Adults Have the Right to Go Missing but That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Need Help

Adults Have the Right to Go Missing but That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Need Help

On any given day, nearly 100,000 people are listed as active missing in the United States.

(On any given day, nearly 100,000 people are listed as active missing in the United States. Photo courtesy Creative RF/Getty Images.)

Most of us are aware of our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But for most American’s there is a lesser-known right . . . the right to go missing. 

As of April 30, 2018, there were 86,927 active missing person cases in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) at the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Of that number 14,411 are listed as endangered by authorities. 

While most cases will resolve quickly, others date back decades. 

“If you, as an adult, want to take off and need some time alone, you’re entitled to do that,” according to St. Cloud Police Assistant Chief Jeff Oxton. “That’s the right to go missing and can generate legitimate and sometimes illegitimate concerns from others.” 

At the age of 18, going missing is not considered an offense. Unless the adult has been found to have significant issues with mental health, or if they are legally under the care of another person, it is not a crime to go missing and most resolve without incident. 

“Most missing persons, we find them OK,” said Oxton. “We find there’s been a misunderstanding, or there was another reason they weren’t where they were supposed to be.”

However, that doesn’t always mean that all missing person cases are resolved with expediency. 

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(Missing Marine veteran Jesse Conger vanished from his Scottsdale home August 14, 2019.)

Police in Scottsdale, Ariz., are searching for missing Marine veteran Jesse Conger who vanished without a trace on August 14, 2019. Loved ones fear he may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Conger had served for 10 years and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his military service. 

Authorities say Conger was last seen at his apartment in Scottsdale by his girlfriend Natasha Harwell and may be driving a 2015 Toyota Camry with Nevada license plate number 696G03. 

“I asked him to get help. He kept telling me, ‘No.’ but I feel like I should have insisted a little bit more,” Harwell said. 

When Conger did not come home and never answered her calls or texts, she reported him missing. She noticed his gun was missing but all other personal belongings left at his home, including his wallet with identification, debit card, credit card, and all necessities. His service dog was also left behind. 

“I feel like all the times before when he has done this, it was more like—you could know something was about to happen. He would talk to me about it, I could talk to him. This time he just picked up and left,” said Harwell.

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(Jesse Conger is a United states Marine with PTSD who has been missing for a month from Scottsdale, Ariz.)

The search has gone viral after a tweet from Pulte Group CEO Bill Pulte offered a $30,000 reward to help find Conger.

“I don’t know if I would be alive without my twin brother,” Patricia Conger said. “He’s always been with me. I want you to come home Jesse, please come home and I love you.” 

Scottsdale Police Department is treating Jesse Conger’s case as an “endangered missing person” and added him to the NCIC system at the FBI. 

What Happens When a Missing Person is Entered Into NCIC?

Once someone is entered into the NCIC database they are flagged as missing making their information available nationwide. For example, if they disappear from California and get pulled over or questioned by authorities in Arizona, police are quickly able to run their information through NCIC and make a determination if the individual is possibly a danger to themselves or others. This enables authorities to take them to the hospital. 

There are five categories in NCIC that a missing person can be classified in.

  • Juvenile
  • Endangered
  • Involuntary
  • Disability
  • Catastrophe
  • Other

When a person is added to NCIC, it makes their descriptive and automobile information available to all law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and Coroners in the country.

It is a common misconception that when an adult goes missing, a reporting party must wait 24 hours before making a report to police. 

“There’s just not (a waiting period,)” Oxton said told the Sy. Cloud Times. “And I think that comes back to, you know, people see it on TV, or whatever, that they have to be missing for 24 hours. But that’s just not true.

In fact, there is no national mandate that requires one to wait before going to the police to report an adult missing. 

However, when a child goes missing there is a national mandate requiring law enforcement to accept an immediate missing report, report it to the FBI and enter the person’s descriptive data into NCIC. This is due to the age and vulnerability. Though this national mandate does not apply to missing adults, there still exists no required waiting period to report them. 

When there is a reporting delay for some reason, or something bad has happened, the first two hours are critical.

After receiving a missing person report, police will attempt to find the person in question, which may include contacting the person who made the report, along with friends and family, hospitals and jails. 

If police discover the person went missing on their own accord, legally police cannot tell the reporting party where they are if the missing person does not wish friends and family to know. Police can let the reporting party know they are alive and well and do not wish contact. 

Authorities are expected to make informed judgment calls about whether the missing person is at risk of death or injury. If the person is considered “endangered” it adds more urgency to the case, meaning law enforcement has received enough evidence that the person is at risk for personal injury or death due to one of the following:

  • the person is involuntarily missing or result of an abduction;
  • the person is missing under dangerous circumstances; 
  • there is evidence the person is in need of medical attention or needed medication such as insulin, that would severely affect the person’s health;
  • the person does not have a history of disappearing;
  • the person is mentally impaired or has diminished mental capacity, such as someone with Alzheimer’s or Down Syndrome;
  • the person has been the subject of acts of violence or threats;
  • there is evidence the person may be lost in the wilderness or after a catastrophic natural event;
  • any other factor that law enforcement believes the person may be at risk of physical injury or death. 

Once there is a report on a missing person, it then becomes crucial that law enforcement obtain dental records, fingerprints and have the family submit a DNA sample into the Family DNA database. 

Records and samples are regularly cross-referenced with Unidentified Persons, alive and deceased for matches. 

Jesse Conger is listed as “endangered” in NCIC due to his mental state when he went missing. But what happens when the trail goes cold? 

Until a missing person is found, their entry in NCIC remains active. Once entered police do not stop investigating the case and following up on every lead that is provided by the public.

