Wednesday, November 30, 2005

11/30/05 More Good News

Donna Parent, mother of missing Brandy Hanna, is scheduled to be interviewed tonight for Fox Network's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

Brandy's story can be found here:

She also has a new website:

You can adopt Brandy on Project Jason's Adopt a Missing Person program. Details are on our website:

Let's pray for answers to come of this for Donna and her family.

11/30/05 A Love Story--Conclusion

A Love Story is not about a typical unidentified deceased (UID) situation. You may have been asking yourself why Bill would have been classified as such since the hospital knew of his identity.

Pat and Bill’s story, and the one that follows, illustrate the cracks in the current system. Had persons in authority utilized available systems, they would have quickly found that Bill was listed as missing. It would appear that they assumed he had no one who cared because he was homeless, and they treated him as they would an UID. They buried him in a pauper’s grave and made no effort to check out his identity. He was no one to them, just another person to add to the collection of 700 in the cemetery.

How many of the 700 have known identities? If they are known, was there any attempt to use federal systems to locate the families? For the typical UID’s, was any physical data preserved from those bodies so that someday, perhaps a family might have the answer as to the fate of the missing loved one? Do consider that this is just one location and one pauper’s grave.

Because of a system failure and disregard for human life, Pat and Bill’s family had to wait for more than 5 years to learn that Bill had passed away. Was the $1.07 left in his possession the value placed upon him in life and in death?

Pat had brought Bill home, but yet the unanswered questions as to why this happened prompted her to continue her search for answers.

Pat continues with her story:

“I notified his only sister who lived out of town and the rest of his family that he was home, and that I would have a graveside memorial service on Tuesday, June 21 at 11 a.m. I had special songs played at his service, had his niece read scripture, his nephew read also a very moving chapter, his great-niece sang, and his sister-in-law got up and spoke about Bill as well as did his sister.

About 25 family and friends attended the service. I had a white dove release at the end of the service. The theme of the service on the programs I had fixed was "Home at Last." I then had everyone down to my house where I had lunch for them. It was good being around Bill's family. I felt a closeness to him. I really felt he was here with us.

During all this I was trying to find out about his last days, but I hit stumbling block after stumbling block. I wasn't his next of kin, no matter that I was paying to have his body sent here. The funeral director did get me a complete death certificate and it listed his death as COPD, lung cancer which had metastasized, and TB. It also told that from diagnosis to death had been three months. I tried contacting the Dr. who was listed on the death certificate. They told me the hospital would have the records. The social workers at the hospital told me they couldn't release his records to me. They also couldn't tell me why no one was notified. I believe Bill was in such a state probably with the cancer gone to his brain that he was unable to tell who to notify and the social workers didn't try. I resolved to someday go in person to the hospital and try to get the records and find out just why no one was notified.

What has happened to Bill and to me is devastating. To think he died alone is so dis-heartening. I have been angry but determined, and that is why I had to bring him home, one last thing for him after he lived years of poverty and homelessness. What happened to him and has happened to other homeless forgotten people is such an injustice. Not enough effort is made to find the next of kin. They are forgotten. It's like their life doesn't matter. Oh, well, they're dead, just bury them and forget them. How many are out there like that? I do know that the cemetery where Bill was, holds over 700 pauper's graves. How many are there that somewhere there is a loved one still waiting and hoping? There is no excuse for some social worker to try and play God and not make an effort to find a dying person's family. They are just another number on a grave.

Social services did provide a small marker with his name, birthday which was inscribed wrong and his date of death. Again, this was a haphazard way of dealing with him. No real reason was given to me as to why someone didn’t try to notify anyone about Bill. It was always side stepped.

I think anytime a funeral director handles a case such as this, the funeral director should be required to take a photo of the deceased before burial and keep it on file.

I feel at a dead end, however, I am not through. I feel that when a person is dead, if a caring, loving member of that person's family is interested in finding out what happened to them, then that person who is searching should be told all. Even though I was Bill’s former wife, he never re-married, I should be able to get any information on him, as he is dead now. And, certainly, a son, daughter, sister, brother should be able to get information about their loved one if they are sick, in a homeless shelter or dead.

An investigative reporter could pressure the authorities into releasing this information. I want to know the last days of Bill's life. Where he was staying, who if anyone was by his bed when he died, what were his 24 days in the hospital like, (someone told me he was there 24 days) why his death certificate wasn't signed or filed until April 17 (signed by Dr.) and April 21, 2000 by XXXXX XXXXX, Social Worker at Baptist Hospital. (She is no longer there).

What is left undone is described above. I want to know about his last days and why no one was notified with all the identification he had on him. Someone, somewhere can surely find this out. I have tried calling every homeless shelter in Nashville, to no avail. I plan on continuing to look into this.

Still, after all of this and 47 years later, my love for Bill still goes on. He was always in my heart, as I was in his heart, but it was not meant for us to be together again on this earth. So, I call it eternal love, as I will love him until I die and beyond. I fully believe he will be waiting for me in a perfect hereafter where we can be together through eternity, whatever that may be. I feel his presence around me a lot of the time. This is what I had inscribed on his gravestone:

"Bill, Love is Eternal----Pat"

That is what our love was and is.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

11/29/05 Breaking News: Erik Buran Found!

I am so thrilled for Erik's father, Robert. He just notified me that Erik has been found. Here is what he said:


I told friends we must find him by Christmas or we must stop Christmas.

Detective Cherie Rye called an hour ago while I was sleeping.

Erik is OK and has been taken into protective custody and LE is going to contact me immediately to arrange return to Reno.

I am waiting for the phone call.

Karen is arrested.

In Albuquerque New Mexico.

I may be out of communication for a couple days.

High Five for the Lyon County Sheriff's Department.

-Erik's Daddy

PS I do not presently know if it had any thing to do with finding him, but Erik did make it onto the Nancy Grace show. If anybody taped it please let me know. I just got congratulations from Brad Dennis of Klass Kids."

I will let you know more when I know more, and will post it here. This is such joyous news!

Previous stories about Erik:

Brief Update, 5pm: Robert is leaving in just a few minutes. He will drive through the night to be in NM in the morning to be reunitied with Erik. His car is filled with all sorts of goodies and toys for him. These are items he had purchased in anticipation and the hope to find Erik.

Karen turned herself in. Robert will know more later on. Please pray for his safe travel through the night.

Update, 8am: Robert and I played phone tag. He called me at 2am and reported he was mid-point on his journey to Erik and doing fine. He said he had much time for reflection and knows how blessed he is. He will be calling me back. I called him this morning on my way to work and told him to give Erik an extra hug from me. I also told him I will not be calling him. This day is sacred to them. It's their private, very special reunion. Merry Christmas, Robert and Erik.

Update, 4:30pm: Robert called and he and Erik have been together for several hours now. Erik is fine. Robert said he has grown and changed. He was a little shy at first but is now getting excited to be with his daddy. More later on...

Update, 8:45: We spoke for a long time. I could hear Erik laughing in the background. Hearing that sweet sound brought tears to my eyes.

But there was no "Hollywood-like" hug and kiss reunion.

Fortunately, Robert has a strong background in psychology. This is aiding him in the reunification process. There is anger and acting out by the child in these situations. He understands this and even though some things said are painful, he knows this is a part of this process.

As the day progressed, these outbursts decreased, replaced by the a happy little boy who is re-bonding with his father. Robert feels confident that he will be fine. He observes that Erik has grown and that he has increased dexterity and other physical attributes that come with the transition from a little boy's body to a boy's body.

Little is known as to what happened, where they were, and who was with them. They were still in the camper, staying in Walmart parking lots. Robert suspects Erik was left alone for periods of time. He is physically fine, with no signs of abuse. He hopes to learn more tomorrow.

Robert plans on staying there for a couple of days and then slowing making his way back home, stopping at interesting places along the way and having a good time together. He has taken a couple of photos and will be taking more. When they get home, Robert will continue to spend time with him while he decides on how they will live their life together. He doesn't want him to be a daycare child 40 hours per week.

He is not bitter at Karen, but just wants to know why she did it. He does not want to pursue any activities in regards to the lack of proper action by authorities in Nevada. He is just happy to have Erik back.

