Saturday, September 29, 2007

9/28/07 A Family's Joy

My Note: This piece was written by Sandra Soske, grandmother of Megan Soske. If you aren't familiar with the original story she wrote, please read that first. This story is about a happy ending, which is not the same as a fairy tale ending. We'd like to think that when a missing person is found, everything goes back to "normal", but that is not the case. There exists a new set of emotions to deal with.

A Family’s Joy

by Sandra L Soske

Joy can be a two-edged sword. It’s sharp and most painful. It also gets the work done.

After more than thirty-one months of fear-defying concern, anger, alternating between acceptance that I may not see her again and anger that she may be deliberately staying away, my missing person has made contact.

I haven’t seen her yet. She’s not making those all important telephone calls regularly enough for me, but I guess knowing she’s alive and not in a pauper’s grave should have me jumping up and down for joy.

I am somewhere in between jumping up and down and quiet relief.

And I have to give credit where the credit is due. I didn’t find her, but the help I received from and founder, Kelly Jolkowski, and from Team Hope, a National Center for Missing & Exploited Children organization, did the deed for me. Those all important flyers should be out there for every missing person, child and adult, in our great land.

I have made so many contacts in the past two months. I’ve “talked” with three Kelly’s, swapped emails with many people, cried with family members and friends until they probably don’t want to answer the phone. I had to relive the terrible not knowing part of having a close missing person whom you love and miss desperately. I’ve had to talk to people and give them secrets that I’d rather have kept hidden. I gave a mouth swab for DNA, and dealt with various levels of assistance and frustration from Law Enforcement personnel.

But it did the job! Megan saw her poster at WalMart. And at just two weeks under twenty, she was pretty uptight when she saw it. She wasn’t a missing person, or so she says. But it made her realize there was family out there that believed she was.

And that might be the most important aspect of this. Megan understands (I hope she does) that she is loved, missed, that her family is there for her in good times and bad. I could write an entire essay on family, but the heart of it is understanding. I want that to be my mantra in this, and for all family members in our situation.

I called family and friends first. Then I emailed Kelly, Vicki, and Susan. And again, Project Jason’s Kelly Jolkowski is the best. She is never too busy, too impatient, too anything. She was and is the lifeboat on my stormy sea. Without her I wouldn’t know about NCMEC, and then wouldn’t have “met” Vicki and Susan, talked with Kelly Bennett of the National Center for Missing Adults. All of those women are stupendous!

And as for Megan…

Well, she says she wants to visit. She says she’s trying to grow up. I have to let her go. I have to let those negative feelings I have fly away across the stormy seas I’ve lived with for so very long. She is alive, safe, and maybe still my little girl in some small way. I can’t wait to see her.

Are you watching those Missing Persons boards at WalMart? I may not like shopping there, but I do bless them for those boards! Use the internet. My pastor suggested beginning a daily blog on MySpace (for example) that your loved one might see – and understand. Donate generously to the cause, for this is a cause. If we can donate millions to other worthy causes, let’s get Missing Persons on the news.

And now, my legacy. I don’t want any family anywhere to go through the uncertainty of not knowing where their loved one(s) may be. I hope I am up to the challenge. And Team Hope is answer for me. I will join other volunteers in October in New York to see if I have the right stuff. I want to bring back to my family, to Megan, the love and understanding those women have given me.

After all, that sullen-looking teenager or unkempt stranger next to you at the WalMart Board may be a missing person.

Post Note: Megan and Sandy have since been reunited. Their relationship is on the way to being mended.

We are glad to have been there for them and made a difference in their lives.

Monday, September 10, 2007

9/10/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Conclusion

This concludes the series on
Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know.

To return to the Introduction, click here.

For a PDF file of this entire report, please see

Other Missing Persons

Clark, Richard

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.

Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. Richard was last seen at approximately 6:00pm at his residence in the vicinity of the 13000 block of Quinn Rd. in Pleasanton, KS. Richard may have accepted a ride with a truck driver as he is a retired trucker.

Investigative Agency: Linn County Sheriff's Department
Phone: (913) 795-2666
Investigative Case #: 05IC420

Case Updates:

Cox, Mary Alice

Name: Mary Alice Cox
Maiden name: Troupe
Age: 56 (54 at time of disappearance)
Born: July 17, 1949
Date missing: March 21, 2004
From: Clarksville TN (USA)
Gender: Female
Race: White, but dark complexion
Height: 5' 5"
Weight: 115 lbs.
Hair: Brunette
Eyes: Hazel (Green/Brown)
Distinguishing features: Birthmark on her chin that is slightly darker than her skin, and she has no teeth, or dentures. Her fingers between her index and middle finger on her right hand are stained yellow from cigarettes. She is right handed.

