Missing Children Success Stories
As of January 2015 the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has assisted in the recovery of more than 205,000 children. Read some of our recent success stories.
Facebook posting helps police locate missing teen
In August 2014, NCMEC was contacted by officers with Washington law enforcement seeking assistance in locating a missing 17-year-old girl. The teenager had not been seen since leaving her family home in July, but she had phoned her home once to tell her family that she had married an “adult homeless male” and that the two had hitchhiked to Montana and were possibly going to the Dakotas.
NCMEC coordinated closely with police and the family to obtain photos of the missing girl and began distributing her image to different areas in the Northwest.
In late-August, NCMEC received a lead from an individual who learned the teen was missing from a Facebook posting of NCMEC’s poster. The caller had seen the girl near Coeur d’Alene and believed her to be camping in the Tubbs Hill area.
NCMEC immediately contacted the lead detective on the case. Within days of receiving the lead, police officials confirmed that based on the lead, the missing girl had been safely located.
Walmart® customer helps locate missing child in Mexico
In September 2009, NCMEC was contacted by a searching mother in Florida seeking help to locate her missing 8-year-old daughter. The child was scheduled to have a short visit with her father, but when the mother went to pick the child up at the end of the visit, the child and father were nowhere to be found. The mother called local law enforcement for assistance, and a warrant was issued for the father. The NCMEC case management team later submitted a referral to the United States Marshals Service, and they took the case. Despite the ongoing efforts of the mother, NCMEC and local and federal law enforcement, the whereabouts of the father and child remained unknown for almost five years.
Then, in May 2014, law enforcement officers received the lead they needed. An individual had been visiting relatives in Mexico when they were introduced to a father and child who lived in the same remote area. The individual returned to the U.S. and was later shopping at a Walmart store in Texas when they noticed a NCMEC poster featuring two familiar faces. They contacted NCMEC and informed a Call Center specialist that they had met the taking father and missing child in Mexico, though they were using different names.
NCMEC contacted the assigned inspector with the United States Marshals Service who immediately followed up with the caller and began to coordinate with NCMEC, the State Department, the Florida/Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force and the State’s Attorney’s Office. Each of the involved agencies did its part to quickly prepare for the recovery of the child, though no authorities had yet been able to confirm the identities of the father and child in Mexico.
A U.S. Marshal team stationed in Mexico City traveled to the state of Hidalgo (over 120 miles from Mexico City in a remote part of the state) with Mexican authorities and State Department personnel. The team was able to locate the father and child and confirm their identities that day. The child was taken into protective custody, and the father was arrested. American Citizen’s Services secured an expedited passport for the child, who was reunited with her mother.
Case of missing girls solved after 46 years
In November 1985, NCMEC received a call from a searching mother seeking assistance in locating her daughter who had gone missing in the summer of 1968, when she was 17-years-old. The last time the family had seen her, she was on her way from Philadelphia to Kansas City, Mo. with her 14-year-old sister-in-law.
Throughout the years, NCMEC lost contact with the family, but in March 2012 NCMEC was contacted by the Pennsylvania State Police requesting family information. After running public database searches by NCMEC’s Case Analysis Division and working closely with the Case Management Team and Project Alert volunteer, family members were located. In December 2013, three family references samples were collected and sent to the University of North Texas for profiling.
A forensic comparison was made with a NCMEC case involving unidentified females found in Pennsylvania in 2011. At the time of their discovery, DNA had not been collected from the Jane Does, and both were buried in a grave-site with no markers. A Project ALERT volunteer and forensic anthropologist consulted with the local coroner and on July 2013, the possible location of the bodies was found in the cemetery.
The bodies were exhumed in October 2013 and several bones and were sent to UNT for testing. UNT was successful in obtaining a DNA profile on the remains. This enabled meaningful comparisons with the samples obtained from the girls family, which confirmed the identity of both remains as that of the missing girls who vanished 46 years ago.
Murder of unidentified mother and daughter solved
In September 1995, a patrol officer in New Britain, Conn. came across the body of a young female behind a shopping plaza. The body was clothed but had been wrapped in black plastic garbage bags and two sleeping bags. Officials were unable to determine her identity but believed she was 16-20 years old and confirmed that she had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the right of the head with a 45-caliber firearm. Officials also noted that she had been killed within hours of being found.
In October of the same year, police in New Britain received information of another body belonging to an older female found 45 miles away at the Tolland State Forest in Hampden County, Mass. That female had been left near the park’s dumping station along the main access road and had also been shot with a 45-caliber firearm to the back of the head.
