Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kyron Horman disappearance rare among missing children cases:

Kyron Horman, now gone almost five years, is one of 41 names listed on Oregon's missing children website.
The youngest is a 1-year-old girl who disappeared in Portland on Oct. 3, 2000, and is thought to be in Mexico.

The longest is a 17-year-old boy last seen in Seaside during Weston High School skip week on May 11, 1968.

Nationally, the FBI National Crime Information Center logged a total of 466,949 children under age 18 reported missing in 2014.

Most kids are found within hours or days and returned home quickly, says Robert Lowery, vice president of the Missing Children Division of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Cases like Kyron's that go on for years without a trace of the child are becoming more rare, Lowery said. The 7-year-old disappeared from Skyline School in rural Northwest Portland on June 4, 2010.


Read: Timeline of events
Lowery credits better technology for the trend. Police have many more ways to rapidly distribute a photo of a missing child compared to the center's early days in the mid-'80s when their photos were first plastered on the sides of milk cartons.

Amber Alerts now go straight to cellphones. Faces flash on highway billboards. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter carry those faces to mobile phones. Plus, many children have their own cellphones, which can be tracked if they disappear. And video surveillance cameras capture the movements of all who come within their lens whether near a business, home or, in some cases, a school.
The missing
Most of the children reported missing are runaways, with the next largest number abducted by a non-custodial parent or people who knew the child, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Stranger abductions are rare.
Since 2005, the center has analyzed more than 9,000 child abduction attempts and found that:
-- 73 percent involved a suspect driving a vehicle
-- 34 percent occurred between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
-- 32 percent occurred when the child was traveling to or away from school or a school related activity
-- 68 percent involved girls
-- 39 percent involved children between the ages of 10 and 14
There also seem to be fewer cases of stranger abductions, Lowery said. Offenders in recent years have changed their methods, instead luring kids through the Internet, according to the national center.

The recovery rate of missing children was 62 to 64 percent when the center was first established in 1984. Today, it's 97 to 98 percent, Lowery said.

He called Kyron's disappearance "a very unusual one'' because the second-grader disappeared from an elementary school when a lot of people were around for a science fair.

That no witness has come forward, at least publicly, who saw Kyron leaving the school grounds is "particularly perplexing,'' he said.

"The fact remains we don't know what happened to Kyron,'' Lowery said.

But it's imperative, he said, to keep the Portland boy's name in front of the public and continue to search for him or his remains.
"We won't close a missing child's case until that child is physically found,'' he said. "Even though the circumstances seem very dire, children like Elizabeth Smart or Shawn Hornbeck – those children have taught us we can't give up hope.''

Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City on June 5, 2002. Nine months later, she was found alive about 18 miles from her home.

Shawn Hornbeck was 11 on Oct. 6, 2002, when he was kidnapped while riding his bicycle near his home in Richwoods, Missouri. He was missing for over four years before being discovered on Jan. 12, 2007, in the apartment of a man named Michael J. Devlin. A missing 13-year-old boy also was found in the apartment.
"Someone out there knows what happened to Kyron. That person needs to come forward,'' said Lowery, who was in law enforcement for more than 27 years and in 2011 co-authored a Law Enforcement Guide to Case Investigation for Missing and Exploited Children. He's served as an assistant police chief in a St. Louis suburb and worked the majority of his career as a homicide detective and a commander of the Greater St. Louis Major Case Squad, a homicide task force.

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill and Sheriff Dan Staton have declined to answer questions about the status of their investigation into Kyron's Horman's disappearance.

But a joint news release they issued last week said the investigation remains active with a sheriff's detective "primarily assigned'' to it. A retired FBI agent who has years of experience working on a Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team also continues his involvement in the case, reviewing evidence that has been collected. More than 4,000 tips have poured into the Sheriff's Office since the beginning.

Also last week, the Sheriff's Office reached out to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to help create a new image of what Kyron would likely look like now at age 12, Lowery said.
"As they grow, we use the pictures of siblings and their parents, and our artists use a combination of art and science to develop a composite sketch,'' Lowery said. "We need the public to continue looking for Kyron. He could be out there.''

Searching for the boy should remain a priority, he said. "An arrest is secondary,'' he said. "We want to find Kyron Horman.''

Any law enforcement-led searches in recent years for Kyron likely have been more intelligence-based, meaning they're in response to information gathered from specific leads or tips that need to be checked, Lowery said.

Marc Klaas, president of the KlaasKids Foundation that works to support families of missing children, said the pain of not knowing what's happened to your child is wrenching.

Klaas' 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was kidnapped from her bedroom at knifepoint during a slumber party at her Petaluma, California, home in October 1993. Richard Allen Davis, a wanted man, had sneaked into the Klaas home, tied up the girls and kidnapped Polly. On Nov. 30, 1993, police arrested Davis for a parole violation. His palm print had been found in the girl's bedroom. He confessed to the killing and burying the body in a shallow grave. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

Before his daughter was found, Klaas said police told him that he'd eventually have to get used to the idea that his daughter was dead. Klaas, unwilling to accept that, challenged them to "show me proof'' before he'd believe it.

"Kyron's family right now is in a never-never land,'' Klaas said, "not 100 percent sure he's alive or dead and hoping beyond hope that he's alive.

"I know the deep psychic emotional emptiness that these parents go through because I went through it myself. It cuts to your core,'' he said.

The case probably isn't getting full-time attention from investigators, he said. "I would guess that it's colder rather than hotter. You've got to be realistic. Law enforcement has limited resources.''

That's why, Klaas said, the family's role is so crucial – to be an advocate, put pressure on police and keep their child's name in the public. His foundation has sent trained professionals to help searches organized by Kyron's mother, Desiree Young.

"Kyron's parents are just left in limbo, suspecting everything but knowing nothing,'' he said. "It's agonizing, but you have to go on. You don't have any choice, and that's what your child would want.''

-- Maxine Bernstein
mbernstein@oregonian.com

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