||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
February 2011 - Recent Crime News - News from other times
FEB - Week 3
Kyle Joseph Downes
||Police seek information on missing L.A. man, 27
February 21, 2011
Authorities are seeking information on the whereabouts of a missing 27-year-old Los Angeles man who is said to be depressed.
Kyle Joseph Downes was last seen about 1 p.m. Wednesday at a residence in the 7300 block of Willoughby Avenue.
Family members told Los Angeles police that he has never gone missing before and that they were concerned for his well-being.
Downes had reportedly been experiencing bouts of depression before his disappearance. Additionally, all of his belongings and his only registered vehicle, a motorcycle, were still at his home, police said.
Downes is white, 5 feet 8 and about 130 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a red T-shirt, blue jeans and black boots.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Los Angeles Police Department's Missing Persons Unit at (213) 996-1800 .
Possible Human Bone Found May Link To Missing Persons
Police Continue Search After Possible Human Bone Found
( Video on Site ) APOPKA, Fla. -- Police in Apopka said they will begin a new search for evidence in a missing person case Tuesday after a detective found what appears to be a human bone in a swampy area off Ocoee Apopka Road and Keene Road on Monday.
Investigators say they believe it could be linked to Chris George. Police said his disappearance has been connected to James Hataway, who was the last known person to see George. Hataway is also a suspect in the disappearance of Tracy Ocasio. Police say he was the last person known to have been with Ocasio after she left a club called The Florida Taproom.
The possible human bone was found in the same area where George's truck was found after he disappeared in February of 2009.
Investigators said this area was searched nearly a dozen times already, but it is usually deluged with swampy water, making it difficult for even a cadaver dog to locate remains.
The discovery has the families of the two missing people hopeful their cases may be solved. "Regardless of where it leads, I'm just glad that they're out there doing the legwork to find out what happened to Chris,” said his mother, Rachel George.
She said she got a call from investigators Monday, telling her they discovered what may be a human bone.
“I'm just glad they're taking proactive steps to investigate this case,” said George.
The discovery also has Ocasio's family hopeful.
"My first thoughts were selfish. I hope this is Tracy, but even if it's not, maybe it's Christopher George and maybe his mother Rachael could get closure,” said Tracy Ocasio's mother Liz Ocasio.
Investigators did not have much daylight Monday to work with after the discovery was made. Tuesday, WFTV expects that Apopka police will have an answer as to whether it really is a human bone. From there they'll begin a much more thorough search of the area.
||Stepmom charged in disabled girl's killing
by MIKE BAKER and MITCH WEISS
February 22, 2011
HICKORY — More than four months after a 10-year-old disabled girl disappeared, her jailed stepmother was charged with murdering her with the indictment coming the same day authorities revealed that they haven't been able to find the dismembered girl's head.
Elisa Baker, 42, was charged with second-degree murder Monday and authorities said she desecrated Zahra Baker's remains to cover up the slaying. Zahra's death was caused by "undetermined homicidal violence," medical examiners said in documents.
An autopsy was done even though authorities haven't recovered many bones, most notably the girl's skull, months after she was reported missing. Several bones showed cutting tool marks consistent with dismemberment. The revelation of the missing skull came in documents released by the state's chief medical examiner shortly after officials in western North Carolina held a news conference about the charge against Baker.
Prosecutor James Gaither Jr. said at the news conference that there was no credible evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in Zahra's slaying. Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins called the murder charge "a milestone of holding someone accountable that members of team Zahra have been working toward since the first words spoken on that 911 call."
Attorneys for Elisa Baker did not return calls seeking comment Monday.
Investigators would continue to pursue leads until the trial begins, Adkins said.
Documents show that police learned months ago that the girl was dismembered after she died. The lack of a head may help to explain the absence of an exact cause of death — and why it took four months for a charge.
Warrants in the case have indicated that Elisa Baker at one point was providing police information about what happened to Zahra's body. The warrants have never revealed how Zahra, who was reported missing Oct. 9 but was last seen weeks earlier, may have died.
Police eventually found the girl's remains in different places around western North Carolina, and Elisa Baker told authorities that she had been dismembered, according to warrants. Elisa Baker has been jailed since the weekend Zahra disappeared, charged with obstructing justice in the investigation by writing a fake ransom note that was found when the girl was reporting missing.
The second-degree indictment cites aggravating factors, saying Elisa Baker had a history of physically, verbally and psychologically abusing Zahra, who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after being stricken with cancer.
Two social services agencies said Monday they investigated reports just months before Zahra was killed that she was being improperly treated. Officials in Caldwell and Catawba Counties said investigators interviewed each family member in those cases but closed each one by concluding that there was no evidence of maltreatment or child safety issues.
The reports included allegations of improper discipline, improper care and an injurious environment.
Elisa Baker has claimed that her husband, Adam Baker, dismembered the body. Adam Baker has denied that, something he reiterated in an interview Monday with WBTV. He also told the station that he's "grateful" for how the investigators handled the case.
The warrant also said cell phone records indicate Adam Baker was not in the locations where Zahra's remains were found on the day Elisa Baker indicated, but that cell phone records showed she was in those places.
Elisa Baker led a nomadic life, with dozens of different addresses over a seven-year period. She was also married seven times and was wed to more than one man on several occasions. She met Adam Baker, seven years her junior, on a website where users create three-dimensional characters to represent themselves.
Adam Baker is free on bond, facing numerous charges not related to his daughter. He moved to North Carolina with Zahra from Australia after meeting Elisa online.
