February 7, 2005
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Carter enters treatment program
over childhood problems, says Stiller
WITHOUT A TRACE No neat answers in missing person cases
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution; 2/6/2005; BILL TORPY
Last month, Roberto Coronado stepped off a Delta jet in Atlanta and vanished. He never made his connecting flight to Peru.
Last July, Mary Ann White, an.phpiring model and writer, didn't
show up at her waitressing job. Her Atlanta apartment seemed to be
undisturbed and her car was in its parking spot.
On any given day, scores of adults are missing in the Atlanta area. Sometimes frantic families immediately call police, pressing for information, urging them to hit the streets searching. Other times, it takes weeks before anybody notices them gone.
Missing person reports on adults normally don't set off alarm bells with police. Grown-ups can disappear if they wish. And most of those reported missing have, for whatever reason, gone missing on purpose.
Americans have long been captivated by those who vanish: Laci Peterson, Jimmy Hoffa, Judge Joseph F. Crater, who stepped into a New York City taxi in 1930 and was never seen again. Missing person posters and reports on newscasts are ubiquitous. "Without a Trace," a TV drama that follows an FBI missing persons unit, is a hit.
"People are intrigued by the mystery; people like the resolution in an hour," said Erin Bruno, a case manager with the National Center for Missing Adults, an information clearinghouse dedicated to helping find the missing. "Of course, it doesn't work that way."
Last year, almost 166,000 adults were reported missing and entered into the National Crime Information Center's computerized system that links the nation's law enforcement agencies. As of Jan. 1, 47,888 cases remained active. In Georgia, 787 adults were missing, most from metro Atlanta.
Families are left in the anguish of uncertainty: Maybe the missing person was abducted. Or murdered. Or drove off an embankment into a wooded ravine. Or is wandering in a psychotic or drug- induced haze. Often, the missing person has a secret side.
"Most of the time they're out doing something the family doesn't know about," said Gwinnett County Detective Wil Wilbanks, who has handled many missing person cases. "One time, the wife went on and on about what a churchgoer he was. I pulled a criminal history, and he was a lot different than she thought."
Turned out the husband had a record of drug arrests, had pulled much of the cash out of their bank account and returned after a drug bender, Wilbanks said.
The flood of missing people is a dilemma for detectives. When do they call out the dogs and helicopters and sweat the missing person's acquaintances? And when do they merely make a few checks, then wait for the missing to return?
If you go missing in Atlanta, odds are Mike Loy will be on your case. The crisply dressed, well-manicured Loy is the Atlanta Police Department's missing persons bureau. The 49-year-old veteran detective is on light duty and undergoing chemotherapy for a rare viral infection. But he regularly clocks 10-hour days slogging through the dozens of cases he gets each month.
"It's no crime to be missing," Loy said. "You get a feel for the case by reading the narrative [on the missing person report] and talking to the family."
He must quickly determine: Is the missing person a victim of foul play? Has he or she done this before? Was there mounting stress or a personal crisis? Is there a history of drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness?
Families often bristle at such questions. But Loy says he must quickly get to the root of the matter if the person is to be found.
When a person is reported missing, Loy asks families for cellphone records and automated teller machine and credit card numbers to track any activity. For example, before he went missing from the airport, Coronado had withdrawn $400 from an ATM.
"You can live for a while on $400," Loy said. The family said Coronado, 40, who lived near Washington, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He had also been homesick for his native Peru. As he flipped through the file, Loy got a call from the front desk. Coronado's family was in the lobby.
But looking for a missing person in Atlanta is like trying to find a phantom, investigators say. The city's bustling anonymity helps a person hide, if that's what he wants to do.
"It's easy to get lost here without even trying," said Harold Copus, a former FBI agent who runs Investigative Solutions, an Atlanta private investigations firm. He has looked for dozens of missing persons, for which he charges at least $5,000.
"It's a big city with lots of people coming and going," he said. "People are checking in and out of hotels. Do you know the people in the building next to you?"
David Foerster, a counselor who sometimes works with families of the missing, agrees. "Atlanta is a very transient community," he said. "A lot of people come to Atlanta to escape."
Copus says most people who willingly leave are suffering an emotional meltdown. Financial ruin is often the cause. "It's a case of 'I can't stand being judged anymore; I've got to flee,' " he said. "They haven't thought past the next 72 hours."
Investigators must try to enter a missing person's brain. "You have to find out what caused the crisis," he said. "You have to ask families, 'What can you tell me? What's the most embarrassing thing you can tell me?' "
Suicide is often the missing person's destination.
Police sometimes don't act fast enough, Copus said. Part of that comes from being jaded, he said. More of it comes from the workload.
"They have to pick and choose" which cases to focus on, Copus said. "Often, [police] don't get worked up. You have to work these cases hard, soon and fast."
Loy works the cases as soon as he gets them --- two or three often await him on his answering machine when he arrives at his desk at 6 a.m. But the sheer volume of his workload precludes Loy from intimately knowing each and every case.
He handled 690 cases in 2004. He said he cleared 670. He locates many of the missing by calling jails and hospitals each day. He checks driver's license records to see whether the missing person has renewed a license. He calls families to get more information and often finds that the missing person has returned but the family did not report it. Three cases last year were cleared by the discovery of a body. One was Mattie Moore, an Alzheimer's patient who wandered away from her northwest Atlanta home in April and whose skeleton was found two days before Christmas. One man was found slain in Douglas County. Another was floating in a creek.
