Missing Person: Abdi Sharif

Missing Person: Abdi Sharif

Abdi Sharif, 18, went missing from a Target in Merle Hay where he worked. He was last seen on CCTV camera after leaving his shift.

Abdi Sharif, 18, went missing from a Target in Merle Hay where he worked. He was last seen on CCTV camera after leaving his shift.

The search continues for missing Iowa teen Abdi Sharif, who went missing on January 17, 2020. A second organized search party is set to commence this week after a search of Des Moines’ north side last week turned up no clues to Abdi’s whereabouts. There is currently a $5,000 reward for any persons who come forward with information on Abdi’s disappearance.

Abdi Sharif, 18, went missing from a Target in Merle Hay where he worked. He was last seen on CCTV camera after leaving his shift. Details emerged in local media that before he went missing, Abdi posted on his Snapchat, “I got bad news…bad bad news.” Police have advised they are not ruling out foul play in Abdi’s disappearance.

In regards to the Snapchat with the cryptic message, his family and friends say they have no idea what he could have meant by that. Abdi’s mother, an immigrant from Somalia, went to the Target that night to pick him up after his shift, but she says he never appeared. She has been calling his cell phone nonstop since his disappearance, but the cell phone remains off. With Abdi’s cousin Ahmed Hashi translating for her on KCCI in Iowa, Abdi’s mother claims that whatever circumstances befell her son that night, she believes he left the store voluntarily. “He’s not in trouble. His mom loves him. She just wants to see him home.”

Abdi Sharif’s disappearance has sparked a great deal of activism in his community, particularly his high school. According to the principal, Kevin Biggs, it is very uncharacteristic for him to disappear without warning, “This is a young man that was not involved, as far as we knew, in any type of gangs, drugs, alcohol. He was never caught in trouble doing anything. He was just a kid who went to school and did the best he can.” The school held a coffee fundraiser for Abdi to help fund the missing persons search. In addition, volunteers also passed out ribbons for Abdi during an annual game that raises awareness for children with special needs. The community is also hopeful that the posted reward of $5,000 will be an incentive for people to come forward with information that will lead to Abdi’s safe return.

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.

Search Continues for Kenneth Jimson

Search Continues for Kenneth Jimson

The family of 63 year-old Kenneth Wayne Jimson is still waiting for answers in his mysterious disappearance from Shelby, North Carolina almost two years ago.

The family of 63 year-old Kenneth Wayne Jimson is still waiting for answers in his mysterious disappearance from Shelby, North Carolina almost two years ago. When he was reported missing back in December of 2017, authorities issued a Silver Alert for Kenneth because they believed that he was coping with a cognitive impairment. Like many other missing individuals with cognitive impairments, case progress has been stalled because of the transient nature of missing persons with those impairments.

According to the Shelby Star, the last confirmed sighting of Kenneth was in the vicinity of Care Solutions on East Grover Street in Shelby, North Carolina. He underwent a minor outpatient medical procedure that was performed the day he disappeared. His wife reportedly called a cab to pick him up after he was discharged from Atrium Health in Shelby. However, Kenneth never caught the cab. The last confirmed sighting placed Kenneth headed in the direction of a local Bojangles.

At the center of this frustrating search are Kenneth’s loved ones, who only grow more desperate for answers in his disappearance. His sister, Lauree Butler, told the Shelby Star, “It’s hard not knowing if he’s alive or dead.” A few months after Kenneth was reported missing, there was a ray of hope when witnesses in the southern region of the county reported seeing a man who fit his description. However, authorities were not able to follow through on the lead while it was still active. They failed to catch up with the tip, and the trail once again went cold. “Every time the police would show up, there would be nothing,” Lauree Butler told the Shelby Star. “He had been in a wreck…His mind wasn’t what it should be.”

According to the family, Kenneth had wandered off once before, and he was located headed in the direction of Gaffney, South Carolina. As of March, 2019, authorities said that they believed Kenneth could be in that same area, and have been working with his family in order to determine where he might have gone.