An NAPD officer demonstrates a tracking device that would allow police
to track missing Alzheimer's patients wearing wristwatch sized beacon.
||LoJack for people in North Attleboro Ma.
by DAVID LINTON
NORTH ATTLEBORO - A lost child with autism or an adult with Alzheimer's disease will stand a better chance of being found safe in town thanks to equipment the police department has obtained.
LoJack Safety Net has donated radio receivers and antennas that can quickly track and find missing persons with cognitive disorders who wear a special bracelet equipped with a unique radio wave signal in a program called Project Lifesaver.
The bracelet is water-proof and weighs less than an ounce. Rescue officials can pick up its signal up to a mile away with a portable, hand-held antenna and up to five miles away using it in a helicopter, said Patrolman Christiaan Grunewald, one of three police officers trained to use the equipment.
In a demonstration outside the police station on Monday, Grunewald held a radio receiver and antenna up and scanned the area. Static and a shallow beep could be heard but the beeping noise grew louder as he pointed the antenna in the direction of a bracelet left inside a police station office.
The program is operated in the area by the Bristol County Sheriff's Office but local police can start looking for a missing person using the tracking equipment before a team in the sheriff's office in New Bedford can be deployed.
"The quicker the response the better," Grunewald said.
If a participant in the program goes missing, the family would notify police who would begin the search using the tracking equipment, Grunewald said. The radio frequency is constantly emitted from the bracelet and can be picked up in densely wooded areas, steel buildings and concrete garages.
Most clients in the program can be located within a half-hour and Grunewald says a fast response is always important, "especially in winter when time is of the essence."
Since Project Lifesaver, a non-profit organization, was created in 1999, public safety agencies have rescued nearly 2,300 missing people without serious injuries or death, according to the organization's website.
Most recently, an 8-year-old Quincy boy with severe autism was rescued in less than 15 minutes after wandering near water in that community last September.
Currently in North Attleboro, only the family of a 5-year-old autistic boy is enrolled in the program. But the police department expects more to join.
Grunewald and officers Scott Weiner and Kristine Krishtal are the only officers trained to use the equipment now. But seven other officers are being trained.
The police department joins other area departments, including Attleboro, Rehoboth, Mansfield and Foxboro, in participating in Project Lifesaver.
Officials say the program is important because statistics show that nearly 60 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease will wander at some point from the safety of their homes. In addition, many of them will wander over and over again, according to Project Lifesaver.
The program also refers to a recent National Autism Association survey that shows almost 92 percent of parents felt their autistic child was at risk of wandering from their care.
The program has a $99 sign-up fee and costs $30 per month, which pays for battery replacement.
For more information or to sign up, call the sheriff's department at 508-995-6400 or visit www.bcso-ma.us or call 1-877-4-FIND-THEM or visit SafetyNetByLoJack.com
Stacy McCall (left) and Suzie Streeter in June 1992
||Springfield's new police chief brings new emphasis to case of women missing since 1992
by LAURA BAUER
The Kansas City Star
SPRINGFIELD | Before this city's new police chief took the job last summer, he pulled up the department's website to find out more about the place.
Paul Williams could see where officers had busted meth labs and which businesses had been robbed. Next, he clicked on “Unsolved Cases.” You can learn a lot about a town by its unsolved crime.
Just one case popped up. Grainy photos of three women filled his screen, and his eyes fell on three words that have echoed through this community and region for 18 years.
Three Missing Women.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that's unusual to have just this one thing on the website, just one unsolved case,'” says Williams, who spent nearly 29 years with the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Department before landing in Springfield in July. “‘It must be a big deal.'”
Since then, and since he announced the department would put more focus and energy into the mystery that has haunted this city, he has learned just how big.
Stacy McCall and Suzie Streeter had just graduated from Kickapoo High School on June 6, 1992. Stacy was 18, Suzie 19. In their gold graduation gowns they smiled for cameras, wrapping arms around friends and family.
That night they partied with classmates and planned to go to a Branson water park the next morning.
But by that morning, they — along with Suzie's mom, Sherrill Levitt — were gone. The three vanished from Levitt's home, where the two girls had decided to spend the night.
Family and friends who went to the house looking for them found no obvious signs of foul play. Nothing more than a broken globe on the front porch light and a Yorkie named Cinnamon left alone inside.
The women's cars? Parked out front. Their purses? Inside the house, with money and keys, Stacy's migraine medicine and Levitt's cigarettes and lighter. Friends say the chain-smoker didn't go anywhere without her cigarettes.
Within days, family, friends and volunteers — led by Stacy's parents, Janis and Stu McCall — posted fliers across the region. Many hung tattered and torn for much of the '90s, a constant reminder of the mystery.
“How can you have three women disappear from the face of the earth?” says former Greene County prosecutor Darrell Moore. “That's what was on everyone's mind.”
It still is.
At least one detective has always been assigned to run down leads and tips. Investigators have interviewed people of interest and possible suspects over the years. They've ruled out some, but not others.
Yet in the last three months, a new set of eyes — Williams's — has amped things up for the first time in years.
Three detectives and one sergeant work on the case, following new information and revisiting some leads from the past. The new chief announced the department could dig beneath a Springfield hospital parking garage, where some think the three are buried.
And, on March 7, the 1992 mystery will be the subject of a national television show on Investigation Discovery. The Springfield police will bring in extra staff to handle calls after the show.
