The following content is republished from our HelpIDMe Facebook page. Like the page to get move info about unidentified children.
The identification of 14-year-old Nancy Grace Daniel is a long and complicated story, one that involves a number of people across several different organizations through nearly four decades. Although the story is tragic, it ultimately serves as a beacon of hope for those who remain nameless victims.
The story begins with the discovery of an unidentified young woman’s body hidden intall weeds along the shore of Lake Mann on March 12, 1977. She had been deceased for several months, and no trauma or cause of death could be identified. An autopsy was completed and the victim was reported to be a black female, between 13 and 17 years old, standing between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 4 inches tall with black, braided hair. An earring and ring were found with the body, which was adjacent to a pair of white pants.
Nancy Daniel’s body was located on the shores of Lake Mann in 1977, but she was not identified until 2014.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office investigated several leads, one being that the unknown remains belonged to teenager Nancy Daniel who went missing on September 6, 1976 from Orlando. Although Nancy’s disappearance was consistent with the case, the resources and tools available in the late 70s were not advanced enough to identify or exclude her as the victim.
Detective Angelo Chiota, of the Orange County Police Department, says that the years spent waiting for the right resources and technology to come along can be difficult.
“There are missed opportunities that may have occurred, and some of that evidence maybe lost forever,” Chiota says.
In November 2011, we began working on the case. In May 2013, members of Project ALERT, a team of volunteer retired law enforcement professionals, met with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. They reviewed the case file and looked back into the Nancy Daniel lead, armed with knowledge of more advanced resources and technology to recommend.
With our assistance, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office began researching the possible lead. They confirmed there was still an open missing person case for Nancy Daniel with the Orlando Police Department. According to the OPD, Nancy was last seen getting into a vehicle on Parramore Street in Orlando, only 5 miles away from Lake Mann where the unidentified female was found.
Family reference samples were collected from Nancy’s relatives for DNA testing and in November 2013, the University of North Texas completed DNA testing on Nancy’s case. A direct comparison between the unidentified female and missing person Nancy Daniel was requested.
The final lab comparison report revealed similarities between the remains and Nancy’s relatives’ DNA, but also suggested that the association was weak and additional information should be considered before ruling a positive identification.
The District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office noted many consistencies between the unidentified body and Nancy: similar physical profiles; the location the body was found compared to where Nancy was last seen; and the white pants, consistent with the pants Nancy was last seen wearing.
Based on DNA and circumstantial evidence, authorities were able to positively identify the remains as Nancy Grace Daniel on May 28, 2014, giving a name to a young woman who was nameless for nearly four decades.
Name returned, justice awaits
Now law enforcement is working to find justice for Nancy, investigating her death as a possible homicide. Detective Chiota, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, is in charge of the investigation.
This child was located two months prior to Nancy Daniel. Law enforcement believes the two cases could be related, but they still don’t know this girl’s name.
“The positive identification is exciting because it gives this case continued life,” Chiota says.
Authorities are also looking at another Jane Doe case as possibly being connected to Nancy. About two months before Nancy’s body was found another female — same race and age range — was found around the same lake where Nancy’s body was found. Circumstances, physical descriptions and the time frame are consistent, leading authorities to believe they could be related cases.
Nancy Daniel’s story is still ongoing, but her family and friends are now able to hold on to a small piece of closure. Meanwhile, NCMEC and law enforcement agencies are working around the clock to bring names to the hundreds of other nameless children nationwide.
“I am grateful to have the availability and opportunity to work with all of thesegreat organizations and agencies,” Chiota says. “We can make a change — even if it’s just one.”
Child sex trafficking recoveries highlight ongoing issue of children missing from care
Today the FBI announced the results of Operation Cross Country 8. Again, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was proud to partner with the FBI on their ongoing effort to combat child sex trafficking. For a complete report of the number of children recovered and individuals arrested, visit the FBI website.
People don’t want to believe that children are being sold for sex. Not in this country. But once again, “Operation Cross Country 8” provides irrefutable evidence that they are – on street corners, in hotels, at truck stops and, increasingly, on the Internet.
It’s important to understand that child sex trafficking is also a missing child problem. We know that missing children, especially children missing from the child welfare system, are being targeted by traffickers.
These children are the most vulnerable to the manipulation and false promises that traffickers use to secure their trust and dependency. Many of these children have been abandoned, orphaned, abused and neglected. Too many of these traumatized children run away because they believe it’s the best option available to them.
And many missing children are never actually reported missing. They aren’t on anyone’s radar. No one is looking for them because their parent - or guardian - have not reported them missing.
This is why we must have a law in this country requiring mandatory reporting by state welfare agencies of all children missing from foster care – first to law enforcement, then to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Several bills that would make this happen are currently pending before Congress.
How many children in foster care go missing? It’s difficult to put a reliable number on it. But we know it’s a lot. One out of every seven endangered runaways reported to us in 2013 was likely a sex trafficking victim. Of that number, 67 percent were missing from care.
We currently have informal partnerships with several states, including Florida and Illinois, where social services and foster care providers are required to report children missing from their care to our organization. Just to give a sense of the volume, we received more than 4,000 reports of children missing from care in these two states – in just one year.
Collectively, we must acknowledge and care for all children.
Virna Darling is running the 2014 New York City Marathon with Team Run Baby Run. We talked to Virna about why she runs, and why you should join her! Team Run Baby Run is raising money for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and has seven more spots to fill. Interested in running? Email TeamRunBabyRun@gmail.com.
Virna Darling is a mother, a runner and an advocate for missing and exploited children.
Why do you run marathons?
The journey of running your first marathon starts the first day of training, months before the race. On a hard day you will ask yourself, “Why did I sign up to do this?” There will be rainy or hot days. There will be days you just want to cry and give up. But there also will be days that you feel elated and have that “runner’s high.”
Then the race comes, and it’s just the icing on the cake. When you cross that finish line, there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that fills your entire body and soul. I do believe anyone can run a marathon with the correct training and the only thing that a person needs is the will to do it.
Why are you supporting the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children?
My cousin David was abducted when he was 10 years old. He was brought home to his family but had a tough time trying to survive day-to-day life after his abduction. I loved him so much. He was a ball of energy. He passed away in 2005. The morning I heard of his death, I fell to the ground in tears. The question “why” kept coming to me. Why do such things happen in the world? Why?
Life is not always fair but it’s what you make of it. I can do my best to bring love and empathy into this world and right now, I choose to do it through running and fundraising. I have found healing and power through running and my intention when I run the New York City Marathon is to bring healing and power to the children and families that have suffered. If the money I raise can be a small part of bringing a child home to their loved ones, it will be a joyous day!
When did you start running?
Running always came easy to me, but I took a break from it through high school. I went through a funny stage where I didn’t like to sweat in gym class, it would mess up my hair!
I had a bout of depression in high school and my counselor encouraged me to start running again. She said, “I want you to run to the end of your street.” I think it was only a quarter of a mile, but the feeling of clarity and satisfaction was amazing!
I think that was the seed that started my passion for physical health, but I really picked running up again in my late 20s. Running came back to me somewhat easily! I worked at a gym and we would get up at 5 a.m. to run. I remember my boss saying, “I could see you being a marathon runner.” I said I could never do that, but would love to. Well, two years later I ran the Portland Marathon. Then two years after that I qualified and ran the Boston Marathon. Now, on to New York City!
Virna runs faster than the camera can catch in a previous race.
What advice would you give to others thinking about running a marathon?
Find an effective training program. I would also suggest trying out a training group where you can meet other runners with the same goals as you.
Follow your training schedule rigidly. Don’t skip your short runs because they are just as important as the long runs. Also, listen to your body. If you need to rest, then rest! We can push through our limits but sometimes you have to be patient and take a day or two off so your body can rest and you will come back stronger.
By joining Team Run Baby Run you will gain automatic entry into the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. To learn more email TeamRunBabyRun@gmail.com. If you can’t join the race but are interested in donating, visit the Team Run Baby Run fundraising site.
June is Internet Safety Month! Kids are gearing up for summer vacation and they’ll be spending plenty of time online. This is a great opportunity to make sure you’re doing all you can to educate them about Internet safety.
Here are five things you can do this month to help protect them…
As this story from Canada shows us, social media helps find missing kids. We need your help reaching more followers through social media. Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter to like our page at www.facebook.com/missingkids and help bring more children home.