Erik does not really understand all of what happened at this point. In his child's mind, daddy should have went on the trip with them. He is an intelligent child, so I am sure that when the time is right, then he will comprehend it all.

Robert handed the phone to me to talk to Erik. I said hello and he said hello back, but then he decided he was going to make funny noises instead of talking. Robert and Erik laughed and then when his daddy and I were done talking, I said goodnight to Erik.

"Goodnight, Erik, and sweet dreams."

I have a feeling they will be very sweet.

Update, Thursday 7pm: Robert called and let me know that he feels even more confident today that Erik is not going to suffer any residual effects from what has happened to him. He said Erik is back to his old self, and loving his time with Daddy. They went to the aquarium today, and tonight they are going to a big tree lighting ceremony.

Again, I could hear him laughing in the background. He sounded at one point, as if he were making monkey noises. I did say hello to him, and he managed this time to say a little bit more before breaking into a fit of laughter. It was a joyful noise.

Robert found out that Karen turned herself in after seeing a missing poster of herself and Erik. She called NMCEC, who in turn dispatched police. Erik was taken to McDonalds so that his mother was not arrested in front of him.

Tomorrow, Robert and Erik begin a slow journey back home, savoring every moment together.

The latest and photos from the reunion back home:

11/29/05 A Love Story--Part II

A Love Story is a part of a continuing series on the tragedy of unidentified deceased persons.

Pat continued her search for Bill with renewed passion, despite the obstacles laid in her path. She was in regular contact with us, and we were going to feature Bill on our Come Home program in June. (Come Home is one of programs which seeks the missing among the homeless.) Project Edan was going to work on an age progression of Bill to aid in the search.

Every Come Home campaign poster has a personal message written to the missing person from the family. Pat wrote this as the message to Bill for his poster:

“Dear Bill,

I have always loved you and I so want to know if you are alright. I remember you singing "Personality" to me so many years ago. Please contact me or your friend, XXXXX. We want to see you again so badly. I'll always be yours.

Let's not waste the years we have left by being apart. I will help you any way I can. The numbers listed have my phone no. and they will call me immediately if you ask them to.

Love you and hoping to see you again,


Even though she had began to feel in her heart that Bill was dead, she had to find him: “I felt I still had to find out the when, where and how of where he spent his final days. I felt I was being propelled from beyond to find him. I was afraid he had been killed or died homeless as I felt he was still all alone. I would hear a song constantly that had meaning for us back in 1958, a song that I had not heard in over 40 years was suddenly being played on the radio. I dreamed about him where I went to a place where he was and I told him I was there to bring him home and he laid my head on his shoulder and said he couldn't come home with me. He looked so young in this dream, around 34 or so and I felt it was a visitation dream from him and that he actually came to me.”

She hoped beyond hope that she was wrong about Bill, and that he was still alive. She felt they were going to be reunited. One day in May brought the truth about Bill to Pat. She will never forget it.

“One day, I was sitting at my computer and felt I HAD to do something MORE and more drastic if I were to find him. A friend suggested I just go to the social security office and try again and plead my case. That was Wednesday, May 11, 2005. I was having dreams with Bill in them every night. So, I got in my car and drove to the Social Security office. It was the first time I had been in there that it was practically empty of people. There was one couple ahead of me. I waited just a few minutes.

I had a photo of Bill, his police record with his social security number on it, our marriage certificate and spread them out before the lady behind the counter and told her I had to find out if he was dead or alive. I knew in my heart of hearts that he was dead. At first she said she was not allowed to tell me anything. Then suddenly she just looked at me and said, "What is your social security number." I told her. She punched in my number and saw that I was married to him at one time. She told me I could write a letter and they would forward it to him if he was collecting benefits. I asked her to repeat how to go about doing this. Then she looked at his police record and asked if that was his number. I told her yes. She punched it into the computer.

We looked at each other and at the same time whispered: “He’s dead.”

I immediately burst into tears and asked when, where? Again, she was whispering that she wasn't supposed to tell me anything, but she wrote down, Feb. 28, 2000. I asked her where and she gave me a paper with addresses for the Tennessee Vital Records offices and told me to contact them. I knew then it was Tennessee where he spent his last days. I was reeling and feeling as if I had been punched in the stomach. I was crying so hard, the guard asked me if I would be alright and I told him yes and left. I called Bill's cousin, and his friend and mine, when I got to the car. They both broke down crying.

I came home and immediately got on the Internet and phone to the Vital Records in Tennessee. I told them I was his cousin and that he didn't have any relatives, because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get a copy of his death certificate. It was the next day before I was really able to get confirmation that they would send me a copy. I told them I would pay the extra for them to overnight it to me. This was Thursday, May 12. That evening, AM and I got copies of funeral homes in the Nashville area, because someone, I don't remember who, maybe the Vital records people, had told me he died in Nashville. We started calling the funeral homes, but it got late and we didn't get in touch with but about four and none of them had handled Bill.

The death certificate came the next morning, Friday, May 13, and I saw that Ellis Funeral Home in Nashville had handled his arrangements. I also saw that he was buried, not cremated, of which I was thankful. It told that he died in Baptist Hospital in Nashville and a social worker had filled out the death certificate. It also told he was buried in Bordeaux Cemetery which I found out was a pauper's cemetery. One of the investigative people wanted to call the funeral home for me, so I let them. She found out that after five years, the funeral home had kept the last items Bill had on him: a practically new Social Security card, a TB test card, a photo of himself made on steps of some building and another photo ID which part of it had been cut off, as well as $1.07 in money. It was all folded up in a small plastic pouch.

The funeral director e-mailed her a copy of the photo of Bill and she sent it on to me. I was shocked at how he looked, he looked very sick so I believe the photo was made shortly before he died. I at first said the photo was not Bill, but upon looking at it closer, I realized it was, as it showed his pinky finger on his left hand as missing and that was one of the identifying marks he had. Also, I could tell by his ears and eyes that it was him. I then called and talked to the funeral director and told him I wanted to come up there and talk to him and go to Bill's grave. He said he would give me the items of Bill's they had kept.

The next day, Saturday, May 14, my friend and I left early going to Nashville. We went right to the funeral home without any trouble and I don't know Nashville at all. It was as if Bill were directing me how to get there, I felt him with us. We spent a while at the funeral home and I told them that I wanted to bring Bill home. He said that would be fine that he would keep in touch with me regarding cost, how, when, etc. I took the items and felt of all of them, knowing that Bill's fingerprints were on them. We then went out to the cemetery (again, I found the cemetery easily and walked right up to his grave, as if he were showing me) where I placed roses, a teddy bear and a letter telling him how much I loved him, on his grave. Then we came back home.

I then started making arrangements to find a lot to bury him in. I was going to buy one close by where I will be buried. In the meantime, his sister-in-law contacted Bill's nephew and asked if I could bury Bill beside one of his sisters. Her family agreed, so that part fell into place. The funeral home in Nashville was handling the removal of Bill's body and the transporting him to Georgia. Finally on June 14, two of my friends and I went to Nashville and spent the night. Early on the morning of the 15th, we went out to Bordeaux Cemetery as Bills body was being removed from that grave. We were afraid the vault wouldn't hold up, so another vault was there on standby. When Bills body was brought up, it was a very emotional moment. The funeral director was there with me and had his arm around me. My two friends were up nearer the grave watching. The vault was in fine shape. So, he was loaded onto a truck and I told the driver I would meet him at the cemetery where he was to be buried again.

My friends and I arrived back about an hour before the truck, Bills' grave was already prepared, his cousin had gone down that morning and reported to me that it was being dug. When the truck arrived, I was sitting there watching for it. The men carefully took the vault off the truck and lowered it into the new grave while we watched. In just a few minutes they had the grave covered. I had a memorial service planned for the next week, as Bill's niece was out of town the week I brought him back.

During the time between having him moved to his memorial service, I head a knocking coming from my computer three different times. I firmly believe our loved ones who have gone on can communicate with us. He was telling me that he wanted to "come home," and that he wanted blue flowers. One of the gravesites I looked at for him had "blue flowers" on it. I also heard the song during this time that he used to sing to me over 40 years ago.”

