Missing for an Hour or for Years, My Personal Nightmare 

 

528497_10150929999073032_550667260_n

When people try to wrap their heads around the very real circumstance of a man or woman gone missing, it seems so surreal!  But it is very real.  Whether missing for an hour or years, professionals in the non-profit arena take all reports seriously.

When I think back 35 years ago my Dad was also missing, but this aspect was never emphasized in the scheme of things. Although I don’t recall exactly, I estimate that for our family, the time he was unaccounted for was approximately from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next day.   Although the police tried to construct a timeline, if they had delved deeper, I believe they would have discovered his identity sooner. What difference do a few hours make? A lot!

We knew his habits and what occurred prior to leaving home in the early evening hours. He owned an auto body business and also sold used cars. After dinner, he typically left to collect monies owed for cars purchased.  Previously, I had inherited the family car to commute to college. The car needed oil, so my Dad intended to get oil for the car that evening.  At the time, I had just earned my Master’s Degree in speech-language pathology and was to report to one of my jobs in Western Massachusetts for my new employer.  I never made it to work the following day.

Don Gore

My Dad went missing and never came home, nor did he call my mother if he expected to be very late or change his plans, as he had done in the past. Hours of worry and concern ensued for my mother. She contacted all the friends, contacts, and family she could think of who may know of his whereabouts. She called the hospitals, nothing.

BUT WAIT…. Intervening events would play a part in this awful scenario. Prior to his going missing, he was at a stoplight and apparently someone had the nerve to mug him for the contents of his wallet, including his driver’s license. Dad had not had a chance to replace his license.  However, his van had dealer plates and he was a well known business owner in the Greater Hartford area.  Ultimately, he was found in his van. Why hadn’t the Hartford Police followed up on this right away? Did the dealer plates go missing too? I’ll never know.

However, what occurred was a series of unconscionable “missteps” by the police. Somehow, before we even had a clue that my father was murdered, the local newspaper (under whose authority?) wrote a newspaper article about a missing person.

Among the many scenes of our homicide that are indelibly etched in my brain is this one –

We were in the living room that morning (Aril 17, 1981). My mother was very worried,  having spent a sleepless night.  I was dressed for work looking out the big picture window.  Mom sat in the rocker and was leafing through the newspaper. In the silence of the early morning, I heard my mother suddenly cry out words to the effect of “They’ve found him. It’s him.”

To our absolute horror, the newspaper heading stated “Unidentified Missing Man Found in Green Van.”  In our hearts, we knew it was my Dad. And then, the two of us summoned our strength to call the Hartford Police together. My mother recalled the detective putting his had over the receiver and in a muffled voice saying, “They’ve just identified him.” This was a chilling moment that no family deserves!  My mother called a close family member, a cousin, in order to provide support and drive us to the police station and the medical examiner’s office. I still did not believe it was true. The moment of truth for me was when someone at the police station walked past us carrying a plastic bag with my Dad’s coat which I recognized. That was a defining moment for me.

Imagine, if you can, learning that your loved one is murdered from a newspaper article with no warning whatsoever!

I could write volumes about the injustices we experienced as I recall the events today knowing what I know in 2017. Law enforcement tried, but they made many mistakes in the investigation, as well as in the judicial aspects for years to come, as the perpetrator never should have been eligible for parole!   Does it do any good to point fingers?  Would it have changed the outcome of the crime? No. I am grateful for their efforts in solving the case. However, I am not comfortable giving everyone involved a “pass” just because of the era in which it occurred, with the lack of resources for crime victims and lack of care versus overzealousness in convicting the murderer.

Perhaps the “saving grace” of our ordeal may be that we paved the way for future victims of crime to have a much better experience over time. That I can live with and it gives me solace.

As for the relatively short period of time in which my father was missing, although it was not prolonged, the events that occurred were horrendous, leaving scars for a lifetime. But, scars do heal. As a result, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all families of missing persons, whose ordeal typically goes on and on.

I will end with a most important message: If you experience a loved one or a good friend gone missing, time is of the essence!  In addition, if you desire expertise in assisting your local law enforcement, to begin the process, a missing persons report must be filed with police and then registered with the CUE Center for Missing Persons. http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/file-a-report/.

CUE donations are appreciated, with all funds committed to the work of locating missing persons and supporting their families.

cue-logo


DonnaGore-2

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

 

“The Hot Potato” Case in Connecticut: Missing Billy Smolinski

 

Bill and Jan Smolinski

Janice Smolinski’s quiet spoken and friendly demeanor defies the “tiger in her tank” that has sprung forth more times than she would like in the fight to locate her missing son, Billy.  Billy’s case and the effort to pass legislation bearing his name has taken up residence on the Peace4the Missing site as well as a customized website, Justice4Billy, since 2004.

This case is called the hot potato…not because they are “hot on the trail of finding Billy.”  It has this reputation in the morass of local, state and federal errors that have consumed this family’s life… but not weakened their resolve or determination in their quest to find answers!

