Well, they’re all gone now.
I go through the CDOJ missing persons database at least once a week, looking for new and updated cases. I’m going through it now and finding a LOT of cases have been added since last time. I’ve seen over 20 so far, and I’ve only looked under “voluntarily missing adults.”
Furthermore, many of the names and faces look strangely familiar: as if they’d been on the database before and had been removed. In fact, I KNOW that some of them have been; some of those names are of MPs who were later found dead, and are in Charley’s resolved cases section. Now they’re back on CDOJ.
I don’t see a pattern in terms of the law enforcement agency, but most of the “new” cases stem from the years 2009 to 2011.
I’m inclined to think that someone on CDOJ has made a big mistake and somehow put a bunch of outdated, resolved cases back in the system. I hope they fix this soon because it does no good for anyone.
I posted about this on the Charley Project’s Facebook page yesterday, and I thought I’d blog about it too, because frankly it really makes me mad.
In yesterday’s updates I added one Dennis Frank Svoboda, who disappeared in 1996. He’s presumed drowned in a fishing accident. While researching his case I found several articles about International K-9 Search and Rescue Services, which is apparently the only for-profit SAR service in the world. It charges $200 an hour.
It turns out this SAR service is pretty shady. A lot of legitimate SAR services and law enforcement agencies won’t have anything to do with it. In an interview, the founder said it’s because people are jealous of his success, something I find unlikely. He also said his SAR dogs have a 97% success rate and other SAR dogs have only a 20% success rate.
I found a mention of Svoboda on the “drownings” section of its website:
96-668-024(C) 01-25-96 Cowlitz Co. Drowning X (2). Dennis Svoboda and Larry Mansur. Two missing fisherman. Missing X 4 days. Searched their favorite fishing holes. Very cold outside. Snowing in hills. Winds from West 0-5 MPH. Air temp..35f. Water 42F. One found by Valorie in 40 feet of water and one found in 60 feet of water. Grief therapy 1 hour with family after debriefing. (Note) Bodies were moved from their location. One by the current the other by water boat traffic-tug boat towing a barge.
Uh, no. Larry Mansur’s body was missing for months, not four days, before it turned up. And Svoboda is still missing. He’s on NamUs and on the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Department MP page and now he’s on Charley too.
I posted a comment on the SAR service’s Facebook page, on a post they made boasting of their “successes” (Svoboda was on the list); I said Svoboda had never been found. My comment got deleted.
It’s pretty disturbing. Stay away from these folks.
A friend of mine, not someone involved in the world of MP cases and true crime, sent me an email today to ask if I knew anything about a woman who had disappeared from her area the other day. I replied saying I didn’t really follow cases that recent, but I had Googled the missing woman and reported what I’d found. I added,
Right now the California Department of Justice’s database is classifying her as “voluntary missing,” something her family is taking issue with. I wish I could talk to them and explain that, as far as I can tell, CDOJ classifies missing persons cases pretty much at random. They’ve got a teenager listed as a “runaway juvenile” when she was witnessed jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Yeah, I don’t pay too much attention to CDOJ’s “voluntary missing adult” stuff. I make up my own mind, provided I have information to work with.
Some other MP news today made me think of cases where there is a great deal of suspicion against the missing child’s parents, or the missing adult’s significant other, but not a lot of evidence pointing towards any theory.
I have researched and written about enough MP cases that I think I’m entitled to make this general observation: When the public, and perhaps the police also, have a person of interest in mind like parents or a spouse or whatever, someone close to the MP, a good indicator is to look at the person’s behavior after the disappearance. Let’s say it’s a child and there’s suspicion that the parents did it. From what I have seen, people who are innocent try to keep the case in the public eye, give interviews, put up posters, etc., even at great personal cost to themselves. They want the MP found and if they have to get crucified in the media for that to happen, that’s what they’ll do. Guilty people, on the other hand, tend to hide, desperately hoping the police and the media will shut up and go away.
The Virginia State Police’s missing persons list continues its growth spurt as cases old and new are added, and I’m trying to keep up. Using the VSP’s information, today I added eight cases and updated one. (And also added one and updated two that weren’t from the VSP.) There are a few on there also that will hit the one-year deadline in just a week or two. Fortunately I was able to do this work without throwing out my back like I did when I went on that VSP updates binge in August.
I was just writing the VSP cases one at a time as I was scrolling down the list — scroll down past names I’ve added already, see one that’s new, write it up, scroll through a few more cases I know already, see another one I haven’t added, write it up, etc. They’re in alphabetical order. Actually, I like the simple list format because it keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed by the volume of cases. I can only see like, three cases on the screen at any given time, all in a single row, which keeps me from panicking over the fact that there are like 50 or whatever cases altogether on that list.
