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.
It is said, ambiguous loss is the most traumatic of human experiences, and when someone you love goes missing, it is a trauma unlike any other.
Ambiguous loss occurs without understanding or closure, leaving a person searching for answers. Ambiguous loss confounds the process of grieving, leaving a person with prolonged unresolved grief and deep emotional trauma.
Ambiguous loss can be classified in two categories, psychological and physical. Psychological and physical loss differ in terms of what and why exactly the person is grieving.
Physical ambiguous loss means the body of a loved is no longer present, such as a missing person or unrecovered body, resulting from war, a catastrophe such as 9/11 or kidnapping, but the person is still remembered psychologically because there is still a chance the person may return. Such is the case with a missing person. This type of loss results in trauma and can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Psychological Loss is a type of loss that is a result of a loved one still physically present, but psychologically absent. Psychological loss can occur when the brain of a loved one is affected, such as traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease.
When a person goes missing, loved ones are left with more questions than answers, leaving them searching, not only for the missing person but for answers.
Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Pauline Boss is a pioneer who has studied ambiguous loss since 1973, and her decades of research have revealed those who suffer from ambiguous loss without finality, face a particularly difficult burden. Whether it is the experience of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, or someone awaiting the fate of a family member who has disappeared under suspicious circumstances or a disastrous event such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, the loss is magnified because it is linked to lack of closure.
Those experiencing ambiguous loss find it difficult to understand, cope and almost impossible to move forward with their lives without professional counseling, love and support.
Experiencing grief is a vital part of healing, but ambiguous loss stalls the process of grieving, sometimes indefinitely. With the possibility a missing person may be alive, individuals are confounded as to how to cope.
Parents and family members of missing persons say there is no such thing as closure. Dr. Pauline Boss says the idea of closure can lead us astray – it’s a myth that needs to be set aside, like accepting the idea grief has five linear stages and we simply come out the other side and done with it.
Five Stages of Grief
It is widely accepted there are five stages of grief:
While many helpful programs are focused on these various stages, they are not necessarily experienced on order, nor are they inclusive to other issues that commonly arise, and they certainly do not include what a family experiences when a loved one goes missing.
In my nearly 30 years working with families of missing persons and unsolved homicides, I have witnessed all stages of grief and ambiguity, finding the profound effects of a loved one going missing is multi-generational and all encompassing.
Family members of missing persons must live with people’s misconception that the individual or family must move on. Like PTSD flashbacks, a missing loved one is a traumatic event that does not end, and each life event is a reminder the individual, is gone without a trace.
Those of us who have never experienced having a loved one disappear, tend to react to situations using our own experiences and may relate the disappearance of an individual to the death of someone we have loved passing away. The problem is, with a missing person there is no place to grieve, to visit, no physical body to mourn.
Constant daily uncertainty is a major source of stress, emotionally, physically, psychologically and with a missing person, the uncertainty does not dissipate. When others expect one to move on, they commonly do not understand circumstances simply do not allow it.
It is not uncommon for families to experience all phases of ambiguous loss taking a toll both physically and mentally. While I was there to help, I often found myself the one who was thankful as I was blessed to see and meet, the most amazing, strong, and courageous individuals. Getting to know these families made me face my own vulnerability and the fact this can happen to any family.
The most moving of my recollections is of a young mother who had gone missing under suspicious circumstances. Her mother had contacted me and knew something terrible had happened to her daughter, insistent police needed to investigate more aggressively.
She had been missing a year during Christmas of 2002. Her mother called me to discuss her daughter’s case and told me that her granddaughter had written a letter to Santa and wanted to read it to me.
The little girl wrote:
“Dear Santa, I am not writing you for toys this year. The only thing I want for Christmas is for my Mommy to come home.”
My heart broke for this little girl. Little did I know, fast forward fifteen years later, I would be having a conversation with the same child. She had grown into a beautiful young lady and miraculously living a normal life despite growing up without her mother who remains missing. Not all are so fortunate.
Sometimes we forget how many people are impacted when a loved one goes missing. Children of missing persons, siblings, grandparents, parents, and other family and friends. The impact is immeasurable on the family structure and one needing to be studied further. What we do know, is the trauma of ambiguous loss affects everyone differently and a family can quickly spiral out of control without immediate intervention.
When a person goes missing, children are displaced, families can suffer financially due to loss of income or assets becoming tied up in the legal process, siblings of missing persons, children especially, face numerous obstacles when being raised in a household where ongoing trauma is occurring and they must live in the shadow of someone no longer there.
With missing children, parents are faced with the “not knowing” on a day to day basis. When an adult child goes missing, parents are not only left with the “not knowing”, they also face the possibility of raising their grandchildren.
