Looking Past the Word “Missing:” 2017 National Missing Persons Conference

Luke 2:7 says about Mary giving birth to Jesus, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (New King James Version).

Such is the case with many missing persons. There is no room at the inn, figuratively or literally.

People on the fringes of life didn’t ask to be there. They came into this world, supposedly with an equal chance, until the forces of life were thrust upon them. In past generations, it was doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief as the saying goes. Today, our youth aspire to the tech world, financial services, and emergency services. But what if the world has not prepared you to function properly, despite your dreams? What happens in the aftermath?

We become the casualties of circumstances, as CUE Center for Missing Persons Founder, Monica Caison so aptly observes.  In 2017, there are so many challenges in life. The pace of life, the stress, the expectations are grueling. For those who do not have the wherewithal, the resources, the education, or the support of family and friends, they are destined to get lost in the black hole of existence. What might befall them is the daily reality of what makes the CUE Center for Missing Persons tick.

There are categories of those who go missing; those whose life ends by homicide, those afflicted with mental illness, those who are homeless, those who are kicked out of the house because of their sexual orientation, those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, those who are homeless. One example is veterans, the elderly, and those with chronic medical issues.

Some of the realities include families are often ill-equipped to help once a missing person with a “casualty of life problem” arises.  Such victims begin the path of no return and become part of the escalating missing person pool.  Government assistance is hopelessly bureaucratic with access very difficult.  People are poor, live in rural areas and they do not know what to do, nor how to access information. Often they are embarrassed to ask for assistance. Many people are prideful and decide to fend for themselves. However, when we examine these realities, many are excuses.  Families want the problem to just go away and put forth a minimum of effort. Homeless shelters warehouse people for a few hours and provide band-aid measures like a meal. Counselors expect homicide survivors to heal in six sessions because that’s all that insurance will cover. Men are literally left out in the cold, even when they choose to seek shelter, as women with children are seen as the priority. The list goes on and on.

Embracing Dignity and Courage

These were the lasting impressions as we ended the final morning session of the 2017 CUE Center for Missing Persons Annual Conference, “Embracing Dignity and Courage.”   There were multiple examples of this theme permeating the Conference.

The CUE Center proves dignity and a safe haven for families who are left to their own devices without direction or hope. We NEVER make false promises that their loved one will definitely be located.  However, they are educated and given the tools to carry on in a family centered, the non-profit organization whose skills, dedication and longevity are unmatched.

Victims become survivors and advocates in the long haul nature in the missing persons arena. Without even realizing, there is power in belonging to a club in which no one wants membership. It may take a few months or a year or more. Such families move through their grief and take on the task of guiding others emotionally, providing a lifeline to new members when they are emotionally ready.

No contribution is too small or goes unnoticed in the collective sense. The commitment runs the gamut from tracking calls, to creating vivid informational posters for all to see, to performing case management, holding fundraising events, doing promotion, public relations, conference planning, coordinating ground searches, gathering search and rescue resources and equipment, collaborating with local law enforcement, training police departments and school children alike about aspects of missing persons, recruiting State Outreach Coordinators across the country and countless other functions, matching talent with tasks.

The Victims Hour

You can hear a pin drop.  Selected family members are invited to courageously tell their story of their loved one’s disappearance in order to provide a sense of release, camaraderie and to illustrate that the club has many members and they too share the need for a lifeline and a means to just keep afloat.

Peggy Carr’s case was the first one that gave national notice to the CUE Center. Mother Penny Britton gave a moving portrayal of their story so many years ago and the legacy built since 1988  http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/index.php?s=Peggy+Carr

Monica Button, the mother of Nieko Lisi who went missing in Addison, New York in September 2011, gave the most heart wrenching, angry, grief-stricken, obsession driven account of her efforts for justice. Neiko, who by all accounts was a good son, but with imperfections, remains missing. http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/index.php?s=Nieko+Lisi

Cynthia Day’s recovered remains ended a 26-year wait for her family as a result of comparing cases. The discovery of a box of bones and a thumbprint that may yield a sense of resolution for the multi-generational family who appeared before the conferenced audience.   http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/index.php?s=cynthia+Day+

The National Candlelight Service

This is a take your breath away event combining spirituality, prayer, music, inspirational speeches, acknowledging award recipients, and families who are on the Wall of Remembrance. Hope is Everlasting!  This year, as in the past, the skies opened up adjacent to the Cape Fear River, mixed with tear drops. But the ever-resourceful staff literally picked up the ceremony and accouterments and we continued at the hotel.

How many people do you know who live in a town with a population of 106,500 (2016-17) who also have earned the respect of law enforcement and other community leaders that take the time to personally welcome us and provide an escort by the Sheriff’s Department?  Our escort included sirens blaring and cars race along the entire route to our Riverside Candlelight Vigil. It is a sight to behold! However, it demonstrates the pride and respect shown to Monica Caison, missing persons’ families and all those involved.

