Letecia Stauch Arrested on First-Degree Murder of Her Missing Stepson Gannon Stauch

Letecia Stauch Arrested on First-Degree Murder of Her Missing Stepson Gannon Stauch

An arrest has been made in the disappearance of Colorado missing boy Gannon Stauch.

(Letecia Stauch was arrested March 2, 2020, on first degree murder in the disappearance of her stepson Gannon Stauch.)

(Letecia Stauch was arrested March 2, 2020, on first degree murder in the disappearance of her stepson Gannon Stauch.)

Letecia “Tecia” Stauch has been arrested on first-degree murder charges in the disappearance of her stepson Gannon Stauch. It has been nearly five weeks since Gannon was reported missing. 

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(El Paso County, Colorado, Sheriff Bill Elder with the family of Gannon Stauch at press conference announcing the arrest of Gannon’s stepmother, Letecia Stauch.)

According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at a press conference, the arrest occurred on the morning of March 2, 2020, in Horry County, South Carolina. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office detectives, FBI agents, and members of the El Paso County 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office made the arrest of Letecia Stauch without incident.

Letecia will be held without bail in the Horry County Jail on the charges of Murder in the First Degree of a Child Under Twelve, Child Abuse Resulting in Death, a charge of Tampering with a Deceased Body, and Tampering with Physical Evidence. She is currently awaiting extradition back to El Paso County, Colorado.

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(Gannon Stauch was reported missing by his stepmother Letecia Stauch on January 27, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)

Gannon, 11, was reported missing by Letecia Stauch on January 27, 2020, claiming Gannon had gone to a friend’s home in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood and failed to come home.

Initially, authorities called Gannon a runaway when they first asked the public to help find the little boy. But the sheriff’s office announced January 30 that Gannon was considered a missing endangered child because of his age, the time he had been gone, and his reliance on medication. 

The search that was supposed to take place last Friday in the area of Highway 105 and Highway 83 was postponed and authorities announced a major development in the investigation that would be released during the press conference held at noon. 

During the press conference, investigators said they believe Gannon is no longer alive and they have yet to locate him. They reiterated search efforts to locate Gannon’s remains would continue. 

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(Landen Hiott made an emotional statement after being told her son was likely deceased and stepmom Letecia Stauch was arrested for his murder.)

“Today I got the worst news and the best news,” said Gannon’s biological mother Landen Hiott had been holding out hope her son was still alive. “Obviously we know what the worst news is. The best news is that justice will be served. And I’ll make sure that justice is served because my boy did not deserve any of this that happened.”

Authorities said the affidavit has been sealed and remains tight-lipped on the evidence that led them to arrest Letecia. 

“Just hold on to questions until we know that this person, this stepmom that I even trusted, that she will pay 100 percent for this heinous thing she done,” said Landen. “And I know that’s what will be done.”

Al Stauch, Gannon’s father did not speak at the press conference, but a sheriff’s department spokesperson held back tears as her voice cracked while reading Al’s statement.

“The person who committed this heinous horrible crime is the one that I gave more to than anyone else on this planet and that is a burden that I will carry with me for a very long time,” Al said. 

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(Al Stauch breaks down during press conference announcing the arrest of his wife Letecia Stauch for the murder of his son Gannon.)

He writes that his heart stopped on the day that Gannon was born on September 29, 2008, coming way too early and weighing only one pound six ounces–and again on March 2, 2020, when he learned his little boy would never be coming home. 

“I’d been looking forward to his teenage years, and the fun we had ahead of us as he became a young man,” Al said. “My little boy is not coming home. We will never play Nintendo again. No more Taco Tuesdays. No more smooth looking haircuts. No more “Big Bubba” for my Lana. And no more G Man for the world.” 

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(Searchers from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office search for Gannon Stauch’s body with probes and shovels.)

“While we have not yet found Gannon, information has been developed that is helping us narrow our search, said Lieutenant Mitch Mihalko of the sheriff’s office.

Since Gannon vanished, crews have been scouring dozens of acres of southern Douglas County, in search of the missing boy’s body. 

“As you can see from the arrest sadly, we do not believe Gannon is alive. Our work is just beginning, and you will continue to see many law enforcement officials in El Paso County over the coming weeks and possibly months as we continue our relentless pursuit of justice for Gannon and his family.” 

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(Letecia Stauch arrested for her stepson’s murder on March 2, 2020.)

Prior to the arrest, Letecia had been obsessively posting on various social media sites, professing her innocence and offering explanations as to what happened to Gannon, even developing a timeline she posted on Facebook. 

Letecia claimed she was harassed online and should be offered an apology from everyone who suspected she could have ever hurt her stepson.

However, Gannon’s family has continuously urged the public to call in with any information to contact law enforcement so that they may be able to give Gannon a proper burial.

“I know where my son’s at without a shadow of a doubt, said Landen. “I want to leave this earth knowing justice was served for my boy.”

Prosecutors and the sheriff’s office are still asking for information from the public to help bring their promise for justice to fruition.

“One, we still want to bring Gannon home so that he can have a proper burial and his family can get the closure they need,” said Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen. “But we also want to hold the person we are charging, Letecia Stauch accountable for what she did.” 

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Gannon Stauch, please call the El Paso County Sheriff at 719-520-6666 or email tips@elpaso.com 


Into the Night: The Bizarre Disappearance of Student Brandon Swanson

Into the Night: The Bizarre Disappearance of Student Brandon Swanson

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(Brandon Swanson vanished May 14, 2008, from Marshal, Minnesota while driving home late at night.)

Shortly after midnight on May 14, 2008, Brandon Swanson mysteriously vanished in Marshall, Minnesota. Brandon had been celebrating the end of the spring semester with friends from Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s Canby campus. 

Between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m., Brandon left the celebration and drove to another friend’s home in Canby to say goodbye to a classmate that was also having a party. Friends say Brandon did not appear intoxicated when he left shortly after midnight to go home. Canby is approximately 45 minutes away from Marshall where Brandon lived with his parents. 