Kenneth Jimson is 5-feet, 10-inches tall and weighs around 200 pounds. He has short back hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing black jeans and a black jacket. Kenneth has a dent in his forehead from a previous medical procedure. Anyone with information about Kenneth Jimson should call the Shelby Police Department at 704-484-6845.  

How Missing Person Organizations Benefit Us All

How Missing Person Organizations Benefit Us All

Tragedies can affect communities and society as a whole. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference that impacts us all.

Missing Person organizations support families in their time of crisis, and missing person investigators help them get the support they need.
(Morgan Nick vanished on June 9, 1995, in the small town of Alma, Ark.)

It was 24 years ago, on June 9, 1995, that a little girl vanished at a Little League baseball game in the small town of Alma, Ark., within the River Valley at the edge of the majestic Ozark Mountains. Beautiful Morgan Chauntel Nick, age 6, with long blonde hair and blue eyes has not been seen since.

Morgan Nick is the eldest of three other children. She loved cats and according to her mother Colleen Nick, she was a shy little girl. A Girl Scout, Morgan loved bubble gum and said she wanted to be a doctor or a circus performer when she grew up.

(The baseball park in Alma, Ark., where Morgan Nick vanished.)

The evening of her disappearance, a friend of the Nick family had invited them to a baseball game about 30 minutes away. Colleen told Dateline; the game started late at approximately 9:00 p.m. that night.

Morgan sat in the bleachers with her mom nearly the entirety of the game but towards the end, two kids, a boy and a girl, a few years older than Morgan, asked if Morgan could go catch fireflies with them.

Colleen recalls initially telling Morgan no, but other parents told the worried mother that the kids play in the parking lot all of the time and would be safe.

Colleen ended up telling Morgan she could go play with the other children. “She threw her arms around my neck, kissed my cheek, then the kids all ran out to the parking lot,” said Colleen. “I could turn my head and see she was right there in sight. I checked on them three or four times.”

At the end of the baseball game, Colleen watched as the team walked off the field, momentarily looking away from Morgan who was playing behind the bleachers. When she turned around, she could see the two other children, but Morgan was no longer with them.

Colleen asked the children where Morgan was, and they told her Morgan was at her car emptying sand out of her shoes. “Already, when I couldn’t see Morgan, my heart started beating really fast,” Colleen said in a Dateline interview. “We were somewhere we hadn’t been before. She wouldn’t go anywhere by herself, and there wasn’t even anywhere to go,” Colleen said. “There was no concession stands, no bathrooms.”

Confusion and panic set in for Colleen.

Within minutes a spectator called the police to report Morgan missing. Police responded within six minutes.

Chief Russell White of the Alma Police Department told Dateline that the initial officer on the scene immediately suspected “we might have a bigger problem.” “They did have a lot of manpower or resources, but they did a whole lot right that first night,” Colleen said.

“The other two kids that were playing with Morgan separately told the police about a creepy man in a red pick-up truck with a white camper shell on the back,” Colleen said.

Authorities immediately began an intensive investigation.

“We reached out for help from local agencies, the state police, the FBI,” Chief White said. “We were running a pretty big crew. The FBI brought in lots of extra people and resources and we did not have, like a computer system that could handle this kind of case, which helped tremendously.”

According to Colleen, Morgan’s case files fill up an entire room at the police department. “We have tons of tips coming in every week,” Chief White said. “It’s very unusual for a 24-year-old case to still have so many leads.”

Despite the thousands of leads received in Morgan’s case, she remains missing.

(Colleen Nick, mother of 6-year-old Morgan Nick who vanished June 9, 1995, from Alma, Ark.)

A Mother Fights Back

“She’s not a number. She’s not a statistic. She’s not a case file. She is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend. And she is someone worth fighting for,” Colleen told Dateline. “If you’re not on the front line fighting for your daughter, no one else will. So, it is my job to make sure she never gets lost. Until someone can prove to me that Morgan is not coming home, then I am going to fight for her.”

