When Someone Goes Missing.......What to do next!
If you are reading this page you are probably going through the pain and anguish of a missing loved one. We know and understand and we are here to help. There is good news, according to Todd Matthews of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, most cases of missing persons are quickly resolved. In 2012, 99% of the missing were located only 2,079 of the 661,000 were still unresolved. The number of open cases generally decreases each year. Sometimes unidentifiable human remains are found. According to NamUs, as many as 40,000 unidentified human remains have been found in the United States alone. Although this is not the resolution that anyone wants, it still provides answers and some closure. So the chances that your case will be resolved are extremely good.
Here are some immediate steps to take-
- Get a good picture of the subject.
- Gather a list of contacts and friends.
- Get a recent cellphone bill if possible.
- Assign a family representative.
Get Your Mind Centered
As Human beings we need hope to exist so it is important to keep up your hope. Next get a notebook and pen to record everything you can. Keep your note pad with you at all times and write down everything that comes to memory. Build a timeline of events as this can be extremely helpful when getting the facts of your case in order.
Next Determine if they are truly missing. Adults and teenagers go missing for many reasons. Some feel they are not getting the attention they deserved or may be angry at a spouse or parent. They have access to money, transportation, etc. Sometimes a suspected missing adult is discovered to be someone that intentionally broke off communications and went into hiding, or off the grid so to speak, because they wanted to and they have the ability to be independent.. Not because of foul play or a disabling incident.
Ask yourself and others... Is the missing person’s lack of communications or action, such as not answering the phone, not coming home, missing work, etc… a behavior that is new or has it been done sporadically in the past? When you determine NO and something is just wrong, then you want to start a process of eliminating possibilities and look for any sort of event or communication that corroborates your suspicions and enhances your plea for help to the police. This may lead you and the officials to where they are and tell what happened.
Check their Last Known Whereabouts, their home, job, hospitals, etc
One of the first things you want to do when you suspect a loved one has gone missing is check their home. NOTE: If you do not live in the area of the home, try asking a neighbor or friend in that area to go to the home and check for you. Or…contact the police in that area and ask them to perform “ A well being check “
If the home shows signs of forced entry or violence call the police immediately and do not enter the premise.
If that is not the situation proceed with CAUTION and enter the home: DO NOT touch anything or move items. Look, but do not touch anything that you do not have to. Even the door knobs. Use your thumb and index finger to open the door rather than grasping the whole knob. And then don’t touch the interior side of the door. The police might be able to get a print from areas like that.
Now with your notebook keep track of everything you touched and your observations. Be Advised---unless there were signs of violence or foul play, the police will be hesitant to get involved if the missing person was considered a healthy teen or adult. The information you gather could help convince the police that an full investigation is needed.
Here are some places to look-
Look for calendars or notes and any other item that might confirm where your missing loved one might be or what their intentions might have been.
Call their cell phone, office, home, etc and see if they have an updated message or anything that might indicate where they went, when and if they were last seen and by whom, what were they wearing, and did they mention additional plans for that day or night.and When you call, leave messages, send a text, then contact their family and close friends.
Call their Work and ask to speak to one or more of their coworkers or even their supervisor, manager or owner.
Ask the people you call about the last time they saw or spoke to them and if anything was said about going out of town, the persons demeanor, etc.
Record who you spoke to, telephone number and the time and context of the calls in your notebook.
Determine if their car or anything else is missing. Record it in your notebook.
Try to determine what they might have been wearing? Record it in your notebook.
Call the hospitals and shelters in your area and ask if your loved one or any one without identification, but fitting their description has checked in.
Call the Police
A common misconception is that you have to wait 24 hours before you can report a person missing, the truth is--report them right away! You need to be prepared for the police and what they will and will not tell you. Remember to keep a log of all the activities including the dates, times, people, case numbers, etc.
When law enforcement responds, provide the missing person's name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses, braces, facial scars, medications, etc. Tell them when you noticed that the person was missing and if you know it, what clothing he or she was wearing. If they have been suicidal or suffering and mental conditions please tell the police! Hiding these facts can slow down the search drastically!
Try to have a written page of what you know in chronological order starting with the last time you know they
were accounted for.
Have a written list of the missing person’s friends and enemies with notes about each one. How long they have known each other, why they are enemies, contact info, etc
Give the police a recent photo of the missing person. This photo should show them as they would appear in every day life. This is no time for glamour shots.
Give the police descriptions of unique physical features. Bald spot, body art, Tattoo. Jewelry that they always wore.
-----NOTE: Jewelry is important as it may be sold and many pawn shops keep records.
