by John Edward Gill
Sometimes, homicides happen in the victim's home, but, again, the National Center will claim abduction and list those victims as "recoveries" in its monthly reports.
In fact, that National Center even claims it "recovered" Heather Dawn Church, who they claimed vanished from her home on September 17, 1991, in Black Forest, Colorado. Law enforcement authorities recovered her remains off the Rampart Range Road west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, on September 13, 1993.
Police identified her killer in March, 1995, through fingerprints found in her home. The man had lived about a half mile from the Church's house and admitted he'd murdered her as he burglarized her home.
Both the National Center and "America's Most Wanted" had called her a Non-Family Abduction even though she'd been killed at home by a neighbor. The National Center's September, 1993, recovery report claimed she'd been "intaked" on September 19, 1991, and "recovered" on September, 14, 1993, still claiming her an NFA.
That report admitted the recovery date "indicates when NCMEC (National Center) was notified of the recovery."
National Center officials even confess they reclassify cases after local police find out what really happened.
In a study of 210 child homicides and accidental deaths, for instance, National Center personnel had to reclassify 93 cases after contacting local authorities in states and cities where children perished. There were numerous times when the National Center said strangers abducted and killed children when such children died at the hands of someone they knew.
In fact, its study concluded that the majority of missing children "were abducted by people they knew." Further, "the results have shown that a commonly held teaching -- 'beware of strangers' -- is incomplete. Children need to learn that it is not always strangers who can hurt them, but that it could be someone they know and/or care about."
Called the Deceased Child Project, this study looked at children who disappeared and died between April 2, 1982, and August 8, 1992, and was completed in May, 1994. It involved 143 homicides and 67 accidental deaths. Based on information which the National Center received from local and state law enforcement, the Project uncovered still more hoaxes -- where parents claimed abducted or lost children when such children perished because of other causes.
There were approximately 30 cases where the National Center originally claimed strangers killed children, then learned differently from local police.
"For example," the Report read, "on April 28, 1992, NCMEC received a call from the mother of (two boys, ages eight and ten)
reporting that her sons had gone to the park to play and were supposed to be home within an hour. When the children did not come home, their father went to the park to look for them.
"The case was intaked by NCMEC as a Non-Family Abduction (NFA).
"Three days later, the case manager was contacted by law enforcement with the news that the boys had been located -- deceased -- in the river near the park where they had been playing. The coroner had determined that the cause of death was accidental drowning."
National Center officials immediately reclassified those boys as LIMs and as "recoveries" on their monthly reports.
Also from that Project, there was another example of false reporting. "A mother called on July 5, 1992, saying that her seven-month-old daughter had been abducted from her husband's truck while he was offering roadside assistance to a stranded motorist," the Project read.
Again, without waiting for local authorities to investigate, "the incident was intaked by NCMEC as a Non-Family Abduction.
"On July 28, 1992, the case manager received a call from law enforcement with the news that the child had been located in the woods near the site of the abduction -- deceased -- and that the father was the suspect. He had, in fact, confessed to the crime."
That case manager then reclassified that child's demise as a Family Abduction, not as child abuse or homicide.
This child's death was yet another example of how the National Center doesn't investigate missing child cases, which its Project admitted. When learning from police about a missing child, "the case manager assigned to the case continues to follow NCMEC's standard operating procedures...until informed by law enforcement as to the resolution of the case," that Report said.
"We don't do investigation," said Ben Ermini, director of case management for the National Center. "We don't go into it as thoroughly as the local authorities."
"NCMEC is dependent on law enforcement and parents to let us know about a recovery (or) location," said John Rabun, vice president of the National Center.
Again, National Center officials stress the need to call local police first. The National Center lists guidelines on the Internet (APBNews.Com) on "What To Do When Your Child Is Missing." In a section headlined "Taking Action," it says the first step to take if a child is missing is to "immediately call the police."
National Center officials write that parents should tell police what their child was wearing, as well as that child's age, height, weight, etc. "After you have reported your child missing, listen to the police's instructions and respond to their questions," they go on to say.
Yet, Walsh, Allen, and Rabun claim they've "recovered" more than 49,000 children since 1984.
"Such dishonesty and distortion scares parents and children needlessly and wastes tax dollars," said Abbott, founder of Services for the Missing.
Four polls taken in the last 15 years showed that families feared stranger abduction more than any other problem facing their children. In 1995, for example, Pizza Hut commissioned a national survey which revealed that 87 percent of parents questioned said that concern that their child would be reported missing for more than a day was their biggest worry as a parent. Yet encouraged by the National Center, and because so many parents worried about child abduction, many doubtful groups and businesses around the country received media coverage and raised money by fingerprinting and photographing children. Walsh's own Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, in West Palm Beach, Florida, for example, boasts it has fingerprinted more than 50,000 children.
"Fingerprinting never found anyone," said Charles Sutherland, publisher of Search Reports, a publication about missing children and adults. Search is in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. "And videotaping hasn't found anyone, either."
Now Walsh promotes DNA fingerprinting, which identifies bodies, but doesn't find missing children who are alive.
