The road to a person becoming missing is often a complicated one. Before being directly targeted, many individuals require support to ensure their personal safety, or assistive surveillance to stay ahead of potential threats. At every stage of this complicated issue—from minimizing risk to being able to find people who have vanished—the private investigator offers a unique and multi-faceted skillset. Here, we’ll explore why this role is so important, and how a PI goes about launching a people search, and what steps they take to keep people safe.
Why Private Investigators Help to Protect and Find People
Hundreds of thousands of people are reported missing across the United States every year, however these statistics sadly only reveal the tip of the iceberg. This is because the parameters that justify police involvement either when a person suspects that they are under threat or even when someone has vanished are narrow.
Those who are vulnerable—or even their loved ones in the case of an abduction—often turn to private investigators because they know that acting early and acting fast is essential. Even once police do mobilize in these kinds of cases, their resources are limited, making a skilled and specialist professional able to mount a people search or make threat assessments a vital asset in the effort to ensure personal safety.
Determining the Credibility of and Assessing Threats
Where police investigators may make only a superficial assessment of potential threats to persons, a private investigator’s role is to dive as deeply as the client feels is warranted. They can analyze threats made to you, your home, or your business, whether they were made verbally, physically, or digitally. With the threat identified, they will then assess whether the individual or individuals in question aim only to scare or intend to take direct action. If the latter is the case, the investigation will potentially transition into a violence threat assessment. In turn, the private investigator’s findings may assist in ensuring that the authorities take the situation seriously.
Assisting in Threat Management
Private investigator firms like Lauth Investigations International specialize not only in reacting to a crime, but also in active prevention. This will include making comprehensive security analyses, advising on best safeguarding practices, and liaising with the police, security companies, legal teams, and more. We can also provide thorough background checks on staff and security personnel to ensure that the enemy has not already made it through your perimeter.
Launching a People Search When Someone Goes Missing
If you, a colleague, or a loved one vanishes, make no mistake—when there is a need to find people, time is of the essence. With a 90% success rate, our dedicated Missing Persons Division has been bringing disappeared adults and children home safely for more than 30 years, and we will leave no stone unturned or trail unfollowed in the name of retrieving those you hold dear. We combine physical searches—internationally, whenever required—with digital forensics, high-tech surveillance, canvassing and interviews, and in-depth background checks to piece together the essential details that will lead to those of whereabouts unknown. To learn more about how we can assist in personal safety and surveillance or locating missing persons quickly, simply contact our respective Threat Assessment and Missing Persons teams, because your safety and security is our top priority.
For over three months, the parents of Timothy Perez have been making the same drive across Texas in search of their missing son. Robert and Sandra Perez make the drive every few days from Conroe to Austin in search of clues pertaining to Timothy’s disappearance. Timothy, 32, was last seen in the Houston area on March 5 before driving to Austin to visit his brother. His parents have been looking for him ever since.
Robert and Sandra have been canvassing homeless shelters and food pantries across the state of Texas under the theory that Timothy may have become lost and disoriented on his way to visit his brother in Austin “We’re going to homeless shelters and any food places where they give food out. My son is not a homeless person. He doesn’t know that environment. But hopefully his instinct kicks in and he’ll go get something to eat,” Robert told KXAN Austin. When Timothy never connected with his brother in Austin, his family filed a missing person report with the Austin Police. Austin Police stated that they found Timothy’s car stranded along Interstate-35 near Parmer in North Austin, but there were no traces of Timothy.
As they criss-cross the state of Texas on the four-hour drive, Robert and Sandra are always meeting and speaking with new people, and posting flyers in hopes that someone out there will recognize their son and call the number with information—especially locals since they are not familiar with the area. “You know, we just need eyes out there, something you know? Where did he go? He was here in Round Rock.”
At the time of his disappearance, Timothy Perez was experiencing some depression brought on by the pandemic. He was last seen at St. William’s Catholic Church in Round Rock when Round Rock Police responded to a call for a welfare check regarding a man in the area. Police spoke with the man, who refused to identify himself. Days later, it was confirmed that it was in fact Timothy Perez. “We believe he is voluntarily missing based on our officer’s interaction with him—in which it was determined he was not in danger, was not a danger to others, was not committing a crime—and based on the subsequent investigation. We do not know his current whereabouts or status. Round Rock was one location in which he was spotted, but we have no indication he is still on Round Rock.”
Timothy’s family is working with Texas EquuSearch and hired a private investigator to help with the investigation. If you have any information on the whereabouts of Timothy Perez, call 512-844-7933 or Texas EquuSearch at 281-309-9500.
