Friday, September 30, 2005

9/30/05 The All-American Girl Part I

Some people just don’t think about the missing. If it’s not someone they know and love, and they have never been touched by it in some way, it’s just another one of many sad things that happen in this life.

I admit that I used to be one of those people. If I ever saw the story of a missing person on the news, I would think “How sad.” and it would leave my mind just as quickly as it entered it. I certainly never thought that someone I love would be on the evening news.

It’s not that I didn’t care. I had no connection to it. When it happens to you, things change very rapidly. Now I work to help others understand by sharing these stories from the heart. Even if they do not know anyone missing themselves, perhaps something they read will help them connect, help them to care, and help them to want to react.

In doing this work, I get to know many families of the missing. That is the other side of what I do. I hear the stories and provide a listening ear for the airing of frustrations and the outpouring of tears. I get to know some of them better than others because of time, circumstance, and shared philosophies. I feel strongly about each case being more than just a number and a physical description. They are all people who are loved, and have hopes and dreams.

Sometimes a story comes along that is harder to write than some of the others. This is one of those stories: a tale of an All-American girl-next-door whom I have come to know and love through her family.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Maura Murray. I’ve never stood face to face with her astonishing beauty. I’ve never looked into her twinkling eyes and observed the dimples that made her all the more lovely. Some day, I hope that I will meet her. I feel as if I do know her personally, which makes it difficult to tell the world she is lost to us.

I came to know her primarily through Sharon Rausch, Maura’s future mother-in-law. Sharon loves Maura so deeply. Because of this deep love, for a brief period of time after I started to work for them on Maura’s case, I thought she was Maura’s mother.

This weekend you will also come to know Maura through the eyes of those who love her. You’ll learn to what great lengths a father will go for his daughter in an attempt to find her. You will know that love truly has no bounds for this All-American girl.

It’s been a long and difficult road for the Murrays and the Rausches since Maura disappeared. On the night of February 9, 2004, Maura was driving on Route 112 near Haverhill, NH. Her car slid into a snow bank on a hairpin curve. The temperature was 12 degrees and dropping with light snow falling. She had personal belongings in her car, including gloves. She did not take her gloves with her into the dark, bitter night. What happened after that remains a mystery.

Maura’s story will continue on Saturday.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

9/29/05 Is the Truth in Hiding?

Do you remember Wanda, sister of missing Jeff Nichols, who only wants to get to the truth of the matter?

Yesterday, she spoke out to reporter Sandra Yi of KSL.

The article states in part::

"Jeff Nichols was last seen, on June 8 of last year. He told his girlfriend he was meeting his ex-wife to buy some golf clubs. The ex-wife said he never showed up. Nichols' car was found a few days later. The unknown is most difficult for his family.

Wanda Schmidt: "I don't know if it's different if you know something's happened, if you know a family member's been murdered, you know that's happened. In this case, we think that's what happened, but we don't have that answer."

But she does have her suspicions, including questions for Nichol's ex-wife. There's a warrant for her arrest in connection with those charges. She moved out of state within two weeks after Nichols disappeared.

She took their eight-year old son, Sam, with her. They've since moved again and didn't leave a forwarding address. Schmidt says her brother knew his ex-wife had filed for bankruptcy and was planning to get full custody of his son.

Wanda Schmidt: "It just breaks my heart to wonder what's happened to him."

Police have no evidence of foul play, but Wanda Schmidt won't give up until she knows what really happened to her brother."

The rest of this article is at

The truth just needs to be found so that Wanda and her family will have the answers they seek.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

9/28/05 Two Very Important Reminders

I appreciate those of you that have already helped with the Erik Buran and Yolanda Bindics cases. For those who haven't yet, it's not too late.

My fellow bloggers have now taken Erik's story to heart and are assisting in getting the word out about this little angel. We contacted many of the national as well as local media, but yet we sit in silence.

As in Taylor Behl's case, perhaps some media assistance will ensure that the State of Nevada sound the Amber Alert for Erik and step up the pace. You can also write to the Lyon County District Attorney as mentioned in Erik's story at

Send this story and the link to Erik's site to the national media. A list is provided for you in this link:

Yolanda Bindics birthday is Thursday, September 29th. I started a write-in campaign to get Delilah of the Delilah Radio Show to dedicate the song "Somewhere Out There" to her on this evening.

This radio show has 7 million listeners. That's an awful lot of awareness. Her parents, brothers and sisters, and her young daughters are counting on you to help. The information about the write-in campaign is at the end of her story.

If any of my readers regularly listen to the Delilah Radio Show, and will be listening tomorrow (Thursday) night, please let me know if they came through for Yolanda, as I may not be available to listen.

The post is dedicated to Robert Buran, father of Erik, and to Margaret, sister of Yolanda Bindics, two souls who love with their whole being and who, I believe, will never give up the search.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

9/27/05 New to This Blog?

Thank you for visiting our blog. It's not like any other on the Internet.

This is a grass roots effort to bring awareness for the missing persons who are not featured on the national news. Some are not even featured by their own local media.

Awareness is key to location of missing persons. so we encourage you to keep reading, and send our link to all of your friends and family.Just in case you've never read a blog before, if you notice over to your right, there are Archives listed. If you click on the Archives, you can go back to the beginning of our blog, and read all of the stories.

You'll also notice a Comments button below each post. If you are registered with Blogger, then you may post a comment.

If you are not registered, and have a comment, you may email it to Due to the volume of email, you may not necessarily receive a reply, but do know that we appreciate the fact that you took the time to write to us.

Suggested reading from the archives to better understand our purpose:

Thank you for joining us here and for doing what you can to help us help others.

Monday, September 26, 2005

9/26/05 The "Cutest Little Boy"

That's how Robert Buran describes his four-year-old son, Erik, on the website he built for him. I would agree with that. I could see my own sons in little Erik, their faces beaming with the childhood innocence of years gone by.

It wasn't just Erik's sparkling eyes and bright smile that caught my attention. It was the story behind the scenes. Only weeks ago, Richard Abbenbroek shared his story of the parental abduction of his daughter. We learned how fathers in this situation not only have to deal with the loss of their child, but with a system which is geared towards the belief that children are better off with their mothers. (Go back to the posts starting on September 9th for Richard's story.)

Via telephone interview tonight, Robert shared these same frustrations, and more. Erik has been missing since April 21, 2005. He was taken by his mother, Karen O'Grady, and her boyfriend. Court and other records show a violent, drug and alcohol abuse tainted lifestyle. The information about these two is frightening to say the least. The records also show that Karen has also been in a mental hospital and is suicidal and violent. She told friends, “If I cannot have Erik, then nobody shall have Erik”. A month before the abduction, Erik screamed in her presence, I do not want to go with Momma today”.

If that doesn't make you alarmed for this child, then read Robert's account of the day he last saw Erik: "But the most heart wrenching thing that my son ever said I heard on April 21, 2005, the last day I saw my son. The non-custodial mother’s boyfriend who was already the subject of investigation for abuse of my son came without the mother to pick up my son for four days of visitation. Erik cried out, “Daddy I don’t want to go with Steven. Please call the judge and let me stay with you just one more day”. Steven promised to return my son in four days, but that was the last time I saw him. My son’s pleading to stay “just one more day" haunts me. I never got to say goodbye to my beautiful only child."

It doesn't get better for Erik at all. Robert filed complaints against Karen and her boyfriend, Steven, referred to as "the drifter" in this document, as he had no legitimate address at that time. The complaints, accompanied by a horde of police and other records, stated in part:

" 1) The defendant fails to provide health care or day care for the minor child and the minor child’s present primary care giver is a chain smoking, unemployed drifter, unknown to this court or the Plaintiff father, and whom the minor child complains hits him often and frequently. Plaintiff father photographs suspicious marks. The minor child also complains that the drifter is “rude to Mommy”.

2) The drifter who presently lives in the above-mentioned property, unmarried to the defendant, delivers the minor child to the Plaintiff father in psychological and emotional disarray and in clothes soiled with feces and urine. The minor child always protests and sometimes screams when he is returned to the drifter following plaintiff father’s visitation ordered by this court."

Robert also complained to the Child Protective Services Office in Carson City and his complaint was forwarded to the Fernley, NV office on April 7, 2005, 14 days prior to Erik being kidnapped by Steven Streight on April 21, 2005.
His complaint alleged that he had observed tell tale scratches on Erik’s face and buttocks and a prominent mark on his left lower lip.

When you finish reading this account, and go to Erik's website, you will read about other atrocities; things that just should not happen to a child. You wonder how the system could have allowed this child to be forced to be with his mother, or even see her at all. Surely this is a clear-cut case where no mother at all is better than this one.

