Safe and Found: Who Comes to Look for You?

Safe and Found Cover

        A Very Special Project – When children are missing, who comes to look for you?

How to reach children? How to teach children in the most effective way about the perils and the positives of the world?  In the past there have been a variety of programs such as “stranger danger,” “Just Say No” the DARE Program, “McGruff, Take a Bite Out of Crime Dog” and others.

However, when it comes to missing persons, children need to know that the boys in blue or those with the bright red fire truck don’t do it all.

Monica Caison, Founder of the Cue Center for the Missing based in Wilmington, NC, conceptualized an educational, illustrative activity book.  Safe and Found not only identifies what those who search and rescue do, but also teaches children about trust.

Monica Caison, CUE Center for Missing Persons, Donna R. Gore

Monica Caison

The easy to read book features word games and a quiz to test a child’s knowledge and topic suggestions for further discussion.  The 23 page book, Safe and Found is a treasure in that it has the potential to engage children from kindergarten through 5th grade and beyond in a variety of ways. It accomplishes this through reading, active listening, coloring, doing word games and stimulating discussion.

The content is presented in terms familiar to children, discussing getting lost, the feelings surrounding it, sights and sounds a child may hear in the process of rescue. Safe and Found explains search and rescue equipment, the vehicles used, search animals, and advice about getting lost in a crowd.  Most importantly, there are comforting reassurances for children on every page, up to the point where they are reunited with parents.

The section Tips on Trust helps children define a true stranger, the circumstances of trust, and using judgement and responsibility. A final section of Safe and Found contains information about “packing blue” as the magic colors for searchers, as well as safe berries and plants which are edible.

The language is conversational and familiar for young audiences, skillfully written by Anita Sullivan whose brother, Michael Austin Davis has been missing for several years. The illustrations are crisp, clear, animated and truly assist making the story of search and rescue come alive thanks to the artistry of illustrator John Santillo.

Safe and Found has the flexibility to be used in schools, church and civic groups, boys and girls clubs, family gatherings and more.  It also serves as an introduction to the Cue Center for Missing Persons, founded in 1994 and serving more than 9,000 missing persons to date.

To schedule a presentation of Safe and Found for your group with a Cue Center State Outreach Coordinator in your area, contact  CUE Center for Missing Persons, P.O. Box 12714, Wilmington, North Carolina 28404. Address requests as: Attention: Permission Presentations.

CUE Center for Missing Persons


All presentations are done by those who volunteer their time and services to the organization. Donations or honorariums are gratefully accepted which assist the organization to continue to search for those who are lost. Donations can be made securely online, at the CUE Center website, or mailed directly to the address above.

Vacation Homeowners – Achieving a Balance between Reward and Risk


As a second homeowner for just shy of the one year mark, I’ve learned many lessons, and offer tips which I can pass on to readers from my personal experience. All my lessons were hard-fought, and being a long distance landlord has no how-to manual that I’ve found.

Dreams can come true

Of the many trials and tribulations, and eventual rewards, be prepared for the unexpected, the complex bureaucracies of differences between state procedures, manner of doing business, cultural aspects, time frames, and return on investment, just to name a few.

Make friends with mortgage people, insurance brokers, financial advisors, tax personnel, home owner associations, home watch staff, marketing and booking companies, and their various intermediaries.

Have faith, trust in others’ ability to represent you in your absence and hope that you will have a bright renting future once you are established on the circuit. Use creativity in terms of how to market, never taking for granted that your property will somehow rise to the top like the cream in your coffee without a lot of continuous labor.

I try to be a smart consumer and street smart when I have to be. Management companies may be there to entice absentee landlords with their all-inclusive packages of services, but occasionally, the holes begin to show.

Make it the best it can be

DonnaCondoIn reality, the only one who is invested enough to make your property just like home for prospective renters is the owner!  You can follow the crowd and do the standard things recommended, or you can go the extra mile with amenities.  However, there is always the risk to overdo, and being too enticing in this pretend hotel status (as the tax people classify me), can have a few down sides.

Renters, on occasion, have been known for sticky fingers, taking license to remove an owners’ belongings, however small or large. It has happened. It hurts. It’s disillusioning. It makes one mad!  Like a hotel, do everything you can to prevent such occurrences from happening again.

If lucky enough for the property to be located with a view, it can be worth its weight in gold in what guests are willing to pay for it.  The view from the 8th hole of the golf course where my property is located is wonderful and serene and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Create an atmosphere in which guests feel welcome and aspire towards repeat business. Although you want guests to respect your property, absentee owners have to take certain preventative measures to ensure there will be no major issues arise with guests and they will continue to return.  On the way out the door, you want them to have had a great experience and to sign your guest book with a five-star recommendation.