Eyewear: Wears glasses, but they weren't with her.

Health: Poor. Has emphysema and a lot of trouble breathing. Was on oxygen. Also is Bipolar and Paranoid Schizophrenic.
Circumstances of Disappearance: Went for a walk to the store (unable to drive) nearby her home. She never came home. Her purse was found about 10 miles from her home at the edge of the river. Some have thought they had seen her in the New Providence area of Clarksville TN. Is believed to have entered a car with someone.

Investigative Agency: Clarksville Police Department
Detective Ronald Parrish (931)648--0656 ext. 1009
Case #: 04-005416

Case Updates:

Grobe, Mary Lee

Classification: Endangered Missing Adult
Date of Birth: 1929-08-22
Date Missing: 2003-09-27
From City/State: Poplar Bluff, MO
Age at Time of Disappearance: 74
Gender: Female
Race: White
Height: 62 inches
Weight: 160 pounds
Hair Color: Gray
Eye Color: Blue
Complexion: Light

Clothing: Dark colored shirt, dark colored pants.

Jewelry: Medical alert necklace.

Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. Mary was last seen at approximately 2:00pm at her residence sitting on her porch swing in the vicinity of the 1500 block of Hwy B in Poplar Bluff, MO. Her black Labrador Retriever was also missing but returned to the residence alone a few days later. Her eyeglasses and medication were left behind. She has diabetes and needs insulin. Foul play is suspected.

Investigative Agency: Butler County Sheriff's
Department Phone: (573) 785-8444
Investigative Case #: 03-1834

Case Updates:

Herd, Una Mae

Classification: Endangered Missing Adult
Alias / Nickname: Memi
Date of Birth: 0924-07-02
Date Missing: 2006-06-25
From City/State: Sherman, TX
Missing From (Country): USA
Age at Time of Disappearance: 81
Gender: Female
Race: White
Height: 60 inches
Weight: 140 pounds
Hair Color: Gray
Eye Color: Brown
Complexion: Light

Identifying Characteristics: Scars on both knees from double knee replacement, pierced ears.

Clothing: Possibly wearing a button-up shirt, knee-length shorts, ankle socks, and athletic shoes.

Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. Una was last known to be at her residence in the early morning hours of the 1200 block of N. Harrison (near Dorchester) in Sherman, TX. She failed to meet family members at a restaurant at 9:00am as scheduled. It is unknown if Una went for her usual walk earlier that morning or not. Una suffers from a medical condition and needs medication.

Investigative Agency: Sherman Police Department
Phone: (903) 892-7290
Investigative Case #: 060003980

Case Updates:

Copyright 2007, Project Jason

Sunday, September 09, 2007

9/9/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part V


Aging Population:

Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program

Project Lifesaver International:

Alzheimer's Alliance of Northeast Texas:


DBS-SAR Productions
(Research and training programs for search and rescue teams and law enforcement agencies.)

United Response Search and Rescue

KlaasKids Foundation:

NASAR, National Association for Search and Rescue:

Texas EquuSearch:

Missing Persons:

Project Jason:

Carole Sund Foundation:

National Center for Missing Adults:

For additional assistance in missing persons, please see the list of other resources on our site at

Thank you, Target Media Partners, publishers of Through the Gears magazine

More Information about Bryon Freeman

Freeman, Bryon

Date Missing: June 24, 2006
Missing From: Elkhart, Texas
DOB: 12/14/1935
Hair Color: Grey
Height: 5’8
Weight: 145lbs
Eye Color: Brown
Sex: Male
Race: Black
Complexion: Medium

Byron Freeman, age 70, drove from Los Angeles, CA to Texas to attend a class reunion in Palestine. He left Elkhart, TX, following a friend to a community center in Palestine, TX, but took a wrong turn. His car was found on Highway 79 in Robertson County, TX along with his keys and cell phone. Byron is possibly disoriented and may believe he is in the Los Angeles, CA area. He has not been seen or heard from since Saturday, June 24, 2006.