“I do feel a surge in energy, momentum that hasn't been there in the last 10 years,” says Janis McCall, who has become a national advocate for the missing since the youngest of her three daughters disappeared. “This is something that everybody in the community wants an answer to … not just me, not just the police.
“So many thought this case couldn't be solved, and that doesn't help the families,” she says. “I think if they put a new outlook and new perspective on it, they will find it is solvable.”
A change of plans
Suzie and Stacy weren't supposed to stay at Suzie's that night. Levitt would have the time to do home projects, like refinishing a chest of drawers.
The two new graduates and others — including close friend Janelle Kirby, who was the glue between Suzie and Stacy — initially thought they'd attend parties in town and then go to Branson and stay at a hotel there.
But they decided that wasn't a good idea. It was getting late. Stacy called her mom at 10:30 and said they'd go to Branson in the morning. She'd spend the night at Janelle's.
The girls went to another party and left before 2 a.m. when police showed up to shoo partiers home. Instead of staying at Janelle's and sleeping on a pallet her mom had made on the floor, the two decided to go to Suzie's house and sleep on her new waterbed.
“I did stuff with Suzie, I did stuff with Stacy and we did things together,” Janelle says now. “It was the very first time the two had done something together, without me or other without other friends.”
Stacy followed in her car and Suzie led the way to Delmar Street.
Where they vanished.
By the next afternoon, when Janelle came looking for her friends, no one was home. The door was unlocked, so she walked inside. Cinnamon the Yorkie yapped at her ankles.
“She was just so happy to see me,” Janelle says. “It was like she was glad to see someone she knew.”
Janelle remembers when she first walked to the front door in her bare feet, she saw broken glass on the small porch. Her boyfriend grabbed a broom and dustpan from the carport and swept it up as a favor to Levitt.
The two started driving, looking along the street, inside storefronts and at a nearby mall. No sign of the three.
Stacy's mom showed up at the Levitt home around 9 that night.
“We didn't think anything had happened,” Janis says. “We were just wondering where the heck they'd gone. I didn't expect anything bad.”
Before long, more than a dozen people had been inside the house, worried and wondering.
At the bottom of steps leading down to Suzie's bedroom sat the women's purses. Levitt's, then Suzie's, then Stacy's, a red clutch sitting on top of Suzie's overnight bag.
“Things were rolling out of the purses,” McCall says.
Levitt, 47, a popular hairdresser, had a large sum of money in her purse.
In Suzie's room, the TV was on. Clothes were scattered about — it looked like a typical teenager's room — and the covers on her king-sized waterbed were disheveled.
Stacy's sandals were on the floor, under her folded flowered shorts. Her jewelry was tucked into the pocket.
It was then McCall realized, “This isn't really fitting in here.”
Two slats of the window blinds in Suzie's room were pushed apart as if someone had been looking out.
“I figured, headlights pulled in and Suzie looked out of the blinds to see who was there,” Janelle says.
In Levitt's room, one side of the covers was pulled back, as if she'd been in bed.
In the bathroom were signs the two friends had gotten ready for bed. Suzie's jewelry lay on a washcloth, and makeup-smeared washcloths were in the hamper.
Janis didn't call 911. That's for emergencies, she thought. She instead dialed 411 to get the number for the Police Department's front desk.
“This wasn't an emergency. Not then,” Janis says. “I was expecting them to walk in at any time. Just within seconds.”
More than 5,000 leads
Springfield Police Sgt. Allen Neal keeps a large version of the old flier hanging in his small office, a reminder of work left to be done.
When the women disappeared, he had been on the department only a year. He was one of dozens of patrol officers who helped in the investigation. They searched parks and lakes, woods and subdivisions.
Officers were told to watch for circling buzzards and to check foul-smelling trash cans. They followed up when people swore they'd seen the women at a restaurant or the airport.
From day one, there wasn't much to go on.
“It's a very frustrating case,” says Neal, now the sergeant over the investigation.
For starters, officers didn't really have a crime scene to work. Most criminal investigations have something to go on. A body. Signs of a struggle. Blood. Something.
“It wasn't like you could go there and say here's the fingernails or button left from the shirt,” says Mark Webb, sergeant in investigations in 1992 and now police chief in Marionville, Mo. “It was pretty much an empty house with a dog in it.”
The glass from the globe may have held clues, but the shards were tossed a good nine hours before the first two officers arrived. More than a dozen people had been in the house, walking on the carpet, sitting on chairs and couches.
“You always want a pristine, uncompromised crime scene when you get there,” Neal says. “In this case you wonder. … It would have been nice for nobody to have been in there.”
But Neal is quick to say no one is to blame. No one had a clue what this case would become.
Since the summer of 1992, more than 5,000 leads have come in, creating more than 10,000 police reports and documents. Officers have received tips from just about every state and several countries. They've analyzed similar cases and reached out to departments investigating serial killers.
In the first days, information surfaced about an old Dodge van. One woman said she saw a young woman driving the van who looked like Suzie, her face frightened, and heard a man's voice saying, “Don't do anything stupid.”
At one point, police parked a similar van outside headquarters, asking for help.
Then-Police Chief Terry Knowles has been criticized in the past for micromanaging the case and not allowing detectives to do their jobs.
Commanders and detectives from the early days have told the new chief about the early investigation and how it can affect follow-up today.
“The investigation was way too top-driven,” Williams says. “I think that hindered the investigation in the onset. I don't know to what extent.
