Polaroid found in parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe Florida in July 1989.
Tara Calico’s disappearance has baffled investigators for decades. In July 1989, a color Polaroid of an unidentified young woman and a little boy was found by a woman in a convenience store parking lot in Port St. Joe, a beach town approximately one hour south of Panama City, Florida.
The woman who found the photograph in a vacant parking space said she saw a man driving a windowless Toyota cargo van parked there when she arrived at the store. The man was described as being in his 30’s with a mustache. The photograph had recently been taken. Officials at Polaroid said the picture was taken after May 1989 because it was not available until then.
In the picture, the young woman glares at the camera, her mouth covered with black duct tape, hands bound behind her back, alongside a young boy who looks scared, his mouth taped and hands bound behind his back as well.
Pictured alongside the bound woman is a copy of V.C. Andrews book, My Sweet Audrina, a 1982 best-seller about a young girl who is haunted by her sister’s death. The thriller touches upon rape, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and autism.
The photograph made the national news and a “Current Affair” where family and friends of a young missing New Mexico woman saw a haunting resemblance. Tara Calico vanished in Belen, New Mexico, 10 months earlier on September 20, 1988. They contacted Tara’s mother, Patty Doel, who insisted she meet with investigators and see the photograph firsthand.
After viewing the photograph, Patty insisted the picture was her missing daughter, even noting a discoloration on the leg of the woman pictured being identical to a large scar on Tara’s leg she had sustained in a car accident. Not to be overlooked, V.C. Andrews was also Tara’s favorite author.
The photograph has been carefully analyzed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation who felt the photograph was not of Tara while Scotland Yard declared it was her.
On Tuesday, September 20, 1988, Tara left her home at approximately 9:30 a.m. to go on a daily bicycle ride along New Mexico State Rd. 47 in Belen, a route she took almost every morning. A small town, Belen only had a population of 7,152 in 2015.
Tara Calico missing from Belen, New Mexico since September 20, 1988
Sometimes accompanied by her mother, Patty had warned her daughter to carry mace with her when she rode but Tara rejected the suggestion. On the morning of Tara’s disappearance, she playfully told her mother to come and get her if she did not return by noon because she had plans to meet her boyfriend at 12:30 p.m. to play tennis.
When Tara did not return, anxiously Patty drove south along Tara’s usual bike route but could not find her. In the process of searching, she spotted a Boston cassette tape lying on the side of the rugged road. She immediately called the police.
Several witnesses told police they had witnessed an older light-colored pickup truck, about 1953, with a camper shell following close behind her as she rode along the highway. Quite possibly, Tara would not have even noticed if a vehicle was following behind her while she listened to Boston on her Walkman.
The boy in the disturbing photograph remains unidentified to this day. Initially, when the photograph was found, the mother of Michael Henley said she was “almost certain” the boy in the Polaroid was her missing son. Sadly, Michael Henley was found deceased in June 1990 in the Zuni Mountains near where his father and he were hunting when the child vanished in April of 1988. It was determined he died of exposure.
Another missing child case has caught the attention of law enforcement as the picture strongly resembles David Michael Borer missing since April 26, 1989, from Willow, Alaska, about five hours south of Fairbanks.
Resemblance between missing child David Borer and the unidentified boy in Polaroid
David was last seen walking along Parks Highway about 11 miles on his way to a friend’s home or to the Kashmitna River sandbar.
David once hitchhiked to Wasilla, approximately 30 miles from his home and described as a very independent young child,
Canine searches tracked his scent to Parks Highway, but the scent was lost at the road and there have been no signs of him since.
A missing lead
In 2008, the Sheriff of Valencia County claimed he had received information about what happened to Tara. A witness came forward telling law enforcement two teenagers had been following Tara in a Ford pickup truck, trying to talk to her and grabbing at her. Apparently, they accidentally hit Tara and panicked, then killed her. No further information surfaced from this allegation and no arrests were made.
Tara’s stepfather, John Doel, disputed the sheriff’s claims telling media the sheriff should not have released this information without enough circumstantial information to make an arrest.
