National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
EDITOR'S NOTE: Occasionally we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.
We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
(CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A group of Chicago ministers says there is an inequality in how police investigate missing persons reports in African-American and lower income communities.
The ministers met with Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis on Monday at police headquarters. The mother of missing teen Yasmin Acree, who disappeared in 2008, also participated.
"It's hard for me to give up hope, so I'm always going to believe she's out there," said Rose Starnes, Acree's mother.
Acree was 15 years old when she disappeared from her West Side home on January 15, 2008. The Austin Polytech High School honor student was a likely candidate to runaway, but her disappearance was at first classified as that.
However, 13 months later the police department's internal affairs bureau determined that was a mistake. On Monday police followed up on the Acree case and discussed other unresolved cases in the city's poorer neighborhoods.
"...The superintendent's staff has assured us that this case is of top priority for the department," Rev. Marshall Hatch, Leader's Network, said.
Of immediate concern to the ministers and to Acree's family is to obtain an age-enhanced photo of what the girl would look like today, at 18. But they say they are also worried that other missing teenagers are not being looked for. And though the police department has not confirmed this number they claim there have been some 600 abductions in lower income neighborhoods in the last three years.
"...that there are not these assumptions that could be made, these cultural assumptions that lose valuable time at the outset of an investigation," said Rev. Hatch.
Maureen Biggane, Chicago Police Department spokesperson, released the following statement: The Department continues to aggressively investigate this case, and we understand the importance of providing regular updates to the family. We appreciate the efforts of the Acree family and the community to keep public attention on this case.
The department continues to aggressively investigate this case, and we understand the importance of providing regular updates to the family. We appreciate the efforts of the Acree family and the community to keep public attention on this case.
"If Yasmin can hear me out there, I want you to know that we are doing everything we can, we are working really, really hard. It's hard, but we're really trying," said Starnes.
A $3,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to the whereabouts of Acree. Those who believe they may know something are urged to call Area Five police detectives.
It's hard to know how many people are abducted in the city of Chicago and how many just run away, but to put things into perspective, the police department tells us that 17,000 missing persons report were filed in the city just last year.
Chester County, Pa., man charged with child sex tourism
PHILADELPHIA - An indictment was unsealed Feb. 4 charging John Charles Ware in a case of child sex tourism, announced U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Philadelphia.
Ware, 47, of Oxford, Pa., is charged with: two counts of transporting a minor in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, involving two minors; one count of transporting one of those minors in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; two counts of attempting to transport a minor in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, involving two additional minors; production of child pornography and the receipt and possession of child pornography. He was arrested Feb. 4.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 15 years, a $1,750,000 fine, a mandatory 5 years supervised release to lifetime supervised release, and an $700 special assessment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Stephan.
This HSI investigation is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE . This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.c
Cadaver-search dogs are brought in by authorities.
by Guillermo X. Garcia
Under clear, sunny skies, cadaver-search K-9 teams fanned out across a narrow area of rough terrain in south New Braunfels near the Guadalupe County line Sunday morning
The sometimes frantic search-and-rescue operation for 18-month-old Joshua Davis Jr. had just transitioned into a recovery effort.
Meanwhile, a frustrated Sabrina Benitez cried for her child missing since Friday night.
She pleaded for his safe return and refused to give up hope even as she sought to alert authorities to a person she suspects of wrongdoing.
But while Benitez and her boyfriend believe someone may have taken their child for unknown reasons, authorities said nothing indicates foul play.
Police reluctantly acknowledged that if the youngster were on his own as they believe, his chances of surviving sub-freezing temperatures overnight Friday and slightly warmer temperatures Saturday night appeared slim.
New Braunfels Police Lt. Mark Penshorn said “circumstances and common sense” dictated that authorities transition their effort. That meant replacing more than 100 human volunteers with specialized K-9 teams that focus on sniffing out cadavers.
“At this point, the child has not been located, and we are switching from search-and-rescue mode to recovery,” a somber Penshorn said early Sunday.
Nothing much had changed by Sunday evening, Penshorn said, adding that uniformed personnel would continue to search through the evening and morning hours.
After searching for more than 36 hours, authorities said the cold nights and the time that the toddler had been missing forced a change in strategy.
That also meant a downgrade in hopes that the child would be found safe.
That bothered an already agitated Benitez, 23, the toddler's mother, who is three weeks away from delivering her third child.
She believes someone who was at the family's mobile home Friday night, and possibly the last one to see the child inside the home, is responsible. She was critical of what she termed the police's refusal to investigate her claim.
“We have nothing that would indicate he was abducted or taken away by someone,” Penshorn said. “We are proceeding on the idea that the child wandered off by himself.”
Police were pessimistic about chances of finding him unharmed as more time elapsed, and the child went without cold-weather clothing and his asthma medication.
“Because of the overnight temperatures and the length of time he's gone missing, common sense dictates that we change out of search and rescue,” Penshorn said.
