In every state in America, there are families still waiting for their children to come home. Analysis of state by state data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates at any given time in the U.S., there are an average of 90,000 open missing persons cases, with at least 15 states having between 5 and in excess of 10 open cases per 100,000 people. The void left by these missing persons create a ripple effect on the entire country. In a growing trend, more and more states are establishing their own Missing Persons Day to shed additional light as to the details surrounding all open missing persons cases and provide support for the families still enduring the loss of their missing loved one.
Last year, an overwhelming 600 open missing persons cases in the state of Virginia prompted the state General Assembly to establish the first Missing Persons Day in the Commonwealth. This year, Virginia recognized Missing Persons Day with an event on Saturday, April 28th. Dozens of affected family members shared their experiences surrounding their missing loved ones. Events like these give families the opportunity to network and find support in one another. Women like Trina Murphy, whose niece Alexis Murphy went missing five years ago, appreciates the empathy of those present at the event, “It really means everything—I mean, to be in the presence of people who have gone through what you continue to go through is very important for your healing process.”
Toni Jacobs’s daughter, Keeshae Jacobs, 21, disappeared over a year ago in September of 2016. “Her phone kept going to voicemail, and it’s been going to voicemail ever since.” Despite the loss of her child, Jacobs has turned her pain into advocacy and spreading awareness to other parents. Carol Adams of the Richmond Police Department was next to Jacobs at Saturday’s event. She advised the crowd, “We want to teach parents to be vigilant about where their children are, who they’re interacting with. Don’t meet up with strangers without knowing where you’re going because it could be a ploy to kidnap you.”
A statewide Missing Persons Day has helped shine light on non-profit organizations like Help Save the Next Girl. It was founded by Gil Harrington, in honor of her daughter, Morgan, who was abducted and found murdered in 2009. The non-profit’s website offers their specific call to action, “We seek to sensitize young women and girls to predatory danger. Our foundation fosters mutual respect and camaraderie with young men, and we are committed to be an active, imaginative presence on campuses and in clubs and violence prevention forums across the country.” Foundations like Help Save the Next Girl spread awareness about the predation that often leads to both children and adults being reported missing.
Another non-profit organization like Help Save the Next Girl is the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. It was founded in 2008 by a veteran law enforcement officer and a public relations specialist, the Black and Missing Foundation’s mission statement is to, “to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.” The foundation organizes informational campaigns and public forums using a variety of media in order to reach an underserved community. The families of missing persons of color face a very specific problem in getting the name and face of their loved one out there in media for the country to see because of a phenomenon called “missing white woman syndrome.” According toNPR, “a phrase coined by Gwen Ifill, the late PBS anchor. It refers to the mainstream media’s seeming fascination with covering missing or endangered white women — like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway — and its seeming disinterest in cases involving missing people of color.” As a result, the names and faces of missing persons of color often tragically do not make national news, unlike the cases of Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway. Organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. work tirelessly to combat this issue and spread awareness about missing persons of color across the country.
Missing Persons Day is not only an opportunity with victims’ families to network with one another, but also for families to network with law enforcement to update the open files on their missing loved ones, including updating their photograph. David Morris, an officer with the Roanoke Police Department told CBS 10, “This gives us an opportunity to talk to the individuals and their family members, update them on any case files or any information we’ve come across. Just try to provide them with any kind of closure that we can and just reaffirm that we are still investigating these cases and these cases have not gone silent.” David Morris went on to say his best advice for anyone who has a missing person in their family is to keep an open line of communication with investigators.
The epidemic of missing persons in the United States has not only led to states invoking their own Missing Persons Days, but also to the creation of theNational Center for Missing Adults. The center was founded as a response to the disappearance of Kristen Modafferi of Charlotte, North Carolina. Because she was not a minor at the time of her disappearance, resources in finding her were limited. Representative Sue Myrick introduced the bill in 1999, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 2000. During its short tenure,the law “provided assistance to law enforcement and families in missing persons cases of those over the age of 17” and authorized $1M per year to support organizations including the National Center for Missing Adults.” Funding for Kristen’s Act ran out in 2005 but continues with volunteer support.
According to Independent Missing Persons Investigator, Thomas Lauth of www.lauthmissinstg.wpengine.com, “Daily, families have to deal with the crisis of a loved one and while some families receive law enforcement and media attention others fall by the wayside and into the unknown. Specifically, missing adults who often times are considered by law enforcement to be missing on their own accord or adults suffering from mental illness and their path inadvertently places them into homelessness. A day of recognition for any missing adult or child should always be recognized.”
