(Introduction to show begins)
ERIC MEADOWS (WCAN Co-host): Hello everyone, you have joined us here on another episode of Missing Pieces. Hosted by Todd Matthews and myself Eric Meadows. We had such a good time last week, talking about some of the things that brought Todd to where he is today. We're going to continue that conversation. Todd, we welcome you to the studio tonight. How are you doing?
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): I'm doing good guys, how are you?
ERIC: Oh, doing wonderful, doing really, really good. We talked about quite a bit last week. You know.
TODD: Yes we did.
ERIC: We only covered a fraction of it, I know we can't do everything tonight. But let's talk some more about The Lost and The Found Global Resource Center. When did that; I'm not talking about the actual conception of it, but I'm talking about the.... when did it come into being ? When was it official?
TODD: You know, that's hard to say. Uh, actually I founded it as a 503c probably about two years ago. But it really existed so much longer than that I think. I just try to use it like a hub for all of these different projects that I'm trying to work on. There's so many projects that we've never even got a chance to even talk about yet. There's just millions of opportunities and possibilities out there to help further the cause, just so many things. I actually heard from a District Attorney's office today from California and I'm going to go out there at some point and time to do a lecture about forensic art. That's one of the facets of it, which is Project EDAN and I'm going to be doing an hour long lecture for about 40 district attorneys and paralegal in training. Now what do you say to a group like that?
ERIC: Well; first off, why don't you define for us "What is forensic art?"
TODD: Well..forensic art, there is a lot of different facets to forensic art of course. Of course, most of the time you're actually taking a skull and using tissue depth markers, determining the depth of the tissue based on race, age, sex, just a numerous...uhh...numerous factors and you actually reconstruct the skull into a fleshed out face in clay. And a lot of times this plays a big role in identification, but you also have a facet. That's not really the forensic facet; but the age progression of the missing person, young child 12 years old, five years. They are going to change a lot. So it is really important to have resources lined up where you can show the potential aging process of this person, to help make it easier to find them. If you are actually visually looking for somebody.
ERIC: You know on a lot of those CSI shows that are now coming out? You'll see where they actually have a skull, but they've got markers on it and they are putting clay to it. Who was it that first developed this?
TODD: You know it goes back for so long and I remember the IAA; it's a very old organization, the International Association of Identification. There's so many different ways that they actually develop identification. They are using tire prints, just so many different things. You know, if you ever saw where they matched up footprints with tire tracks and forensically identified a car from a tire track, make and model. There are so many different things that you do. But now, The Body Farm here in the Knoxville area, in Tennessee at the University of Tennessee there's an Anthropology lab. I think we spoke of this last week. And there is so much research that goes on there, you know? A body is actually left to decay; on its own, as if somebody had basically dumped a body. So they study the temperature, all the factors. Every little nibbler that would come along. Entomology, the study of insects. You can actually identify how long a person has been lying there by the egg casings.
TODD: An insect, that has actually made their home on that body, made a meal of the body.
ERIC: You say that this is taking place on the Body Farm in Knoxville?
ERIC: Is this funded by the government or just the university itself?
TODD: It's through the University. I'm not really sure where they pull their funding from, but most of it is from the university. Actually a body that I worked to exhume here in Livingston; Vickie Burtram, we actually took her remains to the body farm. She had supposedly fallen 112 feet. No broken bones. So of course, the family was a little upset for several years. You have the body of your loved one and she's fallen all these, this huge distance and then they say there are no broken bones? So we did exhume that body. That was the first time I've ever got involved in anything like that. Actually taking a body out of a casket. So you can imagine what that was like. But it worked out really well, we did find some fractures.
ERIC: So you did find some fractures?
TODD: Yes. We did find some fractures. I'm not sure there was enough for that type of a fall, that was quite a fall.
ERIC: Now...I've got two questions.
ERIC: Concerning forensics art. Well...first off...does the person have to have any type of formal training? And if so, does it have to do with anatomy? Art training...are they akin to being a doctor? And my second question is. Your actual; oh gosh, what would you call them? The guys that are actually doing the autopsies. Your coroners and all. How are they trained nowadays?
