A Child Coming Home: Surviving A Family Abduction

By Steven Slinkard

Slinkard family during better times

Slinkard family during better times

Almost 20-years ago, my ex-wife had our three children on a court-ordered visit. After our divorce some time before, I had been granted custody of our two sons and daughter in our hometown of Greenfield, Indiana.  But I wanted them to have a normal relationship with their mother, and so off they went for a brief visit.

 

They never came back. They remained missing for the next 18-years.

Nathan, Andrew, & Sydney Slinkard

Nathan, Andrew, & Sydney Slinkard

The personal impact was devastating. My desire and willingness to do anything to bring my kids home never faltered. However, my hopes of fulfilling that dream developed into a nightmare of despair. I became withdrawn and depressed as time went on – years passing without any knowledge or likelihood of finding my children. I stopped socializing with friends, while attending family functions became difficult and church no longer was a place of solace for me. I listened to my friends and family talk about their children, but I wasn’t able to add anything to the conversation since my sources of inspiration were no longer part of my life.

 

I began to think I was being punished for something I had done and that I didn’t deserve to be happy. Unfortunately, I did not seek professional counseling because I didn’t believe anyone could help me without experiencing the same type of loss. My lifecycle became robotic in nature…sleep, eat, and work.

 

My spare time was spent surfing the Internet, placing information about my missing children on various websites. I sent flyers and letters to various organizations, schools, police stations and hospitals around the world to keep their abduction story alive.  I hoped that someone, somewhere, someday would recognize a picture of my children and advise authorities of their location.

 

The best thing I did was to become involved as a parent advocate with Team Hope, an association of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I might not have taken advantage of counseling for myself, but I was able to positively impact other parents suffering a similar fate. It helped me to help them understand the process, show them how to locate resources, and give them an avenue to discuss their feelings with someone who could relate.

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

But my story – at least partially – ended far more happily than is the fortune of many parents of missing children. On January 27, 2014, my son Nathan, whom I had last seen when he was five years old, walked into the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico. He had been living in that country under an assumed name since 1995. He told them his American name and said he wanted to go home.

 

Nathan was able to provide the consulate agents with his original birth certificate, social security card, a picture of him with me when he was about four years old, and other important documents. He was also able to show identifying body marks to confirm his identity. DNA comparison was not necessary since they were able to prove his identity without it.

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

Although Nathan is 18-years older and his facial features have matured from those of a little boy to a man, it only took a couple of seconds of looking at his picture to recognize him as my little brown-eyed, blond-haired boy whom I love more than life. The U.S. Consulate, National Center, F.B.I., and Hancock County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Department coordinated their efforts to quickly bring my boy home.

 

Now, nearly 20-years after my children went missing, I have one of my children back in my life. I cannot begin to describe the elation and new sense of wholeness I feel. Nathan’s return has provided me with a rejuvenated, renewed awareness in life’s vigor. While I still don’t have complete closure, as I have had no contact with my other children, I have a renewed degree of resolution. Nathan’s assurance of Andrew and Sydney’s safety and good health gives me great comfort and relief.

 

The old saying, “as one door closes, another one opens,” has always held strong meaning for me. Having Nathan back and the probability of someday becoming reacquainted with Andrew and Sydney has closed a long and painful chapter of my life. But it isn’t over yet. There are more aspects to closure than simply being reunified with your missing loved one. Unfortunately, I hadn’t allowed myself to fully process my grief back when my children were taken from me and I didn’t process it over the many years they were missing.

 

I now find myself working through the remaining stages of grief, as well as feelings of confusion, anger, and anxiety. I am anxious to understand the experiences my children have had over the hears and about them accepting me, wanting to be a part of my life, and allowing me to  be a part of their lives. I am angry when I think of the milestones, memories, the hurts and joys of their lives that I missed out on while they were growing up. I am confused by how my life has changed, once again, on a dime.

 

The life, routine, and norm I lived the past 18-years changed. I am a dad again. I no longer have to suffer the complete unknown and uncertainty about my missing children’s wellbeing, safety, and welfare. I now can worry in the same fashion as most other parents for their adult children. My daily routine, as well as my spare time, is no longer spent in the same way as I did for so many years.

