Missing persons and runaway cases are among the most challenging issues facing law enforcement today. A detective must consider a number of variables when there is no explanation for a person’s disappearance. Was the missing person a victim of foul play? Did they suffer an accident? Was a child kidnapped by another parent and in danger? Do they have diminished mental capacity or other high-risk health risks? Was a child abducted by a stranger? Has the runaway been lured into sex-trafficking?
According the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Crime Information Center (NCIC), on average, more than 800,000 people are reported missing each year. Though many of the cases are resolved, approximately 85-90% of those cases are children under the age of eighteen.
As of January 31, 2018, there were 86,664 active missing persons cases in NCIC, with nearly 40,000 active juvenile missing person cases. This number is an average daily total of active missing person cases on any given day. Additionally, there were 8,645 active unidentified persons cases in the national database referred to as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) at the FBI.
Large computer database systems are used by federal agencies.
What is NCIC?
NCIC is a database system accessible to all law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners in the United States. When law enforcement takes a missing person report, or an unidentified living or deceased person is found, the person’s descriptive information and other pertinent data, photograph and property information is entered in NCIC.
The NCIC system regularly cross-references missing person data (files) with unidentified person’s data to find potential matches.
Ideally, every missing person’s data would be entered in NCIC; however, the issue of missing persons is quite complex.
Missing Person Laws
When a child under the age of eighteen is reported missing, police are required by a 1982 congressional mandate to immediately take a report and enter the child’s information into NCIC.
In 2003, Suzanne’s Law was passed for persons between 18 and 21 reported missing, as part of the national “Amber Alert” bill. Previously, police were only required to report missing persons under the age of 18. With Suzanne’s Law enacted, any person under the age of 21 is considered a missing child and law enforcement is now required to also take an immediate missing person report and enter the person’s information into NCIC. One drawback, many law enforcement agencies are still unaware the law exists.
For missing individuals over the age of 21; however, the determination to accept a missing person report is left up to the discretion of each law enforcement agency based upon protocol. Due to the difference existing for missing adults vs. missing children cases, resources for a missing adult can be minimal at times.
There are approximately 17,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. and many do not have the time or resources to allocate to missing person cases. According to the national Unified Crime Report during 2016, police made 10,662,252 arrests while protecting our communities and leaving police departments throughout the country stretched.
This can be frustrating for families who are concerned for the safety of their loved one.
Many times, police are reluctant to respond with searches for people who may have left of their own accord, or someone who may be living on the street. In many cases where a search response is required, due to suspicious circumstances or threat to life, an actual search can only be prolonged for so long.
Police conducting a ground search for a high-risk missing person.
In addition, there could be jurisdictional issues complicating a search for a missing person where a person goes missing in one law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction; however, their car is found in another, causing complications in search efforts.
Many times, when an adult goes missing, there is not even a starting place or evidence left behind, and the person simply vanishes with no explanation.
Or, a loved one may go missing while visiting another country which can also tie U.S. law enforcement’s hands and causing virtually no effort to be made to find the missing person.
When a loved one is missing, it is necessary to act in a swift, efficient, and organized manner.
Hiring a Licensed Private Investigator
Often, it is necessary to hire a licensed private investigator with experience working with missing person investigations. One who will work cooperatively with law enforcement can be an asset to an investigation.
With a private investigator, there is a pre-determined time-frame to search for the missing person that can be extended until family of a missing person is satisfied all leads have been exhausted. There are no jurisdictions holding a case back when a private investigator is involved. Private investigators can travel state to state and even out of the country if warranted.
There are many different situations where a private investigator can be of assistance in a case, such as:
- Searching for loved ones who have voluntarily disappeared.
- Long-term missing persons/cold cases.
- Minors who may be been victims of human trafficking or kidnapping.
- Missing persons with diminished mental capacity.
- Individuals missing due to suspicious circumstances.
- Individuals missing with domestic abuse history.
Private Investigator’s Tools of the Trade
When we talk tools of the trade, it is important to note, nothing can take the place of good old fashion “Sherlock Holmes” investigative techniques and pounding the pavement. Private investigators have the benefit of working independently and making rapid decisions benefiting an individual case, sometimes operating outside of the boundaries of what law enforcement’s capabilities. Such as, tracking a potential suspect without requiring a warrant, questioning witnesses, interviewing suspects, and even paying informants when necessary.
Surveillance photographs of a suspect in a sexual assault case in Boulder, Colorado.
