashlynne’s mother, Pamela Foster, turned her crushing loss into action, lobbying Congress for passage of a bill that would make tribes eligible for federal AMBER Alert grants for the first time in the history of the program. The “Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act” was passed in both the House and Senate and is now awaiting the president’s signature.
For her strength and perseverance, Foster was honored Thursday night at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s annual “Hope Awards” at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. After a thundering standing ovation, Foster received a “Champion Award” for her efforts to protect other children.
“My heart’s been shattered into a million pieces, and it will never be the same,” Foster told the rapt audience. But she said she did not want her daughter’s death to be in vain. “I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of my daughter. She’s the one who has given me the strength to do what I’m doing today. I’m also honored to accept this award for the children who are missing and for all those who have lost their lives.”
Foster was one of three people, and two companies, honored at the 2018 Hope Awards for their extraordinary efforts to find missing children and help keep them safe from abduction and sexual exploitation. The gilded ballroom, decorated with soaring cherry blossoms and flickering candles, was filled with hope.
Emily Vacher received a “Champion Award” for leading the charge at Facebook to help spread AMBER Alerts over the platform’s vast network, and Jasmine, a 15-year-old Minnesota girl, was honored with the “Courage Award” for her incredible bravery and fight to survive after she was abducted and sexual assaulted while being held captive for 29 days. Two companies, Old Navy and Honeywell Hometown Solutions, both long-time and dedicated partners of NCMEC, received “Hope Awards” for helping reach hundreds of thousands of families with life-saving tips and resources.
The annual gala’s emcee was Lesli Foster, a journalist and anchor for WUSA9, which has been deeply entrenched in the search for missing children in the Washington area with its “Bring Them Home” campaign.
John F. Clark, president and CEO of NCMEC, welcomed everyone to what he called “the perfect setting to celebrate the legacy of a remarkable non-profit that opened its doors in 1984 in a tiny office just a few blocks from here.” Over 34 years, he said, NCMEC has helped law enforcement recover more than 260,000 missing children and its mission, and staff, have greatly expanded.
Clark told the crowd that this year marks 20 years since NCMEC began operating the CyberTipline, a centralized system for reporting suspected child sexual exploitation. So far, the CyberTipline has received more than 30 million reports – half of those in just the last two years.
It’s also the 20th anniversary for a special group of volunteers known as Team HOPE, Clark said. These volunteers, who know first-hand the pain of having a missing or sexually exploited child, have provided peer support, coping skills and compassion to countless families.
Vacher, a director with Facebook’s Trust & Safety Team and a former FBI special agent, was the first to receive a “Champion Award” in the massive ballroom, where hundreds of attendees lit up lanterns on their tables to collectively, and symbolically, light the way home for missing children.
Vacher spearheaded Facebook’s partnership with NCMEC and, with a new online tool, began sending AMBER Alerts to Facebook users, amplifying critical information about missing children to people in specific geographic areas. But it was always her hope to bring AMBER Alert programs to other countries, especially those that don’t have an organized way to share critical information. Today, with Vacher’s help, 15 other countries now have AMBER Alert programs.
“I’m so incredibly proud to work for a company that makes protecting children a priority,” said Vacher. “It’s my goal to bring this program to the entire world.”
Old Navy, which has been a partner with NCMEC for nearly a decade, received a “Hope Award” for its extraordinary efforts to keep families safer. Employees at Old Navy’s more than 1,000 stores have also helped raise $2 million for NCMEC, and its Old Navy Kids Safety Event has become a family favorite that keeps growing every year. It has also made contributions to NCMEC’s “Hope Bags” which provide survivors of child sex trafficking some basic items needed in the first hours after they are recovered.
Honeywell was honored with a “Hope Award” for teaming with NCMEC and helping launch in 2004 a nationwide educational program called “GOT 2B SAFE” that was built on the non-profit’s years of experience with issues of missing and exploited children. That evolved in 2014 into a popular and fun program called KidSmartz, which touches many young lives in grades K through five and teaches them how to be safe. Honeywell employees are also invested in this partnership and their personal contributions help make it possible.
The evening came to an emotional close with the presentation of the “Courage Award.” NCMEC’s co-founders, John and Reve´ Walsh, presented the award to 15-year-old Jasmine, who is alive today because of her bravery and incredible will to survive.
It was just last summer when she was abducted near her home in Minnesota. Her kidnapper tricked her by preying on her kindness, asking for help with his son. After being lured away, Jasmine was sexually assaulted and held captive for 29 days. During that time, police say her abductor was joined by two other men who participated in her abuse, and even attempted to kill her multiple times.
During her captivity, Jasmine was moved several times but ultimately escaped when her abductors finally left her alone one day. Alone in an isolated, rural area, Jasmine started knocking on doors looking for help. Realizing she had no other options, she then swam across a lake where she finally found help from a local farmer who recognized her from news reports.
Jasmine’s mother said her daughter does not consider herself a hero, but her mother does. Jasmine explained how she endured those 29 days.
“One thing that my dad told me was just keep on going and never give up,” Jasmine said of her unspeakable ordeal. “There’s gonna be rough times, and I just believed in it, and I just listened to his words and kept on going and never gave up.”
HBO highlights issues surrounding child sexual abuse in 'Paterno' movie
As the words jumped off the screen in the darkened theater at the Warner Center in New York City, there was an audible gasp from the audience, “…rape of a 10-year-old boy.”
The event, an advanced screening of the film, Paterno, hosted by HBO, in partnership with New York Women in Film & Television, continued a critical conversation about child sexual abuse and reporting.
HBO describes the film saying; Paterno centers on Penn State’s Joe in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. After becoming the winningest coach in college football history, Paterno’s legacy is challenged and he is forced to face questions of institutional failure in regard to the victims.
Crimes against children are hard to discuss and difficult to watch when depicted in movies and television. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has received over 28 million reports of suspected child sexual abuse through its CyberTipline and the number continues to grow. The film “Paterno” addresses the issue in a unique way by looking at the characters surrounding Jerry Sandusky and his victims.
The film repeatedly asks the questions: Who knew what? When? And how much did they know? Ethically and morally where is the line drawn to report child sexual abuse if you don’t have firsthand knowledge?
The film is an important step to starting a conversation about the importance of reporting and the need for adults to take steps to protect children.
“Even if you only suspect the possibility that a child is being sexually abused, that is enough to make a report,” said John Shehan, vice president of the Exploited Children Division at NCMEC. “It’s up to adults to stand up and protect our children.”
HBO is stepping up to be a force multiplier by discussing the issue of child sexual abuse and giving resources to the public. The film concludes with a call to action that reminds the public to call NCMEC’s hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if they suspect child sexual abuse.
NCMEC’s CyberTipline, an online reporting form, is also available 24 hours a day to report suspected child sexual abuse.
“Paterno,” starring Academy Award and Emmy Award Winner Al Pacino, premiered on HBO on April 7, 2018 and will continue to air for several weeks.
Twins Missing: Jeannette and Dannette Millbrooks
Dwelling in the private world known only to twins, Jeannette and Dannette Millbrooks spent much of their free time relaxing on their front porch in Augusta, Georgia, talking to one another and watching the world pass by. If anyone spoke to them, they would just smile.
“They didn’t come off the porch,” said their cousin, Yolanda Curry. “I can see their smiles with my eyes closed.”
Then one day – March 18, 1990 to be exact – the fraternal twins left the safety of their beloved porch – and vanished.
What happened to Jeannette and Dannette is a mystery, but their family has never given up hope of finding them. If by any chance the girls, who are 44, are reading this story, Curry wants them to know this: “I love them and I will
never stop looking for them until the day I die.”
Just days before their 16th birthday, the twins headed out to visit a family friend. Their 12-year-old sister, Shanta (shawn-TAY’) Sturgis, begged to go with them, but the teenagers didn’t want their baby sister tagging along. Jeannette and Dannette made it to their friend’s house at about 4 p.m., then walked on to what was then a Pump-N-Shop gas station and convenience store near the intersection of 12th Street and MLK Boulevard. They went inside and bought chips and drinks. The store clerk later told their sister that the twins seemed fine. It was about 4:30 p.m. when the clerk, busy at a cash register, saw the twins leave the store. She caught a vague glimpse of a vehicle outside, but didn’t see enough to give sheriff’s deputies a detailed description, or to say whether the twins got in or what direction they might’ve gone.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Robert Lowery says it’s “extremely rare” for two siblings to be abducted together by a non-family member. It does happen, however. In 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyon, aged 10 and 12, went missing in Wheaton, Maryland and have never been found. In 1997, sisters Kati and Kristin Lisk, ages 12 and 15, were murdered after being abducted outside their home in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. In 2014, Amish sisters Delila and Fannie Miller, 7 and 12, were abducted in upstate New York. They were released within 24 hours following an AMBER Alert, but not before they were sexually abused. Their kidnappers told police they used a dog to lure the girls to their car, and that they had intended to keep the girls as slaves.
Lowery, vice president of NCMEC’s Missing Children Division, says while it’s important not to raise false hopes, “It’s important that we not give up hope, because a number of these long-term missing kids have been found and reunited with their families. Some amazing things have happened.”
For example, Jaycee Dugard was found alive after 18 years in captivity in California. Three girls who were abducted and held – much of the time in chains – in a Cleveland house for a decade are free today because one of them escaped and called law enforcement. And when she was 23, Carlina White of New York discovered she had been abducted as an infant, contacted NCMEC, and was reunited with her biological family.
Law enforcement is appealing to the public for any information that might help them find the Millbrooks twins, any observations or memories that would help shed light on the case would be greatly appreciated.
Jeannette and Dannette Millbrooks are African-American. When they went missing, their black hair was styled in soft, shiny loose curls known as Jheri curls. Both have brown eyes, pierced ears and scars on their navels from operations shortly after birth. Dannette was 5 feet 6 inches tall, 130 pounds and bowlegged. She was last seen wearing a white top with Mickey Mouse on it (both girls loved watching cartoons), white jeans and black shoes. Jeannette was 5 feet 4 inches, 125 pounds. She was last seen wearing a blue pullover shift, a white turtleneck, a beige skirt, white stockings and white sneakers. The twins were in the ninth grade at Lucy Laney High School.
The photo on the left shows Dannette as a teenager. She was 15 when she went missing.
The image on the right is an age progression showing what Dannette may have looked like at age 39.
The photo on the left shows Jeannette as a teenager. She was 15 when she went missing.
The image on the right is an age progression showing what Jeannette may have looked like at age 39.
View their poster: http://www.missingkids.com/poster/NCMC/736454/1#poster
If you have any information, please call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta, Georgia (706) 821-1080.