A Love Story will conclude on Wednesday.

Monday, November 28, 2005

11/28/05 A Love Story--Part I

A Love Story is a part of a continuing series on the tragedy of unidentified deceased persons.

She was 17, and he was 20 when they were married in 1958. She was the love of his life, and he was hers. Pat describes Bill Patterson as being extremely handsome and having an incredible singing voice, which he used often to serenade her.

Unfortunately, Bill had a drinking problem, which led to his getting in trouble for fighting. Pat asked for a divorce, and Bill would not sign the papers. Pat fought him in court and was able to get her divorce.

Bill never re-married, stating that he didn’t believe in divorce. The truth was that the two never stopped loving each other. They saw each other a few times in 1960, and over the years, Bill adopted a drifter lifestyle, staying in homeless shelters in the region.

Pat married again and was busy raising her children when Bill came back into her life for a brief moment in time in 1982. He came into town, called her, and she went to see him. He had cooked her dinner, but Pat didn’t want to eat. She asked why he called. Bill simply said that he wanted to see her again. He hugged and kissed Pat one last time, and told her how good she looked. He then flashed that special smile she could never forget. They parted ways amicably, and Pat asked him not to contact her again.

Pat recalls the last time Bill was seen by friends and relatives: “This was around 1998-99 in Copperhill, TN. He would have been around 60 at that time. He had been to Blue Ridge, GA. back to where he was born and seen some old friends. He went to see a cousin but he wasn't home. He got a ride with someone who knew him and asked them to take him to Copperhill, TN and that he was going to hitch a ride to Dalton, GA, his former hometown and where I live. However, none of his relatives or friends in Dalton saw him during that time period, so he evidently went elsewhere. In 1993, Bill’s brother died, and relatives saw him on that occasion, but there was no contact after that.”

Pat’s life changed in 2001 when her husband died. A few years later, Pat felt a pull from “beyond”. It was Bill, and Pat had an overwhelming feeling that he was all alone.

“I felt propelled by a force that was beyond me. I went to a nephew of Bill's funeral and saw a number of Bill's relatives there. I made up my mind after that I would search until I found him. I met a first cousin of his there and I later contacted her as well as a woman whose husband had run around with Bill. The cousin had not seen him since he was small but the friend had seen him over the years and last saw him in 1993. They both helped me,” Pat explained.

She continues with the beginnings of her journey back to Bill: “I always had a special place in my heart for Bill, so I thought I would find him and see if perhaps I could help him wherever he was and whatever he was doing. I contacted a private investigation company out of New York and also one out of Texas. I also contacted the Salvation Army for help. I went to the police in Copperhill, TN and filed a Missing Persons report. I also listed him with the National Center for Missing Adults who put me in contact with Project Jason and the DOE Network. His photo was on these websites. All this occurred from Jan. 2005 up to May 2005. I also wrote a letter which Social Security said they would/might send him if he was collecting Social Security benefits. I never heard back from SS.

I contacted every relative and friend I could find. He has nephews and nieces and a sister-in-law and brother-in-law in the town where I am, and I went to see them. His family here was anxious for me to find him and supported my efforts to the maximum. I obtained copies of his birth certificate, our marriage license and certificate in an effort for some clues to his whereabouts. The investigators had not turned up anything. I did obtain his SS number from a police file, but no one could get any information from that. He had listed his address at one time as Baton Rouge, LA, and a check with shelters and police records in that area turned up nothing.

Social Security said they were unable to give me any information. Homeless shelters were reluctant to give information and those I contacted at that time had no record of him. The police were not searching either. I felt like I was hitting a wall constantly.”

A Love Story will continue on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

11/26/05 Sundays of Hope

This is the second of an ongoing weekly feature in which we ask your participation. Please see last week's installment for the history behind Sundays of Hope.

This week's Sundays of Hope campaign (Week of 11/27 through 12/3) is Thomas Amburn of Columbus, NC.

Here is Thomas' information:

Name: Thomas Lee Amburn
Classification: Endangered Missing Adult
Alias / Nickname: Tom, Tommy
Date of Birth: October 12, 1952
Date Missing: April 19, 2004
From City/State: Columbus, NC
Missing From (Country): USA
Age at Time of Disapperance: 51
Gender: Male
Race: White
Height: 68 inches
Weight: 241 pounds
Hair Color: Lt. Brown
Hair (Other): With graying.
Eye Color: Brown
Complexion: Medium

Identifying Characteristics: Brown spot on left cheek, large scar down front of abdomen, scar on right side, scars on both knees, large mole on right shoulder blade, mole on neck at hairline.

Clothing: Light gray T-shirt, dark gray pants, white athletic shoes. Jewelry: Yellow gold "Timex" digital watch.

Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. Thomas was last seen between 9:10am and 12:45pm at his residence in the vicinity of the 2400 block of Houston Rd. in Columbus, NC. He may have gone for a hike on the mountain behind his residence. Thomas is diabetic.

Investigative Agency: Polk County Sheriff's Office Phone: (828) 894-3001

Printable poster:

Thomas left behind a loving wife, Deborah. She is facing her 2nd holiday season without her husband. Thomas and Deborah have a great love for each other.

Several searches have taken place in the mountains behind their home, but without success. There are no leads in the case at this time.

Friday, November 25, 2005

11/25/05 Larry King Live Show Tonight!

This evening at 8pm CST, The Larry King Show Live will feature an interview with our friend, Monica Caison of The Cue Center in Wilmington, NC. Monica has been assisting families of the missing for over a decade now, and has expertise in many areas, including Seach and Rescue, and support for families.

Numerous missing person cases were chosen to be featured on the show including:

Ashley Renee Martinez

Jason Jolkowski

Brandy Renee Hanna

Lorne Boulet

Regina Bos

Jeffrey Lee Ben

Yolanda Bindics

Molly Dattilo
Audrey Nerenberg
Heather Teague
Leah Roberts
Samantha Burns
Joshua Middleton
Pamela Waldher
Crystal Soles
Mary Mount
Kent Jacobs

We thank Monica for her work in the cause, and for insisting that several cases be highlighted on the show. We hope and pray that the show might bring answers to these families, ours included.

You can find the Cue Center online at

11/25/05 THe Fight for Jennifer--Conclusion

We continue with Susan and Jennifer's story. My commentary is in blue.

"Let me tell you about Jennifer. She was my third child. When she disappeared at age 21, she left her brothers Fred and Steve (ages 28 and 14 respectively) and her sister Suzanne age 23. We were a dynamic family, Fred was an aspiring lawyer, Suzanne was engaged to be married to a police officer and Steve had just started high school. At 6' 5", he was an scholar athlete (of couse-basketball). Jennifer was a free spirit. She had attended a very "preppy" private high school and she stood out as being one of the only "hippy" enrolled there. The nuns loved her uniqueness and empathy and she loved the school. She was a member of the National Honor Society and was a Peer Group Leader in her senior year conducting a weekly class with freshmen. This position was faculty chosen.

From an early age she showed us all that she was different. When she was 3, we lived in Brooklyn, NY on a typical Brooklyn street - attached row houses. Every afternoon this homeless man would come walking past our house. Jennifer noticed this and figured out his schedule. While I stood on the porch she would run to the end of the block and wait. When he appeared, she would take his hand and walk the block telling him things only the two of them knew. This was before the scare of today - when life was much more innocent. She called him her "friend". Two weeks after she started kindergarten, her teacher called expressing a gratitude for Jennifer. Another girl in her class had a prothesis for a arm with a hook. Jennifer was the only one in the class who would hold Anna's hand. I never mentioned this to Jennifer and she never talked about it but I imagine Jennifer saw nothing different about Anna.

Every Halloween, I think of her party Jennifer begged us to host when she was in the fifth grade. She had been invited to a party but decided she wanted a party for all those who were not invited to any. What a Party!!! One mother called up to thank me. Her daughter had never been invited to any party before. The mother was in tears. I told her it was all Jennifer's idea.

