Monday, April 10, 2006

4/10/06 (PMP) Not One Knew

There are many hard and painful lessons to be learned from today’s story. It is the tale of a beautiful young woman who was killed at the hands of a man she knew. They met on the internet, through a dating service, Although she had decided she did not want a relationship with him, his awful plan for her was put into action.

The author of the story is Dawn Popluhar, who was the best friend of the victim. Dawn never gave up in the fight to find her friend. She was there for the family, supporting them, holding their hands, and acting as a spokesperson. She shared much of it with me along the way, including the discovery of her friend, murdered in an entirely gruesome fashion.

As you can imagine, it was and still is, a surreal thing to go through, not just with Lori’s being missing and then found murdered, but also going through the trial and facing her killer. On top of it, the psychics were there enforce, causing additional stress and not resolving anything.

In the aftermath, Dawn volunteered to help with our Campaign for the Missing in New York state. Even though she has never done anything like this, (trying to pass a law) she succeeded in getting sponsorship for the bill, which is now in progress. It’s called Lori Ann’s Law, named after her friend. Lori has a legacy in her left behind children and in this future law. Perhaps, too, women who know Lori’s story will think twice about meeting with strangers from the internet.

"Mommy was always nice to me and I miss her and I pray to her when I go to sleep," said six year-old Zachary, Lori’s son.

(As a warning to sensitive readers, there are graphic descriptions of violent acts within today’s story.)

“Lori Ann Leonard was 33-years-old and the mother of two little boys, ages five and nine at the time of her disappearance. Lori and I have been best friends for most of our lives. We shared every hope, secret, dream, accomplishment, and sorrow with each other. Lori is someone that everyone liked. Her outgoing bubbly personality lights up a room and people are naturally, uncontrollably attracted to her. Lori is not only incredibly beautiful on the outside; she has a heart of gold. Lori was extremely optimistic and never had a harsh word for anyone unless they did harm to someone she loved. She is forgiving and only sees the good in people. Lori was a hard working, productive member of our community, whose only wish was to be happy.

Lori went missing on May 4th, 2005. After almost three agonizing months of searching, a fisherman found her in a truck toolbox floating on the canal 150 miles away from her home on July 24, 2005. A man named Shawn Doyle had raped her, stuffed a bandanna in her mouth, wrapped her entire head in duck tape except for her eyes, and then bound her hands and feet with duct tape and handcuffs. Her murderer was sentenced to 25 years to life on March 3, 2006.

There is no suitable punishment for what he did. He took away a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend. Our hearts will be forever empty because of his selfish cowardly act.

The psychics magically appeared as soon as the story that Lori was missing became public knowledge. They gave false hope; their inaccurate readings caused panic and heartbreak, and they bogged down the investigation considerably. The investigator working on Lori's case shared with me that they had what they referred to as a "psychic file." Every time a psychic called in a prediction that "lead" had to be investigated. This took PRECIOUS time away from valid leads. After Lori was found the investigator told me that not ONE "vision" or "prediction" or guess made by a psychic in their "psychic file" was even remotely accurate.

I first knew psychics were investigating the case when I saw one poking around the outside of Lori's house on a day we were doing a ground search of the area. The police had allowed the search, but had given strict orders for everyone to say away from the house because it was a potential crime scene. At the time I was appreciative she was there because I felt that the police weren't doing enough and I unknowingly had faith in her possible abilities.

Some people close to Lori went to psychics, but most of the time they contacted us directly. In the beginning, I welcomed their advice. I was willing to do anything if it meant finding Lori. One of Lori's family members called a psychic named RYA almost immediately after Lori was missing. At the psychics request she gave her some of Lori's jewelry so that she could get "better visions." The psychic's visions had a family member so upset that when we had family meetings she would hysterically cry and yell that we had to listen to the psychic because she "knew the truth about Lori." It was HORRIBLE to witness these episodes in the middle of such emotional times. We all wanted to melt under the table during the outbursts.

No one would ever say a word back to her, mainly because she was so hysterical and you could feel her pain and frustration, but also because we always felt like if we opened up our mouths to object we might cause a war within the family. She had pages and pages of notes, and I read all of them.

It was nonsense. The only thing that woman guessed right was that Lori had been murdered. She demanded that we search an area where Lori's sister lives because the psychic said Lori was definitely there. Can you imagine how horrible it must have been for Lori's sister to be told and believe that Lori could be literally right around the corner from her home?! They did a search and we finally were able to convince local LE to activate the NYS SAR
(search and rescue) team to also search based on the psychic's information. We wasted valuable resources and time. Lori was found nowhere near that area

I did not get the names of all the people who contacted me mainly because they wouldn't give a name. Often I would get anonymous "tips." Of course none of them ever furnished me with a last name, but I think they are all local to this area. We did specific searches based on their information only be frustrated and devastated when we came up with nothing. The most damaging report we received came late one night. Two women named Linda and Tracy,
(You’ll hear more about Linda in a future blog entry.) claiming to have seen visions, insisted upon speaking immediately to Lori's sister in person. They came to her house while I listened on the phone.