One of Our Heroes
In this body cam footage, Topeka, Kansas Officer Aaron Bulmer acts on instincts to save a child with autism from drowning. But he’s also helping to raise awareness about the challenges of searching for missing children with autism. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children honored Officer Bulmer at our Heroes’ Awards and we’re sharing his story now because April is National Autism Awareness Month.
According to survey data published in the journal of Pediatrics, nearly half of families reported their children with autism wandered or eloped from safe environments. And more than a third of the children who wandered were unable to communicate their name and/or address. Many are also drawn to water or objects like trains or traffic signals, which can be dangerous. Finding and safely recovering a missing child with autism presents unique and difficult challenges for families, law enforcement, first responders and search teams. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has special search protocols and checklists to help first responders.
To learn more about NCMEC’s work on this issue, visit missingkids.org/theissues/autismresources.
Where is Megan Garner?
When Melanie Jackson describes her daughter, Megan, the first two words that come to mind are energetic and bright.
“At just 3 years old, Megan was already learning to write and spell,” recalls Melanie. “She had tons of energy and we would spend a lot of time running after her.”
Megan loved to play with her toys, run around and play with other children, especially her two older siblings.
“Even though her siblings were older, Megan made sure that she was getting plenty of attention,” Melanie says.
It was March 27, 1991…spring break for the school children in Tyler, Texas, including Megan’s older siblings. Melanie arranged for Megan’s aunt and cousins to come over for a relaxing day of watching movies and playing at the playground. While Melanie and Megan’s aunt remained in the apartment, Megan, her brother and cousins went down to a nearby playground.
“She had only recently been allowed to go out to the playground with her cousins and siblings,” says Melanie. “The playground is right next to our apartment, only a few feet away.”
Around 11:15 a.m., Megan came back to the apartment to grab a snack and take some back to the playground for the other children. Then, about 10 minutes later, the other children returned to the apartment, but Megan was not with them.
“The other children said they hadn’t seen her and thought that she was with me, but she wasn’t,” explains Melanie.
Melanie went out to search for Megan, but when she couldn’t find her, she contacted law enforcement to report her missing. Although there was an extensive search for Megan, law enforcement was not able to track down any witnesses who had seen Megan, nor did anyone report seeing anything suspicious.
This week marks 27 years since Megan Elizabeth Garner disappeared from her home in Tyler, Texas. Law enforcement has received and investigated many leads over the past few decades, but none of those leads have provided them with any answers, nor have they allowed law enforcement to identify a suspect in her disappearance.
Melanie has not given up hope that one day she will see her daughter again.
“Megan, we love you and we are still searching for you,” says Melanie.
Megan Elizabeth Garner would now be 30 years old. This image was created by forensic artists at NCMEC to show what Megan may look like today. At the time of her disappearance, Megan had brown hair and shadows under her brown eyes.
If you have any information about Megan, please call 1-800-THE-LOST or the Tyler Police Department- Missing Persons Unit at 1-903-531-1000.
View her NCMEC poster here.
Missing: Ava Baldwin
David Hopper is desperately searching for his daughter, Ava Baldwin, now 8.
She was abducted on September 17, 2015 from San Antonio, Texas. Have a tip? Call us at 1-800-THE-LOST.
View Ava's poster here: http://www.missingkids.org/poster/NCMC/1278435/1/screen
Twenty Years of Protecting Children
Back in 2001 when John Shehan first joined the Exploited Children Division at NCMEC as an analyst, the internet was a very different place.
“At the time, people weren’t interacting online the way they are today,” said Shehan. “We were just starting to see the evolution of websites and chat rooms where people were sharing content. While these innovations in technology have many great uses, we also quickly saw they could also be used for nefarious purposes.
”Launched in March of 1998, NCMEC’s CyberTipline is a critical tool for the nation in the effort to reduce the proliferation of child sexual abuse material online and instances of child sex exploitation while leveraging technology to support law enforcement efforts to rescue children from abusive situations.
Here’s how it works. If you see something online that you think might involve child sexual exploitation or depict “child pornography” – better described as child sexual abuse images – you may have no idea what to do. Do you call police? You are not sure where it occurred since it happened online so which police department do you call? You know sharing the images is illegal, but then how do you report it?
The CyberTipline gives the public a mechanism to safely report the concerning incident without having to share the images all over again. Analysts at NCMEC take that information, use technology tools and open-source data to add information and try to figure out where the content is originating from so they can make the report available to law enforcement in the right jurisdiction. Analysts also inform the hosting provider in an effort to have it removed from the internet and help to prevent further dissemination. Analysts are continually reviewing incoming reports to make sure children who are in imminent danger are receiving first priority.
“Some images we’ve seen tens of thousands of times and we know the victim has already been rescued,” said Shehan. “It’s important to weed through all of the data to identify newly produced images so law enforcement can find victims who are being actively abused.”
In 2002, NCMEC launched the Child Victim Identification Program because analysts reviewing CyberTipline reports were seeing the same images reported over and over again.
“In order to determine what children were currently in abusive situations we needed to know if law enforcement had already intervened to rescue the child depicted in a set of images,” said Shehan. “We started keeping track of that information to act as a pointer system and it’s grown into a global clearinghouse for victim identification.”
Now, as a vice president at NCMEC, Shehan runs the exploited children division. What started in 1998 with two analysts has grown to a staff of 64. But it’s not the just the sheer size of the department that’s changed over the years.
According to Shehan, everything started to change back in 2004…that’s when U.S. companies began to fight the proliferation of child abuse images online using hash values – unique digital fingerprints assigned to pieces of data like images and videos – to find, remove and report child sexual abuse content located on their servers. With a list of “known” hash values, companies can voluntarily scan their systems so the content can be identified, reported and removed. Likewise, when NCMEC receives a report about a child sexual abuse image with a known hash value, it can quickly determine if the image has already been reported, and if the child in the image has been identified. That’s the first step in rescuing a child.
As technology advances, there will be more opportunities to help survivors. For example, NCMEC recently partnered with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s “Project Arachnid,” which takes known hash values of child sexual abuse content and scours the web looking for those images. Gone are the days when NCMEC could only find out about content posted on public websites when the CyberTipline received a report. We have entered a new age where systems can proactively go out and find the images and alert the hosting providers so they can take the content down.
The CyberTipline is more than a mere reporting mechanism. There’s a lot to be learned from the more than 28 million reports NCMEC has received in the past 20 years. The rise of trends like sexting and sextortion can clearly be seen in the data from the CyberTipline. That data helps inform NCMEC’s prevention programs and education materials.
“It is really fulfilling to see the CyberTipline report data being used for prevention,” said Rebecca Sternberg, who manages the CyberTipline. “The reality is most, if not all, children will be online. We must equip them with information about how to do that more safely and empower them with the awareness of how to take action and make a report to CyberTipline, if necessary.”
So what’s next for NCMEC’s exploited children division? According to Shehan and his team, it’s all about using the best technology out there to help manage the immense amount of data coming into the center…that’s hundreds of thousands of reports per week.
Another one of Shehan’s goals is to use technology to help sort through images and videos more efficiently so his staff isn’t looking at the same abuse images over and over again. He’s aware of the toll it takes on analysts to view these images, so reducing that exposure is a high priority.
“I think it takes a certain kind of person to be able to do this job,” said Sternberg. I focus on the positive aspects. I know I’m making a difference, even if it’s just that one report, that one family.”
“NCMEC takes the mental health of its employees very seriously,” said Shehan. “We offer on-site counseling to staff members, there are spouse and significant-other groups…there are lots of different ways we make sure the team members have access to the resources they deserve.”
One thing we know for sure is the volume of reports made to the CyberTipline isn’t decreasing. In fact, in 2014 the CyberTipline passed a major milestone – it received more than one million reports that year. Today – less than four years later - we’re averaging over a million reports per month.
“There are thousands of victims that would probably still be in really bad situations if the CyberTipline didn’t exist,” said Shehan. “I’m honored to be part of a team that every day is working hard to provide resources that contribute to the rescue of children in bad situations, reduce the amount of child sexual abuse material online and provide a vital service to the public to better protect themselves, their families and their communities.”
If you ever come across suspicious content online, please make a report to CyberTipline.org. Reporting categories include online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names and misleading words or digital images on the internet.
Never hesitate to make a report. For more information, visit: http://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline
NCMEC's cybertipline turns 20
For 20 years now, NCMEC’s CyberTipline has been the nation’s centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children. The public and electronic service providers (ESPs) can make reports of suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet. Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received over 27 million reports, the overwhelming majority of which were reports of child sexual abuse materials online.
NCMEC analysts review each tip and work to find a potential location for the incident reported so that it may be made available to the appropriate law-enforcement agency for possible investigation. We also use the information from our CyberTipline reports to help shape our prevention and safety messages.
To make a report of online exploitation or child sex trafficking, click here.
College Students: "Don't let your guard down"
Suzanne Lyall was heading back to her dorm at the State University of New York in Albany when she vanished without a trace. She’s still missing today, 20 years later.
Her parents, Mary and Doug Lyall, have never stopped searching for “Suzy” since that devastating day, March 2, 1998. Doug Lyall died in 2015 at age 73 – never knowing what happened to his youngest daughter.
When Suzy disappeared, anyone between the ages of 18-21 was considered an adult and therefore was not listed as a missing child in the FBI’s national crime database. The Lyalls felt their 19-year-old daughter should be considered a missing child and fought hard for what became known as “Suzanne’s Law.”
The law, which was passed by Congress in April of 2003, extends the same reporting and investigative procedures to anyone missing between the ages of 18-21 that it does for children. It also enables the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to provide a full array of its resources for this age group.
“When Suzy first went missing, we had nowhere to turn,” said Mary Lyall, explaining why she fought for Suzanne’s Law, which has helped many searching families. “We were ordinary everyday people and didn’t realize we could have such an impact.”
Since the law was enacted, NCMEC has helped law enforcement with more than 1,000 of these cases, including those that were grandfathered in. Of the total, females and males were almost equal.
Mike DeShields, a member of NCMEC’s Forensic Services Unit, formerly worked as a special agent with the Department of Education’s Inspector General’s Office. He’s seen dozens of cases of missing co-eds and believes kids heading to college often think they’re invincible and let their guard down.
College students may be particularly susceptible to a raft of crimes, including abduction, sexual assault and robbery, especially if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said DeShields. Predators know where college kids hang out and are adept at targeting those who are the most vulnerable. “We encourage the students to always try to be aware of their surroundings and their conditions and to not only look out for themselves but their friends and peers as well,” he said.
In September 2014, Hannah Graham, 18, disappeared from the University of Virginia after a night out with friends and was later found murdered. Five years earlier, Morgan Harrington, 20, a student at Virginia Tech, vanished after attending a concert at UVA, and her body was found three months later. The same man has been charged in both of their slayings.