As with the young girl who I watched grow up, her grandmother somehow found the courage to raise her granddaughter while continuing to search for anything leading to her missing daughter. She had found a balance providing a healthy and loving environment for her granddaughter, while facing she may never see her own daughter again.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention published a handbook When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide to help families with the crisis of having a missing child.
Though not the product of abstract academic research, it was written by parents of missing children, with the assistance of law enforcement and youth professionals, containing critical information, guidance and tools parents need to help find their missing child while making every effort to focus on staying healthy. The guide contains much information to simply help families make it through a day.
Many of the parents who helped write the handbook, I had the honor of working with over the course of decades. Following, we will summarize the first 48 hours a family must make it through when a loved one goes missing. While it is focused on families who have missing children, this handbook is an important resource for anyone with a missing person in their life, regardless of age.
While the handbook contains steps to take to effectively work with law enforcement, media volunteers, how to disseminate fliers, and more – the most important part of the handbook is Chapter 7 focusing on maintaining health, preparing for the long term, the importance of not utilizing substances and medications to deal with the loss, and uniting with your remaining children focusing on their security and potential emotional issues.
“Hanging onto my sanity for a minute at a time often took all of my energy. I could not begin to look several days down the road,” said Colleen Nick, mother of Morgan who vanished June 9, 1995.
When your child is missing, you are overwhelmed with questions from police, neighbors, family and friends, and the media. At times, a parent may be faced with decisions they never thought they would have to make. One can begin to feel isolated, confused and utterly desperate with nowhere to go for support, but there is hope and it is found in the experience of other parents of missing persons who are courageous, and in my opinion, heroic.
The First 24 Hours (A Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide)
- Immediately report your child missing to local law enforcement. Ensure law enforcement enters your child’s data into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and notifies the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
- Request police issue a “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) message.
- Limit access to your home until police have arrived to collect evidence. It is important not to touch or remove anything from your child’s room.
- Ask for the contact information of the law enforcement officer assigned to your case. Keep in a safe place.
- Provide law enforcement with facts related to the disappearance of your child, including what has already been done to find the child.
- Have a good photograph available of your child and include a detailed description of your child and what your child was wearing.
- Make a list of friends, family and acquaintances and contact information for anyone who may have information about your child’s whereabouts. Include anyone who has moved in or out of the neighborhood within the last year.
- Make copies of photographs of your child in both black and white and color to provide to law enforcement, NCMEC, and media.
- Ask your law enforcement agency to organize a search for your child both foot patrol and canine.
- Ask law enforcement to issue an AMBER ALERT if your child’s disappearance meets the criteria.
- Ask law enforcement for guidance when working with media. It is important not to divulge information law enforcement does not want released to media possibly compromising the recovery efforts of your child.
- Designate one individual to answer your phone notating and summarizing each phone call, complete with contact information for each person who has called in one notebook.
- In addition, keep a notebook with you at all times to write down thoughts, questions, and important information, such as names, dates and telephone numbers.
- Take good care of yourself and your family because your child needs you to be strong. Force yourself to eat, rest and talk to others about your feelings.
The Next 24 Hours
- Ask for a meeting with your investigator to discuss steps being taken to find your child. Ensure your investigator has a copy of Missing and Abducted Children: A Law Enforcement Guide to Case Investigation and Program Management. They can call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST to obtain a copy. In addition, ask them to contact the Crimes Against Children Coordinator in their local FBI Field Office to obtain a copy of the FBI’s Child Abduction Response Plan.
- Expand your list of friends, acquaintances, extended family members, landscapers, delivery persons, babysitters and anyone who may have seen your child during or following their disappearance or abduction.
- Look at personal calendars, newspapers and community events calendars to see if there may be any clues as to who may have been in the area and provide this information to law enforcement.
- Understand you will be asked to take a polygraph. This is standard procedure.
- Ask your law enforcement agency to request NCMEC issue a Broadcast Fax to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
- Work cooperatively with your law enforcement agency to issue press releases and media events.
- Talk to law enforcement about the use of a reward.
- Report all information and/or extortion attempts to law enforcement immediately.
- Have a second telephone line installed with call forwarding, Caller ID and call waiting. If you do not have one, get a cell phone so you can receive calls when you are away from home and forward all calls to it.
- Make a list of what volunteers can do for you and your family.
- Contact your child’s doctor and dentist and request copies of medical records and x-rays to provide to police. Ask the doctor to expedite your request based upon the circumstances.
- Take care of yourself and your family and do not be afraid to ask others to help take care of your physical and emotional needs. Your remaining children need to know you are also there for them while staying strong and healthy for them all.
The resounding message here is family members of missing persons must take care of themselves and include others in their journey to help them along when they are tiring.