More haunting photographs surface
In 2009, twenty years after the Polaroid was found, pictures of a young boy were mailed to the Port St. Joe police chief, David Barnes. The sheriff received two letters with photographs included, one postmarked June 10, 2009, and the other postmarked August 10, 2009, from Albuquerque New Mexico. One letter contained a photo copy of a young boy with very light brown hair with a band of black ink drawn over the boy’s mouth as if it were covered in the 1989 Polaroid.
The second letter contained the original picture. On August 12th, the Star Newspaper in Port St. Joe received a letter, also from Albuquerque, with the same picture, with the same hand-drawn mouth covering. Law enforcement has never been able to confirm the original Polaroid and the pictures received in 2009 are of the same boy. None of the three letters contained information indicating the child’s identity. Though there was not a reference to Tara’s case, police felt confident it was potentially connected.
Two other Polaroids have been found over the years some believe may be of Tara. The first was found near a construction site. It was a blurry photograph of a seemingly nude girl with tape over her mouth, light blue striped fabric behind her, similar to the fabric seen in the original Polaroid. It too was taken on film not available until 1989.
Copy of Polaroid found in Montecito, California.
The second photograph is of a terrified woman bound on an Amtrak train (possibly abandoned), her eyes covered with gauze and big black framed glasses, with a male passenger taunting her in the photograph.
Of the many photographs and unidentified remains Patty had to view to help police throughout the country rule out, these three could never be ruled out by her mother.
Sadly, Patti Doel passed away in 2006, never finding out what happened to her daughter. Tara’s father passed away in 2002. However, with advancement in technology, Tara’s remaining family and stepfather still hold out hope they will one day find out what happened to her.
Valencia County Sheriff’s Office is not actively pursuing any of the photographs as possible leads. Instead, they are working with the FBI analyzing local suspects given the information provided to the sheriff’s office years ago that Tara was killed by local residents of her small community. Supported by witness reports claiming Tara was followed prior to her disappearance and she was also receiving threatening notes placed on her vehicle prior to her disappearance.
Michele Doel, Tara’s stepsister, told People Magazine when asked if the Polaroid with the young unidentified boy is Tara she responds, “If I had to say yes or no, definitively, yes, that is her,” says Michele. However, she added “Does that make sense? No. That’s not the story that makes sense.”
Current lead investigator Sgt. Joseph Rowland at Valencia County Sheriff’s Department said the vehicle in the first polaroid was identified as a van and the sheriff’s department received many tips about vans that were not fruitful.
Mother never lost hope
Patty Doel died in 2006 after suffering several strokes after relocating from New Mexico to Florida with her husband John.
Friends and family say her daughter was always on her mind, never giving up hope she would one day find her.
She and her husband John even had a bedroom they kept for Tara, placing passing birthday and Christmas gifts there.
Even after the strokes, Patty would see a young girl on a bicycle and point and write her daughter’s name. Her husband would have to tell her it wasn’t Tara.
Tara’s older brother Chris told People Magazine he believed the stress of his sister’s disappearance and lack of resolution significantly shortened his mother’s life.
“The police would send photos of every possibility, including pictures of bodies, dismembered bodies, and every time mom got an envelope with the newest pictures, she had to look at them,” Chris told People. “She couldn’t not look , but it tore her up every time.”
The first Polaroid told Patty her daughter might still be alive, she survived whatever and whoever abducted her.
A case that is not exactly cold, Tara’s family holds onto hope; and many of the missing person investigators have taken the case into retirement with them. A case that happened long ago but is never forgotten.
At Lauth Missing Person Investigations, we specialize in complex missing person investigations of endangered missing children and adults.
The investigative team at Lauth Investigations has over 40 years combined experience working closely with the families of missing persons, local, state and federal law enforcement, along with national media and missing persons organizations throughout the country and internationally.
Founded in 1995, Thomas Lauth is a nationally recognized Missing Persons and Human Trafficking Investigator and graduate of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, who initially served as Senior Criminal Investigator for Marion County Public Defender Agency located in Indiana.