In the years following Morgan’s disappearance, Colleen started the Morgan Nick Foundation to help prevent other families from going through what she has experienced, to raise awareness of other missing children, and educate the public on safety for children. The foundation also provides crucial support to other families of missing children.

Over the years Colleen has received a countless number of recognitions and awards from the FBI, state of Arkansas, to the International Homicide Investigator’s Association, for her work throughout the state of Arkansas throughout the country.

“When something so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great value,” said Colleen. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.”

24 years later, Colleen continues to selflessly work within her community and nationwide to the benefit of families and children throughout the country.

The National Impact of John Walsh

(Adam Walsh, age 6, who was abducted from a Sears department store and murdered July 27, 1981, in Hollywood, Fla.)

We often forget there is a personal story behind many monumental efforts in this nation and John Walsh is certainly the epitome.

Adam Walsh, age 6, was a little boy whose disappearance and murder changed the way society looked at missing children.

On the afternoon of July 27, 1981, Adam’s mother took him shopping at a local mall in Hollywood, Fla. Reve Walsh had wanted to inquire about the price of a lamp at the Sears department store.

Momentarily, Reve left Adam at an Atari video game display where several other little boys were taking turns playing on the display. When Reve returned, she couldn’t find Adam or the other boys and was told by the store manager that the security guard had asked them all to leave the store.

Adam was paged over the intercom as his mother searched the store and mall for about an hour. She then called the Hollywood Police Department at approximately 1:55 p.m. to report Adam missing.

Tragically, on August 10, 1981, a severed head of a child was found in a drainage canal alongside the Florida Turnpike in Vero Beach, about 130 miles from Hollywood. It was confirmed it was Adam. His body has never been found.

(John Walsh, creator and host of America’s Most Wanted which first aired in 1988. Photo courtesy of Fox 5 News.)

A Legacy

Early on, Adam’s parents John and Reve Walsh were critical of the police investigation which led to John’s anti-crime activism and the creation of America’s Most Wanted which he is well known for.

Lesser known is his impact on laws and organizations for missing children. During the 1980s, John and other child advocates lobbied Congress to pass a law that would protect missing children and educate the public on the importance of child safety resulting in the Missing Children’s Assistance Act and the first national clearinghouse of information for missing children.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

In 1984, the United States Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan creating the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and a 24-hour hotline 1-800-THE-LOST.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, NCMEC has regional office in California, Florida, New York and Texas.

According to NCMEC, in 2018 there were 424,066 entries of missing children in the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

35 years later, NCMEC provides support to thousands of families of missing children each year, missing children’s case management, provides training to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and offers numerous educational programs that fight child exploitation, sex trafficking, and provides critical information to keep our children safe.

Black & Missing Foundation

Tamika Huston vanished into thin air on or around May 27, 2004, from Spartanburg, S.C. and subsequently found murdered.

Spartanburg was Derrica Wilson’s hometown and she recalls watching as Tamika’s family struggled to gain any media coverage on a local or national level while Tamika was missing. A few months later, Natalee Holloway – a white woman – went missing and dominated news headlines, becoming a household name.

“It was heartbreaking to see the difference in the media attention these two cases were getting,” Derrica told Jet Magazine.

(Natalie (left) and Derrica Wilson, co-founders of Black and Missing Foundation. Photo courtesy of Jet Magazine.)

Derrica and her sister-in-law Natalie decided to team up to ensure other families did not face the obscurity that Tamika’s family had experienced. “We combined our professional backgrounds – mine in law enforcement and Natalie’s in media – to create an organization that joins the very important elements in the field of missing persons,” said Derrica.

Founded in 2008, a veteran law enforcement official and a public relations specialist began channeling their skills for a greater good.

Eleven years later, Black and Missing Foundation has become the primary voice for minority missing providing a platform of hope for the overwhelming number of missing persons of color.