Just this week, an AMBER Alert was issued in Quebec, Canada when a newborn baby was abducted from a hospital. The child was successfully recovered after a group of teenagers who saw the Alert on Facebook and contacted police.
We share these success stories to reinforce the power of social media. The more people who see photos of missing children and their abductors, the better the chance someone, somewhere will recognize them.
You’ve paid the fees and signed the forms. You’ve bought the right equipment, and you’ve found the perfect snacks. You’ve done everything you can to prepare your child for a successful sports season, but…have you had the pre-season safety talk about sexual abuse?
If not, the following tips can help you address the issue with children ages 5-17 in a non-threatening and age appropriate manner.
Three years ago, on May 11, 2011, 6-year-old Timmothy Pitzen was picked up from Greenman Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois. Investigators with the Aurora Police Department say his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, told school officials that there had been a family emergency and she had to take Timmothy. But there was no emergency.
Two days later, Timmothy’s mother was found dead in a Rockford hotel, and Timmothy was gone. Detectives say a haunting note was left behind saying Timmothy was safe, with someone who loved him and that he would never be found.
Timmothy’s photo is shown age-progressed to 8 years old.
"The image created by NCMEC forensic artists is an important tool in our mission to help bring Timmothy home,” said Detective Lee Catavu of the Aurora Police Department. As the lead investigator in Timmothy’s case, Detective Catavu says the case of the Cleveland women who escaped one year ago, after a decade of captivity, restored his faith that if Timmothy is out there, he will be found.
“Those three women give us all a lot of hope, and we so badly want to find Timmothy,” Detective Catavu said.
Maintaining hope Timmothy will be found
The lead detective on the case, Lee Catavu, said Aurora Police remain steadfast that Timmothy is alive.
“There is not a single person in her life that believes Amy Fry-Pitzen hurt her son,” Catavu said. And, until he has evidence proving otherwise, he will continue to work the case as if Timmothy is somewhere out there, waiting to come home.
Leads and possible sightings continue to trickle in from callers across the country, but police need more. On this three-year anniversary of Timmothy’s disappearance, investigators are hoping the public will take a closer look at his story and perhaps provide key information needed to help bring Timmothy home.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children created the video below about Timmothy’s disappearance as part of a new project called “The Inside Story.” This new video series gives families a special chance to share their unique perspective about their missing loved ones. In her first on-camera interview about the case, Amy’s sister, Kara Jacobs, tells NCMEC she is certain that Timmothy is alive.
Seeking public assistance
Investigators are asking landowners and residents in northwestern Illinois to search their properties for several missing items that may help pinpoint what happened to Timmothy. Since there are several state parks and other popular areas for outdoor activity in the area, police are asking hikers, bikers, boaters and other visitors to be on the lookout for clues.
Police have shared the following missing items that may help find Timmothy:
Timmothy’s Spider-Man backpack
Amy’s I-Pass device
Several toys and a tube of toothpaste that Amy bought for Timmothy before he disappeared
Amy bought Timmothy Aquatic Rig toys like the ones above prior to his disappearance.
Amy bought Timmothy craft case like this before his disappearance.
Amy bought her son model toy cars like the ones above before his disapperance.
Amy bought a tube of toothpaste similar to the one above before Timmothy’s disappearance.
Police release information about Amy’s vehicle
Aurora Police contracted a private forensics lab based in Elgin, Illinois, to process the dust, vegetation and other materials found on Amy Fry-Pitzen’s vehicle. According to the forensic findings of Microtrace LLC, detectives believe:
Based on sediments and plant material, the vehicle was stopped for an unknown period of time on a wide gravel shoulder, gravel road, or short gravel turnout either adjacent to, or just off of, an asphalt secondary road that had at one time, been treated with glass road-marking beads.
In close proximity to the gravel shoulder or road where the vehicle stopped, it backed into a grassy meadow or field to a spot that is nearly treeless.
There are birch and oak trees in the general area but not directly over or at the spot where the SUV stopped. Both Queen Anne’s Lace and black mustard plants grow in a row along the border of the field or the shoulder of the road.
In addition, there is no corn growing in or adjacent to the spot where the SUV stopped, nor is there any indication that the area had been used for agriculture in the recent past. Instead, the evidence strongly suggests that grasses have been the only major plants growing in the immediate area which leads scientists to believe that it is a meadow and not, for example, a field that had once been farmland and not recently sown.
Forensic results indicate that the grass was not cut which helps rule out a rural residential lawn or a park.
There is also a strong likelihood that there is a pond, small stream, or creek in the area.
Scientists further believe that the meadow is most likely in Northwestern Illinois with Lee and Whiteside Counties as the most likely locations.
However, areas in Carroll, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties cannot be ruled out.
Microtrace has since performed other tests but has not been able to further narrow down the six-county area – an area much too large for police to conduct ground searches.
This photo show’s Amy Fry-Pitzen’s SUV.
Police say the last time anyone heard from Timmothy was May 13, 2011, when he talked to a relative on his mother’s cellphone as the pair was traveling about 5 miles west of Sterling, Illinois.
Share Timmothy’s poster on Twitter and Facebook by clicking the button below.
Concurrent federal investigations bring down exploitation ring
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
Brian Bone, Lindsay Costello and Julie Raine of USPIS; Kevin Matthews, Elizabeth Melly and Karen Veltri of the FBI; Melanie Moss of ICE, and Johnathan Bridbord and Christie Gardner of the Department of Justice were honored by FBI Director James Comey for their work to fight exploitaion.
Between 2010 and 2013, three separate concurrent investigations involving the FBI, ICE/HSI, the USPIS, and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, brought down an international child sexual exploitation ring and recovered a child from sex trafficking.
The case started when a user, later identified as Edward Desear, was discovered sharing child sexual abuse images online via a peer to peer network. A separate investigation into an international sexual predator network linked Desear to chats describing the abuse of a child. Following a search warrant, the five-year-old child was placed in the custody of California Child Protective Services. In the meantime, a third investigation was underway on a man named Donn Casper, for buying child porn online. While executing a search warrant on Casper’s residence, investigators recovered a child who was the victim of sexual exploitation. Casper admitted to being a part of an online group of offenders, which led investigators to the arrest of another predator, John Rex Powell.
Knowledge of this “ring” of offenders tied all three cases together. Members would share tens of thousands of illicit images via encrypted hard drives mailed through the US Postal Service.
In June 2013, Desear was sentenced to 40 years in prison and in December 2013, as part of the FBI investigation, Desear pled guilty to Sex Trafficking of Children and Distribution of Child Pornography and was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison. Desear also agreed to pay $1 million to the victim.
Congratulate the United States Postal Inspection Service, FBI, ICE and Department of Justice. Tweet #30YearsOfHope
Child pornography producer tracked down in Nicaragua
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
Senator Ben Cardin helped honored agents David Bradley, Heather Gordon, Kristopher Nordeen and Tonya Sturgill of the FBI; Jonathan Andrews from the Metropolitan Police Department, and Cynthia Miranda of the Montgomery County Police Department for their work to track down an offender.
On June 9, 2008, Eric Justin Toth, a teacher at Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School, in Washington, D.C., was alleged to have been involved with the production of child sexual abuse images. Toth was immediately placed on administrative leave, but when investigators arrived at his residence, Toth had already fled. Toth was subsequently indicted for the possession and production of child pornography and for the next four years law enforcement engaged in a relentless search for him—conducting interviews, enlisting the public’s help by utilizing the television program “America’s Most Wanted” and exhausting leads provided by tipsters.
Toth was added to the FBI’s Top Ten Fugitive List on April 10, 2012. He was the first sex offender ever added to the list. In April 2013, a year after Toth was added to the list, the team received a credible lead indicating that Toth was residing in Nicaragua. After much collaboration between agencies, Toth was apprehended and put on a flight back to the U.S.
Toth pled guilty to three counts of production of child pornography and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Congratulate the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC and Montgomery County Police Department. Tweet #30YearsOfHope
FBI's Operation Cross Country recovers 106 victims of sex trafficking
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
Jolene Burns (left), Eric Pauley, Kelly Corbally Moorthy and Kurt Ormberg, all of the FBI, are honored by FBI Director James Comey (back left) and Senator Ted Poe (center) for their work in Operation Cross Country.
Between July 25-28, 2013 the FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Section operated a 24-hour command post in support of Operation Cross Country VII. The command post was established to coordinate intelligence and operations with the 76 cities and 47 FBI Field Offices that participated in OCC VII, the largest iteration to date. The command post coordination efforts effectively led to the successful identification, location and recovery of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation through prostitution, as well as the identification and disruption of the criminal enterprises responsible for their exploitation.
