Friday, November 25, 2005

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.


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