What to do when a family member goes missing?

What to do when a family member goes missing?

This is a discussion on What to do when a family member goes missing? within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; We've all have heard the stories of family members who go missing. The family files a missing persons report and, if there is no immediate ...

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Thread: What to do when a family member goes missing?

  1. #1
    Member Array barracudamagoo's Avatar
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    What to do when a family member goes missing?

    We've all have heard the stories of family members who go missing. The family files a missing persons report and, if there is no immediate evidence to the contrary, the family is told that the missing person may have: lost track of time/ran away/left/went out and phone is dead, or some other scenario.

    I understand that LE cannot dedicate all of their resources to finding someone when there is no evidence of foul play; however, as family members we usually know the difference, or what the missing persons normal habits and patterns are. If something has happened, we usually have a sense of it.

    My question is, when a person goes missing and LE has not started a full investigation what can the family do? Who should we contact, where should we start? I would really like it if some LEO's can chime in with their opinions on what can/should be done untill law enforcment starts a full scale investigation.

    *Note: I'm presuming that friends, family, and work have already been contacted and the individuals whereabouts are not known and they have not been seen.


    A few thoughts:
    --Contact police dispatch with description of vehicle and licence plate number. Ask if that licence plate number matches numbers run on any abadoned vehicles, recent traffic stops, or recent automobile accidents.


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array Civil_Response's Avatar
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    Recently went through this on the in-law's side of the family, pretty crazy couple of weeks - all you can really do is report it and get the word out, I will tell you that Facebook makes the word travel fast, as much as some people may hate the service.

    It's a crazy, emotional and mind boggling time. Luckily he was found and in good health, I won't go into details for the families sake.

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    Distinguished Member Array kapnketel's Avatar
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    I read a blog written by a conservative commentator, Michelle Malkin. Her family has been going through this for over a year, a real tragedy and she has blogged extensively about it. A worthwhile read but upsetting as to the difficulties she and her family has had getting law enforcement to cooperate with them and take up the case. An eye opener.

    Michelle Malkin 11 months: Marizela still missing
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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    A lot its going to depend on the person that is missing. Are they an adult? Do they have a vehicle? Cell phone? Credit/debit cards?
    Part of the issue for law enforcement is that unless there is an indication of foul play, or the person is a juvenile or endangered in some way there really is nothing for them to do.
    As an adult there is no law that says I can't walk out my front door right now and never come back.
    I closed out literally hundreds of missing person cases after determining that it was voluntary and the missing person was alive and well. WhatRt really sucks is having to tell someone that their loved one is alive and well and no I can't tell you where but I can tell you they never want to see you again.
    In general missing persons cases suck.
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    Member Array barracudamagoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcp1810 View Post
    A lot its going to depend on the person that is missing. Are they an adult? Do they have a vehicle? Cell phone? Credit/debit cards?
    Let's presume adult. In todays world even children have cell phones and most 18+ have phone, plus vehicle, and debit/credit card.

    Quote Originally Posted by mcp1810 View Post
    Part of the issue for law enforcement is that unless there is an indication of foul play, or the person is a juvenile or endangered in some way there really is nothing for them to do.
    Yes, I understand and have seen where law enforcement cannot do anything. Perhaps I was too delicate in my original post because I didn't want to offend any of the LEO's here. I'll be more blunt: What steps should a family take when law enforcement is sitting on their rear while my wife/parent/child is missing. What should I be doing in those first 24-72 hours before law enforcment steps in?

    I'll provide a scenario for clarification:
    My wife arrives to work at 19:30, works her shift, and leaves. She is seen leaving work and pulling out of the garage (presume no one else is in the vehicle). She arrives home at 08:00 and typically goes right to be. Many times I do not talk to her during the day because I do not want to wake her up. I arrive at our apartment and her car is parked outside. I open the door, which is unlocked and walk in. I call her name, there is no response, and our dog is out of her crate. I presume she went out for a walk to get the mail. Her leaving without locking the door is not normal; however, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Her not takin the dog, or leaving her out of the crate, is definitely not normal. Upon inspection of the home, everything seems to be in place and her keys, purse, and phone are present, and she did not leave a note.
    Here is my course of action:
    1. I walk to the mailbox to she if she is there.
    2. Walk around the building to see if she is on a walk.
    3. Hope in the car and drive around complex.
    4. Check with the pool/rec-room and the office to see if she is there or if they have seen her.
    5. Make phone calls to both sets of parents/siblings/friends.
    6. Knock on neighbors doors and ask if they have seen or heard her.