For more information on Gil Harrington’s non-profit organization, Help Save the Next Girl, please visit their website at www.helpsavethenextgirl.com/.
For more information on establishing a Missing Persons Day in your state, please visit the official website of your state’s legislature.
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, a private investigation firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana–delivering proactive and diligent solutions for over 30 years. For more information, please visit our website.
To: Thomas Lauth, Private Investigator and parents seeking assistance
From: Liz, mother of Brandon
Date: December 9, 2009
Being the mother of a missing son, was by far the most agonizing and heartwrenching experience I have ever had. When my “adult” son disappeared on his 18th birthday, without any sort of notice to family, naturally we were shocked and very concerned for his safety. As a young man with neurocognitive impairment and MH difficulties, my son had been receiving intensive community based MH services and was accordingly, registered as a disabled and endangered missing adult. My local police department placed a statewide bulletin and registered him missing but very quickly, it became apparent that there was not going to be an active, aggressive investigative search for my son. A non-profit organization recommended the services of a private investigator and Thomas Lauth was contacted.
At a highly emotional time, I found the contact with Mr. Lauth to be quite reassuring. His experience in investigations of missing persons is quite impressive and without pressure, he outlined the stages of his proposed investigation costs and projected number of days to successfully locate my son. We agreed upon a contract and the search began.
Thomas was very methodical in the initial stage. I answered many questions about my son so that Tom could develop a working theory. I trusted his judgment almost immediately because he has worked so many similar cases.
It was speculated that my I 8 year-old son was on the streets of Baltimore city (we live in PA) without any supportive social structure, and had most likely became a victim of human trafficking. Through a series of previous phone conversations Mr. Lauth and I were able to piece this together. As a cognitively impaired individual, my son thought he could fly to Oregon to meet a friend with nothing more than $100.00 in his pocket. (He left home with no clothes, ID, medications etc) and somehow ended up in Baltimore. In my mind, Brandon could never survive this ordeal and I was desperate to rescue him.
Days later, I met Tom in Baltimore MD and immediately felt at ease. He swiftly made contact with the Baltimore city, missing persons unit, nonprofits that provide outreach to victims of human trafficking and Tom personally spent a great deal of time walking in neighborhoods where my son would most likely be. He recommended that I petition the civil court for an emergency evaluation of my son, who could then be picked up by police if seen. I could not have physically or emotionally handled any of these tasks without the support and direction of Tom.
As Tom had predicted, my son was located a day later and was brought to the Hospital in very bad shape. Clearly traumatized by the ordeal, my son offered enough information to conclude that he was being coerced and controlled by others as a prostitute. I am convinced that without this intervention, my son was at extreme risk for death, or trafficked to other major cities around the world. I will never forget the service provided to my family by Thomas Lauth and his genuine concern for my son.
My son continues to experience much difficulty back home and follow-up contact with Tom has been very helpful. His knowledge and expertise clearly saved my son’s life. I am honored to provide a letter of reference for this remarkable man who is such a strong advocate for adult missing persons. My experience is such that I do not recommend relying solely on a local police department to locate a missing person, particularly with mental illness. The risk for exploitation or other harm is simply too great and hiring an experienced private investigator is more likely to bring a loved one home again.
With sincere hope for the return of your loved one,
Recently my son was missing and we had no where to turn until we found you. He had taken off for work and never got there. No one knew where he was, the police couldn’t help us because he was of age. I
called the missing children’s hot line.’
If any parent is in out situation l recommend highly that they call you. You were so helpful and kind to us. You understood just how worried we were.
You met my husband in Mass., where we finally figured out where my son was. You stayed there until he was found and let us contact him. Your kindness and professional manner was of great comfort to us in out time of need. It is so hard to not know where your child is. Anyone going through these hard times needs to know there is an origination out there that cares and handles the problem for you.
You don’t know what you gave back to us. My son means the world to me and getting him back made my world complete again.
Our daughter started slipping in her senior year of high-school. She became very secretive about her life, she was missing school and seemed to be on drugs. It was impossible to have any kind of conversation with her, she was so much on the defensive.