Due to the collaborative efforts between agencies, OCC VII resulted in the recovery of 106 child victims of sex trafficking and the arrest of 151 individuals suspected of being responsible for their exploitation. Additionally, 28 search warrants were executed and 101 child exploitation criminal enterprises were disrupted, representing a 32 percent increase in child recoveries and a 43 percent increase in pimp arrests as compared to OCC VI.
Federal review leads to quick rescue of exploited child
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
Adam Parks, Jim Cole, Lauren Morris, Henry Cook, Dante Garrido and Chris Michocki showcase their awards with John Walsh.
On Nov. 1, 2012, ICE/HSI Cyber Crimes Center was alerted to images of a 4-year-old female child being sexually exploited. The team painstakingly reviewed the images for clues to identify the offender and, in doing so, discovered images in which tattoos on an adult male’s hand and leg were visible as well as images of a woman with star tattoos on her inner elbows.
Investigators submitted images of the tattoos to the South Carolina Department of Corrections for comparison against tattoos noted on inmate booking forms. In response, state corrections officials advised that, according to their records, Gerald Ennis Roberts, an inmate formerly incarcerated in the state, had the same tattoos.
Armed with a name, investigators were able to use social media to find his presence online. Through photos of his “friends,” they were able to match the tattoos of the unknown female with star tattoos on her elbows in the suspicious images with a woman online. During her interview with authorities, she was able to identify both the offender and the child victim.
On Nov. 7, 2012, merely six days from receiving the initial lead, state authorities and HSI were able to locate and recover the child victim. The following day, authorities apprehended Gerald Roberts in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and obtained a full confession. Roberts subsequently pled guilty to production and distribution of child pornography and is currently awaiting sentencing. He faces a sentence anywhere between 23 to 27 years.
Coordination between local and federal agencies results in recovery
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
FBI Director James Comey (left) and Reve Walsh (right) honor Troy Dugal from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and Special Agent Renee Green of the FBI for their coordinated work to rescue Hannah Anderson.
On Aug. 3, 2013, after last being seen leaving a cheerleading event, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her 8-year-old brother, Ethan, were reported missing from Boulevard, California, a suburb just east of San Diego. The following day, a fire—later confirmed as arson—was reported at the residence of a family friend, James DiMaggio. Inside the residence, the remains of an adult female and child—which were later identified as the bodies of Hannah’s mother, Christina Anderson, and brother, Ethan Anderson—were discovered. There was no sign of either Hannah or the suspected abductor, James DiMaggio, in the home. An AMBER Alert was issued for Hannah.
After capturing the suspect’s vehicle on video surveillance at a California Border Patrol checkpoint, investigators were able to narrow down a possible location. Posters were disseminated to national parks and campgrounds situated near the last known location of the suspect’s car.
On Aug. 7, 2013, while horseback riding near Boise National Forest in Idaho, a man unaware of the outstanding AMBER Alert issued for Hannah Anderson, encountered an adult male and female child who he deemed suspicious. Upon returning home and hearing a news report about Hannah, he called the authorities.
On Aug. 10, 2013, through aerial surveillance, the FBI identified a possible campsite and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was deployed. After hiking to the remote area, the Hostage Rescue Team conducted an operation on the campsite that resulted in the death of the suspect, James DiMaggio, and the successful rescue of Hannah Anderson.
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
Sam Thomas of the Illinois State Police, Casey Folks and Dave Hachmeister of the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, Eric Hefel of the City of Galena Police, and Wayne Jackowski and Kimberly Castro of the FBI are honored by NCMEC Board Chair Patty Wetterling (center) and FBI Director James Comey (right).
On Oct. 13, 2011, 14-year-old Chyenne Kircher was reported missing from her home in East Dubuque, Illinois, where she lived with her mother and stepfather, Terry Abbas. At the time Chyenne went missing, investigators found a note in her mother’s car, in her handwriting, which indicated that she had run away.
After almost a year and a half without locating Chyenne, the case was reopened. Investigative efforts across numerous federal, state and local agencies were coordinated. Extensive interviews of Chyenne’s family and friends were also conducted and those who knew her well believed that, given her very frequent use of social media, she would have contacted someone if she were still alive. As these efforts progressed, the investigators shifted their focus to Chyenne’s step-father, Terry Abbas, and foul play within the household.
Following a polygraph examination, Abbas admitted to strangling her on Oct. 13, 2011, the same day she was reported missing. Abbas ultimately advised that he buried Chyenne’s body in a wooded area behind the house and explained that he had saved Chyenne’s runaway note from a past prank and used it to mislead the police into thinking that she ran away.
On Oct. 24, 2013, just over two years after Abbas committed the crime, he pled guilty to three counts of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and one count of concealment of homicidal death under Illinois law. On Dec. 6, 2013, Abbas was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.
Detective Robert Dewhurst of the NYPD and Sheila Dennis of the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner were honored by Commissioner Ray Kelly, formerly of the NYPD (right) for their work to identify an unknown deceased child.
An unidentified Hispanic female was found on July 23, 1991 along New York City’s Henry Hudson Parkway wrapped in plastic garbage bags and stuffed inside a cooler. She was estimated to be between 3-5 years old. Cause of death was ruled asphyxiation from smothering. Authorities named the child Baby Hope.
In the summer of 2005 the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner was asked to have the body of Baby Hope exhumed. Extracting usable DNA from the degraded remains of Baby Hope proved to be a daunting task. A full DNA profile was not completed and uploaded into CODIS until 2012.
In the summer of 2013, Detective Robert Dewhurst, NYPD Cold Case detective, revived the investigation and put the case back in the media spotlight. It was through his unrelenting push for publicity that he received the lead that led to Baby Hope’s identification. A caller reported that they knew the sister to Baby Hope. Authorities followed up on the lead and were finally able to identify the child as Anjelica Castillo.
Anjelica was 4 years old in 1991. She was never reported missing and therefore never entered into NCIC or listed with NCMEC. The investigation led to the arrest of Anjelica’s cousin, Conrado Juarez, on Oct. 12, 2013. He also implicated his sister, Balvena Juarez Ramirez, who allegedly helped dispose of the child’s body. Balvena is now deceased. Conrado was charged with felony murder.
As an adult, you’re responsible for creating safe environments for kids. But too often, kids are faced with the unexpected, like abduction and sexual exploitation. Take safety a step further by talking to kids often about ways they can keep themselves safe from victimization.
Take the Pledge
Our Take 25 campaign encourages parents and guardians, educators, law-enforcement officers and other trusted adults to Pledge to take 25 minutes out of their day to talk to children about safety. Currently, more than 400 people have pledged 25 minutes each, that’s almost 10,000 minutes of safety conversations. You can be one of the featured champions by taking the Pledge today.
Practice safety with Take 25 activities
Once you’ve pledged, how should you start that 25 minute conversation? One way is to use one of our Take 25 Safety Activities. These activities encourage children ages 5-17 to think critically about safety issues and practice safer behaviors. Each activity focuses on one or more of the Take 25 safety themes:
Safety at home
Safety when out and about
One of the available Take 25 Safety Activities is “Neighborhood Map.” The activity gives trusted adults the opportunity to talk with kids about safe places to go in the neighborhood. Kids will be asked to draw a map of the route they walk to and from school or their neighborhood. Then they will mark all the places they should avoid with a red “X.” They will mark all the places they can find help with a green circle.
Trusted adults can use the map above to help kids find safe places to go in their neighborhood.
Other ways to get involved
Protecting children is a community effort. Everyone can do their part by helping us spread the Take 25 message. Here are a few simple things you can do to help:
Take the Pledge and encourage your friends and colleagues to take it too
Share resources with local organizations, such as schools and libraries
Daughter abducted by mother, father left searching
Ssamali Kwatia has been missing since March 31, 2013. View her poster.
When Ssamali Joy Kwatia’s father Mark last saw his daughter in early 2013, she was 4 years old. She already loved swimming and gymnastics, and was ready to take on soccer. Mark says she asked him often if she could play. More than a year later, he does not know where his daughter is or if she has had the chance to give soccer a try.
Ssamali was last seen on March 31, 2013 with her mother, Joan Kiyenje. A felony warrant for child abduction was issued for Joan on April 11, 2013.
Ssamali’s mother, Joan Kiyenje, was issued a felony warrant for child abduction.