If you suspect the person was abducted from their home or car INSIST ON FINGER PRINTING THE HOUSE or Car. The police may tell you that there is no reason to finger print. They may try to tell you that since you and or others have been in the house that finger printing would be a waste of time. TELL THEM TO DO IT. Or immediately find and pay a private detective with police connections to do it for you. And try to keep others out of the area to be fingerprinted until it has been done.NOTE: Private Investigators aka PI - Some PIs really want to help and will be willing to do so for a portion of the reward money. Others will ask you for exclusive contracts and payments. Find a reputable firm. Ask the police for recommendations, check references, check the Better Business Bureau. Ask about the fees and be sure that you and the PI have a written understanding of the services to be provided and the associated cost.
Before you give written items, photos, etc to the police make copies for yourself or ask the police if they can do it for you. Because, it is likely you will not get the items back for a long time and maybe never.
For adults the police may try to pass it off as there is nothing wrong and may not want to investigate. If you do not agree with the police, you need others to support suspicions or have some “evidence” to persuade them. With
children, especially young children and preteens, they typically do not have the independence or means to disappear on there own and the police will be more willing to help. With teenagers who have habitually run away, you may find the police very unwilling to help. You will have to convince them why and how this missing situation is different from the others.
After the police decide that there is truly a missing person and/or if they suspect foul play, they will start looking for suspects. The first suspect will be you, family members, or other persons who knew the missing person closely. Statistically speaking 80% of cases that involve foul play are committed by a family member or someone close to the family. So be ready. A lie detector test and interrogation techniques can be very unsettling, but it is a very necessary part of the investigative process.
Ask the police what their plans are and how you can help?
Ask if they have other departments or agencies assisting.
Press them hard to get as many agencies to help as you can.
NOTE: the investigating officer(s) may not like your
Be helpful but do not be a hindrance.
Ask for regular updates and be respectful the Detectives do have a Big caseload..
Do not tell the police how to do their job.
Real life missing persons, crime cases, and the processes around them are far different than TV sluths and CSI shows. The case may not be resolved in 60 minutes.
Be clear with the police about what you know to be a fact verses what is an opinion or hunch.
If the missing person is a child request that your child's name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File. After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, NCMEC on their toll-free telephone number:
1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Or you can use Live Hotline to talk to NCMEC through our web site.
Dos and Don’ts
There is a laundry list of things that you could do, should do, want to do, can’t do, and should not do. The complicated part is figuring out which is which. Something’s that seem like a good idea might actually make finding your loved one more difficult. However, some things of the things that you think someone else is doing or that you should not do may be the very thing that brings closure. Have faith that the professionals helping you know what they are doing and are trying to help. They have done this many times in the past and are trained. While their methods may not make sense to you, everyone is working hard toward the same end, finding your loved one. There is no magic formula. What works in one situation may not work in another and thus the do's and don’ts are meant to be a guidance verses a hard and fast rule.
Don’t clean – if there is a mess or things out of place, make a note of it and give those notes to the investigators. Cleaning could destroy finger prints or other evidence.
Don’t call a private investigator right away. There may come a time for them but often they can impede the investigation and they may also not have your interest at heart and feed you what you want to hear rather than the facts.
Don’t make up things – If you are not sure about something preface your comment with “I am not 100% sure but I think …….”
Don’t allow others to make up things. Many people will sincerely want to help. But if they are not sure about something it could lead the investigation in the wrong direction wasting Time, Effort and Resources.
Don’t get upset when you’re identified as a suspect. If you had nothing to do with the disappearance then you have nothing to fear.
Don’t be quick to accuse others, even if the media or the authorities accuse them. Sometimes the authorities use false accusations and information as they try to flush out the truth.
Don’t do nothing.
Don’t isolate yourself. Your help is needed! Plus, for your mental health and welfare you need to stay involved.
Don’t be a doormat! Sometimes investigators, especially for adult missing persons where no foul play is evident, will tell you there is nothing they can do. They may tell you that all they can do is wait for a few days. That is not true… is it true that adults sometimes just need time away and so they leave without notice? Stay on them! But, if you have done your research, and this is NOT a usual situation for the missing person, you need to convince the police of the serious nature of the incident, YOU ARE THE MISSING PERSONS ADVOCATE!
Don’t interfere with the investigation. You and others calling the investigators every couple hours will not help.
Do not quit your job. Most employers are very understanding if you ask for some time off. Ask for a temporary reduction in your hours and responsibility if needed. Your employer needs you and you need them. It is amazing how fast bills accumulate and get behind when you are in distress. Do not make major or life altering decisions while you’re still in distress.
Do not fill the void left by the missing loved one with a poor or destructive behavior. Gambling, drinking, drugs, etc can quickly become a way to ease the pain but they are not a lasting or healthy alternative to healing the correct way over time.
Do not write checks for the missing persons account without getting advice from a lawyer and/or an accountant.