    Let's presume I do a thorough search, checking each location multiple times, calling everyone again, and it takes me 2 hours. Given that amount of time I would have found my wife or someone I contacted would have her. From this I can presume a few things:
    • She left in a hurry due to an emergency, with someone not on my call list.
    • She went on a walk outside of our neighborhood, forgot to lock the door, and didn't fully lock the crate door allowing the dog to get out by accident.
    • By very random chance we keep missing each other as I'm searching for her.
    • She has been taken against her will.
    • She wanted to leave and disappear.


    Any of these are possible; however, only a two seem probably: She left due to an emergency with someone not on my call list, or she was taken against her will.

    Let's presume the worst and she was forcibly taken. I contact the police to file a missing person's report. They make the report; but, tell me there is nothing they can do since there is no evidence a crime has been committed. While I understand there is only so much they can do, I don't give a flip; my wife is missing.

    To be blunt, what actions can I take while the police sit around twiddling their thumbs ? What actions can I take as someone who is not in law enforcement to help identify her whereabouts? What can/should I do to preserve any possible evidence in the home/car? Should I take photographs of the apartment, or does my good intention run too great a risk of destroying any possible evidence?

    For the LEO's, pretend it is your wife. Let's presume you get the same line, "no-evidence" "have to wait 48 hours before we can do anything". What would you be doing in the meantime?



    Quote Originally Posted by mcp1810 View Post
    As an adult there is no law that says I can't walk out my front door right now and never come back. I closed out literally hundreds of missing person cases after determining that it was voluntary and the missing person was alive and well. WhatRt really sucks is having to tell someone that their loved one is alive and well and no I can't tell you where but I can tell you they never want to see you again.
    In general missing persons cases suck.
    Yes, this seems to be a somewhat common scenario. While it would be difficult to live with the knowledge that your loved one does not have interest in seeing you; I would at least find solice in the fact they are alive.

    --Sorry for the winded post.
    Last edited by barracudamagoo; April 10th, 2012 at 08:38 PM. Reason: grammer

  6. #6
    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    First off I am not aware of any department outside Hollywood productions that says they have to wait twenty four or forty eight hours. The cases I worked I handled over the phone and they were either ones where I was taking the initial report, or later doing NCIC validation work on old cases.

    Call local hospitals and free standing emergency rooms and ask if she is there. Also see if they have had any Jane Doe admissions matching her description.
    Leave a note prominenlty displayed in your home that she can't miss if she walks in while you are out looking telling her to call you.

    The ugly truth here is that of your various scenarios, in my experience, the last one is a lot more comon than someone being taken against their will.
    The next ugly truth is that most of the time the missing person's siblings or parents and their best friend frequently know exactly where the subject is but lie to the spouse who reported them missing. I frequently would get off the phone with my complainant and within five minutes be speaking to the missing subject. Then I had to make that phone call. Not fun.

    First thing is go through her wallet and verify that her ID is there and all credit/debit cards. Also check for key cards or a work ID.
    Next thing I would do is check with the property management and see if they have any video cameras on the property that might have caught her arriving and departing. If they do, do not be surprised if it is low quality stuff. Something is better than nothing. If they do, see if they can make you a copy of the recording from when she got home until you got home. Also ask them to hang on to the recording for that whole twenty four hour period. Make note of any commercial vehicles (panel vans etc) that are on the video. Detectives can follow up with the companies involved and talk to the drivers to see if they saw anything. They can also talk to the residents that were having work done to see if they noticed anything strange about the guys doing the work. Make up some flyers and see if they will let you post them in the office area and near the mail boxes.

    Now comes more potential unpleasantness.
    Take a look at your bank statements. If she did not use direct deposit compare her deposits with her pay stubs. It is not unusual for someone that leaves to have actually planned things out for several months in advance and started to save up for it. Sometimes they will pick up a couple hours of overtime here and there so their deposits will look the same. If you don't compare the pay stub you would never know. Depending on what kind of work she does I might have someone else call her office and ask for her. They should be prepared to give an expected response if asked who is calling. If she walked, her co workers might be screening her calls for her. If her job does not regularly involve receiving phone calls I would contact a local private investigator to set up on her workplace. Again, if she walked, her friends at work are going to be looking for you and your vehicle.
    Check her cell phone memory and bills for any frequently called numbers you don't recognize. Look at text messages. Even if you cant read them most companies can tell you how many incoming, outgoing, and the times and phone numbers of each. Look for calls placed almost immediately after one of you leaves for work or ones that end just before either one of you gets home. Pay particular attention for any ones that are never called when you are around.