Are the behaviors of the abductors the end of the story as presented today? I wish it was, but it is not. Isn’t it enough for Robert as it is?

I want to remind you of the post I made on September 16th, enitled "Rules Meant to be Broken?". This post outlined the State of Virgina's Amber Alert criteria, admittedly broken for Taylor Behl. As of news stories today, police still state they have no evidence of foul play in her case. The State never responded to my letter, which asked how they were able to do this for Taylor.

In Nevada, Robert Buran has been told that Erik does not meet their criteria because it is a case that involves parental abduction. Robert tells me that his research shows that since the Amber Alert began in Nevada in July of 2003, 15 Amber Alerts have been issued. 9 of those 15 were cases of parental abductions, with one being issued by the jurisdiction that tells Robert "no".

Did intense media scrutiny and pressure prompt Virginia to make an exception for Taylor Behl? In Erik’s case, it is a proven fact that he is with extremely dangerous people. I’m sure Robert did his homework in regards to Nevada’s history of Amber Alerts. What will it take to sound the alarm?

Robert and I are both up into the night working on this. He is driven by the love for his son. Naturally, he is fearful for his safety and fearful that it may be too late to save Erik.

At times during our phone conversation, Robert’s voice cracks. I know his pain, although our stories are different. The fight wears you down both mentally and physically. If we get at least an occasional infusion of hope in the form of action taken and progress made in the fight for our missing loved ones, it enables us to continue on.

On Robert’s site for Erik, he asks us to write to the Lyon County District Attorney, Leon Aberasturi, at Robert would like us to express our concerns about Erik's safety and ask Mr. Aberaturi why there has been no Amber Alert issued when a Family Court Judge has ruled Erik is a risk for immediate harm.

At the bottom of each website page, there is also a link to a printable poster. Please place as many of these as you can, and spread the word about Erik’s story via link to our blog and to Erik’s website at

Let's help bring the "Cutest Little Boy" back home.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

9/25/05 Our Cause in Motion Results and Photos

A few weeks ago, I shared with you that Jason would be featured on the hood of a racecar for the Racing of the Missing program, a division of the National Center for Missing Adults.

My husband, Jim, son, Michael, and I went to the Nebraska Raceway Park to meet Tony, his family, and team members. We also met Terry Shearer, who so graciously lent Tony one of his cars for these events.

The good folks at Nebraska Raceway Park treated us like royalty. We were taken by van to the pit area, and treated with complimentary beverages. We stayed with family members of racetrack officials until Tony arrived. Later on in the evening, we were taken to a private seating area, which was fun. The people at the track were also quite generous in giving us mic time at the break so that we could tell our story.

We had a crash course in auto racing and learned the difference between a hobby stock and a late model. We were able to get fairly close to the track and watch the cars as they flew by. It was rather noisy, and a certain excitement was in the air, even amidst the busy preparations.

Tony, Terry, and Tony's Dad arrived, and we walked over to join them. This was our first sight of the car that bore Jason's photo on the hood. It looked wonderful on there, although I certainly wish there was no reason for my son's likeness to be on the hood of a racecar in this program.

Tony is a likeable and very fresh-faced youth. I am impressed that he goes to schools back in his native AZ and talks to kids about safety. I always enjoy meeting young advocates for our cause.

Tony was very patient and helpful in explaining some of the "mysteries" of the inner workings of the racecar to us. My son, Michael, wanted to sit inside the car, and Tony was very agreeable to that. It was neat to see Michael in the car, but I'm glad that I don't have to see him in it as it races down the track at a high rate of speed!

Tony finished 6th in his heat, but was not able to compete in the finals.

The next night at the Boone, IA track, we went back for more of the action. At Boone, Tony started 9th, and finished 4th. We were not able to attend the full week's events, but later in the week Tony was interviewed by the track and told Jason's story and about the cause.

(Because of Hurricane Katrina, we had no outside media coverage. I was not surprised, and I understood.)

Although I had no knowledge of the racing business prior, I can see how people would get hooked on it when they have someone to root for.

I was rooting for Tony, and of course for Jason. I was rooting for the crowd to listen to what we had to say and to understand the need of families like ours. I was also rooting for a 1st place finish for our cause in their minds and in their hearts.

Once again, I would like to thank Darrell LaMoure, Racing for the Missing, the National Center for Missing Adults, Wade Smith, the kind people at Nebraska Raceway Park, Terry Shearer and his wife, and Tony Steele and his family.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

9/24/05 Everyone Deserves a Name

Everyone deserves a name no matter who they are: even a John Doe whose identity has thus far eluded authorities in North Charleston, SC. Surely someone, somewhere, loves him and misses him.

I was contacted by Tamara DiCenzo, a detective with the North Charleston Police Department because of this John Doe. He was found deceased near a grey hound bus station. They have nearly exhausted all of their resources and still can not identify this man.

He is an older white male with a large amount of tattoos. The tattoos cover most of his back and are rather unusual. One of the largest ones reads "South Of Heaven", which is on his lower back. The others tattoos are images of wizards, skulls and other similar depictions. Most of his tattoos would be covered up if he had a mid length sleeve shirt on. He is very well kept and clean.

As soon as the department gave me permission, I sent out John Doe's photos and known information to my contacts in the missing person's field. One of those contacts was Todd Matthews of the Doe Network, mentioned in my "Dead Men Might Tell Tales" posting from two days ago.

Todd sent the photo of the man's face to Wesley Neville, well-known and respected forensic artist. Wesley took the photo and brought John Doe to "life", increasing the possibilities of finding him. The difference between the photo of the deceased John Doe and the "living" one is remarkable!

Perhaps this man will soon have a name, his rightful one, and somewhere, a family will have their answer, even though it is not the one they desire.

If anyone recognizes this man, or these tattoos, please call Detective DiCenzo at 843-740-2862.

I will not post the original photo of the John Doe’s face here, as it may be disturbing for some of our readers. If you wish to view it, and the amazing difference between the original, you may do so here:

Related Links

Doe Network:
Project Edan:

Tamara DiCenzo only knew to contact me because she had heard of Project Jason through Brandy Hanna's mother, Donna. (Her story here: "I Love You Mom,...See You Later.") I reached out to my contacts and they reached out to theirs. If John Doe is identified through this circle of contacts, I think that will be just as amazing as Wesley's photo, and perhaps even more so.

In good news, Brandy was featured in her local newspaper. We are happy for the family to get this exposure. Awareness is the key.

You may read the text of that article here:

As Hurricane Rita makes her unwanted entrance, we pray that the loss of life will be at a minimum.

Friday, September 23, 2005

9/23/05 Lesson in the Loss

Linda Katcher Griffiths was one of the first mothers of a missing person I remember speaking to all those years ago when Jason disappeared. Linda's son, Ryan, is the same age as Jason, and he disappeared the fall before.

To me, Linda was like a beam of sunlight breaking through the dark clouds of my pain and heartbreak. She was the one who "held my hand" and hugged me long distance, helping me to understand what we experience as mothers of missing children. I will be forever grateful for her helping me get through those first very dark months.

She'll talk about her story in a future posting.

Today, we're going to hear from Ryan's best friend, Travis. His words should make us stand at attention and review how we express our care to those whom we value. It might be too late for Travis, but it's not too late for you to reach out and tell someone who is precious to you that you love them.

This message seems very timely with yet another life-threatening hurricane bearing down upon the coast.

It is hard to summarize what Ryan was like because he was such a diverse person. What I want to share with you is how his disappearance has affected my life, because I feel that it is the best way to understand what type of person Ryan was like.

The night before Ryan disappeared was typical November Friday in Illinois. As usual, we went to meet friends at an old country lane that led back to a patch of woods that overlooked a local highway. That was where our group usually met to listen to music, tell jokes, talk about women, college, life, and anything else we happened to have on our mind at that time.

That particular night we reminisced about our high school glory days, discussed our problems with our girlfriends, and finally life and what we thought lay ahead for us. It is the latter what I want to expand upon.

Our conversation seemed to focus on whether we would go to graduate school, and what we would have to do to start our own marketing firm upon graduation. By the time our conversation had ended the temperature had dropped to around forty and the moon was high in the sky, both of which were sure signs it was time to call it a night and go home. But before we did, Ryan told me that whatever path we chose in life, he would always have faith in me and was confident in my ability to achieve whatever I wanted. Despite our close upbringing, we had never had a conversation that ended that personal or emotional. That next night Ryan disappeared.