Don’t go it alone. Find a close friend to lean on, get counseling, see your minister.
Do not lose hope. Not knowing what happened can eat at your mind like a tumor. Keep hoping for the truth.
Do tell as many others as possible. The more people that know about your missing loved one the better. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
Do buy lots of tissues. Tears and emotions will hit you in waves. It’s OK. Let it out.
Do let the authorities know about any health issues or concerns the missing person may have. The health matters may help you convince the authorities to get involved as well as help lead to finding them.
Do be aware that sometimes the authorities use false accusations and information as they try to flush out the truth
Do be aware that the authorities, in order to find your missing loved one, may not tell you everything they know or suspect.
Do keep journals. I recommend that you keep two. One to write about the steps that have been taken and other information directly related to the efforts around finding your missing loved one. The second should be about how your dealing with it. What your feeling. Record when you cry and what triggered your tears.
Do stay busy. Not just with the activities around the missing person, stay busy with some of your normal routines.
Do make and distribute posters and flyers. Have the authorities help you with the layout of the material or contact the PRSAR FAST team.
Do get some legal and financial advice if the missing loved one is an adult and the investigation begins going into weeks. You need good advice about how to handle things. Expenses will add up very quickly.
Do patiently hope. Not knowing what happened can eat at your mind like a tumor. Keep hoping for the truth.
Do grieve - whether it has been a day, week, or month you have experienced a loss. Grieving is a vital part of healing and keeping you life together.
Do Search the web for help. There are some good sites with tips and advice ranging from your well being to assistance with locating a missing person. Caution: There are those that would prey on your vulnerability. Be cautious!!
Do ask others for their opinions about websites, PI’s, other offers of help that ask you for your personal information, banking info, money, etc.
Do look at photos that contain the missing persons possessions in the back ground. Are the items still there?
Do look again and again for what items may really be missing. Ask other relatives to help determine what might be missing.
Do look at records and recent receipts for items purchased and are those items still there?
Do get legal advice before signing any contracts OR posting notices with rewards. If you explain the situation you should be able to find a lawyer who will help you at a discounted rate.
Do stay connected to friends and family.
Do seek professional help if you feel depressed.
Do get as much help and support as you can with the investigation and with your well being.
Do get advice from a lawyer and/or accountant before paying any of the missing persons bills or depositing their checks
Do get advice from a lawyer and/or accountant how to handle all expenses related to the search for and reward for the missing person
Do get advice from a lawyer and/or accountant about how to handle the affairs of the missing person while they are missing. Mortgage, rent, car payments,income, all will need a plan for handling them within 30 days of the persons disappearance.
Next Big Step - Getting help
Be prepared as you are going to be pulled in multiple directions. Part of you will want to shut down and be left alone. Another part of you will be frustrated because it seems like you just can’t do enough. Another part of you will feel like the police and others don’t care and that they are not doing enough. Unfortunately, I can’t make those frustrations go away but what I will do is try to give you some advice about getting help.
Get the word out - The more people that know the better. Today missing children have the Amber alert. For adults there is no such mechanism. Try to get the local press to run a story about your missing loved one. By press I mean the radio, paper, and TV. Call them and ask to speak to the head of the news department for TV and radio. For the papers ask the editor.Talk to your coworkers and friends, they can help spread the word and ask them if they have any connections with the press. Leverage your relationships to help get the word out. Call stations that are not just in your immediate area. Use Email and Websites. Create a Facebook Page for them and the search effort. Again the more press you get the better your chances of finding your loved one. Make up posters and flyers – Some times a local printer or copy shop will give you a discount. Do not be afraid to ask for discounts. You will be surprised how fast you can rack up a lot of bills as your emotions may cloud your judgment and then suddenly you have a financial mess on your hands in addition to the pain of a missing loved one.
Volunteers - Try to get help from friends, family, etc. There are also organizations that might be able to help you. Ask the police about them or look on the internet by doing a internet search for Missing Persons Support Groups. Again get someone you know to help you with finding volunteers and help.
Private Investigators aka PI - Do not be surprised if one or several private investigators contact you. Some really want to help and will be willing to do so for a portion of the reward money. Others will ask you for exclusive contracts and payments. There are very reputable firms and there are some that may be less ethical.
Nut jobs - BEWARE well meaning people, some con artist, Psychics and others that are just confused will offer advice, false information, etc.
Search the web for help. There are some good sites with tips and advice ranging from your well being to assistance with locating a missing person. Caution: There are those that would prey on your vulnerability. Be cautious!!
Sometimes reward money is needed. You may be able to have a fund raiser. If you do have a fund raiser, you will need to have a separate account set aside for the money raised and the tracking of money into and out of the account. Ask your local bank, attorney, accountant, etc for their advice.
