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November 20th, 2005

Undeclared Homicide and Missing Persons

Losing someone is hard. Not knowing what happened, or who killed them makes it harder. Then there is the unbearable pain of not knowing anything at all: the missings persons case. Someone disappeared. That’s all the family and friends of this person know and in some cases that is all they ever will know. They enter a nightmare limbo of waiting. Will they hear their father’s voice, or the police telling them they’ve found his body, or nothing at all until the day they die?

It could be a homicide, it’s almost certainly a homicide in many cases, but without convincing evidence, in many cases it’s almost impossible to get the case declared a homicide. Instead, the case will go to missing persons, where there are limits to what they can and will do.

As I learned writing The Restless Sleep, of all the things law enforcement does, finding people is often the most difficult. It’s one thing to figure out who the murderer is, it’s another thing to find him. There’s a lot of failure in missing persons work.

It’s a big subject, and I can’t cover it all in one blog post, but I wanted to introduce the topic. I’ve gotten more than one email about these limbo cases.

There is an incredible group of volunteers who have set up something called The Doe Network. They help law enforcement solve missing persons cases and identify unknown murder (and other) victims. I don’t know a lot about them yet, but they seem to be a creative and resourceful group. You can never sit back in life, waiting for someone else to do what needs to be done. But even if you’re willing to do whatever’s necessary, it can take a long time to get up to speed and learn how to be effective. And it’s hard to accomplish anything alone. The accumulated and accumulating expertise in this wonderful organization addresses both issues, and I would love to see it grow.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: New Websites, Books and other Resources · Practical Info for Families and Friends of Victims ·

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Debbie Fleming // Nov 22, 2005 at 12:26 am

    I had comments on this subject it is the not
    knowing that is the hardest. My Uncle John
    Victor Dial has been missing since July 1,
    1966 to make a long story short my grandparents
    never filed a police report both deceased now so I filed a police report in February 2005 it was
    not a easy task it has been a challenge to deal
    with longer term missing is to work with the
    police department in hope if any information they
    act on it eveybody thought I was insane after 39
    years file that police report but, felt it had to be done to complete that task where my grandparents failed and I must see this through
    to find the answers and hope in the end for our
    family to get the closure we hope for. Alot of times cases are mishandle and lose cases. I would also like to point out some agencies ignore the law by state law to obtain, where available, dental records for all people and alot of case departments follow no follow up reports on long term cases. A important thing
    is to get that missing person name entered into the National Crime Information Center Database
    and some police agencies do fail to use tracking systems alot of times never entered their name into missing persons database by State Patrol & FBI which was my situation but, I would not take no for a answer with the aid of another agency I was able to get my Uncle’s name entered. I feel
    more training, education, need to be in place to make any missing person, adult or child, a case to be worked as a priority until such time, a decision based on facts, can be made. To be honest from what I have seen I don’t think law enforcement agency is going to dedicate those kind of resources to track down each and every missing person which they are not to blame not 100% the fact is alot of agencies do not have those kind of resources or the man power until we get the aid from the federal government to aid in funding and resources in finding all missing persons that is the key. The one thing that really bothers me is how minorities, men
    and women living hardscrabble lives rarely make it to police reports and their needs to be change in this area no case should be singled out over others or given priority over another.
    Today I heard of a case in Philadelphia, PA a unidentified body was in a medical examiner for more than two years the medical examiner was unable to identify the decomposed remains and failed to match the body with missing person reports which the report was filed two weeks after the woman disappeared in 2003. This subject
    runs deep for me and my family because we still
    don’t have answers we don’t know if he is dead or alive but, I want give up and I currently am working with a agency that I hope can help us. My prayers go out to each and every family because I feel your pain, angish, and frustrations over this issue and it does take a long time to accomplish anything alone it doe’s take a long time to be up to speed and learn how to be effective the do’s and the things that you do not do. The one thing is to get in touch with all these agencies such as Doe Network, & etc to get the support you need and they can give you good advice in what plan of action to take also I have been in contact with such wonderful people the families of the missing it is good to talk about it with others with me I feel I have to be busy doing something we the families are the victims here along with missing persons that have been murdered, aducted, and so on. This is a sad story and my prayer oneday is to change the laws and to implement those changes.

  • 2 alonie walton // Jan 2, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    I HOPE SOME ONE CANhelp me fine my baby daughter who have been missing since July 19,2003. that s the last time she was seening in South West Philadelphia Pa. on Warrington Ave. It took two and a half year to get the Philadelphia law enforment to open the case. I was told by several dectective that they did not have time to look for every drug addictive person that get missing. Now that the case is opening IT just setting on the missing person desk .