TODD: The medical examiners. You know a medical examiner; a lot of it, they are pretty much trained like a doctor. Because they are a doctor. Maybe not a medical doctor; not an M.D. But you know, a doctor of anthropology. Dr. Emily Craig; I've worked with her in Kentucky, she is with the state medical examiner in Kentucky. She's an anthropologist and she does the autopsies in the state of Kentucky. She did an autopsy on the tent girl after we made the identification on her. She had to actually go back and confirm the identification with DNA testing, that type of thing. Now the artist. First and foremost, you have to have some degree of talent and a passion for doing this type of thing. And that's something that develops over time. In the earlier days, I liked to do a lot of sketching. Landscape sketching and facial sketching, that type of thing. Then, it sort of developed when I was getting more interested in this type of thing. Before it was just like "Well you know...I can do this, but I don't really have a place to do it..no reason to do it." What do you do? Draw piles of pictures and just pile them up? You find an application for it. That felt good. Having something to do with the ability to do that. I've not been forensically trained, so I can't do the forensics where you are actually rebuilding a skull. Not, legally, I can't. Because I've not been trained to do that and there are a lot of trainings you can go to for that. But we do have artists. Now, there's like 20 artists with Project EDAN and most of them have had full fledged forensic training. I find more of a niche in trying to organize and create assignments for these people that want to volunteer and it seems easier. I have done some of the age progressions and just some of the basic sketchings. And I find it interesting. And at some point in time, I'd like to go and have a little further training myself. There is just no time for it right now.
ERIC: Todd, we do have a caller right now.
ERIC: Go ahead caller.
CALLER: Hi Todd.
TODD: Hi Holly.
CALLER: Hi, How are you tonight?
TODD: I'm doing good. How are you?
CALLER: Good. I'm just wanting to know if you could explain to us a bit about when you're drawing a picture and you're trying to do the aging. How do you go about that process?
TODD: Now; to do the age progression, there is a little bit of a trick to it. If there are close family members; parents and/or siblings, that have a very close look to that person...those are very instrumental things. They actually help bring about a more accurate age progression, because you see how people age similarly. Have you ever heard someone say "You look just like your father at that point in his life" and you know that's very true? So, that does help. You have to remember; again like the forensic reconstruction, it's an approximation, it's not an exact science. There are so many factors that affect the aging process. Are you out in the sun a lot? It's really hard to predict exactly. I think people have to keep in mind this is an approximation even in forensic and in age progression art. Then there is the basics...you know what happens. There's the studies, there's the certain wrinkle that comes at 30 and another one comes at 35 and so on. And a lot of it is basic, just basic common knowledge.
CALLER: And for you? That was just like a natural talent that you actually; kind of really progressed into? Making more of a specific talent, correct?
TODD: Trying to. There is more of a science to it when you've actually had the real formal training. They really have to go through a lot of hours of training and a lot of testing to see if you actually got it. You know? What it takes to do that and you know I find more benefit, more trying to coordinate. I try to find the right person to do the right thing, because we have certain artists that are just perfect for an age progression and this person really does reconstruction on females better than this one. So, you know? You find the artist and try to put them in the niche they are more skilled at. A lot of them are really good at age progression, but they might be more weak in the reconstruction or they might not had as much training in the reconstruction. So you put them in the role they are best at and that is a job all in itself. Trying to find the right person for the right job.
CALLER: Do you know how many you have done approximately?
TODD: The Project EDAN itself has done hundreds of sketches; literally, hundreds of sketches.
CALLER: The Project Edan website and um...your site, you know..the one that you have...it does say you know....yeah... there is a lot of people. Ok...well that was my question...I was interested in knowing sort of how that process went about.
TODD: You're the loyal listener. (Todd giggles)
CALLER: I look forward to every Tuesday.
TODD: You set your clock, don't you??
CALLER: I do, I'm so sorry.
TODD: (Todd laughs) Oh, I'm glad to hear from you. You bring an interesting factor in it. I always know we've got one really good listener. She's going to be listening every week. We can count on you.
CALLER: Well, I mean I have a million questions, of course. They are always..um... interesting...but this one does have a specific interest and like you said many shows are picking it up and wanting to use it. But I think you have to be very talented and also have that passion. But, I also think it's sort of a special gift.
