NamUs has been dubbed one of the best tools for cracking cold cases, so why isn’t law enforcement using it?

NamUs has been dubbed one of the best tools for cracking cold cases, so why isn’t law enforcement using it?

There is a crisis growing in the realm of criminal justice and missing persons. According to Statista, as of the beginning of 2022, there were 521,705 missing person files in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. As changes in criminal patterns continue to emerge in the thick of the pandemic, the problem is projected to get worse as law enforcement resources are drawn elsewhere. However, experts have proffered that one of the best solutions to the growing crisis is a similar, highly-accessible database to NCIC known as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) . However, the glaring roadblock is the underutilization by law enforcement. So what are the major differences between NCIC and NamUs?

One of the chief differences between NCIC and NamUs is the level of access to the public. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems is a federally-funded online database for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed persons in the United States. While NCIC is only available to authorized law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, NamUs has varying levels of access that allow everyone from law enforcement to private citizens. Law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have the same respective level of access afforded to them in NCIC, but with NamUs, families of missing persons can also enter their loved one’s information into the database. Because NamUs is a database that aggregates information from law enforcement, criminal justice agencies, coroners, and families of missing persons, it’s often regarded by cold case experts as one of the greatest resources available to law enforcement and other investigating agencies. The shocking part? It is one of the most underutilized resources available to law enforcement.

There is no federal or state mandate that compels law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to enter information from their open missing person cases into NamUs. There have been repeated effort to pass legislation in this matter from cold case experts who wish to see the database—people like Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a leading expert in cold cases who runs the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at the University of South Florida. She says that law enforcement must be utilizing NamUs, because not only are the state and national databases often out of date, but NamUs actually allows users to submit pictures and DNA samples from the public that can help law enforcement narrow the search, “It’s huge and a lot of cases get solved that way. Someone sees something they recognize, an afgan blanket or a sweater.”

Across the U.S., only ten states require law enforcement to use NamUs. States like Florida are still permitting law enforcement to enter data into NamUs on a voluntary basis. According to Kimmerle, the idea of it being voluntary leaves the quality of data entry wanting, “When it’s voluntary, there’s information in there, but not all the information, so you’re really limited, especially when it comes to unidentified persons. We have to know who we’re looking for.”

Indiana couple found after 9 days lost in rural Nevada, Silver Alert not issued

Indiana couple found after 9 days lost in rural Nevada, Silver Alert not issued

Indiana couple found

The family of an Indiana couple found in Nevada is reeling after learning their tragic story of survival while lost in their RV. Before they were reported missing, Beverly and Ron Barker had last been seen at a gas station in Nevada. After seven days of being lost in the wilderness, the couple was found—unfortunately not in time to avert tragedy.

On March 27, 2022, Ron and Beverly were on a road trip to Tucson, Arizona where they hoped to visit with friends. They took off from a California campground in their RV towing a Kia SUV in the back. They were expected to arrive in Tucson on March 29, but never showed up. When the RV turned up stuck in gravel along their route without the SUV attached and no Ron or Beverly in sight, it raised more questions than answers. Details released after the Indiana couple was found have illuminated the more harrowing aspects of their story.

Ron and Beverly were relying on the GPS to help them navigate through Nevada, but according to Beverly’s nephew, Travis Peters, the GPS had not been set to highway mode, which would may have provided them with a safer route to travel given that they were in an RV with a vehicle trailer. However, Ron and Beverly did not immediately think the route was dangerous, seeing other cars, and even another RV on the same route as them. At some point, the RV became stuck in the sand and gravel on the side of the road, forcing the couple to stop the drive for the day and sleep in the RV overnight. The following morning, they unhooked their SUV and set off in search of help, believing it would be a quick business of finding help.

Unfortunately, Ron and Beverly took another wrong turn, and the SUV also got stuck around 2 miles from where the RV was parked. Unable to get out and walk for help the couple were forced to sit in the SUV and honk the horn—signaling S.O.S.—every ten minutes or so. Dehydration soon set in, and Beverly had to use her walker to get to a snowbank and use an N95 mask to scoop snow into bags so they could melt it for drinking water. “My uncle Ronnie was dying, and there was nothing they could do by honk that horn and try to melt the snow for drink,” Travis Peters wrote on Facebook.