Police/Sheriff: Anderson County Sheriff’s
Office Officer/Deputy Name: Sgt Whitmore
Officer’s Phone #: 903-729-6068 Officer’s
Case #: 0604859

Case Updates:

More Information about Shirley Hunt

Hunt, Shirley

Date Missing: June 19, 2007
Missing From: Good Springs, Texas
DOB: 6/15/1935
Age: 72 yrs old
Hair Color: White
Height: 5’4
Weight: 120 lbs
Eye Color: Hazel
Sex: Female
Race: White
Complexion: Fair

Shirley was last seen wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt over a white shirt with black trim, light denim culottes, and brown loafer shoes. She was walking near her home in the Good Springs area of Rusk County TX, when she disappeared the afternoon of Tuesday June 19, 2007. Mrs. Hunt is an Alzheimer's patient.

Police/Sheriff: Rusk County Sheriff
Officer/Deputy Name: Glenn Deason
Officer’s Phone #: 903/657-3581

Case Updates:

Go to the Conclusion

Friday, September 07, 2007

9/7/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part IV

Other Solutions

States can also adopt legislation to implement missing adult alerts in certain situations. Currently, CO, GA, IL, MI, NM, and UT have initiatives in place to alert all LE and the public about an endangered missing adult.

On September 1st, 2007, Texas implemented a law to begin missing elderly adult alerts, called a “Silver Alert”. SB1315 will use the Amber Alert infrastructure with the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) determining the appropriate alerting avenues at state, regional or local levels. Texans over the age of 65 who have Alzheimer's, dementia, or who are mentally impaired in some way and reported missing, are eligible for the Silver Alert. Alerts for qualifying cases would then be sent to all levels of law enforcement agencies, TV, radio and newsprint media, and also show warnings on freeway message boards.

Project Jason recommends that every person in each family, regardless of age, have a completed Personal ID Kit ready in case someone you love were to become missing. It’s free to download on our website at It contains all of the physical description information and recent photos that will help LE in the search.

Taking Action

The National Alzheimer’s Association gives these tips for when an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient becomes missing:

The Family:

Five Steps for a Safe Return (Family)

1. Search the Immediate Area- Most people who wander by foot are found within 1/2 mile from where they were last seen. If not found within 5 minutes go to step two.
2. Call 911 - file missing person report
3. Call Safe Return
4. Contact family or friends to stay with you, stay calm, follow directions from police and Safe Return
5. Stay where you are- Have others continue to search, keep phone lines open so Police, Safe Return or the missing person can contact you.

Law Enforcement:

1. Begin search immediately
2. Place the missing person’s name in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and list them as a person with disabilities.

(Project Jason emphasizes also adding immediate involvement of SAR and local media.)

The Alzheimer's Association offers free training for law enforcement that covers wandering and other safety issues, plus tactics to use when encountering someone with dementia. The class also covers how Safe Return can help law enforcement reduce investigation time when someone with Alzheimer's is reported missing in the community.”

What can the general public do to help?

1) Volunteer for ground searches for the missing
2) Place posters of them, such as the 18 Wheel Angels posters made for Byron and Shirley that you’ll find on the Project Jason website
3) Support your local or area SAR teams, Alzheimer’s chapters, and missing person’s assistance organizations

If a person encounters an elderly individual in public who appears to have dementia or Alzheimer's, and they are behaving erratically, the best course of action is to use a non-threatening tone of voice. Maintain a calm environment and speak slowly and maintain a low-pitched voice so you do not give a false perception of anger or threat. Use short and familiar words. Ask “yes” or “no” questions. Do not assume the individual is hearing impaired unless otherwise indicated. You should attempt to remove the individual from noisy or stressful situations as excess stimuli may trigger a negative reaction which is exhibited by increased symptoms of restlessness, pacing, agitation and anxiety. Above all, you should remain calm, assuring and maintain good eye contact.

Robert Vaughn, Shirley’s son-in-law suggests: “If you have a family member with Alzheimer's, try to learn all you can about the disease and how it affects those who have it. If a person is not confined to 24 hour care, the walkaways can be very hard to prevent. Alzheimer's patients seem to show an amazing ability to hide, walk away or disappear. Things that could help in the home would be -- locks that prevent the patient from easily getting outdoors, and/or alarms on the doors that notify caregivers the patient has gone outside. Also a fenced-in yard could provide a place to walk, while decreasing the patient's ability to get away quickly.

