After the Recovery of Jayme Closs,
Parents Concerned for Own Children’s Safety
Jayme Closs vanished October 15, 2018 and found alive 88-days later in rural Wisconsin. Photo courtesy WOKV TV.
The recent disappearance of Jayme Closs, 13, and the brutal murder of her parents, gripped the nation for nearly 3 months. Jayme’s abduction, and eventual recovery, has parents now wondering how safe their own children are when traveling to and from school.
On October 15, 2018, Barron Sheriff’s Department received a cell phone call from a local residence but were unable to make contact with the caller. We now know that urgent call came from Denise Closs, 46, just moments before she was brutally murdered in front of her own daughter and just following the murder of her husband James, 56.
Police arrived within minutes of the 911 call made from the home.
When police arrived at the Closs home, outside of Barron, WI, they found both parents deceased from gunshot wounds. Jayme was missing.
For months, law enforcement conducted searches looking for the missing 13-year old, puzzled as to why the perpetrator had murdered both of Jayme’s parents in the home, but not Jayme.
According to Jack Levin, professor and co-director of Northeastern University’s Center on Violence and Conflict, it’s unusual for a double murder to be linked to a missing child case. “You almost never see this,” Levin said.
The Closs home sits along Highway 8, a two-lane highway outside of Barron, surrounded by woods. The highway is the main road through the city and then extends to surrounding areas.
Day, weeks, and months went by with no sign of Jayme, then 88 days after her disappearance Jayme made her escape.
Former Attorney General and Judge Brad Schimel, who led the Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation of the Closs case, says investigators always had reason to believe Jayme was alive.
After her recovery, Jayme told police she could hear sirens seconds after being bound, gagged and kidnapped from her home. We find out now, the suspect, Jake Patterson, 21, even yielded to sheriff deputies when they were speeding to the Closs home. While Police Responded to the crime scene, Patterson made an 80-mile drive back to his home in Gordon, with Jayme in the trunk of his vehicle.
Immediately, Barron County Sheriff called in the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation for help. “Within a matter of a couple hours, we can have 40 to 50 agents at the scene of a major investigation,” said Judge Brad Schimel.
CBS 58 Investigates sat down with Judge Schimel, who left office only four days before Jayme was found. “At what point did you stop thinking she might have been killed that night too?” CBS 58 Investigates asked Judge Schimel. “Well, when she didn’t turn up somewhere in a matter of couple days, then we had great hope,” Judge Schimel replied. He added after two people are so brutally murdered, taking the teen alive would be a liability and only made sense if the perpetrator intended on keeping her.
In addition, with hunting season and thousands of Wisconsin residents in the woods hunting, they had even more hope when there were no discoveries of bodies in the woods.
“We believed someone was holding her, which is not good,” said Judge Schimel. We knew that meant this was a very difficult life for her but being alive is a very good thing.”
According to a criminal complaint filed by investigators, Jayme’s kidnapper decided to abduct her after watching her get on a school bus. He was planning on hiding her at a remote cabin until she escaped on January 12, 2018.
Remote cabin where kidnapper Jake Patterson held Jayme Closs for 88 days. Photo courtesy Fox 11 News.
“At that moment,” he said, “he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” the complaint said.
Patterson went to Jayme’s house two times in the days before abducting her.
On the evening Jayme was abducted, Jayme told police, she was sleeping in her room when the family dog began barking. She woke her parents when she saw a car coming up the driveway.
According to the complaint, Jayme and her mother, Denise, hid in the bathroom. They both heard a gunshot, and she knew her father, James, had been killed.
Denise began calling 911 but Patterson broke down the bathroom door, told her to hang up and directed her to tape Jayme’s mouth shut. When Denise complied, Patterson shot her. Following, Patterson taped Jayme’s hands and ankles and dragged her out to his car, throwing her in the trunk and driving away as sirens began to sound, the complaint said.
Patterson had shaved his face and head as well as showered prior to the attack in an attempt to minimize DNA evidence. He dressed in all black. He took his license plates off his car and put stolen plates on while disconnecting the dome and trunk lights.
He took her to a cabin he claims was his, ordered her into a bedroom and told to take her clothes off, the complaint goes on to say.