When they were last seen Joan was returning a rental car to Lake Bluff, Ill. Neither the mother or daughter has been heard from since.
Ssamali enjoys a trip to the beach with her father in this video he provided to NCMEC.
Mark says his daughter enjoyed sharing stories about what happened at school and church. Her favorite foods are macaroni and cheese, and “believe it or not,” says Mark, avocado and pasta.
Ssamali Kwatia’s dissapearance is being investigated by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service.
Ssamali is now 5 years old. She is a black female with brown eyes and black hair. When she was last seen she was 3 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed 40 pounds.
Do you have any information about where Ssamali Kwatia may be? Call us at 1-800-THE-LOST. View and share Ssamali’s poster here.
Today we’re launching a new Facebook page and need your help spreading the word. Like our newest page, “Help ID Me,” and share it with your friends!
Help ID Me is a page dedicated to finding the names of unknown children. These children — often found deceased without any information that can tell law enforcement who they were — deserve to have their names back. We have a caseload of approximately 650 unidentified persons and are working to find an identity for each and every one.
To help with this identification process we have uploaded images and information associated with each case in photo albums, categorized by state. We will also highlight one case a month on the page. Read this month’s story about a successful identification.
Play a part in this goal by liking and sharing the Help ID Me page.
Michelle Garvey was known as Jane Doe for 31 years. In 2014 Michelle was finally given her name back. Read more about her story on Help ID Me.
You never know who might recognize a missing child’s photo. This is why we share photos with as many people as possible, but there is only so much we can do. We need your help. Become a poster partner at www.missingkids.com to start receiving photos via email of children missing in your area.
Here are a few things to know before becoming a poster partner.
Sign up for as many regions as you want.
Some people want to know about as many missing children as they can. Some only want to know about children missing near them. The poster partner program has been seperated into six regions, so either way you can help. You can sign up to receive posters from your region, a few regions or all six.
Posters must remain in their original format.
We strongly encourage people to print and share posters, however the posters cannot be altered or edited. Posters must remain in their original format with NCMEC’s name, logo and toll-free number.
Display posters in your community.
Some great places to display posters are coffee shops, community centers and other locations members of your community frequent. But remember, ask permission before displaying a poster.
Follow up if a child is recovered.
When a child is recovered, they deserve privacy as they reunify with their family. We try to respect that privacy by halting the distribution of their poster. If you forward a missing child’s poster to an email list, please notify that same list of the child’s recovery. If you’ve displayed printed posters in public places, remove those posters to the best of your ability.
It is our hope at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® that you will never need to know what it is like to have a missing child. However, we also know there is no such thing as too much preparation. Here are some first steps you should take if your child goes missing. For a more comprehensive checklist download our Missing-Child, Emergency-Response, Quick-Reference Guide for Families.
If your child goes missing, immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
Immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678).
If your child is missing from home, search through: closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances, vehicles – including trunks, and anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide.
Notify the store manager or security office if your child cannot be found when in a store. Then immediately call your local law enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action in place.
Secure your child’s room and personal belongings until law enforcement conducts a search.
Secure any computers and wireless devices used by your child, but do not attempt to conduct a search of these devices on your own. Ask law enforcement to look for clues in any chat and social-networking sites your child has visited or hosts.
Have a photo of and information about your child ready to provide to law enforcement. For a full list of items and descriptive information to provide, visit www.missingkids.com/ChildID.
Restrict access to the home, no matter where your child was last seen, until law enforcement has arrived and had the opportunity to search the home and surrounding area.
Contact the National Runaway Safeline, if your child may have runaway, at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) or visit www.1800runaway.org for assistance including information about developing communication with your child.
Stay in regular contact with law enforcement, the media, and local government officials during the search for your child.
Notify law enforcement, NCMEC, and other agencies assisting in the search as soon as your child is located.
Truckers use position on America’s roadways to fight trafficking
Lyn Thompson is a co-founder of Truckers Against Trafficking. With more than 30 years as a public relations professional, she uses her speaking, writing and public relations skills to help TAT fulfill its mission and goals.
No one can fight child sex trafficking alone. Effective solutions require multiple efforts along multiple fronts to identify and recover victims and bring offenders to justice.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that one out of every seven endangered runaways in 2013 was a likely child sex trafficking victim. These child victims often end up travelling and being victimized along the highways of America.
This is why Truckers Against Trafficking, a nonprofit organization, is joining forces with NCMEC to get posters of missing children at high risk for sex trafficking to as many truckers and truck stop operators as possible.
TAT and NCMEC have created the new High-Risk Child Poster Initiative where truckers can sign up for an email Listerv where they will receive geolocated posters of missing children at high risk for child sex trafficking. As of now, this Listserv is only available to truckers and anti-trafficking organizations conducting street outreach and services for survivors of sex trafficking.
TAT started in 2009 to fight human trafficking and, in particular, child sex trafficking. The more than 9 million members of the trucking industry are the eyes and ears of America’s highways, and now tens of thousands of them are educated and equipped to spot and report human trafficking wherever and whenever they see it.
TAT provides education for members of the trucking industry through videos and equips truckers with wallet cards, brochures and other materials. Additionally, TAT works to empower and mobilize the trucking industry. They help build coalitions between members of state and local law enforcement and general managers of travel plazas and truck stops to help them work more effectively together to fight human trafficking.
TAT also works with law enforcement and state transportation agencies to provide TAT training and materials to law enforcement. These agencies interact with truckers at every possible trucking venue in a state, from weigh stations and rest areas to truck stops and CDL renewal locations.
Posters like this are hung by Truckers Against Trafficking at truck stops and travel plazas across the country.
"The TAT material is well done. It doesn’t take a lot of time to train staff, and the information is well put together,” said Chief David Lorenzen of the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement at the Iowa Department of Transportation. “We fully embrace the efforts of TAT and will continue to work with them to get the information out to all professional drivers. Working together we can make a difference and curb this criminal activity."
TAT is proud to work with NCMEC to bring posters of these high risk children to the attention of truckers who travel the country and who may see these children and report a tip that could lead to their recovery.
If you are a member of the trucking or transportation industry or an organization that works with survivors of sex trafficking email Melissa Snow, NCMEC’s Child Sex Trafficking Program Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more information about High-Risk Child Poster Initiative.
Grandfather turns to Team HOPE when grandson goes missing
Garry Henning’s grandson went missing in 2006 and was found deceased. Since then, Garry has volunteered for Team HOPE. Read about his experience in our ongoing series from volunteers withTeam HOPE, a peer support program for families with missing or sexually exploited children.
Quadrevion Henning was my grandson — the only son of my son Quentin. Quadrevion, who we called Dre, was always a smart kid. He was bright for his age.
Dre had the biggest smile and a loving personality. I wish that everyone would have known him. They would have loved him as much as we did.
Dre was a happy child, surrounded by family.
My son Quentin was in the Army and because of that he and Dre lived in Japan for a while. Usually when Quentin deployed, Dre lived with us.
When Dre came back to live with us we placed him in military school. He said he wanted to be like his dad, his papa, his uncle, his aunties — we all had served our country. He loved the school, after all where could you go and shout at other students and not get in trouble?
Dre was so proud of the school military awards he received. Two were for perfect attendance. Sometimes he would hold the certificates up and say with that shy smile, “Papa, did you and granny ever get one of these?” I was lucky if I went an entire month without missing.
The day Dre and his friend Purvis went missing was the worst day of our lives. The 27-day nightmare did not feel real. There was an overwhelming sense of helplessness, a feeling that this could not be happening. Our baby should have been home with us, with his granny, in his own bed, raiding the refrigerator, making noise with his cousin Eric.
Dre and Purvis’ bodies were found in a pond on April 15, 2006 near where they were last playing basketball.
As a teenager Dre accelled in both school and athletics.
It has been seven years since Dre’s death and sometimes I still see my wife sitting at the window watching for his school bus as she always did. I sit next to her and whisper to her, “Honey the school bus won’t stop in front of our house again.”
But she still sits there for a little while longer.
Our Dre lost his life trying to save his drowning friend. People say he was a hero. We say he was just being Dre.
Support from Team HOPE
When Dre went missing, our home was turned upside down. So many people were there, all times of the day and night. We had no private time for ourselves.
Church groups held prayer services in front of our home. Politicians gave press conferences on our lawn. Police, the FBI and sheriff’s deputies were in and out of the house. When we left our home, news reporters pushed microphones in our faces. There was so much madness.