Listen to the show, SHATTERED LIVES:

Billy Smolinski,Donna R. Gore, LadyJusticeIt appears the biggest obstacle is the fact that Billy was a Caucasian, fit male, aged 31, and 200 pounds  when he suddenly dropped off the radar.   Adult men like Billy don’t “go missing” so the local police said,   “They walk off. “ Not so, said Jan and her family.  It is at this point of departure of opinion that set forth one of the lengthier and most arduous tales in the annals of criminal justice history!

It is a virtual laundry list of events … Some events have everything to do with the case and other events are just pure evil meant to attack the victim, and Jan personally, to distract from the real focus- Billy!   This blog will attempt to list the highlights only of this 7.5 year saga, in hopes that you will be interested and get involved at some level… for this case and Billy’s legacy, with Jan’s assistance is really about helping all who go missing!

“The good part” is that Jan climbed the legislative and Congressional Mount Everest to achieve State of Connecticut HB 6113 pertaining to the manner in which State police handle missing adults.  HB 6113 is as a major step toward protecting missing and endangered adults. The bill requires police departments to accept all reports filed of all missing persons age 18 and older without delay and to input all collected information into appropriate databases in efforts to locate them.

In a bipartisan effort, with the assistance of Congressmen Christopher Murphy (D -CT) and Ted Poe (R- Texas),the Help Find the Missing Act, “Billy’s Law”  was initially introduced to empower families and loved ones of the missing to find justice by helping to secure funding for the only federal database for missing persons and unidentified remains that can be cross-searched, accessed and added to by the public – the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).  This database enables the loved ones of the missing to search for a match and add valuable information to the case profile that only they know once it has been approved by the law enforcement agency handling their case.

The legislation helps to streamline the reporting process for law enforcement and medical examiners by connecting two major federal missing persons and unidentified remains databases- the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the NamUs.  Connecting these databases makes them more comprehensive and more likely to lead to a match between a missing person and unidentified human remains.

“Billy’s Law” also creates incentive grants programs to coroners, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to help facilitate the reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains to the federal databases. Grants can also be used for training programs on how to correctly use the databases and best handle these cases, and the recipients of these grants must provide a dollar in matching funds for every two dollars in federal funds.

“Billy’s Law” builds upon Connecticut’s 2007 Law Enforcement and Missing Persons law as it also calls for the issuance of broad recommendations for standards and procedures for law enforcement to follow in dealing with missing persons and unidentified remains.

As it stands, it was about the money with “naysayer” former US  Congressman  Dr. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, saying that 10 million to be shared among 17,000 police departments was “too expensive” such that it was lowered to 8 million.   And now, with a new Congress, the bill must be re-introduced as HR 1300 and SR 702.

Co-sponsors are needed in nearly every state (except Connecticut)   The link below provides templates, sample letters, data and information with which to arm yourself.  Don’t take no for an answer… Be persistent!

BILLY’S LAW: Everything You Need to Know and DO to HELP PASS BILLY’S LAW

Jan also suggests sending a personal letter to your US Federal Congressperson with a follow-up phone call to their judicial staff person…and perhaps a face to face meeting

The Numbers: 

160,000 people missing currently in the US inclusive of adults and children.  60,000 unidentified remains  are stagnating within medical examiners offices!   Matches are currently being made manually with NamUS, the only centralized data base and NCIC (The National Crime Information Center [Federally Regulated System] can “talk to each other” with “a million eyes monitoring” as reported by Jan.  Each state also has clearinghouses.  However, as in Connecticut, they frequently don’t connect and it becomes a jurisdictional and political fight as to whose case it is…

The Human Toll:

Jan has a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren who support her and her husband’s continuing efforts to find Billy… while she intellectually and emotionally knows that many others “in the land of the living” love her. But it is tough to divide your time and your heart to all things and all people who need it.  A strong faith in God prevails, a positive attitude with undying hope coursing  through her veins….

However, the grieving process never stops, nor does the fulfilling nature of helping other victims.  Pleasurable activities she once enjoyed, such as mall shopping conjured up immense guilt. So… she sat in the mall parking lot and stared at the entrance…. Until the Christmas holidays “gave her permission” one year!  It took Jan three months to enter that mall. She says it’s a roller coaster effect, “like Weebles”.  You may be more wobbly today as compared to yesterday and need to reach out to others.   It is NOT time to MOVE ON” when your child, whether a small child or your adult child is missing!  people working

Financial Considerations:

No one can anticipate the need when we first enter this journey… lost time from work, posters, billboards, media help, the cost of transportation, the need to re-mortgage your house to carry on….   The general public has no idea what it takes….

The Details:

Jan and Bill Smolinski,Donna R. Gore, LadyJusticeEvidence lost…. Local official’s not paying attention, wasting valuable time, incompetence,   lack of communication, incredible delays, attempts to sabotage efforts time and again when placing missing posters, Jan’s arrest, a relationship  that left Billy unprepared and vulnerable to forces he couldn’t anticipate, political pressures,  a ridiculous law suit by mean-spirited people,  lies, and more lies in a civil suit….. It’s all there, like some bad B movie.  The Waterbury Observer has done a good job reporting such events over time. .

Read it … not to wallow in the craziness… ‘Just to know what the Smolinski’s have endured!  AND… keep the focus on finding Billy!

As Jan said on “Shattered Lives,” it takes a village of people working together!