Apropos of nothing, I thought I’d talk about a tricky issue I often have to deal with in writing up casefiles to put on Charley.
A lot of the MPs on the Charley Project met their end through domestic violence — either child abuse or intimate partner abuse. Of course the abuser is not going to admit to murder, so he (I’m using the male gender pronoun merely for convenience) will say his partner simply left him, or his child ran away or was abducted.
And then as the investigation progresses, the police will poke holes in the abuser’s story. Sometimes the cops will talk to the media about the inconsistencies and evasions and so on, and announce that the abuser is the prime suspect in the disappearance. But not always. Sometimes the police say nothing at all.
A few months ago I saw a Facebook post about a certain missing child. The child’s parents say he simply disappeared during the night; the police think otherwise and believe his parents murdered him. The Facebook post said my casefile for this boy was “full of lies” and they put up a screenshot of the casefile with the word “LIES” in big red letters across it.
I went back to that casefile and had a look, trying to figure out what the Facebook person was talking about, and I realized they were upset because I put the parents’ version of the disappearance on there. And then — this is the important part — I said that basically everything I’d just written probably did not happen and here’s what the police think REALLY happened, and summed up the evidence against the parents and so on.
That’s what I usually do in cases like that: I sum up the suspect’s version of what happened, followed by what the police believe happened. So it’s two different stories I’m telling. I feel like I have to include both in order to give the complete picture. So yes, in a way, that boy’s casefile was “full of lies”, lies his parents told. But I made it clear that those particular statements lacked credibility.
I’m doing the best I can with what I have to work with, and I think the whole “telling two stories” is a good policy. But the problem arises when the police have said little or nothing about a case.
Awhile back I got an email from an MP’s sister. She said she wanted me to change some things in the MP’s profile because her boyfriend, the last person known to have seen her, was the prime suspect in her disappearance and the cops didn’t believe she had ever been to the store that day like the boyfriend said.
The problem, though, was that I have nothing to back that up. The police have never gone public saying the boyfriend’s story is a lie and he might have murdered the MP. I could find not a single database entry or news article that said that. And if I can’t get an on-the-record source, I have to leave things as they are, with only the boyfriend’s story given, because that’s the only account that’s out there right now.
Much as I would have liked to, I knew it would be a bad idea to change the MP’s casefile in that way just because a non law enforcement source emailed me and told me to do it. If my source was lying or mistaken, publishing such info could get me in a lot of trouble. Even if it was accurate information, the police were probably keeping quiet about it for a reason and I wouldn’t want to hinder the investigation.
So there you go.