AMBER Alert

(Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered on January 13, 1996, in Arlington, Texas.)

On the afternoon of January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was last seen riding her bike in a parking lot near her home in Arlington, Texas. A witness reported seeing a man in a black, flat-bed truck snatch Amber from her bicycle.

Four days later, Amber’s body was found in a creek approximately 3.2 miles from her home. Her murder remains unsolved.

Area residents were outraged and began calling radio and television stations to vent their anger and to also offer suggestions to prevent such crimes in the future. One resident, Diana Simone suggested utilizing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to notify the public when a child has been abducted so the public could also assist in the search. Simone followed up with a letter, with her only request to ensure the program would be dedicated to Amber Hagerman.

The program was eventually taken to NCMEC with a request to implement a national initiative that would eventually become known as the AMBER Alert. What began as a local effort in the area of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has grown into a seamless system used by every state in the country. Since the inception of the program in 1996, through December 31, 2018, 956 children have been safely recovered specifically as a result of an AMBER Alert being issued.

 “When something so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great value,” as Colleen said. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.” Most certainly, the advancements made in the last 35 years are proof the efforts of one person can make a difference.

Adults Have the Right to Go Missing but That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Need Help

Adults Have the Right to Go Missing but That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Need Help

On any given day, nearly 100,000 people are listed as active missing in the United States.

(On any given day, nearly 100,000 people are listed as active missing in the United States. Photo courtesy Creative RF/Getty Images.)

Most of us are aware of our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But for most American’s there is a lesser-known right . . . the right to go missing. 

As of April 30, 2018, there were 86,927 active missing person cases in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) at the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Of that number 14,411 are listed as endangered by authorities. 

While most cases will resolve quickly, others date back decades. 

“If you, as an adult, want to take off and need some time alone, you’re entitled to do that,” according to St. Cloud Police Assistant Chief Jeff Oxton. “That’s the right to go missing and can generate legitimate and sometimes illegitimate concerns from others.” 

At the age of 18, going missing is not considered an offense. Unless the adult has been found to have significant issues with mental health, or if they are legally under the care of another person, it is not a crime to go missing and most resolve without incident. 

“Most missing persons, we find them OK,” said Oxton. “We find there’s been a misunderstanding, or there was another reason they weren’t where they were supposed to be.”

However, that doesn’t always mean that all missing person cases are resolved with expediency. 

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(Missing Marine veteran Jesse Conger vanished from his Scottsdale home August 14, 2019.)

Police in Scottsdale, Ariz., are searching for missing Marine veteran Jesse Conger who vanished without a trace on August 14, 2019. Loved ones fear he may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Conger had served for 10 years and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his military service. 

Authorities say Conger was last seen at his apartment in Scottsdale by his girlfriend Natasha Harwell and may be driving a 2015 Toyota Camry with Nevada license plate number 696G03. 

“I asked him to get help. He kept telling me, ‘No.’ but I feel like I should have insisted a little bit more,” Harwell said. 

When Conger did not come home and never answered her calls or texts, she reported him missing. She noticed his gun was missing but all other personal belongings left at his home, including his wallet with identification, debit card, credit card, and all necessities. His service dog was also left behind. 

“I feel like all the times before when he has done this, it was more like—you could know something was about to happen. He would talk to me about it, I could talk to him. This time he just picked up and left,” said Harwell.

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(Jesse Conger is a United states Marine with PTSD who has been missing for a month from Scottsdale, Ariz.)

The search has gone viral after a tweet from Pulte Group CEO Bill Pulte offered a $30,000 reward to help find Conger.

“I don’t know if I would be alive without my twin brother,” Patricia Conger said. “He’s always been with me. I want you to come home Jesse, please come home and I love you.” 

Scottsdale Police Department is treating Jesse Conger’s case as an “endangered missing person” and added him to the NCIC system at the FBI. 

What Happens When a Missing Person is Entered Into NCIC?

