A question for consideration

I posted this question on Charley’s Facebook page but decided it warranted further feedback and discussion on my blog as well. Feel free to discuss it in the comments, even if you don’t have any strong advice for me.

The other day I posted a case involving a young woman. It was a “few details are available” case, as I had absolutely no info about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

However, when doing my usual checking I discovered this MP had had a troubled life prior to her disappearance. I uncovered a series of arrests in two, maybe three different states, for offenses including hard drugs (possessing and selling both), prostitution, driving under the influence, and leaving the scene of an accident. One article said she’d been arrested for possession of heroin and asked to be released on her own recognizance since she was a single mother and had to start a new job, and the judge said that wasn’t allowed and she had to post bond because at the time of her arrest she had already been RORed for possession of cocaine. All of this happened over a period of years leading up to her disappearance.

Here’s the question: in a case like this — when all of these details are about her life before her disappearance, and I have no info about the disappearance itself and what the circumstances were, should I post the info anyway? I didn’t, because I didn’t want to cause pain for the MP’s family for what might be no good reason, and possibly mislead people, in case her disappearance was definitely not related to any of that.

I just wasn’t quite comfortable with saying basically “So-and-so was last seen on this date in this place. Few details are available in her case. By the way, she has an arrest record going back several years for drug- and prostitution-related offenses.”

At the same time though, if I’d found out some more innocuous stuff, like what high school/college she went to, or if she had any particular hobbies or belonged to a certain church or something — that is, details that might be equally unrelated to the investigation and didn’t make her look bad — I would have posted it without hesitation.

Why would I hesitate at summarizing the case like I did above, when I wouldn’t hesitate at saying instead, “By the way, she enjoyed doing this, that and the other thing, has six siblings and belonged to the Such-and-Such Catholic Church”? When her high-risk background is MUCH more likely to be related to her disappearance than her (for example) membership in a particular church would be.

What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “A question for consideration

  1. Becky January 3, 2016 / 11:51 am

    Well I have no firm opinion but here are my thoughts: I think if you have done all this research and found info, it is a shame to leave it out. Leaving out information can be considered misleading and some people consider omitting information as a form of lying even. I think her family probably knows about her history and probably nothing could be as painful as her going missing off the planet so if they think of Charley or any web publicity as a tool to help find their loved one, then the more info the better. And you can always remove details if the family does complain. But I doubt that would happen often for the above-mentioned reasons. I had a family member go missing and she was in trouble with the law a lot. I would have been happy to have any publicity that may have helped us find her. Details are helpful good or bad. If the person was known to do volunteer work at some church, those types of establishments or events are places people may keep an eye out for the MP. Conversely, if the MP is known to have used drugs or been homeless, you may look for them in shelters, or on the rough streets. The fact they were involved in crimes helps people know a bit more about where to look for them so it’s all helpful and fair game if you found it on the internet. Wow, that was a lot of opinion! More than 2 cents worth!

    • Janny F January 3, 2016 / 12:19 pm

      You said it well, and I totally agree with you.
      If the family complains, then at that point rethink what information was shared about the person and do an edit.

  2. Liz January 3, 2016 / 8:22 pm

    I would think that I wouldn’t want a bunch of horrible details about my child on the Internet if they disappeared. But I would also want the most accurate info possible. I think a simple, explanation about living a high risk lifestyle should give enough info or being out on bail (which is VERY important info) would be a nice balance between the two.

  3. Catherine January 3, 2016 / 11:18 pm

    I agree with Liz. Simple statement about troubled past or previously engaged in high risk behavior, rather than listing each transgression.

  4. HennyLee January 4, 2016 / 8:24 am

    I agree with everyone above… As Becky said… the info is already out there – obviously – as you found it. As you have always done with combining all information into one place, it seems perfectly logical to me that you add that information… and as Liz and Catherine say – no need to go into detail with a bulleted list of what they have done, but acknowledging that they have a past with various criminal activities, out on Bail, etc. The more info on someone the better. 🙂

  5. Gomez Toth January 6, 2016 / 11:24 am

    With respect to establishing a broad policy, I see two options for you: (1) restricting yourself to information intentionally and explicitly provided by law enforcement or other interested parties (i.e., the missing person’s family), or (2) going with your gut.

    Regarding option (1) I assume – perhaps unwisely – that all information provided by LE, whether it be physical descriptions, aliases, or a missing person’s prior criminal behavior, are tools intended to help them close the case. By revealing a person’s bad behavior, perhaps LE believes it will help illicit valuable information from certain individuals or “communities?” On the other hand if such information *ISN’T* explicitly provided by LE, perhaps they believe it would hinder the investigation; i.e., people with valuable information might remain silent. Similar judgements can be applied to websites/blogs/etc. created by the missing person’s family and loved ones. The basis of this option is having faith/trust in LE and the missing person’s family, and I am uncertain about the general wisdom of that approach – in many cases a family member(s) will be directly responsible for the missing person’s status.

    Option (2), although you might not like the attendant informality, might well be the best approach. You are objectively one of the most qualified people in the country to evaluate the types of information that are most likely to help resolve a missing person case. You also have no (as far as I know) formal standing, or conflict of interest, in any of these cases. Perhaps the wisdom and insight gained from your experience are the best guides?

  6. Kay Ryan February 10, 2016 / 9:33 pm

    Hi Meghan. Just to add a little different perspective, where I live, in the Northeast, big cities and small towns are struggling equally with a heroin epidemic. Across the board pretty much everyone invested in a solution agrees that de-stigmatizing drug addiction is imperative. Attaching shame or secrecy to addiction helps no one, especially now that the federal government, LE, scientists, and the medical establishment agree that addiction is a disease. Like hypertension or type II diabetes, there might have been a choice or behavioral component in the beginning, but once the disease process takes hold, it doesn’t make much sense to hold on to moral judgment or blame or shame. Another consideration is recovery. I know plenty of people who put their families through hell, who were cast out or felt cast out, and after estrangement from the family (or a drifting away from family), found refuge and comfort within the anonymity of recovery groups. Alcoholism and addiction can make for some emotional and mental rigidity. It is so possible that a person in recovery with a dark past truly believes the family would be better off with one less member. To hear, through social media or the internet, that family would like you back, that loved ones hold out hope for reunification would be a profound discovery for the missing person.

    Peace to you! And thank you for all your efforts. Your stories — the little details and the narratives — give souls to the missing. The stories matter. Always.

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