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(Brandon Swanson called his parents and told them he believed he was near the town of Lynd, Minnesota, after crashing his car into a ditch.)

Brandon’s parents received a call from Brandon at approximately 1:54 a.m. telling them he had gotten stuck in a ditch on a back road that ran north of Highway 68, the main road he would normally take to get home. He told them he was not injured but needed help to get home. 

Why Brandon chose to turn off Highway 68 and take gravel back roads home is but one of the mysteries in this story. 

Unsure of his exact location, Brian told his parents he thought he was near Lynd, a small town in Lyon County with a population of only 445 people. 

Brandon’s parents, Brian and Annette Swanson, decided to go get him and went to the location but were unable to find him or his car. 

The Disappearance

The road was dark and the area remote. Annette called Brandon on his cell phone and they both agreed to flash their lights to let each other know they were in the area. On the phone, Annette could hear Brandon flashing his car lights and told him, “We are flashing our lights” We are flashing our lights!” Brandon replied. “Don’t you see me?” They never did see him. 


(Brandon Swanson’s parents drove to Lynd to search the dark gravel roads for any sign of their son or his vehicle.)

Frustrated, Brandon hung up on his mother. She quickly called back, and they both apologized to each other for becoming annoyed. 

Brandon said he would leave the car and walk toward Lynd and they agreed to meet him at the Lynd Tavern parking lot. 

While talking to his father, Brandon described seeing lights in the distance and continued to walk down the gravel road. He described hearing rushing water and saw two fence lines, all the while continuing to talk to his dad. 

The call lasted 47 minutes when suddenly Brian yelled, “Oh shit!” and the call disconnected. His parents tried to call him back numerous times, but the phone rang each time until the following day when calls went straight to voicemail. 

The Search for Brian

At 6:30 a.m. the following day, Brian’s parents called the police to report him missing. To their dismay, the police told them to wait as it was not unlike a young man Brian’s age, to disappear for a bit. 

Later that day, cell phone records showed Brandon was near Porter, Minnesota, not Lynd when he called them. Porter is between Canby and Marshall along Highway 68.

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(During a search, for Brandon Swanson, his vehicle was found on a gravel road just north of Taunton, Minnesota.) 

A search began and at approximately 12:30 p.m., Brandon’s Chevrolet Lumina was found about a mile and a half north of Taunton, right on the border between Yellow Medicine, Lincoln and Lyon Counties. 

According to True Crime Files, the car was found with no physical damage and no evidence of physical injury. 

“It was off the side of a field approach, and the vehicle was hung up,” Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky told CNN. “It’s sort of a sharp incline, nothing major but enough that the car would get hung up, so the wheels are too high off the ground to gain traction.” 

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(Searchers combed the countryside and the Yellow Medicine River for any sign of Brandon Swanson in May 2008.)

In the months following Brandon’s disappearance, law enforcement, volunteers, and emergency personnel search the area by ground, horseback, and all-terrain vehicles to search all three counties in the vicinity of where Brandon disappeared and the Yellow Medicine River.

Authorities believed Brandon may have fallen into the river and drowned, but canines followed his scent to the river’s edge but did not signal and continued walking on. To the police, this suggested Brandon may have fallen into the water but managed to get out and continued walking. However, the temperature that evening was around 39 degrees, and he could have succumbed to hypothermia.   

Cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human remains during several searches, in the area of Porter near Mud Creek, but a body was ever found. 

Police do not have any evidence of foul play and believe Brandon’s body would be found within a 122 square-mile search area. 

“It’s by far the biggest search I’ve ever been involved in terms of length of time, the number of missions and number of searchers involved said Jeff Hasse, founder of Midwest Technical Training Associates. 

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(Brandon Swanson with a friend, prior to his disappearance in 2008.)

Porch Light is Still On

Brian and Annette turned on their porch light on May 14, 2008 – the night Brandon vanished.

The light remains on every night. “There’s no reason to turn it off now,” Brian said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to find him alive, but I still want to believe that we will find him. That’s probably a stretch, but I still want to believe that.” 

One positive thing has come out of Brandon’s disappearance. Brian and Annette spearheaded legislation that was signed into law in 2009. Brandon’s Law requires police to make a report whenever a person of any age, is reported missing and investigation must ensue. It also clarifies jurisdiction. 

The Swansons face a life of ambiguity, never really being able to move forward, no way to gain closure. “They call it ambiguous loss,” Annette said. “It’s that state in your life – in our case it’s the loss of our son – without knowing what happened. It’s extremely challenging. It’s really hard to grapple with and to come to terms with. I think for Brandon’s father and I, and for his sister, we’ve kind of figured out how to live in that gray area. But it’s really not someplace you want to live.” 

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Brandon Swanson, please contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 507-537-7666.

Vandals Write Cryptic Message on Billboard of Missing News Anchor Jodi Huisentruit

Vandals Write Cryptic Message on Billboard of Missing News Anchor Jodi Huisentruit

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(Vandals deface a billboard of missing anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit with the words “Frank Stearns Machine Shed” in Mason City, Iowa.) 

On New Year’s Eve, vandals defaced a billboard of KIMT anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit, from Mason City, Iowa. 

The billboard is among three in Mason City, that shows a picture of the beautiful Iowa news anchor, asking the question “Someone knows something, is it you?”

The cryptic words sprayed in bright yellow paint say, “Frank Stearns Machine Shed” across the bottom half of the billboard. Frank Stearns was a longtime detective with Mason City Police Department who diligently worked Jodi’s case. Now retired, Stearns is now a city death scene investigator. 

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(Jodi Huisentruit vanished June 27, 1995 on her way to work at news station KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa.)

Billboard Connection

In 2011, in a bizarre twist of events, the Globe Gazette reported that former Mason City police officer Maria Ohl accused two Mason City police officers and a retired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agent of being involved in the abduction and potential murder of Jodi.

Ohl, a ten-year veteran, said she received credible information from an informant in 2007, and again in 2009, who implicated Lt. Frank Stearns, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd and Bill Basler in the abduction. Ohl said she told her superiors but heard only crickets.

