by Thomas Lauth | Jan 24, 2019 | History, Investigations, Missing Person, Missing Persons, Resources |
If you watch a lot of crime dramas, either on television or on the silver screen, you might have heard a law enforcement character say something to the effect of, “You must wait 24 hours before reporting a person missing.” It surprises many Americans that this is a myth perpetuated by mainstream media to cover narrative plot-holes. In fact, waiting even a few hours can compromise a missing persons investigation, as the first 72 hours are the most important when investigators begin searching for a missing person.
Close your eyes and try to remember what you had for breakfast three days ago. If you have a repetitive routine, this might be easy for you. Unfortunately, when it comes to interviewing witnesses, investigators just aren’t that lucky. Dr. Bryanna Fox recently told ABC news, in an interview regarding the importance of time in any investigation, “The information that law enforcement gets tends to be a little more accurate, and they are able to act on the information and hopefully get that person who is missing quicker.” The passage of time is one of investigators’ greatest obstacles when it comes to missing person cases. Not only does time hinder a witness’s memory, but evidence is also lost and cannot be properly secured. Leads go cold as time is lost, and the trail slips through investigators fingers.
Those who report a person missing will be one of law enforcement’s greatest assets as a person closest to them, but the pool of human resources doesn’t end with their friends and family. As those close to the missing person begin to fill law enforcement in on their routine, investigators take that information and use it to piece together their movements in the hours before they disappeared. They interview members of the public who are affiliated with the person’s routine, such as their neighbors, coworkers, employees of the grocery store they frequent, hair stylists, mechanics, etc. Locating these witnesses as soon as possible is paramount to providing accurate accounts of what they saw, heard, or noticed during this crucial time frame. It’s important investigators retrace the missing person’s steps as soon as possible in order to gather any physical evidence that might lead to their whereabouts. Take a familiar scenario, for instance: A young woman leaving her job late at night is attacked and abducted between the business and her vehicle. The vicinity of this abduction is the initial crime scene. Time (and weather, if outdoors) can erode evidence of a struggle. Scientific methods and investigation procedures become less effective when technicians are unable to observe the crime scene in the same condition at the time of the abduction. Another common issue with the passage of time is securing video footage. Surveillance technology has become so ubiquitous in the United States many investigators, especially those in large municipalities may be able to track a perpetrator’s movements street to street, creating a partial road map to the missing person’s whereabouts. However, depending on the quality of this surveillance equipment, these devices may automatically recycle valuable footage before it can be preserved by investigators, thereby resulting in a dead end.
It’s not uncommon for a person to go missing on their own terms. Perhaps they want a fresh start, or they’re running from law enforcement. Adults are free to disappear, if that’s what they wish, but loved ones should still remain concerned. The first 72 hours of a missing person investigation can be the difference between life and death, as the missing person might be in danger. When law enforcement believe a missing person might not have vanished of their own accord, they classify the person as “missing endangered.” This classification is often reserved for minors under 18, or senior citizens over 65, but definitions vary from state to state. In Indiana, endangered missing persons bulletins are often accompanied by a Silver Alert, which applies to senior citizens and adults who might be imminently harmed. Indiana recently began issuing Silver Alerts when children are reported missing as well to instantly distinguish the circumstances of their disappearance. For instance, a child who is abducted by a custodial parent or family member are often not in immediate danger, qualifying them for an Amber Alert. When there is evidence to the contrary, however, law enforcement in Indiana can issue a Silver Alert to classify the child as endangered missing. Dr. Michelle Jeanis, a criminology professor at the University of Louisiana, describes a horrifying reality that sends fretful parents into a tailspin. In the rare case of a stranger abduction, children are killed only a short time after they’ve been taken. Senior citizens and adults who may have disabilities, mental illnesses, or who are otherwise unable to take care of themselves are also at high risk. Consequently, time is of the essence when it comes to reporting these individuals missing so investigators can jump on their trail to ensure they are reunited with their families safe and sound.
