Yay, NCMEC added an old runaway case!

NamUs has the case of Tebble Anita Garrett, with a reasonable amount of detail — tattoo description, several aliases, was pregnant — but there was (and is, as of this writing) no photo on the casefile. In January I was able to get a photo of her from Newspapers.com and so I added her to Charley, but the photo was a few years out of date — Tebble, it seems, had been a chronic runaway, and the photo I had was from an article about one of her disappearances two or three years prior to 1988.

But yay, the NCMEC has just put up a poster for her! With another photo, presumably more recent!

(And the poster, I note, has a different listed date and place of Tebble’s disappearance than NamUs does. Sometimes NamUs gives the date a person was reported missing as the date of disappearance — they’re hardly the only source that does that either. Given Tebble’s status as a chronic runaway, it’s possible her family didn’t report her missing for six weeks because they expected her to return on her own. Or it’s possible they didn’t report her missing at first, then couldn’t quite remember when she was last seen. Or it’s possible she disappeared from Easley, South Carolina on September 7, then was sighted in Pickens, South Carolina on October 18. The cities are only seven to ten miles apart, after all.)

Anyway. I’m so happy they added her. Tebble’s been missing for almost thirty years now and I really LOVE IT when the NCMEC adds new-old cases. It makes my day, actually. Especially new-old cases I haven’t heard of before. Recently they did Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila, and I was able to get some additional info from the Newspapers.com archive (I LOVE THAT ARCHIVE, thanks for paying for the subscription, you-know-who-you-are) about her case. It reminds me a bit of Beverly Sharpman‘s.

Anyway. Thanks, NCMEC.

NamUs question

I have a question about NamUs that I’ve wondered about for a long time and I wonder if someone who reads this blog can answer for me:

When you search for something on NamUs — say, the first name “Sharon” — and come up with a list of results, and click on one of the cases on the list, it has two numbers at the end of the URL. One, I think, is the actual case number, which never seems to change. Sharon Kay Leinart (missing from Tennessee since 2013), for example, has the number 20176. But after that case number is a / symbol and another number. Like, I just searched for the first name “Sharon” and clicked on Sharon Leinart’s case among the results, and it lists the second number as 22. So her entire URL (as I write this; I’ll get to that in a moment) is https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176/22.

It seems to make no difference what the second number is: if you change that number to 23, or 21, or 1985, the MP you come up with is still Sharon Leinart. And if you remove the second number altogether, it also makes no difference: the URLs https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176 or https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176/ still produce Sharon Leinart and no other person.

The second number also seems to be different every time I search. I have learned to remove the second number when I bookmark NamUs cases for my “to add” folder, because otherwise, https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176/23 and https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176/22 or https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176/anyothernumber come up as separate bookmarks when they all point to the same MP. My bookmark for Sharon Leinart is therefore https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/20176.

My questions

  1. What does that second number mean?
  2. Why does it change every time you perform a search for that person?
  3. Why is there at all, since it’s not necessary for people to see the casefile?

This is not a big deal, it’s just a curiosity of mine. Can anyone familiar with the workings of the NamUs database, or computer databases in general, enlighten me?

NamUs contributions

NamUs has become such a major resource for missing and unidentified people on the internet, and I use a lot of its information on the Charley Project. I got curious as to just how many cases list NamUs as a source, and did a bit of looking into this. For the record, according to my keyword search, the answer is approximately 2,670. That’s around 28% of the 9,500-odd cases listed on Charley. And to think that back when it first came out I was unimpressed and didn’t think I’d use it. Just goes to show that once in awhile you have to eat your words.

A pretty good NamUs article

I posted it on Charley’s Facebook page but thought I’d also share it here: an article from the Denton Record-Chronicle, explaining how NamUs works and what it’s capable of doing.

I wonder how many Charley Project cases list NamUs as a source. I’m sure it’s thousands, perhaps the majority of cases now. Certainly I have enough NamUs cases lying around that I have yet to put up. They’re way ahead of me.

Dreamed about NamUs

Last night I had a dream about NamUs. I dreamed I’d discovered a keyboard shortcut — ctrl-U — that made each entire casefile visible to me, including all the stuff that’s hidden to private citizens who aren’t law enforcement. Of course I was basically drooling over the treasure trove of information that had suddenly been revealed to me, but uncertain what to do with it all, since it was supposed to be hidden and if I posted it on Charley it would no longer be so.

In real life, ctrl-U shows you the sourcecode for pages.

