The Suburbanite
  • Not every ‘missing person’ in police database is missing

  • Canton police have a total of 15 people on its “missing” list. Five are adults, 10 are juveniles.

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  • Jordan Pekarek of Massillon is listed on the Ohio Attorney General’s website as an “endangered runaway.”
    Her father, Christopher Pekarek, said that as he watched the story of the three abducted women unfold on Cleveland TV, he considered “that it’s very possible that it could be an identical situation” for his daughter.
    Just a few days shy of her 18th birthday, Jordan Pekarek went missing. That was more than a year ago, and her dad considered the possibility that Jordan could have been among the women found alive in Cleveland.
    “I watched to make sure that she wasn’t included,” he said.
    She wasn’t. The three women found alive last week — Amanda Berry, 27; Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32 — had with them a 6-year-old who was born to Berry while in captivity. Genetic testing confirmed her captor is the father.
    Pekarek had mixed feelings that his daughter wasn’t among them. He was happy to find out she wasn’t, and still worried because she hasn’t been located.
    “As long as she wasn’t on the news, I’m OK. We’re in good shape,” he said.
    The attorney general’s missing persons list includes Jordan Pekarek and two other Canton teens, one of whom has been found.
    Canton police have a total of 15 people on its “missing” list. Five are adults, 10 are juveniles.
    The oldest juvenile case goes back to Aug. 30. Then 17 years old, Catrina Gaitor was entered into the Ohio LEADS database as a missing person. She is described as biracial, 5 feet, 4 inches tall and about 205 pounds with black hair and hazel eyes. The Ohio Attorney General’s website (www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov) says she also has a mole on her right eyelid and a long burn scar on her face and neck.
    Sgt. Scott Prince of the city’s Detective Bureau said the youngest missing person listed is 15. She has been missing since May 1 — a little more than a week. Another missing kid is 16, five are 17 and three, including Gaitor, have since turned 18.
    “If they are 18 and they can just tell us where they’re at, we can take them off our ‘missing’ list,” Prince said.
    Then again, not everyone is truly missing.
    Some kids run away from home, foster care or a juvenile detention center, yet they are labeled as missing.
    They are missing persons because, despite whether or not they are in danger, “juveniles, because of their age, are considered at risk or endangered,” Prince said. They are automatically placed into a nationwide database even if they intentionally left home.
    Canton police list only five missing adults.
    The city’s oldest unsolved missing person’s case on record is that of Carmella Dixon, a 27-year-old woman last seen in June 1992 on Shorb Avenue NW, Prince said. She was described at the time as 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 145 pounds.
    Page 2 of 3 - A call Thursday to the telephone number of Dixon’s sister, who had reported her missing, showed the number had been disconnected.
    Ruth M. Foster also remains missing. Foster was almost 46 years old when she was last seen at 10:15 p.m. Oct. 20, 1996. The Hoover Co. employee didn’t show up for work, and her car was found later at a Holiday Inn parking lot in Jackson Township, Capt. James Myers said in 2002. Investigators initially believed bones found in a hand-harvested cornfield off Trump Avenue SE could have been hers, but later discovered the bones to be those of a man who hasn’t been identified.
    Described as a black woman who was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 129 pounds with a medium build when she was last seen, Foster has never been found.
    Prince said the circumstances surrounding her disappearance were suspicious.
    But police have no evidence that she’s dead — or alive. So, she stays on the “missing” list.
    Jestin Grier was 21 when he was reported missing in 2005. He was last seen walking toward a building on Tuscarawas Street W.
    Madeline Neace was reported missing in October 1994.
    Joseph Neuman was reported missing in October 1996. He was 34 at the time.
    Some of the missing adults may be dead, but their names remain on the list.
    “Because of the circumstances of the case, we do believe some of these people are no longer with us,” Prince said. But police won’t stop looking “until we confirm either way, either we find the person or their remains.”
    Rick Walters of the Stark County Coroner’s Office said families routinely call local hospital emergency rooms and the coroner’s office to inquire whether their missing loved one has surfaced.
    “We get calls all the time about people being missing, and we tell them to immediately do a missing-persons report,” he said. “Get it into the system so people can begin to look for the missing person or, if someone’s found, they can be identified.”
    The abundance of missing persons databases — even those online — render a basic search difficult. Police are accused of not sharing the information, although their criteria for labeling someone as “missing” may differ from one department to another.
    Typically, missing persons are priority cases when they have a physical disability that requires immediate attention, such as a diabetic or an Alzheimer’s patient in need of medication, or when the person is “physically endangered by some means,” said Canton police Lt. James Cole. Police pay special attention to those who are suspected abuse or abduction victims.
    “Oftentimes, people who are adults want to be gone,” said Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier. “They leave for whatever reason. ... Maybe there’s a domestic issue at home or they have a bad situation ... and they don’t want to be found.”
    Page 3 of 3 - It’s also common for an unhappy teenager to leave home upon turning 18.
    “When a person moves out of the home, we have to respect that because they are adults,” the sheriff said.
    Like stolen cars, each missing persons case is updated monthly in the state’s LEADS database, which is the Ohio Law Enforcement Automated Data System.
    Maier said his department currently has three pending missing persons cases. All involve teenagers who were suspected runaways.
    When Christopher Pekarek reported his teenager missing on April 1, 2012, he believed his daughter had run away from home, too.
    “It was three days before her 18th birthday. While I didn’t see it coming, I wasn’t exactly surprised,” he said.
    Police reports show that he had told police that she didn’t come home from school after a recent argument about spring break. She had wanted to leave the state for spring break, yet she had no money or job to pay for it. He told police all of her belongings were gone and that she had left a note in her bedroom claiming to have found a “better home.”
    Still, he worried.
    And he worries today that it’s possible that, like the three woman found in Cleveland, she could have been abducted.
    Sarah Rae Boehm was 14 when her parents in Beaver County, Pa., reported her missing in July 1994, according to the FBI website at www.fbi.gov. A frequent runaway, 17-year-old Kathryn Menendez of Portage County went missing about a month later.
    They were found about a half-mile apart at the Berlin Reservoir, which lies in Stark, Portage and Mahoning counties. Menendez’s nude body was discovered several days after she had gone missing, and Boehm’s remains were found four months later.
    Agents are still looking for their killer or killers. On the 15th anniversary of their deaths, the FBI erected billboards asking the public for information and offering a reward.
    This week, TV monitors across Kent State University’s Stark campus flashed Taylor Robinson’s picture.
    The 19-year-old Akron woman last was seen May 3 when she was dropped off at an Akron home after working as a home health care aide, according to Akron police reports.
    The KSU-Stark student, who was in her second semester and hoping to study nursing, hasn’t been seen since, said Cynthia Williams, university spokesperson.
    Williams hopes the photo will spark someone’s memory enough to provide relevant information so police can ensure Robinson is returned “safe and sound to her family. We’re just hoping that everything turns out well and that she’s healthy and home very soon.”
    Robinson is described on the police report as black, 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 150 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, gray leggings and a white and black bandana around her head. Police asked that anyone with information call them at 330-375-2490 or 330-375-2530.

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