One of the cases I added today was the case of one Charles Bruce Brantley, missing from Herndon since January 12, 2015. It’s one of those pathetic “Few details are available in his case” ones. I wrote it, scrolled down, wrote up some more cases, and then came across Mark Lemiuex. I noted that he was also listed as missing from Herndon, and on the exact same day as Mr. Brantley. My ears perked up a bit and I made a note in my drafts of both casefiles that these two men had disappeared from the same city on the same day However, the VSP provided no information on the circumstances of Lemiuex’s disappearance, and they hadn’t with Brantley either, so I had to note, “It’s unclear whether the two men disappeared together, or if their cases are related in any way. Few details are available in their cases”
Then as I continued copying Mr. Lemiuex’s information from the VSP list, I noticed something was amiss: not only did he disappear from the same city as Brantley on the same date, but both men were the same age, the same height and weight, with the same hair and eye color and identical clothing descriptions.
Clearly, VSP accidentally used the same information for two different cases. Now, this is something I admit I’ve been guilty of myself sometimes. I’m not perfect, I freely admit, and sometimes (okay, often) I make clerical errors of one kind or another. (Feel free to point them out to me via email or Facebook message or whatever.) But I never made that kind of mistake for an ENTIRE CASEFILE. *headdesk*
And I thought: “Okay, so which one has the correct information and which is the copy? What if I can’t find out?” It seemed like, in that case, there was nothing to do but omit both men from the Charley Project. After all, I couldn’t be certain of my information, and spreading misinformation on that scale would be more harmful than otherwise.
BUT! NamUs came to the rescue. I investigated further and discovered that, although Mr. Brantley is not on NamUs as of this writing, Mr. Lemiuex is. Except for the race and age, he had completely different information from Brantley. They disappeared from different cities five years apart, among other things. Not only that, but NamUs had more information about Lemieux than the VSP provided. Although case still has the “few details are available” phrase, I was able to add at least SOME information about the circumstances, what he looked like, what he wore, and a his medical condition he had. (And, of course, I removed that erroneous note I had planned to add to both Brantley and Lemiuex’s casefiles.)
This is why I’m glad there are so many different sources of missing persons information on the internet. I don’t believe that any MP website/database/whatever should be a total one-stop shop. To ensure accuracy, it’s much better to have two sources than one, and five sources rather than two, etc. I’ve learned the hard way that NO SOURCE is 100% accurate all of the time, not even law enforcement databases (see today’s example), and not even MPs’ relatives.
Missing persons cases, particularly adult MPs, are not often treated all that seriously by the police. It used to be a lot worse, though. For example, it used to be that teens were automatically classified as runaways and the cops didn’t even bother to search for them. See this example (courtesy of Peter Henderson) regarding the 1972 disappearance of Carlene Sessions Tengelsen from Macon, Georgia:
The Macon Police would not take a formal missing person’s report for 24 hours and when they did they said Carlene was not missing, she was just a teen runaway who would be home soon. But Carlene never came home.
Finally at the Tengelsens’ request the car was dusted for fingerprints but none were found.
The family quickly realized they would have to head up the search for their daughter themselves. For weeks teens from Carlene’s high school would fan out looking for her, at the end of the day they would come home in tears.
Carlene’s case was treated like most missing teen’s in the seventies, “toe-tag-cold from the get-go,” her sister Joanette said.
Two years later the Macon police wrote her mother a note asking if she had come home yet, they wanted to close her file. They said it was sill an “active investigation.” Her family laughed. If that was the case why did they not know she was still missing, they wondered.
[The above quote in italics is courtesy of Peter Henderson and used with permission.]
I’ve got several cases on the Charley Project where the MP’s investigation file just up and disappeared — thrown away, “borrowed” and never returned, accidentally or intentionally destroyed, or simply misplaced. And as the years pass and the original police officers move on or retire, the police department just might forget about the MP entirely. Somebody, usually a concerned relative, has to file a second report, and then the investigation has to start all over again and this time perhaps it’s been decades.
This doesn’t happen as often as it used to, because of computers and the internet and digitizing everything, but I’m sure it still happens on rare occasions.
Anyway, this list is of cases where all the records, or a significant part of the records, got lost.
I’m writing up new cases and put together a certain case featured on the NCMEC database, a 16-year-old runaway girl, missing since September 2014. I drafted a casefile based on her poster, as per usual.
When I Googled her name I found she was on NamUs, but when I clicked on the link, it said “The case you are trying to view is restricted to authorized persons ONLY.” This usually means the MP has been located, but sometimes they do this for other reasons — like when they’re comparing the MP to a UID case and they’re pretty sure it’s a match and are just waiting to confirm. I investigated further and found a press release from August, saying two missing girls — including the one I was planning to post — had been recovered.
So I made a quick call to the NCMEC’s tip line (it’s 1-800-THE-LOST, translated to 1-800-843-5678) and told the nice lady what I found. She looked up the MP’s name and confirmed that yes, she had been recovered. It looks like she got left on the NCMEC website by accident. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
The hotline person thanked me and promised to take action. And now I shall move on to other cases.