Jennifer made us all proud of her. But as she grew there was an underlying sadness about her. She saw an uncaring world. Many a times, talking with her at the kitchen table, she would cry and said that no one cares. I heard that so many times from her and on retrospect I believe she became overwhelmed with everybody's troubles. Winning a full academic scholarship to St John's University, here in NY, she enrolled with the ambition of becoming a fifth grade teacher for she felt that was the most important year in a young person's life and she wanted to make a difference. Then halfway through her studies she made the decision to move out on her own. She moved to California on a shoestring budget. During the nine months she lived on the west coast, she called me every two to three days telling me all the joys and sorrows of her life. The last call I received from her was one informing me she was moving "out to the country" (spoken like a real city kid) and that she would call when she arrived. I never heard from her again. One week later I received a call from one of her new housemates telling me she had disappeared.

And my saga began.......

The police were not only unresponsive but they attempted to sabotage our search in any way they felt they could. After putting up with their nonsense for two years, I brought them up before the Grand Jury and they got slapped with unprofessional behavior. Of the three who worked Jennifer's case, I have seen two get fired and one demoted but this could not get them to move forward with a true investigation.

Back home on Long Island, NY, my police department discovered they had not even made an entry into the NCIC and they did it for me. This put Trinity County in an odd spot and one month later THEY entered her. Jennifer has the dubious distinction of having two entries. One made by Nassau County, NY and one by Trinity County, CA. Nassau County would not cancel their's for they feared Trinity County would follow suit and Trinity County complained that there should not be two entries. They have reminded me on more then a few occasions that I am "lucky" she's even in the system at all for she did not meet any of the criteria for entry. Funny how I never felt "lucky" about any of this.

You asked what good has come from Jennifer's disappearance. I discussed this tonight at the dinner table with my son Steve and my husband Fred. Steve felt it has made him a stronger person. I always felt strong and my thoughts are mixed. It has been over 12 years and Trinity County has not changed their attitude. I feel this was a pure evil event and nothing good can come from evil. My precious daughter was taken from me and I will never lay eyes on her or hold her children in my arms. I continue to enjoy and love my growing family. Good was here before and good continues after.

I beg to differ on this. Good has come of it. Susan did get Jennifer's Law passed, and even though it was not as intended, it did still serve to educate others on this issue, and for the states who took advantage of it, the impact is unknown as far as numbers, but yet it is a certainty.

Continuing with the unidentified persons' is a huge problem. I do not have the facts in front of me but the recent article talks about it. When I was doing the research for Jennifer's Law, in 1997, the NCIC-UPF had 3,683 entries for the entire country. Broken down by state, my own New York had only 180 entries. Then I found out that New York City alone buried about 5,000 unidentified persons every year!!! To say it is a huge problem is a gross understatement. I could not compute the argument that I heard at the time that to properly process each body and then to process the "hits" that might occur with matches from the NCIC-MPF would overwhelm the system monetarily. What about the huge resources being spent in the search for missing persons both by law enforcement and by the families without the aid of a national system helping in the search?

We'll couple numbers given by Susan with numbers from our other two families. Once you read all of them, and then think of terms of this only being three places, when you think of how many more we don't know about, it's simply staggering. The excuse is made often about not being able to handle the influx of data if we did this right. As Susan states, we need to think of this in terms of overall impact. It's not just the search, it's about justice too, as our DOE volunteer said. Wouldn't the county also rather turn over the remains to a family, rather than to have to handle the burial? Families want a final KNOWN resting place for their loved ones.

Much as I talk about the horrendous experience I had with Trinity County, CA, the State of California's Department of Justice and Clearinghouse is above board. As I was going through my search, I was vaguely aware that they were truly listening to my concerns and efforts were being made to correct them. California is perhaps the best state, by far, in their reporting of unidentified persons. Some dedicated individuals from that state changed the entire system. (They still have to work on the autonomous system of law enforcement where a vast majority of the Sheriff's Departments have absolutely no oversight except for the voter. As I have said several times, California has voted themselves almost to anarchy. Sorry California.)

Texas and Florida are also ahead of the game.

You asked what are my plans. I toyed with the idea of reintroducing Jennifer's Law but with sticking to the mandate part. The country may be ready for such a law. But, I really don't feel like getting involved with that whole scene. Been there, done that. What I am going to do (and I have already started) is have a law written in New York State. It will be tight,allowing for no deviation and it will be a model legislation for the rest of the country. I have good people to help me and I know it will work!! "

There is already a written solution: state legislation that has been drafted by the federal governement, and reviewed by hundreds of people in the cause, including myself. It only needs YOU to take the ball and run with it in your state. I will discuss this in greater detail at the end of the series. I have mentioned this in a previous post and to many people via email, but thus far, I can't recall anyone stepping forward to get this accomplished.

What if Jennifer was your daughter?

I want to thank Susan for her willingness to share Jennifer's beautiful spirit with us. I applaud Susan for rising up and attempting to address the problem. We're going to need more Susans in order to get the systems and tools in place so that we do not have to live out our lives not knowing.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

11/24/05 Come Home for Thanksgiving, Papa

The call came in on a Thanksgiving Eve. While most families were busy with preparations for their special meal together on this, the first of our winter season holidays, this family was trying to make sense out of senseless. They wondered how they were going to fill the empty space at the table, the one belonging to “Papa”, otherwise known as Richard Clark.

Richard, age 67, has been missing from Pleasanton, KS, since 10/16/05. That’s six weeks too long for the family that misses him and loves him. Richard’s daughter, Kim, has taken the position of the family advocate and spokesperson. She’s never had to do anything like this before in her life. She’s trying to hold herself together long enough to find her dad. She knows she has to stay strong for him.

Richard has suffered the effects of dementia for quite some time now. His mental state has deteriorated to the age level of a young child. He cannot dress himself, spell his name, or dial a phone number. Kim is concerned that he can no longer even name the city he is from. He also has diabetes, (not insulin dependent) thyroid problems, anemia, and may have trouble walking. Richard walked away from the home with no money, credit cards, or other possessions.

Local law enforcement called in area search teams and looked for Richard in about a 2 mile area around his rural home. Tracking dogs traced him to the middle of a field, and then lost the scent. It was as if he walked back out of the field. Kim thinks he may have done just that, and then hitched a ride with a truck driver. They live near 2 major highways. A truck driver, upon returning to the KC area, saw Richard’s story on the news, and called in, stating he was sure he picked up Richard in Ohio, and took him out to eat. Based upon things said in the conversation, and the types of food the man ate, Kim is also convinced that the man in OH is her father.

Richard is a retired truck driver. Kim says that he is a very social person and will be at ease talking to people anywhere. It is possible that a person could talk to him for a period of time and not realize something is wrong. She believes he may be hitching rides with truck drivers and going across the country. She said he would be much more comfortable doing this than going to a homeless shelter. Kim says: "Never in 47 years of marriage did he ever leave my mother for more than two days at a time even though he was an over the road truck driver. He loves mom more than words could explain. If he were in his right mind, he would be trying to get home to her.”

As Richard is from Kansas City, he may talk as if that is his hometown. In recent conversations, he told others they were moving back there.

Kim has confidence that her father is alive, but she fears what would happen if he were in a hospital or shelter and no one knew who he was. Also, because of HIPPA Laws, she is afraid the effort would not be made to find his family, even with the dementia.

Richard’s photo and information is being published in one trucking magazine, and was broadcast on XM radio, but more help is needed to locate him. If you see Richard, call the National Center for Missing Adults at 1-800-690-FIND, or Project Jason at 402-932-0095, or the Linn County Sheriff’s office at 913-795-2666.

Richard’s physical description is as follows:


Richard Lee Clark
Classification: Endangered Missing Adult
Alias / Nickname: Papa
Date of Birth: 1937-11-30
Date Missing: 2005-10-16
From City/State: Pleasanton, KS
Age at Time of Disappearance: 67
Gender: Male
Race: White
Height: 70 inches
Weight: 130 pounds
Hair Color: White
Hair (Other): With graying.
Eye Color: Brown
Complexion: Light

Identifying Characteristics: missing all teeth except for his front teeth.
Clothing: Black T-shirt, blue jeans, gray athletic shoes, leather belt.
Jewelry: Stainless steel windup watch.