“It's disheartening to me as someone trying to come in and do something, that we may not be able to do anything based on everything that happened in that first year.”
Knowles, who teaches at Washburn University, stands behind his leadership style in such a massive case and disagrees with detectives who said it undermined the investigation.
“This was a major case, not a case you assign and wait for briefings and updates,” he said Saturday. “This is a case that demanded attention. Any decision I made was to help solve this case. … I would never offer a critical opinion on something that happened 18 years ago if I wasn't a part of it. I don't know where that comes from.”
In the past two years, new tips have come in mentioning names that never surfaced before, Neal says. The tips are about people who have a track record of violent crime.
The fact that leads still come in, sometimes once a week, encourages police.
“No, we don't know for sure what happened,” Neal says. “But I do think we're farther along by identifying potential suspects. How close we are is hard to tell at this point.”
Some point to parking garage
When the women disappeared, the Internet hadn't exploded yet. Now that it has, the case has taken on a life of its own.
For years now, a large group of bloggers and sleuthers have dedicated hours and hours to trying to solve the case. Among their convictions: The women are buried under a hospital parking garage.
Kathee Baird, a Springfield area reporter and crime blogger, has repeatedly asked the department to dig at the site and doesn't understand why they haven't. She has spent six years investigating the case on her own, tracking down retired detectives, known people of interest and suspects, and family members of the three.
“There are three women who can't tell us what happened to them,” says Baird, who often refers to the three as “my girls” or “our girls.” “This community as well as friends and family members deserve to know what happened to them and why.”
Several times, she says, people led her to the Cox South hospital site. A psychic also pointed at the parking garage.
Baird arranged for underground radar technicians to peer through the garage surface. Rick Norland of Paola, Kan., used ground penetrating radar at the site years ago.
“At that time, she didn't give us much information,” Norland says. “She wanted us to come in blind. … I think she implied it was a cold case.”
He hit on three “anomalies” inside a 10-by-10-foot space. Anomalies are what he calls disruptions under the ground and these were similar to what he has seen when trying to find buried graves. But he doesn't know what the anomalies are.
Two were close together and the third was at an angle not far away.
“When we tell you something is down there, something is down there,” Norland said. “We just can't identify what that target is.”
Police aren't sure if that location is even a possibility. Some timelines for the garage's construction say crews weren't working there until September 1993, 15 months after the women vanished.
“We're going to put it to rest one way or another,” Chief Williams says. “No, I'm not dedicated to digging in the garage at this point. … It's a possibility.”
Family and friends of the family, though, want police to dig, just to squelch the rumors and some of the rhetoric on the Internet.
Bartt Streeter, Levitt's son and Suzie's brother, said he thinks of his mother and sister every day. He wants to know that police are doing everything they can to find answers to so many lingering questions.
“The Cox hospital site may not be probable, but it's possible,” he said. “Until they look at these locations that are possible, law enforcement will never be able to say they left no stone unturned.
“And where does that leave the families?”
Not giving up
In the last year, the Springfield department cleared three cold-case homicides, two from more than 20 years ago and a third from 2004. Two were solved through police work and confessions, the third through DNA.
That gives Janis McCall hope.
Every night she goes to bed saying the Lord's Prayer first and then something more for her youngest daughter.
“Watch over Stacy, wherever she may be.”
One day last week, Janis sat inside the Victim's Memorial Garden in Springfield's Phelps Grove Park. Years ago, family members dedicated a dark gray stone bench to the three women.
“Do you believe she's been missing longer than I had her?” Janis says, softly, glancing over at the bench. “That's hard.”
Janelle also comes to the bench. She brings her children and talks about her two childhood friends. She keeps a picture near her kitchen sink of the three of them on graduation day.
“I always think, ‘What if I had done things differently?'” Janelle says. “What if they had just stayed at my house? What if we had gone to Branson that night?”
Levitt and Suzie's family had the two declared dead several years ago. Stacy's family didn't and Janis McCall says they never will.
She knows the three are most likely dead, but even if there's 1 percent chance they're not, she'll keep hold of that.
“Until they find their remains or find my daughter,” McCall says, “they better keep looking.”
The new chief plans to continue. Williams is considering bringing in national cold-case investigators.
In his eight months as chief, he says, he has come to understand how important the three missing women are to the city.
“It bothers people inside the department, people in the community,” Williams says. “If we can do something as an agency to reconcile that, we're going to try to do that.
“Or at one point say we've done everything we can.”
Where to call: Anyone with information on the three missing women can call CrimeStoppers at 417-869-TIPS (8477) or the Springfield Police Department at 417-864-1810.
Rev. Fernando Karadima
||Chilean Priest Found Guilty of Abusing Minors
by ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO and PASCALE BONNEFOY
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — After an internal investigation, the Vatican found the Rev. Fernando Karadima guilty of sexually abusing minors in Chile and ordered him to retire to a “life of prayer and penitence,” the archbishop of Santiago said Friday.
The ruling, announced by the archbishop, Ricardo Ezzati, said that Father Karadima, 80, would be relocated to a place where he would have no contact with his former parishioners or “persons that have been spiritually guided by him.”
The accusations by former parishioners against Father Karadima last year stunned Chile, a conservative and predominantly Roman Catholic nation unaccustomed to questioning its priests, especially one as revered as Father Karadima.
He had trained five bishops and dozens of priests, acting as a spiritual leader and father figure for young men who later accused him of molesting them.
The decision is a rare case of a powerful church figure being called to account for the charges of sexual abuse that have swept the Catholic world the past few years.