He put her clothes in a bag and talked about having no evidence. Whenever he had friends over, he made clear that no one could know she was there or “bad things could happen to her,” so she had to hide under the bed.
He would stack totes, laundry bins and barbell weights around her so she could not move without him noticing. The complaint says Jayme was kept up to 12 hours at a time with no food, water or bathroom breaks.
Jayme escaped after Patterson made her go under the bed and told her he would be gone for five or six hours. Once gone, she pushed the bins away, crawled out, put on a pair of Patterson’s shoes and fled the house.
Barron County Sheriff holds picture of Jake Patterson, arrested for the kidnapping of Jayme Closs. Photo courtesy Mercury News.
Once found, Jayme described Patterson’s vehicle to police, and he was apprehended within 10 minutes of her escape being reported.
What Jayme went through while held, we may never know exactly, as the Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf said he does not anticipate filing charges against Patterson for crimes committed during her time in captivity.
“A prosecutor’s decision whether to file criminal charges involves the consideration of multiple factors, including the existence of other charges and victim-related concerns.”
Patterson faces two counts of intentional homicide, each carrying a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release. Patterson will be back in court Feb 6, for a preliminary hearing.
Estimates of Missing Children Abducted by Strangers
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates approximately 100 children are abducted by strangers every year. Referred to as a “stereotypical kidnapping,” the United States Department of Justice defines this type of kidnapping as 1) the victim is under the age of 18-years old, 2) the kidnapper is either a stranger or “slight acquaintance,” 3) the abduction involves moving the victim at least 20 feet or detaining them for at least one hour, and 4) the victim is either held for ransom, transported at least 50 miles, detained overnight, held with an intent to keep permanently, or killed.
While this may seem like a relatively low number of children abducted by strangers, it still amounts to thousands of children who, over the years, have been entered into the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and never been found.
In fact, during the months of January 2018 and May 2018, there were 3,468 children entered into NCIC as Involuntary. This missing person category includes cases of children who police have determined were taken involuntarily, but not enough evidence to make a determination if they were taken by strangers. *Source FBI NCIC Report
According to the FBI NCIC Report for May 31, 2018, there were 14,714 active missing child cases in the United States. Some of these cases date back 30 years and remain active because the missing child has never been found.
The Closs case may be unique in many respects but is not alone.
The Disappearance of Jaycee Dugard
It was June 10, 1991, in the peaceful town of Meyers, California, an unincorporated community in El Dorado County. Meyers sits along Route 50 in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains just 6 miles south of Lake Tahoe.
Jaycee Dugard vanished from her northern California bus stop on June 10, 1991 and found alive 18 years later. Photo courtesy of NMCO
Jaycee Dugard, 11, sporting pink tights and a white shirt with a printed “kitty cat” on the front, was walking from her home to a school bus stop when she was abducted.
As her stepfather, Carl Probyn, watched Jaycee walk up the hill to the bus stop something horrifying happened. Suddenly, a gray car stopped next to Jaycee. Through the window, Probyn saw an unidentified man roll down his car window and begin speaking to his stepdaughter.
Suddenly, Jaycee fell to the ground while a woman jumped out of the car and carried the fifth-grader into the car.
Probyn would tell police he had witnessed Jaycee’s kidnapping and actually gave chase with his mountain bike. Searches began immediately after Jaycee’s disappearance but generated no reliable leads despite the abduction being witnessed by a family member and the vehicle being described as a Mercury Monarch.
El Dorado Sheriff’s deputies, along with California Highway Patrol search for Jaycee after she was abducted by strangers while walking to her school bus stop in 1991. Photo courtesy CBS News.
Years passed, but Jaycee’s family never gave up hope they would find her, passing out tens of thousands of fliers and extensive national news coverage. The town of Meyers was even covered in pink ribbons to honor Jaycee’s favorite color.
In August 2009, convicted sex offender Philip Garrido, visited the Berkeley Campus at the University of California, accompanied by two young children. He was there to lobby for permission to lead a special event at the campus as part of his “God’s Desire Church” program. His unusual behavior at the meeting sparked an investigation that led Garrido’s parole officer to order him to take the two young girls to a parole office in Concord, Calif., on August 26, 2009. It was later ordered Garrido’s house be searched by police.