Lauth has served as both a prosecution and defense witness on numerous missing persons and homicides at the federal and state levels, including being appointed by state and federal courts to conduct independent investigations of homicides, robberies, and other serious felony matters.
In addition, Thomas has attended various U.S. Department of Justice conferences on missing persons, human trafficking, and child abduction. He served as a volunteer Advisor to the Nation’s Missing Children Organization and the National Center for Missing Adults for nearly twenty years.
In addition to working with local and state law enforcement, Lauth has worked cooperatively with Interpol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and various foreign embassies.
Lauth is considered an expert in missing persons by national media and has appeared in publications like Essence Magazine, USA Today, Los Angeles Daily News, San Diego Tribune, New York Times and more.
According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as of May 31, 2018, there were 87,608 active missing person cases in the United States.
Missing persons are entered into various categories such as Juvenile, Endangered, Involuntary or Non-family Abductions, Disability, Catastrophe and Other. Though it is not mandated for law enforcement to enter missing persons into NCIC, it is beneficial to both the missing person and the private investigation. Lauth Investigations verifies all missing persons investigated are entered into NCIC making the missing person’s information available to all law enforcement throughout the country to include, medical examiners and Coroners.
By creating more public awareness, it increases the potential for generating leads. Lauth is one of the few private investigators in the country who works every day in locating missing persons, focusing on creating a collaborative effort between various victim assistance organizations, media, and law enforcement to create a successful public awareness campaign.
Lauth Investigations success rate is averaged at approximately 85% over 20 years working with families of missing persons. Every case is unique based on the circumstances of the disappearance and discovery based upon the private investigator’s fact-finding.
When hired, Lauth exclusively focuses on the specific missing person case, ensuring full attention is given to each case. Lauth is experienced in searching for missing persons between the ages of approximately 12-years old to seniors.
Circumstances of disappearances include at-risk children, teens, at-risk adults missing due to foul play, human trafficking, custodial and non-custodial abduction, (including Hague and non-compliant Hague countries), homeless, and those suffering from disabilities such as mental illness or missing persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Following are a few excerpts from letters Thomas Lauth has received throughout the years:
Mr. Lauth’s credentials indicate he has a high success rate of locating individuals and we have also found this to be true. He not only utilizes various resources to help 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 person we refer him to give hope to the possibility these families will once again be able to hold their loved ones in their arms. We highly recommend the services he provides to the families of missing persons.
Erin Bruno, National Center for Missing Adults
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.
As Tom predicted, my son was located a day later and was brought to the hospital in very bad shape. I am convinced without his intervention, my son was at extreme risk of death, or trafficked to other major cities around the world.
I am honored to provide a letter of reference for this remarkable man who is such a strong advocate for 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 of exploitation or other harm is simply too great and hiring an experienced private investigator is more likely to bring a loved one home again.
Liz Mallin, mother of Brandon
Thomas Lauth, an investigator who specializes in missing children and adults, has been one of the most reliable and imaginative investigators we have found to date. Mr. Lauth’s experience with our organization, as well as the work he has done for the National Center for Missing Adults, has proven to be invaluable in the locating of abductors and bringing missing children and adults home.
Mr. Lauth’s impressive list of successes as well as his passion for the “left behind parent” makes him more than qualified to work in the area of child abduction. I would not hesitate to recommend Mr. Lauth to any parent who has lost a child. I personally feel that it is Mr. Lauth’s feelings for the children that separate him from so many other investigators.
David Thelen, CEO of Committee for Missing Children, Inc.
I wanted to take this opportunity to formally commend and recommend the services provided by Thomas Lauth at Lauth Investigations. My family and I recently worked with Thomas regarding my sister and nephew who had been missing for almost two years.
Tom was the second investigator that worked the case. Based on the excellent service we experienced, I sincerely regret that we did not work with him initially.
I found Thomas to be extremely knowledgeable, professional and emphatic. I immediately felt comfortable confiding in him. In response, Thomas offered a complete plan, with accurate cost disclosures and regular substantive updates.
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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.