Ohl says she was terminated due to her handling of Jodi’s case information.

“It’s horrifically disturbing. They’re still working on the taxpayers’ dollar – the whistleblower was put on administrative leave and terminated.” 

Joshua Benson, an evening anchor at an Orlando ABC affiliate who founded FindJodi.com, said Ohl had also confided in him but he could not find any information that would corroborate her claims. 

In fact, at the time the complaint was filed, an official investigation also found no validity in Ohl’s claims. 

Cold Case investigator Steve Ridge told KIMT that he knows how and when the billboard was vandalized. He says two individuals dressed in black parked in the rear alley behind a tattoo parlor and erected an aluminum ladder against the wall at 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. 

While one held the ladder, the other spray-painted “Frank Stearns” in large letters and “Machine Shed” in smaller print below. Ridge said the parking lot of the nearby bar was full, as dozens of cars passed right below the billboard while the individuals were vandalizing it. 

Ridge spoke to Frank Steans at his residence on January 3, 2020. His residence in a rural community does have a detached building on the premises, however, Stearns lived elsewhere in 1995.  While the billboard vandals surely meant to dredge up old wounds and accusations, Stearns remains a respected member of the community and says he hopes they are found and punished. 

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(A loved news celebrity, Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance has haunted Mason City, Iowa, for over two decades.)

The Disappearance

Jodi, 27, vanished from the outside of her downtown apartment in Mason City on Tuesday, June 27, 1995. The day before, Jodi had played in the local Chamber of Commerce golf tournament. According to friend John Vansice, afterward, Jodi went to his house to view a videotape of a birthday celebration that he had set up for her earlier in the month. 

Jodi went home and called a friend before going to bed. She usually left for work at 3:00 a.m. to anchor the morning show at KIMT. At approximately 4:00 a.m. KIMT producer Amy Kuns noticed that Jodi had not shown up to work. “I called her twice. I talked to her and woke her up the first time,” Kuns told WFLA news anchor Josh Benson. “The second time it just rang and rang. I don’t remember the times. I had obviously woken her up. She asked what time it was. I told her. She said she would be right in.”

Jodi was usually prompt and never missed work, so by 7:00 a.m. KIMT staff had called the Mason City Police Department to conduct a welfare check. 

The Police Investigation

When police arrived at Jodi’s apartment, shortly after 7:00 a.m., her red Mazda Miata was in the parking lot. Officers found a pair of red women’s pumps, a bottle of hairspray, blower dryer and earrings, along with a bent car key, strewn around the car reflecting a struggle had taken place at the vehicle.

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(Investigators examine the parking lot where Jodi Huisentruit vanished in Mason City, Iowa in 1995. Photo courtesy of The Globe Gazette.)

A search was conducted of Jodi’s apartment, the parking lot, and the nearby Winnebago River. 

Early on, the then Mason City Police Chief Jack Schlieper said he suspected foul play. Investigators from the Iowa DCI and the Federal Bureau of Investigation would eventually join the search. It was later reported that investigators had lifted an unidentified palm print off her car. 

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(Apartment complex in Mason City, Iowa, where news anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit vanished in 1995.)

By that Wednesday, as Jodi’s desk sat empty, police continued their extensive search for the young news anchor. Schlieper told reporters at a news conference that police and K-9 units were continuing to search along a two-mile area of the Winnebago River that runs through a park near Jodi’s apartment on North Kentucky Avenue. 

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(Mason City Police searching for missing anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit along the Winnebago River in Mason City, Iowa.)

Police did discover items of clothing along the riverbanks but at the time could not determine if they were Jodi’s. 

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(Police impound Jodi’s red Mazda Miata from her apartment complex to further test for evidence.)

Police confirmed that some residents heard noises that sounded like an animal or animal noises the morning Jodi vanished. We now know she screamed as she was dragged back down the center of the parking bumpers by her car, as her heel marks were left in the dirt on the pavement. 

Neighbors also reported seeing a white van in the parking lot with its parking lights on that evening.

Eventually, there would be questions about whether the crime scene was correctly processed. In hindsight, the answer would be no. For instance, a friend of Jodi’s said police didn’t immediately tape off the crime scene which could have resulted in contamination or evidence being overlooked. In addition, Jodi’s car was released to her parents shortly after the disappearance instead of being kept as evidence. 

Current Chief of Police Jeff Brinkley was asked by 48 Hours if he thought the car was released in haste. He replied, “Maybe.” 

“We don’t have it,” Brinkley said. “But we just have to live with what we got, and –and try to do as good as we can with that.”

Brinkley is the fourth police chief to have Jodi’s case under his command. 

“Basically, all my free time is following up on this case,” said Mason City Police Officer Terrance Prochaska, who took over the case in 2010. 

“What caused her to sleep in that day? What caused her to answer the phone and rush to work? What was she doing the night before? We all want to know the fine details. We know where she was at. She was golfing. She had driven home and made a phone call to her friend. Those are facts. But it’s that gray area in between we don’t understand.”

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(John Vansice answering questions from a reporter at his residence in Arizona. Photo courtesy of CBS News.) 

Person of Interest

It is known after work; Jodi attended the gold tournament. While at the tournament, she told some of her friends that she had been receiving prank phone calls and was thinking of going to the police and changing her number. 

Afterward, John Vansice, who was 22 years older than Jodi, was the last person to have seen her. They watched a video he had shot at the surprise birthday party he had arranged for her. 

“She was like a daughter to me, she was like my own child,” Vansice said to KIMT in 1995. “I treated her like my own child.”

Though Vansice has long been suspected by friends of Jodi to have been involved in her abduction, a friend of Vansice named LaDonna Woodford says there is no way, because she had called him at 6:00 a.m. that morning wanting to go for a walk. When they walked, she says he didn’t seem anxious or out of sorts in any way. 

Vansice also passed a polygraph in 1995 and never named an official suspect. However, in March 2017, search warrants were issued for the GPS records of Vansice’s 1999 Honda Civic and 2013 GMC 1500. It was the most substantial break in the case in decades. However, nothing of importance was ever recovered. 