Area behind kidnapper Philip Garrido’s home where missing child Jaycee Dugard was found 18 years after her disappearance. Photo courtesy NY Daily News.
Police searched Garrido’s home in Antioch, Calif., near Oakland, approximately 3 hours southwest of Meyers, where Jaycee had vanished from 18 years earlier.
That incident led to the discovery of Jaycee who had been kidnapped by Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido in 1991. For 18 years, Jaycee, age 29 when found, had been kept in concealed tents, a shed, and lean-tos, in an area behind the Garrido’s house in Antioch, Calif.
Garrido, a sociopath, and pedophile had kidnapped and raped a woman named Katherine Callaway Hall in 1976. He had also abducted Katherine from South Salt Lake Tahoe in a very similar manner to Jaycee’s kidnapping. Garrido was on parole for Katherine’s kidnapping when police stumbled upon Jaycee. She was alive.
In 1991, at Jaycee’s bus stop, Garrido had shocked Jaycee with a stun gun, she remembers feeling a tingling sensation and falling to the ground. Nancy Garrido acted as her husband’s accomplice scouting for young girls for her husband and the one who picked Jaycee up off the ground transporting her to the car on the day they abducted her.
During the 3-hour ride to Garrido’s home, Jaycee remembers falling in and out of consciousness and heard Nancy laughing saying, “I can’t believe we got away with this!” Knowing she was in danger, Jaycee had no way of knowing the hell, life was about to become.
Soundproof shed where missing child Jaycee Dugard was held captive in for 18 years, in Antioch, California. Photo courtesy BBC.
Once they arrived at the Garrido’s home, the pair forced Dugard to strip naked, with the exception of a butterfly ring she was wearing. They then blindfolded Jaycee and placed her in a soundproof shed he had in the backyard where he raped her for the first time, just 11 years old.
For the first week, Jaycee was kept handcuffed in the isolated shed, but things would get much worse.
A few weeks into the ordeal, Garrido brought Jaycee a TV but she was never allowed to watch the news because they did not want her to see the news frenzy surrounding her disappearance. She was only allowed to watch shows of people selling jewelry and found their voices calming, helping her sleep.
Frequently, Garrido would go on 24-hour methamphetamine binges which resulted in rape marathons. He would tell Jaycee dogs were outside the shed to scare her or tell her he was going to place her inside of a cage to keep her fearful of escaping.
While alone, Jaycee kept a journal to deal with her pain and wrote about how she wanted to see her mom. She always ended the note with her name “Jaycee” and a little heart beside. Nancy found the journal and forced Jaycee to tear out all of the pages with her name on them. It was the last time Jaycee was allowed to write or say her own name.
While in captivity Jaycee would give birth to two daughters. The first at age 13 who she named Angel. Jaycee would later explain that once giving birth she never felt alone again.
Jaycee gave birth to her second daughter “Starlit” in 1997.
She now had two daughters to protect.
Even while living in the worst of circumstances Jaycee managed to plant flowers and build a little school outside the shed where she homeschooled her daughters with her fifth-grade education.
For years, the three lived behind the 8-foot fences Garrido had built around his home to keep potential peeping neighbors at bay.
When Garrido had shown up at the campus that fateful day in August 2009 with two little girls, both “submissive and sullen,” Lisa Campbell, the special event s coordinator was concerned and asked him to return the following day. Garrido left his name on a form and left the campus. Campbell then informed an officer who conducted a background check on Garrido and discovered he was a registered sex offender on federal parole for kidnap and rape.
The wheels were now set in motion that would crack the decade’s long-missing child case wide open.
2009, the piece of paper Jaycee Dugard wrote her name on telling police officers who she is. Photo courtesy of NMCO.
Over the years, Jaycee had been directed by Garrido to tell people she was the girl’s big sister and to have Jaycee’s daughters refer to himself and Nancy as mom and dad. When questioned by officers, at first, Jaycee told them her name was Alyssa, claiming to be an abused mother from Michigan who had ran from a domestic violence situation to protect her daughters and living with the Garridos. Not buying the story, officers continued talking to her trying to glean more information. Eventually, Jaycee relaxed and would write her name on a piece of paper. Sliding it to police it said, “Jaycee Lee Dugard.”