 

Looking back over the past two decades of my life, I am now able to better scrutinize my actions and thoughts. Of course there are some things I wish I would have done differently. No two people react to tragedy in the same way; everyone responds in their individual, unique manner. There is no right or wrong way for a parent or family to approach the fear, pain, and uncertainty of a missing child. Although Nathan is the only one of my children who has returned home so far, I maintain hope to be blessed with a relationship with Andrew and Sydney om the future.

 

Still Standing: Daughter’s Loss Leads To New Beginnings

By Rebecca Petty

Andi Brewer

Andi Brewer

I stand for a moment, on the lawn of the Arkansas State Capitol, and think about what I am getting ready to do and what has brought me here. Briefcase in hand, I head towards the building determined to set out on a course to help make the state a better place. Why? Because of my daughter, Andi. She is why for the past 15-years I have devoted my life to children and crime victims. Today, I will file to run for Arkansas State Representative for District 94, the House of Representatives.  Me, a woman, daughter, a mother, a person who would never have thought anything like this could be possible.

Andi Brewer

I gave birth to Andi three days shy of my seventeenth birthday, a baby with a baby. I never experienced true love until I laid eyes on that wonderful creation. I loved her desperately and raising her to the age of 12 was a blessing. Then on a fateful day, Andi went missing from her father’s rural Arkansas home. After a three day state-wide search, authorities informed me she had been kidnapped, driven down an old logging road, brutally raped, and strangled to death by a predatory monster. Part of my heart withered and died.

Rebecca Petty

Rebecca Petty

I cannot explain in words what it feels like to have a child who has been savagely murdered. At first, I felt like a tamed animal who had gone feral. My mind could not process the pain and suffering she must have endured in those last moments. Thoughts of my child begging for her life were pure and utter torture. For several months, I could barely breathe. Then help came in the form of a letter from Marc Klaas from the KlaasKids Foundation. Marc offered words of strength and encouragement, even in the midst of his own tragedy of losing Polly. Other families who had suffered a similar tragedy began to reach out to me as well, and I began to rise up slowly from the depths of hell on earth.

 

Because of the tragedy of the abduction, rape, and murder of my child, unbeknownst to me, I became the expert on this horrendous type of criminal behavior. I knew I needed to learn everything I could to fight this kind of crime or my daughter’s legacy would be at risk – and so would other children.

 

I began to speak to law enforcement, my community, parents, children and eventually law makers. I studied everything I could on the issues,  walked the halls of Capitol Hill in Washington DC, encouraged President Bush to sign the Amber Alert into federal law (what an honor that was), and this past fall I graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. I have currently been accepted into the masters of leadership and ethics program at John Brown University.

 

Which leads me back to standing in front of the Capitol building in Little Rock, Arkansas. My state senator, Bart Hester, impressed with my determined nature and what he calls me “pizazz,” asked if I would be interested in running for state office. Due to term limits, my state representative was leaving an open seat in my district. After much thought, I realized that though I wasn’t a career politician or a woman who was seeking the next rung on a political ladder, I was a woman who had had the worst of the worst happen to her and was still standing. And that must mean something.

 

I also have an agenda: to help make sure that children grow up safe, that civil liberties are protected, and my state and the United State Constitutions are upheld.

 

These thoughts rush through my mind as I walk up the stairs in the state Capitol to sign up to run for the House of Representatives. In the end, I hope and pray one day I will be able to hold my daughter again in the heavenly realm and kiss her sweet face and say to her, “It was all for you. I fought for you.” And to feel her hug me back and say, “Thanks, mommy,” will be all I ever needed.

 

Rebecca Petty is a candidate for Arkansas State Representative District 94

www.rebeccapetty.com

Missing Michaela

By Sharon Murch

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht, has been missing for over 25 years, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. She was nine years old on November 19, 1988, when she and her best friend rode their scooters two blocks from home to the neighborhood market. They parked the scooters by the door while they went into the store, but when they came out one was not where they had left it.  Michaela spotted it first, in the parking lot, and went to get it. As she bent over to pick it up, a man jumped out of the car parked next to it, and grabbed her from behind. Michaela screamed and her friend, Trina, turned to see the kidnapper throw Michaela into his car, and take off with her.

 

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

The police were called and responded immediately. By the time I found out what had happened, they were already looking for her, and I had no doubt with the quick response time and with the eyewitness description, she would be found quickly. But she wasn’t. Despite the efforts of the police, the media, and the huge and heartwarming outpouring of love and support by the community, she was not found quickly. She was not found at all.

