The family of LaShaya Stine is still waiting anxiously for answers in her mysterious disappearance. LaShaya was 16 years old and living in Aurora, Colorado with her family when she disappeared in 2016. For almost four years, investigators have been trying to answer the curious questions about that night, including why would a young teen girl suddenly leave her house in the middle of the night?
LaShaya Stine was a bright and diligent student who was on the honor roll at George Washington High School in Aurora. She was on the professional track to become a nurse and devote her life to caring for others. Great things were on the horizon for her, including an internship with the University of Chicago hospital and a potential new job opportunity.
The night of July 15, LaShaya Stine was mentally preparing for that job interview the next day. When her mother, Sabrina Jones, went to bed that evening, LaShaya was still in the house. The next morning, when Sabrina went to wake her daughter for her job interview, she realized Sabrina was gone. Sabrina grabbed the phone and called her daughter’s cell number, but the line went straight to voicemail. The family combed the neighborhood looking for her, but turned up nothing. That’s when the family contacted the authorities and filed a missing person report.
Unfortunately, the investigators at the time treated LaShaya’s case as that of a runaway. It’s not uncommon, when a missing person case gets labeled as a “runaway” case, that investigators will be slow to act or less than thorough when it comes to following up with leads. Another case might be prioritized over a “runaway” case because it deals with a subject who doesn’t want to be found. It wasn’t until a week after her disappearance was reported that the police chief put a new set of eyes on the case.
CCTV footage near LaShaya’s home revealed that she was out walking along East Montview Boulevard around 2:30 am. When investigators showed the footage to her mother, Sabrina Jones said that it was likely her daughter had gone to meet someone, and had every intention to return to the house—seeing as how all of her personal effects, including her wallet and cell phone, had been left behind. The next logical step was to interview the people in LaShaya’s life, primarily her friends. HOweve,r after multiple interviews with LaShaya’s ex-boyfriend and close friends, police still had not generated any promising leads. Seeing as how the investigators had no proof of foul play, it was extremely difficult for them to move forward.
In the years since LaShaya Stine was reported missing, there have been multiple alleged sightings of LaShaya that corroborate theories that she might have become a victim of sex trafficking, such as her coming and going from motels that were known for facilitating sexwork. The witnesses claimed she was in the custody of a man who might have been transporting her across state lines. One girl who was successfully recovered from sex trafficking claimed to have been trafficked with LaShaya, and described a scar on her chest. Despite police follow up, LaShaya was never found at any of the alleged sightings.
The FBI has joined the search for LaShaya, and the case is still being investigated. If you have any sort of information regarding this case, please contact the Aurora Police Department at 303-739-6164 and Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.
The Aurora Police Department, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and FBI are offering rewards totaling $15,000 for information that helps them find LaShaya.
If you watch a lot of crime dramas, either on television or on the silver screen, you might have heard a law enforcement character say something to the effect of, “You must wait 24 hours before reporting a person missing.” It surprises many Americans that this is a myth perpetuated by mainstream media to cover narrative plot-holes. In fact, waiting even a few hours can compromise a missing persons investigation, as the first 72 hours are the most important when investigators begin searching for a missing person.
Close your eyes and try to remember what you had for breakfast three days ago. If you have a repetitive routine, this might be easy for you. Unfortunately, when it comes to interviewing witnesses, investigators just aren’t that lucky. Dr. Bryanna Fox recently told ABC news, in an interview regarding the importance of time in any investigation, “The information that law enforcement gets tends to be a little more accurate, and they are able to act on the information and hopefully get that person who is missing quicker.” The passage of time is one of investigators’ greatest obstacles when it comes to missing person cases. Not only does time hinder a witness’s memory, but evidence is also lost and cannot be properly secured. Leads go cold as time is lost, and the trail slips through investigators fingers.