Let’s do whatever we can to help fill that empty spot at the Thanksgiving table at Richard’s house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

11/23/05 The Fight for Jennifer Part I

Jennifer's story is part of a series which explains the problem of unidentified deceased (UID) in the US.

Jennifer is the lovely daughter of Susan Wilmer, as introduced to us in the news article from yesterday's post. Jennifer disappeared in 1993 at age the age of 21 from Willow Creek, CA. She is still missing. Her mother, Susan, was thrust into a world of fears, anxieties, and additional struggles that went beyond just the emotions pertaining to the loss. It seems rather unfair that not only must we lose our child, but that we also end up fighting a system that seems ill-prepared for this scenario.

Susan shares the story of this fight for her daughter in her own words. My commentary is in blue.

"Like so many of us, I truly believed that once Jennifer's information was entered into the NCIC, a search, of sorts, would go on. I naively thought that "a wire" would go out to all law enforcement. A few days after the entry, I literally breathed a sigh of relief. I remember thinking that at least her body hasn't been recovered - that was a good thing.

It's a common misperception that when the missing person is entered in the NCIC, that it is a true missing person's database, and that a broadcast of the information follows. When police told me that Jason's info was being sent out, I assumed (wrongfully) that on every shift, officers looked at his photo and data. Rather, a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) is a radio-type broadcast that may not neccesarily be heard by all officers. The NCIC is a LE only database used for queries. It's not a database in the traditional sense of the word, and in the way that we might envision it.

Then, eight months into the search, I received a call. A young woman had been found, her body parts thrown in a bag which was tossed on the side of a highway in Shasta County in Northern California. As this county neighbored Trinity County where Jennifer disappeared from, I took an interest in this case. I called the Sheriff of Shasta County and explained Jennifer's disappearance to him. He called Trinity County to get the particulars of the case and had his coroner compare the information to their body. About one long week later, he called and said he didn't think she was Jennifer but to be absolutely sure, he sent both files to Sacramento where the state labs would made the final decision. Again waiting about another week, he called and said that she was not Jennifer.

Immediately upon disconnecting, I stared at the phone and asked myself, "Why did I have to do this? Isn't this automatically done? Who was this young woman and is her family looking for her?" I instantly called the California Clearing House and asked their procedures for processing unidentified bodies. I discovered there was basically none. It was haphazard at best. I was told that day that I sounded that California's chief Odontologist who they said had been screaming about this for years. I realized Jennifer could be an unidentified body anywhere in this country and I would never know. With funds donated by my Police Athletic League, I wrote 1,500 Sheriff's Offices and Police Departments both in the US and Canada asking if they had recovered Jennifer's body. I received 1 reply from a RCMP in Canada whose response was no but he would hang Jennifer's poster in his station house.

It slowly dawned on me something had to be done so as other victims would not have to do such drastic acts as massive mailings.

I wrote legislation that would mandate the entering of all information on an unidentified body into the NCIC - Unidentified Person File (UPF), a vastly underutilized file of the NCIC system. I discovered that every day at midnight the UPF is merged with the Missing Person File (MPF) for possible matches but as stated above very few unidentified bodies ever made it into the file. Remember, this was 1994 when DNA testing was still in its infancy.

My Congressman, David Levy, offered to sponsor this legislation. Soon after working on "Jennifer's Law" he lost the election. I had to start all over again. Following a lobbying trip to Washington with a few dedicated supporters, Congressman Jay Johnson from Wisconsin stepped up as a sponsor. He was joined by Congressman Nick Lampson (TX) and Congressman Lantos (CA)as cosponsors. Well, you guessed it, Johnson lost the election and I was left high and dry again.

In the meantime, I was being told by many Congressman and Senators, that the FBI was informing them that they were opposed to such legislation. A mandate implies, that someone (the FBI) would have to police it and they did not want to take on this task. I acquired the phone number of the FBI guy who was writing our legislators this negative spin and called him myself. He was shocked at my call and told me he only dealt with Congress. I reminded him that his title was Head of Congressional and Public Affairs and I represented the public. I was granted a meeting at Headquarters to try to iron out our differences. This meeting was wasteful and I gained nothing.

I realized I would have to compromise. Congressman Rick Lazio came to the rescue and managed to get Jennifer's Law passed in record time. But the new Jennifer's Law lacked teeth. It granted money to law enforcement agencies to enhance the reporting of unidentified bodies. The newspaper article was wrong. Jennifer's Law had only two no votes in Congress and it passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. It was signed into law on March 10, 2001 by President Clinton in the Oval Office. "

The watered down version of Jennifer's Law that was passed offered some limited funding to states who voluntarily followed the mandate. The funding dried up a long time ago.

The Fight for Jennifer will continue............

Jennifer: Hauntingly Beautiful

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

11/22/05 Seeking the Missing Among the Dead Part II

This the second installment of my series on the unidentified deceased. (UID)

In the first installment, I mentioned that the Doe Network is one organization which seeks the missing among the dead. One of their volunteers wrote to me and explained why she does this unpleasant and tedious work:

"I'm glad it didn't turn out to be a positive match with Jason. In some ways, it might have been for the better because at least then you would have known his fate. I feel your grief. I read every word in his story, and it brought me to tears, even more so when I heard his voice. You know he did exist and you know he was so very real to you because he was your flesh and blood, your son you carried in your womb for nine months, the child you watched grow up seeing all his firsts like walking and talking .

That is what hurts so much when I try to match someone, because I feel their pain. I might not have been through it myself, but I don't have to because I love my children with all my heart and soul. I imagine what it would be like to be in your shoes and every parent out there with a missing child. That pain is very real, like someone stumbling upon a body of a person, (child/adult) and for years no one ever knows who this person/child ever was. That child was someone's son, daughter, mother, father, sister or brother . It was someone's loved one that just disappeared off the face of the earth one day, just like Jason.

That's what keeps me pushing for answers, just as you push for answers. Your search for Jason continues everyday of your life. I push for them to have a name and they deserve to be brought home. Even if justice doesn't happen, they at least deserve to be found.....and named."

When she speaks of being glad that we didn't have a postive match on Jason, she is referring to the painful time in the summer of 2004, when we thought that an UID might be him. We had to then play that awful "waiting game", while trying to pretend that something like this wasn't happening to us. I wrote about this experience here:

I want to thank each and every DOE Network volunteer for doing this work, this labour of love, for us. I know it is not easy. I, too, have searched the endless sea of faces, wondering who was out there looking for them and if I would find Jason among them.

In order to start to grasp the true extent of this national tragedy, you will need to read this article in full. It is lengthy, but this is needed to aid in your understanding of this issue.

These are not "crib notes", but highlights of what you just read. Re-reading them will help you retain the information, so that as our three family stories unfold, you will only then understand why we need your help.....why we need action.

"Missing-person experts estimate that the bodies of 40,000 to 50,000 unidentified men, women and children were found by police during the past 50 years. These John, Jane and Baby Does were sent to local coroners and medical examiners for examination and then anonymously buried or cremated. "

"Few states or local governments require that Doe cases be reported to any outside agency, and most coroners lack authority - and even the necessary computer links - to report directly to the FBI, the study found. "

"FBI records show 5,729 active Doe cases, only an eighth of what experts believe the actual number is. "

Tomorrow, we'll begin with Susan and Jennifer's story. Yes, this is the same Susan and Jennifer as mentioned in the article, and Jennifer is still missing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

11/21/05 Seeking the Missing Among the Dead

That's not exactly a "feel-good" headline, is it? It is, however, a reality for those of us who live in the not knowing and the waiting, always waiting. We don't want to look in that dark, frightening place, but we must. We must because for some of us, it is there that the answer awaits.

So, how does a person go about doing this?

There is an organization that has volunteers who compare John and Jane Does to missing person's case files, the Doe Network. There are also many websites that feature info about does, whom we'll refer to as UID. (Unidentified Deceased) Family members, friends, and other interested parties look through these sites, trying to find similarities.

You would think it would be an automated process and that there would be a central database, but there is not. With an estimated 40,000-50,000 UID in this country and growing, that is surprising. With the number of missing persons, that becomes even more alarming.