It went on like that for days, with Ronnie slowly succumbing to dehydration. Ronnie read form his Bible to comfort them both while they waited for rescue, hoping help would arrive in time. Tragically, Ronnie passed away Monday afternoon, less than a day before the rescuers found their RV. Rescuers were able to hear Beverly honking the horn after finding the RV. Beverly was airlifted to a hospital in Reno for evaluation.

Ron and Beverly’s family members have expressed frustration with the fact that a Silver Alert was not issued for Ron and Beverly at the time they were reported missing, and wished that the authorities had taken their concerns more seriously when they were reported missing. “Had proper steps been taken from the moment they were reported as missing, my uncle would be alive today. Your inability to deal with this situation may have cost my uncle his life. I hope that haunts you for the rest of yours.”

Custodial Kidnapping: Hiring a Private Investigator

Custodial Kidnapping: Hiring a Private Investigator

custodial kidnapping

Most parents have their children’s’ best interests at heart, but when tempers flare or tense domestic disputes arise, a parent or guardian may act impulsively without thinking about the consequences. Custodial kidnapping—otherwise known as parental kidnapping—describes when one parent takes their child without the consent of the other. How complex the situation that follows becomes will depend on whether or not a custody order has been violated, and how challenging the abducting parent is to find. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s imperative to know how to proceed in the case of a custodial kidnapping.

Violation of a Court-Ordered Custody Agreement

In the case of divorced or separated parents—or indeed any other circumstance where a custody order may already be in place—a clear violation can allow you to act. Taking a child will certainly prevent “parenting time”, custodial, or visitation rights from being met. In a case such as this, you can file a motion for contempt of court, and reach out to your child custody office for enforcement support. If you have reason to believe your child is in danger, you can also contact local authorities in the event of a custodial kidnapping.

When There is No Custody Order In Place

When custodial kidnapping or parental kidnapping occurs that is not in breach of a custody agreement, the parent left behind can find themselves left in a much more complex situation. Your goal should be to seek an emergency custody order from the courts, however presenting a body of evidence to support that order will be vital. A parent leaving their home state with a child does not necessarily equate to breaking the law. Your filing will have to demonstrate that the kidnapping parent or guardian is actively evading the jurisdiction of the courts, doesn’t have the wellbeing of the child in mind, or is putting the child at direct risk.

When to Call In a Private Investigator

Any parent whose child has disappeared is bound to feel that time is of the essence. A licensed private investigator will be perfectly poised to jump directly on the trail of your child before it goes cold. They will also be able to assist with compiling an airtight case that will stand up to the scrutiny of a judge. Because of the deeply emotional nature of custodial kidnappings, a private investigator can prove indispensable—providing all-important impartiality as a documented body of evidence is built that will support your cause in court.

At times, parental kidnappings can distressingly unfold into a hide and seek scenario. Causing great heartache to the parent or guardian left behind, tracking and tracing the child in question can become the absolute number one priority. For moments such as these, our team of missing person investigators here at Lauth Missing Persons bring 30 years of dedicated experience to the table—having located not only missing adults and children in the US, but also those missing overseas. Should you discover that your child may have been taken abroad, we are equipped to step up the search to an international scale without missing a beat.

Turning to Trusted Missing Person Specialists in a Moment of Crisis

Here at Lauth, missing person investigators offer a bounty of experience in helping parents to navigate child custody cases and quickly locating children who have been kidnapped by a guardian. Drawing on a depth of legal and jurisdictional understanding, we can help you assess the current crisis; advise on your options; liaise with your lawyer, authorities, and applicable NGOs; and act with urgency to keep your child safe.
If you are in the midst of a custodial kidnapping and want help in building a case or urgently locating your child, we are on hand to help. Learn more about our process, or contact our team today to learn more.

Essential Strategies for Protecting Your Children Online in 2021

Essential Strategies for Protecting Your Children Online in 2021

Every parent wants to protect their children against the dangers of the world, in the hopes that they will flourish and thrive. As missing person experts here at Lauth Missing Persons, we know that each year that passes makes it increasingly important that we safeguard our loved ones against threats that may lurk behind a screen, just as much as those out in the everyday world. Happily, protecting children online is something that any parent can learn to do with a little guidance.