 

After Michaela was kidnapped, I was tortured with thoughts of what she might be enduring right that minute. But I thought about those poor parents who had lost their children to illness or accident, and thought maybe I had it easier because in the very worst times I had that hope to carry me through, the hope that my daughter would come home safely. Every time a police car pulled up in front of my house I would run to the window, expecting to see Michaela sitting in the back seat. I would stand at my front door and gaze down the street where I’d watched her disappear from sight, hoping to see her little blonde head bobbing towards home.

 

But a year passed then two years, five years, ten, twenty, and now twenty-five. I discovered that hope is not always a brightly colored helium balloon that helps keep your spirits up. Sometimes it is dark and filled with lead, a weight that drags on you with every step you take, making you so weary you just don’t think you can go on. But you do. You have to,, because your child, who would now be an adult, your child who now would be just a little older than you were when you lost her, is still missing.

 

After a while, there is not much more that can be done, but you keep doing it anyway. For me, buoyed by the hope presented by other long-missing children having been found, I reach out to my daughter herself. I keep a BLOG in which I write to her, and even provide maps to help her get to embassies in other countries where she might be. I continue to talk to the media whenever asked, not because I want to, but because I continue to hope that perhaps Michaela will see it someday, somewhere.

 

Not many, but some people have criticized me for not being realistic, for not recognizing that after more than 25 years chances are Michaela is not alive. I do recognize that. But if I continue to knock myself silly looking for her and she is not alive, no harm is done to anyone but myself. On the other hand, if she is still alive, she may be suffering, and she needs me to keep looking for her. So that is what I do, and what I will continue to do, to look for my missing child, until the day she is found.

 

The Long & Winding Road To Recovery

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

The past two years have offered much opportunity for personal reflection. 2013 was the 20th anniversary of Polly’s tragedy, which I wrote about in the last edition of the KlaasKids Foundation newsletter Klaas Action Review. The year 2014 now marks 20 years since the founding of the KlaasKids Foundation. Earlier this year I penned an open letter to Polly on her birthday, reminiscing about that horrible experience two decades ago, and I blogged about being honored by the president of the United States as I battled debilitating grief.

 

This is the first post in a four-part series on the theme of reflection as three other parents, all friends of mine, who lost their children have generously offered to share their stories. Only one has been reunited with their child.

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

Nine-year-old Michaela Garecht was kidnapped in front of witnesses from a supermarket parking lot in Hayward, California, on November 19, 1988, and hasn’t been seen since. Tomorrow, her mother Sharon Murch, who continues to search for her precious daughter, shares her story with a focus on the endurance of hope and the therapeutic value of writing: How it has helped her to reconcile emotions and define her feelings.

Andrea Brewer

Andrea Brewer

On Friday Rebecca Petty will share a remarkable tale of triumph over tragedy. On May 15, 19999, 12-year-old Andi Brewer was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Three days later, Karl Roberts led the FBI to her remains. Andi’s mother, Rebecca Petty rose from the ashes of despair and recently graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is currently pursuing her vision of ensuring that children grow up safe by running for the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

Next Monday Steven Slinkard, who was recently reunited with his son Nathan after nearly two decades will share his story. Steven was completely unprepared when his ex-wife failed to return his three children after a court-ordered visitation and then disappeared in October 1995. He spent the next 18-years afraid that he might never see his kids again. Yet that did not stop him from reaching out through his own pain, doubt, and uncertainty to help others in a similar situation. Steven shares the elation he experienced just recently, on February 4, 2014, when he was finally reunited with a son he hadn’t seen on almost 20-years.

 

I thank Sharon, Rebecca, and Steven for sharing their stories. For all of them, it would have been much easier to reject my request. Introspection is difficult at the best of times, but when done in the context of a dead or missing child, the challenges can become debilitating. However, as Sharon Murch says, the redemptive qualities of writing can also be profoundly therapeutic. Their generosity affords us a glimpse into the range of feelings and emotions that can span decades in a parent’s quest for answers.