TODD: Well I've seen a lot of artists that come on board and um...well they are new artists. They are an aspiring artist, I'll say that. They are very interested in the artwork and the science. But they don't have the talent to begin with; in the sketching and it's so hard. You're talking to someone from high school or college and they are just not really...they really can't draw a straight line. And you know? What do you tell them? You know they are very interested in the science, there are just some things you can't be trained into.
CALLER: Just putting all the pieces together to make it into a progressive picture of what the person....
TODD: Well you know, just the actual artist talent in itself, because it is an artist science. So you can't just take a course and be a Picasso. You've got to have both. So, it's really a combined science.
ERIC: Well now. Todd and Holly. Are you talking about actually doing sketches or the reconstruction of the skull?
TODD: Both actually. Because you're talking about modeling, sculpting. You know; the Michelangelo type things, where you are actually sculpting a figure. That's not an easy thing to do. You have to have that vision in your mind and be able to communicate it through your hands onto the clay or onto sketch.
ERIC: You know I'm going to tell you. From just from watching; I guess a lot of CSI shows, I was always under the impression that it had to do with the amount or the depth of skin. It might be from the surface of the upper epidermal, all the way down to the bone. That it can never exceed a certain amount or be less than a certain amount.
TODD: Well you know, you have to think. Now what if somebody is overweight? You really don't know their weight. The skin depth, it's all from that science of from learning averages. And if there's nothing you find on a clean white skeleton, there is no way to determine how heavy might this person have been. How long was their hair? And If I do select a certain style of hair, am I misrepresenting this person? Giving the wrong impression. You know, I had my own skull reconstructed at one point in time from an xray. It wasn't to trick the artist so much, but to actually prove the point that it is an approximation. I do have facial hair and he didn't use facial hair because it would be more common not to have it. My hair is a little longer and he used a little more shorter standard. It was a standard he used; therefore my mother, which is also an artist...she didn't recognize me! So I showed her this picture that was an actual reconstruction and it was anatomically perfect, I will say that. Forensically perfect per that skull based on averages. I asked my mother "Do you know this person?" She said "Well he looks familiar, but no, I can't place him." That was the trick. That was the point. So many family members, my Bobby's hair was longer and you know they flip the page and then they are overlooking something. We had the tent girl. We had her after, long after we realized she was Barbara Taylor. I had her autopsy images reconstructed and I showed it to the family and they saw no resemblance at all.
ERIC: Oh really?
TODD: I did. I saw some resemblance, because I was looking at cheekbone, a chin...that type of thing. The bony features that really kind of stand out, even if you have weight or no weight on you. But you know? They might have flipped the page because they had no insight into forensic art. They probably would have flipped the page and said "No that is not her." They looked at the hair, the hair is not quite like hers "Well no." No two remains are created equal. Was it a skeleton? Was it a fairly fresh corpse? There are so many different factors that come into play that actually affect the final product.
ERIC: Ok. Well you know that answers a lot of questions.
TODD: It's pretty wild. There are so many different definitions to it than that. That's as simple as I can put it for this type of thing. I've researched this for many many years now. It's a fascinating science. I just wish it was more precise.
ERIC: So there is no real way of saying what the percentages are of actually representing the person? You can still be that close and still miss it?
TODD: Well, the artist loves to see it afterwards. I've found a lot of artists when identification is made. Whether it was made using an actual image or not, they are always curious. And you'll get the email from them "Well do you have some of the pictures that I can actually look at to compare to see how good I was or how well I did this" They are always curious to do that, they love to see this final image and to see just how close...and you know it's not a vanity thing...I see a lot of them beat themselves up. How can I be better next time? I want it to be more precise next time. And I've seen some that; you know. No pun intended. Theyare dead on. I mean just exactly, down to a cowlick. And a lot of that is so simple because there's actual images from the crime scene. If it was a crime, that shows some degree of freshness. Though you do have a little bit of something to work with. You see something special, maybe a tattoo or just some portion of the skin. Something you can work with to help you get a really good approximation. Something you can really have a firm grip on.
ERIC: Well, Holly...we thank you for calling. Do you have any more questions?
CALLER: No, I was just going to say...it's really truly amazing to hear. And I can't wait to hear the rest of the show. Thank you guys.
TODD: I hope to see you soon Holly.