We tried 2 different therapists and an outpatient drug program. Nothing worked. She somehow graduated and we were trying to talk about the future with her but she was always very evasive. At the beginning of the Summer, she chose to go back to a camp where she had been for the last three years, the last year, as a counselor in training. Since she made up her mind at the last minute, there was only space for a kitchen helper. She went. She lasted 4 weeks again and then got a friend to pick her up and bring her home.
Things were the same, her staying out and not coming back for a few days. Then she would come back, sleep a lot and be very disheveled and unapproachable. We had a trip going back to see family and friends coming up and 2 days before leaving, she declared that she could not come with us, this was no longer her life. We tried everything for her to come along but she was so stubborn. We were losing our patience. It had been a year of constant tension and confrontations. We could not tie her up and force her on the airplane …
On her 18th birthday, she left. After a while, letters from attorneys in LA came to our house, offering their services. I started talking to a pi and he said for me to think of what she could have done in the past that would trigger this. Then, we got more letters, I called again and that’s when we found out that she had been arrested a few times for prostitution and had been released from a jail that afternoon.
We tried many times to find her and to think of ways to get her out of there. She finally called right around thanksgiving. She stayed with us until January 3rd and then took off again. This time we called Thomas Lauth and started working with him. He was very thorough trying to understand the history of our situation and acted very quickly. After a few telephone calls and e-mail exchanges, he came to see us and got a lead. He had asked us to prepare letters and pictures to give to our daughter. That turned out to be a brilliant idea. All three of us flew to Phoenix and on our first night there he found our daughter and the only thing that we were able to do was to give her that folder with the letters and the pictures.
On two other occasions, Tom traced our daughter’s whereabouts, and every time we managed to have contact with her which, I think, was the reason why she eventually came back. Knowing that we were not giving up.
When we felt hopeless, Tom would encourage us to not give up. His amazing perseverance and promptness to act is what saved us.
I wanted to take this opportunity to formally commend and recommend the services provided by Tom Lauth (Lauth and Associates). My family and I recently worked with Tom regarding my sister and nephew who had been missing for almost two years.
Tom was the second investigator who worked the case. Based on the excellent service we experienced, r sincerely regret that we did not work with him initially.
I found Tom to be extremely knowledgeable, professional and emphatic. I immediately felt comfortable in confiding in him. In response, Tom offered a complete plan, with accurate cost disclosures and regular substantive updates.
Most importantly, Tom did exactly what he promised to do, on time and within the estimated budget that we initially discussed. Thanks to his efforts, we were able to speak with both missing parties for the first time since spring, 2003.
Tom is an absolute gem. I strongly recommend him to anyone who may find him or herself in the unfortunate circumstance of losing contact with a loved one. Thus, my family and I have no hesitancy whatsoever about continuing to use his services, as we move into the next phase of the investigation.
Thank you again for the referral and for providing a much needed public resource service. God Bless!
The National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA), a division of the Nation’s Missing Children Organization, Inc. provides assistance to families and law enforcement in the search for missing persons. NCMA is a federally and publicly supported nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of abduction and the safe recovery of missing persons with primary focus on adults determined by law enforcement to be endangered due to foul play, diminished mental capacity, physical disability or suspicious circumstances.
NCMA does not investigate leads and is considered a support to law enforcement in efforts to generate new information assisting investigators with the progression of the investigation. Any information provided to this agency is Immediately forwarded to the responsible law enforcement agency. NCMA networks Information with other missing person agencies such as your own, medical facilities, medical examiners and law enforcement agencies nationwide.
One of the many resources we offer to families of missing persons Is to utilize the services of a Private Investigator when we are not able to assist. Since Its inception in 1994, this organization has only referred Thomas Lauth of Lauth & Associates Investigations, Inc. to families seeking the assistance of a Private Investigator on a frequent basis. He has proven himself to be very reputable and successful at the cases we refer to him. He has also reunited many families that our organization has recommended to him.
Mr. Lauth credentials indicate that he has a high success rate at locating individuals
and we have also found this to be true. He not only utilizes various resources to hel p locate Individuals, but he frequently follows up with them after they are located to see how they are transitioning.
We will continue to utilize Thomas Lauth’s services in the future. His assistance with this organization and the many families of missing persons that we refer him to give hope to the possibility that these families will once again be able to hold their loved ones In their arms. We highly recommend the services he provides to these families of missing persons.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter, please feel free to contact us. We can be reached at 1-800-690-3463. Thank you.