Today’s children are more computer literate than any generation that came before them. Most toddlers master their parent’s smartphones with dizzying speed, and the Covid-19 pandemic certainly transformed devices into necessary portals, allowing the young to stay connected with friends and get schoolwork done. Framed by the ever-online reality of modern life, how can parents allow their kids to enjoy the bounties of the digital era without exposure to the risks? Read on for our top strategies for protecting your children online in 2021.

Set Parental Controls on Your Devices

There are a range of digital tools available to parents who want to keep their children safe online. Many web browsers and sites offer these services for free—for example Google’s SafeSearch allows you to block out sites that contain adult or illegal material. Content filters like these prevent accidental discovery of violent or sexually explicit content online, while usage controls allow you to time-limit or prevent certain types of device use. Parental monitoring tools help you keep an eye on which sites or apps your children access. While a variety of free tools can be harnessed, many parents take comfort in using paid parental control software, for an iron clad level of security.

Teach Your Children to Be “Share Aware”

With innocent young minds, few children are aware of the potential dangers of sharing personal information online. Details ranging from locational information to photographs, email addresses, phone numbers, schools, and even private thoughts can each become a vulnerability in the wrong hands. As such, teaching your children to be “share aware” can help them avoid heartache or danger in the future. Everything that goes out online can be considered our “digital footprint”, and it can be difficult to know how far it will travel. If they wouldn’t share that information or image with a total stranger, then they should never post it online—even privately—and if they feel unsure, they can always ask you before they click.

Talk to Your Children About Who They Connect With Online

Parents will always vet who their children spend time with in the real world, so it stands to reason that the same should be true online. Without the life experience to teach them otherwise, children can be naive about who they trust, and what they believe. An important part of protecting children online is discussing their digital social circles, and educating young minds on what constitutes bullying or unacceptable behavior. Teach your children to be social media savvy, including how to block unwanted contacts, and report inappropriate or offensive posts so that they can protect themselves and others too.

Lead By Example and Keep the Dialog Flowing

Modeling courteous, safety conscious, and responsible online etiquette can influence your children more than you know. Be sure to set a good example, including limiting your own screen time. Encourage free conversation with your children about what they do online, and ask them to show you the different sites and apps that they enjoy. Keep screens and devices in shared spaces, or check in regularly when your child is using a device in another room. By making all things virtual at least a partially shared experience, you are far more likely to be the first port of call if your child ever feels unsafe online.
The missing person investigations team here at Lauth Missing Persons often encounter families who are facing their worst parental fears. To combat these moments, we encourage focusing on safety awareness from an early age, protecting children online, and staying informed about contemporary risks. If you have reason to doubt the safety of your child, the team at Lauth Missing Persons may be able to assist. Learn more about what we do, or contact us today.

How to Find a Missing Person Overseas

How to Find a Missing Person Overseas

Your loved one is on the other side of the world, having the adventure of a lifetime. They check in at the same time every day—that was, until yesterday, when you didn’t hear from them at all. Today, the hours pass in slow motion, and the window for their second missed check in comes and goes. What do you do when someone goes missing overseas?

The idea of the disappearance of a loved one is alarming under any circumstances, but when someone we care about goes missing overseas, the prospect becomes even more daunting. The reality is that most people don’t have a clear sense of what steps to take when somebody vanishes. Whether a family member, a friend, a partner, or a colleague, a clear course of action can help you safeguard their wellbeing. If your loved one goes missing overseas, the missing persons investigations team here at Lauth Investigations recommends taking the following steps.

Try To Make Direct Contact

Your gut may be telling you that something is wrong, but all sorts of things can cause a person to go incommunicado abroad—including time differences, poor communications infrastructure, or losing their phone and luggage. Attempting to contact them through every avenue available will clarify the situation, so try to reach out by phone and text, by email, and on social media. Also look for any public conversations they have had on social media with others that will indicate all is well.

Contact Others Who May Be Aware of Their Whereabouts

Reach out to friends, travel companions, and colleagues who may have more information or be aware of the missing person’s movements. If a group were travelling together, reach out to the families of others to see if they have been in contact too. Consider contacting hotels, local venues, travel agents, and airlines. While these third party professionals may not be able to share details with you, they will be able to prompt your loved one to make contact when they see them, and will be able to share information with the authorities if they later become involved.