For more information about obtaining a copy of A Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide please contact NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST or obtain a copy here https://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/childismissing/contents.html
The Disappearance of Morgan Nick
It was June 9, 1995, on a beautiful evening in the small town of Alma, Arkansas. Alma is located along I-40 within the Arkansas River Valley at the edge of the Ozark Mountains with a population under 5,000 people.
That evening was the first time 6-year old Morgan Nick had gone to a baseball game. Her mother Colleen was attending the Rookie League game at the Alma ballpark and Morgan had whined about having to sit next to her mother in the bleachers. There was a nearby sand pile with other children playing and Morgan wanted to play. It was within eyesight and only seconds away, so Colleen consented.
Morgan Nick, age 6, vanished from Alma, Arkansas on June 9, 1995
Morgan ran to the sandpile, laughing with the other children while Colleen turned her head back to watch the Marlins and Pythons. A player whacked the ball and two runners tied the game, then a run was scored, and the Pythons won the game. The sound of the crowd cheering was deafening.
When Colleen stood up, she could see Morgan’s playmates walking down the hill away from the sandpile, but where was Morgan? It was approximately 10:30 p.m.
The children told Colleen, Morgan was pouring sand out of her shoe near her mother’s car parked nearby. Colleen frantically searched. Morgan was gone.
Later, the children would tell police they saw a man approach Morgan. Another abduction attempt had occurred in Alma the same day and police had a composite sketched based on witnesses of the other incident.
Thousands of leads later, numerous appearances on national news talk shows, even America’s Most Wanted, and Morgan’s mother is nowhere closer to knowing what happened to her daughter. Police have interviewed hundreds of persons of interest, searched homes and wells, and dug up slabs of concrete with backhoes, but Morgan remains missing 23 years later.
The stakes are high when a person vanishes involuntarily.
Morgan’s mother Colleen spent years keeping Morgan’s room the way it was when she vanished. She bought Christmas presents and a birthday present each year, hoping Morgan would someday return to open them.
The emotional toll is beyond words.
On Morgan’s Birthday, September 12, 2014, Colleen wrote an Open Letter to Morgan, posted on the NCMEC blog.
A Letter to Our Missing Daughter Morgan Nick
Today is your 26th birthday. Today marks twenty birthdays without you here. We miss you so desperately and our hearts are ragged with grief. We have searched for you every single day since the day you were kidnapped from us at the Little League Baseball field in Alma, Arkansas.
You were only 6 years old. We went with our friends to watch one of their children play in the game. You threw your arms around my neck in a bear hug, planted a kiss on my cheek, and ran to catch fireflies with your friends.
It is the last time that I saw you. There have been so many days since then of emptiness and heartache.
On this birthday I choose to think about your laughter, your smile, the twinkle in your sparkling blue eyes. I celebrate who you are and the deep and lasting joy that you bring to our family.
I smile today as I think about your 5th birthday. For that birthday, we took you to the Humane Society with the promise of adopting a kitten. You, my precious little girl with your big heart, took one look around the cat room and picked out the ugliest, scrawniest, most pitiful looking kitten in the entire place. Such a tiny little thing, that it was mostly all eyes.
Dad and I used our best parental powers of persuasion to get you to pick a different kitten, to look at the older cats, to choose any other feline besides that poor ugly kitty. It looked like someone had taken the worst leftover colors of mud, stirred them together, and used them to design a kitten.
You planted your five-year-old feet, looked us straight in the eye and declared that this was the kitten you were taking home. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. You would not budge, and you resolutely refused to take a second look at any other cat or kitten in the room. You had a fire of conviction in your heart.
The unexpected obstacle we faced was we were not able to adopt on that Saturday but had to wait until Monday to finalize. For the rest of the weekend and all-day Monday, you fretted and pouted and worried someone else would take “your” kitten home with them. We tried to assure you that no one else would want that cat. We didn’t want to say it was because it was so tiny, or so ugly, or so-nothing-at-all-but-eyes. You could see only beauty and you were in love.
Finally, Monday afternoon came, and dad brought it home with him after work. In that moment, your daddy was your biggest hero because he had saved your kitten.
You tenderly snuggled that little bit of fur into your arms and declared that her name was Emily. You adored your new kitten and she loved you right back. Emily gained some weight and filled out a bit. Her colors started to take shape. We began to see the same beauty in her that you had seen in that very first moment.
Where you went, Emily went. You played together. You ate together. You watched Barney together. You slept together.
Which brings me to the photo. It captures everything we love about you. I would slip into your room late at night and stand there, watching the two of you sleeping together, in awe of your sweetness, and my heart would squeeze a little tighter.
So many birthdays have passed since then. So many days since a stranger ripped you from our hearts.