“We have never closed the case,” Chief Brinkley told 48 Hours. “It’s never been a closed case for us. It’s been an active investigation since it happened.” 

“I’m not ready to quit yet,” Brinkley added.

 JoAnn Nathe also told 48 Hours that she was once suspicious of John, but “we have to be objective; we have to have an open mind. It could be somebody we least expect.” 

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(According to her coworkers, Iowa news anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit was a “rising star” in her field. Photo courtesy of 48 Hours.)

Weekend Skiing

It has already been reported that Jodi had gone water skiing with John Vansice and a couple of friends the weekend before she vanished. 

In Jodi’s June 25, 1995, entry in her journal she wrote, “Got home from a weekend trip to Iowa City — oh we had fun! It was wild, partying and water skiing. We skied at the Coralville Res. I’m improving on the skis — hips up, lean, etc. John’s son Trent gave me some great ski tip advice.” 

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(Jodi Huisentruit went water skiing the weekend before she vanished, leading some to believe someone she met might be responsible for her abduction. Photo courtesy of iboats.com.)

In November 2019, Cold Case Investigator Steve Ridge revealed that Jodi also boarded the Mastercraft ski boat of two younger men she had met the same weekend. 

Ridge told KWWL News that he spoke to witnesses who were at the lake that Saturday in 1995, who said Vansice was not enthused she had left to spend time with younger men, but he did not overreact or cause a scene, as some said Vansice was inclined to do.

Ridge said that once Jodi and a female friend boarded the boat, they were seen drinking and dancing on the boat. Ridge said the owner of the boat took a video of them which was given to Mason City Police investigators. 

Ridge said he was still investigating whether one or both of the young men may have visited Jodi, or attempted to visit her the next day, or Monday, the night she was abducted. 

Ridge believes it is conceivable that a confrontation could have occurred that would shed light on a motive for Jodi’s abduction. “A lot of unfortunate things came together in a relatively short period of time just before Jodi went missing,” claims Ridge. 

Ridge continues to work with authorities though he is an independent investigator. 

Early Life

Jodi was born June 5, 1968, and raised in Long Prairie, Minnesota, a small town of less than 3,500 in 2010. She was the youngest daughter of Maurice Huisentruit and her mother Imogene “Jane” Anderson. 

In high school, Jodi excelled at golf and was considered to have amazing talent at the game. Her team won the Class A tournament in 1985 and 1986. 

After high school, Jodi went to St. Cloud University, where she studied speech and mass communications, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1990.

Though she wanted to be a reporter, after graduating, Jodi’s first job was with Northwest Airlines. She began her broadcasting career with KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as the station’s bureau chief. She then returned to Minnesota for a job with KSAX in Alexandria before returning to Iowa for the position as a news anchor with KIMT.

“She wanted to be famous,” her childhood friend Kim Feist told 48 Hours

Jodi was driven but she also was very close to her mom. In a late January 1994 diary entry, it said “improve my career, make more money, communicate, have more impact on a larger audience. Get the Huisentruit name out. Make Mom proud.”

Missing news anchor Jodi Huisentruit
(Jodi Huisentruit’s mother Imogene, passed away in December 2014, without knowing where her daughter is.)

“I couldn’t have had a better kid sister,” said Jodi’s sister JoAnn Nathe told WOWT in Omaha. “She tried to motivate me. What are your goals? That makes me stronger. It’s a nightmare not knowing where she is. We thought we would find her in the first few months.” 

Their mother, Imogene, passed away in December 2014 at age 91, not knowing where her daughter was. “She so wanted to find Jodi,” Nathe said.

As time passes, it doesn’t get easier for families. Memories fade and tips wane, but the hope to bring Jodi home for a proper burial still burns bright in the hearts of those that loved her.

Guide to Social Awareness for Missing Persons

Guide to Social Awareness for Missing Persons

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When a child or a loved one goes missing, immediately life changes as you know it, your entire world seems to fall apart. You feel isolated, confused and desperate and may feel you have nowhere to turn for help and support. 

Life becomes an emotional roller coaster for those left behind, leaving you emotionally vulnerable. Feelings of sadness, loss, guilt and anger are normal but leave you feeling emotionally drained.

Longing for direction, most families who have experienced a child or loved one missing say they wished they had a handbook to tell them what to do, what to expect, and how to respond. 

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(Statement by Colleen Nick, mother of Morgan Nick, missing since June 9, 1995. Photo courtesy of OJJDP.)

The Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) created a handbook “When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide” providing direction to parents of missing children. It is an invaluable resource for families. However, since it was created, there have been many advancements in methods to distribute fliers and raise public awareness of missing persons.

With a missing person, it is imperative to gain public attention. Experts agree, every time you share information with the public, it creates the potential to generate that one lead law enforcement needs to bring that person home safe. 

Much of the time, creating public awareness is a cooperative effort between the families of the missing person, media, and law enforcement. However, getting each to work cohesively with the other is sometimes difficult and much of the burden of creating social awareness falls on the family.

Social Media’s Role in Finding Missing Persons

Government agencies and police are increasingly using social media to help find missing persons. In fact, New York City Police Department launched a social media campaign to include the public in ongoing investigations, to both find missing persons and catch criminals.

“If a person goes missing, commands make initial notifications on social media. Then, posters are made,” said Zachary Tumin, deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives and leader of the NYPD’s social media efforts. “As that information gets retweeted by police and the public, word spreads very quickly to be on the lookout for that missing person.”

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(NYPD actively utilizes Facebook and Twitter to search for missing persons.) 

NYPD’s Facebook page currently has “822,054 Likes” with no sign of slowing down.  

Prior to social media, distribution of information was always limited by limited geographic outreach, with missing person pages commonly only posted within the community the person went missing. 

With social media platforms, it changed the landscape of searching for missing persons. Facebook has 2.37 billion users in 2019, Twitter 126 million daily users, and Instagram over 800 million, making it the ideal place to generate leads for law enforcement.

