Baby Lisa and the Superman Syndrome!

Baby Lisa’s parents have resisted the authorities attempts to re-interview Lisa’s half brothers, who were in the home when she was snatched, saying they were concerned for the boys’ well being. Tomorrow law enforcement will finally have an opportunity to re-interview the boys for the first time since she disappeared on October 3 or 4. The boys, eight and five-years-old, have only been interviewed for fifty and thirty-minutes respectively.

Wouldn’t it be to the children’s benefit to help solve the case rather than have suspicion focused on the family and an evil mystery lingering over their heads forevermore? Little boys long to be Batman, Superman or Captain America. They fantasize about “saving the day” and rescuing the damsel in distress. Baby Lisa’s brothers will never have a better chance to turn fantasy into reality than they have right now. They need to be talking about what they do or don’t know; trying to solve the case and understanding the evil that lurked within. Only then will they be able to mature knowing that they did everything that they could to help find their little sister.

There are viable techniques for interviewing children that are gentle, non-invasive, and non-threatening. Originally developed to draw out information from child sexual abuse victims without re-victimizing them, forensic interviewing of children has broad acceptance in the criminal justice community. Typically, a specially trained interviewer will sit down with child in a comfortable, home like setting. Oftentimes interviews are videotaped, and other interested parties including law enforcement, prosecutors, medical personnel and defense attorneys monitor the interview. This is to guarantee the interviewers objectivity, ensure that he/she employed non-leading techniques and that relevant case information was not overlooked. The goal of the interview will determine levels of victimization and elicit information that will stand up in court.

Baby Lisa and the Loss of Urgency!

Baby Lisa’s parents have circled the wagons, hired a platoon of lawyers and consultants, and cut off communications with media and law enforcement. Critical decisions are made by committee. Their other two children are off-limits to law enforcement, mommy’s story shifts and shudders, and her commentary reveals more questions than it answers. Access to the house is restricted and a cadaver dog picked up the scent of decaying human remains in the master bedroom.

The abysmal choices and questionable behavior of baby Lisa’s mom and dad have left them exposed. One result of their failure to eliminate themselves as suspects in baby Lisa’s disappearance is that her parents are being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. They and their representatives claim that they are being scapegoated; that the authorities have to pin the crime on someone and that the parents are the obvious choices.

However, there are too many law enforcement professionals with too much experience from too many agencies for that to be true. The FBI, who has been involved since the beginning of the investigation has prioritized missing children since 1993. They have a written protocol and agents that are specifically trained in missing child investigations. Given their standing in the law enforcement community and the resource that they bring to bear on missing person cases, it would be counterproductive and reflect badly on the agency to force blame on innocent and suffering parents.

No, I believe that the family’s failure has been home grown and nurtured with ignorance and bad advice. Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley’s choice to allow others to make critical decisions relevant to their daughter’s disappearance hinders the case and undermines their moral authority. It appears as if their needs take precedent over the recovery of their daughter. It replaces a sense of urgency with a need for caution.

82% of all abductions involve a family member. Therefore, once a child has been reported missing law enforcement is going to focus resource and attention on family members. To do otherwise would be irresponsible. It is in the best interest of the child, the family and the investigation for family members to fully cooperate with the authorities so that they can eliminate themselves from suspicion and allow law enforcement to focus on other possible scenarios. That is what I did, and that is what hundreds if not thousands of other parents have done when their child or children mysteriously disappear. That is not what baby Lisa’s parents are doing.

Can the U.S. Military Rescue Baby Lisa?

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has called upon members of the 1139th Military Police Company of the Missouri National Guard to assist in the search for Lisa Irwin, who has been missing from her Kansas City home since October 4. Twenty-five members of the unit have joined police in ground searches for 10-month-old baby Lisa. This is a very good sign as the military can contribute many disciplines and resources to a Search and Rescue operation.