Between 1980 and 2019, there were 185,000 unsolved homicides in the United States alone according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. That’s hundreds of thousands of families who have gone years, if not decades, without answers in their missing loved one’s case. With jurisdictions of all levels experiencing problems with both resources and labor, an independent eye on the case goes a long way to dislodging any roadblocks in case progression. That’s why many families of missing persons are turning to a private investigator for murder cases in order to finally bring about closure in disappearances.
Police departments of all levels and in all states experience difficulties with case closure for a myriad of reasons, including but never limited to: budgetary issues, labor shortages, lack of resources, or lack of experience. Sometimes, it may just be a matter of homicide detectives handling too many cases at once for them to give any individual case the attention it needs. In other cases, when a lead takes a homicide detective outside of their jurisdiction, they may be unable to follow that lead. This is how homicide cases go cold.
This is why many families, whether it be months or decades without answers, have turned to a private investigator for murder cases. In murder investigations conducted by private investigators, there is never any bureaucratic red tape involved when it comes to following leads. Private investigators are free to follow leads from state to state provided that they are licensed. This autonomy also affords the private investigator to handle only a few cases at a time, meaning that each case gets the attention it deserves.
When cold case detectives brush the dust off a long-stagnated case, they put fresh eyes to the case file. This can lead to new evidence being discovered, or a new lead to follow. The same principle is true of hiring a private investigator for murder cases. When private investigators review a cold case, they may notice significant details that previous investigators have missed, and finally dislodge any roadblocks in the case.
When hiring a private investigator for murder investigations, it’s imperative that families look for private investigators who specialize in homicide investigations. In the same way that police detectives can have blind spots if they do not have experience in murder cases, so can private investigators. When vetting candidates, be sure to always inquire about the private investigator’s experience with homicide investigations and what their success rate has been with finding solutions in those cases.
If you need a private investigator for murder investigations, please consider Lauth Investigations International for your intelligence needs. We carry an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and are constantly receiving glowing testimonials from our grateful clients. Call 317-951-1100 for a free quote or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com for more information.
The heart-wrenching story of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito’s disappearance and demise has captivated not only America, but the world. As billions around the globe have followed the unfolding story of the 22-year-old missing Long Island native, parents, siblings, and young adults have imagined facing such a devastating loss of their own daughter, sister, or friend. Gabby Petito and her fiance, Brian Laundrie have become the objects of fascination in the American media, leading to new conversations surrounding Missing White Woman Syndrome.
While the compassion evoked by the vast media coverage of the case has certainly created a powerful momentum and an outpouring of sympathy, for many families who are also missing loved ones, a raw sadness hangs in the air. Increasingly, an array of advocates are pointing out that—while, of course, a case such as Petito’s should be elevated, covered, and supported—countless missing persons of color disappear each year with little more than a murmur emerging from the media or the public at large.
The striking disparity is known as “missing white woman syndrome,” and while the response to Gabby Petito’s story may stand in the annals of time as a textbook example of the phenomena, conversation around the case has conversely provided space for examination of the complexities of race and equality issues within the media and society as a whole.
As Thomas Lauth—founder of Indianapolis-based and internationally operational Lauth Missing Persons—traces the pattern of missing white woman syndrome, while monitoring the evolution of the Petito case on the ground, we examine the many factors that propelled Petito’s case into the spotlight. Demand is growing for all missing persons to finally be given a voice in equal measure—with the hope that all of those left behind might experience a level playing field in terms of opportunity to seek the answers they long for.
Gabby Petito: A Singular Missing Persons Case
Gabby Petito was described in a Washington Post article as a “blue-eyed, blonde adventure-seeker”; a description that drew criticism from political science expert Hakeem Jefferson of Stanford University for its “unnecessary racializing.”
Having garnered a sizable social media following as she shared her adventures across several platforms, eyes were already turned towards the Gabby Petito when news of her disappearance emerged in the press and online. The young woman was on the road with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, in a white Ford Transit Connect Van, making a cross-country trip. A “van life” blogger, Petito was documenting their journey when circumstances took a turn towards tragedy.
Speaking to USA Today, Lauth highlighted how the combination of factors in Petito’s case had made for headlines. Material entering the public sphere such as the couple’s own Instagram images and Youtube video footage, police body camera footage of a distressed Petito captured during a road-side stop in Utah on August 12th, and several witness sightings documented on TikTok that described Laundrie’s behavior as aggressive collectively created an intimate picture of a case that was ripe for public scrutiny.