Officers immediately asked her if she wanted to call her mom which she replied in disbelief, “Can I call my mom?” Jaycee’s first words to her mother in 18 years were “Come quick!”
Garrido pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Dugard and sentenced to 431 years to life at Corcoran State Prison and Nancy Garrido was sentenced to 36 years to life.
Jaycee is now the author of A Stolen Life: A Memoir and lives with her two daughters, reveling in her freedom.
While Jaycee Dugard and Jayme Closs were recovered, some children have not been so lucky.
Disappearance of Etan Patz
Etan Patz, 6, walked out of his New York City home in 1979 headed for his school bus stop just two blocks away in 1979 – and he’s never been found.
It was the last day of school before Memorial Day weekend. Etan had asked his parents to let him walk alone the short way to the bus stop for the first time. He carried his book bag and had a dollar to buy a soda at the corner deli on the way.
His parents were not aware of Etan’s disappearance until he had not returned from school. They would later find out the young boy had never made it to school.
Etan Patz vanished May 25, 1979 in NYC on his way to his school bus stop.
Police set up a Command Center at the Patz Manhattan apartment and began conducting ground searches and going door to door, but no solid leads have developed over the years that have led police closer to finding out what happened to him.
His disappearance rocked New York City and to this day haunts the law enforcement officers who have spent decades trying to find him. “Every missing child case is very important, but this was one of the oldest ones we had,” says NYPD Lieutenant Chris Zimmerman.
Etan was the first child placed on a milk carton, hundreds of thousands of fliers blanketed the country and countless new stories, all to no avail.
Etan’s disappearance became more than a missing person’s case but changed the way parents watched over their kids.
With stories like Etan’s and Jaycee, along with the recent disappearance and recovery of Jayme Closs by a predator who targeted her after watching her board a school bus, parents are again wondering what they can do to keep their children safe.
Safety 101 – Walking to and from school
Parents struggle with many things when it comes to the safety and security of their children. One question a parent may ask is how old is old enough to begin walking to and from school or to a bus stop alone.
There has been a huge drop in the number of kids who walk or ride their bike to school regularly. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, in 1969, 48% of K-8 grade walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, only 13% do.
While pedestrian injury rates are down since 1995 – mostly due to improvements made to traffic infrastructure, implementing the use of crossing guards and sidewalks, there are no statistics that allow for us to know the dangers of how many children are approached by strangers. How many predators are out there targeting our kids? Though statistically, the chances are relatively minimal your child will ever be abducted by a stranger, it does not lessen our responsibility as parents to protect them and prepare them for anything that “could” happen.
Gavin DeBeckers, author of “The Gift of Fear” and one of the leading experts on predicting and managing violence says there is no magic age when kids can walk or bike to and from school or bus stop.
You and only you can make the final decision on when your child is ready to walk alone. However, you can expect to see other children beginning this walk around age 9 to 11. DeBeckers says it depends upon cognitive skills, the ability to follow directions and reasoning, directing parents to ask themselves the following questions:
- Does your child honor his feelings? If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, that’s an important signal your child should react to.
- Does your child know when it’s okay to rebuff and/or defy adults?
- Does your child know it’s okay to be assertive?
- Does your child know it’s okay to ask for help?
- Does your child know how to choose who to ask?
- Does your child know how to describe his peril?
- Does your child know it is okay to strike, even injure, someone if he believes he’s in danger?
- Does your child know it’s okay to make noise, scream and run?
- Does your child know that is someone tries to force him to go somewhere, what he screams should include, “This is not my father?”
- Does your child know if someone tells them not to scream, the thing to do is to scream?
- Does your child know to make EVERY effort to resist going anywhere with someone he doesn’t know?
These questions should apply to your children of any age, even older children are vulnerable to abduction. Keeping in mind, Jaycee Dugard was abducted within the view of her parent, it is important to evaluate the route your child will take and choose the safe route between home and the bus stop/ and or school and practice walking it with your child until he demonstrates awareness.
Remind your children to:
- Stick to well-traveled streets, using the same route every day and always avoid shortcuts.
- Don’t wear clothes or shoes that restrict movement.