Money will be an issue. You will have extra expenses like, food, maybe hotel, phone, printing for flyers, gas, etc. Keep track of your expenses closely ask a tax professional or accountant for help in knowing what expenses might be deductible.
Some organizations like Klass Kids or The CUE, your church, your friends, etc might be able to help with donations of various types. If you’re in need…it never hurts to ask.
There may be bills coming in that the missing person would be responsible to pay. Mortgage, rent, utilities, credit card, etc. You need to get legal advice on how to handle these. Start by finding contatcing their bank and ask them for their advice. Find out if there is a power of attorney or authorized signer and the account.
There be money coming in for the missing person. Using or depositing some type of funds may be illegal or may have to be repaid to the issuing institution. Social Security, disabilities, etc. you need to get advice from a lawyer and/or an accountant.
Be prepared for Stress and Emotions
Marriages, friendships, faith, trust, will all be tested and taken to extremes like never before and never again.
You need to find a counselor or best friend to help you through this.
Simple little things can trigger a range of emotions in you and others.
Anger will flare up as your feelings of hopelessness set in.
Songs, comments, pictures, may spark tears and or uncontrollable crying.
Your job performance and or school work my suffer. Let your boss and teachers know what’s going on
Try not to take on new assignments or big life changes for at least six (6) months.
Money will be an issue. You will have extra expenses like, food, maybe hotel, phone, printing for flyers, gas, etc.
Keep track of your expenses!
Private Searches do four basic things .
1) Searches provide you with a sense of action and possible hope.
2) Searches help find the missing person(s)
3) Searches help find helpful clues
4) Even if a search that does not turn up a new clue or find the missing. The press coverage helps others to be informed and may get others involved or at least aware of the situation. This increases the chances of finding your loved one.
You do not have to organize searches by yourself. Let the authorities help you figure out where and when to search as well as how to conduct the search.
Ask the authorities how you can get volunteers to help with the search.
Ask Volunteer Search and Rescue teams to assist if you have a certain area that needs to be searched.
The results of a search are largely dependent on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of your loved one.
Example: If you have an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia and they wandered off during an outing at a local park or you have a child that went hiking and did not return. Chances are good that a search will find them.
Don’t give-up -Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Links to look for help!
The Doe Network
The Doe Network is a 100% volunteer organization devoted to assisting investigating agencies in bringing closure to national and international cold cases concerning Missing & Unidentified Persons. It is our mission to give the nameless back their names and return the missing to their families.
NAMUS - The National Institute of Justice's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System
The National Institute of Justice's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records.
The Klass Kids Foundation
The KlaasKids Search Center offers a highly trained search manager to assist in organizing a community search effort on behalf of a missing child. The Search Center will respond to child abductions when we are contacted by a family member of the missing child or by the jurisdictional law enforcement agency. We will provide on-site assistance in organizing a volunteer search effort while providing liaison with law enforcement, the community and the family.
The CUE Center for Missing Persons
CUE provides trained professionals search and recovery units nationwide
·Long term care and victim support for families and loved ones left behind
·Complete casework and research of missing person cases
·Promote national and local missing person campaigns
A Child Is Missing (ACIM)
http://www.achildismissing.org/default.asp Phone: 954-763-1288, toll-free: 888-875-2246
A non-profit organization founded in 1997, was created because no community-based program existed for locating missing children, the disabled and elderly (often with Alzheimer's) during the crucial first hours of disappearance.
ACIM is devoted to assisting law enforcement in the search and early safe recovery efforts of children / the elderly (often with Alzheimer's) / disabled persons and college students via a rapid-response neighborhood alert program utilizing high-tech telephony systems.
America’s Most Wanted (AMW) http://www.amw.com - Weekly TV show that highlights cases and help get the word out. See the FAQ section of the web site for more details. NOTE: AMW is also aired in England, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other countries with access to American Satellite. These international airings have helped lead to the capture of fugitives in 31 countries.
National Centre for Missing Adults 1.800.690.FIND http://www.theyaremissed.org/ncma/index.php In October of 2000, Kristen’s Act was passed unanimously by the 106th United States Congress, and later signed into law by then President William Jefferson Clinton. As a result - The National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA) was created. Today, under the auspices of NMCO and the U.S. Department of Justice, NCMA continues to serve as the national clearinghouse for missing adults in the United States.
National Center For Missing Kids and Exploited Children 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) - www.missingkids.com The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s
Someone is Missing http://www.someoneismissing.com - SomeoneIsMissing.com will provide anyone instant web exposure to help you find them. Providing services based on need and does not discriminate due to race, religion, age, sex or handicap.
Salvation Army Family Tracing Service
The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service works nationally, and internationally, to successfully re-unite families after they have separated.