Mystery and misery linger in a missing person case. Many think the number of missing persons has risen in missing person cases, but experts say it is thanks to social media, not an actual increase in cases. “Missing persons have always been there, of course, but due to social media, the cases are more widespread,” said Ray Wagner, Director of Relations for Crimestoppers. 

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(Missing in Arizona’s post on Facebook for Elizabeth Breck who vanished from Tucson, Arizona, on January 13, 2019.)

Nothing compares to sharing information using social media platforms. The information posted is immediately available throughout the country, and the world. 

Combining Social Media with News Media 

Working with local and national media is also a critical component of searching for a missing person as news stories also have the long-time been proven to generate leads. 

Here are some guidelines to follow when working with news media when a person is missing:

  1. It is important to always speak to the investigating law enforcement agency prior to doing a news interview so as not to compromise an investigation. It is common for law enforcement to request minimal information about an investigation be shared in a news interview to protect their case, especially if a nonfamily abduction is suspected.
  2. Consider using a public relations firm. Sometimes costly, they do have expertise in constructing press releases and attracting media interest. Try obtaining services pro bono. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  3. Appoint a family spokesperson, someone capable of speaking publicly and comfortable being in the public eye.
  4. Keeping the media interested requires pulling at “heart strings” so plan on doing interviews on birthdays, anniversary dates, and holidays.
  5. Remember, just because they ask a question, doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

Utilization of Social Media Platforms

Working with law enforcement cannot be over-emphasized. While using social media platforms gives you instant ability to mass communicate, and can be a source of significant support, it can also be a place where you may be scrutinized or asked many questions. Aside from being time consuming, the public has a tendency to ask questions, and it is important for you to only stick with the facts of an investigation without leaking tidbits of information by identifying a perpetrator or details of the investigation.

Utilizing any social network platform can be emotionally taxing, but worth utilizing when a family member is missing, and life may hang in the balance.

Available Platforms

There are several social media platforms that can help you widen your search, stay organized and reach various audiences. 

  • Facebook helps raise social awareness, fundraise, organize events and keep your social network apprised of any new developments. 
  • YouTube can help keep news coverage organized and a quick and effective way to post your media on other network platforms, involving people in your efforts. 
  • Twitter can reach very large audiences to include politicians, celebrities and news stations.
  • Instagram can help with sharing photographs and “behind the scenes” images, while connecting with a younger audience that is very socially aware and involved. 
  • Blogger or any blogging platform, can help by giving you a place to vent your everyday frustrations and emotions while sharing progress with readers.  

Setting up Storage 

When a love one is missing you can find yourself being asked over and over again for the same information and photographs of your loved one. 

It is advisable to use a cloud content storage like Dropbox or Google Documents where you can create different folders or files such as press releases, letters, and high-quality photographs that media and other organizations can use to help raise public awareness.  Also, utilizing “content storage” saves time and frustration when trying to email high resolution images. 

Dropbox is free and offers up to 2GB of storage and Google Documents is free and offers 15GB of storage (to include emails and attachments). 

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Using Facebook

  1. Appoint a trusted Administrator(s) to help you with the page. 
  2. Set up a “Page” in Facebook and choose a name consistent with the purpose such as “FIND BRYCE LASPISA” or “MISSING SARAH GALLOWAY.” Choose something and use both first and last name of the missing person. 
  3. Use high-quality photographs when possible and use a picture of the missing person as a profile picture. 
  4. Include a brief description of the missing person to include where they were last seen, along with law enforcement’s contact number or hotline. 
  5. Communicate clearly and succinctly in all posts. 
  6. Post at times the most people are going to see your posts, not in the middle of the night. According to a Buffer study, the best times of post on Facebook is between 1-3 p.m. during the week and on Saturdays, with Thursdays and Fridays having the most engagement. 
  7. Post consistently and frequently with “Calls to Action” such as asking people to share your post (and ask their friends to share), or ask they use a photo of the missing person flier as their profile picture for a week. 
  8. Always try to stay positive. The tone of your post matters. 
  9. Provides updates when possible and post any media interviews or links to television shows that may have profiled the missing person.
  10. Don’t feel obligated to respond to any comment or message.

With social media, comes the potential for negative comments, messages or posts from users. Never feel the need to respond to negative correspondence or comments, just delete or hide negative comments as soon as you can. 

Lastly, you can also pay for advertising on Facebook. 

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Advertising on Facebook 

Everyone’s Facebook account comes with the ability to run ads. With Facebook Advertising, you can target specific locations the missing person may be most likely to be in, to include entire cities to just parts of a city. You can also target specific age groups and should be done as quickly as possible if you are able to afford it.

Here is a website  that can help. A great article “How to Use Facebook As in the Search for a Missing Person” is also an excellent resource.

If not using a service to help in this endeavor, try to become familiar with Facebook’s advertising program as soon as possible. 

Create a Facebook Ads account. You can visit Facebook’s “Get Help For Your Facebook Ads” or visit Buffer’s “Best Time to Post on Facebook: A Complete Guide” for more information. 

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  • Choose your objective. These four categories can help you in the search for a missing loved one.  
  1. Promote your page
  2. Boost your posts
  3. Increase your reach
  4. Raise attendance at your events
  • Define your audience. 
  1. Location. Start with country and state.
  2. Age. Choose an age range. It is advisable to keep this broad to reach people of all ages (18-65+). 
  3. Language. Choose English if in the United States. 
  • Define your budget. 
  1. Daily: a daily budget is the maximum amount your will spend per day during the timespan of your ad. 
  2. Lifetime: a longer-term budget you will spend during the lifetime of the ad. 
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  • Create new ad
  1. Choose your ad format (above).
  2. Add content.
  3. You get 90 characters of text to concisely share your message.  
  4. Use only high-quality images or video. 
  5. Use a name like “Have You Seen This Missing Person” or similar. 
  • Image specs: 
  • Recommended image size: 1200 x 628 pixels
  • Image ratio: 1.91:1
  • To maximize ad delivery, use an image that contains little or no overlaid text.
  • Video specs: 
  • Format: .MOV or .MP4 files
  • Resolution: at least 720p
  • File size: 2.3 GB max.
  • Recommended aspect ratio: widescreen (16:9)
  • Facebook: 60 minutes max.