- Carry backpacks and bags close to their body.
- Don’t speak to strangers and ALWAYS tell a trusted school official, teacher, store clerk, policeman or another adult if someone has made them feel uncomfortable.
- Teach them to remember specific things about cars and people.
- Let them have a cell phone for emergencies (these can also be tracked by installing a simple and free App called Life 360), which is a locator, messaging and communication app. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Having children walk to and from school or a bus stop has its risks as well as benefits. We all know the risks. However, it is an important milestone in your child’s life and with that comes a sense of independence that comes with being permitted to walk alone or with friends to school or the bus stop. A sense of independence that they will carry throughout their lives and hindering that could stunt this important growth spurt of maturity.
Remember, we can provide our children with tools to keep themselves safe but the tools we teach them early on can also get them through the hardest of times in life.
In the case of both Jayme Closs and Jaycee Dugard, they relied on their innermost strength to survive the most horrific of circumstances. As parents, that’s all we can hope for.
As the Western idealization of a family unit continues to grow and change, more and more parents are either opting to place their child for adoption or adopt themselves rather than have a biological child. As such, adoptions are on the rise. The Adoption Network estimates the number of children in foster care at any given time in the United States is around 428,000. Of that staggering number, about 135,000 are adopted every year. Children are put up for adoption under a wide umbrella of circumstances in varying degrees of frequency, but what is not uncommon is a child’s adolescent or adult curiosity about the exact nature of where they came from. Because adoption agencies have their own privacy restrictions regarding birth parents, adopted children are often left with only a few meager details and options. Private investigators, however, are well-equipped to find a child’s birth parents; with a comprehensive tool chest and a wealth of experience in searching for persons who may or may not want to be found.
The rate at which information technology is developing has been denoted by some as Orwellian, but the ubiquity of public databases and fact-finding software available to the public is higher than ever. Hiring a private investigator may be costlier to the individual than conducting the search oneself, but without the proper tools and expertise, individuals can follow false leads and dead ends for years at the cost of their time and personal finances. Private investigators, especially ones who specialize in locating biological relatives, can cut down the time and expense individuals would ultimately incur during their search. The complexity of adoption laws and procedures (often varying state-to-state) is a knot of cable wires that is difficult for any private citizen to untangle.
Private investigators with a variety of specialties are suited for this work because there is no chain of command in their business. Most notably, private investigators are often their own bosses, with the freedom to pick and choose the cases they want to focus on. Unlike the underpaid, overworked civil servants who work in child services, or the overwhelmed agents at an adoption agency, private investigators only handle less than a half-dozen cases at one time, so an adoption case will not just become another folder in a tall, precariously leaning pile on someone’s desk. There are no jurisdictional boundaries preventing a private investigator from going across state lines, as long as they are licensed in the state or being contracted by a private investigator who is licensed in the state. While there are limitations to what information can be gathered from the state based on the birth-parents wishes, the autonomy of a private investigator is ideal for tracking down either birth parents, or children who have been placed for adoption.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway estimates, of all parents placing their biological children for adoption, nearly half of those parents will then seek out those children after they have reached adulthood. Parents in search of a biological child always have a search advantage as the legal adult at the time of the adoption. They play a pivotal role in establishing the boundaries that might preclude this child from ever contacting them again in the future. Depending on the terms of the adoption agreement, the adoption agency may not be able to release information about anonymous birth parents to their biological children.
The privacy laws surrounding adoption in the United States date back to the beginning of the 20th century, and were put in place to protect the privacy and identity of all parties involved in an adoption. It’s only in recent years that the Adoption Information Act has made it possible for both parents and children to request information about the other in situations where all of the aforementioned parties have waived their right to privacy. Adoption laws have also gone through a metamorphosis in recent decades where parents are required to fill out detailed medical histories for the benefit of the child’s physical and mental health growing up. In addition to information about their own birth (date, location, hospital), a birth parent’s medical background might be the only information an adopted child possesses.