CALLER: Yep. Bye bye.
TODD: Bye bye.
ERIC: Ok. Thanks for coming on Holly. Let me ask you. Are undertakers, are they good candidates for reconstruction of a corpse?
TODD: No actually. It just depends. In fact, I actually contacted a local undertaker today and it was in regards to; back to the Leoma Patterson (Referring to Episode 10) case. A dress was found at the scene. It was a dress or a tunic or some type of 70s style long blouse, we're not really sure. What it was and you know, my question was to him, because we had a theory with the Patterson case that it possibly somebody could have been. The body that was once mistaken for Leoma Patterson, we think it possibly could have been someone removed from another grave. I'll just put it that way and I'm wondering about the type of clothing that people are buried with. So his part of the identification could possibly be "Can you tell me more about this particular outfit" and "How could it have been some type of outfit that used by funeral director?", "Are there catalogs of clothing that are used by funeral directors?" Because you know you can always provide an outfit for a loved one. You can always do that, what's off the shelf? What do they have in their particularl; that's already slit down the back? And there were specific things about this garment that makes us think that it was a possibility it could have been something like that. So I want him to look at the image and tell me what he can tell me about it. With me telling as little about it as possible. I want to hear what he's got to say. So, that's where an undertaker would come in. Because they are pretty much somebody, you know? They are an artist in a way because they make that person look alive with the makeup. Trying to make them look like they are in peaceful sleep. But you know? A lot of times they don't cross over into the identification.
TODD: And coroner's. So many times a coroner is just simply an elected official. They are possibly not even a medical examiner at all.
ERIC: You know, I was going to ask you. What is the difference between a coroner and an actual medical examiner?
TODD: You know it could be very vast, very vast. I've actually spoken to coroners that were....somebody I would say was not knowledgeable at all about this type of thing.
TODD: Truly amazing. They were an elected official. There is some type of training and I'm not sure if there is even a standard training. You know, it varies.
ERIC: You bring so much information on this show. It's almost shocking on every show. You'd think in this time, day and age there would be more information out there than what people are actually getting. And just now; when you were explaining about coroners and medical examiners, I have always been under the impression that this was a person had been forensically trained. That does autopsies, identifications, not just so much go out and retrieve a body.
TODD: And in some areas they might have a higher degree of training than in other areas. But you know, I'm not sure of the standards. I know that is going to vary county by county and on a state by state basis. I've actually seen coroners make a determination about something that I very strongly disagreed with.
TODD: Based on something I had experienced in a another area. I have to think about "They are probably just operating in this one little box that they live in" and you know I might have actually been communicating with somebody 1,000 miles away and seen something similar. They might be there on the scene, but looking and reviewing several cases. And my colleagues do, we have some degree of experience. And you know I kind of have seen that before. I saw it here. I'd want to base it and compare it a bit, so we do like a comparative analysis. Even jumping continents and looking at similarities.
ERIC: Ok. Let me ask you. When you are dealing with other professionals...
TODD: Uh huh...
ERIC: And there is a disagreement in identification or the actual processing of identification. How do you cross that barrier, so that the two can actually talk or come to an consensus or an understanding?
TODD: A lot of times, you'll find that sometimes it never ends and I think I've said this before. If a person is approximately 6 foot tall; but they really can't determine this, they might say this person is in between 6 ft 2 and 5 ft 10 to give this range. An age range. You don't want it to be too wide but you want it to encompass um...if my missing mother was 5 foot 9 and this body is coming in at 5 foot 9 1/2 to 5 foot 10 1/2...you don't want someone to say "Oh, no...that 1/2 inch...it can't be...it ooks just like her but it can't be." You try to keep it wide enough so somebody can actually fall within that. And you know, I wouldn't look at this like a solid, solid rule. It's just a really good guideline to go by. And there's been a lot of thought. I've seen them change an age range if they actually retrieve more of the skeleton. If it's skeletal remains and more information is found, I've seen them go back and change it. I've seen them change an age progression or an age approximation. The tent girl's was changed probably twice. She was originally considered to be 14 to16 years old, then later on she was 16 to19 years old. Turns out she was 24. She was just a small woman. You know, so much emphasis was put onto that she was little and the problem with that was at the time there wasn't so many anthropologists working in the field. And pathologists might not have even been used. A lot of it might have been a determination of a sheriff or a deputy at the time, based on what they had available and they made a determination. Looks like a child, write it down and so be it "It's a child." I think that's what helped contribute to her going for nearly 30 years unidentified. She was so thought of as a teen and the family was so looking for an adult. It just never clicked that maybe this could be her. I was looking for someone in the younger years originally and I thought if it was a child, surely someone would be looking for her by now. So, I looked for a little bit older and as I read more about it, I thought it could be a small person. I learned to have an open mind out of sheer desperation.