Finally, extra help from extended family members, church volunteers, sitters, etc. could provide relief from the weariness that inevitably comes to the caregiver(s).”

Project Jason offers additional support and resources for families of the missing, including our newest benefit: free online counseling for family members.

Byron’s nephew, Lauris, gives advice to other families: “I recommend that families utilize anyone and any organization that is willing to help distribute information about your missing loved one. The more people who you can share your story and the more places you can show your loved one’s face, the better your chances are at recovery.

Prepare yourself both mentally and emotionally for the long haul. If you’re fortunate your loved one will be found alive and well inside a period of hours, days, or possibly weeks. If not, I think it’s important to understand that in addition to all the emotions your family will experience in the days and possibly years to come, your lives must continue. A situation like this can destroy an entire family from the inside out but we must always remember that our loved ones, whether they are recovered or not, will always be with us, and most importantly, remember that life is for the living.”

We’d like to thank the families of Byron Freeman and Shirley Hunt for their participation. We know it was not an easy thing for them to talk about the situation. Our thanks also go to the national and regional organizations which provided information for this article, and to the publishers of Through the Gears magazine, Target Media Partners, for helping in our cause.

About Project Jason

Project Jason is a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization, and was established on October 6, 2003. Named after the founders’ missing young adult son, Jason Jolkowski, this organization primarily focuses on case assessment, resources, and support for families of the missing. Kelly Jolkowski, Jason’s mother, handles interactions with family members, and has over 100 hours of professional training in various aspects of missing persons, including emotional support, DNA, support tools, databases and related matters, case management, media relations, and more. A complete listing of the services they offer can be found at

Contact Project Jason

We are the Voice for the Missing; speaking for those who are not among us but who are forever in our hearts.

Go to Part V

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

9/5/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part III

Safe Return Program

For those who live in a community that does not yet have the Project Lifesaver program, the National Alzheimer’s Association has a less expensive alternative with their Safe Return program.

“Alzheimer's Association Safe Return® is a nationwide identification, support and enrollment program that provides assistance when a person with Alzheimer's or a related dementia wanders and becomes lost locally or far from home. Assistance is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If an enrollee is missing, one call immediately activates a community support network to help reunite the lost person with his or her caregiver. Safe Return faxes the enrolled person's information and photo (if provided) to local law enforcement.

When the person is found, a citizen or law official calls the 800-number on the identification products and Safe Return notifies listed contacts. The nearest Alzheimer's Association office provides information and support during the search and rescue efforts. The Safe Return program also provides assistance to those individuals who are missing and not enrolled in the program. .” said Kate Meyer, Manager, of Public Relations for the national Alzheimer's Association.

The Safe Return program averages 500 calls per month and 150 wandering incidents. Two-thirds of calls received are from law enforcement or a Good Samaritan calling to report a person FOUND and not from the caregiver calling to report the person MISSING. 99% of reported missing Safe Return enrollees are located within the first twenty-four hours and there is a 98% recover rate for those enrolled who have been reported missing.

National Association Benefits

The group offers this support for families and caregivers:

· The Alzheimer's Association toll-free, 24/7 Helpline provides reliable information, referrals and support in 140 languages. Call us anytime at 1.800.272.3900.

· From coast to coast, Alzheimer's Association local chapters are in your community, providing core services to families and professionals, including information and referral, support groups, care consultation, education and safety services.

· CareFinder™ is an online guide that can help you find the right care based on individual needs and preferences.

· The Alzheimer's Association online community connects people from all across the country who share their experiences and find support and friendship with others living with Alzheimer's.

· Alzheimer's Association advocates educate Congress on critical Alzheimer policy issues and work to increase federal funding for research and care programs.

A Local Chapter Assists

As Kate mentioned, local Alzheimer’s chapters get involved, too. Jamie Huff, Community Relations Coordinator for the Alzheimer's Alliance of Northeast Texas, is working to helping in these cases. “We take a proactive approach by helping the law enforcement entities in the counties we serve offer Project Lifesaver, a lifesaving tracking system. If family has a loved one missing that is not participating in that program we will help in any way we can.

We are trying to develop a statewide hospital notification plan in the case of missing persons unrelated to a major disaster. Having such a system in place would allow law enforcement a mass communication approach to check for unidentified patients in all Texas hospitals. That capability could help locate a missing person with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia who may have become disoriented and/or injured while lost. Currently there is no system in place for this purpose other than for major disasters and vast displacement of people, such as experienced during recent hurricanes.