Locating a birth parent or child is a form of investigation known as a skip trace. “Skip” refers to the action of searching for a person, derived from an old colloquialism, “to skip town,” or leave with very little notice or instruction. Trace refers to the process and resources involved in finding the person, such as international online databases, surveillance, and location technology and services. Skip traces in adoption cases can go both ways: A child in search of their birth parents, or a birth parent in search of the child they placed. Private investigators who take adoption skip traces have a mountain of data to sift through, including adoption registries, religion-related services (such as options offered through the Catholic church) and a mountain of databases, including—but not limited to—welfare, child protective services, private adoption agency, foster care, police, court, hospital, and international records.
Depending on the level of information available to either a birth parent or biological child (and subsequently the investigator) adoption cases can have a mixed bag of possible results. In scenarios where a private investigator is unable to find a birth parent, it’s typically because there is not enough information on the record to begin with. Because of varying degrees of regulation across all adoption agencies (both state and private), the level of information and quality of record keeping is a crap-shoot, and investigators often hit dead ends in those types of investigations. In other circumstances, after many long hours of research and investigation, the private investigator is able to locate the birth child or parent, only to report back to the client the subject in question has no desire to reunite with them in any fashion. These are solutions often unsatisfactory to the client, but it is a difficult reality, and the client will have some semblance of closure regarding their questions about the subject. However, in the event private investigators locate the birth child or parent, and the subject is willing to re-initiate contact, private investigators can be ideal liaisons to bringing biological parents and children together in adulthood. They can alleviate some of the most common anxieties surrounding meeting strangers, and have experience with reconnecting displaced parties that will inform a gradual process of reestablishing contact.
Life has an infinite potential to get messy very quickly, and a child being placed for adoption is one of the consequences of the indeterminate. Fortunately, private investigators not only have the sleuth skills to find persons under all circumstances, but an acute ability to read people that benefits the precarious nature of the cases they take on. When a birth parent and child are open to meeting again under more pleasant circumstances, private investigators can build strong bridges across decades of separation, confusion, and curiosity.
Indianapolis, Indiana is home to many impressive things. The city of over 800,000 is most famous throughout the country as home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to a rich visual and performing arts culture, it’s also home to the nation’s largest children’s museum. Families across the United States cheer for one of two major sports franchises based in Indianapolis: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. It’s also home to one of the country’s best private investigators.
Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, Lauth Investigations International has specialized in complex corporate, financial, and private investigations worldwide. It is one of many private investigation firms based in Indiana’s capital. Given recent crime data, Indianapolis is a city where a well of clientele may never run dry. One of the areas of criminal investigation most associated with private investigators is missing persons and violent crime, so it’s no a wonder why so many private investigators have set up shop in Indianapolis, with violent crime on the rise.
Relative to its size and population, Indianapolis is comparable to Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina. Portland has a crime rate of 227 per every 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average crime rate. North Carolina experiences a higher than average crime rate of 441 per every 100,000 people. As of 2016, Indianapolis’ reported crime rate was 823.2 per every 100,000 people. A CBS News report ranking dangerous cities placed Indianapolis as the 12th in the nation, citing the violent crime rate at more than three times the national average.
News media is saturated with headlines concerning violent crimes committed against Hoosiers, so it was a surprise to most when the FBI reported crime was actually down 10% from 2016 to 2017, especially burglaries and robberies which were down 17%. Violence—especially gun violence—however, is climbing. As of October 1st, 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had investigated 127 homicides and 109 murders, with 12% of those cases attributed to robbery. The recent murder of Tykece Mike-Jones is a tragic example. He was killed over a cell phone he was attempting to sell to a person he contacted through the internet—another in a string of killings IMPD has been putting on blast to warn citizens. According to the FBI, 2017 was the third record-breaking year for crime statistics in Indianapolis, and stats from the first half of this year have projected 2018 will be no different. Law enforcement attributes the overall drop in crime to the increased ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the metropolitan area.
Firms like Lauth Investigations International can assist in many types of criminal investigation. Just as in the case of violent crimes, private investigators combine the skills of law enforcement and the autonomy of a private citizen to conduct concurrent or independent investigations into a person who vanishes under any circumstances. But not all missing persons cases are the result of a person meeting a violent end. As “the crossroads of America,” Indianapolis experiences a moderate to high level of human trafficking. One of the most complex issues in human trafficking is tracking traffickers across multiple jurisdictions as they transport victims from city to city. Law enforcement can often be handcuffed by jurisdictional issues, but private investigators use their autonomy to pole vault over this red tape in pursuit of leads that might otherwise go cold. Due to his experience in complex missing persons investigations, private investigator, Thomas Lauth has worked with Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and other foreign embassies on a myriad of cases, including human trafficking.