Saturday, dozens of local residents as well as volunteers from the San Antonio-based Heidi Search Center and Travis County Search and Rescue units focused on a large open field and wooded area adjacent to the mobile home park in the 2600 block of Savannah Hill Circle. The mobile home park is in south Comal County near West Klein Road and South Walnut Avenue.
It was there that the toddler was last seen around 8:40 p.m. Friday.
Sunday morning, dog-handler teams combed areas that contain thick vegetation, streams and other difficult-to-traverse terrain.
Sobbing loudly between answering questions, Benitez was critical of police efforts and questioned why volunteers were called off the search.
“I just want my baby back,” Benitez said between sobs. “Where is my baby?”
International search is on for abducted Swiss twins
(CNN) -- Police in three European countries were looking Sunday for 6-year-old twin girls abducted by their father, who was found dead last week.
Interpol issued an international Yellow Notice missing persons alert Saturday for Alessia and Livia Schepp. Such notices are distributed to police in Interpol's 188 member countries to help find missing people, especially children.
The Schepp sisters were reported missing January 30 after their father, Matthias, took them from their home in St. Sulpice, near Lausanne in western Switzerland, Interpol said.
He took the girls following personal problems at home, according to the state police in Vaud, which covers the area of St. Sulpice.
State police said Schepp drove through Marseilles, France, on Tuesday. Two days later, police in Bari, Italy, found the father's body, but there was no sign of the girls.
A spokesman for the Vaud state police said the investigation is focused on Switzerland, France and Italy.
Both girls are blonde and about 3 feet, 9 inches tall, Interpol said. When they were taken, Livia was wearing a green T-shirt, jeans, a violet ski jacket, and Adidas sneakers. Alessia was wearing a T-shirt with red and white stripes, jeans, a brown jacket, and black shoes.
Decades-old mysteries, and the cops who solve them
by AUDRA D.S. BURCH and AL DIAZ
MIAMI HERALD - Forensic artist Catyana Sawyer works with a clay figure on a recent unidentified person case. The Found and Forgotten program at the Broward Sheriff's Office helps people find missing loved ones by posting physical evidence and pictures online of unidentified victims. She had a six-inch hysterectomy scar on her abdomen. A full upper denture plate. And a green rubber band around her right wrist.
Her body was found in the spring of 1974 along a canal in western Broward County. She was about 40 and had drowned -- but she had abrasions on her hips and legs so her death was classified as suspicious.
To this day, no one knows who she is.
He was older, with thick white hair, blueish gray eyes and an amputated left forearm. It was the summer of 1984 when his body was discovered in a shed in the Greenstar Trailer Park in Fort Lauderdale. His name may have been ``Chester.'' That's about all investigators know about the man.
The bits and pieces of their stories -- and dozens more who remain stubbornly anonymous even in death -- are told on the Broward Sheriff's Office Found & Forgotten Web page, the final clues to lives without resolution, laid out for the public to see.
The database includes crime scene photos, sketches, clay reconstruction models and personal details -- a ring engraved with Y.E.M., a butterfly tattoo, a pair of white clogs -- in hopes that officers can match names to the remains of the unidentified.
"The worst thing in the world is to have someone missing, and day after day never know what happened to that person,'' says Sgt. Ken Kaminsky, who is in charge of the program. ``This is about bringing closure.''
Viewers can scroll through cases, identify a victim and possibly help solve a crime. It has already worked: a family was able to claim a sister, gone more than 25 years.
On a larger scale, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) offers a similar service.
The clearinghouse for missing persons and unidentified decedent records is a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the public.
LAUNCHED IN '08
Found & Forgotten, one of the country's most comprehensive programs, details more than four decades of tragic stories and mysteries, homicides, drownings, accidents and suicides, sons and daughters whose bodies were found in Broward County. It even features a man who was strangled to death in 1985 at a Fort Lauderdale motel whose killer was convicted and is now serving a life term -- yet the victim remains unnamed.
Some were found wrapped in blankets, a few without shoes. One was headless. All plucked from dirt mounds and fields, wooded patches and waterways, graves made by time.
BSO launched the feature in 2008, born from the stacks of cold cases, the frustration of wanting to do more and the power of technology.
"We were looking at cold cases and decided we needed to review all of them, document everything and create a centralized database,'' said BSO Detective Efrain Torres.
The mission was to make the old cases new again with enough rich details to dislodge forgotten stories and jog buried memories.
It was a daunting project that stretched over several months as investigators combed cases dating back to 1967.
First, there was the matter of getting all the records and cases in one place -- nearly 70, including some from other Broward municipalities. Case files and evidence were stored in warehouses. The human remains were at the medical examiner's office stored in cardboard boxes or buried.
Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Joshua Perper, who partnered with BSO on Found & Forgotten, allowed investigators to exhume some of the victims to gather new evidence and to extract new DNA samples.