My sweet girl, if you should happen to read this, we want you to know how very important and special you are to us. You are a blessing we cannot live without. We feel cheated by every day that goes by and we do not see your smile, hear your bubbly laughter, or listen to your thoughts and ideas. We have never stopped believing that we will find you. We are saving all our hugs and kisses for you.
Please be strong and brave, with a fire of conviction in your heart, just like the day you picked out your kitten!
On this birthday we promise you that we will always fight for you. We will bring you back home to our family where you belong. We will always love you! We will never give up.
Love Mom (Colleen Nick) & Dad
One cannot help but feel the Nick family’s loss. So many birthdays, so many Christmases, so many days wondering if Morgan is alive. How on earth have they done it?
Hope is incredibly important in life for health, happiness, success and coping. Research shows optimistic people are more likely to live fulfilling lives and to enjoy life. In addition, hope relieves stress reducing the risk of many leading causes of death such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.
Having hope takes a special kind of courage I have found so many families of missing persons have mustered during the most difficult time of their lives . . . not just one season but many Seasons of Hope.
Rooting Out Thieves in the Workplace
It is estimated 30% of employees steal from their employer.
Most of us have dealt with a thief during our lifetime. Devious and sneaky, some thieves behave as if stealing is an art. It is usually a theft exposing them; however, many times, they can strike numerous times before getting caught. When theft happens in the workplace, it can not only be a costly lesson but the cause of a business failing.
An estimated 30% of employees steal from their workplace affecting all types of businesses. For instance, if you are running a restaurant with $1 million sales annually, at only 4% theft within the company, your company would be losing $40,000 a year!
Employee theft costs U.S. businesses over $200 billion in annual losses. Not only are companies trying to prevent the public from stealing items, inventory, assets, and ideas from a business, they must also combat thieves on the inside. Unfortunately, 75% of employee-related crimes go undetected.
Theft can take many forms, such as: stealing money, embezzlement, unauthorized use of business or customer identity, and theft of intellectual property, such as cases of patent or trademark infringement.
Combating Theft is Knowing How Employee Theft Occurs.
Employees who have access to a cash register is the most common way employees steal from companies. If unsecured, petty cash drawers or boxes, can be an easy target for thieves.
In addition, an employee can quote a higher price than the actual price of an item and keep the difference at the point of sale.
If employees have access to credit card information or checks, theft can happen as easily as sticking a few checks inside a folder, costing the owner thousands before it is detected.
Checks and Fraud
Most banks do not verify a signature on a company check making it very easy to sign and cash a check.
Credit card fraud is a number one threat to companies and consumers because most credit card holders admittedly do not check each line item on their credit card statement.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), companies with less than 100 employees, lose approximately $155,000 as a result of fraud each year, a much higher rate than large companies.
Employees may often perform actions and falsify records for work they didn’t do, such as requesting reimbursement for travel and other expenses unrelated to work. Employees may also set up fake payroll accounts for workers who have been terminated or retired. Creative thievery abounds.
Time theft or “Buddy Punching” is a very popular way timesheets may easily be falsified. Individuals complete this theft by having one employee punch another employee in or out for the other.
Excessive breaks, malingering, surfing the Internet, chatting with employees or taking personal phone calls are other ways time theft occurs. While some of these things may not at first be thought of as stealing, all these actions, or inactions, can affect the bottom line and be taking advantage of an employer.
Thieving employees will set up fake vendor accounts, submit phony invoices and issue checks for the false vendor. These checks can then be signed over to themselves and deposited. In addition, a variation would be paying a vendor $500 and writing a check to themselves, expensing the entire $500 to the vendor.
Loss of inventory can happen in the merchandise distribution process but can also happen before merchandise is made available to the public. Many times, employees will take items from a warehouse or newly arrived items before they are scanned into inventory software. Employees have even been known to steal entire shipping trucks containing merchandise headed to their employer’s company.
Some employees steal smaller items such as typical office supplies, but furniture and equipment are not off limits for a thief.
Many employees steal information to benefit themselves or a competitor. Types of information include: office memoranda, proprietary products, customer lists and/or other confidential data. Theft can occur by email, printing, or copying information to a flash drive or cell phone, or simply carrying it out in a purse or folder.
Sometimes, theft can be subtler, such as luring customers away, purposefully providing poor service, even spreading rumors to damage a company’s reputation and cause a down-turn in business. All are considered losses.
While there are ways to combat theft within your company, ultimately identifying the thief before they are hired is the most effective way to reduce the occurence of theft.
The SBA recommends: “One of the first steps to preventing fraudulent employee behavior is to make the right hiring decision.”
Background checks are a good practice for any employer, large or small, especially for those employees who will be handling cash, high-value merchandise, or have access to sensitive customer or financial data.