Officials with both the New Britain Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police always suspected the cases were linked and remain in close contact with each other regarding the investigation. However, in 2010, an official link was made when the University of North Texas compared the DNA profiles and confirmed that both victims were biologically related, sharing parent-child relationship.
Based on evidence found at the crime scene in Tolland ─ clothing the adult female victim was wearing and isotope testing completed on the adult female ─ authorities believed the two victims spent some time or lived in the upstate New York area around Albany, known as Capital District.
NBPD and MSP joined efforts with New York State Police on several occasions conducting press releases in this area trying to develop leads on the identity of the two females. Both cases were registered with NCMEC and also entered into NamUs and NCIC’s unidentified persons file. DNA from the females was also uploaded into CODIS as well as fingerprints of the females into IAFIS.
In March 2014, NCMEC hosted a case review bringing together officials from NBPD, MSP and the Connecticut Office of Chief Medical Examiner, along with representatives from the FBI’s BAU III and ViCAP program, NamUs and NCIS. Investigative strategies, current technologies and resources were discussed during the two-day review.In June 2014, NYSP received a missing persons report for a mother and daughter who had disappeared from Brewster, NY in 1995. NYSP completed searches on the Internet and quickly located information regarding the two unidentified females. Contact was made between the three agencies and in July, officials received a positive DNA identification. The females were a 53-years-old mother and her 16-year-old daughter. Based on the investigative strategy discussed at the NCMEC case review, investigators decided to locate the victims’ husband and father for questioning. As a result of their ongoing investigation, authorities subsequently arrested and charged the husband/father in the slaying of both victims.
Walmart® employee helps law enforcement find missing 14-year-old Arkansas girl
In March 2012, NCMEC was notified that a 14-year-old Arkansas girl had been missing for two days. Law enforcement believed the teenager may have fled to California with her 19-year-old boyfriend or be en route to Canada.
NCMEC’s case management team sprang into action working with the Bella Vista Police Department and girl’s family to create a poster with her photo and physical description. NCMEC quickly distributed the poster to a variety of NCMEC corporate poster partners including Walmart.
The same day a poster was distributed, a Walmart employee in Washington state became suspicious of a young girl who had been using the store’s restroom to bathe herself over the last two days. Staff talked to the teen indicated she was from Arkansas and traveling with her older brother.
Skeptical of the girl’s explanation an employee checked the NCMEC website. Walmart staff were familiar with NCMEC and the company’s long term partnership to assist in the recovery of missing children. An employee quickly recognized the girl from a missing child poster on NCMEC’s website and called both NCMEC’s 24-hour Call Center and local law enforcement.
Officers with the Washington Police Department were dispatched to the store and took the child into protective custody. The missing child and was reunited with her family shortly afterward.
Special thanks to NCMEC’s partner, Walmart, and their employees for their continued commitment and support in locating missing children.
NCMEC poster helps agency find missing Massachusetts teen
In January 2012, NCMEC received a report of a missing 16-year-old girl who had run away from her school two days prior with her 24-year-old boyfriend.
NCMEC’s case management team immediately made contact with the child’s legal guardian and the law enforcement agency searching for the missing teen. A NCMEC poster was created and distributed around the New York City area where the teen was thought to have traveled.
On February 1 law enforcement received a lead from someone who believed they had seen and spoken to the missing teen recently. Based on the conversation with the teen, the caller was concerned the teen could be a missing child, searched NCMEC’s website, found the teen’s poster, and contacted the Massachusetts State Police.
The investigator coordinated efforts with New York law enforcement who safely took the missing teen into protective custody. The teen was returned to Massachusetts and reunited with her family.
Critically missing 12-year-old Illinois child recovered
In January 2012, NCMEC was contacted by officers with Illinois law enforcement seeking assistance in locating a missing 12-year-old girl. Detectives were concerned for the child’s safety due to her young age and affiliation with local gangs.
The child was last seen a week before, when she left a note indicating she planned to travel “far away.” The child had never run away before and this behavior was unusual.
Upon receipt of the report NCMEC’s case manager immediately made contact with detectives and began coordinating NCMEC resources including a Team Adam deployment. Detectives with the Gang Investigation Unit met with a Team Adam consultant shortly afterwards.
Detectives were pursuing local leads and soon received a lead from a gang with information indicating the child was at a local residence. Officers immediately responded and safely recovered the missing 12-year-old.
Because of the intensity of the search and investigation the officers were able to successfully secure the cooperation of gang members who shared critical information leading to the safe recovery of this child.