 

The Sad Tragedy of Jeremiah Oliver

  • Vigil In Fitchburg For Missing BoyIn May, 2013, five-year-old Fitchburg, MA preschooler Jeremiah Oliver’s mother begins a relationship with Alberto Sierra
  • May 20, 2013 was the last time a court ordered social worker visited with the troubled and abused little boy. The social worker assigned to Jeremiah’s case failed to conduct the required in-person, monthly checks on the family from this point forward
  • In June, Jeremiah’s mother informs his daycare that the family is moving to Florida.
  • September 14, is the last time Jeremiah is seen alive by a relative
  • On December 2, Jeremiah’s eight-year-old sister tells a school counselor that her mother’s boyfriend abused her and that she hasn’t seen her brother in a very long time
  • After the statements Jeremiah’s sister and another brother were placed in protective custody
  • At a December 13 hearing Jeremiah’s mother and boyfriend were arrested when they could not explain Jeremiah’s disappearance
  • On April 18, 2014 a tip from a jailhouse informant led authorities to the remains of a young boy wrapped in a blanket and placed inside of a duffel bag near a central Massachusetts Interstate Highway about 13-miles from Jeremiah’s house
  • According to a Washington State study 76% of abducted/murdered children were found within a 12 mile radius of their last known location
  • On April 20, 2014 the remains were positively identified as being little Jeremiah Oliver.

 

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said the body was found at about 9 a.m. Friday by a police search team about 40 feet off I-190 near Sterling, which is about 12 miles from Fitchburg. He said it was wrapped in blanket-like material and packed in material that resembled a suitcase. He said the site is near an area that is regularly mowed on the side of the highway but would not have been visible to passing cars. Jeremiah’s father Jose Oliver, who has been cleared from suspicion, believes that his son’s remains were recently placed at that location. The medical examiner should be able to determine whether or not Jeremiah Oliver’s body has been in the location where it was found for the long term or short term based on decomposition fluid leakage. Body fluid would have leaked through the blanket & duffel bag and left an imprint in the ground that would likely appear as a burned area.

 

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families had been monitoring the Oliver family for two years after allegations of neglect, but an investigation into Jeremiah’s disappearance found that the assigned social worker had missed mandatory monthly visits between last April and his sister’s December report that Jeremiah was missing. The governor asked the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF but resisted calls from some lawmakers to fire Olga Roche, the agency’s commissioner. The decision to commission an incident report from an agency not affiliated with MA Govt. makes sense, but given that this child fell through the cracks on DCF Commissioner Roche’s watch provides ample justification for firing her. We have the technological means to monitor abused children, but have failed as a society to prioritize the need.

Who Will Find Your Child?

By Danny Domingo

Murder Victim Michelle Le

Murder Victim Michelle Le

I write to you as a proud member of the “misinformed” according to the statement by Rich Robinson on behalf of Sheriff Laurie Smith.

 

Once again a representative of Sheriff Laurie Smith makes a statement on record saying she CANNOT assist the civilian search effort for Sierra Lamar. Rich Robinson says “the Sheriff will do nothing to prejudice the case against the suspect.” He goes on to say, “She cannot comment and her uninformed opponents know it.”

 

I was asked the other day to explain just how I believe Sheriff Smith has stonewalled the civilian search for Sierra Lamar. BTW, one of the definitions of stonewall is “to behave in an obstructive manner as by withholding information.” I was also asked to explain how other law enforcement jurisdictions have responded to a KlaasKids organized search effort as opposed to how Sheriff Laurie Smith has responded. I need only to go back to the Hayward search for Michelle Le as a perfect example.

 

Within a few days after the KlaasKids Organization entered the search for Michelle Le our search leaders were given the following information by the detectives assigned to the case. We were advised that cell phone pings from Michelle Le’s phone showed that her phone went from the area of Kaiser Hospital in Hayward to the Sunol Valley. The phone stayed in the Sunol Valley for less than an hour before returning to the area of Kaiser Hospital. We were given much more information but the above information proved crucial to finding Michelle Le. For those of you unfamiliar with the Michelle Le case, the suspect killed her in the parking garage of the Kaiser Hospital in Hayward and then hid the victim’s body in a field in the Sunol Valley. The KlaasKids search focused on the Sunol Valley because that is where Hayward PD Investigators told us they believed her body would be found. Our civilian search team found Michelle Le in Sunol Valley on September 17, 2011.

 

Can someone please tell me how the Michelle Le case was prejudiced in any way by the fact that the Hayward Police Department assisted the civilian search effort?

 

It was the goal of the Hayward Police Department to find Michelle Le and they were willing to use ALL available resources to accomplish that goal. It is a terrible injustice to Sierra Lamar and her family that the Sheriff Laurie Smith is not willing to do the same. Let’s face the facts here. If Michelle Le had disappeared in Santa Clara County, Sheriff Smith would not have shared the information about the cell phone pings with the civilian search team and Michelle Le would still be missing.