For over twenty-years, Thomas Lauth of Lauth Investigations International has been working nationwide and helping educate employers on methods used to combat theft.
“The first and most effective way to address theft in the workplace, is to conduct an extensive background check,” says Lauth. “A background check can provide insight into an individual’s behavior, character, and integrity.”
Which Types of Background Checks Should You Conduct?
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, upwards to 30% of business failures are caused by employee theft. Thus, conducting effective, extensive background checks helps to mitigate your risk of hiring objectionable or even dangerous employees.
Not all background checks are the same. As you build a profile of your future employee, there are several kinds of background checks you should consider. For example, a criminal background check is different than checking on an individual’s credit score or military service, these require consent. A criminal background check does not require consent; however, some states have laws restricting how you use the information collected during a criminal background check.
Private investigation firms like Lauth Investigations offer complete background checks while helping you comply with the law.
Protecting Your Legal Liability with Background Checks
Smaller businesses often forego background checks for two reasons: 1. A false sense of trust and security developed by business owners working too closely with employees. 2. Most businesses do not understand the legal liabilities associated with the failure to conduct employee screening and background checks.
Any business where employees provide a direct service and interact with customers, such as contractors or daycare providers, is liable if an employee does harm to a customer and the employee has a history of wrongdoing.
A company, big and small. may not recover from this kind of lawsuit.
Choosing the Right Company to Conduct Background Checks
Protecting the interests of your workplace and customers while reducing potential liability is of utmost importance; therefore, it is vital to select a company you can trust to conduct the background screening both efficiently and thoroughly.
While employers can do some background checking of their own, working with an experienced and reputable company can ensure the reliability and thoroughness of the background screening.
Purchasing instant public records found online is not appropriate for conducting potential employee background checks. Most certainly if your hiring decision is based on tpublic record data, your company could land in hot water.
Most public databases do not fact check, clean up or refresh their data providing completely different information than received from an investigative firm experienced in conducting professional, legal and full background screening.
Private investigators have access to databases to determine if a potential employee has a criminal background.
A reputable company providing background screening services will ensure the information you receive is current and accurate.
If a hiring decision is made based upon information found in the background check, in most cases, the company must inform the potential employee of the source used to obtain the information for the background checks (which is where using public databases can get your company in legal trouble).
What can you expect from a professional background check? According to Lauth, it’s all in the details and you pay for what you get. If you want detailed, accurate information, you will choose a Private Investigation Background Search.
Unlike a personal background search using public databases, private investigators have access to several databases providing a variety of information.
- Employment history: This search will bring up employment records to include all positions held, making it easier to find discrepancies in a resume. It will also include salaries associated with the positions.
- Academic and professional affiliations: Qualifications to include academic history and certification, even if the person did not complete the program.
- Criminal records: Including a detailed outline of all criminal activity from traffic warnings and tickets to arrests and convictions. Also, these include jail time served and fines paid.
- Financial Standing: Reflects all liens, judgments, bank accounts, current and previous property ownership, repossession of vehicles or other personal property, NSF checks and bankruptcies.
In addition to the typical information received through a personal background check, a private investigator will include:
- Worker compensation claims an individual has filed. This can help determine the character of an individual by looking at the number of claims they have filed which could reveal a person is dishonest and fraudulent.
- Ascertain causes of accidents or any criminal activity. DMV reports will show accident dates and basic information but do not reflect the cause. Private investigators can provide the cause behind the accident and whether criminal activity was involved.
- Information on business and personal partners.
- Analysis of all findings.
Relying on an Internet search is risky. A professional background screening will be more in depth than simply entering a name in a database. When a company’s future is at stake, the only way to go to obtain concise information needed to make informed decisions is a professional, private investigations extensive background check.
Written By: Kym Pasqualini, Feature Crime Writer for Lauth Investigations
Penetration testing, intrusion testing and red teaming are some of the terms used for ethical hacking.
The word “hacking” almost always has negative connotations. It seems the mention of Chinese hacking, Russian hacking, or DNC hacking receives constant mention in our 24-hour news cycle.
Ethical hacking is also referred to as penetration testing, intrusion testing and red teaming, coined by the government during the 1970’s when they first hired ethical hackers to break into the United States government’s computer systems to test for vulnerabilities.
It is estimated “hackers” cost the United States more than $445 billion annually.
In a Fortune article “Data Breaches Now Cost $4 Million on Average,” according to IBM’s security division, the cost of a breach per incident has risen to $4 million, up 29% since 2013. “We’re now in a mode where these attacks are going to happen even to people that are well prepared,” said Caleb Barlow, a vice president at IBM Security.
Hackers cost the US government and corporations billions annually.
According to Fortune, hackers and cybercriminals cause most breaches, and more than half of data exposures are caused by malicious attacks; the rest are caused by mistakes or glitches.