Investigators also re-submitted previously collected DNA evidence and fingerprints to national databases for possible matches. They scanned photographs of old evidence and compiled medical examiners' reports. They took new pictures of jewelry, clothing, even gold teeth.
Then they turned over the cardboard boxes to Catyana Sawyer, a BSO forensic artist.
She works in a narrow office with a view of the Broward County Jail. Photos of the missing and dead cover the walls and the shelves are filled with books about her work: Written in Bones , Techniques of Crime Scene Investigations , Mindhunter .
It is in this space, on a drafting table, that Sawyer works to restore the facial features lost to time. She places 21 pins in the skull to measure tissue density, then meticulously recreates the face by hand with a flesh-colored, oil-based clay molded onto the skull.
"My job is to take the skull and make it into a head and face as accurately as possible,'' says Sawyer, who joined Broward Sheriff's Office in 2008. "Sometimes it's overwhelming because you want so badly to help the victim and help the family get some closure.''
At least one family has been able to finally find peace.
In summer of 2009, a California man browsing the Web page happened upon a six-picture slide show of a 21-year-old woman identified as ``Tina Moore.'' Her corpse had been found 26 years earlier in a vacant field in Pompano Beach with a three-leaf clover earring in her left ear and a homemade Playboy Bunny tattoo on her abdomen.
He recognized her as his sister, Mary Ann Lambert. Other family members in New York and Virginia did, too. Police had identified her in 2008 as Moore through partial fingerprints and posted her profile in hopes of finding her family.
Her family never reported her missing because she often left for long periods of time.
As one of five siblings raised in Brooklyn, Lambert chipped her tooth playing on a school playground. It was that distinct smile that helped detectives confirm her identity. Her family declined to discuss the case, her killer is still unknown and police have not released any other details.
The truth is, some of the cases may never be solved, particularly those that involve undocumented workers with no paper trail. And Broward County's own history provides challenges, too.
"At one time, a lot of homes and businesses did not go beyond [U.S.] 441 and during the 1980s Cocaine Cowboy [era] people would commit murder and dump the bodies out there,'' says Kaminsky. As West Broward developed, ``we would find bones and articles that could have been there for years.''
Still, after all the painful meetings with family members who show up looking for missing relatives, the investigative unit is willing to face this landscape of more questions than answers.
"Detectives exhaust every lead until everything dries up. We try to do everything possible to identify the bodies and notify the families. And then we open it up to the public so they can help us,'' Kaminsky says. ``We deal with families all the time. We know these people need resolution.''
During a particularly frigid spell in December, the skeletal remains of a man were found in an abandoned, burned-out house in Dania Beach where the homeless often stay to keep warm. The remains had been there at least eight months, but there were a few clues: a black bandana still attached to the skull, a leather necklace with a glass pendant and a Mexican coin in a pocket of the jeans.
"The examination of his thigh bone indicated excessive squatting, so we believe he may have been a migrant laborer or construction worker,'' said BSO Detective Louie Rivera, who worked with Heather Walsh-Haney, a forensic anthropologist from Florida Gulf Coast University to create the victim profile. ``He had anemia and a bad back.''
And now, he is the latest Found & Forgotten case.
The oldest case on the website stretches back to May 30, 1967, when investigators found the body of a man hidden in a culvert in the Florida Everglades. They think he was nicknamed ``Tommy Terrific,'' smoked Salem cigarettes and had an arrest history in Michigan that once landed him a stint in the federal penitentiary.
For those still trying to resolve these cases, each one offers a story that still needs a proper final chapter. Like the young woman who never turned 21. Or the man so broken he killed himself. And the guy who carried a fake driver's license, or the one who died right before his meal had digested.
The young woman, whose body was found in 1973 in a drainage ditch along Nob Hill Road near Davie, wore Wrangler jeans and a pair of underwear with the words ``Give a Damn'' embroidered on the front. Investigators know she chewed pink bubble gum.
The man who killed himself was found on an embankment along U.S. 1 in 1997. He left a suicide note revealing he was depressed, in poor health, resented the government and could not afford the $900 he needed for his medication.
A man who was killed in a hit-and-run along State Road 84 in 1981 remains a mystery, too. He wore socks but no shoes. In his pocket: a fake Hawaii driver's license bearing the name ``MIGOD.''
And, in unincorporated Fort Lauderdale, a man found March 29, 1986, in the New River Canal, was killed roughly an hour after dinner.
Cicero Police have recovered Juan Miguel Gomez who was abducted and taken to Mexico by his biological father in October 2000. His biological mother, Gilma Torres, has been trying to locate the boy ever since. Working with police, the mother found a friend who went back to Mexico and returned the child. The family friend, unidentified, returned to Cicero on Wednesday during the storm. The boy and his mother were reunited this morning with the reunion taking place in the lobby of the Town of Cicero Police Department. From left, Mother Gilma Torres, Cicero Police Chief Bernard Harrison, and recovered child Juan Miguel Gomez.