Andrea D. Townsend, Attorney at Law
Recently, my son was missing, and we had nowhere to turn until we found you. He had taken off for work and never got there. No one knew where he was, and police couldn’t help because he was of age.
If any parent is in our situation, I highly recommend they call you. You were so helpful and kind to us. You understood just how worried we were.
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Donna Post, mother of a formerly missing son
Rarely do you hear on the news of an American missing in Jamaica. Most missing person cases usually involve tourists who come to visit the island on a cruise, typically docked in Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, and never make it back to the ship once it’s time to depart. Typically, at the end of the investigation, the missing persons are normally found visiting a relative or staying in a nearby resort, claiming they simply wanted to spend more time on the island.
A recent example of such a case happened this past February. Three U.S. nationals, 24-year-old Tricia Forrester, 35-year-old Glen Triston, and 42-year-old Clinton Hill, boarded the Carnival Sensation Cruise in Miami, Florida. They were reported missing on the February 28th after the cruise docked in Ocho Rios. According to Nationwide Radio Jamaica, all three nationals were accounted for three days later, safe and sound, the last one being found in Montego Bay. According to the Head of the St. Ann police, Senior Superintendent Michael Smith, the three were visiting family members when they were reported missing. The passengers stated they were going to deliver luggage to their family members who were to meet them in Ocho Rios. However, when it was time for the cruise to leave it was discovered their rooms were empty and so they were reported missing.
Another similar case occurred on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, when an American woman, 41-year-old Marjan Ehsani, was reported missing in Kingston. Reports from the Half-Way-Tree police station state, “She checked into a hotel in Kingston on the 4th and was last seen at a gas station in the area. All attempts to get in touch with her were fruitless.” In a surprising twist, she was located only days after in a guest house in Kingston. She was reported to be in good health and returned to The United States shortly after being found.
Desiree Gibbon, 26
Although there are the above scenarios with positive outcomes, there have been a couple unsolved cases over the past decade. The most recent case: A twenty-six-year-old aspiring model and documentary filmmaker, Desiree Hyacinth Gibbon, from Queens, New York, went missing in Jamaica in late 2017. According to the local police, Desiree went to Jamaica on the 20th of October and was given three months to stay on the island. Investigators say she was looking for employment. However, her mother, Andrea Cali-Gibbon, has been reported saying Desiree went to Jamaica with the intention of shooting a documentary. “She wanted to travel to different countries, try new things and experience cultures,” her mom said. Desiree’s father is Jamaican and her grandmother owns a hotel on the island, where she stayed during her visit. At the time of her disappearance, Desiree was visiting Jamaica for possibly her eighth time.
Unfortunately, in December 2017, Desiree’s body was found with her throat slit and her legs, torso, and wrists covered with bruises. She was discovered in the bushes along the roadway of Anchovy, St. James. Local authorities identified her body after taking a photograph of her to the same hotel which her grandmother owns, where she was identified by her Uncle Claude.
Claude said the police officers told him they were looking for two women who they believe may be connected to the crime. The mother insists Desiree would never go out alone and believes this wasn’t a random senseless act, but a crime of passion. “My belief is it was a cold, calculated, planned out murder… It wasn’t a random act of violence. It is somebody she knew, somebody she trusted, and somebody who betrayed her,” Andrea Gibbon, the distraught mother, said. As the case stands, no one has been arrested or charged.
Another unsolved missing persons case dates as far back as May 2012 and involves forty-one-year-old Robert Durbin of Lemay Street, Hartford, who went missing in Kingston. According to the Matilda’s Corner police station, Mr. Durbin was last seen in Jones Town, Kingston 12, carrying out charity work in the community.
Robert visited Jamaica to teach law, lecturing part-time on the weekends through a University of London international program. According to the Hartford Courant, he was a councilman of the West Hartford Town Council and the reason for his visits to the island was to learn about the heritage of Jamaican and West Indian constituents. Durbin said he got a close view of how local services work in Kingston.
“I’m living and volunteering in a low-income development down here. It’s a very up-and-coming, low-income area, so it’s a nice opportunity to work with some social workers. Obviously, this area is a lot different from West Hartford… but my work here in the community will contribute to my service on the town council.”