On September 1st, Laundrie returned to the home he shared with Petito and his parents in North Port, Florida, without his fiancée. Growing increasingly concerned about their daughter and having received odd text messages from her phone, Petito’s own parents reported her missing on September 11th. On September 14th, the day before he would be named a person of interest in the case, Laundrie reportedly told his family he was going hiking in Carlton Reserve. He was not seen again, and his family maintain that they know nothing of his whereabouts.
On September 19th, Fox News described Petito as “America’s daughter,” transforming the tragic story of a missing woman into a symbol within the collective consciousness of countless Americans. On the same day, the FBI announced the discovery of a body in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, matching Petito’s description. Two days later, it was confirmed that Petito had been found, and that her case was now a homicide investigation. Meanwhile, police continued their search for Laundrie, who at time of writing remains at large.
The Darker Side of a Social Media Frenzy
Speaking to Indianapolis and Central Indiana news outlet WTHR, Lauth shared that in his decades of work, he can think of several cases of missing white women that have received exceptional national media attention—so-called missing white woman syndrome cases—alongside unusually substantial resource mobilization in the name of finding them. “Natalie Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Lauren Spierer and now Gabby Petito,” said Lauth.
In the case of Gabby Petito, alongside around-the-clock media coverage, another type of phenomena was taking hold. A vast number of members of the public had put on their detective’s hats and taken to social media in order to form their own investigations, and share their own conclusions. TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram users scoured every capture they could find looking for clues, while use of the TikTok hashtag #gabbypetito crept towards and then exceeded 1 billion views. Experts speculated that the swell of amateur sleuthing may coincide with the rise of true crime podcasts and documentaries in recent years.
Speaking to the New York Times, criminal justice and media researcher Danielle Slakoff of California State University expressed a worrying concern that this kind of coverage threatens to turn active cases into “entertainment.” Insensitive or monetized posts can lead to the spread of misinformation, or worse yet, derail police investigations as those responsible for finding authentic clues are left scrambling as they try to sift through such swathes of information. Adding further to the sense of hysteria, television personality Duane Chapman, known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter” announced that he was joining the search for Brian Laundrie, although police have so far dismissed his tips.
The Roots of Missing White Woman Syndrome
In his conversation with WTHR, Lauth shared a sad observation: “The general public and the media have really been attracted to what’s called, “The Missing White Woman Syndrome,” better known as “Damsel in Distress Syndrome.”
Lauth describes the phenomena first coined by late American news anchor Gwen Ifill at a journalism conference in 2004. Since adopted by social scientists, the term “missing white woman syndrome” refers to a tendency towards heightened media coverage of young, attractive, white, upper-middle-class women who are missing when compared to women of color, women of lower social class, older women, men, boys, and LGBTQ missing persons.
On the phenomena, Ifill said, “If there’s a missing white woman, we are going to cover that, every day.” When asked if the response would have been the same had Petito been a woman of color, speaking once again to WTHR, Lauth said, “We wouldn’t be having this interview.”
Another aspect of missing white woman syndrome recently placed under the spotlight is the way in which missing person cases are framed. Research indicates that coverage of missing white women tends to emphasize their roles as mothers or daughters—and fundamentally as innocents—while coverage of missing women of color tends to place focus on the victim’s problems, implying a level of complicity in their disappearance.
Lauth laments the role that harmful stereotypes play in the profiling of victims of color. “They’re missing because they’re doing drugs somewhere or they’re missing because they’re in prostitution,” he said, giving examples of the bias seen within missing persons narratives. “Instead, a lot of these cases are people of color who are endangered.”
Pushing Back Against a Broken Pattern
To give context to the disproportion seen in the Petito case, we can turn to the statistics shared by nonprofit organization the Black and Missing Foundation. In 2020 alone, 543,018 people were reported missing in the United States. Of those, nearly 40% were people of color. Meanwhile, a report issued by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center revealed that at least 710 Indigenous people vanished from the state of Wyoming—where Petito’s body was found—between 2011 and 2020, most of whom were women and girls.
Writing for USA Today, Suzette Hackney posed a powerful thought on behalf of those who are under-represented: “They aren’t all pretty and blonde. They don’t have a social media following. But their families deserve America’s sympathy and news coverage; their stories are no less important.”
Earlier this year, the FBI compiled a list of active missing persons cases of people under the age of 21, each in need of fresh leads. Scrolling through the many faces of those whose families still wait in hope of answers, the aware will likely find themselves reminded of the 2016 study that revealed missing persons of color to be “significantly underrepresented” in local and national news reporting when set against their tally among the FBI’s open missing persons case list.
Offering a silver lining to the dark cloud of tragedy that has fallen over the Petito case, a jump in awareness of such disparities is beginning to spread through the public sphere. While missing white woman syndrome may lead those motivated by profit to leverage its effect in the name of engagement and revenue, a push-back has emerged on social media. A number of TikTok users are using their platforms to increase awareness of minority missing persons cases that had previously remained largely unseen.