Tricia Reitler, 19, a student at Indiana Wesleyan University, was last seen on March 29, 1993 walking to her dorm alone from a store half a mile from campus. Tiffany Sessions, 20, a student at the University of Florida, was last seen on Feb. 9, 1989 leaving her off-campus apartment to go jogging. Kristin Smart, 19, was last seen leaving an off-campus party to return to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University on May 25, 1996. And Lauren Spierer, 20, a student at Indiana University, was last seen on June 3, 2011 after leaving a bar in Bloomington. All of these college students are still missing today.
Robert Lowery, vice president of NCMEC’s Missing Children Division, understands that college students enjoy their new freedoms when they leave home but stresses they should not let their guard down. Most importantly, he said, they should not walk anywhere alone at night and always use their common sense, as well as being aware of their surroundings. If they see something that makes them uneasy, they should trust their instincts, he said. Along with knowing the campus police phone numbers, Lowery encourages students to be careful when drinking alcohol and to always carry an ID with them.
Mary Lyall also urges all college students, and their parents, to be aware of potential dangers and to learn ways to protect themselves. She said neither she nor her daughter ever imagined anything would happen to her at college.
Lyall will never stop looking for her daughter until she finds the answers she desperately needs. She and her late husband dedicated their lives to helping other families of missing children and started their own non-profit organization, called the “Center for Hope.“
Lyall is also a member of NCMEC’s Team HOPE, an army of volunteers who have had a missing or exploited child and work with other families going through similarly tough times.
Abby Potash, program director for Team HOPE, said Mary Lyall, her husband and daughter, Sandy, have been a tremendous help and comfort to more than 50 families since joining the organization in 2002.
“Mary is extremely dedicated to helping all families of missing children,” Potash said.
A year after Suzanne went missing, Doug Lyall wrote a public letter to the person who abducted his daughter:
“I wonder if you were ever like Suzy,” he wrote. “Did you love homemade chocolate chip cookies? Did you go to RUSH concerts? Did you play jokes on April Fools’ Day? Did you spend time on the computer, oblivious to anything else going on around you? Suzy is more than a girl on a poster. Her mom and dad, Steve and Sandy miss her daily. She has dreams, and hopes and potential. I still have positive dreams. For my own survival, I have had to let go of anger or I would be consumed by it. But the questions persist.”
If you think you have seen a missing child, contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Family wants their “baby caterpillar” found
Today, February 26, is LaQuanta Riley’s 34th birthday.
LaQuanta went missing in December 2003. Despite the years that have passed, her relatives can vividly recall Quanta’s special qualities.
Quanta wasn’t much for sports, but she played clarinet for her middle and high school bands. Quanta’s family remembers how school and academics were very important to her. She studied hard and was an honor roll student for most of her school years. After graduating, Quanta planned to become a forensic scientist. At the time she disappeared, a full academic scholarship was waiting for her.
LaQuanta and her mother.
It’s been 14 years since her family has seen Quanta. Tammy, who helped raise Quanta, said that “whether Quanta is spoken about or not, she is present in their thoughts and dreams.” As a baby, family called Quanta their “baby caterpillar.” Her family wants Quanta found. Until that day comes, they will wonder what ever happened to their special baby caterpillar.
The image on the right is an age progression showing what LaQuanta may look like today.
LaQuanta Riley went missing from Montgomery, Alabama on Dec. 7, 2003. Her ears and tongue are pierced. She has a scar on her nose and two known tattoos, “Rest in Peace Mesha” on her left arm and “LaQuanta” tattooed on her right arm. If you have any information, please call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Vanished in Nashville: The Search for Tabitha Tuders
Tabitha Tuders was a typical 13-year-old girl, the youngest of three, she is lovingly referred to by her family as “Boo.”
“Her name is Tabitha, but I don’t remember how she got the nickname Boo, but that’s all I can remember calling her,” says Tabitha’s older brother, Kevin Tuders.
Although Kevin is 12 years older than Tabitha and had already moved out of the family’s home in Nashville, Tennessee by the time Tabitha was 13-years-old, the two were close. Kevin recalls how Tabitha would frequently ask him for a dollar so she could go buy Slim Jims, her favorite snack. He describes Tabitha as a “smiler,” a kid who was always happy.
Jamie Pulley, Tabitha’s older sister remembers how Tabitha loved to play with Jamie’s children. She describes Tabitha as a good kid who would never skip school or lie to their parents.
“Mom and dad were the main ones who spoiled her,” Jamie says with a smile. “She was the baby.”
For many families, like the Tuders, who are searching for their loved ones, there will always be a life before and a life after. In this case, it was life before April 29th, 2003 and life after, neither of which resemble the other.
The morning of Tuesday, April 29th, 2003 was like any other morning in the Tuders’ home in Nashville, Tennessee. Tabitha’s father, Bo, woke Tabitha up for school before he left to head off to work. Just as she had done many mornings before, Tabitha headed down the street to the bus stop located at Boscobel St. and 14th St. The rest of the family went off to go about their daily routine as well, but when Tabitha didn’t return from school at her usual time, her mother, Deborah, grew concerned.
Deborah went up to Tabitha’s school and was told by a few students that they had not seen Tabitha at school that day. That’s when Deborah contacted the Metropolitan Nashville Police to file a missing person report.
Detective Steven Jolley is with the Homicide Cold Case Unit at the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and is one of a long line of detectives who have been assigned to Tabitha’s case over the years.
According to Det. Jolley, after Tabitha was reported missing, law enforcement was able to determine that she had not even made it on the bus that morning. This meant that there was a whole window of time between approximately 8:00a.m. and 5:30p.m. that unbeknownst to her family, Tabitha had already gone missing.
“Somewhere between home and the bus stop is where she came up missing,” explains Jamie. “She never made it to school. We didn’t know she did not make it to school until she did not come home on the bus that afternoon.”
Law enforcement, along with Tabitha’s family, set out on a search that unbeknownst to them at the time, would continue for years.
At the time of Tabitha’s disappearance, law enforcement established a command post and organized search parties utilizing cadaver dogs and aviation. The family, along with several members of the community, participated in the search for Tabitha by handing out flyers with Tabitha’s picture.
In reviewing Tabitha’s case, Det. Jolley notes that there were several leads that came in from around the time Tabitha disappeared. According to lead reports, one witness claims to have seen Tabitha walking toward the bus stop on 15th St. when she stopped to talk to someone in a red vehicle. The witness stated that he then saw the vehicle turn around and Tabitha got in the front seat. Law enforcement considered this information, along with several other leads they received, but unfortunately none of those leads have led to Tabitha’s whereabouts.
Over 14 years have gone by and law enforcement continues to actively work this case. Although they do not have the answers yet, they, along with Tabitha’s family, theorize as to what happened to Tabitha. One aspect both parties agree on is the fact that Tabitha was most likely not a runaway.
“I don’t think that this is a runaway case for a couple of reasons,” explains Det. Jolley. “A 13-year-old girl had some cash that was left on her dresser, there were things left in her bedroom that I don’t think most 13-year-old girls would leave and she went in a direction that she would have normally gone in if she were going to school. I think if she were wanting to runaway she would have stayed clear of any place where someone would potentially see her.”
Forensic Artists at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children have created several age-progressed images to show what Tabitha may look like as she ages, but for Tabitha’s family, she remains forever in their minds as a 13-year-old girl.
“When I look for Boo, I look for that 13-year-old,” says Jamie. “I don’t look for a grown up. That’s all we know, is her as a child. It’s hard to see the age progressions because you don’t believe she looks like that.”
Tabitha’s parents have refused to move out of the home they shared with Tabitha in hopes that one day she will find her way back there. In the meantime, the family continues to share Tabitha’s story and vows to never stop searching for her until she returns home.
“We always look,” explains Kevin. “Even just doing basic everyday things, you find yourself looking.”
For the Tuders, life after April 29th, 2003 is forever changed, but one thing that remains the same is the love they have for Tabitha.
If you have any information about Tabitha, please call 1-800-THE-LOST.
Tabitha's family will never stop searching.
Who was "Valentine Sally"?
Thirty-six years ago, on Feb. 14, 1982, the body of a young woman was found outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, in Coconino County - just off I-40, a major highway that runs east-west through much of the U.S.
A law enforcement officer was out searching the area for a tire that had come off a vehicle earlier that day. About 25 feet off the westbound lanes of the highway, he saw a girl’s remains, possibly as young as 15 years old, under a cedar tree. Because she was found on Valentine’s Day, she became known as “Valentine Sally,” and her identity is still unknown to this day.
Valentine Sally's remains were discovered under this tree off I-40 in Coconino County, Arizona on Valentine's Day 1982.
An autopsy revealed she likely died two weeks before she was found, sometime between the last week of January and the first week of February in 1982. Her manner and cause of death are undetermined.
Investigators have chased down many leads, including a few that seemed very promising – a girl was missing from Florida around the same time, but luckily she was found alive. Another lead could still be viable. Law enforcement showed a photo of the sweater the girl was found wearing – white with red stripes – to a waitress at a local truck stop café.
Valentine Sally was found wearing this red and white striped sweater and “Seasons” brand size 9 jeans.
According to police, the waitress recognized the sweater and gave the following account.
She said that a young woman wearing designer jeans, a red and white striped sweater and blue jacket came into the café in the early morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 4, 1982, accompanied by a white male, about 60 years old and approximately 5’9” or 5’10”. He was wearing a brown leather vest and a cowboy hat decorated with feathers. The waitress told police the man ordered breakfast, but the young woman wanted only aspirin, complaining of a toothache and holding her left jaw with her hand. The waitress said she remembered specifically because she went looking for aspirin for the girl.
So why is this such a strong lead? Besides the matching sweater, law enforcement determined from Valentine Sally’s remains that one of her lower left molars was drilled open for a root canal about a week before she died, but the work had never been completed. She would have been experiencing significant pain in her left jaw.
Even through an extensive investigation, law enforcement has never been able to identify the man allegedly seen with Valentine Sally in the truck stop café, 15 miles from where her body was discovered 10 days later.
But that’s just one lead. No one knows for sure what happened to Valentine Sally.
NCMEC’s forensic services unit, which helps gather resources for investigators of long-term missing child and unidentified child cases, has been working with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office on this case for more than six years. In 2014, a forensic artist at NCMEC created a new facial reconstruction from Valentine Sally’s skull.
This facial reconstruction created by NCMEC shows what Valentine Sally may have looked like in life.
“This case is definitely solvable,” said Ashley Rodriguez, a
forensic case manager at NCMEC. “There is so much to work with here – a facial
reconstruction, photos of the clothes and a strong lead suggesting she was seen
in the area prior to her death.”
Investigators are looking to the public for any clue that
could lead to her identification.