What happens to the UID's?

Would you be surprised to find out that there are no federal mandates in place for reporting the UID? Some jurisdictions do take care with these persons, and collect the data they should, but some do not. Some are buried in pauper's graves and some are cremated. If the latter applies, and they did not take samples suitable for DNA testing, how will we ever know who that person was in life? We won't, plain and simple.

What does that mean to us?

It means that we will live out the rest of our lives not knowing, when we could have known! It means that we continue to search with broken hearts when we should have known!

The first time I ever heard of problems with the system in regards to UID's, was with the case of a missing young man. He had been missing for 4 years from one state, and his body was found in another. The problem was that his body had been found only a couple of months after he disappeared. So, for close to 4 years, his family suffered and lived in the "not knowing" needlessly. How did this happen? The system that the UID was entered in, and the system that the missing young man was entered in, did not "see" the match. It took human intervention to find it, which in this case was completely accidental.

Only days ago, in the news, a similar tragedy played out in Philadelphia. A female UID was found in the same neighborhood as a missing woman, but yet no one checked the UID against the missing person cases. Her family waited and hoped for over 2 years. This, too, was another "accidental" discovery. Please read the entire story here:

Use and foo123 as your logon information. (Courtesy

Today I will begin a lengthy series exploring this topic. I'll share the stories of three families who have been effected by this, but in different ways than the examples above. The series will most likely run into next week. I will break for Thanksgiving and for the weekend, except for "Sundays of Hope". I will only interrupt the series if there is urgent news about another missing loved one.

Be prepared to be shocked about what takes place in the stories and to these families. I hope that you will be inspired to take action to do something to prevent this from happening. What if it was someone you love?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

11/19/05 Introducing "Sundays of Hope"

About a year ago, an online friend of mine, Susan H., suggested a campaign which would entail having a church community pray for a specific missing person. Persons who wanted to get involved in this way would see if they could get their church or other place of worship to allow this. Volunteers would take it upon themselves to print posters of a specific missing person to disseminate at the Sunday (or any other designated day) service. Interested persons belonging to that church community could take the poster home with them, and pray for that missing person and their family during the course of that week.

I'm not sure what happened with this idea at that time, but it never came to pass. Along came Mary. This is the same "Mary" from the story of "Angels and Miracles", posted here .

Mary suggested it, too. She even received permission from her pastor to do it. The time is right to do it, and so I am.

Some readers and some of the families we work for may not have the same belief system, and maybe some may have none at all, but the majority do, plus they believe in the power of prayer. Recent scientific studies have shown remarkable differences in surgery/illness recovery rates for patients who were prayed for, versus those who were not. (Readers who do not share these philosophies may certainly choose to disregard posts with the subject line "Sundays of Hope".) Even if it is not Divine Will for that person to come home, prayers for the family can give them strength to get through this difficult time. Countless family members have told me that just knowing that prayers were being said for their missing loved one and for their family, gave them a mental boost. It's knowing that people truly care that makes a difference.

Starting today and on each Saturday, I will post a missing person for this campaign. I will include some basic case information, photo, and a link where a printable poster can be found. The universal week of prayer for this missing person (and their family) will be Sunday through Saturday. And in a spiritual bonus for me, I will no longer post on Sundays unless it is something that must be posted because it is time sensitive. This gives me some extra time to keep Sunday as I should.

I am moved to choose James Farrence, Jr, as the first of many for Sundays of Hope.

(James was found deceased.)

Here is the basic information:

Name: James Farrence Jr.
DOB: 11/18/78
Date Missing: 3/31/05
Missing From: Carbondale, PA
Age: 27
Weight: 5'6"
Weight: 125 lbs.
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Hazel

Tattoos: The name 'Shannon' on right shoulder, the grim reaper with the name 'Jim' on right side of chest, 'Jim' on fingers of right hand

Scars: Severe scarring on face from assault (steel plates were used for reconstruction)

Last seen wearing: jeans, a black South Pole winter coat, brown boots, and a ball cap- no knowledge of jewelry or other items, wallet, ID, etc, not found in personal belongings.

Carbondale PA Police Dept. Det. Sgt. Jesse Van Deusen (570) 282-6211
Case Number: 05-03-0508

This is a brief synopsis of his story as written by the family:

"James Farrence Jr. has been missing from Carbondale, Pennsylvania since March 31, 2005. There has been no trace of James despite two searches in the Carbondale area, on-going local police investigation, coverage by local media, and continued family efforts.

My family is desperate is find James- desperate for any answers explaining his disappearance. James suffers from muscular dystrophy and has a learning disability; though he is an independent, capable adult, his one weakness is being overly friendly and trusting of others.

James was the victim of a brutal beating that nearly killed him in 2003. Beaten repeatedly with a tire iron, his face had to be reconstructed with steel plates and resulting in severe scarring. Two Carbondale brothers were convicted for the crime- both are now free.

James’ cell phone records indicate that his last phone call was placed on March 31 at 9:39 p.m. He spoke with several family members and Carbondale Police from his cell phone just hours before his last call was placed at 9:39 p.m. James used his cell phone quite frequently- calling family (parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins) and friends several times a day.

Police report that he was last seen on North Main Street in Carbondale late the night of March 31. According to the police, a U.S. postal worker reported seeing James at a truck stop around Pennsylvania State College on April 10. Though police believe the witness to be credible, it is not like James to leave without contacting family or friends for such a long period of time. He would call if he were able. At this point and time police have no suspects in James’ disappearance.

Thank you."

Two photos of James are shown, one before his beating, and one after.

A printable poster of James can be found here:

Right now, James' family is facing a difficult period of waiting. A body was found on September 20th that could be his. A DNA test came back inconclusive, so now a second one is being done. Tomorrow will be 2 months of waiting for an answer for this family as to whether James has been found. They need your prayers.

If your place of worship has given permission for you to facilate Sundays of Hope there, please send me an email, as I will be tracking it informally. Include the name of the church, city, and state. Send the email to (We can also include bible study or other groups.)

If you are the family member of a missing person, and want your missing loved one to be featured on Sundays of Hope, please send an email to the address above. Include similar data such as was presented for James, and if there is anything specific you would like prayers for.

For James' family, I will pray for several things:

A fast answer for them in regards to the body found.
If it is not James, then an answer to his whereabouts.
Strength for them in the journey, no matter the direction
prayers for the persons who hurt James the first time, and for whomever may have hurt him this time, if that is the case.

Have a blessed Sunday, full of hope, and thank you for caring about the missing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

11/17/05 Te Amo, Claudia--Conclusion

Joaquin Burgos sits in front of the computer for a good portion of his day. Little by little, he gets his missing granddaughter’s photo and information posted on websites and forums all over the Internet. Sometimes when posting on the forums, he gets banned and his posting about Claudia is removed. They consider his post to be SPAM. I wonder how differently they would think about it if she was their missing loved one?

Despite these little hurdles, he goes on, day after day. Sometimes, he does not have a good day physically. His body aches and every keystroke is difficult, but yet he persists in going on. Sometimes, the ache is in the heart…the part that we cannot see. He asks me: “Is it normal to feel angry sometimes?” “I feel guilty if I do not search each day.” I explain these emotions are all within that is now “normal” for the ongoing trauma we deal with. I help him understand why we might feel the way we do.

It can also feel as if no one cares and no one is listening. Claudia’s case has received little publicity. She did, however, get her photo and information shown on the Nancy Grace Show through our affiliation with KlaasKids. Tears sprung to his eyes to see his beloved Claudia on the show.

Joaquin cannot fathom that Claudia could willingly stay away for such a long time. Their relationship was much stronger than the norm. Let’s take a peek into the life they had together, as told by Joaquin:

“Claudia and I were always together when she wasn’t in school. She would come home from school, and the first thing she would do would be to give me a hug and a kiss.
We would always hug and kiss. It was something we wanted to do always in case some thing would happen to either one of us.