The Vatican decision “is going to mark a before and after in the way the Chilean Catholic Church proceeds in cases like these, or at least it should,” said Antonio Delfau, a Jesuit priest in Santiago, the capital. “From now on, every case of sexual abuse must be treated with meticulous care and not be based on the gut feeling of a given church official.”
For the accusers, including at least four men who said Father Karadima abused them when they were young parishioners, the decision was a long-awaited vindication. One original accuser said the abuse began when he was 14.
“At last the truth was revealed and acknowledged,” said an emotional Juan Carlos Cruz, 47. “This was like having a father who abused you and a mother who slapped you in the face,” he said of the Catholic Church. “Now I feel like this mother has taken me in.”
President Sebastián Piñera reacted to the decision by vowing that his government would “defend children and minors from sexual abuse with all the strength in the world and force of the law.”
Father Karadima has not been prosecuted criminally. A judge investigating the accusations against him closed the case late last year, ruling that there was not enough evidence to charge him.
An appeals court in Santiago is still deciding whether to reopen the criminal investigation. It remains unclear whether the Vatican's decision will prod the Chilean authorities to do so.
The Vatican ruling announced Friday said that Father Karadima was subject to “lifelong prohibition from the public exercise of any ministerial act, particularly confession and the spiritual guidance of any category of persons.”
In consideration of his age, the Vatican deemed it appropriate “to impose on the accused his retirement to a life of prayer and penitence, also in reparation to the victims of his abuses,” said the ruling, read by Archbishop Ezzati.
If he violates the conditions of the ruling, Father Karadima could face stricter sanctions, including removal from the priesthood, the archbishop said.
Juan Pablo Bulnes, Father Karadima's lawyer, said the priest maintained his innocence and would appeal the Vatican's decision. He said the priest, respecting the ruling, had already retired to a religious convent in Santiago, away from anyone in his El Bosque parish.
The Chilean Catholic Church referred the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last June, sending a 700-page investigative report to the Vatican.
Last month, the Vatican quietly issued its ruling and informed the Chilean church on Jan. 16. Archbishop Ezzati said he notified Father Karadima the next day and immediately identified a new residence for him.
New system to find missing persons unveiled by Pa. state police
Friday, February 18, 2011
by Mercury staff
HARRISBURG — A new alert system has been started to help find those with health or age-related issues who go missing in the state. Called the Missing Endangered Person Advisory System, or MEPAS, it is designed to relay information to the public, law enforcement and other agencies when someone with a disability or who is elderly wanders off.
“MEPAS will provide information about the missing individual to broadcasters to relay to the public. The information also will be sent to law enforcement and other agencies," said acting Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.
MEPAS is not the Amber Alert System, which issues an alert when a child is abducted, Noonan clarified. “MEPAS is not designed to be used for such cases," he said.
MEPAS was established in 2010 through a bill in the state General Assembly. The state police were designated to develop and operate the system.
A MEPA will be issued only when all of the following criteria are met:
|• The circumstances of the incident do not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert;
• The individual is missing under unexplained, involuntary or suspicious circumstances;
• The person is thought to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions; or is known to be in the company of a potentially dangerous person;
• The requesting police agency is conducting an active investigation and has entered the missing person into the National Crime Information Center database, and
• Sufficient information is available to help the public identify the person.
The public broadcast will contain a description of the missing person and what they were wearing when last seen, as well as where they were last seen.
They system could be used when an elderly or dementia patient wanders away from a residential facility, a young child wanders away from its mother, or a seriously ill person who needs to take medication regularly wanders off.
The MEPAS will be sent to TV and radio stations, newspapers, online sites and emergency services near the missing person's last known location. The MEPAS broadcast will not prevent local law enforcement from putting out their own alerts and MEPAS requests are not required.
Noonan said MEPAS is a result of a cooperative effort by State Police, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Hermiston Oregon to join ‘A Child is Missing'
by Luke Hegdal
The Hermiston Herald
A child is missing. Police get a call, and in minutes households within a one-mile radius of the child's home get a call from police, describing the child and alerting thousands of people to look for the missing child.
By the end of next week that will be a reality in Hermiston, according to Police Chief Dan Coulombe. Hermiston's newest tool for finding missing persons is a national program called, “A Child is Missing.”
The program has already helped police across the United States find 815 missing persons, according to Coulombe.
What has made the program successful is how quickly police can alert an entire community that someone is missing. Unlike Amber Alerts, the program has fewer restrictions and greater versatility, according to Coulombe.
“This is a lot more flexible,” Coulombe said. “That first two hours is really critical.”
A Child is Missing can be used for elderly people with Alzheimer's or mental illness, unlike Amber Alerts. The new program also needs less information and protocol to initiate an alert.
“We won't use it a lot,” Coulombe said. “I think there will be cases where it will be absolutely critical and a wonderful asset to us.”
It also won't cost anything for the city to institute the program. According to Coulombe, A Child is Missing is funded by federal money through the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice.
In addition to being free for Hermiston, city residents will not have to do anything to be included in the program. Anyone with a landline phone and a listed phone number will automatically be included in the system.
“They really don't have to do anything,” Coulombe said.
People who rely on cell phones can sign up for alerts at www.achildismissing.org, and anyone who wants to opt out can do so as well.
So, if you get an automated phone call from the Hermiston Police Department, don't hang up.