Social media platforms and mainstream media coverage are two of the greatest assets for investigators working on a missing persons case. In tandem with their efforts to follow the trail, the media can publish press releases with the missing person’s picture, identifying information, and the circumstances of their disappearance. As smart devices continue to climb in ubiquity, this means members of the public can have all this crucial info in their hands in seconds. A woman having her hair set in a stylist’s chair may check her social media timeline to see an alert from local law enforcement about a runaway teenager they recognize from the bus stop on their commute. She can alert authorities so investigators can immediately follow that lead. This increases the chances the teen may be found safe and returned to their family. By the same token, members of the public may recognize composite sketches of abductors or other persons of interest.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a person’s disappearance, time is of the essence when it comes to an investigation. When reporting a friend or loved one missing, it’s important you are armed with all possible information for investigators. Deductive reasoning will allow them to shape viable leads to follow in pursuit of their trail. Any knowledge about their personal relationships, routine, and habits will prove more useful than expected. This information allows investigators to make the most of that crucial first 72 hours, increasing the chances the missing person will be found safe and reunited with their loved ones.
by Thomas Lauth | Aug 20, 2018 | Criminal Investigations, News |
(Kiera Bergman has been missing from Glendale, Ariz., since August 4, 2018.)
Kiera Lanae Bergman, 19, was last seen by her best friend and roommate, Destiny Hall-Chand. The two young women worked together at a Glendale furniture store, just west of Phoenix, Arizona.
Hall-Chand told the Arizona Republic that she and Bergman were at work on August 4, when Bergman became upset and asked to leave work early. According to Hall-Chand, Bergman’s ex-boyfriend picked her up.
When Hall-Chand returned to their Glendale apartment near 51st Avenue and Thunderbird Road, Bergman was not there but her car, keys, wallet, and purse were.
Hall-Chand said she sent numerous texts to Bergman and eventually received a response she deemed strange.
After Bergman failed to come home or show up for work the following day, Hall-Chand called the Phoenix Police Department and filed a missing person report.
“She was saying that she was going to go out with some guy she met at the store a couple days ago, which is something that’s not like her,” Hall-Chand told KPHO-TV. “That’s not something she would do.”
Bergman reportedly told Hall-Chand she would contact her as soon as she got a phone charger.
That was 14 days ago.
(Kiera Bergman was last known to be at her Glendale, Ariz., apartment on August 4, 2018.)
“Her family is concerned for her welfare,” said Phoenix Police in a press release.
Bergman moved from San Diego to Glendale in March, to be with her boyfriend. Family members told the Arizona Republic he and Bergman had split up before her disappearance.
Kiersten Bragg, Bergman’s mother left her home in San Diego to travel to Phoenix to search for her daughter.
Bragg told Good Morning America it wasn’t like Bergman to be out of contact, adding she last spoke to her daughter via text on July 30, but she wasn’t “her normal, happy self.”
“If we knew something, our minds wouldn’t be racing and thinking of all the different possibilities.”
In addition, Bragg told ABC News that prior to the breakup with Bergman’s ex-boyfriend, they frequently fought and her daughter did not seem as happy as she was before. After the couple split, Bergman moved into an apartment with Hall-Chand.
AZ Central reported the boyfriend says he has been questioned regarding Bergman’s disappearance.
Those concerned for Bergman’s safety have more questions than answers.
Jon-Christopher Clark, 23, told the HuffPost “I didn’t want to do anything that would give an indication I was hiding anything but also didn’t want anything on the record that would have them say I was doing anything or had any part in this.”
“I told them I would not like a lie detector test because, “One, they are not admissible in court, and two, whatever you guys gather from that is basically your interpretation on my feelings,’” Clark continued. “So, I didn’t want [investigators] to pretty much gather [their] conclusions off of something that is not guaranteed.”
Investigators picked Clark up at a hotel last Monday and transported him to the police station for questioning.
Clark has been dating Bergman since December of last year and has
(Jon-Christopher Clark was dating Keira Bergman since December 2017.)
consistently denied he was involved in Bergman’s disappearance. Police have not named Clark as a suspect.