Those who report a person missing will be one of law enforcement’s greatest assets as a person closest to them, but the pool of human resources doesn’t end with their friends and family. As those close to the missing person begin to fill law enforcement in on their routine, investigators take that information and use it to piece together their movements in the hours before they disappeared. They interview members of the public who are affiliated with the person’s routine, such as their neighbors, coworkers, employees of the grocery store they frequent, hair stylists, mechanics, etc. Locating these witnesses as soon as possible is paramount to providing accurate accounts of what they saw, heard, or noticed during this crucial time frame. It’s important investigators retrace the missing person’s steps as soon as possible in order to gather any physical evidence that might lead to their whereabouts. Take a familiar scenario, for instance: A young woman leaving her job late at night is attacked and abducted between the business and her vehicle. The vicinity of this abduction is the initial crime scene. Time (and weather, if outdoors) can erode evidence of a struggle. Scientific methods and investigation procedures become less effective when technicians are unable to observe the crime scene in the same condition at the time of the abduction. Another common issue with the passage of time is securing video footage. Surveillance technology has become so ubiquitous in the United States many investigators, especially those in large municipalities may be able to track a perpetrator’s movements street to street, creating a partial road map to the missing person’s whereabouts. However, depending on the quality of this surveillance equipment, these devices may automatically recycle valuable footage before it can be preserved by investigators, thereby resulting in a dead end.
It’s not uncommon for a person to go missing on their own terms. Perhaps they want a fresh start, or they’re running from law enforcement. Adults are free to disappear, if that’s what they wish, but loved ones should still remain concerned. The first 72 hours of a missing person investigation can be the difference between life and death, as the missing person might be in danger. When law enforcement believe a missing person might not have vanished of their own accord, they classify the person as “missing endangered.” This classification is often reserved for minors under 18, or senior citizens over 65, but definitions vary from state to state. In Indiana, endangered missing persons bulletins are often accompanied by a Silver Alert, which applies to senior citizens and adults who might be imminently harmed. Indiana recently began issuing Silver Alerts when children are reported missing as well to instantly distinguish the circumstances of their disappearance. For instance, a child who is abducted by a custodial parent or family member are often not in immediate danger, qualifying them for an Amber Alert. When there is evidence to the contrary, however, law enforcement in Indiana can issue a Silver Alert to classify the child as endangered missing. Dr. Michelle Jeanis, a criminology professor at the University of Louisiana, describes a horrifying reality that sends fretful parents into a tailspin. In the rare case of a stranger abduction, children are killed only a short time after they’ve been taken. Senior citizens and adults who may have disabilities, mental illnesses, or who are otherwise unable to take care of themselves are also at high risk. Consequently, time is of the essence when it comes to reporting these individuals missing so investigators can jump on their trail to ensure they are reunited with their families safe and sound.
Social media platforms and mainstream media coverage are two of the greatest assets for investigators working on a missing persons case. In tandem with their efforts to follow the trail, the media can publish press releases with the missing person’s picture, identifying information, and the circumstances of their disappearance. As smart devices continue to climb in ubiquity, this means members of the public can have all this crucial info in their hands in seconds. A woman having her hair set in a stylist’s chair may check her social media timeline to see an alert from local law enforcement about a runaway teenager they recognize from the bus stop on their commute. She can alert authorities so investigators can immediately follow that lead. This increases the chances the teen may be found safe and returned to their family. By the same token, members of the public may recognize composite sketches of abductors or other persons of interest.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a person’s disappearance, time is of the essence when it comes to an investigation. When reporting a friend or loved one missing, it’s important you are armed with all possible information for investigators. Deductive reasoning will allow them to shape viable leads to follow in pursuit of their trail. Any knowledge about their personal relationships, routine, and habits will prove more useful than expected. This information allows investigators to make the most of that crucial first 72 hours, increasing the chances the missing person will be found safe and reunited with their loved ones.
Dalton Jack was at his construction job in Dubuque, Montana on the night of July 18th, 2018. He was working almost 100 miles away from his home in Brooklyn, Iowa. There, he had a sweetheart who was missing him—anxiously waiting for him to return so they could soon travel to the Dominican Republic to watch Jack’s older brother get married. Her name is Mollie, and Jack is just one of many who love and adore her for being “the sweetest, kindest, most caring person.” Now Jack, along with family and friends, police, and even the FBI, are conducting a furious search to find Mollie Tibbetts in the days following her mysterious disappearance from a rural Iowa farming community.