These women told us that Lori was alive and was being held in a cabin in the woods. She gave us specific directions to the cabin and even described the surroundings. We would have to rescue her immediately, but if her captor knew we were coming he would kill her. At 10:00 in the evening I called the lead investigator at his home demanding that they start searching immediately. We were hysterical. I never went to sleep that night. I was convinced that Lori was alive and waiting for us to rescue her and wondering why we hadn't reached her yet. You have no idea the trauma this report caused us. As it turned out, Lori was no longer alive at that point, and was never in a cabin.

After Lori was found Tracy approached someone stating that "her visions were right" and that she was so sorry that she was right. She was so far off that she didn't even describe Lori correctly, saying that she had blue eyes and blond hair. Lori had green eyes, and when she was taken from us she had very brown hair. (her natural color)

Several times I went out and searched swamps, woods, and fields based on what two unrelated psychics named Belle and Delores and a few others would tell me. I would race in my car to the exact location where I would find Lori. I was going to save her, or I felt that I would save her family the devastation of finding her themselves. I frantically searched, honestly believing that she was there. I would eventually give up sometimes after searching for hours, feeling completely defeated. Mentally and physically exhausted, I would cry all the way home.

It wasn't always the psychics themselves who contacted us. A friend of my husbands called me up after he had spoken to a disabled woman who has "visions." He wanted me to call the police to see if they would loan him scuba diving equipment because he believed that Lori was in a body of water located right behind her home. His belief in this theory was reinforced after he had the same dream that night. I cannot emphasize enough how many seemingly normal people called or emailed me after they had "dreams" telling them where Lori was.

My own mother was even one of these people. She is a self- proclaimed psychic and would get very frustrated with me when I didn't follow her exact instructions to find Lori. She would remind me all the time that "she knew where Lori was" and if the police would "just search" they would find her. After Lori was found she was quizzing me trying to find some truth in her vision. There was no truth to it, but the truth is that her persistence has irreversibly damaged our relationship.

I received constant emails from people telling us to contact Sylvia Brown or Montel Williams because it was our only hope. They would question me when I would tell them I didn't believe she could help. After a while I just started lying and would say that I had contacted her and was just waiting to hear something back. I didn't want people to think that we weren't doing everything we could, but at this point I had grown tired of all the psychics misinformation and I had learned (although slowly) that they are all predators and seasoned manipulators. I wasn't about to waste the family's money and cause them more heartache.

Even in a seemingly safe environment like the America's Most Wanted forum, these people still found me. One man claimed that Lori was alive and on her way to Canada. A woman told me that Lori was being stalked for a long time and that the stalker had gotten her. When I attempted to ask her probing questions as to how she came to this conclusion she wouldn't respond to me.

I use to watch the psychics on TV with amazement and wonder. Now I watch them with skepticism and disgust. I am an intelligent woman and I always considered myself be a realist, but psychics are very believable and convincing because we WANT to believe them. They prey on the vulnerable and they thrive on our desperation. We hold on to every theory they spew out because we want hope when we feel as if there is no hope left. Consciously we know that it all may be a con, but our hearts tell our brains that this person may be "the one" with the key to finding our loved ones. Psychics are never the key. They led us down misleading paths. The only key can be found with reputable agencies, caring, concerned individuals, law enforcement, and within your own heart.

Every psychic gave the fail-safe guess that Lori was either in the woods, the water, or the weeds. It must be that I'm psychic too because that's where I always thought we would find her if someone took her life. Sadly enough, Lori was found in the water and yes, there were weeds and trees around. You draw your own conclusions.”

You may read more about Lori’s story here:

We understand that many people believe that psychics are effective in solving crimes and finding missing people. Please keep in mind that the goal of this series is to help families understand techniques used by persons making these claims and make better decisions about the use of psychics.

Project Jason and its volunteers cannot act as a clearinghouse for persons claiming success in using paranormal means to locate missing persons. We will be unable to respond to emails or other correspondence sent to us from persons making these claims or persons offering information about or referrals to psychics.

We instead invite those persons to present their evidence to the members of the James Randi Education Foundation. They have a forum available for you to discuss your claims.

Jump to the next story in the series:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dawn, thank you so much for sharing your story.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who used to believe in psychics, I can tell you I will never again listen to anything they say.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...


Your very welcome. My only hope is that people will learn from my mistakes and that possibly these so called psychics will understand the emotional trauma they cause. It’s tremendously difficult to ignore someone who calls you and states that they “know” where your loved one is or what’s happened to them. Psychics use tactics that are cruel and manipulative yet they claim that they only want to help. It is my belief that they only want attention or your money. If a psychic makes contact with you hang up the phone or tell them to solve the crime themselves and then they could REALLY be a hero (and then hang up).

After reading what "Anonymous" wrote I feel it was well worth it.

9:55 PM  

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