When she was around 10-11, she used to sit on my lap and drive my powered wheelchair at top speed. She would cut through yards that slope just to feel the chair fly a little in the air. She called it “mud bugging”. I called it feeling every bump, but it was a lot of fun. We’d also go to the lake and sit there looking at the water, talking about how she wanted to be a pediatrician when she grew up. She was fascinated by the water. We would try to bring in the baby alligators to get a closer look at them.

When at home, Claudia would always want me to sit next her if it was to watch TV or listen to music. No matter what, we were close to each other. She loved for me to brush her long hair while she watched TV or was on the computer.

Claudia knew how to build a computer from the age of nine. I had taught how to work on computers, because she had asked if she could get one. I told her yes, but she would have to build it herself, and that is what she did.

When Claudia was ready to go to sleep, she would always have me sing to her a song or two. Her favorite song at that time was one from the movie “Shrek”, and a Japanese song called “Sukiyaki”. She wanted me to sing it in Japanese, so I learned it just for her. Here are the words:

Ue o muite arukoo

I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni

So the tears won't fall
Omoidasu haru no hi

Remembering those happy spring days
Hitoribotchi no yoru

But tonight I'm all alone

Ue o muite arukoo
I look up when I walk
Nijinda hoshi o kazoete
Counting the stars with tearful eyes
Omoidasu natsu no hi
Remembering those happy summer days
Hitoribotchi no yoru
But tonight I'm all alone
Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni
Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni
Happiness lies above the sky

Ue o muite arukoo
I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni
So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
Hitoribotchi no yoru
For tonight I'm all alone

Omoidasu aki no hi
Remembering those happy autumn days
Hitoribotchi no yoru
But tonight I'm all alone
Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni
Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni
Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

Ue o muite arukoo
I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni
So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
Hitoribotchi no yoru
For tonight I'm all alone

I would stay with her until she was fast a sleep.

Often, when we went walking around, she would pick a flower and give it to me, and then I would do the same for her. Red and pink roses were her favorite flowers. Every night when she was sleeping, I would put a fresh rose or two in her room. She would find it in the morning along with a little note saying to her how much I loved her and appreciated her in my life. She would write me little notes also telling me she loved me. Oh, how I miss this child.”

Claudia may not be with him in a physical sense, but he still manages to write her letters expressing his love in the form of his attempts to find her via the Internet. Joaquin wants everyone to know this:

“I can deal with physical pain, but this kind of pain is just too much. The not knowing if she is ok is the worst part of all. So, to every one out there I will say: “Hug the ones you love and keep them close. Let your children know you love them, always. Let them be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last at night...hug and kiss them every chance you get, for you never know if it will be the last time you see them.

I will never give up the search for Claudia as long as I am alive.”

Claudia’s website is

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

11/16/05 Students Arrange Over 1,500 Adoptions of Missing Persons

This is a press release sent today:

Omaha, NE, November 16, 2005--Sometimes, it seems as if there are few feel-good stories in the news about missing persons. Many of the stories covered would give the indication that there are only victims in the wake of this tragedy. These stories are viewed and often then discarded in the minds of the public. The viewers are detached from the situation, safe in their homes with their families beside them. Their involvement may end with those few seconds on the screen.

Rarely are we treated to a story that portrays hope for these left-behind families. How often do we witness someone becoming involved who has no personal tie to any missing persons or their families? This story, and the people who made it happen, accomplish both objectives: becoming involved and giving hope to the families of the missing.

In 2004, 20 year-old Danae Leali, a creative writing major at Ashland University in Ohio, heard about a unique awareness program for missing people called Adopt a Missing Person. The program is one in which photo buttons of missing persons from across the country are given to persons who wish to "adopt" that missing person, wear their button, and share their story. She, and a friend, Vanessa Wagner, were moved to take action. The two launched a campaign to get other students at the college involved. They succeeded in arranging for 432 adoptions of missing persons with students and staff at Ashland. The campaign culminated with an all day prayer vigil and remembrance for these missing persons.

Danae was not finished with the project, however. She wanted to see it expand to other schools and grow. She and Vanessa made plans to do a second campaign in 2005. They also worked behind the scenes to get other schools to participate, and in fact, just returned from a nationwide conference for residence hall associations. Vanessa stated: "These missing persons are real people, with hopes and dreams, family and friends, futures and pasts. Deep down I feel that most people want to change the world for the better and if they can start off with a simple project like this, it is one step in the right direction."

Danae's goal was to double last year's campaign number. The 2005 campaign ended with 4 participating schools and an astounding 1,511 adoptions of missing persons secured. Danae and Vanessa's campaign at Ashland University netted 1,380 adoptions. 25 adoptions were made at the University of Akron, and 106 at Loudonville High School. The Westlake High School Key Club is also participating, but with a later campaign date.

Danae had more than tripled last year's numbers, and has no intention of this being the last campaign: "That's what I want. It's beginning. Nobody really knows how far this could go...It's an important topic. It's something that's getting the media's attention, and it needs to be bigger."

On Wednesday, November 16th, Danae and Vanessa will proudly don their buttons, along with the other 1,511 persons who opened their hearts to help families they've never met, many of whom are thousands of miles away. They will hold an all day vigil at the Ashland University campus chapel, starting at 9am and culminating with a brief ceremony at 8:30pm. Giant greeting cards will be posted, one for each family of the missing, so that attendees can express their thoughts of hope. These will be sent to the families after the vigil. The press and public are invited and encouraged to attend.

The Adopt a Missing Person program was created by nonprofit organization, Project Jason, which assists families of missing persons and provides education for the public. Families of the missing provide photo buttons of their missing loved one and a personal biography, so that people all over the country can help by "adopting" their missing loved one. Adopters pledge to wear the button and share the story with others to increase the odds of location, and give hope to the families.

Kelly Jolkowski, mother of missing Jason Jolkowski, and founder of Project Jason, explains the impact of the program: "After the police have sifted through the clues in a missing person's case, and have no more leads, what the family has left is hope and awareness. The Adopt a Missing Person program enables people to be able to give these priceless gifts to the families. It helps them get through another day without their loved ones, knowing that a stranger cares. You just never know. The next person to see their face, may hold the key to unlock the mystery of their disappearance and be the catalyst that reunites a family."

To find out additional information about the Adopt a Missing Person program, please see, and click on the Adopt a Missing Person link. All of the featured missing persons on the campaign can be found on this site, along with links to additional information about these cases.

Thank you to Danae and Vanessa, who never gave up on this idea. Thank you also to the participants, who opened their hearts to help someone whom they've never met. Thank you also to the people behind the scenes who made this campaign a success.

I will post media links here as they become available.

Video from the above posted news link:
mms:// Go to "Featured Videos" and click on "Students Remember Missing Persons".

11/16/05 Karen Knows

All of the families who live in the not knowing want the answer, the answer to the question that burns in their hearts daily: “Where is my missing loved one?”

Once in a while, one of our families is given their answer. Sometimes the answer is not the one they want to hear. They have found the missing person, but he/she is dead. We also have families who get joyous answers and are then reunited with the missing loved one. There is yet a third answer, and it is one I did not think of often.

Just last month, when I attended the 5 year missing event for Gina Bos in Lincoln, I was talking with Gina’s sister, and she was telling me that one of the mothers of a missing person she gave support to had passed away. She has never had that happen before. Neither had I. She told me she was surprised at how difficult it had been to digest that news. She also wondered who would pick up where the mother left off in the search for the missing family member.

This morning I received an email from the family of Karen Zoltkowski. Readers who have been with me for awhile might recall the story of her son, Jeff, who has been missing for 12 long years.

You may want to read it first, and then return here.

Karen’s sister Michelle and her daughter Cristin let me know that Karen had passed away on Monday. She died unexpectedly during surgery. I stared at the email and read it several times. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought back to the last time we had conversed. It had been a month. Oddly enough, I had just thought of her a couple of days before this, making a mental note that we hadn’t talked for awhile, and that I needed to check in with her.

It is difficult to write this, but I wanted to honor Karen. She was a role model for mothers of the missing. She dealt with Jeff being missing for 12 years, and yet she still made efforts to find him. She was not bitter, as I have seen some become when they have a long term missing person. She just kept on being his mother, loving him regardless of whatever had separated them. I was inspired by her ability to keep trying for Jeff, even though the years of dealing with his being missing surely had taken its toll on her.