Presentations and Classes

Among the many impressive presentations, was the Norma Peterson’s Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit. The Document the Abuse program, addresses the needs of all intimate partner violence victims. My heart was filled with pride to note that Norma Peterson, the sister in law of Stacy Peterson, was now carrying the torch to benefit others in a much wider scope!  http://documenttheabuse.com

And yes, children are involved. They are our future to carry on the organization, and the mission of good works for missing persons, good works for all in their daily lives!

Monica CaisonQuote-

“Only in the Beat of the heart can a count be measured, similar to the step one takes in a search for the lost.” 

Donate to the Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons-  (2016 Top Rated Great Non-Profit) http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/donate/

 


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

A Cry for Help in the Middle of the Night

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The job of a crime victim advocate is by no means a 9 to 5 existence.  Fragile human beings often can’t adhere to time schedules.  Their lives have spun out of control.

Those who are paid advocates answer the phone during business hours, leave an 800 number or advice to call 911 during off hours.  But, the trouble is trauma and life and death situations just don’t conform.

A person may be actively grieving, in physical, emotional or psychological pain. They may be terrified of some event in their life, not realizing why they remain helpless. Past decisions often place them in circumstances they could never foresee.

Armchair critics can easily point fingers and pass judgement regarding the complexities of people’s lives, not realizing that their own situations can change in a New York minute if the Gods foretell.

In the many years I have worked with victims, each is unique in some way, and yet there is a constant familiar ring to their personal stories, their desperation, the longer you listen.

Examples – (Frequently Intimate Partner Violence in nature)

“Please reply before he kills me”  “He ignored the restraining order”  I went to the police, but they did nothing.  I have no money.  I’m afraid for my children. The system in the State of ____ is totally against me.   I can’t escape him as he watches my every move” “I don’t have a phone.”

In a previous blog post, Homicide as a Steady Diet, I discussed the fact that I am at risk of being typecast as a homicide expert with nothing else to offer. Regardless of people’s reading habits or radio listening preferences, I fight against this image, as it is just not true.

Insatiable appetite for violence or not, I will not be painted as a one trick pony. At the other end of the spectrum are the indiscriminate victims reaching out to anyone and everyone. There are two groups of people I worry about:

1)  The truly terrorized, as in intimate partner violence victims and,

2) Those who perceive injustices to themselves. Their pervasive victimization as so great, having been worn down by the system so badly, that they lash out at everyone and become truly toxic in their words and actions. It is a poison that no one can alleviate.

If you read between the lines, the former group may want to be helped and truly lack the resources, the support, the resiliency, and the know how. Fear may have immobilized them. They actually say, “I am going to die and don’t know where to turn.”  Imagine their burdens, but try to imagine the responsibility and the burden it also imposes on the receiving end of compassionate, helpful, well intentioned people.  

The second group of people may say they want help, but their account is so vile, the blame towards others so pervasive, without taking any personal responsibility, that they just want a stage upon which to vent their rage. 

Why is the distinction of these two groups important? It is important to me as you have to think quickly on your feet as it can sincerely be a matter of life and death.

Lucky for me, these desperate cries for help do not come as a steady diet, but they do come to my website, particularly related to intimate partner violence. I do not invite them. They are indiscriminate. They are supposed to leave information about victim impact statement inquiries and they ignore the instructions.

For the record, I do have a working knowledge of IPV, thanks to Susan Murphy Milano and many other colleagues over the years. However, this does not qualify me as an expert, nor do I necessarily want to take on these issues as my own.  It appears that the Tracey Thurman blog post has created a monster of sorts in this area.  I suspect that my well researched, carefully written and wildly popular blog of this historic Connecticut case is the culprit here.   I gratefully accept the exposure it has given me, but it can be a double edged sword.

Readers, please do not confuse my God given talent as a superior writer to tell a story with expertise in every subject matter pertaining to crime!

Just a couple of weeks ago on a December night when I had gone to bed, my phone lit up and “whooshed” a message.  A response was sent by a colleague to a true life or death IPV victim who wrote to me in desperation. I so appreciated her rapid response, for intuitively, we both know it was very serious.

It matters not that this victim did not follow the rules and used my personal website as a call for help.  It only matters that good and useful information was provided at a moment’s notice when needed. I only hope that the women chose to follow through with the information.  Bless you, my friend for helping. Much love to you for caring in my place. You just may have saved a life.  CALL IT GRACE…..

 

 

Crime Victimization is NOT a Spectator Sport

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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.

Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust: Homicide Survivors Carry the Torch for those Taken by Violence

photo: LATimes

photo: LATimes

 

Whether users of the Book of Common Prayer are reciting “metrical text”—text that when a congregation reads it, it all comes out even” in burial rights, “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” (based on the Biblical, Genesis 3:19) or wedding phraseology,” “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together”it matters not.  Poetry is fallacy, as life almost never “comes out even in metered phrases.”