We kept telling ourselves that they were just trying to help, but we needed someone with a level head.
As I look back, there are things I remember and some I don’t. But I do remember the call from Team HOPE member Colleen as if it was yesterday. That call from Team HOPE was as if an angel had been sent.
We were skeptical at first but Colleen made us feel safe. She understood our plight, but how could this be? So many had been calling and coming by. However she was different. She talked with understanding, talked as if she was in our shoes.
She reminded me to take care of myself, to tell the truth no matter what and to take some time for family. I can’t remember how many times she talked to me. But I do remember at times I would come home and ask, “Had that lady called?” She was my safety net. I needed to hear a voice of reason, not a voice trying to push me in one direction or another.
After this experience with Team HOPE, I also became a volunteer. When I went to my first Team HOPE training I did not know what to expect, but I was embraced with open arms. This was a very special group.
When it came time for me to tell Dre’s story, tears flowed, but this time they were tears of inclusion. The room with strangers not only heard the story, they got it. I knew then I wanted to be part of this. Team Hope became and still is my therapy. Even years later, I consider myself a referral, in need of my Team Hope family.
If your life has been touched by the heartbreak of having a missing or exploited child and you feel you need support contact Team HOPE at 1-866-305-HOPE.
For teens, Internet safety spreads from computers to cellphones
Teenagers are online. They are sharing photos, updates and information. Most parents know this, and many are taking the necessary steps to monitor what their children are doing online and who they are talking to.
But some parents don’t think of cellphones when they think about their children’s online activity. Cellphones are more than a means to make a phone call. These days, there is very little a computer can do that a cellphone can’t.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 95 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 are on the Internet. But these teenagers aren’t just going online with laptops or desktops. Seventy-four percent have access on a mobile basis, and 25 percent mostly access the Internet on cellphones.
These teens have their cellphones on them at all times, and parents can’t always be looking over their shoulders to see what they are doing. That is why having frequent conversations with teens is so important.
Cellphone Safety Tips for Parents
The following tips come from our NetSmartz Workshop, an Internet safety program with resources for parents, children and educators.
Establish rules for when they are allowed to use their cellphone, what websites they can visit and what apps they can download.
Review cellphone records for any unknown numbers and late night phone calls and texts.
Remind your children that anything they send from their phones can be easily forwarded and shared.
Teach your child never to reveal cell phone numbers or passwords online.
Talk to your child about the possible consequences of sending sexually explicit or provocative images or text messages.
When shopping for a cellphone for your child, research the security settings that are available.
Get more Internet safety resources, including tips, videos and games, at the NetSmartz Workshop.
D.C. Task Force fights trafficking in own backyard
February is Black History Month. We are focusing our blog this month on issues related to the African American community, including child sex trafficking in Washington, D.C., a city with a 50 percent African-American population.
Ari Redbord is the Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia serves as both the local and federal prosecutor for the nation’s capital. On the local side, prosecutions extend from misdemeanor drug possession cases to murders. On the federal side, prosecutions extend from child pornography to terrorism.
In May 2011, Robert Brathwaite, a 35-year-old trafficker also known as “Smoke,” first encountered his victim, a 14-year-old runaway. The child, who had run away from home in another state, was living in an apartment in Washington, D.C. Braithwaite and a companion transported the victim to various places in Washington, D.C. and Maryland for purposes of sex.
As a prosecutor at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, I have had the ability to focus on crimes involving child exploitation. Through that lens I have seen some of the darkest corners of our city and of the human spirit. This is perhaps most true in cases involving the trafficking of minors. Traffickers feed off of the insecurities and a lack of the most basic human needs – food, shelter and love – to prey on our community’s most vulnerable victims.
Since its inception in 2004, the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force has been recognized by the Department of Justice as one of the most active, aggressive and productive human trafficking task forces in the nation. It is a national model for investigating and prosecuting cases of domestic sex trafficking involving the commercial exploitation of children.
Joining forces in victim-centered response
The D.C. Task Force has become a national leader in organizing a collaborative effort to strengthen criminal investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers with a victim-centered approach. The D.C. Task Force, one of the largest anti-human trafficking organizations in the world, has a membership of over 20 government agencies and 35 non-governmental organizations.
One of those members is the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. On May 31, 2011, the victim being trafficked by Robert Brathwaite was picked up by astute D.C. Metropolitan Police officers for truancy when they identified the victim as too young to be walking the streets late at night. An investigation led police to Brathwaite, who was located close to where the child was. Brathwaite was arrested and plead guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking of children, transportation of a minor for the purpose of prostitution and possession of a firearm.
The Metropolitan Police Department is one of more than 20 government agencies on the D.C. Task Force.
This is just one example of the steps our members take to protect these child victims and get those exploiting them off the streets.
As Coordinator of the D.C. Task Force, it is my job to bring together law enforcement and non-governmental entities to combat this scourge and serve victims of human trafficking.
Organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shine a light on the danger to these vulnerable victims. Specifically, NCMEC is rightfully focused on the most vulnerable victims – those relegated to foster care, runaway and throwaway youth.
Learn more about the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force, their members and the work they do to keep children safe on their website.
Technological advancements, volunteers help in search for child's identity
February is Black History Month. We are focusing our blog this month on issues related to the African American community, including cases of unidentified children like this young woman found in Georgia.
In Columbus, Ga. below an Interstate 185 overpass a female’s body was found near a creek at the end of a dirt road. It was Dec. 22, 2005. Law enforcement believes she was between 14 and 21 years old and had been dead 1 or 2 days prior to being discovered.
It has been 8 years since that discovery and the girl’s identity is still a mystery.
This image, created by forensic artists at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, shows what the unidentified girl may have looked like.
Project ALERT deploys
This past March, members of our Project ALERT® team deployed to Georgia to meet with investigators from the Columbus Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigators Medical Examiner’s Office to offer additional resources in the effort to identify “Jane Doe 2005.”
Project ALERT is a team of approximately 170 retired local, state and federal law enforcement professionals who volunteer their time and experience to the law enforcement community on behalf of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
The volunteers who deployed to Georgia were biometric specialists who were on hand to assist law enforcement in the collection of biometric information about the unidentified child. The assistance of Project ALERT can be requested by law enforcement by calling us at 1-800-843-5678.
Creating a 3D image
Once Project ALERT members were on site, coordination began with the Columbus Regional Hospital to complete a CT scan of Jane Doe’s skull. A CT scan produces a three-dimensional photograph that can be loaded onto a computer. One of our forensic artists then uses that photo as a blueprint for creating an image of what the child looked like before they died.
This 3D image of Jane Doe 2005 was created using a CT scan.
These advancements in technology are cutting in half the time it takes to complete a reconstruction image and are allowing investigators to take a fresh look at unidentified cases. The hope is that the image will spark recognition in someone and lead to the person’s identity.
In addition to the composite image, investigators use the person’s clothing and body markings to help identify them. When the young Jane Doe 2005 was found wearing a leopard print corset bustier top, size small, with a black net style long sleeved shirt over it.
The unidentified girl was wearing this top when found.
She was wearing acrylic pale pink tips on her fingernails as well as clear and white nail polish on her toenails. She was wearing a wig with long straight black hair and her natural hair color and style are unknown.
She was approximately 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 108 pounds. Unique scarring was found on the young woman’s lower back; five small scars running down the midline of her back with one large oval scar next to those that contained stitch marks. It was obvious that the girl had suffered trauma or injury to her lower back and stitches had been used to heal the wounds.
She had on “Baby Phat” brand jeans, size 3, as well as black socks. She also had a metal ring with two ovals on the fourth finger of her left hand.
This metal ring with two small ovals was found on the unidentified girl’s body.
View the poster for Jane Doe 2005 here: http://ow.ly/tmbBd. If you have any information regarding Jane Doe 2005 you are urged to call 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678). Calls may be made anonymously.
A break in one of the D.C. area's long-term missing cases
Sisters, Sheila and Katherine Lyon, were last seen on March 25, 1975 at the Wheaton Plaza Mall in Montgomery, Md.
Now, nearly 39 years later, information has been uncovered that may lead to a resolution to this almost four decade mystery. Today the Montgomery County Police along with the FBI held a press conference asking the public for any information they may have on convicted sex offender and person of interest, Llyod Lee Welch aka: Michael Welch. Additionally, law enforcement is asking for any information the public may have on Welch’s then girlfriend, Helen Craver.