ERIC: Ok. How do you deal with the politics of the business that you're in?
TODD: Wow. It can be very unusual. In dealing with district attorneys, a lot of times you'll get people that are sometimes; I feel, they are resistant. But they are resistant for reasons. They might have more information that you don't have and you're trying to push them to do a certain thing because you've presented a resource for them. You want them to use this resource. It might be for reasons they are reluctant. It might not always be a good reason. I really feel like there are some agencies that don't want the possibility of amateurs to come in and solve something way too quickly. They have supposedly been working very; you know, very closely on for a long time. And it makes you think "Hmmm, are they afraid?" I've seen some that will just beg "Hey, anything you can do. I'm not ashamed to ask for help." I've seen so many people that have; it's getting to be more and more, people are more embracing to the technology and I think that is going to continue to grow.
ERIC: Ok. So now, amateurs. Well let me say, novice. People who are interested in this line of work; not necessarily to get paid for it, but who are interested in it. Who have the hands on technology or has participated or has done something along this line of field. Are they pretty much shunned until they actually either got a degree or have some administrative backing behind them?
TODD: Some are. You know, I think working with groups like the DoeNetwork, I think in it's own success that it's had and Project EDAN, the success that it's had, that actually gives people and you know we don't involve people in these organizations that we've not tried to work with and pretty confident in their ability. I think that gives them some validity when they are actually approaching the law enforcement agency. They are affiliated with this organization and they have grown to become confident in this organization and confident in our ability to put people in certain roles, so that helps. I got so tired of the thing, for years and years it was always in every article. Every article that I've ever worked on "Amateur sleuth", that tag line. And I thought "How many years do you have to be an amateur before you become a professional amateur sleuth?!".
ERIC: Well how many years do you have to?
TODD: You know? You don't. You're wondering, there is no term for this. I tried to come up with the term, a technology-criminologist. That's what I began calling it "A technicriminologist" Because you're actually using bits and pieces. Like the dress I was talking about. All I've got is pictures of this dress. I don't have the dress. The actual physical evidence is gone. So, I'm having to use the media of technology and I'm not talking about broadcast media. A media of photography. I'm having to look at ways to enhance that photograph and get what I can out of what I have.
TODD: Then use communication technology. People that I feel are experts to some degree. You know I have people that are housewives, that I feel this particular person is an expert in this particular thing. They have grown, really like somebody that can really research certain things down. And I see people that might not have a degree. They might be sitting there with a 3 year old tugging at their pant legs while they are sitting on the computer. But I feel like that particular person is an expert. In that specific thing and that would be the person I would go to. So I will commonly go to somebody like that, as quickly or maybe even more quickly than to another professional. Because right now, with the dress...who is going to help me? An anthropologist? Probably not. You know? "Who would I need to talk to?" I've even talked to Carter's, the clothing company about this particular garment. Because I feel like, I've polled the ColdCases group and there is over 2,000 people there and the name 'Carter's' come up twice. It's feeling like it might be related to that garment. So I called Carter's and they replied. They're trying to look through some of their archives and some of their images. And my comment to them was "How about, if you could pull together a resource and you had like a book of a lot of your garments that you've had in that past." That would be phenomenal scientific tool for the identification field. Because you know, I find myself going down that road with garments, many, many times. If you could go to an industry and say "Do you have a book of their line for the past 10 years?" What a tool!
ERIC: Yeah, it would be quite a tool. But that's quite an undertaking.