 

Voters of Santa Clara County should know this. If your child turns up missing Sheriff Smith will NOT pull out all the stops to find your child. How scary is that?

 

But wait, I have more Mr. Robinson. And each time Sheriff Smith or her representatives bring up how she CAN’T help the civilian search I will give you more examples of how other law enforcement agencies have done exactly what Sheriff Smith says she CAN’T do. And there are many examples. Believe me. And just as important, I still cannot find a single case, nationwide, that was jeopardized, prejudiced, nor evidence excluded, as a result of any law enforcement agency assisting a civilian search team.

 

“Sheriff Smith says she will not prejudice the case against the suspect.” It sounds like she is more concerned about the suspect’s rights than the victim’s rights.

 

Yes, Mr. Robinson, one of us truly is misinformed. We’ll let the voters of Santa Clara County decide which one of us that is.

Fake Abduction Video

This video has zero educational value. It is a variation of cell phone snatch & grab where an unsuspecting citizen has their cell phone snatched out of their hands. However, cell phone snatch & grab videos warn people of the dangers of using a smart phone in public and being unaware of your surroundings. Wearing a ski mask to snatch and grab a little child out of a park provides no similar benefits. There are no viable benefits to this prank unless they are suggesting that we shouldn’t take children to parks, or that they should be on leashes like dogs. It is a stunt that simply fosters fear in those who witnessed the event and instill outrage in those who view the YouTube video.

Fake abduction videos can have value if they are done correctly. If the environment is controlled and the authorities and adults involved are totally up to speed on what is happening. For instance, a mother watching her child being lured away from a safe place to look for a puppy, in exchange for money or candy, or any of a number of lures can send a powerful lesson that children are vulnerable to the manipulations of a determined predator. However, this second rate scare tactic is nothing more than the irresponsible and immature antics of a couple of no taste pranksters.

 

Why I Endorsed Kevin Jensen for Santa Clara County Sheriff

Sheriff Laurie Smith & Sierra LaMar

Sheriff Laurie Smith & Sierra LaMar

I wish to add my name to the growing list of law enforcement fraternal organizations, business leaders who are supporting Kevin Jensen’s candidacy for Sheriff of Santa Clara County. Although I am not a resident of Santa Clara County I have had opportunities to interact with Sheriff Laurie Smith and firmly believe that the citizens of Santa Clara County deserve a new direction and new leadership in the public safety arena.

 

During the days and months following the disappearance of Sierra LaMar I worked with her family and a large volunteer force to organize and establish the Sierra Search Center. Many thousands of individuals have volunteered time and tens of thousands of hours have been donated to assist with the search for Sierra LaMar. The Sierra Search Center, now run by Sierra’s family and a core group of volunteers, has now entered its third year.

 

Throughout the process of searching for Sierra we reached out to the Sheriff Smith on many occasions requesting passive information that would not impact the case, but might assist our efforts to better focus on viable search areas. Unfortunately, despite the fact that her office no longer dispatches SAR teams to look for Sierra LaMar, Sheriff Laurie Smith has ignored all of our requests.

 

I have been involved in organizing civilian search efforts since my daughter Polly was kidnapped in 1993. None of the numerous searches that we have engaged have ever been stonewalled by the jurisdictional law enforcement like the search for Sierra LaMar.

 

Sierra LaMar remains missing and Santa Clara County needs a new Sheriff. Join me in supporting the candidacy of Kevin Jensen for Santa Clara County Sheriff.

 

Response from Sheriff Smith’s campaign political consultant:

“It is sad that Mr. Klass is so thoroughly misinformed on this subject. No individual has done more to protect the public from the suspect or followed up more leads in the search for Sierra LaMarr. It is unfortunate that Mr. Klass is being used for political purposes in this way. This continues to be an ongoing investigation and the Sheriff will do nothing to prejudice the case against the suspect. She cannot comment and her uninformed opponents know it. That said, as a Mother, she will not rest until Sierra is found and the perpetrator brought to justice.”

 

My response to their response:

I’ve never met Kevin Jensen and I didn’t endorse him for Santa Clara Sheriff for political or personal reasons. I endorsed Mr. Jensen because he seems supremely qualified, and the current Sheriff Laurie Smith did not assist our volunteer search for Sierra LaMar. This is one of the few times in my 20 years of organizing volunteer searches that our efforts were totally stonewalled by the jurisdictional law enforcement agency.