If anyone has any information regarding Michael Welch or Helen Craver contact investigators at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or they can submit a tip online at: http://tips.fbi.gov
Lloyd Welch has been named as a person of interest by the Montgomery County Police Department and the FBI.
An undated photo of Lloyd Welch and girlfriend, Helen Craver.
Last known location
The Lyon sisters were shopping for a birthday present for their mom and had plans to eat lunch at the Orange Bowl restaurant.
Sheila, 10, and Katherine, 12, were instructed to be home no later than 4 p.m. When the girls failed to return home police were called and an extensive search began.
Sheila Lyon (left) and Katherine Lyon (right) were last seen March 25, 1975.
During the early hours of the investigation, police recieved information that the girls were seen talking to an unidentified male outside of the restaurant. Witnesses stated that the girls were also being followed by a man during their time at the mall. Based on the information provided a sketch was created.
According to the Montgomery County Police Department, Welch has been in a Delaware prison since 1997 after being arrested for sexual offenses towards young girls in several states. Prior to his incarceration, Welch traveled extensively throughout the United States working for a carnival company that often set up at malls. Law enforcement believes there may be more victims who have not yet come forward.
February is Black History Month. We are focusing our blog this month on issues related to the African-American community, including cases of missing children like Dannette and Jeannette Millbrooks.
On March 18, 1990, 16-year-old twins Dannette and Jeannette Millbrooks left their home on Cooney Circle in Augusta, Ga. to visit a family friend. They were last seen near the intersection of 12th Street and MLK Boulevard at approximately 4:30 p.m.
Dannette and Jeannette’s mother, Mary, and their younger sister, Shanta, verified that the girls made it to their friend’s residence. They left their friend’s at approximately 4 p.m. and were seen inside a Pump-N-Shop gas station. Law enforcement says the sisters bought chips there and left, together, on foot. The two girls have not been seen or heard from since.
Both twins had hair styled in Jheri curl at the time of their disappearance. Their ears were pierced one time each and both had scars on their navel from hernia removal operation performed shortly after birth.
Dannette is described as 5 feet 6 inches, 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She is bowlegged. Dannette was last seen wearing a white shirt with the image of the cartoon character Mickey Mouse on it, white jeans and black shoes.
The photo on the left shows Dannette as a teenager. She was 15 when she went missing. The image on the right is an age progression showing what Dannette may look like at 39.
Jeannette is described as 5 feet 4 inches, 125 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a blue pullover shirt, a white turtleneck, a beige skirt with white stockings and white sneakers.
The photo on the left shows Jeannette as a teenager. She was 15 when she went missing. The image on the right is an age progression showing what Dannette may look like at 39.
Twins Dannette and Jannette Millbrooks are still missing. View their poster:http://ow.ly/tf0q3. If you have any information, contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is encouraged by the increased awareness of child sex trafficking that occurs before large events such as this weekend’s Super Bowl. However, some news outlets have attributed the statement “10,000 child sex trafficking victims were at the Super Bowl in Miami” to us. That is inaccurate.
No one knows with certainty the exact number of children exploited through sex trafficking in the United States or during events like the Super Bowl. The dynamics of power, manipulation, dominance and control involved in the crime make it very difficult for a child to disclose the abuse, violence or torture they have been forced to endure. Despite these challenges, law enforcement and advocacy groups are doing tremendous work in combating this problem.
“We applaud law enforcement, advocacy groups, community groups and hotels whose dedication advances efforts to combat this during the Super Bowl and every day of the year,” said John Ryan, president and CEO of NCMEC. “Greater collaboration between organizations means victims will not only be recovered, but will get the resources and services they need.”
What we know
While we don’t know exact numbers, anecdotal evidence offers some insight into the scope of the problem. We do know that 1 out of 7 of the runaways reported to us in 2013 were likely sex trafficking victims. This number has tripled since we started tracking this number.
We recently again partnered with the FBI for “Operation Cross Country 7.” During that operation, which spanned 72 hours and 76 cities, 105 child sex trafficking victims, as young as 13, were recovered. Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative. Launched in 2003, the initiative has helped recover more than 2,700 child victims.
The issue of child sex trafficking is complex. In the real world, children are being sold on the streets, in hotels and in casinos. In the online world, they are being advertised on a variety of websites. Their “pimps” can be perceived friends or boyfriends, or even family members or foster parents. It is a unique type of child victimization.
An often-overlooked aspect of child sex trafficking is that it is also a problem of missing children. Many child sex trafficking victims are missing from their parents, foster parents or group homes. Approximately 81 percent of the missing children reported to NCMEC are runaways. These children represent the most vulnerable children in our country. Traffickers know this. They actively target runaways and then lure them into the sex trade using psychological manipulation, illegal drugs and violence.
These children are victims and should be treated as such. It’s not an issue of prostitution. It’s not an issue of choice.
We applaud the hotel workers around the Super Bowl who are training their staff to identify possible trafficking incidents. We are grateful to the victim service providers who are already at work near the stadium, offering the victims hope and a way out.
The commercial sexual exploitation of children takes place every day in every state in the U.S. As one police officer told us, the only way not to find it in your community is not to look for it. Events such as the Super Bowl can serve as a catalyst for change – change that begins with awareness.
If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or call us at 1-800-843-5678. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
Today Paroline v. United States goes before the United States Supreme Court to determine to what extent offenders who possess images of a victim of child pornography must pay for the harm they caused.
“Amy”, as she’s known in court documents, was just 8 years old when her uncle sexually abused and raped her. He photographed the abuse to produce child pornography. These images were then circulated on the Internet, and offenders worldwide collected and circulated the images. Amy was revictimized with each viewing.
The emotional cost of Amy’s harm is immeasurable. Individuals who possess child pornography violate and exploit their victims by viewing a record of the child’s sexual abuse for personal gratification. This problem is pervasive and has grown steadily in recent years. It is increasingly important for victims of child pornography to be able to recover full restitution for the harm caused to them.
Amy, through her attorneys, will argue today before the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Paroline v. United States. This landmark case will decide to what extent offenders who possess images of Amy’s sexual abuse must pay for the harm caused by their collective and ongoing victimization. This case will impact not only Amy’s ability to obtain restitution but the restitution claims of other victims of online child pornography.
Our support for Amy
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, with pro bono assistance from the law firm of Ropes & Gray, has submitted an amicus brief to the Court supporting Amy’s request for full restitution. In this brief we explain that the demand for child pornography drives its production, and those who possess these images are as culpable as producers of the images.
Our organization serves as the central repository in the U.S. for information related to child pornography. Our Child Victim Identification Program provides information relevant to child pornography investigations and assists law enforcement in the identification of child pornography victims. The CyberTipline is the central reporting mechanism to which the public, law enforcement and electronic service providers can provide tips and leads concerning child sexual exploitation.
The full cost of harm
Amy’s experience demonstrates the unique harm she and other victims of child pornography suffer. Between August 2002 and September 2013, we received more than 4,900 submissions from law enforcement that included images of Amy. Those reports contained more than 70,000 images of her abuse that had been viewed and/or traded by offenders for their own gratification.
"How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever and being enjoyed by sick people?" - Amy, as written in her victim impact statement
Every individual who views, possesses, creates or distributes child pornography contributes to the harm suffered by these victims. Restitution can never undo the damage Amy suffered, but it can provide necessary funds for her and other victims to receive therapy and compensation for the entirety of their losses. The full cost of the harm suffered as a result of the global trafficking of child sexual abuse images should be on the shoulders of the offenders, not the innocent victims.
Follow @AMBERAlert on Twitter to receive rapid AMBER Alert notification.
Today is AMBER Alert Awareness Day and we are happy to announce the launch of the @AMBERAlert Twitter feed. Between Mar. 30 and June 30, 2013 Twitter had 49.2 million average monthly active users in the United States. @AMBERAlert will mobilize this large network to help rapidly and safely recover endangered missing children.
Increasing the reach of rapid notifications
An 8-year-old from Ohio is abducted by his non-custodial father. An AMBER Alert is activated. A group of friends receives rapid notification of the AMBER Alert on their cell phones. They see the listed vehicle and call 911. The abductor is arrested and the child safely rescued.
An 8-month-old child is abducted from his home in Minnesota while his mother was in the shower. An AMBER Alert is activated. A teenager receives rapid notification of the AMBER Alert on her cellphone. She sees the vehicle and calls 911. The abductor is arrested and the child safely rescued.