Search still on for missing Carlsbad man
by Matlin Smith
Current-Argus Staff Writer
CARLSBAD — The Eddy County Sheriff's Department has received no information as to the whereabouts of a 72-year-old Alzheimer's victim who disappeared from his home south of town on the night of Feb. 11.
Regional media has been flooded with information about Louis Fanning, who is considered an endangered missing person because of his mental and physical conditions
"We continue our search daily," said Capt. Jeff Zuniga. "We have conducted an extensive aerial search."
Zuniga said the missing person's news release has been disseminated throughout the local oil field business community, so that workers can be on the lookout through the sheriff's "Wise eyes" program.
Eddy County Sheriff Ernest Mendoza said that Devon Energy helped alert all other oilfield companies with a description of Fanning and the vehicle he was last seen in.
Because of the vast extent of the oil fields, "we should be able to cover a lot of countryside," Zuniga said.
The search has been difficult because Fanning apparently left in a vehicle - a turquoise blue 1993 Ford Ranger extended cab pickup with New Mexico plate FBY 121. The truck had about a half tank of gas, and investigators have estimated that he could have traveled some 200 miles. But there has been no indication what direction he may have taken.
Deputies with the ECSD visited the home Fanning left, following his tire tracks on the dirt road before losing his direction when he hit the pavement.
"The vehicle will have extensive amounts of damage," said Mendoza, disclosing that Fanning ran through a couple of barbed wire fences and possibly knocked off both side mirrors of the vehicle after squeezing it between two poles. Paint from the truck was found on these poles, said the sheriff.
Joe Brininstool and deputies have flown in a circular pattern around northern and southern Eddy County in the event that Fanning could have ventured into a ravine, making it difficult to find him during a ground search.
Mendoza also said that Fanning left his wallet, money and medication at his home.
The search area is only a 200 mile radius because Fanning might not have been able to get further after running out of gas and not having money to buy more, said Mendoza.
However, media and law enforcement personnel have been alerted in the El Paso and Midland/Odessa areas in case Fanning was able to get that far.
Mendoza reported that Fanning's wife could not think of a favorite spot Fanning might have headed for - he considered his home his haven and did not like to stray far from it for too long.
The family also told law enforcement that Fanning's daughter, who lived in Oklahoma, passed away recently and it has been a hard time for Fanning and the family.
Zuniga, along with many other officers, has been driving low traffic also, but to no avail at this point.
"All we can do is keep looking," said Mendoza.
Fanning is described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, 175 pounds, with gray hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue western-style shirt and blue slacks.
There have been very few possible sightings reported.
Anyone with information about Fanning's whereabouts can call the sheriff's department at (575) 887-7551.
Chicago teen missing with baby daughter
17-year-old mother and her 2-year-old daughter missing
CHICAGO — The Chicago Police issued a Missing Persons bulleting for a teenage girl and her baby daughter.
Family members reported 17-year-old Julissa Contreras and her two-year-old daughter, Maria.
Police describe Julissa as white Hispanic, 5'4", 120 pounds.
She has long black hair, brown eyes, and a light complexion.
She sometimes goes by the nick names, 'Julie' and 'Flacca.'
Julissa's daughter Maria is about 30 inches tall and weighs 30 pounds.
She has long black hair, brown eyes, and light complexion.
Maria suffers from epileptic attacks and requires medication twice per day.
Family members reported that both Julissa and Maria may be with 27-year-old Jesus Antonio Gallegos.
Gallegos is 5'7", 170 pounds, black hair, brown eyes, with a light complexion.
He is also uses the names "Jesus Garcia," Oscar," or "Shorty."
Police say all three may be traveling to Mexico on a bus.
Anyone with information is asked to call Area 1 Detectives at: (312) 747-8385.
Chattanooga Police: Body Found in River May be Linked to Missing Person Case
by Dreanne Newton
February 17, 2011
Chattanooga Police say the body of a woman found in the Tennessee River may be connected to missing persons case.
Jennifer Germann was last seen on Christmas Eve when she dropped her friend off at home.
Police found her car and purse on the Olgiatti Bridge.
A person testing some boating equipment near Williams Island discovered the body Wednesday.
Police say some of the clothing matched what German was last seen wearing, but positive identification hasn't been made yet.
||Silver Alert issued for Raleigh man
The North Carolina Center for Missing Persons issued a Silver Alert on Thursday evening for a missing Raleigh man.
Walter David Stallings, 50, is believed to be suffering from dementia or some other cognitive impairment.
Stallings is described as 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds with medium-length gray hair and blue eyes. He has a long gray beard.
Stallings was last seen leaving his home on Dice Drive. He was wearing a blue jacket, yellow shirt and jeans.
Authorities believe he might be headed to the downtown Raleigh area.
Anyone with information about Stallings' whereabouts should call Raleigh police at 919-829-1911
Developed in 2007, the Silver Alert is a system to quickly notify the public about missing endangered adults who suffer from dementia or other cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease.
It also allows caregivers and nursing homes to report a person missing. In the past, only a family member could report an adult missing.
Human Trafficking Investigation Leads to Indictment and Arrest of 10 Individuals
HOUSTON—A three-year investigation into the trafficking of young and minor female Mexican nationals for the purpose of compelling their service as prostitutes at Houston area bars and restaurants through force, fraud, and coercion has lead to the indictment of 10 individuals, including the owner/operators of the La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
U.S. Attorney Moreno was joined in making this announcement at a press conference today by FBI-Houston Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael H. Bonner; Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Sean McElroy; Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Major George Rhyne, Texas Department of Public Safety; and Lt. C.A. Vazquez of the Houston Police Department; whose agencies worked together as part of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) to conduct the investigation leading to the charges.