Most importantly, when using Facebook or any social media platform, check your messages and comments frequently so if someone contacts you with information you can forward it to law enforcement immediately. 

Twitter

Twitter is a great social media platform to reach masses of people. There are more than 500 million Tweets per day on Twitter. 

Set up a new account.

  1. Like Facebook, choose a name consistent with the purpose.
  2. Use a photograph of the missing person as a profile picture. 
  3. Tweet links to news coverage, interviews, and articles. 
  4. Use hash tags such as #Missing #State #Missing Person’s Name 
  5. Tweet to local and national media.
  6. Tweet to celebrities, both local and national.
  7. Keep your tweets brief. 
  8. Respond when someone tweets to you.
  9. Follow similar pages.

Like Facebook and all social media platforms, it matters when you post on Twitter. 

According to American Marketing Association, the best time to post on Twitter is Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m., with most consistent engagement occurring Mon-Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Other studies have shown Mon-Friday between 12-3 p.m. is the best time. Saturday is the worst day to post and has least engagement.

While building followers and social media presence takes time, there are strategies and techniques you can use to increase your engagement and get more clicks.

Twitter engagement is when someone engages with the content that you post such as favoriting your tweet, retweeting your tweet, responding to your tweet or mentioning you in a separate tweet. 

It is also important that you engage with other users’ content with likes, comments and retweets. When you engage with another user’s content, they will be more likely to pay attention to what you are posting too. This works across all social media platforms. 

In addition, leverage other feeds and encourage your followers on Facebook and other platforms to follow you on Twitter and visa versa.

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Learning Experience

Using social network platforms to find missing persons is still relatively new and is no doubt a learning process. One only needs to look at the numbers in order to gauge the success. 

It is advisable to follow other families who have missing persons, advocacy agencies, and shows like In Pursuit with John Walsh or Vanished to gain ideas for successful posts and make valuable connections.  

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, and the largest missing child agency in the country. With over 655,000 people following their activity it is hard to ignore the agency’s social impact. 

Again, try not to be discouraged as you try to grow your social networks and don’t let running the various platforms consume you. Again, it is recommended you share these tasks with other family members or friends that can assist you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

As said before, using social media is a learning experience, but rest assured you will get better as you go along. Remember HOPE is the most important thing to hold onto.

The Disappearance of Tricia Reitler and Many Others

The Disappearance of Tricia Reitler and Many Others

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(Tricia Lynn Reitler went missing March 29, 1993 from Marion Indiana. Photo courtesy of ID Discovery.)

In March 1993, Tricia Lynn Reitler, 19, was a freshman psychology major at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. Teachers described Tricia as a beautiful and brilliant student with a high grade point average. Her future was bright until . . . she vanished without a trace.

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(Map of Indiana Wesleyan University showing Marsh Grocery store.)

The Disappearance

During the early evening of Tricia’s disappearance on March 29, 1993, she was writing a term paper and decided to take a short break to walk to Marsh Supermarket, approximately half a mile from the university campus. According to investigators, while at the store, she purchased a root beer and a magazine leaving the store to return to her dormitory in Bowman Hall. She never made it back.

Her disappearance has been a jigsaw puzzle that has kept investigators baffled for 26 years. After extensive searches, police discovered Tricia’s bloodstained jeans, shirt, and shoes in a field near Seybold Pool and the Center Elementary School. Also, police found small droplets of blood on an earring on the sidewalk about a quarter mile between the store and the campus. 

Tricia was a runner. In fact, she had taken two runs that unseasonably warm Monday in March. Her father, Garry Reitler believes her flexibility and fitness contributed to the difficulty the canine tracking dogs had. During the search, her scent was all over the place in the area where the abduction had occurred. 

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(Tricia Reitler’s parents Garry and Donna standing in front of a billboard on 41st Street and Western Avenue in 1998, five years after Tricia’s disappearance.)

One More Day

Tricia’s disappearance results in parents without a daughter, siblings growing up never knowing their sibling, and a town still looking for answers 26 years later. Still, many questions remain. 

“It’s unbelievable, I mean you walk around kind of like you are in a daze,” said Donna Reitler, Tricia’s mother. Donna has spent decades coping by carrying on for her husband and other three children. But moving on hasn’t been easy because she feared “moving on” meant leaving Tricia behind and she just couldn’t do that. 

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(Tricia Reitler, a freshman psychology student vanished while walking to Marsh store in Marion, Ind. Photo courtesy of CNN.)

Donna told the Chronicle-Tribune, “You tell yourself, ‘Oh, just one more day. Just one more day,’ and here you are 26 years later.” 

Both parents have coped differently, but have managed to keep their marriage together, defying all odds. “Somebody says they saw her, or they found something,” said Garry. “It’s a struggle but as a father, you have to go out and look, you have to exhaust all of those leads.” 

Garry has often worked alongside law enforcement in the search for his daughter. 

Their daughter has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, Dateline, even The Jerry Springer Show. People have written books and even a movie made for television but that doesn’t matter to Garry and Donna — they just need answers.

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(Dep. Chief Stephen Dorsey explains the timeline of Tricia Reitler’s disappearance using a board that tracks the police investigation for the last 26 years. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Tribune.) 

Law Enforcement’s Frustrations

“It’s a case that’s been worked by multiple agencies for years. It’s still difficult, there’s no doubt about that,” retired Marion Police Detective Jay Kay. “I’ve always tried to stay positive. I’ve always believed sooner or later; the answers will come forward.”

Though the investigation may seem at a standstill, according to Marion County Deputy Chief Stephen Dorsey as of March 2019, police are reviewing new DNA samples in the case. Dorsey says police want to put Tricia’s abductor in prison, but also want to find Tricia to ensure she is returned to her family where she belongs. It’s something Donna and Garry admit they need too.