Since then, I have spent a lot of time reflecting upon that conversation while asking, why had our conversation end that way and why that night. I have yet to find an answer and doubt I ever do, but it was that conversation that was a changing point in my life. See until then, I took my friends generally for granted, was afraid of social ridicule if I expressed my feelings toward them, and had the misconception that life was always perfect. But that all changed.

Ryan was the type of person to make a person realize that a friend is much more than just that, and that if you honestly care about someone you should let them know, because if you don’t you may never get the opportunity to. I guess what changed the most for me was my respect for life, friends, and fearlessness to express my feelings toward my friends and people I care about.

Sometimes all it takes is something as simple as an honest compliment, or as in my case one friend telling another he believed in him to change a person’s life. I just wish I hadn’t been blinded by fear of expressing my feelings and let Ryan know what he meant as a friend, and now I don’t have the chance to.

Life is too short, please don’t let it happen to you.

Travis, age 24

Ryan's Website:

Thursday, September 22, 2005

9/22/05 Dead Men Might Tell Tales

There are no accurate statistics in regards to the number of unidentified deceased bodies nationwide, although some in the field estimate it to be in the 40-50,000 range. That is close to one-half of the average annual total open case roster of missing persons.

Project Jason works hard to find creative ways to seek the missing. Even though it is an unpleasant thought, we know that some of the missing persons we seek, including my own son, might be deceased. Therefore, we must also seek the missing among the dead.

One well known organization that does just this is the DOE Network, but who is on the other side of this search? Who provides us with the information about these unidentified deceased (UID) persons, so we can seek our missing among the dead?

Michael Britt didn't begin his career path working with the dead. He had a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Florida. His original career intent was to become involved in criminal profiling. While working toward his degree, he devoted many hours to volunteer work with the Sheriff's Office (Homicide Unit) in his hometown. It was at this time he was first exposed to the Medical Examiner's Office and quickly learned that this was the type of work in which he wanted to make a career. He completed several internships at various Medical Examiner's/Coroner's offices, eventually spending 5 years as an assistant to a Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist. He was hired by the Florida District Twenty Medical Examiner about 5 years ago to serve as the Supervisor of Investigations. It was after this point that Fluiddb came to life.

Fluiddb was created as a tool to aid those searching for missing persons. Fluiddb is an acronym for the Florida Unidentified Decedents DataBase and is intended to serve as a "centralized clearinghouse" of information about bodies discovered in the state of Florida whose identities remain unknown, even after conventional methods of identification have failed. The database utilizes existing computer technology in a user-friendly format that engages the interested party in the search process, while maintaining the integrity of sensitive criminal data.

Michael, long with the Chief M.E. Dr. Coburn, computer systems analyst Maribel DeArmas, and webmaster Chris Bahnsen, created Fluiddb. Michael now serves as the person in charge of it's day-to-day operation and maintenance. This is key to Fluiddb's success as current criminal databases are not available for public use. To date, Fluiddb has been instrumental in the identification of seven previously unidentified decedents.

Michael explains Fluiddb's purpose: "As Medical Examiners, we receive many calls, faxes, and emails from those searching for missing persons. Prior to the existence of the site, it was necessary for those searching to contact each and every Medical Examiner's Office in our state to inquire about "John or Jane Does" that may fit the description of the person they were searching for. Not only is this time consuming and cumbersome, but the searcher is left to depend on the expertise and commitment level of the person who takes the call. If they do not provide a thorough search, a potential match may go undiscovered.

Our site provides that "centralized clearinghouse" that I mentioned earlier. It exists so that the searcher is the one who performs a query and either eliminates or includes a potential match."

The website is very easy to use, beginning with three drop down boxes and a date field, where you enter that last known date the missing person was alive. From there, you can select specific cases to view. Photos are not shown on the page, but are available upon request. Many details about the UID are listed.

Michael explains how a UID is processed: "How an individual is identified is a tough one to answer as it would be a case by case solution. There are many factors involved (i.e. condition of the body, whether there are parents or siblings available to give a sample for DNA, etc.). We try first to do a fingerprint comparison (that is, if the body was in a condition that allowed retrieval of prints, and if the missing had prints on file somewhere), or would try a dental comparison (if antemortem films are available). DNA is sort of a last resort because it is so cost prohibitive (and time consuming), but is used if there is no other option."

And speaking of DNA, Michael recently recieved a letter from missing person's family who was inquiring about educating others in the relatively new field of DNA processing in relation to the UID's. He shares his response to the letter with us.

Good morning Mr. XXXX,

I do remember speaking with your sister and am sorry to hear that none of the possible matches she was looking into turned out to be XXXX (meaning that some closure could be given to your family). The ability to submit DNA samples from the unidentifieds is a fairly new (not even a year old) concept. Most (and I do stress most) ME offices probably do not even know that this is now available to them. These types of submissions, and recording of the data, has always taken place at the federal level and it has taken a while to get the word down to the state and local level. I would even go so far as to say that most Major Crimes detectives within local Sheriff's Offices also do not know that this (comparing missing person DNA with unidentified DNA) is a possibility. To give you some numbers to show you what I mean I will give you some info. that was released just recently (April 28, 2005) by the U.S. Department of Justice: " On average, there are over 100,000 missing persons listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the national, computerized index of criminal justice information. Over 45,000 of those have a last known contact of over a year ago and just 50 of the missing persons in the NCIC have their DNA information listed. Of the 5,800 unidentified dead that are listed in the NCIC, only 33 of these have their DNA information entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a database that enables federal, state, and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders. However, there are an additional 244 DNA profiles of unidentified human remains in CODIS that are not recorded in NCIC. "

As you can see, the problem in the past has been allowing the offices at the local level the ability to submit DNA samples from these cases. Now that the ability to do so has been opened, the first task is to make ME offices and local S.O know that there are now systems (and money) in place to help in the process. The other is to hope that the federal government allows for more money to be distributed so that more DNA labs will have the ability to accept these samples. It is my understanding that at this time, there are only three labs in the country that can accept these submissions. The FBI laboratory is one but they will only accept one case per month per office. Surely, as word gets out that ME offices can submit samples, these three labs will begin to be bogged down and we will be at a standstill once again.

To answer your question about how you can help, my suggestion would be to research this yourself online. Speak to your local law enforcement and encourage them to educate themselves as well. I am assuming you are working with a missing persons detective on XXXX's case. Let that person know that any time they speak with another agency about her case, to mention to them that these moneys and labs exist. I am preparing to contact all the ME offices in FL to make sure they are all on the same page with regards to submitting their cases, and I don't think it can hurt for you (as a private citizen and family member of a missing person) to also mention it to them if you are contacting them about possible matches."

There are two other databases, as Michael mentioned, one in Texas, and one in California. The government is taking a more active role in the DNA and UID situation. There is a DNA kit which is now, or will soon be available, so that missing person's families will be able to provide their own DNA samples to attempt matches in the database.

My husband's and my DNA is in the database. If Jason were to be an UID, and they took DNA from him and entered it into the database, a match would be found in a very short period of time. The problem lies in making sure DNA is obtained on all UID's, otherwise the wait to find a missing loved one who is deceased will go on.

In April, we attended the first National Strategy Meeting: Identifying the Missing Conference in Philadelphia. That conference brought together Federal, State, and local law enforcement; coroners and medical examiners; victim advocates; forensic scientists; key policymakers; and family members who have lived through this tragic experience to help develop a national strategy to address this critical problem.

It's still a work in progress, with steps still being taken. We have a long way to go, but we have also come a long way when it comes to resolving missing person's cases.

You can read more about the President's DNA Initiative here:

The Fluiddb site can be viewed at

Soon, more dead men can tell tales, so that families can have answers, families just like mine.

My Note: We do not have any idea whether or not Jason is alive. If he were to be found deceased, we hope that he would not end up among the thousands of Does, waiting to be discovered.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

9/21/05 Astonishing Numbers

I recieved an email from Frank Williams, chairman of the Ride for Missing Children in which he shared some astonishing numbers. These are the to-date totals of money raised to pay for the posters that have proven time and time again that awareness is the "king" when it comes to resolving missing person's cases.

I shared my story about the bike ride that is not just a bike ride here:
It is my husband's favorite story to date.

The ride this year raised a record amount, which is enough to pay for 766,536 posters!

According to Frank:

"Our community has made it possible for us to send out a total of:
- 3,369,287 posters of 1,246 missing children since we began our program in September of 1995

- To date, 759 of these children are now listed as "successfully recovered". This includes 263 children recovered so far in 2005."

So, out of 1,246 children on the program, 759 have been recovered. That's 61%, an outstanding track record. Thank you to everyone who made this possible!