Mom reunites with son 10 years after dad takes him to Mexico
by DAN ROZEK
Feb 6, 2011
Juan Miguel Gomez disappeared from his Cicero home in 2000 when he was only 2 1/2 years old, taken by his father to the family's native Mexico.
His mother initially worked with relatives to try to find the boy before finally contacting Cicero police in 2002, when the youngster already had been gone for about two years.
Despite the delay, police in the west suburb worked diligently with the family and other law enforcement agencies to locate the boy and return him to his mother.
On Saturday, the now boy — now 13 — and his mother, Gilma Torres, met in Cicero for the first time in more than a decade.
The tearful reunion occurred in the lobby of the Cicero police station.
“It was touching,'' Cicero Police Supt. Bernard Harrison said after witnessing the emotional reunion. “It's nice to have a happy ending.''
Torres declined to speak about her son's return, a Cicero official said.
But Harrison said Cicero police worked with several other agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. State Department, in their efforts to locate the youngster.
The boy's father agreed through a relative about six months ago to surrender the boy to his mother, but she had to send a relative to retrieve him.
A U.S. citizen, the boy still needed a new passport to be able to return to the Chicago area, Harrison said.
“There were a lot of phone calls, a lot of work to do,'' Harrison said.
The boy flew home with a relative this week and was reunited Saturday with his mother, as well as an older brother and sister.
“His mom was just thrilled,'' Harrison said. The boy will have some readjusting to do: although he knew English when he was taken from the Chicago area, he no longer remembers the language.
The boy's father, Juan Miguel Gomez Sr., apparently remains in Mexico, though police acknowledge they don't know exactly where he is.
Jackson's 39 files last year among hundreds statewide
by Therese Apel
February 6, 2011
As the search for missing Kosciusko businesswoman Vickie Ellington continues, families and friends of more than 500 other missing people in Mississippi can share in the hope that their loved ones, too, will be found unharmed.
Since Jan. 1, 2010, 524 people have been reported missing by various jurisdictions in Mississippi to the FBI's National Crime Information Center.
In Jackson, the city Police Department had 39 active missing persons cases last year.
"These people come from different backgrounds, they're young, they're old," Jackson police spokeswoman Colendula Green said.
While common sense dictates people simply don't disappear, sometimes that can appear to be the case.
Police have had no clues explaining the disappearance of Hanan Forawi, 44, a Jackson State University doctoral student.
Forawi has been missing since 2006. She was known to be hard-working and resourceful, Green said, but some people believe she may have just cracked under the pressure and walked away.
"She was a very intelligent lady," Green said, referring to her reputation as a good student.
Forawi's brother came to America in 2009, bent on finding out what had happened to his sister. Green said he was trying to make sure she had not, for some reason, been deported.
"But he didn't believe she had," Green said.
Virginia Ratliff of Brookhaven also has been missing without a trace since February 2008.
Ratliff, 83, disappeared en route to see her husband at the VA Hospital in Jackson. Authorities have searched all over the state in vehicles, on foot, and even with a specialized air photography service.
Ratliff's brother, Caby Byrne, said the family is "pretty realistic" about the chances she is still alive. But they have questions that might never be answered, such as whether Ratliff was a victim of foul play.
"I'm all for those remote possibilities that out there somewhere, she may have just been lost and wandered," Byrne said. "But the car is always the big factor - Where's the car?"
Her family members say they just hope one day they'll have some closure.
When Ratliff's husband, Charles "Ploochie" Ratliff, died, the family held a memorial celebration for both.
"Even that was a kind of a step that helps you with the reality of what you're dealing with," Byrne said.
The case of another elderly woman was a reminder of Ratliff's. Ethel Winstead Simpson, 81, of Clinton, was missing for about a week in September when her body was found on the property of a hog farmer outside of Edwards.
Simpson's big heart had gotten her into trouble, officials said, when she befriended 39-year-old James Cobb Hutto of Jasper, Ala. She was last seen at a Vicksburg casino with Hutto. Authorities say Hutto beat her, dumped her body and headed out of state in her car. He allegedly killed an aunt in Alabama and attempted to kill another man shortly thereafter, officials said.
Kelly Ann Irwin's disappearance also had an unhappy ending. Irwin, 44, who was last seen walking down a road near her home in December. She was discovered face down in a creek. Walthall County Coroner Shannon Hartzog said it looked like she had been dead about 19 days.
Officials said while Erwin appear to have drowned, she had bruising consistent with either a beating or a fall. The case is being investigated as a homicide. No suspects have been named so far.
"We certainly hope it doesn't turn out that it is actually foul play," said District Attorney Dee Bates. "But we have to explore every possibility."