A 16-year-old girl in California is abducted and her family murdered. An AMBER Alert is activated. A group of people five states away encounters the child and abductor while hiking. When they return home they receive rapid notification of the AMBER Alert on TV. They recognize the child and call 911. After a massive search effort the child is safely rescued.
By following @AMBERAlert on Twitter you are increasing your opportunity to help save a child. Not only will you receive notification of an AMBER Alert on your Twitter feed, you’ll have the opportunity to share the alert with all of your followers.
Spread the word
As always, the more eyes on a missing child’s photo, the better the chances someone will recognize him or her. Share news about AMBER Alert on Twitter by clicking on the Tweet button below.
Members of the 150th Missing Children Seminar for CEOs pose before their final day of training.
This week we are excited to announce a new milestone: our 150th Missing Children Seminar for Chief Executive Officers.
This two-day seminar is designed for police chiefs, sheriffs, 911 call center directors and missing children clearinghouse managers. At each of these 150 training sessions we’ve welcomed CEOs with a varying degree of experience in missing child cases. Some are from large communities where, sadly, children go missing with a steady frequency. Others come from smaller, rural towns where a child has never gone missing.
We work to familiarize all participants, regardless of experience, with issues related to missing child cases. For some the training is a welcome refresher and for others it is an essential lesson. We spend the two days talking about effective policies and practices, technical assistance, training and our available resources.
“This was the best organized training program I have ever experienced… I am anxious to implement the many things that I learned at this seminar,” said Chief John Pritchard, Herington Police Department.
For example, the chief of the Gloucester Township Police attended our CEO Seminar in 2012. He then returned to New Jersey to implement some of the best practices he learned. In April 2013, Gloucester Township Police announced the creation of the Project MARRS (Missing At-Risk Response Strategies) program focusing on preventing child disappearances and responding to them.
The Gloucester Township Police announces the creation of Project MARRS with assistance from Colleen Nick, the mother of missing child Morgan Nick and a member of our Team HOPE program.
We are happy to say that 5,762 law enforcement professionals have completed the CEO Seminar since it was first offered in 1997.
As we celebrate the holiday season surrounded by family and friends, we remember those who are still searching for their children. Those who will never give up the hope that one day they will be reunited. Until that time we can offer words of support and encouragement for each of the families missing a loved one on this holiday.
Highlighted are a few children who went missing in the month of December.
Tyler would now be 22 years old. She had her lip and eyebrow pierced. She was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.
In 2014 we vow to keep searching, keep supporting and keep hoping for the families of missing and sexually exploited children. This holiday season we wish you peace. As always, we stand with you and your families.
If you have any information regarding a missing or exploited child, call our hotline at 1-800-843-5678. Calls may be made anonymously. Someone is available 24 hours a day to speak with you, even on Christmas!
Give this holiday season to the Hope Bags campaign
Melissa Snow is a Program Specialist on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Sex Trafficking Team. Prior to joining us Melissa worked with survivors of sex trafficking as a victim service provider.
I know just how important a Hope Bag is to a child survivor of sex trafficking. In my former role as a victim service provider, I watched survivors of child sex trafficking fluctuate from panic to relief when receiving just a few simple comforts and the support of someone who cares.
Hope Bags provide survivors with basic items they need for those first few hours and days after they are recovered.
When I met one survivor, just 15 years old, she was sitting on a hotel room bed in the clothes her trafficker had made her wear. Three months earlier she had packed a suitcase to go to the beach with a man she thought was her boyfriend. She had never been to the beach before. When I met her, she didn’t know what that man — now her trafficker — had done with the suitcase. They never made it to the beach.
I handed the girl a bag of items and told her these were some things just for her. As she slowly opened the bag and started removing the items she asked, “Is this all for me?”
When she got to a pair of sweatpants with a big heart on the side a hesitant smile spread across her face. She told me she loved to draw hearts. She jumped up and ran into the bathroom to change. When she came out she had on the full sweat suit, new socks and had used the make-up remover to take off the fake eyelashes and make-up her trafficker made her wear to appear older. As she sat back down in front of me, the little girl had reemerged.
A few months later, I drove to pick up the same girl; we were going on that long awaited trip to the beach. As she hopped in the car I noticed she was wearing the sweatpants with the heart on the side.
“When I put them on it reminds me that someone cares,” she said.
Recovery is an important step, but it’s the first of many. We can make that first step easier by making sure these survivors have the basic items they deserve. Making a Hope Bag available to every recovered child is a lofty goal, but I believe these kids are worth it. If we know that offering this Hope Bag can make a difference, then it’s worth our every effort.
Please consider making a donation to our Hope Bags campaign this holiday season. There are many girls, like the one above, who are in need of basic items and the reminder that somebody cares. Just $45 will help us provide this to survivors of child sex trafficking across the country. Donate at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hope-bags
We are proud and excited to announce the opening of a new office in Palo Alto, Calif. The new office brings us closer to the technology companies that are playing an important role in the effort to protect children from abduction and sexual exploitation.
Located in space donated by Palantir Technologies, the new office will provide technical assistance to law enforcement and enhance NCMEC’s partnerships with leaders in the technology industry.
Last night we were joined at the ribbon cutting by Michael Lopp, Palantir Director of Engineering; Mayor Greg Scharff of Palo Alto; Chief Dennis Burns of the Palo Alto Police Department and Chief Scott Seaman of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department.
Thanks to all who were involved in the opening of this important new branch! We look forward to broadening our relationships with technology companies as we continue to fight child abduction and exploitation.
Focusing on children in international family abductions
Family abductions are one of the most frequent types of missing child cases reported to the National Center for Missing & Children. A family abduction occurs when a child is wrongfully taken, retained or concealed by a parent or another family member. These cases make up between 10 percent and 20 percent of our active missing child caseload.
In approximately one quarter of family abduction cases reported to us, the child was transported across an international border. This greatly complicates and extends the search for the child.
Because these abductions take longer to resolve, they form an even larger percentage of the active missing child caseload. We have an average of 1,200 open international family abduction cases at any time.
A mother greets her sons at an airport after being reunified.
Brief submitted to Supreme Court
This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear Lozano v. Alvarez, a case arising under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Our Office of Legal Counsel, with pro bono assistance from law firm Ropes & Gray, has submitted a brief to the Court regarding the case. The brief argues that a parent who abducts their child from another country into the United States should not gain an unfair litigation advantage by hiding the child or otherwise keeping their whereabouts concealed from the authorities.
Upholding standards for international cases
We remain dedicated to international cooperation and the safe, prompt return of children who have been taken across international borders. The brief encourages the Supreme Court justices to hold the United States to the same high standard we expect from other Hague Convention partner countries when U.S. children are abducted to foreign countries.
We work each international family abduction case on an individual basis, coordinating with agencies in the United States and other countries to provide technical assistance and information to parents, attorneys and law enforcement. International family abduction cases may take longer to resolve, but we will continue identify, develop and promote resources for families and law enforcement until every child is brought home.
Interested in learning more about the Lozano v. Alvarez case? Read the case preview on SCOTUSblog.
On Dec. 3, 1983, Eleanor Williams was traveling with her 3-month-old daughter April from Suffolk, Va. to Fort Riley, Kan. by bus when they had a stop-over in Washington, D.C.
April Williams went missing Dec. 3, 1983 at the age of 3-months (left). The image on the right shows what she may look like today.
When the bus arrived at the Trailways station, passengers — including Eleanor and April — had a more than 2-hour wait ahead of them. While waiting, a woman identifying herself as “LaToya” befriended Eleanor. She offered to hold April and buy them some sodas. As Eleanor adjusted her bags and got settled for their wait, LaToya walked away with April and never returned.
New ways to highlight cases
When children like April go missing, their photos are often seen on TV, in newspapers and taped to telephone poles. But as days, weeks and years pass, those photos are circulated less and less. We have recently launched two new tools to help keep these photos circulating.
Our new “Missing This Week” and “Missing This Day” tools list all children who have been reported to us that went missing in that calendar week or day, like April Williams.
Our new “Missing This Week” and “Missing This Day” features highlight cases of kids who went missing in that calendar week.
No matter if a child has been missing one year, 10 years or 30 years; if they went missing during that specific week they will be on the list. Each child’s photo links to their poster. Each poster has social buttons that make sharing the photos on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as easy as one click.
