How do I research my cases?

A lot of people write to me asking where I get the info from my cases. Well, that’s at the bottom of every casefile, and I think it’s mentioned in the FAQ as well, but as I’ve observed, it seems nobody reads FAQs. Because it’s on my mind today, dear reader, I will take you through the process of creating a Charley Project casefile.

I find missing people listed generally in one of three sources: law enforcement websites; websites, blogs and forums run by private individuals or organizations; and news articles. (Once in awhile some relative of a missing person emails me a case submission but that hardly ever happens.) I check Google News and certain missing person databases and forums, such as the Texas DPS site and Project Jason, daily to look for new cases. Other places I check once every several days, and some sites don’t get updated too often so I only check them once a month or so.

Towards the end of every month, I go through all my sources and bookmark as many cases as I can that will be six months old the next month and therefore eligible for posting, so I can post them on the exact day they turn six months old. Like, in late June I’ll bookmark a bunch of cases for January. Then, on July 1, I’ll add a missing person who disappeared on January 1, and so on.

Once I find a missing person and decide to put him up (let’s be sexist with the gender pronoun here), first and foremost I run his name through Google. This often uncovers articles and other links with additional information about the MP. I write the casefile and read articles simultaneously, adding info as I come across it. If the case is more than a couple of years old, I also run it through the NewsLibrary database. NewsLibrary is an archive of old newspaper articles from around the country and I have a subscription to it. It’s a valuable resource because I can find articles that don’t exist elsewhere online.

Occasionally, when I Google an MP’s name, I discover he was actually found some time ago. Many websites are pretty bad about taking down their old, resolved cases. The California DOJ database is wonderful but they’ve got a few people listed who were found months or years ago. Of course, when I find out on Google that the MP was located, it goes no further; I start on another casefile. Once I’ve got all the information I can find and have run out of sources to check, I complete the casefile and post it.

I am continually updating old casefiles on Charley, as you can see. When I do my searches I frequently find articles and other sources about cases I already have. I add whatever I can find to the casefile and put it in my “to update” folder. At any given time that folder holds about 20 to 40 to-be-updated cases, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. Generally I update the case on Charley in the order in which I wrote the changes. Some updates get priority adding, though, like if there’s an age-progression added or updated, or charges are filed in the person’s disappearance, or whatever else strikes my fancy. I try to keep my “to update” folder about the same size all the time. If I find more cases to update, I add more to the website; if I don’t have that many, I add them just a few at a time.

Once in awhile, if I’m running really dry on new cases to post and updates, I’ll just run my MPs, name after name, through Google and see if I can find anything else on them. I call this “fishing.” It’s inefficient and time-consuming and really quite boring (much like real fishing), but it can yield valuable nuggets of information.

A new case can take anywhere from ten minutes to several hours to write up, depending on how much info I can find. Caylee Anthony would have taken me all day, probably, and I was relieved when her body got found just before the six-month mark. My first thought when I heard was, “Great, I won’t have to post her on Charley.” Depending on how many cases I’m adding and updating in a particular day, it can take anywhere from about an hour to half a day to write my daily updates. It’s a good thing I have no life.

Anyway. That’s that.

A man has called me at home twice about Charley. I wasn’t available either time, but he left messages. He has a thick accent and gives his name and phone number and says he is on Charley, or he was on Charley, something like that, and wants to talk to me. I don’t recognize his name, though, and I’m quite sure he isn’t on Charley and never was. So I don’t know what’s going on and I’m kind of creeped out that he’s been calling me. I mean, my number isn’t a state secret, but still, why doesn’t he just email me or what? I’m going to have to call him back today and see what he wants.

7 thoughts on “How do I research my cases?

  1. Emma l February 20, 2009 / 2:54 pm

    Interesting. I often do a similar thing- run cases that take my fancy through Google. Got to admit 99 times out of 100 the infos already on Charley though.

    Do let us know about the man with the accent. I’m curious.

  2. Aimee February 20, 2009 / 6:25 pm

    Yes, we definitely want to hear about your mysterious, accented possibly-missing caller.
    Great bad-movie plot, no?

  3. absinthe February 21, 2009 / 12:44 am

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Justin July 3, 2010 / 4:03 am

    I always wondered about the process on how you did your research.

    Did you ever find out who the guy was who called you? And how the hell did he get your phone number? Are you in the phone book?

    • Meaghan July 3, 2010 / 11:03 am

      Yes, I’m in the phone book. Yes, I spoke to the man who called me — he called back — but I am still not sure what was going on there. He said he wanted me to take his name off my site, but his name had never been on there.

  5. Candice November 19, 2010 / 7:28 pm

    This is totally out of the blue, but what Charley casefile has been updated the most times?

    • Meaghan November 19, 2010 / 7:38 pm

      Not sure. Probably Kiplyn Davis — she’s been done 20 times.

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