For months, the family of 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez wondered if they would ever have answers in his mysterious disappearance. On the day he disappeared, he was left in the care of his father’s girlfriend, Emily Glass. In the missing persons report Glass gave to investigators, she said she saw Lucas playing in his room around three in the afternoon. She then took a shower and fell asleep. When she awoke around six in the evening, Lucas was nowhere to be found.
Law enforcement in Wichita investigated for months, unearthing no credible leads into Lucas’ disappearance. Months later, on May 24th, locals were shocked after a private investigator blew the case wide open by informing law enforcement Emily Glass had led them to the decomposing remains of little Lucas under a nearby bridge. Why would Glass, after dealing with law enforcement for months, only then break her silence regarding her knowledge of the little boy’s body? The answer is as simple as this: Private investigators have advantages law enforcement do not when it comes to conducting concurrent independent investigations in criminal and missing persons cases.
So how is a private investigator’s approach different from the approach of a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency? The first thing to consider is the caseload of most law enforcement agencies. From the moment an initial report is made, in both criminal and missing persons cases, law enforcement have the meticulous and overwhelming task of gathering evidence to build a case that will secure justice on behalf of the victims and the state. Crime scenes need to be mined for evidence by medical examiners and crime scene technicians. Detectives and other investigators need to canvass witnesses—sometimes dozens of people—in the area who might have seen or heard something. Now imagine the workload of one case multiplied by 40 or 50 times. An audit conducted in Portland Oregon in 2007 reviewed law enforcement data from Portland itself, and nine other surrounding cities, to conclude the average caseload for a detective in Portland was a median of 54. This is compared to a 5-year average of 56 cases. Knowing statistics like these are similar in law enforcement agencies all across the country, it’s easy to see how the progress of cases might slow to a crawl. Agencies are overwhelmed, and this is where private investigators have the advantage. Private investigators may only handle one or two cases at a time, giving them their full focus and attention. Wichita law enforcement might have faced similar challenges of an overwhelming caseload when it came to investigating Lucas Hernandez’s disappearance. An article released by the Wichita Eagle in mid-December of 2017 revealed, as of publication, there were still ten homicides from the year 2017 remaining unsolved as the new year approached.
Another compelling advantage for private investigators might initially sound like a disadvantage: Private investigators have no powers of arrest. It seems counter-intuitive that a private investigator may use the same tools as law enforcement, ask the same questions, and may even come to the same conclusion as law enforcement without the ability to arrest a suspect for the crime. However, the case of Hernandez showcased exactly why a private investigator—and their inability to arrest—broke the case wide open. Jim Murray of Star Investigations told KMBC News in Kansas, “We’re less of a threat sometimes to people that we’re talking to because we have no powers of arrest,” said Jim. “We can’t arrest them.” This could explain why Emily Glass finally led a private investigator to Lucas’s body, because she knew they could not put handcuffs on her in that moment.
Unfortunately, family members and locals will never have the truth about what happened to Lucas. In the wake of the private investigator’s discovery, autopsy reports were found to be inconsistent with what Glass told both police and the PI, but before the People could build a case against her, Glass was found dead from an apparent suicide. However, were it not for the efforts of the private investigator, Lucas’s father may never have had answers in his son’s disappearance.
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. To learn more about what we do, please visit our website.
In a few short weeks, it will have been two months since five-year-old Lucas Hernandez was last seen in his Wichita home. The search following his disappearance has been frustrating and fruitless, as investigators involved with the case remain stymied, leaving friends, family, and even strangers on the internet to provide their own armchair detective theories about what happened to the missing boy.
Lucas was last seen on February 17th, 2018 in his bedroom in the home of his father, Johnathan Hernandez. On the day Lucas disappeared, Hernandez left him in the care of his stepmother, Emily Glass, 26.
According to police reports, Glass checked on Lucas at 3:00 PM in his room. She then took a shower and fell asleep. When she awoke to find Lucas missing, she called Wichita police to report his disappearance. at approximately 6:15 PM.
The investigation into Lucas’s disappearance led investigators to uncover an unrelated child-endangerment complaint filed against Glass the day before the five-year-old went missing. The complaint concerns Lucas and his one-year-old sister, claiming Glass “unlawfully, knowingly and unreasonably caused or permitted a one-year-old child to be placed in a station in which the child’s life, body or health may be endangered.” The charge regarding Lucas’s safety was eventually dropped.
Friends, neighbors, and even family close to the investigation have told both law enforcement and media outlets of their suspicions that Lucas and his sister were being abused, having cited photographs of bruises on Lucas’s body, and statements by Lucas to family that Glass had beaten him and dragged him across the floor. Despite pleas with an arraignment judge to lower her $50,000 bond, Glass still remains in jail.
Since details alleging child abuse have surfaced, Hernandez has responded with frustration, feeling that a discussion about the possibility of child abuse is distracting law enforcement from finding his son. He told KAKE-TV, “Now, if you want to bring that up later that’s fine. That’s a whole separate issue. I think it’s taking away from what’s happening and I don’t appreciate it. Not from my family, not from strangers. “When asked for some perspective about how this could have happened, Johnathan Hernandez told Brenda Carrasco of KWCH12 in Wichita, “I’ve been fully cooperative and I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me and I think anybody that knows me knows the kind of person I am or the kind of father I am. I think if they did, I don’t think they would ever say anything about me or my family.”
Jamie Orr, the boy’s biological mother, was involved in the original grid search for her son that spanned several local parks, desperate for confidential tips that might lead to her son’s safe return. However, her interactions in her personal relationships and social media have led both family and strangers alike to believe that she might know more about her son’s disappearance. Her ex-boyfriend, Robert Cook, has alleged in screenshots from text messages and posts on social media that Orr had a plan to kidnap her son and elope with Hernandez.
This theory was further compounded by Orr’s efforts on the famous crowd-funding platform, GoFundMe, to raise a staggering $600 million in comparison to the original goal of $5000. Her motives are under scrutiny, especially since she used a portion of those funds to pay for a tattoo on her right forearm that reads, “Lucas Allen, miss you always,” the phrasing of which has only deepened suspicions surrounding Orr’s culpability. Although her actions during this time have come across as morbid and suspicious, investigators have yet to link her to Lucas’s disappearance.
Unfortunately for those praying for Lucas’s safe return, the investigation has slowed to a crawl. Police officially closed the tip-line regarding the Hernandez case on March 12th. In addition to the investigation conducted by Wichita police, they have also given permission for a Texas-based search and recovery team known as Texas EquuSearch, to begin their own search as of March 2nd. The team has used the boats, ATVs, and sonar equipment at their disposal to assist in over 1700 missing person cases, including the high-profile disappearance of Natalee Holloway. The team’s founder, Tim Miller, empathizes with the missing boy’s parents, as his own daughter, Laura, was missing for seventeen months before her body was recovered many years ago. He told ABC News, “I remember every minute of that seventeen months—of the helplessness, the hopelessness, the loneliness, and I just made a promise to God that I’d never leave a family alone if there was anything I could do, and here we are.”
Lucas was born Dec. 3, 2012, has brown hair and brown eyes, is about 4 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds. He was last seen wearing black sweats, white socks and a gray shirt with a bear on it. As the original tip line has been closed, investigators ask that anyone with information that might lead to Lucas’s safe return to call detectives at 316-268-4407 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.
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.