I first became aware of the military’s potential impact on missing persons when my daughter Polly was kidnapped in 1993, during Fleet Week in San Francisco. This is the time of year when the U.S. Navy, including the Blue Angels, descends upon the San Francisco Bay to show off. During an appeal for search parties, many sailors and other local military personnel volunteered their services. It soon became apparent that many of these highly organized soldiers had expert training in Search and Rescue operations. 
  • The U.S. military is the best-equipped and trained search and secure force in the world, especially when force size is considered;
  • Units are constantly training in field deployment;
  • They utilize techniques and the most advanced communication, sensing and surveillance electronics available in the world;
  • The military can rapidly deploy to the most inaccessible areas;
  • They have mobile secure communication;
  • The military has night vision and sensing availability that is unsurpassed.  They “own the night”;
  • The armed forces have a proven chain of command that is non-jurisdictional.
 Will baby Lisa be found? It is still too early to say, but it is a big world and she is a little baby. However, the military’s involvement in her case is definitely an asset. 

Baby Lisa’s Private Eye: Asset or Liability?

Baby Lisa is still missing, so a high profile Private Investigator has been hired on her behalf. Will his presence help, hinder or make no discernable difference in the investigation into Baby Lisa’s disappearance? Obviously, this question is not easily answered.
I hired a Private Investigator when my daughter was kidnapped. Hap Lipset came highly recommended and was an internationally known Private Investigator whose specialty was electronic surveillance. After initially offering to share Polly’s case information, the Petaluma Police and FBI reneged and left my investigator to his own devices. By the end of the investigation three-months later, the best information that Mr. Lipset was able to provide to me was that a local newspaper was preparing to do a hit-piece on me. I was able to correct the record with the newspaper before the article was published and forestall an erroneous, but possible uncomfortable episode.
Private Investigators can definitely contribute to and enhance a missing person investigation. They provide an extra set of eyes and ears. However, while Private Investigators may investigate criminal matters, they do not have police powers. They cannot arrest or detain suspects. 
Unlike sworn police officers, Private Investigators are not bound by the Miranda warning. In other words, they do not have to advise criminal suspects that self incriminating statements may be used against them. They may bring years of experience and local knowledge to the investigation.  
If your child is missing and you wish to retain the services of a Private Investigator, there are certain things that you should consider. Particularly given that the law enforcement agency in charge of the investigation will most likely refuse to share evidence or other case information. The background, experience, and area of expertise of the Private Investigator you are considering must be synchronized with the goal you are trying to achieve: the recovery of the missing child.
Private Investigator’s come in various shapes, sizes, backgrounds, levels of experience and expertise. In a missing child case you want a Private Investigator that has a law enforcement background and contacts within the jurisdictional agency. You want an investigator with personal knowledge of the community and you want an investigator with a background in missing persons. In an ideal world you want someone who has actually found missing persons. Therefore, you want a local man or woman that has hopefully retired from law enforcement and has adequate resources to end run official stonewalling to either obtain or verify case information.
In one case that the KlaasKids Foundation was involved in the family of the missing person was interested in hiring a Private Investigator. I recommended an individual whom I had known since 1993 when he worked Polly’s case as a special agent for the FBI. He was able to verify that the FBI was involved in the case and that the local authorities were conducting a viable and thorough investigation. He recommended that he continue monitoring the investigation and provide the family with regular reports. Although the family appreciated the information, they decided to go with a pro-bono grandstanding Private Investigator who was unable to keep any of his promises and had virtually no impact on either the family or the investigation.
The Private Investigator that has been hired to work Baby Lisa’s case is named Bill Stanton. Mr. Stanton is from New York and seems to specialize in executive protection, not missing persons: Strike One!. This morning Kansas City Police Capt. Steve Young said that Private Investigators have no more access to crime scene evidence than the general public: Strike Two! Mr. Stanton has told at least one media representative that he is not in Kansas City in his capacity as a Private Investigator, but rather as a consultant or a new set of eyes. Therefore, his mission is not clear: Strike Three!
The decision on whether or not to hire a Private Investigator comes down to a matter of value, time and resource. What value can the Private Investigator provide that will assist in recovering the missing person? In this case it looks like that Mr. Stanton is a stranger in a strange land who must begin at square one. That in itself is a liability. Time is critical in recovery. More than a week has already passed and we seem no closer to finding Baby Lisa than the day that she disappeared. What resources does the Private Investigator bring to the case? In this case a reputation for bravado, and an opportunity to fuel the media cycle for a day or two.
Baby Lisa is still missing and the longer this goes on the grimmer the prognosis.