In other news, I am happy to say that we did get a story for one of our missing adults from a press release we sent. Let's hope it helps bring her home.

Update: Norma was found deceased.

You can read it here, along with other information about Norma Massa:
This new story is the last item in the thread.

Our Project Jason monthly board meeting is tonight, so I am busy preparing for that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

9/20/05 Let's Watch Utah

Something happened today in Utah that so many of you who have a vested interest in the missing have hoped would occur for a long time.

They have unveiled an Endangered Person Advisory, which is not just for children, but adults, too!

This groundbreaking alert should have made national press, but I only found one news article about it.

The criteria for this alert is as follows:

1. The person is missing under suspicious circumstances.
2. The person may be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment, weather conditions or in the company of a potentially dangerous person.
3. Public information is available that could assist in the safe recovery of the person.
4. The circumstances do not fit the criteria for an AMBER Alert (If they do, immediately follow the protocol to issue an AMBER Alert).

What Happens When an Endangered Person Advisory is Activated?

An entry with information is entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCICC).

All Utah law enforcement agencies are notified through the Utah Criminal Justice Information System (UCJIS).

Broadcasters and media are notified by e-mail.

Thousands of flyers with photos and details will go to businesses throughout Utah and surrounding states.

Ports of Entry inform all of their officers.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is contacted if the person is under the age of 18.

Law enforcement can contact AA Child Is Missing@ to send the advisory to telephones in the area where the person was last seen.

You may read the complete text of the Endangered Person Advisory here:

I sent a letter to the State of Utah Office of the Attorney General, thanking them for their efforts to aid missing persons of all ages.

My Letter:

Dear Mr. Shurtleff,

I congratulate you on being the first state in the nation that I am aware of to have a missing person advisory that covers children as well as adults. This is a groundbreaking move, and was deserving of much more widespread media attention than received.

Will the general public know, as time goes on, what problems, if any, crop up from its implementation and what successes you have in using it? I know there are concerns raised about the public becoming desensitized to the Amber Alerts.

I do need to make one comment, however, and that concerns the entry under the "What Happens When an Endangered Person Advisory is Activated?" category. The entry is:

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is contacted if the person is under the age of 18.

It should read as follows:

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is contacted if the person is under the age of 21.

The reason for this is that because of Suzanne's Law, a Federal law signed by President Bush as part of the national "Amber Alert" bill on April 30, 2003. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children must now also assist in missing person's cases wherein the missing person is between the ages of 18 and 20 at the time of their disappearance. The only stipulation in those cases is that the request for assistance must come from law enforcement rather than parents or guardians.

Please feel free to verify this information with NCMEC. I ask you to change this entry to reflect federal law, and to extend aid to those families with a missing loved one between the ages of 18-20.

As a vital matter of providing a resource to these families, I'm also going to suggest that you add to this same section:

The National Center for Missing Adults is contacted if the person is age 21 and over.

I am very pleased about this and will make an entry in my blog in this regard. (the link is in my signature.) I'm going to encourage my readers to contact their respective home state, asking if this can be done for missing persons where they live.

Once again, my thanks to the State of Utah Office of the Attorney General.

Kelly Jolkowski, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski
President and Founder,
Project Jason
Voice for the Missing

As stated in my letter, I invite you, the reader, to contact your home state and ask them to implement an Endangered Person Advisory.

Things are improving for our cause, but we still have a long way to go. With each step we take, we come closer to having systems in place that will decrease the number of missing. The faster the reaction, the greater the odds of recovery.

Let's watch Utah now, and see how it works for them, but in the meantime, let's begin efforts in other states.

There's no time to waste, because during the time it took you to read this entry, several more people disappeared.

Don't think it can't happen to you or someone you love. That's what I thought.

Monday, September 19, 2005

9/19/05 “Somewhere Out There” Part II

Too many days have passed since Yolanda Bindics disappeared.

On Yolanda’s Internet forum, Margaret wrote:

“I can't take another day not knowing where Yolanda is. I can't take another night crying myself to sleep. I'm sitting here falling to pieces. I want to call her; I want to write her a letter; I want to visit with her like I did before.

But instead, all I can do is think about her and reminisce in my own mind the memories I have of growing up with her. It's been 400 long, sad, painful days. Can you hear me? Am I screaming loud enough? Can you feel how deep my pain is?”

No one who is not experiencing the pain of having a loved one go missing can truly understand. To be able to purge it in some way, as Margaret has done in writing, is healthy. It enables her to keep on going and do what she needs to do for her precious, lost baby sister.

“I'm just trying to get by one day at a time.”

That’s all you can do, Margaret.

The Bindics family is active in keeping Yolanda’s name and face in the public’s eye. They post new flyers regularly and sends mass e-mails. They are also working on a billboard. They have held many awareness events for Yolanda and benefits to raise money for a trust fund for her four children.

Like most families of the missing, they need more media coverage. Yolanda was featured on Fox News at the very beginning, but since then, her story has only been mentioned by the local media occasionally.

Margaret expands on the media issues in Yolanda’s case: “It’s very bothersome to see just one missing person captured on national media and numerous resources and funds being spent on that one particular person. I believe ALL missing person cases should be treated equally. Sure I would love for Yolanda to have this kind of attention, but Jason’s (Jolkowski) family is hurting just like my family is. Audrey’s (Herron) children and family want her home just as much as Yolanda’s children and family want her home. Jim Viola would love to have his wife (Patricia...see the story here "Reluctant Mr. Mom") return back home and in his arms again just as much as Audrey’s husband would want his wife back. I believe we are all hurting equally; we all want our loved one back home.

Yolanda’s story should prompt media to pay attention because of the “person of interest” in Yolanda’s case. This is an individual who is supposed to hold an office of authority. Since Yolanda’s disappearance, this person has been charged with stalking, harassment of other women, and official misconduct. When it is out of one’s character to just vanish from the lives of many who love her, who loves and adores her children, I believe the telescope should be focused on a case like this.”

One of Yolanda’s younger children, Allison, age 3, when describing where her mother is, says: “My Mom’s on posters.” These are heartbreaking words from the mouth of a babe, much too young to understand that her mother is missing. How could she possibly understand that yes, her mother’s photo is indeed on posters, but a missing poster is not where a mom's face should be seen.

“My greatest fear is that I'll never know what happened when my baby sister disappeared on the night of August 10, 2004.” Margaret shares the changes in her life since that fateful day: “There has certainly been a life lesson in all this for me. Take no one for granted and remind the ones that you love them and show them that you care. You never know if they’ll be here tomorrow. I keep in contact with my family more frequently than I did prior to Yolanda’s disappearance. I travel more often to visit my family.”

“If the whole country was a captive audience”, Margaret states, “I would ask for their help in finding all missing loved ones and to prevent another one from happening by observing their surroundings. It seems as though it’s just a blink of the eye and a child or adult is gone. Please pay attention to what’s going on around you.

If something seems abnormal, call 911 and report it. Don’t ignore it. Think about your loved ones and imagine if they were no longer a part of your life but you didn’t know why or what happened. It’s a terrible feeling not knowing what happened to that special someone in your life.”

If Yolanda is alive and able to read this, Margaret has a message for her: “Yolanda, if you’re reading this, I thank God that you’re able to. Please know that we love you so much and miss you more than anything in this world. Your daughters think about you all the time and miss you like the rest of us. In their hearts, they believe you’ll be home soon. That’s what we all believe. If you’re able to make a call, please call one of us. I’ve always been there for you and I always will be no matter what.”

Wherever Yolanda is, I have no doubt she is so proud of her family’s ability to pull together. I see her beaming like an angel seeing their obvious love for her.

Remember the Westside Little League where the Bindics siblings played softball? This year, one of Yolanda’s nieces played for the Yankees, the very same team of Margaret’s memories with her little sister. Yolanda’s brother was the coach. They dedicated the season to Yolanda, and they won the championship!

Margaret made a scrapbook for Yolanda when they were children. She plans on putting the certificate for the star they purchased for Yolanda in that scrapbook if she does not come home. Margaret said: “I wanted to do something meaningful, something that will be out there forever.

Whenever Yolanda and I would call each other, I would always greet her by saying, "Hello, Sunshine, Good Morning, Sunshine, etc., so a note is included with her Star certificate that reads, "Let this star continue to shine until my Sunshine comes home."”

The song “Somewhere Out There” has much meaning to families of the missing such as mine and the Bindics family. We all hope that somewhere out there is a place where our dreams of being reunited with our loved ones will come true.