Ethical hacking is a growing profession utilized by the United States government, technology companies and other institutions.
In the field, experts refer to three major types of hackers:
- White Hats: Security professionals or “ethical hackers” who use their expertise to strengthen a network and secure it from criminals.
- Black Hats: Malicious hackers or “crackers” who use their skills for malevolent purposes. White hats work to protect computer structures from the Black Hats.
- Gray Hats:Iindividuals who become white or black hats depending upon the circumstances and generally proclaim being an ethical hacker.
Many large corporations, such as IBM, employ teams of ethical hackers to keep their IT systems secure.
Why Ethical Hacking is Important
With every breach reported in the media, the need for more effective information security is becoming increasingly evident.
New technologies such as cloud computing, IT outsourcing, and enterprises must adjust their security practices and policies to combat the threat of malicious hacking. To combat threats, ethical hacking is rapidly gaining attention as an essential security practice to be performed on a regular basis.
In a public white paper entitled, “The Importance of Ethical Hacking: Emerging Threats Emphasize the Need for Holistic Treatment,” by Frost & Sullivan, it discusses top technical concerns and the role of ethical hacking in an enterprise architecture.
“The increased sophistication and success rate for recent cyber-attacks is directly related to the shift in the attacker profile, indicating that nation-states and large criminal organizations are funding well organized, highly motivated, and well-trained teams of programmers,” said Chris Rodriguez, Analyst for Frost and Sullivan. “The elevated threat landscape therefor, urgently dictates the need for a comprehensive, real-world assessment of an organization’s security posture,” said Rodriguez.
Ethical hacking provides objective analysis of an organization’s security stance for organizations of any size. Ethical hacking has become a mainstream service, as companies of all sizes pursue expert, objective, third -party analysis.
What is an Ethical Hacker?
Ethical hacking is an ambiguous term used to describe hacking performed by an individual or organization to help penetrate or gain access to identifying potential threats on a computer or a network infrastructure. In short, ethical hackers are simply computer programmers who use their skills in a constructive manner.
Ethical hackers can attempt to bypass security systems to isolate weak points malicious hackers could exploit. In the effort to eliminate or reduce potential criminal hacks, the information gained by the ethical hacker is then used by the company to make improvements to security.
Some may say there is no such thing as an “ethical” hacker. Simply “hacking is hacking” but the most notable hackers are known publicly as cybercriminals or computer criminals because of the damage they inflict on companies and individuals nationwide.
A highly publicized hacking incident where personal information is compromised can damage a company or organization for years.
A cybersecurity professional can have a range of expertise, anywhere from maintenance, administration, architecture, forensic investigation of secure networked systems that are increasingly necessary for the sake of operation of businesses, nonprofits, governments and medical, and educational institutions.
Even training is offered by the International Council for E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council). The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) exam is made up of approximately 125 multiple choice questions and costs about $500 with additional IT certifications available. Training is entirely voluntary.
For hacking to be ethical, a hacker must abide by the following informal rules:
- Permission to access the network to identify potential security threats.
- Respect individual’s right to privacy.
- Treat all data, material, and findings as confidential.
Ethics play a vital role in hacking and differentiating innocent activities from computer crimes. Hacking is ethical if the skills are used to enhance a network system. But the issue of ethics can be very risky when one does not know a person’s motivations. With no formal code of ethics or code of honor, this void creates external forces to determine how to respond when ethical predicaments arise.
An ethical hacker will ensure the client’s IT system is properly evaluated for security issues and vulnerabilities, while protecting sensitive, personal and confidential or proprietary information. While accessing an organization’s system, the respected ethical hacker’s integrity will guide the actions of the ethical hacker.
While ethical hacking presents advantages to increase security to protect IT systems and assets, any organization implementing ethical hacking must consider any negative impacts that may arise from the practice.
An ethical hacker is typically contracted to hack the organization’s system. Hiring outside is usually preferred to start from scratch and simulate potential external hacks.
While there is an advantage of ethical hacking because it supports the organization’s efforts to gain more knowledge about the IT Security by identifying vulnerabilities, the main disadvantage is it presents risks of information disclosure. An outsider could intentionally or unintentionally disclose a company’s proprietary information to outside parties.
A dark side always is present where dishonest people will attempt to exploit others. Some risks of working with ethical hackers include:
- The ethical hacker using their skills to conduct malicious hacking activities.
- Massive security breaches.
- Potential the ethical hacker will place malicious code, malware, viruses or other potentially damaging things on a computer system.
- Allowing company’s financial, banking, or other proprietary information will be accessed.
Working with an Ethical Hacker
The benefits of working with an ethical hacker are obvious; however, many are overlooked, ranging from simply preventing malicious hacking to preventing national security breaches.