Later that evening of July 18th, around 10 PM, Jack opened a SnapChat message from Mollie. She was at his house, watching his dogs for him while he worked. “It was just a selfie with a caption, and I don’t remember what the caption said,” he said. “It looked like she was inside.” The next afternoon, Jack got a call from Mollie’s coworker, saying that Mollie did not call into work that day and never showed up to work her shift. That’s when Jack noticed that Mollie had not opened any of the messages he’d sent her since he received her snap the night before. Jack began contacting her family and close friends to see if anyone had heard from her. No one had. They called the local hospital, but Mollie wasn’t there either, prompting Jack to make a lengthy drive back to Brooklyn.
Misinformation in the media has reported that Mollie was snatched while on a regular evening jog. Jack told authorities that it was unclear what time Mollie’s last snap chat was sent, but it was a few hours before Jack actually opened it—around the time Mollie would have regularly gone out for a jog, as the weather was starting to cool off. “I read somewhere that she was running in a cornfield. That’s obviously not true,” said Mollie’s aunt, Kim Calderwood. “The run happened and then she was at the house as far as we know. I don’t think she would’ve run in the dark,” Calderwood said.
The investigation into Mollie’s disappearance has left local law enforcement mystified. Brooklyn, Iowa is a close, friendly farming community, where no one is a stranger to their neighbors. Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel cannot remember anyone in the community ever being missing for this long in the past, but the geography of Brooklyn is making the search difficult. “We’re surrounded by farm ground — corn and soy beans. Right now, the corn is probably eight, nine feet tall. The only way you can search it is basically walk down every other row,” he said. “It’s difficult. Even the planes flying over have a difficulty looking down in the corn rows.” The police at this time have named no suspects, having cleared Dalton Jack after validating his alibi in Dubuque. They have not yet ruled out abduction. They hope to utilize the data from Mollie’s cell phone and her fitness tracker to answer some questions about what happened that night. According to the New York Post, “Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt said Wednesday that investigators believe they’ve ‘put together a pretty solid timeline’ of what 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts was doing before she was last seen jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.” The article goes on to say investigators only wish they could comb the information faster in the interest of finding Mollie.
In just a week, the search party has ballooned from dozens to hundreds, with the FBI recently joining the effort. In the first days of her disappearance, friends and family tweeted to celebrities with Iowan roots who might use their fame to spread Mollie’s face and name across the country, in the hopes that someone has seen her. Celebrities who participated in this effort, including Adam Devine, Brandon Routh, American Idol winner Maddie Poppe, Kurt Warner, and comedian Tom Arnold.
In the meantime, her family agonizes over their missing daughter, but they have not given up hope that Mollie will soon return to them, safe and unharmed. “We know that Mollie knows how much we love her and how important she is to her entire family,” a cousin told PEOPLE. “We want her to know that we will never stop looking for her.”
This is a developing story…
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. For more information on missing persons topics, please visit our website.
Polaroid found in parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe Florida in July 1989.
Tara Calico’s disappearance has baffled investigators for decades. In July 1989, a color Polaroid of an unidentified young woman and a little boy was found by a woman in a convenience store parking lot in Port St. Joe, a beach town approximately one hour south of Panama City, Florida.
The woman who found the photograph in a vacant parking space said she saw a man driving a windowless Toyota cargo van parked there when she arrived at the store. The man was described as being in his 30’s with a mustache. The photograph had recently been taken. Officials at Polaroid said the picture was taken after May 1989 because it was not available until then.
In the picture, the young woman glares at the camera, her mouth covered with black duct tape, hands bound behind her back, alongside a young boy who looks scared, his mouth taped and hands bound behind his back as well.
Pictured alongside the bound woman is a copy of V.C. Andrews book, My Sweet Audrina, a 1982 best-seller about a young girl who is haunted by her sister’s death. The thriller touches upon rape, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and autism.
The photograph made the national news and a “Current Affair” where family and friends of a young missing New Mexico woman saw a haunting resemblance. Tara Calico vanished in Belen, New Mexico, 10 months earlier on September 20, 1988. They contacted Tara’s mother, Patty Doel, who insisted she meet with investigators and see the photograph firsthand.