Then there's the case of Sherrell Harris Shaw, 32, of Jackson, reported missing by her family Dec. 7. A passer-by found her body in Jan. 10 in a wooded area on South Drive near Dixon Road. She had been shot in the chest.
Officials still do not have a suspect in her case.
Some stories turn out much better than others like that of Jack Nixon, 83, who went missing on the way to the grocery store in Meadville one Sunday. Nixon was found a few days later in Florida, disoriented, but otherwise healthy. Police believe he simply suffered a bout of dementia and then could not figure out how to get back to where he was going.
"That was the most stressful 36 hours I've ever lived while Jack was gone, and it's so complicated," Nixon's stepson, Ken Stroud, said.
Since his stepfather came home, Stroud said he views missing persons cases in a new light.
"It seems that overwhelmingly these cases do turn out bad, I guess I knew that, and I know now more than before," he said. "At the time I knew it could go bad quickly if we didn't find him immediately, though."
In Ellington's case, Department of Public Safety Public Affairs Director Jon Kalahar said authorities are chasing every lead because there still is no evidence to suggest that she has met with foul play.
"You never know which piece of evidence or phone number will be the lead you need," he said.
Ellington's car has been combed for evidence by the state crime lab. Her cell phone records have been pulled. Family members and others have been interviewed.
Teams searched Ellington's property in Attala County, where she lives on about 100 acres with her 8-year-old grandson, Kalahar said. That search is strictly to cover the bases, however.
"They didn't want to come back and say, 'We should have looked here first,'" he said. "They're going to look in every possible spot, and leave no stone unturned."
Ellington, owner of Kosciusko Fitness and Tanning, was reported missing around 8 p.m. on Jan. 27. Her vehicle was found in the Walmart parking lot on Mississippi 25 about 1 p.m. that day.
She reportedly had told friends she was going to meet someone in Louisville.
Kalahar said when Ellington did not meet an employee she was supposed to catch up with that evening, the employee contacted the Attala County Sheriff's Department.
Officials from the Sheriff's Department did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The Jackson Police Department had 39 active missing persons cases in 2010. The names and the dates they were reported missing include:
Authorities search for 20-year-old Inland Empire man who went missing on the Westside of Los Angeles
A 20-year-old Menifee man has gone missing after he became disoriented in West Hollywood about 10 p.m. Thursday, authorities said late Friday.
Douglass Henry Hurd called his brother Thursday night and sounded distraught. He said he was in the Los Angeles area, had run out of gas and needed help. His phone then cut out.
His family has not heard from him, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Some of Hurd's property was found Friday morning by school staff outside Hollywood High School and was turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Officers learned that the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department towed Hurd's car about 11 a.m. Thursday after it was found unoccupied and blocking traffic in West Hollywood.
Hurd is a white male, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, 135 pounds with brown eyes and medium-length brown hair. He was last seen wearing white pants, a green shirt and white sneakers.
Anyone with any information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Det. Guy Gilbert from the Menifee Police Department at (951) 210-1000 or the Riverside County Sheriff's Dispatch Center at 951-776-1099.
Amber alerts are now reaching more people statewide and it has to do with the Pennsylvania Lottery.
The lottery has worked with state police since 2004. They've been able to print information about abductions through text-only messages on lottery tickets.
Now, the system has been digitally enhanced.
Amber alerts will now appear on a 17-inch monitor at about 8,800 lottery kiosks statewide complete with a photo of the missing child and any available information about the victim, the abductor or a get-away car.
The announcement will remain on the screen 24/7 until the amber alert is over. The Pennsylvania Lottery says the alerts are able to reach a lot of people.
"I think the great thing is we're getting people where they're out and about," Drew Sitko of the PA Lottery said.
"Reaching people not in their homes, but rather, all across the commonwealth where they're able to recognize a vehicle or abducted child."
So far, there has been one amber alert since the new system was put in place last month. Police say over the last nine years, the state's amber alert system has played a direct role in the safe recovery of 32 abducted children.
Police and lottery officials are hoping the upgrades will help the public recognize an abducted child as soon as possible.
Phillip Garrido ruled competent to stand trial in Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping
February 3, 2011
The judge in the Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping case ruled Thursday that defendant Phillip Garrido is mentally competent to stand trial for her 1991 abduction.
El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister reviewed reports from psychiatrists and handed down the ruling Thursday shortly after 1 p.m.
Garrido and his wife, Nancy, are accused of kidnapping Dugard when she was 11-years-old and holding her captive for 18 years.
The case was on hold until Thursday because of questions about Garrido's mental competence. Lawyers for the prosecution and defense both agreed to allow the judge to decide on the issue.
Among the reports Phimister reviewed was an account from a court-appointed psychiatrist who met with Garrido to determine his mental state, said Jackie Davenport, El Dorado's assistant court executive officer.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled Feb. 28 to decide if state prosecutors and Garrido's defense are prepared to move forward with the case, Davenport said.