    ETA: Also check browser history on computer or smart phone for anything unusual.
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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    I have been watching a few episodes of "The First 48 Hours" Missing Persons.It's the "Chicago PD Missing Persons department",When they get a call about somebody that is MISSING,they interview the complainant and talk to friends, family,,and co-workers etc.,then they start calling hospitals,morgues etc.
    If they haven't got any leads they then check cell phone records looking for last calls and area that the phone is located in if possible.They look at any credit/debit card use.So far all the cases have been a result of people that are either mentally impaired or just stupid like a 19 year old girl last week that decided she wanted to hook up with some guy she met online from NY and pursue a modeling career,she lost her phone and never told her family what her plans were,she couldn't understand why the Detective was questioning her decisions,All the bad stuff that happens and this dumb ass girl thinks she didn't do anything that was dangerous and reckless,leaving in a car with people from another State she had only conversed with on the Internet "What could possibly go wrong"
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    VIP Member Array suntzu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dukalmighty View Post
    I have been watching a few episodes of "The First 48 Hours" Missing Persons.It's the "Chicago PD Missing Persons department",When they get a call about somebody that is MISSING,they interview the complainant and talk to friends, family,,and co-workers etc.,then they start calling hospitals,morgues etc.
    If they haven't got any leads they then check cell phone records looking for last calls and area that the phone is located in if possible.They look at any credit/debit card use.So far all the cases have been a result of people that are either mentally impaired or just stupid like a 19 year old girl last week that decided she wanted to hook up with some guy she met online from NY and pursue a modeling career,she lost her phone and never told her family what her plans were,she couldn't understand why the Detective was questioning her decisions,All the bad stuff that happens and this dumb ass girl thinks she didn't do anything that was dangerous and reckless,leaving in a car with people from another State she had only conversed with on the Internet "What could possibly go wrong"
    Unforutanelty they do that. The news just did a thing on that last week, about LEO's foregoing a warrant becasue 'it takes too long' to check cell phone information. My book it is another intrusion/violation of our rights. If I want to dissappear then that is up to me. I do not want nor need the police violating my rights. Of course if it is a child or an act of crime (kidnapping) then yo don't need a warrrant most likely.

  9. #9
    Member Array barracudamagoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcp1810
    Call local hospitals and free standing emergency rooms and ask if she is there. Also see if they have had any Jane Doe admissions matching her description.
    Leave a note prominenlty displayed in your home that she can't miss if she walks in while you are out looking telling her to call you.

    First thing is go through her wallet and verify that her ID is there and all credit/debit cards. Also check for key cards or a work ID.
    Next thing I would do is check with the property management and see if they have any video cameras on the property that might have caught her arriving and departing. If they do, do not be surprised if it is low quality stuff. Something is better than nothing. If they do, see if they can make you a copy of the recording from when she got home until you got home. Also ask them to hang on to the recording for that whole twenty four hour period. Make note of any commercial vehicles (panel vans etc) that are on the video. Detectives can follow up with the companies involved and talk to the drivers to see if they saw anything. They can also talk to the residents that were having work done to see if they noticed anything strange about the guys doing the work. Make up some flyers and see if they will let you post them in the office area and near the mail boxes.

    Now comes more potential unpleasantness.
    Take a look at your bank statements. If she did not use direct deposit compare her deposits with her pay stubs. It is not unusual for someone that leaves to have actually planned things out for several months in advance and started to save up for it. Sometimes they will pick up a couple hours of overtime here and there so their deposits will look the same. If you don't compare the pay stub you would never know. Depending on what kind of work she does I might have someone else call her office and ask for her. They should be prepared to give an expected response if asked who is calling. If she walked, her co workers might be screening her calls for her. If her job does not regularly involve receiving phone calls I would contact a local private investigator to set up on her workplace. Again, if she walked, her friends at work are going to be looking for you and your vehicle.
    Check her cell phone memory and bills for any frequently called numbers you don't recognize. Look at text messages. Even if you cant read them most companies can tell you how many incoming, outgoing, and the times and phone numbers of each. Look for calls placed almost immediately after one of you leaves for work or ones that end just before either one of you gets home. Pay particular attention for any ones that are never called when you are around.