Reaching Out To the Authorities

When someone goes missing overseas, it is vital to file a missing persons report both with local authorities, and with the authorities of your/their home country. If the person in question is a U.S. citizen, you can also contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Embassy and consulate staff will be able to advise on the best way to locate a person in their area, and will also be able to check local reports for hospitalizations or arrests, and connect directly with local authorities and organizations. If the person missing overseas is a minor, or considered vulnerable in some way, the country in question may be able to issue an Amber Alert or equivalent. Prepare to provide as much information as possible, including:

  • Full name
  • Recent photographs
  • Passport/ID number
  • Place and date of birth
  • Citizenship status
  • All known itineraries and plans, past and future
  • Overseas contact details
  • Names and contact information for known friends and associates

What Else To Do When Someone Is Missing Overseas

When a loved one is missing overseas, it is easy to feel powerless. However, there are lots of other steps that can be taken. You can create a social media campaign to raise awareness of the missing status of your loved one. You can also contact local media outlets with details and photographs so that they can help you raise awareness. If you choose to travel where the missing person was last seen, consider if you will need help from an interpreter, and what resources you will require when you get there.

Some travel insurance policies cover search and rescue, so consider if your loved one may have a policy that you can initiate a claim from. Explore local organizations that provide support for missing person investigations—these may be able to advise you on further resources and strategies such as offering rewards within a culture that is potentially unfamiliar.
When concerns run high—and certainly when local authorities are unhelpful—turning to an international private investigators firm with missing persons specialists ready to go out in the field can be indispensable. Here at Lauth Missing Persons, we offer a highly skilled and experienced team with just the skill set required to locate someone missing overseas. If you need help in locating your loved one, contact our team today.

Search Continues for Ryan Larsen, Missing Boy with Autism

Search Continues for Ryan Larsen, Missing Boy with Autism

ryan larsen

Cases of missing children are always more fraught than those of missing adults, but missing child cases can be even further compounded when missing children have neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. This requires a specialized approach in the missing person investigation that can present particular challenges, like the ones investigators have faced in searching for Ryan Larsen, 12. It’s been over 125 days since Ryan disappeared from his school last May, and investigators are still stymied on what exactly happened in the moments before his disappearance.

Ryan Larsen walked away from La Vista West Elementary school in La Vista, Nebraska on May 17, 2021. Following the report of his disappearance, police launched a comprehensive search of land, air, and water in the nearby areas only to come up with nothing. Unfortunately, investigators were staring down a long tunnel with no answers. In a press conference nearly a month ago, La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten said “After the initial period of searching by land, by air, and the water, things went a little bit stagnant.”

Just like any missing person case, the Ryan Larsen case has been subject to a barrage of self-proclaimed psychics who claim they know what happened to Ryan, but none of the tips investigators have received have panned out. When Ryan’s umbrella was found by a dumpster near his family’s home, landfill assessment experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in pursuit of the theory that Ryan might have accidentally fallen in the dumpster and had ended up in the landfill. Lausten also told the media, “They did an analysis and the possibility of that would be very minute, the lowest probability on the scale of that happening. So there’s no evidence we had that it actually happened, but we wanted to rule out even those remote possibilities.”

In hopes of better preparing the La Vista Police Department to better handle cases such as Ryan’s, they have launched a new community program called “Take Me Home.” The program will allow members of the community to help law enforcement with information on their children with special needs, or vulnerable adults. “Getting information about special needs kids, people or vulnerable adults and have that in a database so if we do get a call, for example of an Alzheimer’s patient that walks away from their house, the information we will have already is what places they frequent if they have done this before, where were they found before,” explained Lausten. “So when we’re en route to the call, officers can get into areas quickly and we can get the search going.”

This kind of program has the ability to accelerate the processes behind missing person investigations and benefit future missing persons. Future emergencies can be more quickly resolved and increase the chances of a vulnerable missing person being found.

Ryan Larsen is described as white, 5’8” tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing a black jacket, blue jeans, an Old Navy Shirt, and was carrying a polka dot umbrella. If you see Ryan, authorities say not to call his name; instead, keep your distance and call 911. Anyone with information about his location should call Sarpy County Crimestoppers at 402-592-STOP (7867); or call 911. LVPD is also urging the public to use its See It, Say It, Send It app to submit tips, but to also “be mindful of unsubstantiated rumors circulating on this case.”