However, some cases, like Conger’s do not resolve right away and it becomes necessary and effective for police to ask for the public’s help to generate new leads. 

Family and friends commonly try to engage the public and community to help find the missing person, including setting up Facebook Pages to generate leads and offer rewards for information. 

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Behind every missing person appeal, and every headline is an individual story and a family experiencing heartbreak. 

“For law enforcement, at times searching for a missing person is like searching for a needle in a haystack,” says Thomas Lauth, a missing person expert, and CEO of Lauth Investigations International. “Often an effective investigation is a cooperative effort between law enforcement, the public, and the media. 

Lauth has worked on missing person cases for over 25 years, working with local, state and federal law enforcement. “Generating that one lead that law enforcement needs to progress with the investigation becomes of utmost importance.” 

Inevitably some cases go cold but that doesn’t mean the case is closed or impossible to solve.  

 “While missing persons have the right to go missing, the police still pour all of their resources into investigating the disappearance which should be reassuring to families who are experiencing the trauma of having a loved one missing,” says Lauth. 



For the last two weeks, the family of a missing Norristown mother have been fearing the worst.

Jessica Guidici, 32, had been missing for eight days when authorities finally listed her as missing. In her absence, four children were left without a mother. The longer family went without hearing from her, the more concerned they grew, as no one in the family who has spoken out about Guidici’s disappearance made any indication she would leave her children of her own free will.

Their concern was only compounded by the circumstances surrounding the last confirmed sighting of Guidici. She was last seen on June 12th in the local Norristown McDonald’s parking lot around 9:00 in the morning. According to the Find Missing Jessica Guidici page,She was last seen with Alex Webster, who has also since gone missing. Webster has deleted his Facebook account…According to the press release, Jessica was in visible distress when she was last seen.” Other witnesses told various media outlets she was visibly upset and crying.

Despite these reports, her case was not being treated as suspicious.  In a Facebook post, one of Guidici’s close friends expressed her frustration, “Even if she WAS MAD AT HER MOM AND FELL IN LOVE AND WANTED TO RUN AWAY, she would have called one of us. No matter what.” It sounds ludicrous given the reported circumstances of her last sighting, but this is not uncommon in the case of missing adults. Without any evidence of a disturbance, law enforcement are not always able to assume the worst right away, as adults can come and go without explanation.

On June 27th, Norristown law enforcement reported Jessica Guidici had been found safe. She told investigators she dropped out of contact with her family of her own free will and advised she had never been in danger. While her family can breathe a sigh of relief she’s been found alive, the circumstances of her disappearance still remain a mystery.

This is a developing story…

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.



Christian Hall vanished at age 15 from his home in Corpus Christi, TX on November 4, 2005. Six years have passed without any word from the teen classified as an Endangered Runaway in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and profiled an age progression of what he might look like now on the website of the National Center for Missing Exploited Children.

Christian Glen Hall

Christian was sighted in the company of an adult David Todd Andrews, who also went by the name Captain Dusty. They were last seen on Andrew’s 54-foot yacht Gypsy II, docked by the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway that connects Laguna Madre and north Padre Island with the Texas mainland. Christian apparently periodically worked on Andrew’s boat as a deck hand. It is believed Christian left willingly with Captain Dusty. A missing child report was not made by his mother until January 2006.

David Andrews’ Gypsy II 54 ft. yacht

Prior to their disappearance, Andrews had told his family that he had recently been informed Christian was his biological son which has been dis-proven. The two had indicated they were bound for the Key West, FL approximately 650 miles away but never arrived.

After their departure, on November 26th, it is reported a radio transmission was made by Andrews reporting his boat was taking on water and the engine on the vessel was not working. Around the same time, a civilian boater also reported to the US Coastguard they had seen the Gypsy II in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 65 miles southeast of Cameron, off the coast of Louisiana but said the two men on board declined assistance. The US Coastguard conducted an extensive search of the area to include Falcon flyovers of the area but there were no signs of the boat. Statements from the US Coast Guard indicate heightened concern when a boat does not arrive at its destination especially during that time period following Hurricane Katrina and Rita that left a lot of floating debris in the water. Authorities also reported there had been a storm in the area the evening of the Mayday radio call.

When speculating on the cause of the pair’s disappearance, one must consider the many dangers while in open waters. Some of the most common are weather related disasters, human error, failure to conduct proper maintenance, collision with a submerged object, even piracy can be causes of Maritime disasters and disappearances.

Adding to the mystery and speculation of the pair’s disappearance were reports Andrews reportedly skipped bond on two charges of DUI. It is also reported Kidnapping charges were also filed against Andrews.
Skeptics on various Internet sites debate whether the Gypsy II really sank or if the pair may have even sent out the Mayday call to divert attention then quickly changed their route to another destination so Andrews could escape authorities and lived undetected. Regardless, there have been no signs of the two, leaving Christian’s family desperate for answers. The following YouTube Video was posted four long years ago by Christian’s family

DOB: 07/09/1990
RACE: White
HEIGHT: 5’ 7”
WEIGHT: 120lbs
EYES: Green
HAIR: Brown
CHARACTERISTICS: Scar on upper lip.

DOB: 06/08/1966
RACE: White
HEIGHT: 5’ 11”
WEIGHT: 200lbs
EYES: Hazel
HAIR: Brown/Black
CHARACTERISTICS: Scars on both legs


Corpus Christi Police Department
Detective J.R. Rodriguez
TEL: 361-886-2854

Texas Department of Public Safety
TEL: 800-346-3243