    ETA: Also check browser history on computer or smart phone for anything unusual.
    This is great stuff. Exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

    Quote Originally Posted by dukalmighty View Post
    I have been watching a few episodes of "The First 48 Hours" Missing Persons.It's the "Chicago PD Missing Persons department",When they get a call about somebody that is MISSING,they interview the complainant and talk to friends, family,,and co-workers etc.,then they start calling hospitals,morgues etc.
    If they haven't got any leads they then check cell phone records looking for last calls and area that the phone is located in if possible.They look at any credit/debit card use.So far all the cases have been a result of people that are either mentally impaired or just stupid like a 19 year old girl last week that decided she wanted to hook up with some guy she met online from NY and pursue a modeling career,she lost her phone and never told her family what her plans were,she couldn't understand why the Detective was questioning her decisions,All the bad stuff that happens and this dumb ass girl thinks she didn't do anything that was dangerous and reckless,leaving in a car with people from another State she had only conversed with on the Internet "What could possibly go wrong"
    I have not seen that show; however, I have caught a few episodes of Disappeared- which is what got me thinking about this topic. What seemed to be a common thread was that the person was missing, a report was made, and then it was usually days before the investigation started; usually due to their car being found and evidence at the scene. Then as the detectives are recounting the investigation they mention something to the effect of being X many hours behind. Perhaps as mcp1810 has stated, people just leaving is so common among missing persons (and lack of evidence at the time) that there is not the immediate need to begin investigation, as their is in other crimes.

    I think my perspective is a bit skewed because when I think of my wife and I, the probability of her just leaving seems incredible remote. Of course, you can never know what is truely in someones heart and mind; however, if my wife was missing, her just deciding to leave would be the last thing on my mind. While her leaving would certainly hurt; in the end, knowing she is okay is all that would really matter. Going day to day with never knowing what happened to them must be incredibly difficult.

  10. #10
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    There was recently a missing person case in Virginia Beach, the guy was about to be separated from the Navy and was apparently depressed, also had recently gone back to a gambling problem. Distraught wife is a firefighter in Portsmouth. Well after a couple weeks his body was found INSIDE A WALL of the home behind a loose panel IIRC correctly in the attic. It was big news but after that the media left in alone so never heard anything else besides "police believe no foul play."

    A few years ago a sailor was missing and listed as AWOL (or whatever terminology they use). Six months later a road crew found him dead in his car after wrecking and landing in heavy brush inside a cloverleaf (64/664 in Chesapeake). He was pinned in his vehicle with his cell phone just inches out of reach.

    Not too long ago I read that at anytime in the USA there are approximately 50,000 missing persons. Wow!
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    Unforutanelty they do that. The news just did a thing on that last week, about LEO's foregoing a warrant becasue 'it takes too long' to check cell phone information. My book it is another intrusion/violation of our rights. If I want to dissappear then that is up to me. I do not want nor need the police violating my rights. Of course if it is a child or an act of crime (kidnapping) then yo don't need a warrrant most likely.

    Oh god here goes. I agree with you on this one. I have never heard of a judge refusing a warrant for checking records for a missing person so there is no reason not to get one in a timely manner. In regards to the last comment though if it is a child or crime/kidnapping then a warrant would not be needed. There is no "Crime Scene" exception to the constitution. A warrant should be obtained in order to search the crime scene and gather evidence.

    A quick example of this. A homicide occured in a rural vacation cabin occupied by a pastor and his wife. The pastor stated that an unknown person had forced entry into the cabin and attacked he and his wife, her fatally. LE began a search and to gather evidence of the crime, while in this process they discovered photos of the pastor and another woman from his church indicating that the pastor was having an affair.
    This now lead to the pastor going from grieving husband to prime suspect. He asked the court to suppress the evidence based on the fact that LE was lacking a warrant being the evidence was now gathered from the fruit of the poisonous tree and it was granted. I do not know if it was later reversed or not.

    To the OP there are several places online that you can check phone records yourself just google, reverse directory, and it will come up as stated also check the browsing history on the computer. When there is no foul play someone always knows where the person is, they tell a friend, coworker, someone even though they are sworn to silence.
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