We had also began talking with local Alzheimer’s Alliance volunteers in Rusk County, where Shirley Hunt from Henderson, Texas, disappeared in early June 2007, many months ago about establishing Project Lifesaver in their county. It is extremely unfortunate that the program wasn’t available to Mrs. Hunt when needed most. No one wants history to repeat itself. The City of Henderson and Rusk County are now partnering with the Alzheimer’s Alliance to raise funds and awareness of Project Lifesaver and other Alliance programs and services through our Alzheimer’s Walk in that community on October 4th, 2007. We have six additional Walks in Northeast Texas on the same date for support of the same programs. “

Tips for Caregivers

Jamie offer some very valuable tips for caregivers: “Since the rate of those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias who wander is over 70%, it is imperative to take precautions at home. Do not leave a person with dementia unsupervised. Ensure the person is well-fed, well-hydrated and using the bathroom regularly. Some people wander in an effort to fill these needs. Set a daily routine. Reduce environmental stimuli like loud music or overcrowding that might spark wandering. Secure doors and gates in ways that make them difficult to open. Post a large sign that says “Stop” or “Do Not Enter” on exits.

Remember that at some point in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, driving performance errors or risk of wandering will present a safety risk to both the individual and the public. Driving privileges should be withheld completely when the individual poses a serious risk to self or others. To encourage acceptance, the individual should be reassured that alternate transportation will be provided as needed. When acceptance cannot be reached, it is appropriate for a clinician to order that driving be halted. It may even be necessary in some cases to disable vehicles."

Go to Part IV

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

9/4/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part II

Search and Rescue a Valuable Partner

Both families utilized area search and rescue teams. Dana Ames, co-founder of United Response Search and Rescue Team, a Texas-based organization, recommends use of a variety of search efforts, depending on the situation, including:

Foot Search Team
Air-scenting and trailing dogs
Man trackers
Emergency Medical Technicians
Technical rescue specialists
Swift Water Rescue Specialists
Certified Dive Team with side scan sonar
Mounted Horse Search Team
4-Wheelers/ATV’s Search Team
Air/Pilot Search Team
Ham Radio Communication Team

Dana says: “Our organization will provide these services so that no family will ever have to suffer alone while faced with such an unexpected tragic event. We will do this with compassion, dedication, professionalism, and expediency. Our primary objective will always be the safe return of a missing loved one to their family.”

Families of the missing and law enforcement (LE) need to know that search and rescue (SAR) teams do their work for free. Getting the proper assistance involved quickly can mean the difference between having a resolved case or a cold case. The first 24 hours is critical as 46% of missing elderly will be found deceased after this window due to their physical condition and/or the elements.

Brad Dennis, Director of Search Operations for the KlaasKids Foundation, outlines typical behaviors exhibited by a missing person with Alzheimer or dementia:

Usually (89%) found within one mile of the Point Last Seen (PLS), half found within 0.5 miles.

Subject usually found a short distance from road (50% within 33 yards)

Subject may attempt to travel to former residence or favorite place.

Subject will not leave many physical clues.

Will not cry-out for help (1%) or respond to shouts (only 1% response rate).

Succumbs to the environment (hypothermia, drowning, and dehydration).

“They go until they get stuck.”

Subject usually found in a creek, or drainage and/or caught in briars/bushes (63%)

Leaves own residence or nursing home, possibly with last sighting on a roadway. May cross or depart from roads (67%).

Coexisting medical problems that limit mobility are common.

Has previous history of wandering (72%)

They appear to lack the ability to turn around.

Brad suggests these search strategies for the SAR teams and LE:

Quickly establish the point the person was last seen at (called the PLS). Utilize specialists trained as man trackers and trailing dogs from the PLS.

Deploy specially trained air scenting dog teams in drainages and streams surrounding the PLS.

Set up containment based upon the time the subject disappeared and the approximate distance the subject may have traveled. Containment ensures your subject remains inside your search area.

Thoroughly search the residence/nursing home and surrounding grounds and buildings.

Search heavy briars and bushes and remind searchers frequently about this.

Dog teams and ground sweep teams will expand their search from the PLS.

Air scent dog teams and ground sweep teams should search at least 100 meters parallel to roadways.

