J.J. Vallow & Tylee Ryan: UPDATE

J.J. Vallow & Tylee Ryan: UPDATE

J.J. Vallow & Tylee Ryan

For the past two weeks, the true-crime world has had its eyes fixated on missing minors, Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and the mysterious string of deaths that preceded their disappearance. This case of missing children has already taken so many unexpected turns, leaving family, friends, and journalists alike wondering what disturbing new detail will emerge yet.

The last confirmed sighting of J.J. was back in September of 2019, when his mother, Lori Vallow pulled him out of public school, citing a new job offer out of state that would require her to move her children as well. It was not entirely unexpected, as Vallow also cited the recent death of J.J.’s father as another reason why their family life remained in flux. What she failed to mention was the fact that J.J.’s father, Charles Vallow, had been murdered the previous July when her own brother, Alex Cox, shot Charles in self-defense. She swiftly remarried a man named Chad Daybell, who had also recently lost his spouse, Tammy Daybell. Both Charles Vallow and Tammy Daybell’s deaths are currently being investigated as “suspicious” by respective law enforcement agencies. Lori Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, also died in the weeks following the shooting death of her husband, but his cause of death has yet to be released.

This spinning vortex of death and loss was further compounded by the noticeable absence of 17-year-old Tylee and 7-year-old J.J. It wasn’t until one of their grandparents called authorities requesting a welfare check that a missing persons investigation was launched. Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell fled the area following the execution of the search warrant and were finally tracked down in late January on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Vallow was instructed to produce her children by January 30th or face criminal charges. January 30th came and went, and still no word from J.J. or Tylee.

Now, additional warrants executed by authorities have revealed another disturbing detail. According to the EastIdahoNews, investigators have discovered a storage locker in Rexburg, Idaho listed in Lori Vallow’s name. The storage locker contained items that law enforcement strongly believe belonged to the two children, including photo albums, bicycles, scooters, and winter clothing.

Seventeen-year-old Tylee’s cell phone was also found in Lori Vallow’s possession when authorities finally tracked them down in Hawaii, without their missing children. Police were able to determine that the phone had been used several times since September when the children were last seen, though it is difficult to say by whom.

J.J.’s autism required the use of a service dog, primarily for sleeping soundly through the night. A dog trainer based in Arizona has come forward with startling information, “I was surprised and shocked when I got the call from Lori that she needed to re-home the dog.” Her only explanation was that her husband had recently passed and the family was moving to Idaho.

J.J. is described as a white male with brown hair and brown eyes, standing at 4′0″ and weighing 50 pounds. He also goes by J.J. and may be in need of medical attention. Tylee is described as a white female with blonde hair and blue eyes, standing at 5′0″ and weighing 160 pounds.

Anyone with information about the children is asked to call Rexburg police at 208-359-3000 or report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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.

Alex Holden’s body identified in American River

Alex Holden’s body identified in American River

Alex Holden’s body was identified as the one found in American River. Alex was reported missing on New Year’s Day, 2020.

Police have announced that they suspect “no foul play” in the death of a California man who was reported missing over a month ago. Alex Holden, 25, was reported missing on New Year’s Day after he was last seen the night before. The Sacramento Police Department solicited the public’s help in finding answers surrounding his disappearance, which was described as “uncharacteristic” by his family.

Alex is the son of two Missouri Judges. Alex’s father, Judge Calvin Holden, told the Springfield News-Leader, “He has no history of disappearing. It’s very unusual. You know he missed work this morning, which is extremely unusual. He’s very conscientious about his work.” Judge Holden eventually went on to address the lingering question of whether or not his son would take his own life, to which he gave a categorical denial, “It’s not him. He would never do that. He was one of the happiest people you’d ever know.”

Friends and family were struck with confusion because Alex had shared the location of his mobile device with several individuals with whom he was close, but his phone went dead sometime earlier in the evening, so no one was able to ascertain his last known location. He had been in an argument that evening, and had set off on a walk to another location to sleep. He had walked the route before, and was familiar with the area. His girlfriend, Kennedi Perri, indicated that Alex had been drinking before his disappearance.

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, after almost a month since he was reported missing, a body found in the America River was identified as Alex Holden. In a tweet regarding the tragic news, the Sacramento Police Department said, “This is never the outcome we want from any missing person case. Our hope is that this may provide some closure for the family.”

The family has announced plans for a memorial and visitation ceremony in Springfield on Friday, February 7, 2020 so that friends and family can grieve this terrible loss.

Roman Lopez: Missing boy’s death being investigated as “suspicious”

Roman Lopez: Missing boy’s death being investigated as “suspicious”

Roman Lopez was last seen at his family home on Coloma Street in January of 2020. His body was subsequently found nearby later that same day.

Law enforcement is remaining tight-lipped on the subject of a case that has mystified the town of Placerville, California. Eleven-year-old Roman Anthony Lopez was last seen at the family home on Coloma Street, January 11, 2020. Later that same day, the boy’s body was reportedly discovered. In a Facebook post, the Placerville Police Department said that the body was found. They also reported at a press conference that they discovered the body following a search of the area, and were investigating his death as “suspicious.” Little else was disclosed, however, leaving the community with devastating news, but no answers.  

The radio silence from law enforcement officials has led the public and the press asking questions, but maybe none so fervently as Roman’s biological mother, Rochelle “Shelly” Lopez. Lopez is a military veteran, who unfortunately developed an addiction to pills following an injury she sustained while deployed in Iraq. Because of these circumstances, it was his biological father, Jordan Piper, who was awarded primary custody of Roman. According to Lopez, Piper had relocated several times over the past few years, and had made it difficult for Lopez to see her son.

One of the most tragic aspects of the case so far is that Lopez learned of her son’s death through an online news article. Lopez told KOVR, “Why didn’t anybody let me know? Why didn’t they even know I existed? People in that town didn’t even know that I was his mother. There are so many things that are wrong with this situation and don’t add up and don’t make sense.”

There were seven other children in the home where Roman was last seen. Those children were reportedly moved into protective custody following the onset of the investigation. A spokesperson for the family told Oxygen.com, “The Rochelle Lopez family has full confidence in the law enforcement agencies investigating Roman’s death and know there will be resolve and closure.” The family has offered no other comment as the family prepared to travel to California in order to mourn the loss of Roman Lopez.

On January 16, the Placerville Police Department issued a statement, “We realize that the press and public are looking for answers and mourning the loss of Roman. The police department has also been affected, and has been working tirelessly to complete the investigation. The complexity of the case will require time and patience.” They went on to say that a pathology report regarding the boy’s cause of death will not be available for about a month.

Investigating authorities have encouraged anyone with information regarding Roman Lopez’s death to call Detective Luke Gadow at (530) 642-5210, ext. 116.

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.