Here’s what they know: Valentine Sally was probably between
15-20 years old and was found wearing a striped sweater and designer “Seasons”
jeans. A size 36C bra was also found nearby. She was between 5’5” and 5’6” and
weighed approximately 120 pounds. She had straight, shoulder-length,
strawberry-blonde hair and a healed scar on the front of her right thigh.
“Now it’s really about getting this information out to the
public,” said Rodriguez. We need to find that one person who recognizes her and
is willing to come forward.”
If you have any information on the identity of Valentine
Sally, please call:
- NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678);
- The Coconino County Sheriff’s Department at 928-226-5012 (case number 3-0282-0319); or
- The Coconino County Public Health Services District Medical Examiner Office at 928-679-8775 (case number 82-022).
Click here to view and share Valentine Sally’s poster.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHRISTOPHER AND SHANE
“It’s the not knowing,” says Alison Dansby, mother of Christopher Dansby. “How could this happen? Why did this happen?”
May 18, 1989 started out like any other day for Alison Dansby and her 2-year-old son Christopher. The pair walked to a park located at Lenox Avenue and West 114th Street in New York City accompanied by a few other relatives, including Christopher’s maternal grandmother. Christopher and Alison lived in an apartment complex close by and visited the park often. Alison left Christopher at the park with her relatives to play while she quickly ran across the street to the local grocery store. Upon her return 20 minutes later, Alison looked for Christopher who had been running around with other children at the park, but he was nowhere to be found. Alison and her relatives searched the whole park, asking other park goers if they had seen a little boy fitting Christopher’s description, but no one had seen little Christopher. Alison contacted the New York Police Department who dispatched officers and started a search for Christopher that unbeknownst to them, would continue for decades.
On August 10, 1989, Rosa Glover and her 1-year-old son Shane Walker were at the same park, across from the housing complex where they lived. As Rosa sat watching Shane play, two children approached her asking if they could play with Shane, to which she agreed. Shortly thereafter, an unknown man sat down next to Rosa and began talking to her. After briefly speaking with the unknown man, Rosa turned back to look at Shane, but he was gone. Rosa immediately contacted the NYPD who began searching for a little boy, just as they had months earlier.
Shortly after Shane’s disappearance, acting Deputy Chief Ronald J. Fenrich of the NYPD held a news conference to address the cases. Although law enforcement could not definitively state that Christopher and Shane were taken by the same person, the similarities between the two cases could not be ignored.
Christopher and Shane, both African American toddlers, vanished from the same playground during the evening hours, on the same day of the week, a Thursday. Additionally, both boys reportedly disappeared while playing with the same two children at the park. Law enforcement also received leads suggesting that an unknown individual was seen at the park on both missing dates, but this information could never be verified.
There have been many theories over the years as to what may have happened to the boys.
“Someone may have taken Christopher to sell him on the black market,” theorizes Alison. “Or maybe took him because they wanted a child of their own.”
Unfortunately, none of these theories have provided law enforcement or the searching families with any answers.
As the years have gone by, the cases of Christopher and Shane have been reviewed and reassigned to several detectives within the NYPD, all hoping to be the one who cracks the case.
Almost 29 years later and Christopher remains in Alison’s mind as the friendly and loving 2-year-old boy, not the 30-year-old man he would be today.
“It has been a long, hard process,” explains Alison. “All this time has gone by and there is still no closure. It’s just not okay. One of my kids is missing and I still don’t know what happened.”
At the time of his disappearance, Christopher was describes as 2 feet 6 inches tall and weighing approximately 30 pounds. He has brown eyes and black hair. He also has a birthmark shaped like a figuer "8" on his neck. Forensic artists here at NCMEC have created an age-progressed image to show what Christopher may look like today.
Prior to his disappearance, Shane was described as 3 feet tall and weighing approximately 23 pounds. He has brown eyes and black hair. Shane also has a small scar under his chin. Forensic artists here at NCMEC have created an age-progressed image to show what Shane may look like today.
View the NCMEC posters created for Christopher and Shane. If you have any information about Christopher or Shane, please call 1-800-THE-LOST.
February 1, 2018- A Birthday Message to Bethany Markowski From Her Mom on Her 28th Birthday.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. The silly things you would do, the little sweat bubbles that would pop up on your nose when you got hot. The way you would sing into a brush, but make me turn my back so I couldn’t watch you. That big smile that you always seemed to have on your beautiful little face.Today is another birthday that we will be celebrating without you here. If there is only one thing you remember about me I pray that it is how much I love you. I will never give up on finding you!! Happy Birthday my sweet baby Bethany, I love and miss you with all my heart 💚
(Jonnie Carter, mother of Bethany Markowski)
Bethany has been missing for over 16 years from Jackson, Tennessee. You can find her poster here: http://www.missingkids.org/poster/NCMC/906662
Child Sex Trafficking Affects Every Type of Community
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Help NCMEC spread awareness by learning more about the issue.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Some of NCMEC’s child sex trafficking cases involve boys being exploited
• 1 in 7 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2017 were likely victims of trafficking and 88% of those children were in the care of social services when they went missing.
• NCMEC has responded to child sex trafficking cases in every U.S. state.
• Many of the child sex trafficking victims reported to NCMEC also have other endangerments such as gang involvement.
• A child doesn’t have to disclose information about a trafficker to be a victim of sex trafficking.
• Some cases reported to NCMEC involve children being recruited into sex trafficking by other children in their group home or foster care placement.
• In the past five years, 75 percent of NCMEC’s reports regarding child sex trafficking relate to the trafficking of a child online.
Child sex trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining or advertising of a minor child for the purpose of commercial sex. To help combat the issue of child sex trafficking, NCMEC established the Child Sex Trafficking Team in 2011. If you suspect child sex trafficking, make a report to NCMEC by calling 1-800-THE-LOST or going online to CyberTipline.org. NCMEC’s team of specialized case managers and analysts are dedicated to specifically responding to child sex trafficking reports.
If you see something, say something.
Giving the Gift of a Fresh Start
Fifteen. That’s the average age of a child sex trafficking victim reported to NCMEC.
These children are expertly recruited by traffickers and buyers who prey upon their vulnerabilities to trap them in a horrifying cycle of abuse.
Child sex trafficking is happening in every state, in communities both large and small across the U.S. At the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we know there’s not one solution to this insidious crime. Intervention and recovery are the first steps. Survivors of child sex trafficking are victims of a crime and are entitled to and deserve services. Because of the often severe and chronic trauma a child sex trafficking victim has endured moving forward after recovery is rife with challenges. One way we have identified that we can demonstrate our focus on helping these children is in the first few hours after law enforcement intervenes and recovers a child sex trafficking survivor.
Often children have only the clothes on their backs – the often-inappropriate “costume” they are forced to wear by their trafficker. They may not have anything else.
That’s where our “Hope Bags” come in. They contain basic items to help kids remove their “costume” of clothes and makeup.
Hope Bags contain a fresh change of clothes, toiletries, snacks and other small comforts, including a note that says:
“We’re here because you’re out there and we care about you.
This Hope Bag contains some basic items just for you.
Keep your head up, you are not alone.
-Your friends at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.”
“Hope Bags are given directly to the kids that are being victimized through this crime as they take their first brave steps towards freedom,” said Staca Shehan, who runs the child sex trafficking team at NCMEC.
Since NCMEC started this program three years ago, we’ve created over 2,700 Hope Bags for survivors of child sex trafficking and distributed them to law enforcement, including 850 bags in 2017 alone.
“Hope bags are a really amazing program,” said Shehan. “It’s something that we developed here in house, but we are completely reliant on donations.”
Want to help? Please consider donating!
$10 provides all new toiletries
$15 provides snacks, a journal and a food gift card
$25 provides a fresh change of clothes and shoes
And for just $55, you can donate a complete Hope Bag and give the gift of a fresh start.
As a member of the public, it’s our responsibility to keep our eyes open. This is a crime that happens in plain sight. If you ever see anything suspicious, please make a report at CyberTipline.org or call our 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). You could help save a child’s life. Children deserve a childhood free from exploitation.
National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Today, January 11, marks the start of National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children established a Child Sex Trafficking Team in 2011 that specializes in providing technical assistance, analysis and recovery services for cases involving child sex trafficking. NCMEC provides “Hope Bags” which contain basic necessities such as toiletries, shoes, snacks and a change of clothes that can be given to recovered victims.
This year, NCMEC has partnered with A21, a global non-profit working to combat human trafficking on a new PSA, Can You See Me?.
The PSA, featuring actress Ashley Greene from the Twilight saga, depicts a what it may look like when a child is being sex trafficked. The child in the video is still going to school but her behavior, clothing, and demeanor all change once she becomes a victim of sex trafficking. Traffickers often prey upon a child’s vulnerability and use psychological pressure and intimidation to control the child for financial benefit relating to their sexual exploitation. This happens in every state and every community across the country. Sex traffickers do not discriminate.
(You may edit, publish, air any of the assets included in this file.
Credit – National Center for Missing & Exploited Children or NCMEC)
Indicators you will see play out in the PSA include, but are not limited to:
- Tattoos or other marking indicating “ownership” by the perpetrator
- Child starts isolating themselves from friends and family
- Change in clothing style or appearance – starts dressing provocative
- The “boyfriend” or older female starts exerting control over child
For a full list of potential risk factors and identifiers and other information can be found on NCMEC's website .
The public can report suspect child sex trafficking to NCMEC through the CyberTipline or by calling NCMEC’s 24 hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Pennsylvania State Police and NCMEC: Solving Pennsylvania's Oldest Mysteries
There are thousands of unsolved homicides in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Cases can quickly pile up and some go cold for years, even decades.
Corporal Thomas McAndrew is part of the criminal investigation assessment unit of the Pennsylvania State Police, and one of about 20 investigators statewide responsible for both new and “cold” homicides. For cold cases, they have the immense responsibility of finding ways to move forward with cases that have hit a dead end.
For him, time is both an enemy and friend.
“There is a clock on all these cases,” said McAndrew. “The longer they go on, the closer they get to forever remaining a cold case.”
While the cases that hit his desk vary greatly, the very worst involve children.
“When you’re working on the homicide of a child, you become more driven…if you can’t get motivated about trying to resolve a case about a child, then you’re in the wrong business,” said McAndrew.
For years, the Pennsylvania State Police has worked extensively with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to help bring home long-term missing kids – these are kids missing more than six months, and some have been gone for years. PSP also works with NCMEC to help identify Pennsylvania’s unknown child victims. Investigators with PSP are currently working with NCMEC on about a dozen unidentified child cases and many long-term missing child cases.
“At NCMEC, we help review what’s already been done and identify resources that are available that could be applied to their cases to help move them forward,” said Carol Schweitzer, supervisor of the forensic services unit at NCMEC.