 

The Sheriff’s response says that I am misinformed, but I would like to point out that they misspelled my name (Klaas, not Klass) and Sierra’s name (LaMar, not LaMarr). This leads me to believe that they are uninformed!

When A Victim Has No Voice

By Danny Domingo

I’ve spent the past hour reading blogs about the shortcomings of Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.  In my minimal experience with only one Santa Clara County Sheriff’s investigation I would have to agree that the criticism is warranted.

 

Sierra LaMar

Sierra LaMar

My name is Danny Domingo and I am a retired police veteran of an east bay Police Department.  I have also volunteered with the KlaasKids Organization since 2000.  Currently I am embedded with the search for Sierra Lamar and have volunteered my time in this worthwhile effort for the past two years.  The Sierra Lamar search is the fourth high profile search in which I have been involved since meeting Marc Klaas in 1999.  The Sierra Lamar search is also the ONLY ONE of the four searches in which I’ve been involved where the local law enforcement jurisdiction has refused to assist the civilian search effort.  Instead, Sheriff Smith and her media representatives have stated multiple times, in one way or another that they wish they could discuss the case with the civilian search leaders but they CAN’T.  Allow me to make this point very clear.  The leaders of the search for Sierra Lamar have never asked Sheriff Smith or her representatives to discuss the case with us.  What we have asked for is assistance in identifying viable search areas.

 

In the first days, weeks and months of the search effort we asked Sheriff Smith and her Search and Rescue leaders to share the areas where they’ve searched so that the civilian team could leap frog those areas thereby searching a larger area in a shorter period of time.  The requests led to empty promises of assistance from the Sheriff.  Finally, in October 2013, nineteen months after Sierra Lamar disappeared; civilian search leaders finally received a map outlining search areas covered by county Search & Rescue teams.  Nineteen months during which body decomposition, animal destruction and weather conditions have taken its toll on any evidence which might have been recovered.

 

Xiana Fairchild

Xiana Fairchild

In my personal estimation, Sheriff Smith has hampered the search effort for Sierra Lamar.  A couple of examples if I may; 1) for several months in the beginning of the search Sheriff Smith refused to disclose that all of the clothing connected with Sierra Lamar had been recovered.  Hence, civilian search teams spent countless hours searching for, logging and documenting an exorbitant amount of female clothing found during searches.  All of this documentation was then turned over to the Sheriff’s Office.  Hundreds of hours could have been saved by a simple statement by the Sheriff’s Office saying, “We are not looking for any outstanding clothing.”  Yet, Sheriff Smith forced her investigators to remain mum about any information at all.  2) The civilian search leaders have asked the Sheriff Investigators to assist the civilian search effort by suggesting areas in which the suspect and his friends might have frequented so that searches could be conducted in those areas.  These requests have been met with no response by the Sheriff or her investigators.  3) There are rumors of the existence of a video surveillance photograph taken of the suspect showing his clothing in a particular state of disarray taken on the date of Sierra’s disappearance and the existence of medical records indicating the suspect was treated for a particular condition days after the disappearance of Sierra Lamar.  A simple confirmation or denial of these two rumors could do a lot to steer this search in a particular direction.  Once again, the requests were met with no response.  Having been an investigator for 16 of the 25 years I served in law enforcement, I fail to see how assistance in any of the above would jeopardize this case.

 

Murder Victim Michelle Le

Murder Victim Michelle Le

I have been researching missing person cases since the disappearance of my own niece, Xiana Fairchild in December 1999.  I have documented numerous cases in which missing persons have been located by civilian search teams.  In that same research I’ve yet to find a single case in which prosecution was compromised by the acts of a civilian search team member.  Conversely, I have a long list of cases in which SAR team members missed a body only to have the body discovered by a civilian or a civilian search team member at a later date.  The most recent example of this is the case of Michelle Le who was discovered by a KlaasKids search team in an area that had been searched by SAR teams up to three previous times.

 

The case against Antolin Garcia has all the appearances of being a very difficult case to win.  It is not a secret that juries find it difficult to convict the defendant in a capital case in which there is no body.  Is there any question in anyone’s mind that the best chances of finding a body now rests with the civilian search team?  Why then does Sheriff Smith and her investigators, to this very day, still refuse to assist the civilian search effort.