The three-count indictment returned by a Houston grand jury under seal on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, was unsealed today. All 10 defendants charged were taken into custody as a result of coordinated enforcement actions undertaken by teams of investigating agents last evening. All those in custody made initial appearances before a United States Magistrate Judge earlier this morning. All will appear for a detention hearing tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011, before United States Frances H. Stacy at 1:00 p.m.
"I applaud the bravery of the young lady who made the 911 call for help in this case," said Moreno, "and commend the efforts of the agency members of the HTRA for the investigative efforts to rescue the victims in this case and apprehend their oppressors."
Maria Rojas, aka "Nancy," 46, a co-owner of the La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante, located at 8403 and 8037 Clinton Drive, respectively, in Houston and her brother, Jose Luis Rojas, 38, who operated the La Costeñita as well as the locations adjacent to the bar located at 8303 Clinton Drive where the prostitution allegedly took place, are charged with conspiring to hold persons in conditions of peonage and recruiting, holding, transporting, and providing and obtaining persons for sexual services.
"The crimes alleged in this indictment are unconscionable," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers. "While we can't erase the harm done by these horrible acts, the FBI and other members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance will continue to ensure the victims of these crimes are protected and their traffickers are brought to justice."
Specifically, the indictment alleges these defendants were involved in the recruitment of Mexican women and girls to travel to the United States with the false expectation of legitimate jobs in bars and restaurants beginning in 1999 and using force, fraud, and coercion to compel their service as prostitutes in their bar and restaurant. It is further alleged that in 2003 through 2011, the conspirators changed their tactics and relied upon on the services of pimps to supply minor females and young women for use as prostitutes and to maintain control and prevent escape of the minor females and young women. The Rojas' allegedly derived their substantial profits initially by doubling the amount of the smuggling fee charged by smugglers ($2,000 fee became $4,000) which was taken from the earnings of the women. Later when the operation changed to use pimps, profits were derived through the collection of $15 going to La Costeñita and $50 to the young women and minors which ultimately went to the pimp. This conspiracy charge carries a statutory penalty of a minimum of no less than 10 years' imprisonment and maximum term of up to life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
"Human and sex trafficking is modern-day slavery and it's happening right here in our own back yard," said Sheriff Garcia. "These indictments prove that we will not tolerate it and that we will pursue the individuals involved in this kind of crime to the furthest extent of the law. These arrests, while they're just the tip of the iceberg, are an example of the results that working together diligently with local and federal agencies can produce."
The remaining eight defendants, Javier Guevara Belmontes, 46, who also owned, controlled and operated La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante; Maday Martinez, 34, aka "Yvonne" (full name Maday Martinez Lindero), and Evelin Carloine Aguera, 37, alleged managers at La Costeñita Bar and the adjacent property; Claudia LNU (real name: Claudia Perez Ramirez), 27, Silvano Santos, aka "Chivas," 33, Francisco LNU, aka "Pancho" (real name: Francisco Midardi Maradiaga Jimenez), 33, and Olvan LNU (real name: Olvan Renieri Ramirez Caceres), 25, all of whom allegedly worked at La Costeñita Bar and at the adjacent property as "lookouts" alerting of police presence; and Aleyda LNU (real name: Aleyda Maria Juares), 27, who allegedly charged the young women and minors for condom and use of the rooms at a residence adjacent to the bar are charged along with Maria and Jose Luis Rojas conspiring to harbor illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. A conviction for this felony offense carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Maria Rojas is also charged in the third and last count of the indictment with illegal re-entry into the United States after deportation which carries a maximum statutory penalty of two years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
Maria and Jose Luis Rojas, Maday Martinez Lindero, Silvano Santos, and Claudia Perez Ramirez are Mexican nationals. Four others, Evelin Carolina Aguero, Olvan Renieri Ramirez Caceres, Aleyda Maria Juares, and Francisco Maradiaga Jimenez, are Honduran nationals. The l0th defendant, Javier Guevara Belmontes is a legal permanent resident originally from Mexico.
"Today's arrests reflect a coordinated state and federal law enforcement effort to crack down on human trafficking," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. "The defendants are charged with illegally trafficking their victims into this country and coercing them into forced prostitution. The Texas Attorney General's Office will continue working with state and local authorities to prevent this horrific crime."
Also included in the indictment is notice of intent to forfeit money constituting the proceeds of the illegal activity, the businesses (bar and restaurant) and several residential properties—including the bar and restaurant and adjacent property and Maria Rojas' home—which the United States alleges were used to facilitate or were obtained with ill-gotten gains from the alleged crimes
The case was investigated by the FBI, ICE, Harris Co. Sheriff's Office, The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Texas Attorney General's Office; the Department of State - Diplomatic Security Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Houston Police Department.
The HTRA formed in August 2004 in the SDTX is one of the original 32 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance grantees. It is a collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies working together with area social service organizations to identify and assist the victims of human trafficking and to effectively identify, apprehend, and prosecute those engaged in both domestic and international human trafficking offenses. The United States Attorney's Office for the SDTX coordinates all trafficking investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Gallagher, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division's Major Crimes Section, serves as coordinator of the HTRA; Assistant United States Attorney Ruben R. Perez, Chief of the Civil Rights/Trafficking Unit (CRTU), who is prosecuting this case with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Magliolo and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kimani Eason, members of the CRTU, serves as deputy coordinator of the HTRA.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
|| Sen. Scott Brown reveals abuse -- and a pain other survivors know
by Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
February 16, 2011
Sen. Scott Brown made headlines on Wednesday, revealing that he was sexually and physically abused as a child -- and describing the enduring legacy of that abuse. The news of his struggles may have surprised many Americans; it likely didn't surprise other former victims.