Some months after, Robert resigned from town council following controversy due to his part-time move to Jamaica and an arrest on charges of interfering with an officer. According to the Hartford Courant, Robert had followed police to a distress call of a domestic disturbance and persistently offered his services as a criminal lawyer to the residents whom he claimed to know. The residents, however, stated they hadn’t known Mr. Durbin, nor had they summoned anyone for legal aid. Durbin was charged with interfering with an investigation and first-degree criminal trespass.
With his political career finished and his divorce processing, Robert decided to go back to Jamaica to do charity work in Jones Town, a peculiar destination as their reputation hasn’t been the best, and can actually be considered a dangerous part on the island. Fast forward to 2018 and Robert Durbin has yet to be found.
In closing, there aren’t many reports of Americans going missing in Jamaica because it is not a regular occurrence. Tourism is one of Jamaica’s main sources of foreign exchange, accounting for over 50% of the total amount. The tourism industry is responsible for about one-fourth of all jobs on the island. As such, the locals treat foreigners like royalty, but just like everything in life, there are a few exceptions.
It was St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2018, a mother of three boys vanished into thin air in Longmont, Colorado. Rita Gutierrez-Garcia went out to celebrate with friends and family in the evening.
The group went bar hopping to the Speakeasy located at 301 West Main Street and the Breaker’s Grill located at 380 Main Street. Rita was last seen in an alley behind 3’s bar talking on her phone at approximately 2:30 a.m.
Deputy Chief Jeff Satur of Longmont Police Department said Rita was overheard telling someone on the phone she would get a ride from “someone else.” Authorities also say there were as many as seven or eight potential witnesses behind the bar that evening.
“Our old standby of tracking the phone is not working for us,” said Satur. “But we are working our very hardest to find Rita.”
Rita is a mother of three young boys, ages 9, 13, and 18, and described by family as a bubbly and busy mom, who is just one college semester away from becoming a paralegal. Something she has worked very hard for.
Satur told Fox 31, “As you can imagine, everybody is concerned,” he said. “This is unusual behavior.”
Police have asked for anyone who may have seen Rita that evening, to call them immediately.
Connection to Beating Victim Dismissed
Longmont Police Department was investigating the possible connection between a young man found with head trauma and the disappearance of Rita. Tyler Bullock was found at the same location eight days after Rita disappeared, at approximately 2:30 a.m.
Tyler Bullock was found unconscious five days after Rita Gutierrez-Garcia’s disappearance in the same area.
According to Tyler’s sister Kristal Beecher, Tyler was in the intensive care unit for head trauma due to bleeding on his brain. Tyler was found behind the bar unresponsive due to serious head injuries. He is now recovering.
“There is zero connection. I just need to stress there are no suspects in my case. It’s really just a matter of the specific block in Longmont needing better security systems, more cops on busy nights, and cameras, maybe undercovers,” said Tyler, still recovering from the traumatic experience.
On March 24, 2018, Longmont Police divers searched a pond at Golden Ponds Parks southwest of Hover Street and Third Avenue but did not find anything. Golden Ponds is a network of ponds and walking paths. Police, Longmont Emergency Unit, and Longmont Fire Department searched from approximately 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Canines were also used in the search.
Police divers searching area of Golden Ponds in Longmont, Colorado. Courtesy of Daily Camera.
Deputy Chief Satur declined to answer what they were searching for. “We were looking for evidence,” Satur said. “That’s all I can say.”
Police are treating the disappearance as a missing person case and “suspicious disappearance.”
“We will continue to work all leads and go from there,” Satur said. “We are going to continue working until we figure out what happened.”
Police have been working long hours in the search for Rita, and rotating staff to ensure fresh eyes are involved in the investigation.
Mom and Sister Plead for Help at Press Conference
Prior to Rita’s disappearance, she was very active on Snapchat but has not posted since her disappearance. This worries her family.
Diane Romero and Jessica Romero please for the public’s help in the search for Rita Gutierrez-Garcia.