An arraignment on Garrido's grand jury indictment is scheduled for the same day, officials said.
Former California mental hospital chief guilty of abusing son
February 3, 2011
A former California mental hospital director, who prosecutors alleged had a history of sexually abusing young boys, was convicted Thursday of molesting his son.
A Long Beach jury found Claude Edward Foulk, 63, guilty on 31 counts of sexual molestation, including lewd acts on a child and sodomy by use of force. He was acquitted on four other counts.
His son, now 27, testified that he was abused from the age of 9 until he fled home at 21, and said he was “beyond happy” at the verdict. “I'm very relieved. He will never see the light of day,” he said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Gomez alleged that Foulk molested 11 other boys since 1966, but charges couldn't be filed in those cases because the statutory deadline had passed.
However, four of those victims, who are now adults, testified about the abuse at the trial. Those witnesses, who had lived in the foster care system or came from abusive homes, said Foulk showered them with gifts and affection, but began molesting them.
Until his arrest last year, Foulk worked as executive director of Napa State Hospital in Northern California, which mostly houses adults who are judged incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Defense attorney Richard Poland argued that the case hinged on the testimony of men with histories of lying, drug abuse and theft. “Just because people say something does not make it the truth,” he said. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23. Foulk faces up to 248 years in prison.
High Recovery Rate For Missing Children In Jamaica
by Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer
February 4, 2011
Though children still make up the largest percentage of persons reported missing, with figures showing them accounting for up to 70 per cent of cases, the recovery rate has drastically improved since 2009.
According to statistics from the Missing Person Call Centre (MPCC), which falls under the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), of the 2,394 people reported missing for the period January to December last year, 1,680 were children. Of those children, 1,248 have returned home.
The figures also include habitual missing children.
Fifty-nine people were found dead, eight of whom were children, and 424 remain missing.
For 2008, it was reported that 960 went missing, while for 2009, 1,770 disappeared.
The head of the Ananda Alert system has attributed the high recovery rate of missing children to the introduction of that mechanism.
"In fact, for the first quarter of last year, 55 per cent of children reported missing were recovered and there was a gradual improvement, reaching a high of 70 per cent by December," said Wayne Robertson, who is also senior director, strategic policy, planning and reform in the Department of Local Government.
"This speaks to the whole success of the dissemination of the alerts. What it does is trigger awareness of the missing persons."
The Ananda Alert was introduced in May 2009 and named after 11-year-old Ananda Dean, who was abducted and brutally murdered the previous year. It is Jamaica's version of the Amber Alert for missing children which was developed in response to the 1996 abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman in the United States. The system targets children up to age 18.
The introduction of the MPCC in April last year has also helped to reduce the figure.
According to Steve Brown, head of the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN), since the centre was set up, the police have managed to clear a significant percentage of the cases.
"Several persons reported missing actually returned home or were located by the family but the police were not informed. When the missing persons' centre started doing follow-ups on each case, we were able to close a number of them," said Brown.
According to the statistics, the age group 14 to 16 has the highest incidence of missing persons. The youngest in recent history is two-year-old Augustus 'Baby Ralston' Mitchell, but Brown said there have been cases of newborn babies being taken from hospitals.
The figures also revealed that eight out of every 10 children reported missing were girls. St Catherine, St Andrew, Kingston and Clarendon have the highest number of missing children.
"The Spanish Town corridor is frightening," said Robertson.
He said the general trend was that the areas with the larger numbers of missing children usually have the higher crime rates.
"The data is also frightening that all the cases of missing children are from the lower level of the socio-economic ladder," Robertson said. "It frightened us when we saw it because we kept seeing a recurrence. We don't know if persons uptown are victims of abduction or otherwise but they are not reporting the children as being missing. What the data is saying is that the reports are all from a certain socio-economic grouping. It says something and, of course, the state will now have to look at interventions in that regard, which include parenting seminars."
Citing a myriad of reasons for children going missing, Brown noted that only five per cent of those gone missing were abducted.
"The stepfather syndrome has become a major factor. In a lot of the cases, the stepfathers are the ones abusing the children, both boys and girls," said Robertson.
Brown also said almost 95 per cent of the cases solved were through the efforts of the police.
Why kids go missing
In some counselling sessions that police and various support groups hold with children who return home, the following were revealed as some of the reasons they go missing.
Sexual, physical or verbal abuse at home
Lured away by men
Abducted or captured
Went with a boyfriend
Lured through chat rooms on the Internet or cellphones.
An anti-abortion group seeking to discredit Planned Parenthood released an undercover video on Tuesday that appears to show a clinic manager advising a sex trafficker how to get medical care for prostitutes as young as 14.
In a statement responding to the video, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said that immediately after the “highly unusual” visit to a clinic in Perth Amboy, N.J., by a man posing as a sex trafficker and a woman posing as a prostitute, it had notified legal authorities.