Had our liturgical forefathers known that homicide would be so commonplace in “civilized society,” they would be aghast at the persons getting all of the care and attention, namely the perpetrators of crime versus the victim/survivors.

Enter Parents of Murdered Children, INC, the largest national self-help support group organization working for the rights of murder victims since 1978, and making sure that they evolve into “healthy survivors.”  Twenty five years of assistance and advocacy later, Dan Levey “was handed the torch,” following the homicide of his brother, Howard.

“Shattered Lives” radio interviewed this accomplished man to discuss how far POMC has come and future work to be done,  for there are always others on the horizon who can benefit from this fine organization.

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            LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

  • Kudos to the CUE Center for Missing Persons for their search efforts for missing persons in Horry County,  S.C. http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/
  • Introduction to our guest
  • POMC- Is it just for Parents of Murdered Children? A brief history… http://www.pomc.com/index.html;
  • Providing Services …on the phone everyday across the country- “Trying to grab funding” etc.
  • Collaborative efforts  “We’re all in it together;” Working on public policy and legislative issues
  • Support with other organizations such as Survivors of Homicide, Inc.; Citizens Against Homicide;http://www.survivorsofhomicide.com/Website/Home.htm;
  • http://www.citizensagainsthomicide.org/
  • “The Saddest thing to hear years down the line”, according to Dan
  • Dan’s personal homicide story-  November 3,1996
  • Terrorizing the neighborhood on a Sunday morning… “Flipping a coin to see who would be the shooter…”
  • The aftermath of the crime
  • Ladyjustice… “Sorry doesn’t mean anything, but…”
  • Dan discusses their yearly leadership trainings
  • Programming – The Murder Wall…a description of a travelling tribute
  • Delilah describing the CUE Center’s Wall for the Missing
  • http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/national-conference-2/
  • Passage authored by survivor, Cincinnati’s  Sharon Tewkesbury, regarding the impact of the Murder Wall and her husband Monty
  • All about POMC’s “Second Opinion Service”- What they do; What they don’t do
  • Ladyjustice asks about eligibility and composition of the “other sets of eyes”
  • Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Harry Bonnell-  who served POMC for 20 years –
  • http://www.4n6pathology.com/
  • Discussion re Dr. Henry Lee – The Connecticut Connection: http://drhenrylee.com/learn/
  • Information regarding how to submit information to SOS http://www.pomc.com/sos.html
  • Comparisons to medical issues- The importance of a second opinion
  • Ladyjustice & Delilah talk about the similarities to the former “Crimewire” Radio Show with Susan Murphy-Milano & Denny Griffin
  • Example-http://imaginepublicity.com/2013/04/09/crime-wire-susan-murphy-milano-dennis-griffin/
  • POMC’s National Conference in Rochester ,Minnesota August 14-17, 2014 –Keynote Dan Gable- http://www.pomc.com/docs/POMC%20Gable%20Announcement.pdf
  • Parole Block Program, – Circulation of Petitions to keep criminals incarcerated versus being released early
  • What is the significance of the Parole Block program for survivors according to Dan?
  • Delilah asks about POMC’s role in advocating against early release across the country,  Example- the State of Connecticut- http://www.ct.gov/malloy/cwp/view.asp?A=11&Q=480872
  • Life does not mean life…. behind bars
  • Discussing tracking their data re petitions and the impact of this program-

Very successful!

“Homicide Grief is the yearning to say one last goodbye…”

Dan Levey,

Executive Director

National Organization of Parents Of Murdered Children, Inc.

550 W. Portland St.

Phoenix, Arizona 85003

602-492-9205

dlevey@pomc.org

Questions Elicited from this Show

  • What was Dan’s background prior to his current position at POMC?
  • What does the Executive Director position entail?
  • Are we all competing for the same Federal dollars?
  • What is the uniqueness of POMC as compared to other organizations?
  • What were the circumstances of Howard’s homicide?
  • What is the Murder Wall about and when is it used?
  • Does the “Second Opinion Service” assist in solving cold cases?
  • Are prosecutors and law enforcement cooperative with the Second Opinion Services?
  • What has been the typical amount of circulations per week and numbers per petition drive?
  • According to the DOJ, what is the average “life sentence” for a murderer?
  • Is it true that all prisoners are indigent and cannot afford restitution?
  • How quickly does restitution happen in Arizona?
  • What does the National POMC Conference workshops consist of?
  • What are the consequences of not having a National Crime Victim’s Leave Act?
  • What are the most important pieces of legislation passed in Arizona in recent years?
  • What are the most important ways in which to help POMC in the future?

The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.

Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust:

Homicide Survivors Carry the Torch for those Taken by Violence

Additional Reference to above links: http://www.kencollins.com/answers/question-27.htm;