As I was thinking about this song, and remembering when I heard it being played on the radio, it was always on the Delilah radio show, which airs both here in Omaha, and in Jamestown, NY. Since Delilah plays it for dedications quite often, I’m quite sure she, too, likes the song. I have sent her an email, requesting that she dedicate that song to Yolanda and her family on the night they travel to the planetarium to view Yolanda’s star.

Please help make a dream come true for Margaret and the Bindics family. Take the time to write to Delilah, asking for the song to be played and dedicated to Yolanda on September 29th. Perhaps someone, somewhere out there can provide the clue that will bring this family together again.

The website, built with love for Yolanda:

A video of Yolanda:

“....Somewhere out there if love can see us through
Then we'll be together somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true
And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky
Somewhere out there if love can see us through
Then we'll be together somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true.”

Sunday, September 18, 2005

9/18/05 "Somewhere Out There" Part I

Somewhere Out There
Written by James Horner, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil

“Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight
Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky...”

That bright star is named Yolanda Anne Bindics.

On September 29, 2004, a star was named after Yolanda, and this year, on Yolanda’s 27th birthday, her family will travel to the planetarium to locate Yolanda’s star in the vast heavens. As they do this, they will be thinking of the song “Somewhere Out There”, and its meaning to all of them. Yolanda, however, won’t be there. Yolanda disappeared from Jamestown, NY over a year ago now.

Yolanda was born on September 29th, 1978 to Patricia and Imre Bindics. Yolanda is the youngest of 11 children. She was welcomed to a bustling, but loving household of 6 sisters and 4 brothers. She and Margaret, the second to youngest child, shared a very special relationship. In fact, growing up some thought they were twins, as they look so much alike, and at times, they “felt” like twins, sensing the emotions of the other, and feeling something wrong when the other was in some sort of trouble.

The Bindics family didn't have a whole lot of money while growing up, but what they did have was something more valuable that money couldn’t buy, which is an abundance of love. That's all that really mattered to them. They didn't need much money as long as they had each other.

As the children grew up, their mother took care of them, but at the same time pursued a college degree. Their father worked as a handyman and also painted houses.

Margaret wants us to know Yolanda as she does: “Yolanda's a very lovable woman. She’s like a magnet. People were drawn to her. She definitely played her role as a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend very well. Yolanda is very thoughtful, outgoing, friendly, trustworthy, unselfish and a lot of fun to be around. She would cheer you up in a heartbeat if you were down. Yolanda is like the life of a party, when she walks in the room, the party begins. She would go the extra mile to make someone happy.To know Yolanda is to love her.

When I picture Yolanda, I picture her smile first. Next, I can’t help but to chuckle when I picture some of the goofiest things she would do to make me laugh. She loved it though. She enjoys making others happy, laugh and feel good. Yolanda has such a wonderful sense of humor.

When little girls play dress up, it’s usually with make-up, dresses and hats. That wasn’t the case with Yolanda and me. One of the funniest things we used to do is play dress up with our mother’s clothes, but we would get into them together and try to walk around the house without falling over. We would start with the right foot and then left and so forth. One of us would intentionally step forward with the wrong foot just so that we would purposely fall over.

Something else Yolanda used to do when she was younger that always makes me laugh until this day is when she would do her “doggie” thing. She would put on a pair of stretchy pants with her knees in first through the legs, so her knees would both be at the bottom of the pant legs instead of her feet. Then she would pull the waistband up to her waist and over her feet with her knees bent, of course. Her feet would then look like a dog’s tail. When she walks away from the other people in the room, on her knees, it looks like a dog from behind. It’s hilarious!!

As of today, I do the “doggie” thing just to make everyone laugh and because it’ll always remind me of Yolanda. When I think about how much laughter Yolanda brought to my life, I really miss her so much more.”

The Bindics boys played for the Westside Little League Football, while the older sisters cheered. Yolanda and Margaret were too young to cheer, so the league considered them to be the mascots for the cheerleading team. The children have good memories of the fun they had growing up together, and this was just one of many.

When the two youngest sisters were old enough, they also played softball on a team called the Yankees on the same Westside Little League. Yolanda played left field and Margaret was the catcher.

Margaret was married on September 27, 1997, two days before Yolanda's 19th birthday. Even though they were on their honeymoon, Margaret and her new husband treated Yolanda to dinner for her birthday since their flight didn’t depart until a couple days later.

The night before Margaret’s wedding, the bridal attendants (girls only) stayed together at one of the other sister’s home. On the morning of the wedding, Margaret treated them to breakfast, went to the salon immediately following breakfast, and then headed to the wedding site. It was an outdoor wedding, and Margaret was really nervous and was panicking. She was afraid that she would make a mistake in her vows, or perhaps trip as she was walking down the aisle. She was even afraid that she would forget the marriage certificate. When she walked down the aisle, and looked at Yolanda, Yolanda looked back and gave her a look like she had nothing to worry about and that everything was going to be just fine. At that point, Margaret once again affirmed that with her sister by her side, she didn't have anything to worry about. She was right. Everything went fine. Yolanda’s re-assuring glance reminded Margaret that even if something did go wrong, it would be okay and would give the sisters something to laugh about later.

Margaret says: “All of my life, Yolanda has always been by my side. So I knew that having her by my side on my wedding day is exactly where she belonged.

There was another time when Yolanda was right there by my side. We were out doing karaoke with a few other siblings. I've done karaoke several times before, but this time, for whatever reason, I was nervous and started messing up. A couple of my sisters were there, as well as a couple brothers. But who do you suppose came running up on stage to help me out?? You guessed it.... Yolanda. She was ALWAYS there by my side no matter what, when, where, why or how. Where is she now?? I need her by my side. I miss her so much.”

Yolanda transitioned into adulthood and brought 4 girls into the world. Margaret was so proud of Yolanda’s parenting skills. “Yolanda wants what's best for her children. They definitely come first in her eyes. Yolanda's known for her infamous saying to her daughters, which is "mind your manners" and they always did.

One of the things I miss the most is when Yolanda would call me because one of her daughters did something she was so proud of. It's the cutest thing and I miss it so much. Since I don't have children of my own, I always admired Yolanda. She’s such a wonderful Mommy to her children. I always told Yolanda how proud I am of her and what a terrific mother she is.”

On August 10th, 2004, Margaret found she had that feeling that something was wrong with Yolanda. Unfortunately, she was right. That’s when the laughter ended.

Part II of the story will be posted early Monday morning.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

9/17/05 Applause, Applause

Finally, a reporter who tells it like it is and isn't afraid to state the painfully obvious about the differences in the handling of missing person's cases.

Please read Mark Holmberg's article about the "haves and the have nots" when it comes to resources expended towards missing person's cases.

His example is a missing 18 year old girl. It sounds as if she is most likely living a hard life on the streets. Her family has no money, period.

The examples I gave in my Media Challenge post are girls who are 17, or were under-age at the time they disappeared. I wanted it to be apples to apples, as you cannot activate an Amber Alert on anyone 18 or older.

By the way, I emailed my letter to the Virginia Amber Alert people.

I want to know what to tell parents of a missing child when they ask why the Amber Alert can't be done for their loved one when it fits the new criteria that came into place with Taylor's case.

The new criteria appears to be as follows, according to media interviews with authorities:

*Is a juvenille
*Is gone for a period of time (10 days was long enough in this case)
*No credible leads as to the child's whereabouts
*Authorities want to cast a wider net of awareness to find the child

That would make the cases that I highlighted two posts ago eligible, wouldn't it? Shouldn't it? I wonder if the last of the new criteria is the clincher.

They found Taylor's car close to her campus with Ohio license plates affixed to it. If you're out there, Taylor, and you just wanted to get away for whatever reason, please make that one phone call. Make it for your family, whose heart is breaking, and make it so that the goose chase can end and these resources can be used for someone who truly needs it. If harm has come to you, then may authorities find the person(s) responsible (and you) and bring them to justice, and may your family be given the strength to carry on.

Thank you, Mark, for speaking out.

Friday, September 16, 2005

9/16/05 Rules Meant to be Broken?

Even though we all don't agree with it, the Amber Alert is only to be used in cases where a known danger to the missing person exists. Each state chooses their own criteria for when the alert is used. In Virginia, the home state of Taylor Behl, the criteria is as follows:

The abducted child must be 17 years of age or younger, and the law enforcement agency believes the child has been abducted (unwillingly taken from their environment without permission from the child’s parent or legal guardian).

The law enforcement agency believes the abducted child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.

A law enforcement investigation has taken place that verified the abduction or eliminated alternative explanations.

Sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the child, suspect, and/or the suspect’s vehicle.