“It’s nice to work with likeminded people, and at NCMEC, they’re up on the latest forensic techniques,” said McAndrew. “It’s another avenue of support. The mission we have is to go out and identify these kids so we can find their killer, and NCMEC has that same mission.”
One case that holds special importance to McAndrew is a girl known as Beth Doe, whose body was found right before Christmas in 1976 along the banks of the Lehigh River in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.
She was violently raped, strangled and shot in the neck after she died. She was pregnant, full-term, with a little girl. The fetus was cut from her body and her nose, ears and breasts were removed.
Her body was dismembered, shoved into three suitcases and thrown from a westbound highway overpass off I-80, which runs east-west through Pennsylvania.
Kids checking small animal traps near the river below the overpass found the girl’s remains. Investigators say she had been deceased for only a day or two when she was found. She was somewhere between 15-25 years old and called “Beth Doe,” and while we don’t know for sure the origins of the name, investigators say it was likely to differentiate her from other “Jane Does” at the time.
“This was a bizarre case for Carbon County,” said McAndrew.
Early on investigators tried everything they could to find answers. Several sketches of her face were created by different artists and publicized with the local news media. But no one came forward with answers.
This was 1976. There was no internet or 24-hour news networks.
“I think if we had all the major news outlets we have today, this case would have been on every TV show, every newspaper,” said McAndrew. “A nine-month pregnant female, murdered within four days of Christmas? Can you imagine?”
But after an exhaustive investigation, leads dried up.
NCMEC’s forensic imaging team created a facial reconstruction for the girl in 2002, after receiving a call from McAndrew. And with advancements in forensic science, McAndrew had the girl’s remains exhumed for testing.
An exam of her teeth revealed she had dental work done as a child, but her oral health declined significantly in the years before her death. She was likely in pain which may have been noticeable to the people around her.
It's important to note that while she was found in Pennsylvania, law enforcement says it's unlikely she was from that region. Chemical Isotope testing revealed even more clues. She may have spent her early childhood in southeastern parts of the U.S. that span from regions in Texas to regions in Virginia. Althrough the possibility also existst that she originally migrated from Eastern-Central Europe before coming to the U.S.
NCMEC created a new facial reconstruction of her in 2015 to give the public an image that might spark someone’s memory.
The forensic imaging team at the center then went to work enhancing other images that could be crucial to cracking the case - the suitcases she was found in and a bedspread found inside the suitcases. Now, it’s a matter of the right person seeing the images and coming forward with information.
“You know how everyone says there is always one case they want to solve in their career?” said McAndrew. “For me, this is the one.”
Beth Doe is just one of the more than a dozen unidentified child victim cases with which NCMEC is assisting the Pennsylvania State Police. It’s a partnership centered on the idea that no child is ever forgotten. No matter how many years pass, every child deserves the same chance at justice.
“Every child deserves their name,” said Schweitzer. “They deserve justice, and justice waits.”
If you have any information about Beth Doe, please call the Pennsylvania State Police at 570-459-3890 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
View Beth Doe (Jane Doe 1976)’s NCMEC poster here.
For a list of missing and unidentified cases in Pennsylvania, visit www.missingkids.org and search by “state.”
Missing Jeffrey Lynn
GUEST BLOG: Jeffrey Lynn Smith was 16 years old when she went missing on Dec. 4, 1985 from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Lynn’s family has never stopped searching for her. Her sister, Lisa, shared her story of Lynn’s disappearance with NCMEC.
Dec. 4, 1985. The town of Hot Springs was decorated for the Christmas season. The smell of fresh pine and wood burning fire places filled the air. The usual bustle of holiday shoppers and kids lined up for their yearly pictures with the jolly old fella was happening everywhere. It was a joyous time...for most.
On the side of town that we called home, fear and uncertainty had consumed the holiday spirit. I remember getting the call from mom. She was crying so hard to the point of being almost inaudible. Through the crackling of her voice, I heard the words that no one would ever want to hear. "Lynn did not come home last night!"
Writing these words gives me the same sick, numb feeling that I felt nearly 32 years ago. It was the first time that Lynn had ever missed a curfew let alone not come home at all. Both of our guts were screaming loudly that something was wrong.
One day turned into weeks. The missing person’s report had been filed. We were out every night searching for Lynn. We tried to retrace her steps that night a thousand times. Her boyfriend, Frank, was the last person to see Lynn. They were walking home from school together and had parted ways with Lynn's friend Lisa.
Frank stayed steadfast by our side during the initial searches. We would pick him up and we would all ride around together looking for Lynn. Then one day my mom and stepfather got a call. The police told them that a local pawnshop had a ring that they believe belonged to Lynn. It's was Lynn's ring that she had received for her birthday.
Like many families of missing people, we did not feel as if we got the support of the local law enforcement during that time. Rather than having a thorough investigation, we had to resort to visiting psychics and questioning people on our own.
The contrast of the joyous holiday happenings and us wandering aimlessly in emotional pain made me feel as if I was having an out of body experience. "This can't be happening." "Please, please...somebody pinch me so that I can awake from this nightmare." "I want to wake up to see Lynn sleeping across from me and smell aromas of Christmas dinner." Every night I went to sleep crying with other cries from other rooms as the background noise. There was no Christmas music. There was no watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that year.
It's been nearly 32 years since Lynn went missing. December is always a month that brings sadness for us. The feelings are hard to overcome no matter how much we try to do Christmassy things. My mom's pain floats around her like a thick fog...it's visible. Lynn is not here to enjoy the season with us so it will never feel right. The best thing we can do is good things in Lynn's name during this time.
We have started a tradition of handing out 16 “Lynn Bags” to homeless and others in need. We take a gallon size baggy and put socks, gloves, a toothbrush, jerky and other food items in them. We then toss in a crisp $5 bill and note with an inspirational quote and Lynn's poster to round out the package. To see the light in people eyes when we hand the bags to them, brings Lynn back to life in those moments.
There is not a day that goes by that we don't think of Lynn. My mom, brother and I will never lose hope of finding her one day.
One Child's Legacy
The 19th Anniversary of the First Successful AMBER Alert
Tragically, her life was abruptly ended, but the legacy she left has saved the lives of hundreds of other children.
In 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas and was later found brutally murdered. The AMBER Alert System was established in 1996 and was created as a legacy to Amber Hagerman. AMBER stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response” and today it is utilized in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This November, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children celebrates the 19th anniversary of the very first successful AMBER Alert.
In 1998, the AMBER Alert System was still new in Arlington, Texas, but it proved to be an invaluable resource when a two-month-old infant went missing. Rae-Leigh Bradbury was abducted from her family’s apartment by her babysitter. Given the circumstances, law enforcement made the decision to activate an AMBER Alert for Rae-Leigh.
Descriptive information about Rae-leigh, her abductor and the vehicle the two were believed to be traveling in was broadcast throughout the entire local area. Within minutes of activation, law enforcement received a call from a citizen who had spotted Rae-Leigh in the abductor’s vehicle. The safe and quick recovery of Rae-Leigh Bradbury proved how effective the AMBER Alert System could be in the case of a critically missing child. Rae-Leigh returned home with her parents and today, 19 years later, Rae-Leigh is a thriving college student.
The AMBER Alert Program has continued to be an invaluable resource when it comes to recovering critically missing children.
“AMBER Alerts are one of the most successful and useful tools that are utilized when it comes to searching for a critically missing child,” says Robert Lowery, vice president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Missing Children Division. “This technology allows law enforcement to issue an immediate call to action to the public in cases of missing children.”
As of Oct. 24, 2017, the AMBER Alert Program is credited with the successful recovery of 897 children.
897 children who were given a second chance, all because of the legacy that one child inspired.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is honored to be part of that legacy and share with you a few of our recent AMBER Alert success stories.
On July 15, 2017, a 9-year-old girl was abducted by her non-custodial mother while attending church with her custodial grandmother in Hallandale, Florida. The girl and the abductor were seen talking at the church before leaving in the abductor’s vehicle. Due to the abductor’s history, law enforcement issued an AMBER Alert for the missing 9-year-old. Shortly after the alert was activated, a citizen notified authorities that the girl and the abductor were at a gas station. The girl was recovered safely and the abductor was taken into custody.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
On Aug. 10, 2017, an AMBER Alert was issued in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a missing 2-year-old girl who was forcibly taken by her father after an argument. The child was sitting in a vehicle when the abductor broke the window, pulled the child out and left with her in another vehicle. Due to the nature of the abduction and the abductor’s history, law enforcement issued an AMBER Alert for the missing girl. The alert was sent out in a Wireless Emergency Alert message. After the abductor received the alert, he dropped the child off with a relative who contacted law enforcement.
Commerce City, Colorado
On Aug. 31, 2017, an AMBER Alert was issued in Commerce City, Colorado after a man broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home and forcibly abducted her and her 1-year-old child. After learning that the abductor may have weapons with him, law enforcement issued an AMBER Alert and began receiving tips from the public due to the Wireless Emergency Alert notification. One tip led law enforcement to the vehicle the three left in and later another tip came in from a citizen who claimed to have seen the abductor, his ex-girlfriend and the 1-year-old child. Law enforcement located both mother and child safely and arrested the abductor.
Click here to learn more about the AMBER Alert Program and read about other successful AMBER Alert recoveries.
Thanksgiving: A Time for Family, A Time for HOPE
November 16, 2017
For families of missing children, the prospect of gathering around their Thanksgiving table can be heartbreaking and overwhelming. Many of these families, have had years of searching and hoping that one day they will be reunited with their child and the empty chair at their table will once again be filled.
The holidays can be painful, but it can also inspire families to continue the search to bring their missing children home safely. NCMEC encourages families to never lose sight of HOPE.
As we approach this holiday season, there are many ways that you can help these families and others:
- Sharing posters of missing children in your area through social media
- Making a donation to support NCMEC’s mission of child safety
- Taking time over the holidays to teach the children in your life how that can stay safer.
Here are just a few of the missing children NCMEC is searching for this holiday season and all year long;
9-year-old Stephanie Crane was last seen on Oct. 11, 1993 around 6:00 p.m. According to witnesses, Stephanie was seen walking towards the Challis High School. At the time of her disappearance, Stephanie was described as 4 feet 2 inches tall and weighing approximately 85 pounds. She has blue eyes and brown hair with a distinctive cowlick on the right side of her hairline. She was last seen wearing maroon sweatpants and a maroon/white striped hooded shirt with the word “GIMME” on the front. The image above on the right shows what Stephanie may look like at the age of 31-years-old. If you have any information about Stephanie, please call 1-800-THE-LOST or the Custer County Sheriff’s Office at 1-208-879-2232. Poster
6-year-old Jesus De Le Cruz was last seen on Sept. 28, 1996 in Lynn, MA. He is believed to have been walking down Park Street around the time he disappeared. He has not been seen or heard from since. Around the time of his disappearance, Jesus was described as 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighing approximately 60 pounds. He has brown eyes and brown hair. Jesus has a scar above his left eye, a birthmark on his left calf and a birthmark on the left side of his forehead. He also has his left ear pierced. The image above on the right shows what Jesus may look like at the age of 19-years-old. If you have any information about Jesus, please call 1-800-THE-LOST, the Lynn Police Department at Poster or your local FBI.
