For the most part, the information contained in my blog comes from other missing person sites, forums, social networking sites, archived newspaper articles, and occasionally, online court records.
I’m now starting to experiment with the state/local equivalents of the Freedom of Information Act to hopefully obtain photos, and give a face to those missing persons who are portrayed as a white, featureless head with a blue background. I would also like to obtain at least some basic details about the disappearances of those who Meaghan of The Charley Project often refers to as the ‘very few details cases’.
Although I’m still in the process of researching the requirements of various states, and their request processes, and haven’t actually filed any requests yet, I have had a couple of interesting experiences.
Colorado: I sent an email to a law enforcement contact associated with the case of Peggy Reynolds, asking for some details on her disappearance, and specified that I was wondering if she could have been a victim of Ted Bundy. I got a response, explaining that Peggy had fallen overboard while rafting and her body was never recovered. She also welcomed me to click on a link to a form where I could order a copy of the report. (I don’t particularly need it now, since she answered my question, but I really appreciated the offer.)
Florida: I sent an email to a law enforcement contact associated with the case of LeeAnn Huffman. I requested a photo, and a copy of the missing persons report, explaining that I was looking for information that might fit the profile of serial killer James Delano Winkles. I asked if he could provide this data, or if I needed to file a request under the Sunshine Law (Florida’s version of Freedom of Information Act). I received a response stating that because LeeAnn’s case is open, that the report (including photographs) would not be released. Thankfully, I was able to find a photo elsewhere. I was actually surprised to get a response like this from Florida, as many of us probably remember spending a good part of a day glued to docstoc, scrolling through Casey Anthony’s unedited texts and emails to her friends, statements to police by same friends, and compromising photos. I seem to remember over 300 pages of investigative documents… and Caylee was still missing!
Next week, I will probably start filing a couple requests at a time, starting with older cases that are less likely to be ‘active’. I’m sure it will involve a lot of trial and error, and ‘learn as I go’, so I will post summaries of my requests and responses here, so others can also learn from my mistakes.
My first few requests will be for the following:
California: Request for missing persons reports of Wendy Abrams-Nishikai and Johanna Brighton, both of which are prime examples of ‘very few details cases’, that have gotten no publicity. They have been missing since 1989, and 1981 respectively.
If anyone has any experience with this and can offer some Do’s and Don’ts, it would be greatly appreciated!