Recently, the coroner's office from San Bernardino County, Calif., called Loy asking for a DNA sample from a relative of Cynthia Jones. In 2003, a homeless man in San Bernardino found the skeletal remains of a transient curled up in a drainage pipe. It was a black woman under 5 feet tall, and an investigator there noticed similarities to Jones' description on the National Crime Information Center site.
The California investigator thinks a match is a long shot but he has more than 350 unidentified bodies and says these things sometimes pan out.
Jones, 36, the mother of three, was last seen near a Bankhead Highway liquor store in 1997. Loy canvassed the neighborhood where Jones' companion, Sammie Barron, once lived. Loy found someone who knew Barron's mother. A day later, Barron called Loy, saying he'd track down Jones' daughter. A week later, the daughter called to say she would stop in to provide blood for a DNA sample.
Some families, however, complain police are not aggressive enough.
Mary Ann White, then 37, the mother of two and the oldest of six siblings from Memphis, vanished without a trace in July. Her sisters said they are left without answers.
"I don't think police did a good investigation," said White's sister Veronica Collins. She said statements from her sister's friends and acquaintances have been inconsistent. Collins believes her sister may have been killed.
However, the police report says her boyfriend gave White $7,000 to complete her book, and investigators think White may have run off with the money.
Tarsha Anderson, another of White's sisters, doesn't buy that. "Her luggage was still at her apartment," Anderson said. "Her bank account was untouched. Everything was still there --- her jewelry, her underwear."
The Atlanta Police Department's Web site still carries a photo of White, glamorous and smiling.
Most cases end with the missing person being found.
Late last month, eight days after landing at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and then disappearing, Roberto Coronado called his grandmother in Peru. She then relayed the message to his wife and mother in Washington.
Details of his disappearance remain sketchy.
"He said he was walking around," said his mother, Hilda Chanduvi. "He said he doesn't remember anything."
Coronado told his family he was at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Atlanta.
He took a bus back home.
(Copyright, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution - 2005)
Texas Nurse Trial in Patient Deaths Starts
AP Online; 2/6/2005; ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: NOCONA, Texas
Jackson goes on trial this week, charged with injecting elderly patients with lethal drug doses, killing 10 and injuring another.
The case, according to Jackson's family, offers a glimpse of a woman who had one face for the world and a very different one for those close to her.
"I don't know if she did it or not, but she's perfectly capable of it," Jackson's daughter, Jennifer Carson, told The Associated Press.
According to Carson and her father, Leroy Carson _ Jackson's second husband _ Jackson was angry and verbally abusive at home, though to everyone else she appeared caring and compassionate.
"She was rough talking to them and had a bad habit of slapping them," Leroy Carson said of his ex-wife's relationship with their daughter and son. "She talked to them hard. She was good with profanity."
Jennifer Carson, 18, said her mother had "a baby face on the outside but was hell on the inside."
Jackson, 38, will be tried this week on capital murder charges for two of the deaths at a hospital in this rural north Texas town southeast of Wichita Falls, and faces up to life in prison if convicted.
The case began to unfold in early 2001, when officials realized there were twice as many deaths as usual in recent months at the 38-bed Nocona General Hospital; officials said they traced the deaths to Jackson's shifts. Officials also discovered at least 10 missing vials of mivacurium chloride, a drug administered by syringe or intravenous injection, and used to temporarily halt breathing to insert a breathing tube.
According to a testimony at a recent pretrial hearing, investigators searching Jackson's home in February 2001 found a discarded syringe. Jackson was fired from the hospital.
When questioned a month later by the FBI, Jackson admitted to injecting one patient with mivacurium chloride; she said she wanted to sedate him and never meant to hurt him, according to a transcript of the FBI interview read at a hearing.
When asked why she injected the patients with that drug, Jackson answered, "I don't know," according to the transcript.
Ten of the patients' bodies were exhumed in 2001 to be tested for traces of mivacurium chloride.
In 2002, Jackson was indicted on capital murder charges in connection with four patient deaths _ including her third husband's grandfather. Last year she was indicted on three more capital murder charges in connection with six patient deaths in 2000 and 2001, as well as a charge of attempted murder.
By all accounts, 2000 was a hard year for Jackson. She lost custody of her children, a close relative died and she suffered a miscarriage after fighting with her husband, Kirk Jackson, Jennifer Carson said.
One day, Jackson told her daughter she'd talked to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. "I said, `What is that?' She said, `I could kill you and get away with it,'" Jennifer Carson alleged.
The defense has not said whether it will present an insanity defense. Jackson's attorney, Bruce Martin, did not return calls seeking comment.
District Attorney Tim Cole has declined to comment, citing a judge's gag order in the case.
In the 18 months before Jackson was arrested, Jennifer Carson said, she was wary of her mother.
"There was never really a time when I thought she couldn't do it, but I thought she was too ditzy to pull it off by herself," said the teenager, who is expected to testify.
Despite her conflicted feelings, Jennifer Carson is glad her mother won't die if convicted. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, though they haven't said why.
"I've never thought about the death of my mother," she said. "If she did it, yeah _ she deserves life in prison."
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