By the way, Cristen and Michelle said they will take up where Karen left off in the search for Jeff. He will not be forgotten, and neither will Karen.

I looked back in our correspondence, and I want to share a few things that Karen had to say.

“I was very touched by the story Travis wrote about his friend Ryan. I think that this is a lesson all of us could learn even if we are a lot older than Travis.” (See Lesson in the Loss)

“I believe in hope, I believe it is what makes us survivors. Nothing is a waste of time.”

“In the beginning I thought that if he was dead I didn't want to know, but I realize knowing is better than the uncertain.”

“Obviously when you are in our situation you are so appreciative of anything someone does. It gives hope which carries you through day to day living. In some ways it is someone validating that your child matters to someone other than you. It is a wonderful gift to give a family that wakes up and goes to sleep with a hole in their heart.”

“This is not about me. Sometimes I allow myself time to deal with certain issues relating to Jeff. I cannot sink my head in the sand and pretend this has not happened. It is better to do something than have the search stop.”

From the story in the above link, I share some of Karen’s thoughts:

““My greatest fear is that someone hurt him and they are getting away with it and that someone did not value who and what he is. I fear that someone out there knows where Jeff is and does not care enough to tell. I fear that he is ill or hungry, and I can't help because I do not know where he is. I fear that I will go to my grave not knowing where he is. I fear that I will not know how to deal with it.

Some days are easier than others. I pretend to be ok, but my heart is broken. I deal with it like every other parent that has a missing child - one second at a time, praying for the Grace of God.When your son is missing, he is the first thing you think of in the morning, and the last at night. You try to be joyful about simple things in your life, and you pray that the future brings news about your beloved son. You pray that he is safe and not hungry or ill. You hope that you can continue to take one breath at a time because the hole in your heart is so painful.”

Karen had died before she had her answer, but now she has it. She is at peace and her search is over. Now she can truly rest.

Thank you, Karen for allowing me to share part of your life’s journey and to learn from you.

Karen's obituary:

November 16, 2005

Age 58, November 14, 2005. Loving mother of Jeffery and Kimberly (Ronald) Caramagno. Grandmother of Olivia. Dearest daughter of Betty and the late John Bowser. Dear sister of Michele (John) Erickson, Kevin (Chris) Bowser and Mark (Darlene) Bowser. Also survived by many nieces and nephews. Visitation will be Thursday 2-9 p.m. at Harry J. Will Funeral Home, 37000 Six Mile Road, Livonia. Funeral Service Friday 11:30 a.m. at the funeral home. Interment Glen Eden Memorial Park. Memorial contributions may be made to Protect Jason, Post Office Box 3035, Omaha, Nebraska 68103.

I am honored that Karen (and her family) thought so highly of our organization as to remember us after she was gone. To be in the position of effecting the lives of others so profoundly in this way is a privelege and a blessing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

11/14/05 Te Amo, Claudia Part II

Claudia Perez has been gone for over a year now. It was thought that her boyfriend would know where she was, or that she might be with him somewhere, but she wasn’t. He was watched, and no one ever saw Claudia again, not with him, and not with anyone else.

The day before Claudia disappeared, she, her little brother, Armando, and Joaquin, spent a special day together eating out and shopping. This was their once per month outing, so it was not a spur of the moment decision to do this.

Joaquin was having just as much fun with the children and indulged them in their every wish, although they did not take advantage of it. Claudia found several outfits she liked, but decided upon just one sport shirt. Armando picked out a team jacket. Claudia asked for a simple camera at the drug store, and they took turns taking photos of each other. Armando took one of Claudia hugging Joaquin. She remarked it had been a long time since there were photos taken of them.

During the course of the day, they spoke of future plans:

“When I get older I am going to get me a nice car.” Claudia said.
“Yea, what kind of car do you want, Claudia?” I asked.
“I want a corvette with white interior and purple on the outside, with my initials on the back of the head rest. I am going to have a good job so I can have a nice house and be able to buy what ever I want.”

Claudia was so excited when she was telling me this that I couldn’t help but too give her a big smile and tell her:

“You know Claudia, you can have all this and much more, but first you must finish school then go on to get a good career and it will be possible. You are young and you have the whole future ahead of you.”

We started home at a real slow pace because for some reason Claudia was in no hurry to get home. She was having too much fun, I guess.”

That evening, Claudia asked Joaquin to take a late night walk with her. She typically did this when she wanted to talk about something that was important to her. He shares part of the conversation of this last walk together with us:

“We had just started our walk when she started to talk:
“Grandpa, do you think I should break with Jessie?” Jessie was Claudia’s boyfriend at the time.
“Why do you want to break with Jessie?” I asked her. “Don’t you like him anymore, or is there a problem with the two of you?”
“No it just that I feel he doesn’t give me enough room to be myself. He always wants to be right there with me every where I go,” Claudia replied.

“Did you talk to him about it?” I asked.

“Yes I did, but he doesn’t want to listen.” She explained. “I love him, Grandpa, but I don’t want to feel crowded.”
“Do you want me to have a talk with him and explain to him just how you feel about that?” “No! I mean yes…. I do, but I don’t want him to get mad at me.”
“He won’t get mad. I promise you that I will have a talk with him, ok?
“Thanks, Grandpa.”

We walked around for a little while longer and just talked about usual things, like school, and her grades.”

Did Claudia know she was going to leave? Until she is found, Joaquin will not know. He had no idea that fine day that his life would be turned upside within a mere 24 hours. Even though Claudia was labeled as a runaway, and especially with the passage of time, she should be considered endangered.

Joaquin says “I know kids run away all the time but some one sees them, or they let a friend know. They don’t disappear into thin air!”

Where did Claudia go, and why did she did she leave the grandfather who clearly loves her with all of his heart and soul?

Claudia's story will conclude on Thursday.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

11/13/05 Te Amo, Claudia Part I

“Tap, tap, tap” is the sound coming from the home of Joaquin Burgos. His fingers are often poised above his computer keyboard. He spends a good part of his day surfing the Internet, looking for places to post information about his missing granddaughter, Claudia Perez, age 15, of Wildwood, FL.

Joaquin cannot look for his granddaughter in the same manner in which the rest of us seek our missing loved ones. You see, he is paralyzed from the chest down, the victim of a drive-by shooting that happened many years ago while he was attending college in Chicago. In-home care givers now assist him with his daily needs, and often have to prompt him to go to bed. He doesn’t want to stop what he is doing.

“Ok, it’s time for me to go to bed. Goodnight, and sleep tight with the angels,” he writes to me as he ends his daily quest to find his beloved Claudia.

Sometime in the middle of the night on October 5th, 2004, Claudia disappeared from her bedroom at Joaquin’s home. She left a note behind that said:

“I want to thank you grandpa for every thing you done and given me. Please tell Jessie I love him and that I am sorry, and I love you very much.”

Joaquin will always feel guilty because of the events of the night before. Before she went to bed, Claudia told him that she had left a note for him by the computer, but he was to promise not to read it until in the morning. He will always regret not reading the note, but he had promised his granddaughter he would not. They hugged and kissed each other goodnight, and said their usual “Te Amo”, which means “I love you” in Spanish.

This heartbroken grandfather tells us about those first hours without Claudia:

“At around 4:30 am I woke up because I thought I heard a door close. So I decided to get up out of bed to check. I got in my chair and went in the living room and every thing looked normal. On my way back to my room, I looked in Claudia’s room and I didn’t see her. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming. I went to her mother’s room and she was still awake. She asked what was wrong and why was I up so early, and I told her: “I think Claudia is gone from her room.”

“Go back to bed you probably had a bad dream,” she said to me.

But it was no dream… was real. Claudia was gone from her room. By then every one else was up asking what was going on. Right away we called the police to make a report. Then I remembered the note Claudia had told me about. So I rushed to my room to read it. I was trying hard to hold back my tears. I could not believe that she was gone. And so began my struggle to find my granddaughter.”

We'll continue with Part II on Monday.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

11/10/05 How Can I Help?

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
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