Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)
June 1, 2003
Section: Living & Arts
Families of missing adults find search frustrating, heartbreaking
Author: Susan Glairon, Camera Staff Writer
"I have a really bad feeling."
Sarah Haynes never forgot those chilling words. Her father, Jim Haynes, a San Francisco lawyer, made the statement at breakfast only hours after her brother Jon failed to call home as planned.
Jon, 18, had arrived in Boulder July 22, 1981, to attend the University of Colorado. On July 23, he called home and requested money to tide him over until the university dormitories opened. Jim instructed his son to get a post office box and to call him the following day with the number, so Jim could send the money.
Jon never called. His new beige Subaru was seen outside Nederland on July 26, with the windows down. It was raining. The next day, the car vanished.
The blond teenager with greenish brown eyes was never heard from again. His car was never found.
"My brother was 10 hours late calling, and my dad knew something was going on," says Sarah, 38, a Mill Valley, Calif., resident who was 15 when Jon disappeared.
He is one of at least six adult missing person cases in Boulder County listed as unsolved by law enforcement agencies. All of them are men, ranging in age from 18 to 61 at the time of their disappearance. Juveniles who are missing, often chronic runaways, are handled differently.
As of March 31 there were 97,297 active missing person cases in the United States, according to the Nation's Missing Children Organization & Center for Missing Adults. Of those missing, more than 43,000 were 18 and older.
Missing children are given priority and immediately entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center, an action mandated by the Missing Children's Act. But some families claim adult cases are not given the urgency they deserve.
"The families (of missing adults) have to prove the unusual circumstances," says Broomfield resident Stephanie O'Bryan, who has been looking for her niece, Kimberly Greene Medina, since 1996. "Resources aren't allocated toward missing adults. Unless a crime scene is left behind, frequently the attitude is taken that it's an adult walking away from their lives."
Law enforcement departments say most missing adults are not truly missing or endangered. In most cases, they say, adults either don't want to be found or don't bother to tell others they have gone out of town. Often searches are called off because there are no leads.
Boulder County's sheriff's office lists four unsolved missing-adult cases, including Haynes. Detective Jenny Paddock with the Boulder Police Department says there are two additional open missing-person cases in the city of Boulder. Louisville has no open missing-adult cases. Lafayette's and Longmont's police departments did not return calls from the Daily Camera.
Besides Haynes, the county's missing include Mark Allen Bonner, who disappeared while house-sitting in unincorporated Boulder County in 1978, when he was about 24; Antonio Cappola, who was reported missing by housemates in September when he disappeared from their Superior home; and the Rev. Rex Douglas, a then-61-year-old Lyons minister who disappeared in 1984 while traveling in Missouri.
Boulder Police Department's unsolved missing-person cases include Boulder residents Terry Johnson, 46, who disappeared Sept. 25, and Robbie Bockmann, 26, who vanished April 19. Bockmann's car was found on Walker Ranch. Johnson's car was never found.
Others missing from the county, such as longtime Boulder resident John Cooper and his second wife, Jan, have never been formerly reported to law-enforcement agencies. The Coopers departed Boulder with the Denver-based Concerned Christians cult. John's daughter, Jennifer Cooper, says no one has heard from her father since December 2000; she doesn't know if he is alive or dead.
Other unreported cases may include missing transients and those estranged from family, says Phil West, a detective lieutenant with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. He cites one case in which a transient man died in Boulder. It took a while to find his mother, who hadn't reported him missing, he says.
West says missing person cases stay with detectives. He never forgot Jon Haynes' license plate: 1CPK105. For years, the Boulder County Sheriff detective obsessively checked any California license plates that crossed his path to see if the numbers and letters matched the missing car.
It was West's first unsolved missing person case. It's still his only one.
West has worked for the Boulder County Sheriff's Office for 25 years.
"It's troubling that there isn't a clear resolution to it," he says.
Jim Haynes made a deal with his son, Jon: Do well in school and he'd get a car, and tuition and room and board at the college of his choice. Jon responded to his father's overtures by turning his life around. He went from being a D student to class valedictorian at the Olympic Valley Ski School in Taos, which mixed regular academic classes with skiing instruction, Sarah says.
He chose CU and was looking forward to being on the ski team. He also selected a four-wheel-drive Subaru -- the car of his dreams, Sarah says.
That car is now Sarah's nightmare. Sometimes she dreams her brother is dead in the car in a ravine. Sometimes he's begging for help.