Private investigators can conduct background checks, court and other records searches, financial records, work and employment information, identify coworkers, business associates, and friends, analyze computers and social networking information, conduct surveillance and search facilities such as jails, mortuaries, and hospitals.
In cases where an individual is missing in another country, a private investigator can travel to identify and interview potential witnesses or suspects and work with the American consulate to better effect an investigation.
Private investigators will work in cooperation with a law enforcement agency.
A missing persons investigation is a thorough examination of circumstances involving a missing person’s disappearance and every stone must be turned when time is of the essence.
Because private investigators are not limited to one jurisdiction, they often have a network of other private investigators, law enforcement, and nonprofits to assist if necessary, ensuring all resources are being utilized.
Many private investigators have previous criminal investigation experience and worked for local, state and federal agencies throughout their career, expanding their knowledge base and skills.
If a family of a missing person is unable to get law enforcement to take a missing person report or believe they have not been properly categorized as a “high risk” missing person, private investigators can investigate and present information to the law enforcement agency to reevaluate their initial determination and effect a missing person report.
Following are investigative activities licensed private investigators may assist with:
- Identify circumstances of the missing person’s disappearance
- Determine where the person was last seen
- Investigate potential crime scene and photograph documentation
- Interview the reporting party
- Interview potential witnesses and/or suspects
- Develop list of all known associates
- Communicate with law enforcement details of the case that can assist in making a missing person report or assist an existing police investigation
- Ensure missing persons information has been properly documented and entered into NCIC and other databases
- Systematically canvas area, question local community members, businesses, etc.
- Identify personal belongings that should be saved and can be turned over to law enforcement authorities for DNA testing, if necessary
- Work with media when necessary
- Identify additional resources
- Provide guidance
When a loved one is missing, time is of the essence and it is critical to identify the circumstances of the person’s disappearance. When considering hiring a private investigator, it is important to remain cognizant there is only so much that can be done by law enforcement; whereas, a private investigator can devote full attention to a case ensuring the proper steps are taken to search for a loved one.
Corinna Slusser, 19, was last seen at the Haven Motel in Queens, New York the morning of September 20, 2017. New York Police Department (NYPD) fears she was kidnapped by a sex trafficking ring and friends and family fear the worst.
According to relatives, in early 2017, Slusser had dropped out of her Bloomberg, Pennsylvania high school and moved to New York City with a 32-year old man she had hoped was giving her a “fresh start.”
According to Marnie O’Neill’s article “Missing teen feared kidnapped by sex-trafficking ring left cryptic Instagram clue,” Slusser’s aunt Julie Anne Becker-Calfa told Dateline, “She wanted out of this small town and this guy gave her that out.”
Police instead suspect the man, turned “pimp”, lured her into prostitution.
Police fear Corinna Slusser has been kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring
The pimp, whose name has been withheld by police, was arrested and held on a $1000 bond.
Court documents revealed on August 25, 2017, police had responded to a 911 call at 1:15 am from the Harlem Vista Hotel and found Slusser “crying and shaking”. She told officers her pimp had stolen $300 from her while she was in the shower. He began strangling her when she confronted him, slamming her against the wall, making it hard for her to breathe.
The court issued a temporary “Order of Protection” to Slusser and a copy was mailed to the address she listed on file at her mother’s home back in Pennsylvania.
Slusser’s mother, Sabina Tuorto, opened the mail to find a copy of the order several days later. Fearfully, she called her daughter to ask what was going on; however, Slusser told her mother not to worry.
When Slusser did not show up at her grandfather’s funeral in Florida, her family reported her missing on September 12th.
On September 20th, an anonymous individual called the NYPD and told them Slusser had been seen leaving a hotel in Queens. Police have confirmed; however, she has not been seen since, elevating concerns of family and police.
Mysterious Instagram Post
On September 10th, Slusser posted a puzzling message and mysterious photograph on Instagram featuring a young woman wearing a black baseball cap and smoking a joint in the middle of heavy traffic on a city street. It was her last post since she was reported missing.
An avid social media user, Corinna Slusser’s last Instagram post on September 10, 2017
NYPD’s Vice Human Trafficking Team fear Slusser has been kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring and passed to different pimps since her disappearance. Investigators suspect sex-traffickers kidnapped Slusser after she reported her pimp to police, a rule not to be broken in the underground world of sex-trafficking.She tagged the picture, “The Bronx”, but friends and family both have said the picture looks like it was taken somewhere in South America rather than New York.