TODD: Oh yeah. But if they would think now, now it would be easy to do....starting today. Starting today we'll start archiving these things. You've got to prepare for tomorrow. So even if they can't go back into the past; if they keep really, really good records, it's easier now with computers. If you're talking about writing information up or typing by hand. Keeping physical photographs, that was very difficult in the past. But now in the digital world, you see this happening on a day to day basis. People save data. I've got reams, if I had to print out everything on my hard drive it would fill this house with books, completely full. But, I see a lot of newspapers that actually come online. They begin operating, being online. They have their archives back to...say they come online back to 1998. They had it back to 1998 and 1998 on it was online. Then I see them add 1997 and then go back and add 1996. So they are actually retro. They are going back and I think a lot of these industries can do that. There are many uses for something like; not just in crime, but I mean...you know, the vintage clothing line. There has got to be people that collect vintage clothing, that would love to have resources like that.
ERIC: Let me ask you this. The resources that large organizations such as the FBI and the CIA have. Are they willing to help out? Are they willing to bear some of the costs? Because missing people has reached epidemic proportions. Are they really willing to get into finding out what is causing this? How this is happening and what they can do to solve this?
TODD: Yeah. I've seen it. There are different people doing different levels of that type of interaction. You know, you get the good cop and you get the bad cop. But I do have some very good contacts at the FBI and NCIC. I get a monthly listing of all the missing and unidentified stats. It's mostly statistics. I can count it down to the city. Where these 100,000 missing and 6,000 unidentified are. You know, how fluid it is across the country? Where you are hot spots? Where are the cool spots? Where are you more likely to go missing at? And you know, you see these areas.
ERIC: Are you serious?
TODD: Yes. I mean, they provide that for me.
ERIC: There are places where you are more likely to go missing?
TODD: Well, it's higher degree of likelihood based on population. Like it's a...not always the higher population of something happening to the people. Some areas have a greater proportion than other areas. Washington D.C. has a pretty huge amount of missing people. You wouldn't think so in the nation's capital.
ERIC: I had no idea.
TODD: But it does, it really does. California has a large amount of unidentified persons. You can say a lot of that is population. The coastal areas, so many people trek off. You know, where would you go? Now you're a young girl looking for a dream and you leave your family in the Midwest. You might trek off to Los Angeles to try your career and then maybe just never come home. A lot of these people to the coastal areas; a lot of homeless people will migrate to these areas, to the warmer climates. So they can live outdoors. Much easier to live on skid row in Los Angeles than in New York, much easier. Pretty much most of the year you can live out doors.
ERIC: Let me ask you. East Coast or West Coast? Who has the higher degree of more missing people?
TODD: Well the highest city for missing persons right now is raveling between Washington, D.C. and Detroit, Michigan. It doesn't always coincide with the missing persons amount in each state just because a certain city has the most missing persons per capita. For that city doesn't necessarily mean that state will be the highest state and it's obvious. Some of the Midwestern states; if you don't see a very large population, you're not going to see a lot of statistics come of those states. And a lot of it is in the NCIC. Not all cases have been entered into the NCIC. So, you're getting a possible fall for EDAN, just because California has this huge number. Maybe it might not be contributed to their population or their lack of being able to follow something with law enforcement. Maybe it's because law enforcement has been really good there and they have entered all their people with the NCIC. The FBI, NCIC. So it's hard to really read. I've seen it go both ways.
ERIC: Let's change tracks a little bit now.
ERIC: I'd like to talk about; as a parent, I'm talking about a parent with a newborn child. What can they start doing today? So they can guarantee their child will have a full childhood and adolescence? A great chance of making it into adulthood? Without having to; you know, to run into the entanglements of criminal elements that are looking to hurt these children.
TODD: That's the million dollar question. You know, I think we all look at that. Unfortunately, most people that I've seen enter the missing persons world come into it with a lack of knowledge or just overwhelming like "Wow.....I never knew this before my child went missing", "I never had an idea." And that's where I think a lot of the public awareness; like we're doing right now, is so important. Making sure people realize, it can happen to you. It can and I've done things before, even recently. I've made judgment calls with something my 14 year old might want to do. And you think you know if I thought about that twice. I probably wouldn't have done that and you have to think "What if that is the time?"