“I love you,” said Rita’s mother Diane Romero at a press conference organized by Longmont Police Department on March 22, 2018. Holding a picture of her daughter, “I need you here,” she said.
Rita’s sister Jessica Romero tearfully told reporters, “She’s my older sister and I’ve never had to go a day without her in my entire life,” said Romero.
Family and Friends Hold Vigil
Family and friends of Rita held a prayer vigil on March 25th at Longmont’s Thompson Park. There, they offered comfort to each other and covered a tree with ribbons of different colors and cards with prayers for her safe return.
“I know they are doing all they can do to help us,” Romero said about police investigators. “They are doing a lot to bring Rita home.”
Rita’s sister Jessica said, “I’m trying not to break down.” Rita’s three sons are staying with her and she is trying to be strong for them. “It’s been nerve-wracking just trying to remember to breathe.”
Pastor Choutka, the pastor at the Rocky Mountain Christian Church’s Niwot campus, asked people attending the vigil to gather around the family, asking God to give Rita’s mother strength and help the investigators.
“By the powerful name of Jesus, we do ask for a miracle, that she be found safe and sound,” Choutka said to those who gathered at the park to pray.
Rumors and speculation of what happened to Rita have circulated and the family is trying to protect the young boys and cousins. “We are trying to keep them strong,” Diane Romero said.
Rita was last seen wearing a black long-sleeved shirt with black leggings. She has tattoos on both arms, as well as on her shoulder and on her feet.
Sleeve tattoo with eye and wave design on Rita Gutierrez-Garcia’s arm.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia should contact the Longmont Police Department 303-651-8501.
Missing persons and runaway cases are among the most challenging issues facing law enforcement today. A detective must consider a number of variables when there is no explanation for a person’s disappearance. Was the missing person a victim of foul play? Did they suffer an accident? Was a child kidnapped by another parent and in danger? Do they have diminished mental capacity or other high-risk health risks? Was a child abducted by a stranger? Has the runaway been lured into sex-trafficking?
According the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Crime Information Center (NCIC), on average, more than 800,000 people are reported missing each year. Though many of the cases are resolved, approximately 85-90% of those cases are children under the age of eighteen.
As of January 31, 2018, there were 86,664 active missing persons cases in NCIC, with nearly 40,000 active juvenile missing person cases. This number is an average daily total of active missing person cases on any given day. Additionally, there were 8,645 active unidentified persons cases in the national database referred to as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) at the FBI.
Large computer database systems are used by federal agencies.
What is NCIC?
NCIC is a database system accessible to all law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners in the United States. When law enforcement takes a missing person report, or an unidentified living or deceased person is found, the person’s descriptive information and other pertinent data, photograph and property information is entered in NCIC.
The NCIC system regularly cross-references missing person data (files) with unidentified person’s data to find potential matches.
Ideally, every missing person’s data would be entered in NCIC; however, the issue of missing persons is quite complex.
Missing Person Laws
When a child under the age of eighteen is reported missing, police are required by a 1982 congressional mandate to immediately take a report and enter the child’s information into NCIC.
In 2003, Suzanne’s Law was passed for persons between 18 and 21 reported missing, as part of the national “Amber Alert” bill. Previously, police were only required to report missing persons under the age of 18. With Suzanne’s Law enacted, any person under the age of 21 is considered a missing child and law enforcement is now required to also take an immediate missing person report and enter the person’s information into NCIC. One drawback, many law enforcement agencies are still unaware the law exists.
For missing individuals over the age of 21; however, the determination to accept a missing person report is left up to the discretion of each law enforcement agency based upon protocol. Due to the difference existing for missing adults vs. missing children cases, resources for a missing adult can be minimal at times.
There are approximately 17,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. and many do not have the time or resources to allocate to missing person cases. According to the national Unified Crime Report during 2016, police made 10,662,252 arrests while protecting our communities and leaving police departments throughout the country stretched.
This can be frustrating for families who are concerned for the safety of their loved one.
