A universal question

Here’s a question for the MP devotees out there: at what point do you think law enforcement should just give up? By which I mean, not just make the case inactive, but close it and donate the files to the local historical society and announce they’re not going to spend another dollar of public money on it because too much time has passed?

This past spring I wrote in astonishment about how the NCMEC had put up a poster for Noel Elijah Davis, who disappeared in 19-fracking-15. I have not put up a casefile for Noel, and do not intend to, because I really don’t see the point. I even joked about it with my friends, suggesting the NCMEC might make an age-progression of him to his current age (which would now be 116), and the picture would of course be of a skull.

Yet, there is a Reno Police Department phone number on the poster, so I assume they must have a file open for him.

14 thoughts on “A universal question

  1. Lia October 17, 2015 / 9:17 am

    I would think when the case just becomes cold, and there is no telling what really happened. Probably years after the person went missing. I would assume a majority of these cases would be such mysteries because law enforcement didn’t react immediately.

  2. Brian Lockett October 17, 2015 / 11:35 am

    Do you know anything else about Noel Davis? I mean info in addition to the NCMEC (which is basically nil)?

    You do have several profiles of that vintage, but they all have a lot of info (Dorothy Arnold [1910], Bobby Dunbar [1912], The Hydes [1928], etc).

    If more was known about Noel Davis, you might as well.
    But all we have now are a couple dates, a pic and a place. Just no real “story” about what happened (or could have happened) to him.

    • Meaghan October 17, 2015 / 12:06 pm

      There’s a little bit about him on NamUs. A sentence or two.

      The problem is that I have so many cases to put up and I’d rather focus on ones that can be solved. Dorothy Arnold and the Hydes were both originally written by Jennifer Marra.

  3. Gomez Toth October 17, 2015 / 2:08 pm

    Perhaps law enforcement can produce objective, general policy guidelines regarding when to stop investigating a missing person case (as opposed to “give up,” a phrase which seems unnecessarily subjective). Many elements of such a hypothetical policy would seem to me a matter of common sense, such as:

    The current age of the missing person would be one standard deviation above their cohort’s average life expectancy. For example, for a male in the US in 2015, that age would be somewhere around 90.

    The person has already been declared legally dead for purposes of inheritance/probate/whatever.

    Law enforcement has an excellent reason to believe that the person is dead AND that no body will ever be recovered. For example: the person is missing, their car was found parked next to the Golden Gate Bridge, and people saw the missing person jump from the bridge. Another example: a perpetrator confessed to and/or was convicted of killing the missing person, and the body is likely to be deep within a trash dump.

    Can anyone think of others?

    • Meaghan October 18, 2015 / 12:12 am

      Regarding the age criteria, that’s what I was thinking of when I wrote this entry. Papers for a case of someone who disappeared early in life and would now be 102 years old should be with the historical society, not the police.

      But on the other hand, what about elderly people who disappear? There are loads of people in their seventies, eighties and nineties, many of them with dementia, on Charley. I think their cases should be investigated for a longer time period. Of course, in cases like that the cops would be looking for a dead body rather than a live person.

      • Gomez Toth October 20, 2015 / 9:55 am

        In cases of elderly missing persons with dementia or other debilitating medical conditions, I suspect – but certainly do not know – that a legal declaration of death would typically be made relatively soon after the person disappears. By “soon” I mean sooner than, for example, such a declaration would be made for a healthy teenager. The practical effect for law enforcement might therefore be to keep such a case “active” for a relatively short period, based upon an anticipation that internal policy guidelines (the death declaration mentioned above) will be invoked in short order.

        One could hope that when it comes to investigating such situations a certain degree of common sense would come into play – elderly, medically compromised, swampy terrain near by, missing for two years…
        As we all know, however, common sense is not always a forte of either law enforcement or emotionally compromised families. Additionally there is the non-zero possibility of homicide in all such cases, driven either by nefarious or allegedly humane motivations. But again, one would hope that common sense would prevail in the investigation unit.

        Whatever the particular situation(s), a formal set of guidelines regarding missing person investigations would help law enforcement properly focus their time and efforts, and as you say, assist in transferring such cases over to the historical society where they belong.

  4. forthelost October 17, 2015 / 11:43 pm

    I struggle with this. This is because of his case, but also others. Right now Marjorie West and Beverly Sharpman are on NCMEC. If neither died shortly after going missing then it’s plausible they might still be alive now; they’d be in their 80s, but that’s not that unusual. Some day, however, they’ll be older than that. Does the poster get pulled then? (Before he got posted on NCMEC I struggled with the same thing about posting him as a California Kid.)

    I think in general all cases that have DNA samples should be left in a “missing” database no matter the age because of the possible location of remains, but this is a little more complicated than that.

    • Meaghan October 18, 2015 / 12:12 am

      I agree with you about DNA.

  5. Jaime October 18, 2015 / 7:29 am

    A person most likely a relative is still looking for Noel Davis otherwise he wouldn’t be listed in Namus because someone such as a family member had to provide the information and has to be looking for him. They had to provide a law enforcement contact number etc for his case to be taken. I like the older cases, for law-enforcement they probably want the information just in case they do have an unidentified body somewhere. The older cases for me represent that we never do forget a person no matter the circumstances. NCMEC states that they never stop looking for any child ever. I am amazed that the police department is still able to keep his file active on any level myself, but clearly this hurt a family deep enough that they passed the search for a young boy across a century to the next generation of the family. In my own family my great-grandfather had a brother that was murdered in 1925. My grandmother has discussed it with all of her children and grandchildren. She still remembers the hurt it caused my great-grandfather and the rest of his siblings that there brother was taken from them at 25 years old and the police chalked it up to a suicide with no investigation whatsoever even though it was clearly a homicide. She remembers the pain it caused them that nobody even cared enough to investigate his death at all, but she also thinks about the life that he should have been able to live and the uncle that she never got to know. With all of my ramblings I guess what I’m trying to say is every life deserves to be remembered and memorialized somewhere, and that we should stop looking, not when all hope of a good outcome is lost but when the family says it is time to put this person to rest if only in memory.

  6. Christine October 18, 2015 / 7:33 pm

    I agree with you, a case file that old should be placed in the historical society, it will not get resolved nearly 100 years later.

  7. Fiona Pickles October 19, 2015 / 7:58 am

    Maybe instead of basing the decision on the age of the individual it should be based on the date of their disappearance? I would imagine very few cases are solved more than fifty years after the person disappears, so maybe that would be an appropriate point to acknowledge that no further progress is likely and to archive the file(s)?

    • forthelost October 19, 2015 / 10:13 pm

      But quite a few cases have been solved after fifty years, so that’s not exactly a good criteria.

      • Meaghan October 20, 2015 / 5:14 am

        Seventy-five years? What about that? That’s the length of an average person’s lifetime. Short of cases like Richard III and the missing Romanovs, I can’t think of any cases that have been solved after 75 years.

  8. HennyLee October 20, 2015 / 1:12 pm

    I was JUST talking to my husband about this last night… I was watching an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries and there was a case of Laurence Harding Jr. a 10 month old kidnapped from his stroller in front of his home in Chicago by 2 teenage girls in 1944. So at this point he would be around 71. And we got into a discussion of how long you look till you say “I give up”.

    I too was saying base it on age. At some point when you know they are in their 90s – the probability of locating them is probably pretty slim. Though I am sure someone who is actively looking for a loved one – would have far differing views with he theory they will “Never give up”

    It truly is such a hard call

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