TODD: You know, because he's asked "Can I walk home from school?" and it's really close. I can see the school from one of my windows in the house. It's really close, but it's still a couple blocks away. And you think "What if?" And I've actually called him back before, when he's called me. I make him carry a cell phone with a GPS device in it and he's called and asked me and I've changed my mind. And you know, I think if you have a second thought, maybe you out to think about it. If you really have a second thought and do you take a lot of pictures, take a lot of pictures of your child...to make sure that you know...you've got something to use in case the unthinkable happens. Know a lot of statistics about your children. Stay in touch with their teachers, the PTOs, the PTAs...that type of thing. Knowing the environment that your child is in is really essential. As far as them actually being a victim of crime or just for their existence, you know? How can I make the best environment for my child? And it's the same old thing. Communication and being involved as much as possible. My child never ceases to amaze me. Some of the things that I see him cross over into or I'll hear him make a statement about something and I'll think "You know, I didn't think that had crept into his world yet." But I do see him saying things and that...hmm. And it's happening at a lot earlier age now and it's scary.
ERIC: I imagine it is.
TODD: It's really scary and you've told me in the past that you feel you've grown closer to your family. I hope that it's not because you're more worried. Maybe it's that you're more conscious.
ERIC: You know, I think being more conscious. The elements of; actually, it's made my awareness peak to the point. Not on the borderline of being paranoid.
ERIC: But I'm more conscious that there is an opportunity for something to happen.
TODD: Oh yeah, that's it exactly. You're exactly the result of what I want to see. The result of our actions. That awareness we don't want to create...a paranoid society. Too quick to accuse people. Too quick to jump to the wrong conclusion. Awareness. Just a little bit of thinking a little bit harder about something. How easy you could possibly prevent it. You know that first 24 hours, the first 48 hours...there's these different stages of a crimes when something has happened and a child goes missing, the recovery time. You hear people say 24 hours. I hear people say 48 hours. But you know, as quickly as possibly...obviously that you can recover somebody. So you've got to be prepared and have a plan of action. It's too late when your child goes missing to contact people like me and other people that work with these other organizations. To get you that quick education. People have to be aware. It's a reality. Like you said "It's reaching epidemic proportions." As unsavory it is for us to think about it, we must be aware and ready to react.
ERIC: Now when you're talking outside the United States and Canada, going into third world countries. Are there? Is this just a story that we're hearing about trafficking in human beings? Or is this actually...
TODD: Absolutely not. In fact, I have a guest in the future that has actually dealt with this on a first hand basis.
ERIC: Dealt with what?
TODD: Well, he has actually worked in the recovery. Where he has actually traveled into another country, where somebody had been taken. Trying to recover somebody put on the trafficking market. I met him in Los Angeles, his name is Ty Ritter. I think you can find a website for him. tyritter.com I think that's his website and he's definitely been involved in this type of thing. Where he's actually tried to help recover. And it's going to be a hard interview, because there are some things he just doesn't want to talk about. That's why it's going to be hard. To get him to this point. He's done a lot of interviews, but never those details we'd want to hear. Tell us about when you had to do this. Not just the end result. How did this happen? But you know, when you get into the third world countries; with the lack of social security numbers, it gets hairy. It's a country embroiled in some type of civil war in one corner. You know how hard is it for you to worry about things like when your entire civilization is at risk? Can you imagine the atrocities going on in those areas?
ERIC: I can't imagine. I really can't.
TODD: It's unreal to think about. We don't want that here. It's not that America is more special than the North American continent. But you know, it is something real. It's something we can affect. Not many of us can affect what is going on in a third world nation. The wars, the crimes. But we can try to fix things here and maybe relieve the tension. Where maybe we can work in other areas at some point and time. I think it's definitely part of the evolution of what we're trying to achieve...which is a safer community into a safer world.
ERIC: Now tell me...coming back to the United States. How would you rate the United States in achieving that safer world? In our communities? In our country? is it mentally safer than it was 50 years ago?
TODD: You know, I think so. The population has forced these things to become more prevalent. More crimes, because we're pushed closer together and that's going to continue. We're going to continue to get worse, due to being put together in populations. But I think the awareness is also increasing. I'm hoping this is helping counteract this type of thing and it is to some degree. But you know? We're going to have to get better and better and better because the population is going to continue to grow. Crimes are going to continue to grow as a result of it. Maybe not percentage wise, but it's direct occurrence wise. There are going to be more crimes because there are more people. We have to be better in how we're going to handle it and how we're going to be prepared for it. So we can salvage as much as possible when the unthinkable happens.