Lauth is poignantly aware that wealth and class can further compound the difference in resources that are mobilized between the spectra of missing persons cases. With this in mind, he encourages clients and followers alike of the Lauth Missing Persons’ investigative team to create GoFundMe pages, hold vigils, contact the media, and be available for interviews in order to drive awareness and interest in their loved ones’ cases.
Speaking on Tuesday 29th September at their first press conference since the discovery of Gabby Petito’s body, the Petito family stressed that while they are grateful for all of the attention that has fallen on Gabby’s case, they want every other family to get the same treatment. Having announced the founding of the Gabby Petito Foundation, the family outlined their desire to provide resources and guidance to others who were searching for a family member. “We’re hoping that through our tragedy, in the future, some good can come out of it,” Gabby’s father Joe explained.
The Petito Case Continues as Awareness Grows for the Previously Unseen
Authorities hope that Petito’s fiancé will soon come forwards and shed light on the events that led to Gabby Petito’s death. While considered a person of interest, Brian Laundrie has not been named as a suspect by the FBI. A warrant has, however, been issued for his arrest in relation to the “use of unauthorized devices.”
According to a federal indictment, Laundrie is alleged to have used a debit card and PIN number for charges exceeding $1,000 from an account that is not his own following Petito’s death, between the dates of August 30th and September 1st. Two separate rewards totaling $30,000 have been offered to anyone who provides a lead that reveals Laundrie’s whereabouts to law enforcement officials. Meanwhile, public discourse around the phenomena of missing white woman syndrome continues to surge, giving hope that a shift in the way missing persons cases are reported and received may be on the horizon. For the many who are still holding on to hope following the disappearance of a loved one or family member, private investigations firm Lauth Missing Persons provide an array of free resources to help forge vital search momentum, as well as expert advice drawing on their decades of experience investigating missing persons cases in the field. While the bias of missing white woman syndrome may still remain prevalent, the self-driven nature of today’s information sharing means that the scales can tip just as quickly as an idea might spread. Lets hope that a tipping point has been reached, and this is only the beginning.
Many of us crave the freedom of getting out into nature, but the beautiful wilderness of a national park undoubtedly comes with its own dangers. Factors such as unpredictable weather patterns, dangerous wild animals, navigation challenges, precipice-filled terrain, and even toxic algal blooms—as seen in the tragic recent disappearances in Yosemite National Park—should not be underestimated.
While we can get so far by reading up on the National Park that we’ve set in our sights as a dream destination—and adhering to guidelines and signage once we get there—we can’t always trust that every risk ahead will come with a clear and visible warning. With that in mind, we asked the missing persons investigations team here at Lauth Missing Persons to outline their best tips on how to avoid vanishing in a National Park. Read on to discover what they said.
Do Your Research
Unless you’re a rugged local, there is a good chance that you won’t be familiar with the hazardous animals native to the National Park in question, and the rules and regulations that have been put in place to keep adventurous visitors safe. Jump online to familiarize yourself with the terrain, wildlife, and best routes—picking up a map as you go.
Precautions Before You Set Off
Alongside reading general guides on the National Park’s trails, wildlife, and conditions, don’t forget to check for an in-the-moment update before you set off. Getting the latest weather report can help you avoid getting caught in a freak storm, while checking local bulletins and social media pages will alert you any worrying wildlife sightings, trail collapses, facility closures, and algal blooms that you should know about. Share a final itinerary plan with a friend or family member before you set off, so that someone knows at least where you should be along the way.
Know Your Limits
One of the most common pitfalls that leads people to go missing in National Parks is simply biting off more than they can chew. Understanding the distance that you are hoping to cover, the challenges of the terrain in question, and what is realistic for you to achieve is vital for keeping you and your traveling companions safe out in the wilderness.
Bring The Right Clothing
Heading up into the mountains on a sunny day might seem like a call for shorts, a t-shirt, and nothing more, but never forget that wild-landscape weather can change in the blink of an eye. Strong and supportive footwear will keep you mobile as you move into remote areas, and carrying a full selection of layers will mean that you can keep yourself warm, dry, and alive if conditions get dicey.
Stay On the Trails
While National Parks invest heavily in maintaining safe trails for public use, it remains necessary to be alert to where the trail ends, and peril begins. Between the sheer scale of trying to mark every trail and the aim to interrupt the environment as little as possible, it is expected that visitors remain self aware. While the promise of a better view around an untrodden corner might seem tempting, crumbling rock faces, deep canyons, and slippery scree slopes can make deviation dangerous.