Once someone is entered into the NCIC database they are flagged as missing making their information available nationwide. For example, if they disappear from California and get pulled over or questioned by authorities in Arizona, police are quickly able to run their information through NCIC and make a determination if the individual is possibly a danger to themselves or others. This enables authorities to take them to the hospital. 

There are five categories in NCIC that a missing person can be classified in.

  • Juvenile
  • Endangered
  • Involuntary
  • Disability
  • Catastrophe
  • Other

When a person is added to NCIC, it makes their descriptive and automobile information available to all law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and Coroners in the country.

It is a common misconception that when an adult goes missing, a reporting party must wait 24 hours before making a report to police. 

“There’s just not (a waiting period,)” Oxton said told the Sy. Cloud Times. “And I think that comes back to, you know, people see it on TV, or whatever, that they have to be missing for 24 hours. But that’s just not true.

In fact, there is no national mandate that requires one to wait before going to the police to report an adult missing. 

However, when a child goes missing there is a national mandate requiring law enforcement to accept an immediate missing report, report it to the FBI and enter the person’s descriptive data into NCIC. This is due to the age and vulnerability. Though this national mandate does not apply to missing adults, there still exists no required waiting period to report them. 

When there is a reporting delay for some reason, or something bad has happened, the first two hours are critical.

After receiving a missing person report, police will attempt to find the person in question, which may include contacting the person who made the report, along with friends and family, hospitals and jails. 

If police discover the person went missing on their own accord, legally police cannot tell the reporting party where they are if the missing person does not wish friends and family to know. Police can let the reporting party know they are alive and well and do not wish contact. 

Authorities are expected to make informed judgment calls about whether the missing person is at risk of death or injury. If the person is considered “endangered” it adds more urgency to the case, meaning law enforcement has received enough evidence that the person is at risk for personal injury or death due to one of the following:

  • the person is involuntarily missing or result of an abduction;
  • the person is missing under dangerous circumstances; 
  • there is evidence the person is in need of medical attention or needed medication such as insulin, that would severely affect the person’s health;
  • the person does not have a history of disappearing;
  • the person is mentally impaired or has diminished mental capacity, such as someone with Alzheimer’s or Down Syndrome;
  • the person has been the subject of acts of violence or threats;
  • there is evidence the person may be lost in the wilderness or after a catastrophic natural event;
  • any other factor that law enforcement believes the person may be at risk of physical injury or death. 

Once there is a report on a missing person, it then becomes crucial that law enforcement obtain dental records, fingerprints and have the family submit a DNA sample into the Family DNA database. 

Records and samples are regularly cross-referenced with Unidentified Persons, alive and deceased for matches. 

Jesse Conger is listed as “endangered” in NCIC due to his mental state when he went missing. But what happens when the trail goes cold? 

Until a missing person is found, their entry in NCIC remains active. Once entered police do not stop investigating the case and following up on every lead that is provided by the public.

However, some cases, like Conger’s do not resolve right away and it becomes necessary and effective for police to ask for the public’s help to generate new leads. 

Family and friends commonly try to engage the public and community to help find the missing person, including setting up Facebook Pages to generate leads and offer rewards for information. 

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Behind every missing person appeal, and every headline is an individual story and a family experiencing heartbreak. 

“For law enforcement, at times searching for a missing person is like searching for a needle in a haystack,” says Thomas Lauth, a missing person expert, and CEO of Lauth Investigations International. “Often an effective investigation is a cooperative effort between law enforcement, the public, and the media. 

Lauth has worked on missing person cases for over 25 years, working with local, state and federal law enforcement. “Generating that one lead that law enforcement needs to progress with the investigation becomes of utmost importance.” 

Inevitably some cases go cold but that doesn’t mean the case is closed or impossible to solve.  

 “While missing persons have the right to go missing, the police still pour all of their resources into investigating the disappearance which should be reassuring to families who are experiencing the trauma of having a loved one missing,” says Lauth.