Indianapolis private investigators are not limited to cases of violent crime and missing persons, however. Every major metropolitan area will always have cases dealing with infidelity or child custody, but private investigators based in Indianapolis have ample opportunity to service local businesses with their skill-set. Indianapolis is home to a diversified body of businesses, but its five top industries are:
- Real estate
Many business owners—especially small business owners—often are not aware of how a private investigator’s services can protect, or even save, their companies. Every business needs valued employees, and finding the right person can often be an arduous task. The candidate might be qualified, but how much about their record can be independently verified? Hiring a private investigator to do background checks for employees will ensure that any verification of their qualifications will be vetted. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many employers are making independent background checks a regular step of their hiring process in order to weed out potential predators in their workforce. All types of business can experience the full spectrum of employee theft (from vanishing office supplies to full-on embezzlement), violation of non-compete agreements, and offenses under the umbrella of employee malingering, including FMLA abuse. The independent involvement of a private investigator in the investigation of any employee misconduct will lay a strong foundation for any HR or legal consequences, ensuring that the investigation is thorough and objective from beginning to end. Kristen Justis, the Managing Director of Client Relations for Lauth Investigations International, commented on the role Lauth can play in bolstering local business, “We have a wealth of opportunities to help private citizens every day. We help frantic parents find their missing child, or put a spouse’s suspicions of infidelity at ease, but those are the cases that sensationalize this industry. Many business owners are not aware of how the services we offer can go a long way towards extending the longevity of their businesses.”
Every major industry operating in Indianapolis can rely on the services of a private investigator to protect their business—not just from its own workforce, but potential consumers as well. Finance, insurance, and real estate of all kinds can benefit from a comprehensive vetting of a consumer after their request for services. Financial institutions and insurance brokers may check a consumer’s credit, but a full background check on an applicant can sharpen the big picture when making a cost-benefit analysis regarding any transaction. In the housing industry, any landlord renting or leasing their property can be fully informed about their tenants when they employ a private investigator to run a background check. An analysis of Indianapolis’s economy by the Indianapolis Business Journal concluded that the apartment booms the city experienced were driven largely by empty-nesters and childless millennials, projecting that it would only continue to grow.
Indianapolis already has a national economical reputation for developing and sustaining niche markets, such as the market around motorsports and auto-racing. As the metropolis continues to grow in population and economy, so will the opportunities for Indy-based private investigators to support their community.
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website.
With sexual assault allegations dominating recent news cycles, Americans are further developing their figurative picture of what it’s like for a survivor of sexual assault to come forward with allegations against their abuser. When a survivor comes forward, they are subjected to scrutiny, libel/slander, and fierce criticism from private citizens like themselves about how they should have handled the situation. Knowing that, it’s not incomprehensible that rage continues to fester in the communities affected by the Larry Nassar investigation and the USA Olympic Gymnastics organization’s glacial response time to allegations against him.
Nassar is currently in federal prison serving a 60-year sentence for possession of child pornography, which is a blip compared to the sentences he received from the judges in Ingham and Eaton County, both ranging from 40 years to as long as 175 years. More than 330 women and girls have come forward claiming to be a survivor of Nassar’s abuse. His sentence came after Nassar pled guilty to possession of child pornography and sexual misconduct with the young gymnasts he treated at the famous Karolyi Ranch in Texas. Sarah Jantzi was Maggie Nichols’ coach at the time—Maggie’s allegations of abuse against Nassar are considered some of the first in the string of gymnasts who came forward after the Nassar investigations became public. Jantzi reported her concerns about Nassar to USAG after she overheard Maggie and another gymnast discussing whether Nassar’s practices were considered “normal.”
Nassar treated Maggie for a knee injury, during which he insisted on examining her groin area. He did not wear gloves, and took pains to close the door and the blinds before beginning the examination. Jantzi also contacted Maggie’s mother, Gina Nichols, who told IndyStar, “It was nothing you’d expect in a million years. I mean, I’m sending my minor daughter the last four years, one week a month, down to the Ranch to train. So proud. She’s on the USA team. Working so hard. Our family making all these sacrifices. It’s just—you wouldn’t even think this is something that would have ever happened.”