Prior to her disappearance, a cheerleader and popular student in high school with future dreams of becoming a makeup artist, Slusser suddenly moved out of her mother’s home at age 17 and dropped out of school. While staying at a friend’s home near her mother, Slosser began suffering from depression and attempted suicide. While recovering in the hospital, she met the man who lured her to New York in March.
From High School to Possible Call Girl
According to an interview with Oxygen, “Corinna Slusser’s Aunt Believes She Was a ‘Call Girl’ Who Was Killed or Abducted After Attempting to Go Home”, Becky’s aunt told them she fears her niece was abducted or murdered after trying to return home.
While in New York, Slusser sent home photographs of her new apartment in the Bronx telling family she was working “customer service” on weekends.
According to Slusser’s aunt Becker-Calfa, Slusser’s social media posts were becoming more provocative and inappropriate.
She told Oxygen, “People have come forward saying she was boasting that she was making a lot of money doing things called dinner dates but saying there was no sex involved – that was when she first moved out there – and that meant they were just paying to take her to dinner. [Police] believe that escalated into actually being a call girl. She was still being treated well and apparently was able to get her own apartment. When she wanted to go home the next day, that was when they believe she was abducted.”
On October 10th, Slusser’s mother posted a plea on Facebook, “My daughter was a great student, a cheerleader. She had many friends and lived her life as a normal teenager. I need her home and I can’t bear any more days like this, I fear the worst, but I pray for the best and her return home.”
NY Daily News, “Missing teen sex trafficking victim has likely been passed between pimps and sent out of New York,” reports police suspect Slusser is no longer in New York city. They feared she had been moved from her home-base in Harlem or killed after filing assault charges.
A source told Daily News, “There is no indication she is subject to foul play,” but added nothing is certain. Slusser’s name has come up in several vice investigations giving some hope she is still out there.
As an avid social media user, there have been no posts from Slusser since September 2017.
The Toll of Human and Sex Trafficking
Human trafficking is defined as the exchange of money for services that have been obtained by force, fraud or coercion. There is little to no difference in the definition of sex trafficking.
Thomas Lauth, CEO of Lauth Investigations International, has worked missing persons, human and sex-trafficking cases for over twenty years. “Human trafficking is a hidden crime because victims are often afraid to come forward,” said Lauth. “They fear the wrath of the traffickers and may also fear law enforcement.”
A sex-trafficking victim profiled in a BBC report, “Shandra Woworuntu: My life as a sex trafficking victim,” had arrived in the U.S. hoping to start a new career in the hotel industry. Instead, she was trafficked into prostitution, sexual slavery, forced drug-ingestion and extreme violence.
Shandra Woworuntu, a human sex trafficking survivor now runs Mentari, helping other survivors.
“Customer service is the key to this job, I was told,” said Woworuntu. A graduate of finance, she passed the tests for employment and accepted the job working in the U.S. for $5,000 per month.
“I arrived at JFK airport with four other women and a man and we were divided into two groups. Johnny took all my documents, including my passport, and led me to his car with two other women,” said Woworuntu.
The driver proceeded to take her to another driver, they exchanged money and demanded they switch cars. This happened three more times. They were taken to a house where they were exchanged, yet again, to a driver with a gun.
“After just a few hours in the U.S. I was forced to have sex,” Woworuntu said. “I did what I was told.”
The traffickers who participated in Woworuntu’s kidnapping were American, Indonesian, Taiwanese, and Malaysian Chinese. One man even had a police badge though she does not know to this day if he was really an official.
She was then taken up and down I-95, to various brothels, apartment buildings, hotels and casinos on the East coast. Woworuntu said, “I was rarely in the same place, and I never knew where I was going.”
The traffickers made her take drugs like meth, cocaine and weed at gunpoint, along with alcohol. Some customers were violent, white guys, black guys, Hispanics guys, old men and even university students.
The traffickers had told Woworuntu she had to pay back $30,000 before freedom would be granted. She would have to service, at least, 300 men to afford this amount. She felt hopeless.
With all the strength she could muster, Woworuntu found an opportunity to escape. She went to police as well as the Indonesian consulate but received no help. She found herself sleeping on the Staten Island Ferry, the NYC Subway and Times Square when a man listened to her story and called the FBI.
Eventually, “Johnny” and others were arrested due to Woworuntu’s testimony. Several other women were freed because of Woworuntu’s courage.
The rest of the story is now history and Woworuntu is a success story. “The FBI connected me with Safe Horizon, an organization in New York that helps victims of crime and abuse, including survivors of human trafficking,” said Woworuntu.