KlaasKids Continues to Provide Child Safety

The KlaasKids Foundation Print-A-Thon has been providing free Child Identification throughout the USA since 1994. Our oldest and most loyal sponsor, the St. Louis, Missouri based Dave Mungenast Auto Family has been hosting KlaasKids signature child safety event since 1996. This Saturday 10/15 marks our 15thannual Print-A-Thon in St. Louis, MO.

The Print-A-Thon is a high energy child safety event that utilizes 21st Century technology. KlaasKids fingerprints and photographs children, provides their parents with DNA Collection Kits, pro-active child safety information, and a nine-point-plan on what to do if a child disappears.

Always free to the public, the KlaasKids Print-A-Thon has been serving America’s families for more than a decade.  Since 1994, the KlaasKids Print-A-Thon has fingerprinted and photographed more than 1,000,000 children at no cost to families and without data basing personal or private information.  The Print-A-Thon is always underwritten by community minded sponsors like the Dave Mungenast Auto Family who wish to maintain safe communities and give back to their loyal customers. 

The Print-A-Thon utilizes imaging systems originally developed for federal law enforcement agencies by Sentry Technology that integrate digitized computer technology to fingerprint and photograph children quickly without ink or film.  Parents immediately receive an English or Spanish language 81/2 X 11 inch Bio-Doc® featuring forensic quality, magnified fingerprints, updated photograph, and blank form fields for personal and identifying information.  The back of the Bio-Doc provides safety rules for kids, safety suggestions for parents, instructions for properly storing DNA samples using household items and the 9-step emergency plan.   Since the Foundation does not database children’s personal or private information privacy is guaranteed.  Parents receive the only existing copy of the “Bio-Doc”®.

On Saturday, October 15, KlaasKids will conduct Print-A-Thon’s at 4-separate Mungenast Automotive Family locations. KlaasKids is flying in our “A” Team to ensure that St. Louis continues to receive the high quality, professional Child ID service that Dave Mungenast and KlaasKids has been providing since 1996.

On event day one of our “A” Team coordinators will fingerprint and photograph children at each location from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. Since it only takes between 1 and 2 minutes to serve each child, hundreds of families can take advantage of this free service during the course of the event.  Because the Foundation utilizes computerized/digitized technology we are able to develop magnified, forensic quality fingerprints on children as young as 3-months old: a feat that no other system can duplicate. KlaasKids Foundation coordinators will answer child safety questions and distribute no cost child and parent safety information. Don’t miss out on this rare and unique opportunity.

Facilitating a Print-A-Thon is a win/win for all the parties involved. It allows our fantastic sponsors to fulfill social responsibility by creating safer communities. It provides parents with an opportunity to engage a safety dialog with their children in a fun and positive environment. However the biggest winners of all are the kids, because they receive tools that enable them to make choices and decisions that will help to avoid victimization in the first place. Individually, none of us has the power to effect profound change, but, by reaching out and linking arms, together, we can change the world.

 I will travel to each location with kidnap survivor Midsi Sanchez to meet families, reacquaint with old friends and make new friends.

The Strange Case of Baby Lisa

A possibly tragic but instructive situation is playing out in suburban Kansas City, Missouri right now. Initially, the case of baby Lisa Irwin garnered national attention, a massive multi-jurisdictional law enforcement response, and much sympathy for her distraught family. However, in the past 24-hours the case has changed dramatically. Baby Lisa’s case has deteriorated because her parents have made some terrible choices that have focused attention back upon themselves, and raised questions about their intent.

10-month-old Lisa Irwin was reported missing after her father came home from a late shift at work at 4:00 am last Tuesday morning. A distraught Jeremy Irwin said that, “the front door was unlocked, the windows were open, the lights were on and she (baby Lisa) was nowhere to be found.” He also said that three cell phones had been stolen off of the kitchen counter.

An Amber Alert was issued at about 7:00 am on Tuesday morning. The Kansas City Police Department is the lead agency in the investigation. Two days after baby Lisa was reported missing her mother, Deborah Bradley said that the police TOLD her she had failed a polygraph exam. Police will neither confirm nor deny that this is true. A local television station reported that the parents have made a “deal” with national media and will no longerspeak with local media outlets.

Also on Thursday, after many hours of what seemed like nonstop questioning Lisa’s father told the police that he needed a break from questioning and asked if he could leave the interrogation room. Shortly thereafter law enforcement held a press conference claiming that the family had stopped cooperating, although the family disputes that claim.

