Looking for People and Answers
Been very busy of late, and am really grateful for the people who have been keeping active and engaged. Special thanks to Julie Jones for staying on top of missing persons news and forwarding relevant cases and doing outreach where she believes K9 search and rescue resources can be of assistance, and to Sharon Avila for putting together and providing updates for our search & rescue resources page. Our organization will only be as good as the people who volunteer their information, skills, and time.
Since my last update letter, the project has received quite a bit of positive publicity, mostly from Texas.Farrah Fazal at KRGV has done several stories about our missing people in the border towns, and Kristine Galvan of Fox 26 in Houston, which prominently featured the cases of Arturo Aviles and Ron Scheepstra. Kristine's spot did a really nice job of concisely articulating the issues faced by families of people who disappear abroad.
More globally, MAP member David Dixon, whose brother Michael disappeared in Costa Rica in 2009, and I were interviewed for BBC's Fast Track program. Like the Fox Houston spot, the segment did a really good job of spelling out the issues. All of this coverage increased traffic to the MAP website, and the BBC spot may have had something to do with the subsequent increased public dialogue and media attention being paid to cases of persons missing in Costa Rica. After it ran, the British government finally got around to issuing a warning to its citizens about traveling to Costa Rica and the Costa Rica government finally got around to asking the British government for help investigating the Dixon case. Unfortunately, nothing of substance has come of these calls for action. This past week, I was interviewed by the BBC's Latin America correspondent, who, I believe, also interviewed the family of Kim Paris about Costa Rica disappearances.
Through the magic of social media, we recently connected with Paul Lima, a filmmaker whose Dad was murdered on Roatan, Honduras, the same island my brother disappeared from, back in 2000. Paul has produced a documentary about his family's experiences. Please take a few minutes to watch the trailer -- Paul's film is really powerful and will go a long way toward building awareness and appropriate outrage over State Department indifference to the interests of individual Americans who disappear or are murdered while traveling abroad.
We had two happy endings since the last update, both involving young people reported missing in Honduras. In one case, a young man on his way to Utila by way of La Ceiba was scammed by a cabbie and left in a remote location without cell or landline service. The other case, just this past week, involved two New York school teachers who lost contact with their families somewhere between Guatemala and Roatan. Both of these cases highlight the importance of having people at home know your itinerary when traveling and maintaining regular contact with them.
Unfortunately, the majority of our families' cases not only remain unsolved but in most cases the authorities in the countries their loved ones disappeared in and in their own countries remain indifferent to their situations. And the numbers of the missing continue to grow. In recent weeks, we've had the following cases brought to our attention:
- Terry Graham, a Nevada resident, reportedly committed suicide in Serbia; however, the official versions of the event keep changing, Terry's body was cremated without being properly identified, and his mom, Barbara, has paid to have DNA testing done and the Serbian authorities refuse to turn over the results. The State Department refuses to play any kind of active role in the getting Barbara answers.
- Paul Chang, a California resident, was in almost daily contact with his family while traveling in Southeast Asia then suddenly fell out of contact. State will only confirm that Paul left Thailand but will not provide the family with any other information or guidance.
Paul's daughter, Emily Brown, and Barbara Johnson, Terry's Mom, could use moral and practical support from our members -- particularly those who live in their states and can help impress upon their senators the importance of putting pressure on the State Department for action. Please reach out to them if you have any contacts or other resources that might be helpful.
There's more -- I will send another update after my family's next meeting in Washington later this month.
Thanks for your interest and continuing support.