While it is common for police to ask the significant other of a missing person to come to the station to talk, Clark claims he wasn’t given the opportunity to voluntarily come in as he alleges 20 tactical officers surrounded him while checking out of a local hotel.
“They handcuffed me, put me in the back of a car and. When we got to the interview room [they] handcuffed me to a table the entire time,” Clark said.
Chris Bragg, Bergman’s father is concerned something tragic has happened to his daughter.
Bragg was told Hall-Chand and Clark called police together, but Clark left before police arrived which he thinks strange. Bragg acknowledges he left before police arrived, saying he was staying with a friend and was unable to connect with Phoenix Police detectives until they picked him up at the hotel on Monday.
“They served a search warrant on my phone, car, the pace I was staying at and talked to all my friends and family,” Clark said. “DNA was one of the stipulations of the court order, so they took my DNA — did swabs, all kinds of fingerprints, my wrists, hands, everything — and took numerous pictures of me and my tattoos.”
Clark claims to have fully cooperated with investigators, except for voluntarily agreeing to take the polygraph.
Bragg took a tour of his daughter’s apartment last week and noted his daughter’s bedroom was the only room in the house that evidence had been removed by crime scene technicians.
“The bedding was stripped off the bed, taken as evidence, but aside from that, it looked like a college kid’s apartment,” Bragg went on to tell HuffPost. “It didn’t have a whole lot of furniture and wasn’t really nice.”
The scariest part of this whole situation is Bragg claims detectives told him they had found his daughter’s personal items in a very strange place in the home.
“Her ID for work, her purse with her wallet, ID and credit cards, was found thrown in the back of her closet,” Bragg said. “That is strange. What woman throws her purse in the back of her closet?”
When HuffPost called Phoenix Police, they would not confirm or deny Bergman’s personal belongings were found in a closet.
Bragg calls his daughter’s disappearance devastating.
“We just want her back, Bragg said. “Please just call the police. A piece of our heart is missing, and without it we don’t feel whole. It’s heartbreaking. Pleas somebody saqy something.”
(Kiera Bergman’s mother and family old vigil outside her daughter’s apartment in Glendale, Ariz.)
At a vigil family and friends held at Bergman’s apartment on the evening of August 11, her friend Hall-Chand told KPHO TV and KTVK TV that she doesn’t know what to think about her best friend’s disappearance. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to think, I don’t know what to believe, I don’t know,” she said. “It’s just, I know there’s something wrong. I’m just hoping she’ll come home, and everything will be OK.”
Phoenix Police Public Information Sergeant Vincent Lewis told KNBC that investigators are stymied in their search for the missing young woman and there is no information obtained through their investigation that determines she is a victim of foul play.’
However, Bergman’s family believe something horrible has happened to her.
“She’s a beautiful, sweet, super talented young woman,” says Bragg when describing her missing daughter. “She’s caring, she’s very strong-minded, she’s just a sweet loving person.”
Bergman’s mother told the Arizona Republic she had a message for her daughter. “Wherever you are, if you can hear this, if you can see or hear it, just know we are doing everything we can and fighting so hard to find you.”
(Flowers sit outside Keira Bergman’s Glendale Ariz., apartment, placed there by family and friends.)
Keira Bergman’s disappearance has caught the attention of national news and appeared in USA Today and Newsweek and one private investigator that has worked many missing person cases in the state of Arizona.
Thomas Lauth. Founder of Lauth Missing Persons has worked over twenty-years on missing person cases and considered an expert in the field. The family and friends give various and multiple accounts of arguments between Kiera and Jon Christopher Clark, and it would seem the hostility grew worse around the time of Kiera’s disappearance. Mr. Clarks excuse for not submitting to the polygraph is not supportive of someone wanting to clear his name and allow investigators to focus their efforts elsewhere. Mr. Clark’s behavior following Kiera’s disappearance is highly suspicious and he should submit to a polygraph.
In the United States, as of May 31, 2018, there were 87,608 actives missing person cases in the National Crime Information Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There were 2,286 listed as missing within the state of Arizona.
Anyone with information should call the Phoenix Police Department at 602-534-2121.
For more information on missing persons investigations, please visit our website.