The Child must be entered into the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) missing person files as soon as practical.

If all of the aforementioned criteria are not met, the Virginia AMBER Alert Plan will not be activated.

Please notice that it says that ALL the criteria must be met in order to activate it. Authorities in Virginia activated it for Taylor today, but news sources state the following:

"Police have yet to find evidence of foul play. They have not foreclosed the possibility that Behl left campus voluntarily and is now perhaps reluctant to return, given the extensive publicity her disappearance has generated."

I understand there is a person of "interest" and search warrants issued and carried out. Even after that there is still no evidence of foul play, (at least none revealed yet) and nothing that would indicate the alert should have been utilized.

How then, does she qualify for an Amber Alert? Why is an exception being made? I will let the reader come to their own conclusions about that.

Again, I will state that we want Taylor to be found, soon and safe. We also want resources provided to the missing to be allocated to all of them, not just a select few. There is a reason why the Amber Alert has guidelines for activation. That reason is not because of pressure on the police due to media attention received.

There may be details they are holding back in which they know for sure that Taylor is in danger, but according to all the news sources read, there are still no positive indicators to that effect. I realize there might be something unsaid at this point in the investigation. Only time will tell, or, perhaps I should say that I hope all is revealed very soon.

I've lost count of the number of disraught parents of a missing child I've spoken to who lamented: "I asked them to do an Amber Alert on my missing son/daughter, and they said they couldn't do it." I then have to explain to them that it is because their child's case and known details did not fit the criteria. If they were to be aware of the case discussed today, how would I then explain this to them?

Postnote: I have emailed the Virgina Amber Alert site. Let's see if they respond.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

9/15/05 Media Challenge

There is a beautiful missing young woman from Richmond, VA, who appears to be the next "poster child" for the missing in the eyes of the media. 17 year-old Taylor Behl may not be as big as the last person as far as coverage hours devoted to her go, but I believe within 48 hours, we'll be seeing her story on local media outlets nationwide. Today there were over 100 stories about her on both national TV news and on local media outlets in that area. I also saw one from RI and one from IL.

Google news search results for Taylor:

While we may not be able to have much effect on what the national media does, perhaps we can challenge our local media to be responsible and help families right there in their own communities. Some of these missing persons have never had one single story in a newspaper or on TV to help create awareness for them and hopefully bring them home. Is it fair to only show one missing person over and over again when there are thousands upon thousands, most of those cases unknown to the typical citizen?

Please do not misunderstand my intentions. I am not saying that this young woman should not get media attention. I sincerely hope that she is found safe and sound soon, so that the nightmare for her family can end.

I am saying that it is not right that only one is featured.

All of those local media outlets can surely cut 15 seconds from that story to show one or more persons missing in their own area. They could also display their name, photo, and police contact information in the corner of the screen while the regular story is shown. "Also Missing" could be shown above their name. What a difference it could make for the other families if they could get this assistance!

I am asking for your help in our Media Challenge. The link at the end of this post will provide you with detailed instructions on how to help us help the forgotten missing.

These children are missing from the same area as Taylor, but I cannot find any news stories about their disappearances.

Update: Ingrid is the only one of the 3 below who is still missing. Sadly, Taylor was found deceased.

INGRID LOPEZ, Missing: Mar 25, 2005 Age Now: 16
Missing From:FAIRFAX,

HILDA PAZ, Missing: May 19, 2005 Age Now: 18 Missing From: MANASSAS,VA

LATASHA CARTER, Missing: Dec 2, 2004 Age Now: 17 Missing From: RICHMOND,VA

My guess is that you've never heard about any of these girls.

For more details and instructions on helping with the Media Challenge, please see

Let's do our part for all missing people.

I'll say goodnight to you and then a special prayer for all four young women.

9/14/05 Back to Lubbock

The 13th was also not just another day for a family we know. It marked 14 months since Jack and Vicki Wilkerson last saw their daughter, Jennifer.

We told Jennifer's story in part II of a two part series entitiled "The Lovely Ladies of Lubbock". Joanna Rogers' story was also told. We then went inside a SAR organization with the ladies from USART who search for Joanna and Jennifer.

Jack shared with me an update in the form of a letter he wrote to thank several of the helping organizations, including USART, who recently travelled back to Lubbock once again.

"Hello All,

Today makes 14 months since Jen disappeared. We received a call from Dana Ames this morning letting us know that the body of a woman was found in the landfill in Lubbock, but they were confident it was neither Jen nor Joanna Rogers. She called back within a matter of hours to confirm that while the body was a white female in her late 20's, that it appeared to be a recent homicide, and they are pretty sure it is not her. (It wasn't) We knew, of course, that the likelihood was small, but there is that moment where your heart seems to disappear while you process the information.

On Labor Day weekend, URSAR team, along with members of TRUSAR and their cadaver dogs from Dallas and Houston, went to Lubbock and searched several more sites of interest. Nothing was found to further the investigation, but several possibilities were eliminated.

Something that I have been thinking about for a while really struck home recently. I was thinking about how much the search teams and sheriff's department give up in their efforts to help people like us. Surely there are things people would rather do on long weekends like Labor Day than tramp through fields and gullys in the west Texas heat, yet they always show up when needed. I am so in awe of that selflessness and generosity, particularly now when I feel so selfish in my need for answers for my own life. I realized, though, that it isn't just them that give of their time and lives, but also the wives, children, families and friends who lose their loved one's company while they are gone. I wish there was some way that I could let each of them know how much it means to us. The best I know to do is tell each of you; family, friends, volunteers (and your families as well), that Vikki and I will be forever greatful for all that you have done for us, and the love and support you have given.

Thank you,
Jack & Vikki

This letter and the selfless efforts described within are exactly the kind of loving actions that helps families like the Wilkersons and like ours to keep on going another day. I also want to thank all involved for giving these families the gifts of hope and awareness.

May God bless you and yours abundantly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

9/14/05 How Can I Help? (Revised)

This post is repeated monthly for new readers.

There are many things that can be done to assist families of missing persons. I will outline those here and add on to this monthly with more ideas.

Things you can do without cost:

For those who believe, prayer for both the missing person and for the family is very important. If the missing person is alive, they may be struggling with basic needs and/or the psychological issues in their life. The left behind family members need prayers to help them deal with the numerous issues that come with having a loved one become missing. There is strong scientific evidence that prayer can make a difference. I can tell you that it does.

For families who have websites with guestbooks, be sure to sign the guestbook, as the family is uplifted by these messages of hope and support. You never can underestimate the effect doing this has. You can also email the link to the website to others, asking them to send it on after signing the guestbook.

Important note: Please be responsible when forwarding emails about missing persons. Some are hoaxes and some are about missing persons who have already been found. Do not forward one unless you are sure it is a valid, open case. You can read more about how to check for this here:

You can help us bring awareness for ALL missing persons by emailing all media, local and national, asking for coverage of the missing person’s story.

If a certain missing person’s story makes the national news, and is featured on a regular basis by the local media, contact them and remind them of the missing person(s) in their own area. Often, these missing persons may get little to no coverage. You can also do this if you notice the broadcast of news that should not take precedence over people, such as stories about missing animals.

If you would like an automated email sent to you that contains instructions, links, and a prototype letter to send to media, write to

Things you can do for a minimal cost:

Poster placement is proven to be a key method to bring awareness to the case and reunite families. Many printable posters are available online. Both NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) and NCMA (National Center for Missing Adults) have posters on all missing persons. Many other sites have posters as well. Most family websites will have one to print.

It is important to keep posters up in the area where the missing person was last seen, but we also must remember that we are a very mobile society, and if the missing person is alive, they can very quickly move to another part of the country. There are very few cases in which it is a certainty that the missing person is in a specific area.

Project Jason has printable posters available at these sites:

A few family sites also have printable labels you can affix to packages you mail. You can also make business size cards to hand out. You can see examples of these here: If these are not provided for the missing person you wish to assist, you can make them yourself, using the ones on the page above as a template, or by designing your own.

You can also participate in our Adopt a Missing Person program. For the price of a self-addressed stamped mailer, you can choose one or several missing persons to adopt. You will be sent a photo button to wear and a personal bio, so that you can share their story with others. Wear the button on your purse, backpack, or coat, and give these families hope that they will be reunited.

If a family of a missing person lives in your area, and they hold a fundraiser for their reward fund, you can attend or volunteer to help with the event.

Things you can do for varied costs:

If the family has a reward or search fund, donate to it. Depending on the situation, they might also establish a trust or other fund to care for children of the missing person.