Before implementing any ethical hacking, an organization must ensure the ethical hacker understands the nature of the client’s business, computer or network system. This will help guide the ethical hacker in handling any sensitive confidential or proprietary information they may encounter.
The leadership in a company or organization must determine the sensitivity or confidentiality of the information involved. This will help ensure the ethical hacker does not violate laws, rules or regulations in handling sensitive personal, financial or proprietary information.
There are several guidelines to use when working with an ethical hacker:
- An ethical hacker should create a plan including: identifying all networks and components they will test; detail testing intervals; detail testing process.
- Require transparency while working with an ethical hacker, requiring all relevant information be reported while the system or network is being accessed. Transparency ensures the client to make immediate decisions and take necessary actions to maintain the security of the system or network.
- Establish target areas with written work agreements requiring the ethical hacker not to work beyond those parameters to minimize exposure of sensitive information. The ethical hacker should not access other areas on the computer or networks not specified in the agreement.
- Developing a non-disclosure agreement may be in order prior to contracting with an ethical hacker.
There are legal risks to include lawsuits involving disclosure of personal and confidential information possibly leading to a legal battle involving the organization and the hacker if the work is not done properly. Also, if the hacker makes errors compromising the IT network or company security, it is possible to negatively impact the organization’s general operations and profitability.
With cyberspace growing exponentially over the last decade, complex legal issues have led to the birth of a highly specialized branch of law. Cyber Law or Internet Law pertains to Internet and computer technology related offenses, especially copyright infringement and fraud that involve computers, software, hardware, and information systems (IS).
The Information and Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) covers all types of cyber-crime, including hacking as provided under sections 43 and 66 which covers negligence and computer-related offenses.
Cyber Law prevents or reduces large-scale damage from cybercriminal activities by protecting information access, communications, privacy and intellectual property.
Ethical hacking is rapidly gaining attention as an essential business practice. Regardless of risks, companies large and small benefit from the work of ethical hackers by protecting a company’s most valuable data and protecting their bottom line.
By: Kym Pasqualini, Feature Writer for Lauth Investigations
Scandals can arise anywhere, especially in the workplace, and schools are especially vulnerable. Allegations of sexual misconduct, assault and other accusations violating workplace compliance and law, have severe civil and criminal liability.
We have all heard about sports-related and college scandals, and the newly and highly publicized accusations against Harvey Weinstein that seemingly were permitted to go on for years without anyone acting. These situations can create not only a media frenzy, social media ubiquity and significant liability within a company. How complaints are handled can affect an institution’s reputation for years.
Institutional leadership has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to protect students and employees.
Most importantly, it is the responsibility of an institution to protect their students and employees, and the leadership has a legal, moral and ethical obligation to do so.
An institution’s investigative process, in response to sexual assault or misconduct, needs to be geared toward determining what happened without having preconceived notions of the outcome. The process should be consistently applied, clearly documented, and show the steps followed in achieving the conclusion.
Maintaining a record of this process and the findings is critical to minimizing risk should there be a consequent lawsuit or investigation by an outside entity.
President Richard M. Nixon signed Title IX Educational Amendments of 1972 as a comprehensive federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. In addition, protecting employees and students from sexual misconduct.
Sexual assault and misconduct investigations not meeting legal standards are increasingly resulting in very costly claims. Ensuring Title IX compliance is the best way to minimize risk.
In a 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL) was issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). According to the letter, investigations must be:
- Prompt – The DCL defines the meaning of “prompt” as conducting an investigation within 60 days, acknowledging more complex cases may require more time.
- Thorough – OCR mandates a case must be “thorough” and the investigation must be conducted in good faith. The employer must have legal grounds to believe the employee participated in misconduct before any disciplinary action is taken.
Courts expect a thorough and adequate investigation in all sexual assault and misconduct cases.
Courts do not focus on whether the employer made the right conclusion but instead, examine the determining process used to ensure the investigation was adequately thorough. For example, analyzing the type and number of interviews conducted, confidentially of the interviews, were they handwritten or recorded and how. The court also notes if the investigator asked non-leading, open-ended questions; encouraged witnesses to clarify or correct testimony; or challenged information provided by witnesses.
Small mistakes may not damage an investigation; however, a case could be considered inadequate simply on the pretense an individual lacked prior experience investigating sexual harassment cases or failed to adequately explore the allegations.
- Impartial – It is necessary to remain impartial. For example, the person who made the complaint should not be a supervisor over the individual investigating the complaint. A qualified investigator should always be used to investigate sexual assault and harassment complaints, one who can remain objective and has no stake in the outcome of the case.
There are two recommended models of investigation to be conducted by a trained investigator understanding of the evidence needed to sustain or disprove allegations.