3-year-old Reuben Bennett Blackwell II was last seen on May 6, 1996 in Clinton, MD. Reuben was allegedly abducted by his father, Reuben Blackwell, pictured above on the far right. According to law enforcement, Reuben’s father made threats to harm Reuben and himself. A federal warrant for Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution was issued for his father on Sept. 22, 2000; however; Reuben, who may go by the first name “Bennett”, has still not been located. During the time of his disappearance, Reuben was 3 feet tall and weighed approximately 36 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. The image above in the center shows what Reuben may look like at the age of 22-years-old. If you have any information about Reuben, please call 1-800-THE-LOST, the Prince George’s County Police Department at Poster or your local FBI.
6-year-old Kaylah Hunter (above on the left) and her 6-month-old brother, Kristian Justice (above on the right) went missing from their home in Detroit, MI on May 24, 2014. The children were last seen in the company of their mother; however, their mother has since been found deceased. Kaylah and Kristian may be traveling in a 2004 burgundy 4-door Chevrolet Impala with Michigan plates CCR1286, similar to the vehicle pictured above in the center. During the time of their disappearance, Kaylah was described as 4 feet 5 inches and weighing approximately 65 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. Kristian was described as 2 feet tall and approximately 17 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. Kaylah would now be 10-years-old and Kristian would now be 4-years-old. If you have any information about Kaylah and Kristian, please call 1-800-THE-LOST, the Detroit Police Department at Posteror Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAKUP (800-773-2587).
To learn about other children listed as missing with NCMEC, please visit our website.
UK Home Secretary & Other Leaders Meet at NCMEC
In a united front to help protect children around the world, leaders came together at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to discuss ground-breaking efforts tackling child sexual exploitation. NCMEC hosted a collaborative roundtable with the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Amber Rudd, The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, United States Department of Justice and leaders in the technology industry - Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter.
The event which took place at NCMEC’s Alexandria, VA headquarters showcased Project Arachnid, a program created by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Project Arachnid is an essential tool that proactively detects sexual abuse material and notifies hosting providers with a request for immediate removal.
“NCMEC proudly supports Project Arachnid because we know there is a unique anguish inflicted upon those depicted in child sexual abuse imagery,” said John Clark, NCMEC President and CEO. “We owe it to survivors to do what we can, and collaborate wherever possible, to reduce the availability of child sexual abuse imagery online.”
In partnership with NCMEC, Project Arachnid will be enhanced to create a trusted, global child sexual abuse material hash list and a set of tools to help industry proactively address the misuse of their services. This global initiative, which is being supported by the UK Home Office, allows for unprecedented collaboration between reporting entities, the tech industry, and world leading governments.
“What we heard from survivors in our international survey was heartbreaking. The recording and possibility of distribution of the sexual abuse they endured as children exponentially compounds the trauma of the abuse itself, and means the abuse never ends for them,” said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “We are proud to stand at the frontlines with NCMEC to protect these most vulnerable of victims.”
NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation. In 2016, the CyberTipline received 8.2 million reports. Most of those reports related to apparent child sexual abuse images, online enticement, including “sextortion,” child sex trafficking and child sexual molestation. Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received more than 20 million reports.
The technology industry is an important partner in fighting child sexual exploitation both on and offline. NCMEC applauds the continued work to support our mission and combat this growing issue to ensure a safer childhood for kids. The massive volume of reports that CyberTipline receives require action from electronic service providers and we know that this work massive, yet our partners are unwavering in their dedication.
“Global collaboration is absolutely essential if we really want to tackle online crimes against children,” says Amber Rudd, UK Home Secretary. “We must all work together to galvanize our efforts to develop meaningful solutions that have a global capacity to help those most vulnerable.”
Have You Seen Me? - Bringing More Missing Children Home
November 6, 2017
NCMEC’s partner, Valassis, announced today that they are expanding the long-running “Have You Seen Me?” program with what they are calling “50 in 50.” The new initiative will feature the photos of 50 missing children in 50 states.
This is the latest innovation in a 30-plus year collaboration between Valassis, NCMEC and the U.S. Postal Service. Have You Seen Me? leverages the power of Valassis’ intelligent media delivery to reach over 100 million American households with print and digital images of missing children.
To date, 159 children have been recovered as a direct result of the program. Valassis is NCMEC’s longest-standing photo partner and a key contributor to information NCMEC receives about missing children.
To learn more about this program advancement and its potential impact on the search for missing children visit http://valassis.com/about-us/newsroom/.
November 2, 2017
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Takes Child Exploitation Fight to the Cloud
Donated Google Cloud Platform Services Will Exponentially Increase Ability to Help Locate Victims
ALEXANDRIA, Va., November 2, 2017 – Today, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® announced that a recent donation of compute services is expected to have what NCMEC is calling, a “massive impact” on its fight against child sexual exploitation. The donation of Google Cloud Platform technologies will increase NCMEC’s ability to process and analyze the millions of child sexual abuse images reported to its CyberTipline every year, with a goal of helping law enforcement identify and rescue more child victims.
“Every report we receive may represent a child that desperately needs help and last year alone we received more than 8 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, most of which involved child sexual abuse images,” said John Clark, NCMEC president and CEO. “We cannot afford to lose time based on limitations in computing power, so Google Cloud Platform’s ability to expand processing power as needed is a game-changer for us.”
To date, 215 million images and videos of child sexual abuse have been analyzed by NCMEC. Each image is identified by a hash value, which serves as a digital fingerprint. Though images and videos are sometimes shared multiple times by offenders and may be included in multiple reports, the hash values can be compared to determine which files have been identified and which haven’t. This reduces the time needed to locate images within a report that contain new or unknown victims.
“Because of the size of the files and the growing number of identified images, the ability to quickly triage reports by comparing hash values was limited on our servers,” said John Shehan, vice president of NCMEC’s Exploited Children Division. “Google Cloud is helping us keep pace, which is critical to our ability to help direct law enforcement to children who are being victimized.”
This donation is the latest in more than a decade of partnership between NCMEC and Google to reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent victimization. In addition to financial support and donated technology, Google also works closely with NCMEC’s engineers and analysts to brainstorm technology solutions and build customized tools.
For a video with additional interviews and details about the impact of the Google Cloud Platform on NCMEC’s mission, visit missingkids.org.
About the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Since 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has served as the leading private, nonprofit organization helping to find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent future victimization. As part of its work as the clearinghouse and resource center on issues relating to missing and exploited children, NCMEC operates a hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678), and has assisted in the recovery of more than 250,000 missing children. NCMEC also operates the CyberTipline®, a mechanism for reporting suspected child sexual exploitation, which has received more than 21.5 million reports since it was created in 1998. To learn more about NCMEC, visit www.missingkids.org or visit NCMEC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
October 23, 2017
Thousands of children are missing in America. We know that photos are the most important tool to finding missing kids. Please take a moment to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@MissingKids) and share missing child posters and stories. You can help bring them home.
View some of their stories here. For more, check out YouTube.
If you have any information about a missing child, please call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.
Operation Cross Country XI
October 18, 2017
“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America and at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,” said NCMEC president & CEO John Clark. “We’re proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”
Jeffrey Lynn Smith will be 48 years old on Oct. 12, 2017
October 12, 2017
Jeffrey Lynn Smith will be 48 years old on Oct. 12, 2017. She went missing from Hot Spring, Arkansas in December 1985.
As her birthday approaches, her family wants Lynn to know this;
“On this day, we celebrate Lynn's life. We want her to know how much we love her and miss her. We will never give up hope of finding her...never give up seeking justice. Most of all we want to give thanks for the pleasure of loving and being loved by you, Jeffrey Lynn Smith for 16 wonderful years. We will hold you dear and affectionately in our hearts forever.”
View her poster: http://www.missingkids.com/poster/NCMC/665279/1/screen
Child Dignity in the Digital World
October 6, 2017
In 2016 alone, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline received approximately 8.2 million reports and a staggering number of those reports were related to the growing issue of online child victimization. As NCMEC continues to work to combat this issue, we are certainly not alone in this fight to protect children from the dangers lurking within the Internet.
These past three days, representatives from NCMEC were given the opportunity to attend the “Child Dignity in the Digital World” conference hosted by the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. Many leaders from all relevant areas on the issue gathered in Rome to answer a desperate call to help further protect our children from becoming victims of sextortion, sexting, cyberbullying and harassment.
Michelle DeLaune, NCMEC’s Chief Operating Officer attended the conference. “This has been a remarkable experience I will never forget,” says DeLaune. “We know that this is a global issue and bringing these leaders together shows our joint commitment to global child protection.”
NCMEC was honored to be given the opportunity to stand side by side with some of our partners, including representatives from Facebook, Microsoft, Thorn and the Internet Watch Foundation as well as other key stakeholders and international leaders. Allowing experts on the issue a chance to collaborate with one another opens the door to create more public awareness and the opportunity to act on the issue on a larger scale.
As the conference came to a close, Pope Francis addressed those in attendance and recognized their efforts. “As representatives of various scientific disciplines and the fields of digital communications, law and political life, you have come together precisely because you realize the gravity of these challenges linked to scientific and technical progress,” he said. “With great foresight, you have concentrated on with is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family: the protection of young people’s dignity, their healthy development, their joy and their hope.”
NCMEC, along with our partners and world leaders, will continue to work together to combat this issue because protecting the dignity and innocence of children is our number one priority.
September 30, 2017
ATTENTION: If you have a missing child as a result of Hurricane Maria, or you find a child who is unaccompanied, please IMMEDIATELY call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's National Emergency Child Locator Center at: 1-866-908-9570.
Someone will be available 24 hours a day to assist.
FEMA has authorized the activation of the National Emergency Child Locator Center to assist authorities in Puerto Rico.
The vice president of NCMEC’s Missing Children Division, Robert Lowery, states, “We are there to answer the call from FEMA who has requested our services to assist with displaced children as a result of Hurricane Maria. In addition to that, we will also be establishing our National Emergency Child Locator Center (NECLC) in Florida to accept calls from the public who are attempting to check on the welfare of children who are in Puerto Rico as a result of this natural disaster.”
NCMEC will also deploy a number of experienced personnel known as "Team Adam” to assist with the location and reunification efforts as a result of Hurricane Maria.