If you are already in touch with the family, or know an organization which can, (Project Jason if it is a case shown on our Faces page) inquire as to their needs. Those needs could vary. They may need a number of posters printed up and sent to them for poster campaigns in their area.

If you have a talent, and want to use that talent to help, contact an organization handling their case. The family may be very happy to have a fundraiser, such as a concert, put on for them. Persons who sell products, such as home interiors, can offer a percentage of their profits during a particular sales period. There are many creative things that can be done to help.

It is not recommended to donate personal goods, just items that pertain to the search.

Please keep in mind that donating money or other items to a missing person’s family is not tax deductible as they are not a nonprofit organization. If the family happens to run a nonprofit organization, donations that are intended for their missing loved one must be given directly to the family, and are not tax deductible. A donation made to the organization cannot be used specifically for their missing family member, but is tax deductible if they have nonprofit status granted by the IRS.

And finally, we ask you to help us help them:

We also need your help financially in order to continue our work. The competition for charitable dollars is fierce and small nonprofits such as Project Jason depend strictly on the generosity of the public. We are an all-volunteer force. There is no paid staff and little overhead. Our phone bill is one of our largest expenses.

I dislike posting this because I never want to give the impression we're all about money, but the realities of it are that we just don't get many donations. We have many, many plans we would like to bring to fruition, but it's going to take money to accomplish those things.

So, if you like what we're doing, please help. If you would prefer, please take a look at the good missing person's organizations in your area, and help them. There are many of us who are small and struggling.

Donations can be mailed to:
Project Jason
PO Box 3035
Omaha, NE 68103

Thank you for anything you can do for our cause!

Kelly Jolkowski, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski
President and Founder,
Project Jason
Read our Voice for the Missing Blog

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

9/13/05 Just Another Day

It's September 13th today. It's just another day for most people. It's not for me.

Each month, the 13th comes around again. There is nothing that can stop it. It serves as a reminder of what is and what isn't.

I went to work this morning and started the day, as usual, at 8 a.m. I flipped over my daily calendar from Monday to Tuesday. The number 13 stared me in the face. It's not that I don't know what comes after 12, or what day this is, it was just that the action of the turning of that page made the surreal become real all over again.

I am at 4 years and three months since Jason disappeared. That's 1,550 days living without him and living in the not knowing. My throat tightens as I type this. I fight back tears. Everywhere I look, I see his face, although in shadows. I cannot grasp onto a shadow. It moves with my movements, always out of reach.

There are times when the world seems so small, but this is a time when it seems as if might as well be the universe. He is out there somewhere, and I cannot find him, no matter what I do. I often say that finding a missing person can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but for me, there are a million haystacks, and I am blindfolded.

With over 4 years of living this life under my belt, I am becoming more accustomed to digging through the haystacks. As long as I keep going, I have eliminated another one. I don't like it at all, but I accept that this is what is, for now, and it may be what is for the rest of my natural life. At least I know one thing: I will see my son again. I just do not know when and where. It may not be on this earthly plain.

It's hard to wait. It's hard to think of what may have happened or might be happening to him. There are plenty of frightening theories to go around, but there is also the possibility that he did leave willingly. I really do not know. I do know that the heartache and the pain do not diminish with time. A mother does not stop worrying about her child.

Recently, there was a story in the news about a young woman who had been missing for 7 years. Her parents thought she was dead, but she was alive and well, living and working in another state. Stories like these re-affirm hope. Just because someone has been missing for a period of time doesn't neccesarily mean they are dead. Hope is a gift I have that no one can take away. Only the truth can do that.

I will wait for the truth. In the meantime, I will keep on digging through the haystacks. Tomorrow may be just another day, but it will be a day of hope and of possibilities.

Monday, September 12, 2005

9/12/05 Ten Seconds for Mom

Ten seconds for their mother is all they are asking. In a world where the media dotes on the young and beautiful, cases of older missing adults often remain forgotten, except by those who love them. Melody and Kim haven't forgotten their missing mother, Cynthia Day.

Melody states: "The media continues to go on and on about the same thing regarding the same missing person instead of sharing the media time with other missing persons. We’re not asking for days on end, we are just asking for a 30 second spot. We’ll even accept 10 seconds. I’m always saying that they could be devoting some of this media time to other missing people. We love our missing loved one just as much as the ones who are capturing all of the media attention.

It’s all about the “story”. Whatever gets the most ratings. I think the media ought to try to air another story that they think is not worthy just to see all of the attention it gets. I’m sure if they aired some of our stories, it would create media hype as well. They won’t even consider our stories. I think my mother’s story would prompt the media to pay attention if they went into detail about how her case has never even been given a chance to be investigated."

10 seconds doesn't seem like much to ask, but it must be to area media, as none of them have agreed to air Cynthia's story. It's not for lack of trying in this case.

"Peaches" is her nickname. She disappeared 15 years ago leaving behind two teenage daughters and one grandchild. She now has 5 other grandchildren she has never seen.

In 1990, when Cynthia disappeared, there were not the resources for the families of missing adults that exist today. The National Center for Missing Adults did not exist, nor did several other agencies who assist with adult cases. Many family members of longer term missing adults cases tell me they thought there was nothing they could do but wait, or hire a PI if they could afford it.

Melody and Kim were teenagers. How could they be expected to deal with the trauma of losing their mother and taking action when many adults did not know what action to take themselves? For years, Cynthia's case sat on the back burner until one day Melody stumbled across information on the Internet: there were now resources for families of missing adults!

Melody and Kim began to utilize these resources in an effort to locate their mother. When they started to do this, they were rather shocked to find that a missing person's case had never been opened for their mother. All of those years had gone by with nothing being done for their mother. Only in the past two years has Cynthia's case been worked upon, but there are still holes in the investigation.

The person whom they family suspects of possibly harming their mother fled with all of her possesions and has not been thoroughly questioned to this day. Melody and Kim stay in contact with their local law enforcement and push to gain enough information to either arrest or eliminate their suspect.

The girls not only lost their mother, but also anything that they would have liked to have to remember her. They only have one last letter she wrote. Cynthia ended her letter with "I love you both. Kiss Poopy (the grandchild) for me!! Grannie"

What if a letter was all you had left to remember your mother with?

That letter, however, may be more than just a sentimental keepsake. The envelope that housed that letter is now being checked to see if Cynthia's DNA can be extracted from it. If successful, it can be used to see if there are any matches for her among the thousands of deceased Jane Does.

If Melody and Kim should find that answer, their search would be over. If not, they don't plan on giving up. " Mom, take pride in knowing that your family is out there looking for you and will never ever give up. We miss you so much and could never express in words our true feelings. Your grandbabies are growing up to be very respectable young men and women and all of them misses you as if they all met their granny before. We talk about you everyday and will continue our efforts in finding you one way or the other, " Melody said. She envisions that she could reach out and say those words to her mother.

Melody shares memories of the past: "Mom, I often have many great memories of you. My favorite being the times on the river in the country. Kim and I often reminiscence about the times you would pack up a little picnic lunch basket for us and we along with the puppy dogs would just jog down the gravel dirt road laughing and sniggling without a care in the world. We would set up our picnic and then play different games for hours. I remember you would walk down the road to get us telling us it's time to come home for supper. After supper you would have us bathe and then you would fight with our long tangled hair, give us a snack, sit us down for a movie or game and then it was off to bed. We would do anything to have you here now to make picnic baskets for your grandchildren. And what I would do to just hear you call me by my middle name "Renee". I knew that I was in trouble then!"

Even though it's been 15 years, Melody remembers much about her mother and her spirit. They used to dance together and have wonderful heart-to-heart conversations. She looked forward to the day that her daughters graduated from high school, and to more grandchildren to love and play with.

Cynthia has missed all of these events. Melody and Kim are sure she would be there if she could. They know she would not have left them when they needed her the most as they grew up.

"My mother’s disappearance has impacted my life in many ways. One being the strong individual that I am as a result of this tragedy. Other family members have been impacted in the same way. It just gives us all the strength to carry on looking for her and dealing with life in general," Melody said.

Yes, the girls found inner strength they did not know they had. They want their mother to know this: "Of course words could never express the pain we feel each and everyday we are forced to handle life without you. But as you taught us, be strong and move forward. These are the values you instilled in us therefore; we will do the same for our children. We miss you more and more as the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years pass us by but it only makes us the unique individuals that we are today.

Whenever someone asks us if we have heard from you we can only say "Not yet" because, of course, it shows that they have hope as well we do. There are several private and public organizations involved in helping us with your recovery. It's these kinds of people who help us deal with this very unfortunate situation and they give us more strength to never give up looking for you. It gives us great comfort in knowing that one-day, one way or another WE WILL SEE YOU AGAIN!!"