“Still this whole thing of going over and over different scenarios that could have happened or maybe we didn’t think of this or maybe we should have gone here or this or that; like I said that does not stop,” Donna said. “To be able to bring her home and put her to rest; it’s not going to change the outcome. Tricia will still be gone, but I think for our family we will be able to move on to a certain degree.” 

The Reitler’s and police have followed up on hundreds of leads over the years and one person keeps coming up. “We’ve had a number of suspects over the years, one being Larry Hall, however, we don’t have any evidence that puts Larry into the mix of Tricia being missing,” said Dep. Chief Stephen Dorsey of Marion Police Department. 

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(Larry DeWayne Hall is serving a life sentence on a federal kidnapping charge.) 

A Serial Killer? 

Larry DeWayne Hall is currently serving a life sentence at a medium-security federal psychiatric prison in North Carolina for the 1993 abduction of Jessica Roach, 15, near Georgetown, Illinois, a short distance from the Indiana border. Her body was later found in the fall of 1993, in a cornfield near Perrysville, Indiana.

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(Jessica Roach was abducted from Georgetown, Ill., on September 20, 1993. Her body found later that fall in a cornfield in Perrysville, Ind.)

Jessica Roach

Jessica was last seen at approximately 3:30 p.m. on September 20, 1993, riding her bicycle near her home in Georgetown. 

Hall was never charged with Roach’s murder because police could not pinpoint where she was killed. According to federal court records, Hall signed a written confession that he kidnapped and killed Jessica Roach, but he has since recanted. Some believe Hall is responsible for killing up to 40 women and girls. 

Christopher Hawley Martin, author of Urges: A Chronicle of Serial Killer Larry Hall describes Hall as being bullied as a child and as a juvenile bedwetter. Martin writes that Hall traveled the country in his van as a Civil War reenactment buff.

Raised in a big house on a cemetery in Wabash, Indiana, identical twins Larry Hall and Gary Hall’s father was the sexton (gravedigger) at the cemetery. Both brothers were Civil War reenactors who kept to themselves, traveling to many states in pursuit of their pastime. 

During the research for his book, Martin began traveling the country and researched disappearances and unsolved murders of women around each of the Civil War reenactment event that Hall was known to have ventured. The picture that emerged was frightening — there were many.

Martin began corresponding with Hall in prison and was able to obtain information on other missing and murdered girls. 

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(Laura Depies went missing August 19, 1992, from Menasha Wisconsin and has never been found.)

Laura Depies 

Laura Jean Depies, 20, worked a shift at Graffiti store at Fox River Mall in Appleton, Wisconsin. At approximately 10:00 p.m., Laura and a co-worker locked the store and walked to their cars in the mall parking lot. Depies was going to her boyfriend’s home and headed east on College Avenue in her 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit. She pulled into the Town of Menasha parking complex (now Fox Crossing) and parked. Her friends can remember hearing her pull in, but she never arrived at her boyfriend’s apartment. Once they realized time had elapsed, they immediately went outside and started searching while calling the police. The only physical evidence found at the scene was Laura’s drinking cup left on the hood of her car. 

Hall told Martin he stalked mall parking lots, plazas and stores looking for victims. Hall then claimed he spotted Laura Depies at a store and followed her to the apartment parking lot where she was chloroformed and abducted. He then assaulted and killed her at a remote location, claiming he dumped her body in a wooded area. 

According to Fox 8 News, during the investigation of Jessica Roach’s murder, police found notes in Hall’s van that said “Lori” and “Fox River.” Investigators then concluded that Hall attended a Civil War Reenactment in Kaukauna the weekend before Depies vanished. 

Hall has never been charged with the potential abduction and murder of Depies because there is a lack of physical evidence to support his confession. Due to red-tape, Wisconsin law enforcement has been unable to get Hall to Wisconsin to show them where he claims to have dumped Laura’s body. 

Mark Depies, Laura’s father, doesn’t believe Hall.

“I’m not buying that much at all,” Depies said. “especially without a body or anything to go on other than he confessed.” 

However, Menasha Police Department have said Hall knows things about the abduction only the killer and police would know. 

“The unfortunate thing is I only have memories of her first 20 years,” Laura’s mother Mary Wegner told ABC News. “I don’t know that you can ever really have closure . . . there are still some loose ends that I feel need to be followed up, including finding the remains of my daughter.”

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(Paulette Webster vanished September 2, 1988, while walking home from a friend’s house in Chester, Ill.) 

Paulette Webster

Martin decided to question Hall about the abduction of Paulette Webster missing from Chester, Ill., pm on September 2, 1988. 

Hall claimed Paulette was taken from the main east/west roads through Chester which is where she was, in fact, walking home from her friend’s house at approximately 11:00 p.m. 

He also claims to have picked Paulette up near a mobile home park, which again Martin found was true. Hall then said he took Paulette to a remote location where she was kept and sexually assaulted for several hours. Hall said he either threw her in the Mississippi River or buried her. 

Letters from Jail

In the letter to Martin, Hall goes also claims there are several girls buried in the Mark Twain forest in Missouri. This information has led some to believe he may have abducted Stacy McCall, Suzanne Streeter, and Streeter’s mother Sherrill Levitt. Known as the Springfield Three, they were all abducted from their home on June 7, 1992, in Springfield, Missouri. 

Halls claims to have begun murdering young girls and women in the summer of his high school graduation in 1981. While Hall’s stories and admissions are compelling, law enforcement is still at a standstill without any of the bodies to pursue any murder charges. 

Thomas Lauth of Lauth Investigations International headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a 25-year veteran in the field of missing persons and missing person private investigator who believes there is some credence to Hall’s claims, however, he also points out there are other serial killers out there too. “The FBI estimates as many as 50 serial killers operating in the United States at any given time,” said Lauth. “When we are talking that serial killers can average 30-40 victims during their lifetime (if not more), that is not a small number of victims when combined.” 

Meanwhile, the parents of Tricia Reitler, Laura Depies, Paulette Webster and the many others Hall has admitted to abducting wait through heart-wrenching and never-ending days for answers that will enable them to finally bring their daughters home.