Critics feel the National Center's not looking for children wastes valuable resources. For instance, more funding for police databases with names of convicted criminals might have saved a California girl's life.
Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old girl, was kidnapped and murdered from her Petaluma, California, home in 1993 by a man twice convicted of violent crimes. But local law enforcement authorities didn't know that when they questioned him on an unrelated trespassing complaint shortly after the girl's abduction.
Because of a lack of funding, the state's Violent Crime Information Center wasn't operating when she was taken, which was Friday night, October 1, 1993.
Sheriff's deputies in Sonoma County picked up Richard Allen Davis, 39, about one-and-a-half hours after her abduction. They ran a criminal check on him, but didn't find those convictions, so they let him go.
Police, public officials, and missing children advocates have speculated that Polly still might have been alive when those deputies first questioned Davis.
And after taking him in, they would have learned about Polly's abduction. Calls to the California State Police headquarters in Sacramento would have confirmed that he was on parole for those other violent crimes.
"Davis would have been had cold if that system had been in place," said David Collins, who founded the Kevin Collins Foundation in San Francisco, California.
Polly's remains were found by Petaluma police and F.B.I. agents on Saturday, December 4, 1993, near Cloverdale, California, about 35 miles north of Petaluma. Davis was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Many times, however, police find children alive, despite the National Center, "America's Most Wanted," or claims of "Non-Family Abductions." Local authorities ignore television, postcards, posters, etc., and use old-fashioned detective work.
Ten-year-old Katherine Beers, from Mastic Beach, New York, supposedly disappeared on December 30, 1992, from an arcade in Nesconset, New York. Both towns are on Long island. A long-time family friend, John Esposito, 45, who said he had taken her there, called police at five p.m. that day, saying she was missing.
Suffolk County police began a search, but no one in that arcade remembered seeing Katherine. They talked to neighbors, notified the New York State Police, and questioned Esposito.
On Friday, January eighth, 1993, Walsh featured her on "America's Most Wanted."
"In cases like this, we really like to get the child in the media," said Ermini. All the public attention is exactly what's needed to help locate Katie, Ermini pointed out.
Because of television, there were alleged sightings of Katherine in upstate Duchess County. Two witnesses claimed they saw her in a Hyde Park shopping Center and gave a description of the man seen with her.
But police kept questioning Esposito and even searched his house.
About three weeks after she vanished, in January, 1993, local police found Katherine alive, in a dungeon built under Esposito's garage. She'd been there the whole time. It was a soundproof concrete bunker and officers had to raise a one hundred pound block and crawl through a narrow tunnel to reach the child's prison.
He pleaded guilty to kidnapping in June, 1994, and was sentenced to fifteen years to life in jail.
Technically, Esposito was not a family member, but he was no stranger. Katherine's mother, Marilyn Beers, considered him family. He had taken Katherine many times to toy stores and video parlors.
The National Center, of course, listed Katherine as a "recovery" in its January, 1993, report, still claiming her as an NFA.
Since its founding in 1984, the National Center has received more than fifty million dollars from the U.S. Justice Department. "How many other children, like Katherine Beers, could have been found if that money had gone into hiring more police?" Abbott asked.
She pointed out that National Center officials just get their information from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and state police and then classify missing children any way they (National Center officials) like.
"Until the government cuts off funding for the National Center, the Nation's families will continue to be frightened and mislead," said Abbott.
Yet despite such criticism, distortions continue. As of this writing, the National Center's website still carries pictures of Huels and Reale as Non-Family Abductions.
And in January, 1998, Family Circle published pictures of 50 missing children. One child, two-year-old Ke Shaun Vanderhorst, was listed as a stranger abduction from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But a year earlier his mother, Tina Vanderhorst, pleaded no contest to selling her child for $500 to buy cocaine and was sentenced to between two-and-a-half to seven years in prison for abandoning her son. Her child hasn't been found.
Another child, seven-year-old Michael Hughes, from Choctaw, Oklahoma, was abducted by his stepfather, Franklin Delano Floyd, in September, 1994. Floyd has been captured, but young Michael remains missing. However, both the magazine and the National Center still listed the boy as a stranger abduction.
In its "Recovery" reports, the National Center listed 14-year-old Karen Lofland, from South Hadley, Massachusetts, as an NFA and then as a "recovery" on January 5, 1997. However, Massachusetts authorities said the girl willingly ran away with Jimmy Ray Legate, 41, on September 19, 1996.
Legate had been living with the Loflands for some time. He'd told the family he was 21 and down on his luck, but had been ordered to leave the house when the girl's parents learned their daughter had become romantically involved with him.
FBI agents and local police found them in a Portland, Oregon, apartment. In December, 1998, a Massachusetts court sentenced Legate to up to eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty to statutory rape.
As usual, no one from the National Center accompanied those law enforcement authorities when they found the pair together. Yet National Center officials still claimed they'd "recovered" the 14-year-old girl.
Missing Children: How Cause-Related Marketing Fuels the Scandal
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