The group helped her get housing and secure a job. For her cooperation with the FBI, she was granted permanent residency.
Now, 17 years later, Woworuntu runs Mentari, a Human Trafficking Survivor and Empowerment program.
The organization offers:
Children’s Educational Books
Culinary Art Training
Peer to Peer Support
Training and Lectures
Transitional Housing (planning)
“When we find victims of sex-trafficking, ensuring they have the proper resources gives them a better chance at overcoming the trauma of being a victim,” says Lauth. “Programs like Mentari are giving victims a fighting chance.”
Kathleen Haley, a 37 year old woman missing from Newport, Virginia, has not been seen since August 22nd. Kathleen’s sister, Diane Roman, was the last person to hear from Ms. Haley, speaking with her on the phone on September 1st. This is very unusual according to their mother, who said that she typically talked to Kathleen at least twice a week. In fact, they had plans for Kathleen to help her mother get her car inspected, but Kathleen never showed up. After Kathleen’s mother couldn’t locate her at her apartment on the 7th of September, combined with the fact that she had not been heard from in a week now; Kathleen’s mother reported her missing.
It is reported that there were several items missing from Haley’s condo. However, in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, the police have not yet released exactly what those items are. It is known, however, that her dog, a boxer, is missing from the condo. Haley’s brother in law, Manuel Roman, made a comment regarding the missing items, saying “It’s just stuff you don’t take with you if you’re going on a trip. Stuff you don’t necessarily take anywhere.”
Kathleen’s family portrayed her as leading a private life, not sharing a multitude of details with anyone, and being annoyed by nosy people. Her family could not think of anything that seemed to be bothering her leading up to her disappearance. Kathleen’s car is parked in her driveway, which the family says is very unusual. Manuel Roman stated, “It’s just totally unlike her to not call, to not be on Facebook, to not move her car.”
The family is concerned for her safety, and asking for the public’s help. They are seeking any information, no matter how big or small, regarding her disappearance and/or whereabouts. Roman posed the question, “If you had someone who was missing, wouldn’t you want somebody to come out and say ‘I know this little bit?’” If you have any information regarding this case, please immediately call the Newport News Police at (757) 247-2500. You can remain anonymous by calling The Crime Line, at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
Spencer Shank, writer for MPAN
An 18 year old woman went missing from Kosciusko County in Warsaw, Indiana a week ago today, by the name of Aurora Shoemaker. There is not an abundance of information on this case, due to her abrupt disappearance.
The young adult is described as being 5-foot-6, a slender build, short blonde hair, green eyes, and piercings in her lip. She was seen last Thursday at approximately 4:00 P.M. leaving her mobile home at the Acres Mobile Home Park going out for a walk, however, she never returned. The sudden disappearance, coupled with her cell phone going unanswered caused her family to contact the Sheriff’s Department on Sunday to report her missing.
Police say that as far as they know, she does not have a history of running away. They are also requesting the public’s help in finding Aurora, so if you know anything about this young woman’s disappearance, please contact the Sheriff’s Department at either their anonymous line 574-372-2494 or their regular line at 574-267-5667
Law enforcement continues searching for Alpha Sabbithi, 27, of Oak Lawn, Illinois after discovering his locked car at 4:00 A.M. Sunday morning. The vehicle was located near Maple Lake forest preserve, and his cell phone, car keys, and wallet was sitting on the seat inside.
Alpha Sabbithi is described as being 5’11, 160 pounds, and having brown eyes with matching colored hair. When he was last seen, according to the alert, he was wearing a black T-shirt and brown cargo pants. His shirt reportedly had “Hollywood” written on the front in white letters.
The division chief of the Oak Lawn police stated that the area would be further searched by one of his officers as well as officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department- the officers holding jurisdiction. The search was also aided by police searching the lake in boats while a police helicopter surveyed the surrounding area by air.
According to the alert posted by Oak Lawn police, a bloodhound search dog was used from the Joliet police department; the dog was said to have caught Sabbithi’s scent at a boat launch at Saganashkee Slough, but Alpha was not there.
It is known that Sabbithi suffers from depression; however, his brother informed police of Alpha’s two week stay at a Michigan monastery recently, which he had learned of when seeing his brother for the last time on Saturday. His brother went on to say that Alpha seemed more relaxed and that “It was a personal thing for him”.
If you have any possible information in regard to Sabbithi’s whereabouts, please contact the Oak Lawn Police at (708)-422-8292.