Is it really so much for Melody and Kim to ask for and receive 10 seconds of media coverage for their mother? It could provide a clue that could result in answers for their family.

St. Louis area media, are you listening?

Please help spread the word about Cynthia. What if she was your mother?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11/05 Not Really Missing? Part III

Tonight's post concludes our three part series on parental abductions.

Richard has compiled tips on preventing a re-abduction. These tips are good for general child safety as well.

"After I recovered my daughter, my ex-wife telephoned wanting to talk with Jessica. She had just been let out of jail on her own recognisance, and had a bond posted against her to appear in Court. She also had a No Contact Order with Jessica unless her visit was supervised by a social worker. I did not find out about this order until much later.

A month later Jessica talked to me about what her mother had said to her. I was unaware of the details of the conversation, as I did not supervise the telephone call to allow them privacy. It was a very silly move on my part. I would advise any parent to have all communication between the other parent and your child monitored.

Jessica: Dad I have good news and bad news for you.

Richard: Amused that a 4 year old would use this expression, I first asked her what's the good news? Thinking that it would be something trivial or childish, I did not think I would get the response I got.

Jessica: I made a new friend at my babysitter's house today.

Richard: That's good. What's the friend's name?

Jessica: I forgot, no, his name's Jamie.

Richard: Jamie, well that's good. So Jessica, what's the bad news?

Jessica: Remember when mom phoned me at Grandma's, and she said that she was going to steal me away from you.

Richard: Well Jessica, what do you think of that?

Jessica: I don't want to go, do I have to go?

Richard: No, never, don't worry!

I learned the hard way to make sure that my child was not re-abducted and to this day I advise parents after they have a recovery to do the following:

While there may be no way to know for sure that a specific parent will re-abduct his or her child, parents who have threatened to abduct again or abducted previously should be taken seriously. If it happened once it could happen again, is what you are always thinking.

In my case I did the following:

* Make sure that all caregivers have copies of all Custody Orders and that you have the original copies safe but easily accessible. If the non-custodial parent lives out of Province file a custody decree where the non-custodial parent lives

* Inform all caregivers/teachers/school administration of what is happening. Make sure that they all know who are the only people to take your child out of their care. Reinforce this with them as many times as needed. In my opinion it is better to sound over protective rather than be an “Oops, I forgot about that!” victim.

* When my child was abducted, I could not find a recent picture of her so now I took lots of pictures. It is great for the family album if nothing happens, but useful if needed! This is necessary as kids grow up and change so fast.

* Keep a complete written description of your child including the way they act, talk, and their likes and dislikes.

* Have your child fingerprinted with a recent picture and make copies of your child’s Social Insurance Number and Birth certificate etc. You have already been through one abduction and you do not want to be groping for this information the second time. (Think Project Jason Personal ID Kits)

* Make sure that you child is supervised with his or her playmates at all times and also make sure that the parents of these friends know about what you are going through. Have your child escorted to and from school and after school care centers. My child was almost taken via a snatch and grab from a car. Only the quick thinking of her older sister (from a previous marriage) saved that day.

* Inform the Police immediately of any suspicious cars or people in your neighborhood. You will keep you child safe and at the same time inadvertently help out in any local Block Watch programs.

*Make sure that you answer all telephone calls, doors bells and if need be today, all email for the younger children. Remember, that you do not have to open the door EVER to anyone while you are home.

*If you think that you are being watched keep your curtains closed. Change your comings and going times from time to time as well.

*Teach your child to use the telephone and how to call you, long distance collect. Have a code word that only you and your child know. This will stop any attempts to abduct by the “your Mom or Dad said you’re to come with me!” storyline. Your child will then ask for the code word and that will be the end of that. Teach your child to run to a safe place such as a nearby house. If your child is grabbed teach them to kick and scream to get people’s attention.

*Treat child support and visitation as separate issues. If you have to get supervised visitation for your child and the other parent and their relatives then do so! They abducted once, they could do it again and their family, probably help out.

*Finally seek counseling for yourself and your child. Your church will also have resources that you can utilize. My church has done wonders for me!"

In order to come full circle with this issue, we need to make clear the ramifications for the child who has been abducted by a parent. We realize there may be occasions that custody was awarded to the parent who is not the best one for the job, but regardless, the psychological damage still occurs.

This information comes from the website built for missing Sabrina Allen, abducted by her mother in April 2002. Her father, Greg, has never given up the search for Sabrina, and has done a good job in using the site to educate the public in regards to this type of abduction case.

Directly from the site:


Alteration to Appearance
-The abducted child's appearance is often altered (hair cut and dyed, etc.,). Name Change
- The abducted child's name is often changed, with young children sometimes never knowing their true identity.

Loss of true identity
- The child is stripped of his true identity. He loses out on the love of his left-behind family and his roots.

Health Neglect
- The abducted child is often medically & physically neglected as abducting parents have the worry that their child may be discovered to be missing.

Unstable Education
- Abducted children receive unstable schooling as moves for them are common and getting proper paperwork to schools to enroll your child can be difficult under a new name.

Unstable Living Conditions
- Abducted children have unstable living conditions as they are on the run from the law, and often end up homeless or moving frequently.

Lies and more lies
- Abducted children are often told lies about the abduction and the left-behind parent. They can form a false hatred for the left-behind parent and family. Sometimes they are even told the left-behind parent is dead or in jail or doesn't want them.

The Life of Fugitives
- Abducted children live the lives of fugitives. They are taught not to trust anyone, not to tell about their past, and live a life on the run. They have no opportunity to establish relationships with friends.

Psychological and Emotional Distress
- as a result of living life on the run and being subjected to this kind of abuse, the abducted child is subjected to severe psychological and emotional distress which show up for many years to come.


Parental child abduction victimizes more than 354,000 U.S. families each year. This crime is widely misunderstood by those not directly affected by the crime, including some law enforcement and government officials, who are under the misconception that children are inherently safe when they are with an abducting parent. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Dr. Dorothy Huntington, an early leader in parental child abduction issues, best describes what parental child abduction fully encompasses, in her 1982 article entitled, Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse. She states, "Child stealing is child abuse.....Children are used as both objects and weapons in the struggle between the parents which leads to the brutalization of the children psychologically, specifically destroying their sense of trust in the world around them.....We must re-conceptualize child stealing as child abuse of the most flagrant sort." (Huntington, 1982, p. 7)

Parental Child Abduction often scars children and their left behind families for life. In addition to psychological trauma, children often suffer from inadequate schooling, poor nutrition, unstable lifestyles, and neglect. The abducting parent poisons the child against the left-behind parent until the abducted children believe the left-behind parent is either dead or will harm them if found.

Parental Child Abduction is not an act done out of love for the child. The primary goal of the parental child abductor is to get even with the other parent. The abductor victimizes the left-behind family by depriving them of visitation or custodial rights and in the process psychologically torturing them with worry and grief. Statistically, half of parental child abductors have criminal records and most have a history of violent behavior, substance abuse or emotional disturbance. Gender doesn't matter. Both fathers and mothers abduct equally and 15% of the time the abduction is with force or violence. Half of family abductions occur before the relationship between parents end while half occur 2 or more years after divorce or separation, usually after parents develop new households, new relationships, move away or are frustrated with the legal system. Once abducted, the children are at the mercy of the abducting parent, who, in hiding, avoids scrutiny by police, doctors, counselors, and child protective services.

The victimization that children suffer when taken by a parent is no less than that of children taken by a stranger, yet the response of society varies considerably. It is this variance that lessens the chance of aggressive investigation by law enforcement or from the public intervening. The left behind families are left in a constant state of emotional turmoil, never knowing if their children are safe, where they are, or whether they'll ever see them again.

Even if a family is lucky enough to find their children, life is never the same again. Families must start over, attend counseling (sometimes for years and years) and in many states must face allowing the children to have visitation with the abductor again and the possibility of re-abduction.

Education, awareness and stronger penalties for parental child abductors are key in the fight to keep children safe and deter would be parental abductors. Unfortunately, the process has been slow across the 50 United States. Some states do not even recognize parental child abduction as a crime while others treat it with the severity it deserves. Until the justice systems in all 50 states uniformly handles the issue with severe punishment, the lives of innocent children will continue to be destroyed in mounting numbers."

Now I ask you, can you still say that these children are not really missing and that they are ok because they are with a parent?

I want to thank Richard for sharing his experience with us to help us understand these issues and also Greg Allen for never giving up to find his Sabrina.
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