Search nearby previous home sites, work sites and other pertinent areas historically significant to the lost subject.

Brad emphasizes the need for swift reaction in these cases: “Law Enforcement, caregivers and family members need to respond quickly by conducting search operations. There are search and rescue units, volunteer rescue squads and search and rescue K-9 teams available to assist in the search for wanderers. These units are typically volunteer, non-profit organizations that dedicate themselves to help search for and locate missing persons. Many different sources exist to help identify, notify and connect you with trained, qualified units in your area. The KlaasKIDS Foundation has its own search and rescue unit that can assist you or serve as a referral network to connect you with teams in your area. The National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) provides valuable training and a network of qualified teams.”

Just last week, a SAR team from the east coast found a missing elderly woman using dogs within 15 minutes of being dispatched by the local LE. Because of the fast action of all involved parties, the family, LE, and the SAR team, the woman was found safe.

One Solution

Organizations which were created specifically to support families with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia also take steps to prevent and resolve the situation in which Byron and Shirley’s families have found themselves.

Bobby Hunt, Shirley’s husband, urges families caring for a loved one to get an ID bracelet such as the one developed by Project Lifesaver, which includes a tracking device.

Katherine Healey Flores, Director of Program Development for Project Lifesaver, explains how these devices work:

“People enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program wear a transmitter, approximately the size of a large watch that has a personalized radio frequency and cellular signal. When caregivers notify us, the local agency responds to the area last seen and begins searching for the individual. PLI has over 1550 searches- with safe returns -to their loved ones in 30 minutes or less. This has reduced search times from days to a matter of minutes by assigned public safety agencies.

PLI works with local law enforcement agencies in more than 575 communities in 41 states and Canada to protect some of society's most vulnerable citizens. Our goal is to be able to offer the program to every community in the United States.

Anyone interested is starting a local Project Lifesaver program in their area are asked to contact us at the PLI headquarters in Chesapeake, Virginia and we will be happy to provide them with all the information and support that they need. 757-546-5502.”

Project Lifesaver has been instrumental in numerous successful recoveries, including the recent case of a woman in Ohio who was found within 20 minutes because of the tracking device.

Go to Part III

Monday, September 03, 2007

9/3/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part I

Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia Increase Missing Person Statistics (Part I)

By Kelly Jolkowski

Two Families in Limbo

The families of Byron Freeman and Shirley Hunt are just two of thousands who unfortunately, can now count their missing loved ones among the statistics.

Lauris Freeman, nephew of Byron, has acted as his family’s advocate and spokesperson since Byron’s mysterious disappearance on June 24th, 2006. “Ironically my first inclination was not to panic or fear the worst because you have no reason to believe that anything bad has happened, i.e., maybe he’s just lost, wandering around, confused, etc. But as more time passes you start running different scenarios through your head about all types of things from foul play to amnesia, abduction and basically everything else we see on television crime shows. Once you accept the fact that your loved one is missing I think the biggest fear is that they will never be found. Unfortunately for our family, that is currently the case.”

Lauris described what the family knows about Bryon’s disappearance: “Every summer Byron would drive from his home in California to attend a high school reunion held in Palestine, Texas. He had done this for a decade, and he usually stayed a week or two to visit family and friends before returning home. The day he went missing, he was to attend a picnic that was held about 5 miles from where he was staying with a friend. Driving alone, he followed another car (driven by a family friend) to the picnic site but apparently kept on driving past the exit. The rental car he was driving was found on the side of the highway some 100 miles away, out of gas, windows down, and keys in the ignition.

At about 11 PM, a Wal-Mart truck driver (the highway is a well-traveled truck route) reported seeing a man who fit my uncle’s description walking down the shoulder of the highway, telephoned the local Sheriff but did not pick the man up. A Sheriff’s deputy arrived to the rental car around 12 AM but at that time had no knowledge (since the car was found in a different county) of a missing person.

Subsequently, the two Sheriff’s agencies from both counties would connect the dots and after impounding and searching the rental car found no signs of struggle or foul play.