But Stuart Schear, vice president for communications of the group, added, “What appears on edited tapes made public today is not consistent with Planned Parenthood's practices, and is under review.” The federation's central New Jersey branch said that “the behavior of our employee, as portrayed on the video, if accurate,” violated policies and that “appropriate action is being taken.”
Planned Parenthood provides contraception, gynecological services and abortions, including to many low-income women. It has long been a target of the anti-abortion movement, which wants to end all federal and state financing for the clinics.
Last week, Planned Parenthood said that people claiming to be sex traffickers had visited at least 11 of its clinics and that it had notified the Justice Department. The group also said that, based on an identification of one of the visitors, it had concluded that the visits were a hoax by the anti-abortion group Live Action. Planned Parenthood said the group had a history of using “surreptitious videotaping and manipulative editing” in a campaign to destroy it.
The video from the clinic shows a woman identified as the office manager responding to an unseen man and woman. The man says he is involved in sex work and wants to bring girls, some only 14 or 15 and illegal immigrants, for medical exams.
The manager seems ready to bend the rules to provide medical care to the girls and says the girls should be careful about admitting their ages, especially if they are under 15, which triggers extra reporting requirements. “For the most part, we want as little information as possible,” she says.
Asked if the girls can obtain abortions, the manager replies that if they are under 15, they should go to another clinic where “their protocols are not as strict as ours.”
“This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws and covers up the abuse of the young girls it aims to serve,” Live Action's president, Lila Rose, said in a statement.
Mr. Schear said, “We are as committed as ever to meeting the reproductive health needs of women in every community.”
The video resembles those made in 2009 by a conservative activist, James O'Keefe, in which employees of the community group Acorn appeared to advise a prostitution ring how to avoid taxes. Ms. Rose, 22, has worked with Mr. O'Keefe on other undercover videos in Planned Parenthood offices.
Missing Morenci boys: It's now a murder investigation
February 2, 2011
The investigation into the disappearance of three missing brothers in Morenci has turned into a murder investigation.
Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said Tuesday that as information came out about unconfirmed sightings of the boys, false hope grew in the community. Also, the boys' father, John Skelton, who is jailed on parental kidnapping charges, gave investigators misinformation about the boys, Weeks said.
Weeks would not comment on certain aspects of the investigation, including what police found while searching Skelton's home. But he said Tuesday's announcement was based on information collected throughout the investigation.
"This is no longer a missing persons case, but a murder investigation," Weeks said. "I'm sure that when the time is appropriate ... charges will be requested."
He said Skelton, who has maintained he gave his boys to an organization, told police his sons are with a group called the United Foster Outreach and Underground Sanctuaries -- an organization Weeks said investigators have been unable to locate.
Weeks said early in the search for Andrew, 9; Alexander, 7, and Tanner Skelton, 5, that he did not anticipate a positive outcome.
Kathye Herrera, a family spokeswoman, read a statement at the news conference on behalf of the family.
"Days are long and nights are longer," she said. "Emotions are running the gamut from utter despair to the peaceful feeling that ... the boys are in a better place."
The brothers have been missing since Thanksgiving, when they were last seen in their father's custody. At a court hearing last week regarding Skelton's divorce and custody of the boys, Skelton reportedly told a judge that he couldn't return the boys to their mother, Tanya Skelton.
Weeks said that, come spring, when farmers go back to their fields and campers head to campgounds, he wants them to be aware that the boys still may be out there.
In the short term, Morenci schools will be preparing to handle grieving children. Superintendent Michael Osborne said schools will offer counseling to students.
Meanwhile, fund-raising efforts are planned, including an auction in March, to raise money for a reward fund.
Pastor Donna Galloway of the Morenci United Methodist Church said a memorial also is being planned. She said Tanya Skelton is comforted by knowing she'll see her sons again.
"She knows that when her time comes, that she faces eternity," Galloway said, "they will be waiting there for her."
Juliani Cardenas case: Press conference announcing child's body found
February 2, 2011
On Tuesday, February 1, 2011, Sheriff Adam Christianson held a press conference announcing the discovery of a child's body in the Delta-Mendota Canal. Sheriff Christianson said the physical description of the body and clothing worn matched that of Juliani Cardenas. Juliani Cardenas was kidnapped from his grandmother's arms on January 19, 2011.
An Amber Alert was issued statewide in California as descriptions of the abductor, Jose Rodriguez, and the suspect's vehicle were provided. Authorities have yet to find Jose Rodriguez, though Sheriff Christianson stated all evidence points to the conclusion that Rodriguez is in the canal. Future searches of the canal have not been scheduled at this time.
It will take between two to three weeks before DNA testing confirms the identity of the child's body found, but Sheriff Christianson indicated that everything leads them to the conclusion that the body is Juliani's.