Stuff I wish NamUs would do

I admit I was highly skeptical of the worth of NamUs at first (see my first blog entry about it, from over four years ago). But I quickly warmed up to it and it has become an incredibly valuable resource for my updates, not to mention for all the other people out there looking for missing persons. It is, to my knowledge, the only online missing persons database larger than my own (in terms of number of cases). Probably there are more cases on Charley that have NamUs as one of the sources than otherwise. And it has contributed to identifying many, many people who would have otherwise rested in potters’ fields, their families wondering about them, forever.

However, I am not a huge all-out fan of NamUs like some people are. I have actually gotten hate-mail before because I criticized NamUs. One person accused me of being out for my own glory and being no better than those so-called psychics who exploit the families of MPs and take money for their “predictions,” which left me a bit flabbergasted. I replied explaining I had changed my mind since I wrote the critical entry, and included several quotes from my blog where I praised NamUs; the emailer never answered. Another person suggested I dissolve the entire Charley Project and put it all onto NamUs and just just contribute to NamUs henceforth instead of running my own site. Uh, no.

NamUs is great but there’s room for improvement. I think their database is rather clunky and not as user-friendly as it could be. I don’t expect anyone there to listen to me, but it’s my blog, darn it, so I’m going to spout off and tell them what I wish they would change. This is related to the MP casefiles only, since I never look at the UID ones:

1. Put dates of birth back in public view. They used to be visible (albeit in a not-very-obvious place), but NamUs started hiding them years ago and I don’t know why. I see no reason why DOBs shouldn’t be publicly available; they are on most sites.
2. Make the content more uniform. Many cases are written in a very businesslike, impersonal sort of manner; others leave much to be desired in the way of spelling, grammar and tone. It’s sometimes difficult with stuff like tattoos as well — I find myself uncertain if the tattoo is of a thing or a word meaning that particular thing. Standardization would help a great deal.
3. When you notify subscibers of updates in the casefiles, refer to the MP by name as well as by case number. It humanizes the MP.
4. In your update emails, include also the cases that have been added, not just the ones that have been updated and the MPs that have been located.
5. Also, in said update emails, if a case is removed from public viewing for some reason but the person hasn’t actually been found, say that.
6. Include a separate listing for cases were partial remains have been located. It’s very annoying for me to be halfway through writing up a new case only to discover that the MP’s skull has been found and only the rest of the body is missing. In that case, forget about finding them alive and forget about listing them on Charley and most other missing persons sites.
7. Some information on NamUs is only available for viewing by people who can prove they are law enforcement. (Such as DOBs, apparently; see above.) Which is fine. But in that case LE should have their own updates subscription thingy. A lot of times I get an update notice saying “photo added” or whatever, and I go there only to discover that the photo isn’t visible to me cause I’m only a member of the public and not LE. (I’m assuming most of those photos are stuff like fingerprint cards or X-ray images and not actual snapshots of the MP.) Meanwhile, information that isn’t supposed to be available for public viewing, and isn’t visible when you look at a NamUs casefile (like medical conditions), is visible in NamUs update emails because they always say what they changed. Like Drugs of abuse changed from “” to “marijuana, methamphetamine.” I think that kind of defeats the purpose of not letting the general public know about certain sensitive information.
8. When notices go out that an MP is located, it would be helpful to say just when they were found, and if they were alive or dead. Like, the other day NamUs said a guy got found and I listed him as resolved. He was a severely disabled man who required constant supervision, and I think it more than likely that he was found deceased, but I couldn’t find any articles about him so I simply don’t know.
9. Instead of saying a person is 60 inches tall or whatever, say they’re five feet tall. Or at least give both forms of measurement. I know I’m not the only person who occasionally miscalculates trying to convert the height from inches to feet and change. Including metric measurements might also be helpful, but I’m an American so I don’t take much notice of that.

Another pet peeve of mine that isn’t really NamUs’s fault so much as the people who add cases: I guess they’re trying to make sure they don’t miss any possible UID matches, but so many cases include a range of three inches in height and a range of anywhere from 10 to as much as 30 pounds in weight, which frustrates me. I get my height and weight checked every time I got to the doctor. Last time, which was in mid-March (a sinus infection), I was exactly 128.2 pounds, and 5’6.8 inches tall in shoes. So guys, if I ever disappear, I am five feet six inches tall, not 5’5 – 5’7, and 130 pounds, not 125 – 130 pounds or 120 – 140 pounds. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t even deal with weight ranges of less than ten pounds, and just settle on one or the other because I figure it makes no practical difference. But that’s just me.

Carry on.

*waits for the NamUs-defending haterz to start sending me hysterical emails again*