Wanting guests to intrinsically treat the property as their home, there’s no way for them to know that you have sacrificed so much to obtain it as the home for your future.

Finding balance

11412213_833264916759533_6614042286648077555_nI’m now divided into two frames of mind. One is what appeals to me personally about the home, the other which must take priority, is what appeals to guests.  This dichotomy has been an education and a learning curve. I’m enjoying the changes in home décor (to a point) to rid it of its former “Jungle mania” from the original long time owner.

Here is a short list of things to help to ensure that, from the owner’s point of view, a balance can be achieved with success in sight if you put in the time and effort.

  1. Adopt the mindset that everything you are providing is temporary, and that in the future it can always change to suit your personal preferences.
  2. Do the homework and hire people who can be trusted to manage affairs in your absence such as marketing and booking companies, home watch companies, financial counselors, as well as  attorneys, insurance tax personnel from the local area who know the rules and procedures.
  3. Become familiar with the staff in the property’s home owners association and make friends with them. They can also be a tremendous help to troubleshoot matters.
  4. Enlist the help of local friends who will watch out for your interests in a pinch and be an extra set of eyes and ears.
  5. Make upgrades that are reasonable and expected by renters without going over the top.
  6. Make wise decisions that balance the need for income versus personal comfort level. (Do you really want college kids every weekend, pets, or such a quick turnover of renters that all of your profits are eaten up on service fees?)

Companies I Recommend –

Evolve Vacation Rental Network;;

Coastal Carolina Home

Fall in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a wonderful time to relax on the terrace of my vacation home overlooking the 8th hole of Pine Hills Golf Course. CLICK HERE for details and to make a reservation for your next beach vacation.

Ahhhh….. Serenity!


Crime Victimization is NOT a Spectator Sport


The judge presides over sentencing, applies the law and sets the tone of his/her courtroom. With few exceptions, it’s generally “speak when spoken to” for victims in this process. A victim may request to meet with the judge privately in chambers. However, one is not allowed to cry “foul ball” or “you’re out of order” when victims see inaccuracies or injustices.

The district attorney or state prosecutor represents the interests of the State in a criminal trial against the defendant.  In the State of Connecticut, these officials are appointed by the Criminal Justice Commission with 13 judicial districts.  Chiefs are appointed for 5 years, Deputy Chiefs for 4 years while states’ attorneys serve for a term of 8 years. All other prosecutors are appointed and serve for open-ended terms.

The district attorney will meet with a crime victim family initially. However, often much of the interaction and information is given or filtered through intermediaries such as the detectives assigned to the case or the court-based victim advocate.

I think the prosecutor can be likened to the pitcher of a baseball game, laying out a strategy to strike out the defendant or control the proceeding when it is their turn up at bat.

In our state, the Division of Public Defender Services will provide indigent clients and their children with representation under the state and U.S. Constitution.  Crime victims generally do not have personal knowledge of as to who is representing the defendant, and they rarely communicate with the victim’s family.  The public defender might be portrayed metaphorically as “the catcher” or pitcher” alternately, depending upon who’s up at bat.

The court based victim advocate may accompany families to a trial proceeding and provide information/education and emotional support and also serve as an intermediary between parties.

In this scenario a new crime victim, almost without exception, feels like a fish out of water,  someone who is looking through a  one way glass and is helpless to understand the process, the delays, the putting the victim on trial, a frequently used strategy and the rights afforded the criminal.  This is their new normal for as long as it drags on.

No one can imagine it. No one wants to live it.  However, there is a service designed to help ease the pain when their voice counts the most. During the sentencing phase of a trial, or at a Board of Pardons and Parole Hearing, a victim finally has a chance to speak up.

One of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.

I’ve created a service program for crime victims and offer assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. I recognize that this could be of great value to not only the crime victim, but to the court system as well.

At Face Value – A Victim Impact Statement with Heart and Soul


(THE CANADIAN PRESS / Russell Jackson)

(THE CANADIAN PRESS / Russell Jackson)

Victim impact statements are heart wrenching no matter what the circumstances. Homicide victims are left to pick up the pieces in much the same manner as any other loss caused by violence and irresponsibility.

Consider a family who has suffered the loss of a beloved family member by the hands of a drunk driver.

Is this a lesser loss when measured against homicide? In general, it is just as devastating with changes in circumstances.  However, until I have walked in their path, I cannot say that my loss is more impactful.  I can say that doing a routine activity like driving a car with equipment weighing a couple of tons needs to be respected at all times.  Some people respect it. Most people take this privilege for granted. Others abuse it terribly resulting in a vastly reduced quality of life (i.e. traumatic brain injury, para or quadriplegia) or death.