If you have any questions regarding a child missing or displaced due to Hurricane Maria, please call 1-866-908-9570 for assistance.
ATENCIÓN: Si tiene un menor desaparecido como resultado del huracán María o si encuentra un menor que no está acompañado, por favor, llame INMEDIATAMENTE al Centro Nacional de Localizador para Niños de Emergencia del Centro Nacional de Niños Desaparecidos y Explotados del al 1-866-908-9570.
Alguien estará disponible las 24 horas del día para ayudar.
La Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA, por sus siglas en inglés) ha activado el Centro Nacional de Emergencia para Localizar a Menores (NECLC por sus siglas en inglés) para ayudar a autoridades en Puerto Rico.
El vicepresidente de la División de Menores Desaparecidos del Centro Nacional Para Menores Desaparecidos y Explotados (siglas en inglés - NCMEC), Sr. Robert Lowery, indica que “Estamos allí para responder a la llamada de asistencia por FEMA que ha pedido nuestros servicios para ayudar a los niños desplazados como resultado del huracán María. Además de eso, también estaremos estableciendo nuestro Centro Nacional de Localizador de Niños de Emergencia (siglas en inglés - NECLC) en Florida para aceptar las llamadas del público que están tratando de verificar el bienestar de los niños que están en Puerto Rico como resultado de este desastre natural.”
NCMEC también mandara un número de representantes especializados conocidos como “Equipo Adán” para ayudar con los esfuerzos de localización y reunificación por resultado del huracán María.
Si tiene preguntas sobre un menor desaparecido o desplazado debido al huracán María, llame at 1-866-908-9570 para obtener asistencia.
September 20, 2017
A Vermont man is facing federal charges after being arrested earlier this month. Authorities were tipped off after Google submitted a Cybertip to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children that a user had been uploading child sexual abuse material on one of its platforms. NCMEC forwarded the Cybertip onto the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), which then investigated the user.
NCMEC’s CyberTipline provides the public and electronic service providers with the ability to report suspected child sexual abuse online.
Members of the public are encouraged to report information regarding possible child sexual exploitation to the CyberTipline by visiting www.cybertipline.com.
Read the full story here.
New image of unidentified child found in Texas
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office (Texas) and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released the first facial reconstruction for a girl found one year ago (Sept. 17, 2016).
Her remains were found near the 7800 block of I-45 north in Madisonville, Texas inside a black suitcase. She was between 2-6 years old, Caucasian or Hispanic, with dark hair. She was found wearing a pink dress and a diaper.
The girl was also found with a feeding tube. She likely had a condition called micrognathia, which would have affected her ability to eat on her own. She also would have likely needed professional medical care throughout her life.
While she was found in Texas, a pollen analysis completed on her remains suggests she was from the southwest U.S. or the adjacent region in Mexico. It’s even more likely she was from southeast Arizona.
NCMEC is asking anyone with information to call its 24/7 hotline: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
NCMEC utilizes Yaana Technologies’ purpose-driven Mobile Investigation and Data Acquisition System (MIDAS) to help find missing children quickly
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – September 12, 2017 – According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center Missing Person File, juveniles under the age of 18 account for 38.3% of missing persons in 2016. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), a nonprofit dedicated to helping find missing children and stop child sexual exploitation, provides on-site assistance to law enforcement agencies and families in cases of missing children through its Team Adam program. Team Adam consultants are retired law enforcement professionals with years of experience at the federal, state and local levels. Consultants from Team Adam provide on-the-ground technical assistance and connect local law enforcement to a national network of resources. Yaana Technologies developed MIDAS (Mobile Investigation and Data Acquisition System), a purpose-built technology platform that offers a mobile application with an intelligent command/control system that enables law enforcement field investigators to rapidly investigate missing persons and other crimes. Yaana has in-depth expertise in processing real-time data, large data platform, mobile application, and passion for solving critical issues. The idea was to use smartphones, tablets and real-time command/control to increase speed and accuracy for field investigators who previously relied on paper/pen while canvassing in response to a child abduction. In searching for missing children, every minute counts. Of the AMBER Alerts issued for abducted children in 2016, 94% of recovered children were found within 72 hours, including 47 percent found within three hours. (http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/2016AMBERAlertReport.pdf)
Yaana Technologies collaborated with NCMEC in developing and implementing a Team Adam MIDAS version to assist with the efforts of Team Adam to support law enforcement. “We at NCMEC appreciate the dedication and passion that Yaana has shown in developing and deploying this application to support our mission of bringing missing children home safely. This mobile app has quickly become a very valuable asset.” Mark D. Gianturco, Vice President Technology Division of CTO Office, NCMEC.
Raj Puri, CEO of Yaana Technologies, explains “MIDAS has been a key project for me personally and we have evolved the core platform by collaborating with the law enforcement community in the US and UK. Yaana is happy to provide this critical service to NCMEC and the law enforcement community to address the crimes against children. Yaana is honored to be selected by NCMEC and in leveraging our expertise to make this world a safer place for our children.”
To speak with a Yaana representative or learn more about Yaana’s Mobile Investigation and Data Acquisition System, visit Yaana’s website: https://www.yaanatech.com/products/#public-sector_midas
About the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® is the leading private, nonprofit organization helping to find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent future victimization. NCMEC has assisted in the recovery of more than 243,000 missing children and received more than 20 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation on its CyberTipline. To learn more about NCMEC, visit missingkids.org
or follow NCMEC on Twitter and Facebook.
About Yaana Technologies
Yaana Technologies (www.yaanatech.com) is a leading global provider of Intelligent Compliance Solutions including compliance request management systems, data retention and analytics systems, lawful interception systems and a variety of cybersecurity mediation systems. Yaana’s solutions offer customers a cost-effective path to address the complexities related to meeting compliance needs in the rapidly evolving information communications and cloud markets worldwide.
Follow Yaana via:
US Contact: Saran Gopalakrishnan, Yaana Technologies
Phone: (408) 854 – 8043
Vanished in Cape Cod
September 7, 2017
It has been 40 years since Simone Ridinger disappeared without a trace. But a second look at an old lead could provide investigators with some much-needed information.
As the summer of 1977 drew to a close, 17-year-old Simone made plans to celebrate Labor Day weekend with her family at their vacation home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. At the time, Simone was working as a waitress at the Rainbow Restaurant in downtown Natick, Massachusetts. According to law enforcement, Simone left work around 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, 1977 and intended to hitchhike to Cape Cod, but she never arrived.
According to police records, a man came into the Sherborn Police station in 1986 claiming to have information regarding the disappearance of Simone Ridinger. A local newspaper had recently run an article about Simone and the man told police that he recognized her photo. The man claimed that during the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 3, 1977 he was pulled over by police on Route 128, south of Boston. The man told the officer that he was on his way to Osterville, Massachusetts to collect some clock parts. In his recollection to police, the man said he noticed a young female sitting in the officer’s vehicle. He says the officer asked him if he would give the young female a ride to Cape Cod, since it was in the same direction he was traveling, and he agreed. The man claims that he dropped the young female off at the airport rotary in Hyannis, Massachusetts. The physical description of the young female that the man provided to law enforcement at the time fit with the physical description of Simone. Additionally, the man stated that the young girl was wearing a blue blouse, blue jeans, white sneakers and was carrying a gray-ish colored duffle bag. But law enforcement was not able to corroborate any of this information.
Fast forward to 2014. Detectives with the Sherborn Police Department decided to re-examine Simone’s case. In addition to reviewing some old leads, the detectives also conducted interviews with people who knew Simone during the time she disappeared.
Detectives sat down with two of Simone’s former coworkers from the Rainbow Restaurant. These two individuals were able to provide detectives with a description of what Simone was wearing the day she left work to head to Cape Cod. According to their statement, Simone was wearing a blue vest-like blouse, blue jeans, white sneakers and carrying a gray duffle bag. Sound familiar? This description matched the description given by the man in 1986 who claimed to have given Simone a ride.
With this new information, detectives are now looking into the idea that Simone may have in fact made the 80-mile journey from Natick, Massachusetts to the Cape Cod area before disappearing. Officials with the Sherborn Police Department are seeking information from anyone who may have been in the Cape Cod area during Labor Day weekend 1977 and recall seeing a young female matching Simone’s description.
Simone was a 17-year-old white female with brown hair and brown eyes. She was five feet six inches tall and weighed approximately 130 pounds. She was last seen wearing a blue vest-like blouse, blue jeans, white sneakers and carrying a gray duffle bag. The blouse may have been consistent with the waitress uniform worn at the Rainbow Restaurant in 1977.
If you have any information, please contact the Sherborn Police Department at 508-653-2424 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
September 1, 2017
ATTENTION: If you have a missing child as a result of Hurricane Harvey, or you find a child who is unaccompanied, please IMMEDIATELY call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's National Emergency Child Locator Center at: 1-866-908-9570.
FEMA has authorized the activation of the National Emergency Child Locator Center to assist authorities in the state of Texas. This triggers creation of a toll-free missing children’s hotline, as well as deployment of experienced NCMEC personnel known as "Team Adam." They will assist with the location and reunification of children missing as a result of the hurricane.
If you have any questions regarding a child missing or displaced due to Hurricane Harvey, please call 1-866-908-9570 for assistance.
For additional resources, visit: https://www.fema.gov/how-do-i-find-my-family.
August 18, 2017
Suspect ID’d in Allenstown Homicides, Victims Remain Nameless
Law enforcement announced today a significant break in the decades old murder mystery of an unidentified woman and three unidentified little girls found in steel barrels in Allenstown, New Hampshire. The prime suspect in the quadruple homicide has been identified as Terrance Peder Rasmussen. Rasmussen used many aliases throughout his life, including Bob Evans, before he died in prison in 2010.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children created facial reconstructions for the woman and three little girls. If you have any information to help finally identify these murder victims, please call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.
KIDSMARTZ, AWARD-WINNING CHILDHOOD ABDUCTION PREVENTION PROGRAM, NOW AVAILABLE IN SPANISH
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Honeywell
Introduce Kids in Grades K-5 to Potentially Life-Saving Messages
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Tuesday, August 8, 2017 – The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® and Honeywell (NYSE:HON) announced today that KidSmartz™, the abduction prevention program, will now be available in English and Spanish. The new Spanish resources are being released just in time for children heading back to school, which NCMEC cites as a critical time in child safety.
A ten-year analysis by NCMEC of attempted abductions and related incidents found that most occurred when children were on their way to or from school. The KidSmartz program focuses on keeping the lines of communication open between parents and children, helping children identify trusted adults and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
“We want to stop crimes against children before they happen and education is the key,” said NCMEC President and CEO, John Clark. “In the past five years, 15 percent of the missing children reported to NCMEC were Hispanic with many of them speaking only Spanish at home. With these translated resources, we can help protect more children.”