What Are The Numbers?
The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) tracks federal investigations of colleges for potential violations of the gender-equity law Title IX involving alleged sexual violence. According to CHE, as of January 10, 2018, there were 337 sexual violence cases under investigation at 243 postsecondary institutions.
A campus investigation differs from a police investigation; however, both can occur at the same time. It just depends on where the victim reports the assault. A victim may feel more comfortable going to campus police than law enforcement for fear they may be doubted or blamed, especially in cases of rape by an acquaintance. Though advocates fear victims being discouraged from coming forward, in several states, lawmakers are now proposing colleges be required to notify law enforcement.
In this model, the investigator meets individually with both parties and witnesses prior to any hearing and provides the information to a panel or hearing official. The goal is to maximize the information obtained during the interview process by questioning parties and witnesses privately to minimize stress for the participants, while also protecting testimony.
Prior-Hearing Investigative Process
The other common model, the investigation is part of the hearing process where an official panel or hearing official questions witnesses, hears testimony, reviews documents and evidence, and makes a conclusion.
While this model may work well for some institutions, it tends to be viewed as adversarial and may affect the overall reliability of the case.
According to United Education’s EduRisk program, while it is the institution’s responsibility to investigate alleged sexual assaults or harassment, and decide if discipline is warranted, this model can inappropriately burden the parties to present their cases by identifying witnesses and evidence for school officials to consider. In addition, most school officials are not trained investigators or private detectives with experience working with such sensitive circumstances.
The institution has the responsibility to properly document its investigation of any sexual misconduct allegation to provide a reliable record of all evidence the findings are based. This is especially critical when an allegation may appear meritless on the surface.
Though courts do not favor one method of documenting interviews, ideally, in addition to a final report, an investigator should provide a summarization of evidence, assessment of credibility of witnesses interviewed, and contain only factual conclusions.
Policies and Procedures
Given the importance of sexual assault and other misconduct allegations, it is necessary to have the appropriate policy and procedures to demonstrate the institution’s commitment to the safety of its employees and students, help prevent avoidable crises and support an efficient and effective response.
It is vital to understand when an investigation is warranted, and the purpose of the investigations, to include planning and organizing.
Every institution or company should have policies in place specifically addressing suspected misconduct to help respond reasonably with guidance as to how staff should respond and recommended to utilize experts to help identify vulnerabilities that may exist in an institutions current policies and procedure.
What a Federal Investigation Entails
To most onlookers, the federal investigation process of an institution is opaque. The OCR informs a college it is under investigation and informs whether it is based upon a compliance review or complaint. When it is a complaint, typically, the complainant’s information is not made available.
Federal officials require a great deal of information, such as policies, training material, investigative reports, interviews, incident reports, hearing documents. They will visit the campus to meet with both students and employees as well.
Some OCR investigations can conclude quietly, with an “administrative closure,” “early complaint resolution,” or “insufficient evidence.” Other investigations can result is a letter of findings, not seen until the conclusion, along with a “negotiated resolution agreement” that details policies and procedures a college must change or adopt. To comply, these often require implementing or expanding training programs for faculty, students, and staff, along with modifying policy and procedure.
Investigations are getting tougher. The OCR will likely monitor the college’s progress for years to come.
The best way to avoid investigative, policy and procedure pitfalls is to respond appropriately the first time using a professional investigative agency or experienced private investigator.
Fair and Independent Investigations
Lauth Investigations Sexual Harassment Division is headed by founder Thomas Lauth who has extensive experience investigating sexual misconduct.
One thing has become abundantly clear, after watching the numerous news stories covering sexual assault and harassment, is remaining mindful of the sensitivities involved in such an investigation, making it necessary to address each client’s needs. In addition, a rapid response, both thorough and professional, is necessary so as not to cause more harm.
Sexual assault and other misconduct has serious psychological consequences on the victim. Lauth Investigations professionally conducts sensitive internal investigations related to sexual assault and misconduct with utmost integrity. Our private investigators take great care to develop facts, determine credibility, and reach findings with objectivity and independence, while also exercising discretion and sensitivity.
During an investigation, Lauth Investigations expert private investigators will interview the complainant and witnesses, examine relevant documents, obtain written statements, medical records, email and other communication. At conclusion, a confidential report is delivered to include finding and recommendations that adhere to court and panel oversight.
Title IX investigations differ from a law enforcement investigation, and critical in the initial phase to ensure evidence is preserved, whether it be physical evidence, video surveillance or other important aspects of a proper investigation. Lauth investigators will ensure the investigation is treated with utmost integrity so as not to compromise the investigation.
Our experts can also evaluate and provide recommendations of current policies and procedures to help strengthen the response to sexual assault and misconduct.