After viewing the photograph, Patty insisted the picture was her missing daughter, even noting a discoloration on the leg of the woman pictured being identical to a large scar on Tara’s leg she had sustained in a car accident. Not to be overlooked, V.C. Andrews was also Tara’s favorite author.
The photograph has been carefully analyzed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation who felt the photograph was not of Tara while Scotland Yard declared it was her.
On Tuesday, September 20, 1988, Tara left her home at approximately 9:30 a.m. to go on a daily bicycle ride along New Mexico State Rd. 47 in Belen, a route she took almost every morning. A small town, Belen only had a population of 7,152 in 2015.
Tara Calico missing from Belen, New Mexico since September 20, 1988
Sometimes accompanied by her mother, Patty had warned her daughter to carry mace with her when she rode but Tara rejected the suggestion. On the morning of Tara’s disappearance, she playfully told her mother to come and get her if she did not return by noon because she had plans to meet her boyfriend at 12:30 p.m. to play tennis.
When Tara did not return, anxiously Patty drove south along Tara’s usual bike route but could not find her. In the process of searching, she spotted a Boston cassette tape lying on the side of the rugged road. She immediately called the police.
Later police would find pieces of Tara’s Sony Walkman alongside the road. A pink Huffy bike would later be found in a ditch at a secluded campground approximately 20 miles from Tara’s home.
Several witnesses told police they had witnessed an older light-colored pickup truck, about 1953, with a camper shell following close behind her as she rode along the highway. Quite possibly, Tara would not have even noticed if a vehicle was following behind her while she listened to Boston on her Walkman.
The boy in the disturbing photograph remains unidentified to this day. Initially, when the photograph was found, the mother of Michael Henley said she was “almost certain” the boy in the Polaroid was her missing son. Sadly, Michael Henley was found deceased in June 1990 in the Zuni Mountains near where his father and he were hunting when the child vanished in April of 1988. It was determined he died of exposure.
Another missing child case has caught the attention of law enforcement as the picture strongly resembles David Michael Borer missing since April 26, 1989, from Willow, Alaska, about five hours south of Fairbanks.
Resemblance between missing child David Borer and the unidentified boy in Polaroid
David was last seen walking along Parks Highway about 11 miles on his way to a friend’s home or to the Kashmitna River sandbar.
David once hitchhiked to Wasilla, approximately 30 miles from his home and described as a very independent young child,
Canine searches tracked his scent to Parks Highway, but the scent was lost at the road and there have been no signs of him since.
A missing lead
In 2008, the Sheriff of Valencia County claimed he had received information about what happened to Tara. A witness came forward telling law enforcement two teenagers had been following Tara in a Ford pickup truck, trying to talk to her and grabbing at her. Apparently, they accidentally hit Tara and panicked, then killed her. No further information surfaced from this allegation and no arrests were made.
Tara’s stepfather, John Doel, disputed the sheriff’s claims telling media the sheriff should not have released this information without enough circumstantial information to make an arrest.
More haunting photographs surface
In 2009, twenty years after the Polaroid was found, pictures of a young boy were mailed to the Port St. Joe police chief, David Barnes. The sheriff received two letters with photographs included, one postmarked June 10, 2009, and the other postmarked August 10, 2009, from Albuquerque New Mexico. One letter contained a photo copy of a young boy with very light brown hair with a band of black ink drawn over the boy’s mouth as if it were covered in the 1989 Polaroid.
The second letter contained the original picture. On August 12th, the Star Newspaper in Port St. Joe received a letter, also from Albuquerque, with the same picture, with the same hand-drawn mouth covering. Law enforcement has never been able to confirm the original Polaroid and the pictures received in 2009 are of the same boy. None of the three letters contained information indicating the child’s identity. Though there was not a reference to Tara’s case, police felt confident it was potentially connected.
Two other Polaroids have been found over the years some believe may be of Tara. The first was found near a construction site. It was a blurry photograph of a seemingly nude girl with tape over her mouth, light blue striped fabric behind her, similar to the fabric seen in the original Polaroid. It too was taken on film not available until 1989.