Found: The Bizarre Abduction of Sherri Papini

Found: The Bizarre Abduction of Sherri Papini

(Sherri Papini vanished November 2, 2016 while jogging near her Redding, California home and reappeared 22 days later.)

(Sherri Papini vanished November 2, 2016 while jogging near her Redding, California home and reappeared 22 days later.)

The story of Sherry Papini, 34, is one of the most bizarre kidnapping cases in recent years.

On November 2, 2016, Sherri, vanished without a trace in Northern California while jogging near her home in Redding. Her family and the community were shocked that such a beautiful and outgoing young woman could be abducted while innocently jogging in such a safe and tranquil place. 

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(Location in Woodland, California, where Sherri Papini was found by a passing motorist.)

22 days later, at approximately 4:30 a.m., on Thanksgiving morning, a passing motorist saw Papini desperately waving on the side of the road in Yolo County.  The location is approximately 150 miles south of her home near Interstate 5 and County Road 17.

Papini was severely emaciated weighing only 85 pounds and bound at her waist by a chain that was fastened to her wrist with a zip tie. Shasta County Sheriff’s Office described hose clamps attached to both of her ankles as “pain compliant restraints.” 

Papini told police she had been abducted at gunpoint by two Hispanic females driving a dark SUV, who primarily spoke Spanish around her. She had also been branded on the left shoulder, though a description of the brand has never been released. 

Keith Papini, Sherri’s husband, described his wife as being covered in bruises that ranged from yellow to black, the bridge of her nose was fractured, and her long blonde hair cruelly chopped off.

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(Sherri Papini vanished while jogging near her Redding, California home and reappeared 22 days later beaten and traumatized.)

The Disappearance 

On November 2, Papini’s husband Keith returned from his job at Best Buy and could not find his wife at home. He was immediately concerned. He frantically searched the house and then pulled out his iPhone.

Keith told the 911 operator he came home from work to find his wife and children gone and that his wife had never arrived at daycare to pick them up. He also told the operator he used the “Find My iPhone” app to locate his wife’s cell phone and earbuds along a dirt trail at the intersection of Sunrise Avenue and Old Oregon Trail, approximately one mile from their home.

“I just drove down there, and I found her phone with her headphones because she started running again, and I found her phone and it’s got her hair ripped out of it, like in the headphones,” Keith told the NZ Herald. “I’m freaking out, thinking that somebody, like, grabbed her.” 

When police began their investigation, they began a ground search and distributing flyers throughout the area shortly thereafter.

The search for Papini gained attention throughout the United States and internationally with people all over the world wondering what happened to Sherri Papini.

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(Composite sketches of the suspects in the abduction of Sherri Papini on November 2, 2016 in Redding, California.)

Police Investigation

When Papini was found she had both female and male DNA on her. “It’s still an active and ongoing investigation,” said Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko in November 2018. Police have not determined why Papini was abducted, where she had spent 22 days and why she was released. 

Papini told police that just before her release, she heard her captors arguing, then a gunshot. The younger attacker then took her from the room where she had been held and dropped her off at the nearest corner. However, early on, her story wasn’t adding up to the police.

“The male DNA was compiled from the clothing Sherri had been wearing,” said Sgt. Brian Jackson. Also, the female DNA was taken directly from Papini’s body. 

These facts didn’t coincide with the story that Papini had been abducted and held by two female abductors. Also, the male DNA did not match her husband’s, fueling speculation that Papini had met up with a man willingly. The DNA samples were uploaded in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) at the FBI, but there have been no matches. 

Frustrated with the lack of progress with the investigation by police, Keith Papini set up a GoFundMe page during 2017, to raise money for a missing person private investigator. This in turn would frustrate the police, who thought it would compromise the investigation. 


(Sherri Papini, has undergone significant public scrutiny after telling police that she was abducted by two Hispanic females and held captive for 22 days.)

Public Speculation

Theories and speculation began swirling around in the public sphere about what happened to her, including conjecture that she had been kidnapped by sex traffickers, was involved in a drug deal gone bad, or had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but somewhere along the line the public started doubting Papini’s story.

While police say they have no reason not to believe her story, some details of her case caused some people to question whether she had been taken and held against her will. 

During the police investigation, authorities had uncovered text messages between Sherry and a male acquaintance who resides in Michigan. Police determined they had an online texting relationship, but it was unclear if the two ever had a romantic relationship. 

“The text messages went back several months to days before the disappearance,” Jackson told People. “It was prior contact that she had years before. Somebody she met and kept in contact with. A male acquaintance she was talking to through texting.”

Many experts believe the public scrutiny of Papini’s story has been unfair. Thomas Lauth, CEO of Lauth Investigations International is an expert in the field of missing persons and a missing person private investigator for over 25 years. “Few people would ever willingly subject themselves to the abuse and trauma Papini experienced,” said Lauth. “The branding, the starvation, the cutting of hair willingly — just does not make sense.”

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(Mother of two, Sherri Papini, vanished November 2, 2016, while jogging near her Redding, California home, and found 22 days later emaciated on the side of the road 150 miles away.)

Papini’s Life After the Abduction

Three years later, police seem no closer to closing this mysterious case. The paparazzi still follow Papini around trying to get a shot, which has forced her to live like a recluse. 

Last year, a neighbor told Newsweek that Papini leads a “very quiet life” at home and rarely goes outside while trying to put back the pieces of her life.

“She doesn’t come out of the house,” neighbor Joyce Allison said. “I don’t see the kids outside playing in the yard.”


(After the kidnapping, the Papini family now avoid the paparazzi, living like recluses.)

Another neighbor who requested anonymity said they just wanted the family to find closure. “I hope if her story is true that she’s getting along alright and getting counseling so she can live with it and get better,” the neighbor said. “But, is it a real story? I don’t know. I hope one day we’ll all have answers.”

For the Papini family, we can only try to imagine what life has been like being forced into hiding and that they, too, need answers. 

While scars heal and hair grows back, the brand on her shoulder will forever be a reminder of the traumatic events she endured, whether the public believes her or not.