When we were informed by a friend of my uncle’s that he did not show up at the picnic our first step was to call local authorities who then issued an APB for him. For the first 48 hours or so we (calling from California) were on the phone regularly with the local Sheriff’s agencies as they tried to locate my uncle. As it was a weekend (the picnic was Saturday) we were hoping that something would turn up on Monday when townsfolk would be returning to work and increase the possibility of a sighting if my uncle was wandering the streets. “

Before Alzheimer’s changed her life, Shirley Hunt was known as a very active, enthusiastic woman who was very involved in her family, church, and community. She was always doing something for other people. Shirley also liked to take walks along the country roads near her Henderson, TX home. On June 19th, 2007, it would appear that Shirley decided to take one of her walks.

Within 15 minutes, her husband, Bobby, and daughter, Kim, who had stepped out into the back yard, realized she was gone. They searched in the usual places she walked without finding her, and then called the Sheriff's Department. A deputy was on the scene in about 5 or 10 minutes. The initial search was conducted by the Rusk County Sheriff's Office. The Henderson Rescue Unit took over on around the 4th day, and concluded on the 6th day. There were about 6 days of intense searching in the area where Shirley disappeared, including mounted searches and tracking dogs. Hundreds of volunteers turned out to help, but they still found no trace of Shirley. Bobby Hunt came home without his wife for the first time in 51 years.

Both families echo the need for resources being provided to them immediately. “I think a list of all agencies that will help find a loved one would be very helpful.” stated Bobby Hunt. “Just learning about the staggering number of unsolved missing person’s cases blew me away, in the hundred thousands if not more. That and the fact that at least in California there is virtually no formal support beyond law enforcement whose resources are very limited. It’s sort of a free-for-all for families. If it weren’t for organizations like Project Jason, The National Center for Missing Adults, Texas Equusearch, the Carole Sund-Carrington Foundation and a host of other extremely dedicated (and mostly) volunteer groups, most average income families would be left grasping at straws.” said Lauris.

They are right. It is rarely a part of procedure when taking a missing persons case that law enforcement gives resources to families. Project Jason is working on changing that by passing legislation in each state that would mandate this logical step. (Campaign for the Missing)

Go to Part II

Sunday, September 02, 2007

9/2/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, An Introduction

Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, An Introduction

Article History and Related Information

When researching missing persons in the news on the internet on nearly a daily basis, I began to notice that out of a number of new stories, there would almost always be one or two that was about a missing elderly person, often one with some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Sometimes they would be found quickly and alive, and sometimes not. The resources used by the local authorities and the family, and the speed of the response typically made the difference between having a happy reunion, an unfortunate discovery, or a cold case with a family who waits, not knowing the fate of their missing loved one.

It was these stories, the effected families who sought Project Jason’s assistance, and our own family members who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, who inspired this article, the purpose of which is to give some guidance to these families, and to those who serve them in their time of need. This includes law enforcement (LE) and other assistance organizations. If we can provide information that either prevents a tragic loss or brings about a quick and positive resolution to even one case, that is certainly worth the effect. Life is our most precious commodity, after all.

The information covered includes:

Alzheimer’s and dementia statistics
Preventative measures
Search and Rescue’s contribution
Solutions using technology
Response makes a difference
Assistance from national and local organizations
Legislation provides an answer
Case profiles

This article has been submitted to the trucking magazine Through the Gears to be published in their September 2007 issue. This is a free trucking magazine with a circulation of 150,000 that is distributed at approx. 2,500 locations nationwide, mostly truck stops. You can find it in the free trucker's publication area rather than with the paid magazines.

In the September issue, our featured missing persons, Shirley Hunt and Bryon Freeman's photos and profiles will also be featured as a part of Project Jason’s 18 Wheel Angel program.

We will also have the special 18 Wheel Angels posters uploaded on our site during the month and until Byron and Shirley are found.

Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia Increase Missing Person Statistics

By Kelly Jolkowski

Day in and day out, all across the country, headlines inform us that someone is missing. The occurrence of elderly missing appears to be on the increase as many of those headlines announce. As we know, our population is aging, and with that increase in number also comes an increase of persons suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

According to the National Alzheimer’s Association, in 2007, it is estimated that there are now more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This includes 4.9 million people over the age of 65 and between 200,000 and 500,000 people under age 65 with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Six in 10 people with Alzheimer's disease will wander. Many people cannot even remember their name or address. They may become disoriented and lost, even in their own neighborhood. Wandering is among the biggest challenges caregivers face. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Crime Information Center (NCIC), there are 50,930 active missing adult cases in the United States as of January 31, 2007.

(The NCIC does not have statistics for the number of elderly missing nationwide)

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