Remembering the missing
It’s been 30 years since April was last seen. In those 30 years the popularity of bus travel has declined and risen again. The Trailways station in D.C. is set to be demolished. A lot has changed, but April is still missing and Eleanor is still searching for her daughter.
April has black hair and black eyes. She had a birthmark on her wrist at the time of her abduction. The abductor is a black female with red hair. She was approximately 5 feet 3 inches tall.
April Williams is still missing. View her poster: http://ow.ly/rtGT3. If you have any information contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.
Discussions about cyberbullying often focus on the victim and the bully, but most children are neither. They are bystanders.
In a Pew Internet & American Life study, 88% of teens (ages 12 to 17) reported witnessing someone being mean to someone else while on a social networking site.
Bystanders can play an important role in stopping cyberbullying but are often unprepared to take action. It’s up to us, as trusted adults, to help bystanders learn the skills they need to respond to cyberbullying.
Thirty-one times in three years. That’s how many times one girl, called “Rebecca” for privacy, was reported missing to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Rebecca was 14 and in a group home for just 90 minutes when she first ran away.
Though she was located by law enforcement just two weeks later, Rebecca would be reported missing to NCMEC and then located a 20th time just a year later – in an area of town known for prostitution. Eventually, she was linked to a pimp, gave birth to a child and turned 18, aging out of the foster care system.
For us, stories like Rebecca’s are not rare. While no one knows the exact number of children victimized through sex trafficking in the United States, one out of eight endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2012 were likely child sex trafficking victims.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s “Hope Bag” program provides survivors of child sex trafficking with the basic items, like clothing, they may need immediately following recovery.
On Oct. 23, 2013, NCMEC CEO John Ryan was invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources about the problem of sex trafficking of youth in foster care.
“The issue of child sex trafficking is complex. In the real world, children are being sold on the streets, in hotels and in casinos,” Ryan testified. “In the online world, they are being advertised on a variety of websites. Their ‘pimps’ can be perceived friends or boyfriends, or even family members or foster parents. It is a unique type of child victimization.”
Recruiting the most vulnerable
Many of the children reported missing to us are vulnerable youth who’ve run from their families, foster care or social services, and their cases need to be treated with the utmost urgency. Traffickers know these children are in need of food, shelter or emotional support, and use these vulnerabilities to control them. Of the children reported missing to us in 2012 who were also likely victims of sex trafficking, 67 percent were in the care of social services when they ran.
These children often lack the emotional and physical safety nets to keep them away from the pimps recruiting them. Pimps scout out victims at shopping malls, schools and now over social networking. Recruiters may start an online conversation to see what the child’s needs are before luring them in.
“The most important thing we can do is to change the conversation from a juvenile delinquency issue to a child protection issue,” Ryan testified. “These children lack the ability to just walk away from their pimps. They must be recognized as victims who must be rescued and given appropriate services. Because of this, NCMEC is prioritizing efforts to urge all state child welfare agencies to report missing foster children to law enforcement and then to NCMEC.”
Child sex trafficking is victimizing children nationwide, and the only way not to find it in your community is not to look for it. November is National Runaway Prevention Month. Take some time this month to learn about child sex trafficking and potential victims in your community and what you can do to prevent it.
With training and education, parents, social workers, teachers, principals, school nurses and counselors would be more likely to recognize high risk factors and intervene prior to victimization. They can also be critical to the identification of those minors who have already been victimized to provide appropriate resources and services.
If you have information about possible child sex trafficking, please report it to our CyberTipline or call 1-800-THE-LOST, which is open 24 hours a day.
Tanner, Alexander and Andrew went missing on Thanksgiving Day three years ago.
Nov. 28 will be Tanya Zuver’s third Thanksgiving without her three sons. The boys were last seen on Thanksgiving Day, 2010 at their father’s house in Morenci, Mich. A neighbor saw them playing in the backyard.
It is believed the children vanished between 2 p.m. Nov. 26 and 11 a.m. the following day when their father, John Skelton, checked himself into a medical facility.
Tanya and John were in the middle of a divorce when the children went to spend Thanksgiving with their father on a scheduled visit. On Nov. 26, John checked himself into a medical facility for self-inflicted injuries. At that time he told police he had given his sons to a woman he met on the Internet. Since then, John has refused to provide further information about where the boys are.
The Morenci Police Department continues to search for Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton.
Reigniting the search
Last month investigators, prosecutors, behavioral experts and members of our staff gathered at our headquarters in Alexandria, Va. to discuss the three year old case. Chief Larry Weeks of the Morenci Police Department was on hand to help lead discussions.
Chief Larry Weeks attended a case review at our headquarters in October.
The group combed through case files for two days, searching for anything that could provide another avenue for investigators to search.
“It was one of the largest case reviews that has been hosted by NCMEC,” said NCMEC Case Manager Patrick Maney. “We had over 30 experts here who are dedicated to resolving this case”
Brothers and friends
Andrew, Alexander and Tanner were as close as brothers could be. They loved playing soccer, they loved being outside and they especially loved their mom. Family members say you could see their different personalities come out on the soccer field.
Andrew, 9, stayed focused when running down the field with the ball. He was an excellent student and was quieter than his brothers. When he wasn’t studying, he was playing video or computer games.
Alexander, 7, was a great goalkeeper. He was a risk taker and was often the one getting into trouble. He was known to start water fights with his brothers.
Tanner, 5, was the youngest and could usually be found running all over the soccer field. He looked up to, and tried to keep up with, his older brothers. He had a wild imagination that would often result in great stories and laughter.
The Skelton brothers were avid soccer players.
John Skelton is currently incarcerated for unlawful imprisonment in connection to Andrew, Alexander and Tanner’s disappearance.
Tanya will spend this Thanksgiving, just like the last two, without her sons.
When Andrew was last seen he was 4 feet 1 inch and weighed 57 pounds. The image on the right shows what he may look like at 10.
When Alexander was last seen he was 3 feet 9 inches and weighed 45 pounds. The image on the right shows what he may look like at 9.
When Tanner was last seen he was 3 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 40 pounds. The image on the right shows what he may look like at 7.
Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton are still missing. View their poster: http://ow.ly/qAjLZ. If you have any information contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.
Hope is a powerful word, and it’s a word that we use often. It can be heard in the hallways from staff, parents and law enforcement.
This hope is powerful. It is hope that a missing child will be found. Hope that sexually exploited children will be identified and rescued. Hope that an unidentified victim will be given a name.
Our Biometric and Unidentified Persons Unit works to find those names. They help law enforcement and medical examiner’s offices identify remains of children. We know that it takes just one person to see the composite image of what the child looked like in life that recognizes the child. And if someone recognizes the child, a family will have answers, a proper burial can take place and the unidentified can be given back their name.
From “Baby Hope” to Anjélica
Several cases have made national headlines in the past few years. The most recent case was of “Baby Hope.”
The New York Police Department was so certain they could solve this case and bring justice for the 4-year-old they even gave her the name Hope. For 22 years detectives relentlessly followed-up on any leads that may have held an answer or clue to who she was. And now, two decades after her small body was discovered in a cooler, law enforcement has positively identified her. One more child has been given back her name and her body has finally been laid to rest.
Unknown child in Los Angeles
Today we, along with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Department of Coroner, need your help identifying another unknown baby. After 28 years, the search for the identity of Jane Doe Baldwin Hills continues.
This new composite photo is being released in hopes that it may spark someone’s memory and lead to her identity.
The baby girl was found in an alley behind a Baldwin Hills apartment building located at 4206 Santo Tomas Dr in Los Angeles.
The child is believed to have been between 10 to 12 months old and weighed only 14 pounds. She had four teeth, two on the top and two on the bottom, and her ears were pierced. She was discovered on Aug. 19, 1985 at around 6 a.m. when a passerby going to work noticed her naked and malnourished body. It is believed the baby’s body was placed in the alley between 4 and 6 a.m.
The Los Angeles Police Department has set up a private tip line for this case. If you have any information regarding the identity of Jane Doe Baldwin Hills call 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247) and leave a tip for Juvenile Division Detective Marie Grebinski. Or email your tips to lacrimestoppers.org. Tips may be made anonymously.
(Parent and volunteer youth sports coach Ed Russo encourages his team.)
As a volunteer youth sports coach, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of great kids and their parents. One thing I’ve realized is that in youth sports a great team isn’t just made up of talented players, but involved parents. So when choosing players, I often consider the quality of the parent as much as the child. Having good, supportive, engaged parents makes the season more successful.