When children disappear attention always falls squarely on the shoulders of the family. This is because 82% of all abductions are family centric. Therefore, the family has to answer all questions, regardless of how tedious they seem, until law enforcement is convinced that they are innocent of wrongdoing. Only then will law enforcement be able to focus their full attention on the other possible scenarios. Those scenarios include: other family members; friends and neighbors; peripheral contacts; registered sex offenders; and finally the most ominous scenario of all – stranger abduction. If more than 300 police, search and rescue professionals and FBI agents are dedicating all of their time in the case of the missing infant, then the parents should stay on the hot seat until they are cleared of suspicion. To put their own needs ahead of baby Lisa’s recovery is pitiful and shortsighted.

All kidnappings are local events. Certain cases, such as baby Lisa’s, draw national attention. Satellite and microwave broadcasting trucks appear as if out of nowhere as miles of cable crisscross the missing child’s neighborhood. Correspondents fly in and set up live shots across the street from the family home. We get breathless reports and updates every hour on the hour. In fact, cable news outlets have come to depend upon true crime stories to drive their ratings.

For a brief moment in time baby Lisa has fulfilled America’s obsession with true crime and a good mystery. However, if there are no new developments interest will be impossible to sustain. Eventually, national media will move onto the next crime de jour. Satellite connections will be broken, antennas will telescope back down, cable will be coiled and stored and the correspondents will climb into their rental cars and fly off to their next destination. Now, the only outlet for getting the word out will be the local media. And, how receptive will they be if they were snubbed by the family seeking wider attention on the national stage?

Kidnapping is local and times are tough. Law enforcement will investigate as long as tips come in and the investigation moves forward. But, unless the public demands their full attention they will drift off to other cases and other crimes. If the parents of the missing child are not front and center on the local television screen recruiting public support, the fragile coalition of trust that includes law enforcement, media, the public and the family can crumble like a house of cards.

As bad as it looked for baby Lisa after the Amber Alert was activated, it is beginning to look even worse now.

What I Know About the Death Penalty: Part 1

I am unapologetic about my support of the death penalty because I do not believe that a majority opinion or the law of the land in 37-states and the Federal government requires apology of defense. Unfortunately, a public relations campaign waged by death penalty abolitionists has found such support in media circles that many people believe that our death rows are filled with innocent men and women who are denied due process as they are being led to the slaughter.

Since the days of Perry Mason, television has fed the public a constant diet of citizens accused and convicted of capital murders that they did not commit. Currently, the plethora of CSI series would have us believe that forensic evidence miraculously and regularly exonerates innocents as they rot in prison cells.

The wrongful accusation, conviction, imprisonment and execution of innocents is a staple of The Good Wife on CBS, which recently featured Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The elegance of that particular case is that it is impossible to prove if Willingham truly was innocent as the Good Wife and Scheck claim, or was the remorseless arsonist who was executed in 2003 for torching his three young daughters in 1991. The point is that on these television programs forensics are always definitive, defense lawyers are never wrong, and innocent people are convicted, imprisoned and executed.

Of course, print media is complicit as well. Convicted killer Roger Coleman made the cover of Time Magazine on May 18, 1992 with the caption “This Man Might Be Innocent: This Man Is Due To Die”. Fourteen years after being executed DNA evidence proved that Coleman was guilty of murdering his sister-in-law.

The June 12, 2000 cover of Newsweek Magazine featured death row inmate Ricky McGinn. Again, the suggestion was that an innocent man was about to be executed. McGinn stated that DNA testing would prove that he didn’t rape and murder his 12-year-old step-daughter. Under intense media pressure Texas Governor George Bush ordered a 30-day reprieve. When DNA testing proved that McGinn was guilty beyond any doubt he was finally executed.

Wouldn’t you be surprised to learn then, that at the end of 2009 there were 1,613,740 prisoners under state and federal jurisdiction, yet less the total number of DNA exonerations for any kind of felony is less than 300? To date, despite years of parading remorseless killers as innocent victims the abolitionists and other death row apologists cannot definitively demonstrate that an innocent man has been executed.

The ultimate irony is that death penalty abolitionists crave the execution of an innocent man so that their indignation can run amok, while those who favor the death penalty pray that an innocent is never executed so that the fragile system of ultimate justice can be preserved.