USA Gymnastics officials waited a jaw-dropping 41 days to report Nassar to police after the first hearing regarding Jantzis concerns. It’s a bad look, and to make matters worse, the organization did not inform Michigan State, where Nassar also worked with young athletes until late summer in 2016. The notoriety of some of the survivors drew a great deal of media attention when the investigation became public, and while much of the country currently associates mention of the USAG with sexual abuse allegations, the reality is this culture of silence and abuse is not unique to the USA gymnastics team. Katherine Starr, a former Olympic swimmer and abuse victim who founded Safe4Athletes, a nonprofit organization working to address and prevent abuse told the Chicago Tribune, “We’re hearing all about gymnastics, but the problems in gymnastics are equally as prevalent in every other sport…I think people are starting to understand the complexity of this, and how this stays in the system…It stays in the system because of governance, because of the people in charge.”
Just this week, two divers for the USA Diving team have filed lawsuits against their former coach, John Wingfield, claiming his academy ignored complaints against a coach under his supervision, Johel Ramirez Suarez. The divers claim the organization had knowledge of Suarez’s alleged predation prior to Suarez sexually assaulting them both. Suarez was eventually arrested in Hamilton County, Indiana in November of 2017 and was subsequently charged with 32 felony counts of child sexual abuse, earning him a spot on the USA Diving teams banned list. Even after USAG had reported Larry Nassar to the FBI (13 months after the initial hearing), they still did add his name to that list.
In a review of documents and data pertaining to the organizations governing the sports, the Washington Post revealed since 1982, there have been over 290 coaches and officials affiliated with American Olympic sports who have been accused of sexual misconduct. That number covers 15 different Olympic sports, and includes both individuals who have been convicted of their crimes and individuals who have never had to answer for the allegations made against them. The figure averages out to one official being accused of sexual misconduct every six weeks for over 35 years. If the Nassar case tells us anything about how Olympic organizations might have typically responded to abuse allegations, it’s not a mystery how a culture of abuse and silence was cultivated as many attempts to investigate the abuse were swept under the proverbial AstroTurf.
Survivors like Aly Raisman have called out USA Gymnastics, claiming that they were more concerned about guaranteeing gold medals that protecting their young athletes. “I don’t think that they cared at all. I think at first it was to ‘get him away,’ Nassar away from the Olympians, but when it was about a 10-year-old, or a 15-year-old, or a 20-year-old in Michigan they didn’t care,” Raisman told the Indy Star. That much is apparent from emails between Nassar’s legal counsel and USAG officials, in which the Olympic organization clearly took part in the effort to conceal the Nassar investigation from athletes and from the public. Aly Raisman also told IndyStar that she received a text message from the former USA Gymnastics President, Steve Penny in July of 2017, advising her that the first priority was keeping the investigation “quiet and confidential.” It would have saved many survivors like Kaylee Lorincz a great deal of pain if the organization had made allegations against Nassar public. While under investigation, Nassar treated Lorincz twice after Sarah Jantzi notified USAG about her concerns. Lorincz says that she was abused both times by the sports medicine “celebrity,” and lamented, “It could have saved many more if they could have just stopped him in 2015. It makes me angry and upset because it could have prevented so much.”
At this time, it’s difficult to determine the motives of the USOC and how they reacted to allegations against Nassar and other officials who have been accused of sexual misconduct with athletes. Did they do so out of ignorance or apathy? Or was this a focused effort to erode investigations into these allegations all together? A recent Washington Post article called for law enforcement and state attorneys to open investigations into other USA Olympic teams and organizations. John Manly, an attorney who represents many survivors of Nassar’s abuse told the publication:
“The most amazing thing about this evolution is that no one has executed a search warrant on USA Gymnastics and no one has executed one on the USOC…If anyone deserves a search warrant given the evidence to date, it’s them. If you believe these Olympic gold medalists, then [USA Gymnastics] violated the reporting laws in Indiana. I mean, why haven’t you done something?”
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