Early in the investigation an eye witness reported seeing the suspect's vehicle drive into the Delta Mendota Canal. The Amber Alert was limited and the search focused on the canal for the past several weeks.
Sheriff Christianson announced the case is now a homicide investigation and a warrant has been issued for Jose Rodriguez' arrest, despite the fact authorities believe he perished in the canal along with Juliani.
Department of Justice Announces Launch of Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative
WASHINGTON – The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor announced today the launch of a nationwide Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative designed to streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offenses.
As part of the Enhanced Enforcement Initiative, specialized Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams, known as ACTeams, will be convened in select pilot districts around the country. The ACTeams, comprised of prosecutors and agents from multiple federal enforcement agencies, will implement a strategic action plan to combat identified human trafficking threats. The ACTeams will focus on developing federal criminal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions to vindicate the rights of human trafficking victims, bring traffickers to justice and dismantle human trafficking networks.
The ACTeam structure not only enhances coordination among federal prosecutors and federal agents on the front lines of federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, but also enhances coordination between front-line enforcement efforts and the specialized units at the Department of Justice and federal agency headquarters. The ACTeam Initiative was developed through interagency collaboration among the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor to streamline rapidly expanding human trafficking enforcement efforts.
“This modern-day slavery is an affront to human dignity, and each and every case we prosecute should send a powerful signal that human trafficking will not be tolerated in the United States,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative takes our anti-trafficking enforcement efforts to the next level by building on the most effective tool in our anti-trafficking arsenal: partnerships.”
“Working together, the entire U.S. government continues to make progress in convicting traffickers, dismantling their criminal networks and protecting their victims ,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. “Combating human trafficking is a shared responsibility, and the ACTeam Initiative is a critical step in successfully leveraging all our federal, state and local resources to crack down on these criminals.”
“This pilot is a necessary tool in the federal government's crackdown on human trafficking,” added Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Victims of these contemptuous acts have been left in an unfamiliar land with no family, no support systems, and no way to make a life for themselves. We must do whatever we can to ensure that victims of trafficking receive full restitution, including denied wages.”
On Oct. 29, 2010, at an event commemorating the 10 th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Department of Justice announced that the Interagency ACTeam Initiative would be implemented in conjunction with directives within the Department of Justice to enhance coordination among the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorney's Offices and the department's subject matter experts in the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
The ACTeam initiative follows the July 22, 2010, launch of the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign, which includes new web-based training for law enforcement officers, enhanced resources for trafficking victims and expanded public awareness campaigns. The ACTeam Initiative also follows the Department of Labor's March 15, 2010, announcement that it would, in coordination with other federal agencies, begin certifying U non-immigrant visas for human trafficking victims and other qualifying crime victims who are identified during the course of labor investigations and enforcement actions.
The locations of the pilot ACTeams will be announced upon completion of a competitive interagency selection process.
Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Meeting
Washington, D.C. ~ Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Thank you, Secretary Clinton. It's an honor and privilege to join my colleagues to mark the many breakthroughs we've made over the past year – and the momentum we've generated for the year ahead – in our fight to end human trafficking.
This past year – for the third year in a row – the Department of Justice prosecuted more human trafficking cases than ever before. This modern-day slavery is an affront to human dignity, and each and every case we prosecute should send a powerful signal that human trafficking will not be tolerated in the United States.
Our prosecutions have brought long-overdue justice to victims from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, the Philippines, Thailand and Mexico, as well as from our own country. We have liberated adults, children, men and women exploited for sex and labor in virtually every corner of our nation. We have secured long sentences against individual traffickers. And we have dismantled large, transnational organized criminal enterprises that have exploited victims across the United States, depriving them of freedom and dignity.
But we have more to do – and farther to go. On the Tenth Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act last fall, I committed that the Justice Department would be launching a Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative to take our counter-trafficking enforcement efforts to the next level by building on the most effective tool in our anti-trafficking arsenal: partnerships.
Today, I'm pleased to announce the launch of this initiative, which will streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking. The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor have collaborated closely with the Justice Department in this historic effort, and I want to thank Secretaries Napolitano and Solis for their expertise and shared commitment.
As part of this fight against human trafficking, specialized Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams, known as ACTeams, will be convened in a number of pilot districts nationwide. Under the leadership of the highest-ranking federal law enforcement officials in the districts, these teams will bring together federal agents and prosecutors across agency lines to combat human trafficking threats, dismantle human trafficking networks and bring traffickers to justice.
The launch of these ACTeams will enable us to leverage the assets and expertise of each federal enforcement agency more effectively than ever before. But we will not rest until this unprecedented collaboration translates into the results that matter most: the liberation of victims and the prosecution of traffickers.
We are all inspired by the courage of survivors who have escaped from bondage and energized by the strength of our partnerships. But, above all, we are firm in our resolve to do more than ever before to end human trafficking. The efforts announced today – and the work being undertaken across the government – are an important step forward toward winning this fight.