In a few short weeks, it will have been two months since five-year-old Lucas Hernandez was last seen in his Wichita home. The search following his disappearance has been frustrating and fruitless, as investigators involved with the case remain stymied, leaving friends, family, and even strangers on the internet to provide their own armchair detective theories about what happened to the missing boy.
Lucas was last seen on March 17th, 2018 in his bedroom in the home of his father, Johnathan Hernandez. On the day Lucas disappeared, Hernandez left him in the care of his stepmother, Emily Glass, 26.
According to police reports, Glass checked on Lucas at 3:00 PM in his room. She then took a shower and fell asleep. When she awoke to find Lucas missing, she called Wichita police to report his disappearance. at approximately 6:15 PM.
The investigation into Lucas’s disappearance led investigators to uncover an unrelated child-endangerment complaint filed against Glass the day before the five-year-old went missing. The complaint concerns Lucas and his one-year-old sister, claiming Glass “unlawfully, knowingly and unreasonably caused or permitted a one-year-old child to be placed in a station in which the child’s life, body or health may be endangered.” The charge regarding Lucas’s safety was eventually dropped.
Friends, neighbors, and even family close to the investigation have told both law enforcement and media outlets of their suspicions that Lucas and his sister were being abused, having cited photographs of bruises on Lucas’s body, and statements by Lucas to family that Glass had beaten him and dragged him across the floor. Despite pleas with an arraignment judge to lower her $50,000 bond, Glass still remains in jail.
Since details alleging child abuse have surfaced, Hernandez has responded with frustration, feeling that a discussion about the possibility of child abuse is distracting law enforcement from finding his son. He told KAKE-TV, “Now, if you want to bring that up later that’s fine. That’s a whole separate issue. I think it’s taking away from what’s happening and I don’t appreciate it. Not from my family, not from strangers. “When asked for some perspective about how this could have happened, Johnathan Hernandez told Brenda Carrasco of KWCH12 in Wichita, “I’ve been fully cooperative and I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me and I think anybody that knows me knows the kind of person I am or the kind of father I am. I think if they did, I don’t think they would ever say anything about me or my family.”
Jamie Orr, the boy’s biological mother, was involved in the original grid search for her son that spanned several local parks, desperate for confidential tips that might lead to her son’s safe return. However, her interactions in her personal relationships and social media have led both family and strangers alike to believe that she might know more about her son’s disappearance. Her ex-boyfriend, Robert Cook, has alleged in screenshots from text messages and posts on social media that Orr had a plan to kidnap her son and elope with Hernandez.
Unfortunately for those praying for Lucas’s safe return, the investigation has slowed to a crawl. Police officially closed the tip-line regarding the Hernandez case on March 12th. In addition to the investigation conducted by Wichita police, they have also given permission for a Texas-based search and recovery team known as Texas EquuSearch, to begin their own search as of March 2nd. The team has used the boats, ATVs, and sonar equipment at their disposal to assist in over 1700 missing person cases, including the high-profile disappearance of Natalee Holloway. The team’s founder, Tim Miller, empathizes with the missing boy’s parents, as his own daughter, Laura, was missing for seventeen months before her body was recovered many years ago. He told ABC News, “I remember every minute of that seventeen months—of the helplessness, the hopelessness, the loneliness, and I just made a promise to God that I’d never leave a family alone if there was anything I could do, and here we are.”
Lucas was born Dec. 3, 2012, has brown hair and brown eyes, is about 4 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds. He was last seen wearing black sweats, white socks and a gray shirt with a bear on it. As the original tip line has been closed, investigators ask that anyone with information that might lead to Lucas’s safe return to call detectives at 316-268-4407 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.
Photo courtesy of Cuito Cuanavale, Flickr
The recent surge of undocumented children entering the United States has brought up several issues, one of which is human trafficking. With so many minors coming in unaccompanied, many are worried that the children will become victims of this growing problem. Although slavery seems to be a thing of the past, the number of trafficked humans is much larger than it was centuries ago and continues to rapidly increase worldwide. Part of the problem is lack of awareness and the disbelief that slavery could occur, especially in the Western world. “No country is immune,” warns the United Nations, “whether as a source, a destination or a transit point for victims of human trafficking.”
Although the exact number of victims is unknown, researchers estimate the amount of trafficked people to be between 12.3-25 million worldwide. Some are forced into unpaid labor, working in dangerous conditions for little to no pay. Others become victims of sexual exploitation, forced to become prostitutes and earn money for a pimp. Unsurprisingly, the biggest motive for trafficking humans is money. According to experts, the total market value of human trafficking is $32 billion, with nearly a third of that amount coming from the actual sale of victims (United Nations).
Trafficking in the United States
Despite the official abolishing of slavery in 1865, thousands of people are still trafficked within the United State’s borders. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 300,000 children become victims of sexual exploitation alone. Many of them are runaways or were abducted from their homes. One in three teens are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home (National Runaway Hotline). And once a child or teenager is trafficked, especially across country or state borders, it can become much more difficult to find them .
Even though the outlook seems grim, many non-profit organizations and government agencies have begun to battle this epidemic. Recently, the FBI rescued nearly 170 child victims of sex trafficking and arrested 281 pimps (CBS News). Many of these children were never even reported missing, and could very well still be on the streets if not for the FBI’s crackdown. The Bureau’s Innocence Lost program has identified and recovered almost 3,600 children who were victims of sexual exploitation since its start in 2003.
Hiring a Private Investigator
Despite the efforts of the FBI and other agencies, around 2,300 people still go missing in the United States each day (Crime Library). Because the amount of missing persons cases is so high, many families choose to look for outside help. A private investigator will work with the family and friends of a missing person and help generate leads for law enforcement. Private eyes have the time and resources to focus on a specific case, and those that have experience finding missing children know what signs to look for. “What is the PI going to do that the police won’t? He is going to keep on searching,” says Jerrie Dean of Missing Persons of America. “He is getting paid to find the person, not the reason they left.”
According to Dean, hiring a private investigator can help even if the person isn’t found right away. “He brings that information back to the family, the family tells the media, the media reports it and then the police are renewed and following a new lead to [the victim],” says Dean. Part of the problem with missing persons cases is publicity. Too often, the media only broadcasts photos of missing people that will gain the most viewers, and eventually the attention peters out. Keeping a case alive can be the driving force in finding a missing person.
Drive-by shooting epic fail: Forgetting to roll down your car window before you start shooting from the driver’s seat. Whoops.
Andrew J. Burwitz, 20, of Appleton, Wis., allegedly tried to do a drive-by shooting at the home of his ex-girlfriend’s family and another random house. Police found him because he failed to roll down his car window and shattered it when he made the first shot.
He was charged Wednesday with four counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, four counts of endangering safety by reckless use of a firearm, disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.
More from the Appleton Post-Crescent:
According to court documents, the occupants of the house in the Town of Buchanan were awakened about 2 a.m. Monday to the sounds of breaking glass.
They saw a car driving off and found two bullets had struck the exterior of the house and three had entered the living room. None of the four people in the house was injured. The ex-girlfriend was attending school out of state.
Sheriff’s deputies examining the area found broken auto glass in the street, and, later that day, contacted area auto glass repair shops and found Burwitz had his car window replaced after filing an insurance claim.
Burwitz had been drinking heavily that night. But seriously, you still forgot to roll down the window? Boggles our mind.