 

If Sheriff Smith or her investigators had a loved one missing they would want as many boots on the ground as possible as quickly as possible.  Perhaps the rules are different when the missing is not one of their own.

 

I don’t even live in Santa Clara County but I will be making a donation to the campaign of anybody running against Sheriff Laurie Smith.  It is time for a change in philosophy.

National Victim Rights Week

Victims 9

Today National Victim’s Rights Week was acknowledged on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. Crime Victims United sponsored an event, so there were plenty of speeches and participating politicians included Governor Jerry Brown. However, it was the victims and murder victim family members who really stood out because each and every one interrupted their lives in order to take a stand for victim’s rights, acknowledge their lost loved ones, and lobby their legislators for effective public safety policy and legislation.

Victims Prayer

Victims Prayer

The importance of being personally involved in the political process cannot be overstated. I’ve been doing it since 1993, when my daughter was murdered by a violent offender with an extensive criminal history. In those days, there were very few legislative fall back positions for children who were being victimized. Call me a cynic, but I truly believe that was because kids don’t vote and politicians don’t have to look them in the eye. Therefore they didn’t have a real voice.

Victims 4

Things have changed enormously since then as the result of a series of tragic crimes and effective children’s advocates. We have Amber Alerts, Megan’s Law, law enforcement missing child protocols, and greater awareness and education surrounding child safety and child welfare issues.

Crime Victim's Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

Crime Victim’s Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

When I refer to being involved in the political process I’m not talking about the process as practiced in the houses of government that results in political perp walks on the 11:00 p.m. News. I don’t mean politicians like U.S. Congressman Mark Foley who left Washington D.C. in disgrace after he was found soliciting young boys serving as Congressional pages. I don’t mean pious hypocrites like Leland Yee, who I saw walking the halls of California’s Capitol on the day he got arrested, however I don’t think he’d been arrested yet because he wasn’t wearing handcuffs. I don’t mean corrupt politicians like state Senator’s Ronald Calderon and Roderick Wright who yesterday joined Yee in having their names and online archives disappear from the Senate website yesterday.

Sweet Polly...Never Forgotten!

Sweet Polly…Never Forgotten!

In 1995, I joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs and crime victims lobbying for prevention funding for at-risk children. In 1995 the federal government was funding quality pre-school and after school activities for 10,000 children, but today, in large part because of people like you and me who became personally involved in the political process that number has grown to 1,000,000.

John

John

I don’t mean the ideological political process that paralyzes legislative bodies throughout the United States. People have differences, but can usually find common ground on the issues that are important to us, particularly if those issues regard the well-being of our kids. However, ideological politics has paralyzed the legislative process so that nothing meaningful ever gets done.

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

Let me give you an example that perfectly illustrates how popular and common sense policy concepts that cannot get a vote in the legislature can become law when people become involved. In 2011 I spent a lot of time here at the Capitol with Chris Kelly, Suzanne DiNubile and others lobbying for legislation requiring registered sex offenders to include Internet identifiers like email address and social networking handles. We watched as two separate bills died in committee. In 2012 that concept became an integral component of Prop. 35. Under Daphne Phung’s vision and leadership Prop. 35 passed by the widest margin of any initiative in California history with more than 81% of the vote.

Victims 6

Today I went to the Capitol because National Victim’s Rights week is April 6-12. It represents an opportunity for people like me to remind our elected officials what’s really important. I’ve always felt that their primary duty is public safety, but the isolation and insulation of this building confuses them and sometimes they need to be reminded what is important and who they serve.

No more victims

No more victims

Right now there is a disturbing trend in the Capitol that is putting us all at risk. Many of the accomplishments that cut California’s crime rate in half 20-years ago is being undone by the legislators in this very building. Governor Brown’s realignment policy has dumped tens of thousands of violent criminals onto our streets. The repeal of 3-strikes will allow thousands of lifers to go free. Failure to enforce Jessica’s Law has allowed an untold number of registered sex offenders to abscond. A law written by Senator Lee will allow remorseless killers to be released back into society, and finally Governor Brown’s decision to parole more than twice as many lifers than his three predecessors combined.

Color Guard

Without people like us making our views known to our elected officials we will find ourselves in dire straits. Because we live in dynamic communities that change and evolve and sometimes can be hazardous, while they live in marble lined halls where your hands don’t get dirty and your farts don’t smell. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that people matter, that showing the courage to do the right thing is more important than toeing the line for rigid ideology, or making decisions based on personal gain.