The Massachusetts Republican's frank talk about the physical and sexual abuse that marred his childhood is set to air Sunday during an episode of CBS' "60 Minutes."
Brown, 51, also has written a book due out Tuesday about the trauma associated with being a victim.
The U.S. Administration for Children & Families states:
|"While physical injuries may or may not be immediately visible, abuse and neglect can have consequences for children, families and society that last lifetimes, if not generations."
The agency's fact sheet (actually a wealth of information, resources and more) says there's no one way that such childhood abuse affects people long-term.
It adds: "Not all abused and neglected children will experience long-term consequences. Outcomes of individual cases vary widely and are affected by a combination of factors, including:
"The child's age and developmental status when the abuse or neglect occurred
The type of abuse (physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, etc.)
The frequency, duration, and severity of abuse
The relationship between the victim and his or her abuser."
The agency also offers lots of information about the warning signs of child neglect and abuse and organizations that can help. In Brown's case, there apparently were multiple abusers, including a camp counselor and his stepfathers.
And he did heed the threat of one of his attackers, according to media reports. Brown says he never told anyone about the abuse until he sat down to write the book.
||Sen. Brown: I Was Sexually Abused As Child
Brown Reveals Secret In CBS Interview
(Video on site)
BOSTON -- Scott Brown was sexually abused as a child, the Massachusetts senator revealed in a recent interview.
Brown, 51, said he was sexually abused when he was 10 years old by a camp counselor.
He said he never told his mother, his wife or his family about the abuse.
"That's what happens when you're a victim. You're embarrassed. You're hurt," he said in the interview on CBS's "60 Minutes."
Brown said the counselor touched him and he was forced to touch the counselor.
"Fortunately, nothing was fully consummated, so to speak. But it was certainly traumatic," Brown said.
He said the counselor told him, "If you tell anyone, you know I will kill you and make sure no one believes you."
Brown said he also suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his stepfathers.
Brown gave the interview on the eve of publication of his memoir "Against All Odds."
“My book is about overcoming obstacles. The physical and sexual abuse is in my book. It's a part of my life, but it certainly isn't the only part of my life story which I tell. My book will be out on Monday and I hope people will read it and be inspired by its message,” Brown said in a statement.
During his career in politics, Brown has worked to strengthen sex offender laws, and has proposed repealing the statute of limitations on sex crimes and closing sex offender registration loopholes.
Brown, a Republican, won a special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in January 2010.
||Brown: Sex Abuse Revelation About Overcoming Obstacles
Mass. Senator Says He Hopes Book Will Help Others
BOSTON -- Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown said he hopes his revelations about a childhood sex assault in his new book will help other victims to come forward and overcome obstacles in their lives.
Brown, a little-known Republican state senator who rocked the national political landscape when he was elected to fill former Sen. Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in 2010, revealed he was abused by a camp counselor as a child on Cape Cod.
He said he was also physically abused by his stepfather in a "60 Minutes" interview about the release of his new book, "Against All Odds," coming out next Monday.
"My book is about overcoming obstacles," Brown said in a statement. "The physical and sexual abuse is in my book. It's a part of my life, but it certainly isn't the only part of my life story which I tell."
He said the camp counselor threatened to kill him if he told anyone, and even his mother didn't know about the abuse that took place when he was 10 years old.
"Fortunately nothing was ever fully consummated, so to speak, but it was certainly, back then, very traumatic," Brown said in the interview.
He said the abuse took place while he was in the bathroom at the camp infirmary.
"I was standing there with my pants down and he came right up next to me and asked me if I needed help. Then he reached out his hand ..."
He said he never disclosed the abuse because of fear and shame.
"That's what happens when you're a victim. You're embarrassed. You're hurt," he said.
The senator has been a longtime Wrentham, Mass., resident, where his constituents were surprised by the revelations, as were people with whom he has worked for years on the issue of child abuse.
Child abuse advocate Laurie Myers said Brown let her know ahead of time what was coming out in the book.
"I think because of the work we've done together, he didn't want me to hear it somewhere else, which I appreciated," Myers said.
She said Brown has been an ally in the fight against abuse but she never knew his compassion was rooted in personal experience.
"He said a few times that it had happened in his family and I didn't push it," Myers said.
Brown has talked in the past about his rough childhood and his mother being on welfare, but he said even his wife didn't know about the sex abuse he suffered as a child.
"Many victims just keep it inside for years before they're ready to talk about it," Myers said.
In the book, Brown also talks about how basketball helped him overcome some of the obstacles of his childhood. He also talks about shoplifting as a teen and what he went through in order to get a photo spread in Cosmopolitan magazine.
Pennsylvania: Priests Suspended on Abuse Allegations
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Philadelphia archdiocese has suspended three priests accused in a grand jury report of molesting children and has pledged to reopen complaints against 34 others.
Fathers Joseph Gallagher, Stephen Perzan and Joseph DiGregorio were removed from ministry while their cases were reviewed.
Cardinal Justin Rigali said a former child abuse prosecutor would examine complaints made against the others.