The KidSmartz program, developed by NCMEC in partnership with Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s corporate citizenship initiative, uses videos, music and classroom activities to teach personal safety to children in grades K-5. It was the recipient of the 2016 Teacher’s Choice Award from “Learning Magazine.”
The program, focuses on four basic safety rules:
- Check First
- Take a Friend
- Tell People “NO”
- Tell a Trusted Adult
“Safety is one of the most critical areas of focus for Honeywell’s corporate citizenship initiatives, and reaching as many families and schools through this program is essential in preventing abduction,” said Mike Bennett, president, Honeywell Hometown Solutions. “Offering KidSmartz’s resources in Spanish fits our strategy to reach an even greater number of communities where conversations about kids’ safety can take place.”
The KidSmartz materials are available in English and Spanish for free download at www.Kidsmartz.org. For more information, visit KidSmartz on Facebook and Twitter.
About the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Since 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has served as the leading private, nonprofit organization helping to find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent future victimization. As part of its work as the clearinghouse and resource center on issues relating to missing and exploited children, NCMEC operates a hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678), and has assisted in the recovery of more than 237,000 missing children. NCMEC also operates the CyberTipline®, a mechanism for reporting suspected child sexual exploitation, which has received more than 16.5 million reports since it was created in 1998. To learn more about NCMEC, visit www.missingkids.org or see NCMEC on Twitter and Facebook.
About Honeywell Hometown Solutions
KidSmartz™, the “next generation” of Got2BSafe!, is part of Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s corporate citizenship initiative, which focuses on five areas of vital importance: Science & Math Education, Family Safety & Security, Housing & Shelter, Habitat & Conservation, and Humanitarian Relief. Together with leading public and non-profit institutions, Honeywell has developed powerful programs to address these needs in the communities it serves. For more information, please visit https://citizenship.honeywell.com/.
Honeywell (www.honeywell.com) is a Fortune 100 software-industrial company that delivers industry specific solutions that include aerospace and automotive products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes, and industry; and performance materials globally. Our technologies help everything from aircraft, cars, homes and buildings, manufacturing plants, supply chains, and workers become more connected to make our world smarter, safer, and more sustainable. For more news and information on Honeywell, please visit www.honeywell.com/newsroom.
KIDSMARTZ, EL PREMIADO PROGRAMA PARA LA PREVENCIÓN DE SECUESTROS, AHORA DISPONIBLE EN ESPAÑOL
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children y Honeywell
presentan mensajes que podrían salvarle la vida a los niños de los grados K-5
ALEXANDRIA, Va., martes 8 de agosto de 2017 – El National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® y Honeywell (NYSE:HON) anunciaron hoy que KidSmartz™, el programa para la prevención de secuestros, ahora estará disponible en inglés y en español. Los nuevos recursos en español se publican justo a tiempo para el regreso de los niños a la escuela, que el NCMEC señala como una época crucial para la seguridad de los niños.
Un análisis de diez años realizado por el NCMEC sobre los intentos de secuestro e incidentes relacionados encontró que la mayoría se produjo cuando los niños estaban yendo o volviendo de la escuela. El programa KidSmartz se centra en mantener las líneas de comunicación abiertas entre los padres y los niños, en ayudar a que los niños reconozcan a los adultos de confianza y en evitar situaciones potencialmente peligrosas.
“Queremos detener los delitos contra los niños antes de que ocurran y, para eso, la educación es fundamental”, dijo el presidente y director ejecutivo del NCMEC, John Clark. “En los últimos 5 años, el 15 por ciento de los niños perdidos informados por el NCMEC son hispanos y muchos de ellos solo hablan español en su casa. Con la traducción de estos recursos, podemos ayudar a proteger a más niños”.
El programa KidSmartz, desarrollado por el NCMEC en sociedad con Honeywell Hometown Solutions, la iniciativa corporativa-ciudadana de la empresa, emplea videos, música y actividades escolares para enseñarles a los niños de los grados K-5 a cuidar su seguridad personal. Recibió el premio Teacher’s Choice 2016 otorgado por “Learning Magazine”.
Este programa se centra en cuatro reglas básicas de seguridad que enseña a los niños a:
- Consultar primero
- Llevar a un amigo
- Decirle “NO” a la gente
- Decirle a un adulto de confianza
“La seguridad es una de las áreas de enfoque fundamentales de las iniciativas corporativa-ciudadanas de Honeywell, y llegar a tantas familias y escuelas como sea posible con este programa es esencial para evitar los secuestros”, dijo Mike Bennett, presidente de Honeywell Hometown Solutions. “Ofrecer los recursos de KidSmartz en español forma parte de nuestra estrategia para llegar a una cantidad aún mayor de comunidades donde puedan darse conversaciones sobre la seguridad de los niños”.
Puede descargar los materiales de KidSmartz en inglés y en español en forma gratuita en www.KidSmartz.org. Para más información, visite KidSmartz en Facebook y Twitter.
Acerca del National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Desde el año 1984, el National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® se ha desempeñado como la organización privada, sin ánimo de lucro, líder en ayudar a encontrar los niños perdidos, reducir la explotación sexual de menores y evitar víctimas futuras. Dentro de su tarea como centro de recursos y referencia sobre los temas relacionados con niños perdidos y explotados, el NCMEC tiene una línea directa, 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678), y ha asistido en la recuperación de más de 237,000 niños perdidos. El NCMEC también opera CyberTipline®, un mecanismo para denunciar sospechas de explotación sexual infantil, el cual ha recibido más de 16.5 millones de denuncias desde su creación en 1998. Para obtener más información sobre el NCMEC, visite www.missingkids.org o consulte las cuentas del NCMEC en Twitter y Facebook.
Acerca de Honeywell Hometown Solutions
KidSmartz™, la “generación siguiente” de Got2BSafe!, es parte de Honeywell Hometown Solutions, la iniciativa corporativa-ciudadana de la empresa, que se centra en cinco áreas de vital importancia: educación en Ciencias y Matemática, seguridad familiar, vivienda y refugio, hábitat y conservación, y ayuda humanitaria. Junto con instituciones públicas y sin ánimo de lucro líderes, Honeywell ha desarrollado fuertes programas para dar respuesta a esas necesidades de las comunidades en las que opera. Para obtener más información, visite https://citizenship.honeywell.com/.
Acerca de Honeywell
Honeywell (www.honeywell.com) es una empresa industrial de software incluida en la lista Fortune 100 que ofrece soluciones específicas para la industria mundial, tales como productos y servicios aeroespaciales; tecnologías de control para edificios, hogares e industria; y materiales de alto rendimiento. Nuestras tecnologías ayudan a que todos, desde aeronaves, automóviles, hogares y edificios, plantas de manufactura, cadenas de suministro y trabajadores, estén más conectados para que nuestro mundo sea más inteligente, más seguro y más sustentable. Para ver más novedades e información sobre Honeywell, visite www.honeywell.com/newsroom.
July 13, 2017
A shocking crime in Colorado - Christopher Abeyta was stolen from his crib in the middle of the night on July 15, 1986. He was seven months old. Today, there are no answers. See how Christopher’s disappearance has impacted generations of his family and how they keep up the fight to bring him home. NCMEC’s Angeline Hartmann sat down with Christopher’s niece, sister and mother.
If you have any information on the disappearance of Christopher Abeyta, please call the Colorado Springs Police Department at 719-444-7000 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
June 14, 2017
Investigators with the Greece Police Department in Greece, NY are asking for your help to identity an unknown child found in 1976.
On March 9, 1976, the skeletal remains of a young child were found inside a blue metal storage trunk in the basement of an apartment complex in Greece, NY. Greece is a neighborhood just outside of Rochester, NY.
As part of its ongoing investigation, Greece PD worked with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to have the child’s DNA tested, confirming the child is male.
He had brown hair and was found wearing a light blue pajama top with a deer design on the left chest area. He was also wearing a plastic diaper that was fastened with two stainless steel diaper pins.
Anyone with tips should call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
June 2, 2017
NCMEC is proud to partner with the Portland Growler Company (PGC) this June! From June 1-30th, patrons of Portland Growler Company can use the discount code “NCMEC10” at checkout. Portland Growler Company will take 10% off of your order AND donate 10% back to NCMEC to help us find missing kids and help our critical outreach and prevention programs!
Again, the cause marketing effort kicks off June 1st and can be used on any custom growler from Portland Growler Company’s legendary selection – Wedding Packages are the only exclusion.
Visit https://portlandgrowlercompany.com/ to place your order today!
June 1, 2017
She could be the girl that sits in the second row of your classroom.
He could be the boy standing in front of you in line at the mall.
They could be victims, hiding in plain sight.
Often in the movies we are led to believe that victims of trafficking are kept behind closed doors, in captivity…and while this holds some truth, it’s not always the case.
“Child sex trafficking is a public crime that is well disguised and often the ‘handcuffs’ are mental rather than physical,” said Staca Shehan, the executive director of the Case Analysis Division at NCMEC.
The first step in combating child sex trafficking is understanding what victim indicators may look like because often they are not what one would expect.
Individuals such as teachers, hotel staff, hospital workers and others who may come in contact with children on a daily basis, can play a vital role in recognizing victims of child sex trafficking. Some behavioral indicators a victim may display include the use of prostitution-related terms, connecting and spending time with older individuals or looking to others before answering questions.
Last year, an Uber driver named Keith Avila was hailed as a hero for saving a saving a 16-year-old trafficking victim. Avila picked up two adult women and a teenage girl to drive them to a nearby hotel and became concerned with the situation after he overheard the adult women talking about delivering the teen to a “John” in exchange for money. After dropping the passengers off, the driver immediately contacted 911, later learning that the victim was a 16-year-old girl who had run away from home. NCMEC honored Avila at its annual Hope Awards gala last month.
Victims of child sex trafficking may also show signs of possible physical abuse, have access to large, unexplained sums of money or reference traveling job opportunities such as modeling or dancing. According to NBC News, in 2011, a flight attendant with Alaska Airlines, while on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco, spotted a girl huddled in a window seat, with bruises on her legs, wearing worn clothing and seated next to a well-dressed older man. Sensing that something was wrong, the flight attendant motioned to the girl to go to the restroom where the flight attendant left a piece of paper and a pen. The girl wrote back, “I need help.” With that, the flight attendant notified the authorities and likely saved this young girl’s life.
NCMEC is asking you to join the fight against child sex trafficking. In addition to familiarizing yourself with some of the indicators of child sex trafficking, we ask you to take the time to educate your children. As Shehan explained, “We know teens are being targeted and we have a responsibility to educate teens on the realities of sex trafficking.” We ask that if you SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. If you have a suspicion or bad feeling, make a report to NCMEC at CyberTipline.org. You could help save a child’s life.