Copy of Polaroid found in Montecito, California.
The second photograph is of a terrified woman bound on an Amtrak train (possibly abandoned), her eyes covered with gauze and big black framed glasses, with a male passenger taunting her in the photograph.
Of the many photographs and unidentified remains Patty had to view to help police throughout the country rule out, these three could never be ruled out by her mother.
Sadly, Patti Doel passed away in 2006, never finding out what happened to her daughter. Tara’s father passed away in 2002. However, with advancement in technology, Tara’s remaining family and stepfather still hold out hope they will one day find out what happened to her.
Valencia County Sheriff’s Office is not actively pursuing any of the photographs as possible leads. Instead, they are working with the FBI analyzing local suspects given the information provided to the sheriff’s office years ago that Tara was killed by local residents of her small community. Supported by witness reports claiming Tara was followed prior to her disappearance and she was also receiving threatening notes placed on her vehicle prior to her disappearance.
Michele Doel, Tara’s stepsister, told People Magazine when asked if the Polaroid with the young unidentified boy is Tara she responds, “If I had to say yes or no, definitively, yes, that is her,” says Michele. However, she added “Does that make sense? No. That’s not the story that makes sense.”
Current lead investigator Sgt. Joseph Rowland at Valencia County Sheriff’s Department said the vehicle in the first polaroid was identified as a van and the sheriff’s department received many tips about vans that were not fruitful.
Mother never lost hope
Patty Doel died in 2006 after suffering several strokes after relocating from New Mexico to Florida with her husband John.
Friends and family say her daughter was always on her mind, never giving up hope she would one day find her.
She and her husband John even had a bedroom they kept for Tara, placing passing birthday and Christmas gifts there.
Even after the strokes, Patty would see a young girl on a bicycle and point and write her daughter’s name. Her husband would have to tell her it wasn’t Tara.
Tara’s older brother Chris told People Magazine he believed the stress of his sister’s disappearance and lack of resolution significantly shortened his mother’s life.
“The police would send photos of every possibility, including pictures of bodies, dismembered bodies, and every time mom got an envelope with the newest pictures, she had to look at them,” Chris told People. “She couldn’t not look , but it tore her up every time.”
The first Polaroid told Patty her daughter might still be alive, she survived whatever and whoever abducted her.
A case that is not exactly cold, Tara’s family holds onto hope; and many of the missing person investigators have taken the case into retirement with them. A case that happened long ago but is never forgotten.
For the last two weeks, the family of a missing Norristown mother have been fearing the worst.
Jessica Guidici, 32, had been missing for eight days when authorities finally listed her as missing. In her absence, four children were left without a mother. The longer family went without hearing from her, the more concerned they grew, as no one in the family who has spoken out about Guidici’s disappearance made any indication she would leave her children of her own free will.
Their concern was only compounded by the circumstances surrounding the last confirmed sighting of Guidici. She was last seen on June 12th in the local Norristown McDonald’s parking lot around 9:00 in the morning. According to the Find Missing Jessica Guidici page, “She was last seen with Alex Webster, who has also since gone missing. Webster has deleted his Facebook account…According to the press release, Jessica was in visible distress when she was last seen.” Other witnesses told various media outlets she was visibly upset and crying.
Despite these reports, her case was not being treated as suspicious. In a Facebook post, one of Guidici’s close friends expressed her frustration, “Even if she WAS MAD AT HER MOM AND FELL IN LOVE AND WANTED TO RUN AWAY, she would have called one of us. No matter what.” It sounds ludicrous given the reported circumstances of her last sighting, but this is not uncommon in the case of missing adults. Without any evidence of a disturbance, law enforcement are not always able to assume the worst right away, as adults can come and go without explanation.
On June 27th, Norristown law enforcement reported Jessica Guidici had been found safe. She told investigators she dropped out of contact with her family of her own free will and advised she had never been in danger. While her family can breathe a sigh of relief she’s been found alive, the circumstances of her disappearance still remain a mystery.
This is a developing story…
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. To learn more about what we do, please visit our website.