Many times, police are reluctant to respond with searches for people who may have left of their own accord, or someone who may be living on the street. In many cases where a search response is required, due to suspicious circumstances or threat to life, an actual search can only be prolonged for so long.
Police conducting a ground search for a high-risk missing person.
In addition, there could be jurisdictional issues complicating a search for a missing person where a person goes missing in one law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction; however, their car is found in another, causing complications in search efforts.
Many times, when an adult goes missing, there is not even a starting place or evidence left behind, and the person simply vanishes with no explanation.
Or, a loved one may go missing while visiting another country which can also tie U.S. law enforcement’s hands and causing virtually no effort to be made to find the missing person.
When a loved one is missing, it is necessary to act in a swift, efficient, and organized manner.
Hiring a Licensed Private Investigator
Often, it is necessary to hire a licensed private investigator with experience working with missing person investigations. One who will work cooperatively with law enforcement can be an asset to an investigation.
With a private investigator, there is a pre-determined time-frame to search for the missing person that can be extended until family of a missing person is satisfied all leads have been exhausted. There are no jurisdictions holding a case back when a private investigator is involved. Private investigators can travel state to state and even out of the country if warranted.
There are many different situations where a private investigator can be of assistance in a case, such as:
- Searching for loved ones who have voluntarily disappeared.
- Long-term missing persons/cold cases.
- Minors who may be been victims of human trafficking or kidnapping.
- Missing persons with diminished mental capacity.
- Individuals missing due to suspicious circumstances.
- Individuals missing with domestic abuse history.
Private Investigator’s Tools of the Trade
When we talk tools of the trade, it is important to note, nothing can take the place of good old fashion “Sherlock Holmes” investigative techniques and pounding the pavement. Private investigators have the benefit of working independently and making rapid decisions benefiting an individual case, sometimes operating outside of the boundaries of what law enforcement’s capabilities. Such as, tracking a potential suspect without requiring a warrant, questioning witnesses, interviewing suspects, and even paying informants when necessary.
Surveillance photographs of a suspect in a sexual assault case in Boulder, Colorado.
Private investigators can conduct background checks, court and other records searches, financial records, work and employment information, identify coworkers, business associates, and friends, analyze computers and social networking information, conduct surveillance and search facilities such as jails, mortuaries, and hospitals.
In cases where an individual is missing in another country, a private investigator can travel to identify and interview potential witnesses or suspects and work with the American consulate to better effect an investigation.
Private investigators will work in cooperation with a law enforcement agency.
A missing persons investigation is a thorough examination of circumstances involving a missing person’s disappearance and every stone must be turned when time is of the essence.
Because private investigators are not limited to one jurisdiction, they often have a network of other private investigators, law enforcement, and nonprofits to assist if necessary, ensuring all resources are being utilized.
Many private investigators have previous criminal investigation experience and worked for local, state and federal agencies throughout their career, expanding their knowledge base and skills.
If a family of a missing person is unable to get law enforcement to take a missing person report or believe they have not been properly categorized as a “high risk” missing person, private investigators can investigate and present information to the law enforcement agency to reevaluate their initial determination and effect a missing person report.
Following are investigative activities licensed private investigators may assist with:
- Identify circumstances of the missing person’s disappearance
- Determine where the person was last seen
- Investigate potential crime scene and photograph documentation
- Interview the reporting party
- Interview potential witnesses and/or suspects
- Develop list of all known associates
- Communicate with law enforcement details of the case that can assist in making a missing person report or assist an existing police investigation
- Ensure missing persons information has been properly documented and entered into NCIC and other databases
- Systematically canvas area, question local community members, businesses, etc.
- Identify personal belongings that should be saved and can be turned over to law enforcement authorities for DNA testing, if necessary
- Work with media when necessary
- Identify additional resources
- Provide guidance
When a loved one is missing, time is of the essence and it is critical to identify the circumstances of the person’s disappearance. When considering hiring a private investigator, it is important to remain cognizant there is only so much that can be done by law enforcement; whereas, a private investigator can devote full attention to a case ensuring the proper steps are taken to search for a loved one.