Respect Animal Life
Each National Park issues its own guidance on sensible distances to maintain between yourself and its native animal populations. While Yellowstone recommends staying at least 100 yards from wolves and bears, make that distance even greater if you suspect the animal in question may have young in tow. Do your homework on how to behave in proximity to wildlife; pick up some bear spray and stay in groups when traveling into bear country.
Carry Food and Water Responsibly
Whatever the duration of your planned trip, aim to carry double the water you should need. There is no way of knowing if the contents of waterways within a National Park are safe to drink, and if something goes wrong you’ll be covered. As far as food is concerned, keep everything edible under wraps, and never feed animals or leave your leftovers behind. Animals who become used to seeking food from humans may become a threat to you or other visitors.
Bring a First Aid and Emergency Kit
Taking a first aid kit with you when hitting the trails is just common sense. If you’re going further from the beaten path, consider adding emergency flares and survival equipment, and ensure that at least one of your party is first aid trained.
Be Road Safe
While we might imagine that the hostilities of nature are the most perilous things within National Parks, road accidents remain a real threat to visitors. Blind corners, wandering wildlife, and lost tourists can all increase the risk of accidents.
Take Your Safety Seriously
Here at Lauth Missing Persons, we know that a lack of awareness of the world’s dangers can result in serious consequences. While our missing persons investigations team are dedicated to finding those who have vanished, we’d much prefer that you take precautions and kept yourself safe in the first place. If you ever need help finding a missing person, our team of missing person specialists are ever-ready to take action. Learn about what we do, or contact our team today to find out more.
Missing persons investigations are always a great source of distress. The disappearance of a loved one is a nightmare that none of us want to face. However, there is a lot to be said for being prepared for the worst as we hope for the best. Knowing what to do when someone we care about becomes a missing person can make all the difference in bringing them home safe and well.
When a partner, friend, or family member vanishes unexpectedly, we can find ourselves in panic mode, and in missing persons investigations, time is often of the essence. While there are many reasons why a person may disappear—not all giving reason for alarm—precaution is always the prudent course, because time may be of the essence. To help you navigate this moment in the name of your loved ones best interests, the missing persons investigations team here at Lauth Missing Persons recommends taking the following steps:
The First Places to Check
When worried about the whereabouts of a loved one, it can be easy to miss an obvious explanation. Missing persons specialists recommend taking a deep breath and taking an analytical approach to checking all the potential places that the person may be, or that might indicate their whereabouts.
Check the person’s home. If you can’t do that in person, contact someone close by to assist, or reach out to the local authorities for help with a wellbeing check.
Check their place of work and frequent hangouts, such as health centers, sports clubs, and entertainment venues.
Contact or visit colleagues, friends, and family members to see if anyone knows where the missing person might be, or where they were last seen.
Check social media for any indicators of your loved ones plans or recent communications.
Contact nearby hospitals in case your loved one has been admitted.
As you search for a missing person, keep your phone with you in case anyone—including your loved one—tries to get in touch, or shares information. Keep notes on anything you discover. Be careful not to delete or alter any social media or phone messages, or clean up where your loved one has been in case missing person investigators later need to look for evidence.
When to Contact the Authorities
It is never too soon to contact the authorities when concerned about a missing person. Having checked in all of the logical places—or sooner if the missing person is vulnerable or your instinct tells you that there is cause for concern—you can reach out to your local law enforcement agency to file a missing persons report.
Keep in mind that procedure in cases of missing persons varies from state to state. In some areas police may not be able to act for 24 or 48 hours unless there is reason to suspect a crime, or the missing person in question falls into certain vulnerability categories, such as being under 18, or over 65 years of age; suffering from physical illness; suffering from mental illness; experiencing depression, or suicidal thoughts.
What Else You Can Do
It can feel frustrating when the authorities are not acting with the urgency that you feel they should, however there are lots of other steps that you can take in the interest of finding your loved one:
Enlist the help of friends and family to create a search party, launch a social media campaign, and put up flyers in your neighborhood.
Alert the media, providing photographs and a description of your loved one so that they can help you raise awareness across a much larger audience.
Encourage the local authorities by offering your assistance; providing data, photographs, and DNA samples of family members; requesting a phone trace; and requesting canine support if mounting a private search.
Hire a private investigator to help you find your loved one. Missing person specialists can commit more time to searching for your loved one than local authorities agents may be able to, are able to access wider resources than members of the public, and can harness expert knowledge and experience.
If your loved one has gone missing, the missing persons investigations team at Lauth Missing Persons is ready to take action and find their trail. Learn more about what we do or contact us today for immediate action.