When a loved one mysteriously vanishes, the first 48 hours of the disappearance are the most crucial. During this time frame, police have a greater chance of tracking down leads and possible suspects. Unfortunately, as more time passes, finding a missing person, especially safe and sound, becomes significantly harder. After that window of opportunity, a case can grow cold for months, decades and sometimes even forever.
Of course, there are rare cases where people who’ve gone missing resurfaced alive and well, in turn, giving families of other missing loved ones hope. The case of Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, and Michele Knight are a perfect example. Between 2002 and 2004, these three young women were kidnapped by Ariel Castro and held captive in his home in Cleveland, Ohio. Approximately a decade after they disappeared, the three women were found alive in 2013 after Berry escaped from Castro’s house and contacted police. Castro was eventually sentenced to life in prison; however, while in prison he committed suicide.
In 1991, 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped while walking from home to a school bus stop. She remained missing for more than 18 years! On August 24 and 25, 2009, convicted sex offender Phillip Craig Garrido visited the campus of UC Berkeley accompanied by two girls. Their unusual behavior sparked an investigation that led to his bringing the girls to a parole office on August 26, accompanied by a young woman who was then identified as Dugard.
While it’s not common, both of these cases prove that a missing family member can be found after the 48-hour window. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand, the sooner they are found, the better the outcome. Below, we’ve included a checklist:
- THE INNER SEARCH
Contact all friends, associates, and family members, hotels, their
hangouts, and social media. They may be able to offer clues such as when they were last seen, who they were last seen with, what their mental state appeared to be, etc.
- THE OUTER SEARCH
Contact area hospitals, morgues, mental health facilities, fire departments in the area. Gather information on accidents these agencies recently responded to. By doing so, you can narrow down if your loved one was a victim of foul play or merely an accident.
- THE REPORTING
Report to local law enforcement where the person is missing (be sure to
describe to them any current meds or psychiatric illness or health
conditions. Urge to them to file the report as endangered missing adult or
- REQUEST A ‘BOLO’ (AKA: BE ON THE LOOKOUT)
You can make this request through law enforcement. Many adults with mental illness tend to become submerged into homelessness and incapable of caring for themselves. This, in turn, even places them more in danger of the homeless subculture.
- PLACE THEM ON ‘NAMUS’
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. NamUs is a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the general public from all over the country in hopes of resolving these cases.
- CREATE A FLYER
Include a photo of the missing person, age, height, weight and as much info as possible. Begin distributing the flyer around your community. To easily create a missing persons flyer, click here.
Ideas of where to display the flyer:
- Supermarkets, shopping centers
- Bus stops, train stations
- Universities, schools, TAFEs
- Social media (but be aware that once it’s on the internet, it’s out of your control)
- ORGANIZE A SEARCH
Typically, police will only conduct searches unless they believe the missing person is in danger. You may need to take matters into your own hands in the beginning. Reach out to trusted family members, friends and neighbors to assist you with searching the surrounding area. (Examples: park, the beach, nearby woods)
- CONTACT THE MEDIA
As a rule of them, the media generally only covers missing persons cases only when the individual is considered in danger or foul play is suspected. The case must then be backed up with a missing persons report. If both apply to you, contact the media as soon possible. The news coverage can greatly put the case on the radar of so many people.
- KEEP A RECORD
While things are fresh in your mind, write down the circumstances leading to a loved one’s disappearance, what they were last wearing, where they were last scene, a list of all their friends along with contact info, etc. Check any accounts that you may share together and note what you discover.
- HAVE THE CELL PHONE PINGED
Pinging someone’s phone may help you track down the person during an emergency. However, because of cell phone privacy laws, the average person isn’t able to trace the exact location of another person’s cell phone. On the other hand, police, emergency personnel, and other authorized individuals may be able to ping a cell phone legally, given the right circumstances.
Lauth Investigations and Thomas Lauth work with social media experts to design a social media
advocacy specifically designed for a missing person case. If you or someone you know need assistance locating a loved one, call them today at 1.800.889.FIND or 317.951.1100.