More than two decades later, she checks to see if Jon's Social Security number has been active. As recently as 18 months ago, she found evidence that his number was being used in Sacramento. But that turned out to be a computer error.
Her father has compiled two filing cabinets of evidence and letters he wrote to the Boulder Police Department. More than 20 years later, Jim Haynes can't talk about his son without breaking down, Sarah says.
"When do you stop searching?," she asks.
Both the Boulder Police Department and the Boulder County Sheriff's Office say cases with missing children younger than 12 are always considered urgent. But authorities begin an immediate search for an adult only when there is evidence of a crime or the missing person has mental or physical problems. A missing-person case isn't closed until a person is found or a body is identified.
In most cases, missing adults usually turn up within a month, West says.
But there are some, like Haynes, who disappear without a clue to their fate or whereabouts.
Despite Jim Haynes' pleas that his son had been killed, Sarah says Boulder police initially treated Jon's case as if he were a runaway.
West denies Jon was considered a runaway, but he did speak with several of Jon's friends about the possibility that he disappeared voluntarily, possibly with a cult. Some said he would never do that to his family; others said he would do so in a heartbeat, West says.
For 10 years, Jon's family searched, hired private detectives and kept in close contact with Boulder police. His father filed a petition in Contra Costa, Calif., Superior Court on or about June 16, 1982, asking that Jon be declared legally dead. It was accepted. Jon's case is still open, because the police department must treat it as a murder, Sarah says.
Jon's disappearance is highly suspicious, but there is no physical evidence indicating that he was murdered, West says. His case is still not considered a homicide.
O'Bryan says Aurora police also assumed the disappearance of her 19-year-old niece on Oct. 29, 1996, was voluntary. They thought Medina, a former Broomfield High School student, was just a young mother who wanted out of her situation, she says. The Aurora police did not return calls by the Daily Camera.
O'Bryan took the investigation into her own hands. She learned to circulate flyers quickly and to handle the press and the police department, she says. She found out how bloodhounds work and trained with the Civil Air Patrol on how to search fields and pastures. She went online and learned how to search for clandestine grave sites and hunted for Kimberly's body with Medina's father in remote eastern Colorado areas. She did it for years, until she was physically and emotionally exhausted.
O'Bryan says the police department took Medina's disappearance more seriously only after she didn't use her Social Security number or driver's license or try to contact her children. Occasionally they would join a search when O'Bryan brought information.
"I used to track the homicides in Aurora each time (knowing) there was that much less being done on Kimmy's case. They (the Aurora police) are caring people, they just didn't have the resources."
The end of the road
The decision to call off a search is dependent on many factors, Paddock of the Boulder Police Department says, including a lack of leads, or not finding clues in a search area.
Active searching typically concludes when authorities believe they've pursued available leads to exhaustion, West says. A supervisor is always involved in the decision to inactivate a case. Cases are reactivated if new information is received.
On Dec. 16, 1981, the search for Jon Haynes was called off, despite his family's insistence that he was murdered in Boulder County.
"Somebody out there knows something," Sarah says. "Someone had to take the car."
"Don't wait till it happens to you. It takes a village. We all have to look out for our neighbors."
There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to Jon Haynes' location, whether he is dead or alive, Sarah Haynes says. If you have information about the case, contact her at (415) 388-0806.
Those who have information about Kimberly Greene Medina should contact Detective Chuck Mehl with the Aurora Police Department at (303) 739-6127.
Contact Susan Glairon at (303) 473-1392 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Help for families
Prior to 2002, no federally funded assistance was available to family members of missing adults. Broomfield resident Stephanie O'Bryan and others lobbied for the Center for Missing Adults to be placed under the Justice Department. Their efforts paid off. In 2002, the center received a two-year $1.6 million grant from the federal government.
"Now there is a resource if someone has a missing adults," she says.
To reach the Center for Missing Adults, call 1-800-690-FIND, or visit www.missingadults.org
Stephanie O'Bryan, of Broomfield, looks through the hundreds of documents she compiled while searching for her niece, Kimberly Greene Medina, who has been missing since 1996. Mark Leffingwell/Daily Camera Mug shots: Jon Haynes; Kimberly Greene Medina High-profile missing persons cases generate a lot of interest initially, but families have a difficult time keeping the media and police fofused on their loved ones after time has passed. Camera File Photo