When reviewing victim impact statements in DUI cases, I decided to “put the impact to the test.” I purposefully did not read any information about this male whose life was recklessly taken. I wanted to see at face value, if I were to put myself in the judge’s role, how I might feel, and ultimately pass sentence, not as a matter of law, but as a matter of heart.

Within my customized victim impact statement assistance service I stress the importance of painting a complete picture of the victim, as the perpetrator is already well-known.  Typical “fill in the blank” versions often omit information that could be most vital to the family.

Victim Impact Statement for “Nathan M” killed June 5, 2007.

This victim impact statement was authored by his (brother.) At face value, without reviewing any other internet information, I see:

  • Three detailed pages of well written narrative
  • A brother who was extremely close to the victim
  • A person who evaluate person who life from many perspectives
  • A compassionate person who grieves not only for himself, but all family members
  • A person who repeats his words regarding the reckless disregard of the perpetrator
  • A young man who is not afraid to express his vulnerability
  • A writer who pleads for the maximum sentence possible allowed by law (Virginia law – 20 years for involuntary manslaughter)
  • A brother who painfully descries taking on all of the responsibilities associated with the aftermath of death
  • A man who sees the irony in his brother’s life long aspiration to help others by becoming a police officer

Unique Aspects of this Victim Impact Statement

Drawing the listener in, his brother discusses his fear of not returning to the scene of the crime

I live two-and-a-half miles from where Nathan died, and have not traveled that way on Interstate 395 North since he was killed. In the past, I drove that way countless times, but I likely never will drive that route again for the rest of my life.”

With time and courage this may have changed. Would Nathan have wanted such a restriction?

I find it very interesting that the writer talks about mourning the loss his own identity and the resulting shift in the family structure.

I also mourn the loss of my own identity. I now assume the role of the youngest in the family. I don’t want this role. I have been the middle child, and this shift in family structure is unfamiliar and unfair…..I started a new job less than two weeks after Nathan died. I know my friends can tell that I have changed as a person. …. I struggle each day to focus on my work my and to remain motivated to learn how to be the best at my job. I often decline lunch invitations from co-workers and eat lunch at my desk because I don’t feel up to being social with them. These people will never know the happier person I once was. I never will be whole again. I do not deserve to have my identity taken away by a thoughtless, negligent man who placed more importance on going out drinking with friends than on Nathan’s life and the lives of other people he could have killed.”

Changing of the family structure alters how we go forward in life. We are forced to take on roles, do things we had not planned. Essentially we have to take on a new uncomfortable identity. How insightful that this sibling was able to express this as a significant adjustment.

As if divinely inspired, victim of manslaughter, Nathan Marti completed an “autobiographical project” in school including a last will and testament.

If I were to go, I would die happy knowing that I had tried my best to be who I am. ….My parents raised me to be a loving and caring person. ….If this was my Last Will and Testament, I would leave all of my earthly belongings to my family and close-knit group of friends…. It’s a scary thought. I hope that when I go, my family and friends are happy and at peace with my death, knowing that we will all be together again some day.”

If possible, the advantage of having several family members present, gives the opportunity to provide am individual picture of the victim so that the court might perceive the victim from many perspectives

What’s Missing “at Face Value?”

This victim impact statement was powerful. It portrayed a family in grief, a family devastated by change forced upon them. It was filled with emotion and articulate thought.  It was organized. It was reasonable in requests to the judge. The narrative offered insights not often discussed and made reference to much thought and many drafts in the making.

However, as I read this statement objectively, I wondered, what were the victim’s accomplishments prior to his death at age 25, in comparison to the perpetrator? What were his talents that would not be fulfilled in addition to his job goal? Although his job as a uniformed Diplomatic Security Officer at the Department of State, was stated, I wondered, what were his duties? How did he acquire such a job?  Was he in a committed relationship? What had been done to create a legacy i.e. events, memorials, scholarships?

As this was an academic exercise only, I would never presume to actually grade a person’s emotions. That would be totally weird and unfair. Rather, if we look at content and effectiveness alone, I would assign a B+ or A minus to this victim impact statement.

Following delivery and posting of this victim impact statement on Nathan’s Memorial website for all to benefit, which is so laudable, Lindsay had this to say about the experience. Comments that ring in my ears.

August 7, 2008

“I will never know whether my statement had any influence over the judge when she sentenced Chan to 20 years in prison with 5 years suspended, but that is of little importance to me. What’s important is that my victim impact statement provided me with some sort of relief at a time of such darkness in my life.” 

Lindsay’s Victim Impact Statement in it’s entirety:

To learn more about Nathan Marti and the Nathan Marti Scholarship Fund, fundraisers, etc. go to:

Rest in Peace, Nathan!