ERIC: What does a family need to do, to get more involved? I guess you could say "Show their consciousness if in fact they are active in these areas?"
TODD: And of course. There are so many great causes. I've chosen the missing and unidentified more than any because; just simply, a lot of people find their niche. A lot of parents have the sex talk with their teenager. But how many of them have? You know? You always hear to stay away from strangers, but why? Why do we need to stay away from strangers? Is it too horrific to tell our children? Too horrific to show them the reality? You know, it's pretty sad. Some of the realities. You could be murdered. You could be raped. You hear about children being held in the basements of a house. I've heard about children that have actually escaped after they have gotten older. After being held for numbers of years.
ERIC: You know; when you say; telling a child, is it too horrific to tell a child that "Yes, you can be murdered?" Honestly, I want to be honest with you. I really don't think; a lot of people don't think, that can happen with their child.
TODD: Or they think, our community is pretty safe. There is no reason to bring that up.
TODD: But you know? You do. That is the one thing I can say about my children. They know, they see this on a daily basis. But then there are so many other things I see and I think, but I feel they are naive about. Falling victim to some type of scam would be too easy. And you know, you all tell them about the drugs and I won't say my children are going to be above to falling into the trap of drugs. I'd like to think that I've done what I can. But can you ever really do enough? Because I've seen parents that have busted their butts to try to really pound it in "You must not do this." and then they do it. And they are the ones...and it's not that they failed in trying to communicate it to them. It's ultimately that child makes that choice based on how much peer pressure is put on them out there. And you know, they might have a really good person that's really good at applying pressure on them. That's really talented at talking them into doing that type of thing, it's hard to determine. It's different for every person. Some that have come through unscathed. I think, it's just pure luck that you actually came through that and you were unscathed. I have two brother-in-laws that are in prison now.
TODD: And they got involved in the drug world and hot checks. I'm not embarrassed, I'm not ashamed of it. It happened. We all tried, there was just nothing we could do. We tried when they were younger, when we saw they were being problematic. We even had one that actually lived with us for year before he got into his worst trouble, before he moved back in with his parents. We couldn't reach him. We tried everything. There was just nothing I could do and it's sad. I feel like I've lost him. I feel like I had an opportunity to reach that person and I couldn't.
ERIC: Well now, let me ask you. Can you actually tell a parent that you've done everything that you can? You need to let it go?
TODD: There are times...when somebody is going to have to let it go. When it is said and done and it is too late and they've done everything they know to do. I think it's every parent's responsibility 'If I don't know about it, maybe I need to learn about it.' You know, you don't want to create, how easy would it be to tell you child "You're not going to go anywhere with anyone until you're 18.", "You're not going to date.", "You're not going to walk home from school.", "I'm going to keep you pretty much a prisoner." And how is he going to develop? How is he going to have his own personality?
ERIC: You know....(Eric giggles)
TODD: Sounds appealing doesn't it?
ERIC: You know something Todd? When I finally left home, I was so naive and so innocent to the world. Honestly. I just didn't know. A lot of that did happen. "No, you can't do this.", "No, you can't do that.", "No you're not going to do that." Until I was old enough to leave home. And I remember, I went to college in Ohio and we had a coop program. Where you worked in your major. I made a point of going all the way to Denver Colorado, just to get away from anyone who might know me at home. And you know I look back on that time and I think "It was a learning experience.", "It was nothing but the hand of God that was on me, that kept me safe." I knew nobody there.
TODD: I've thought of the same things. "Boy, if I ever get out of here you guys won't never see me again." I didn't go very far. Actually, I live next door to my parents. It's one of the greatest places I have. Because my children are able to grow up in a world that was very sheltered like I was. And you know? At the time, it seemed like it was kind of like a prison. Tthe best medicine. I hope it helps them as much as it took care of me.
ERIC: Todd; what you're saying to us now, can you tell a child that? What type of child will he grow up to be? You know? They are dealing with peer pressure every day. So, let's answer your own question. Can you do this?
TODD: It's based on each child. I've had some children that I do the lectures at school. I've taken the head to the school, talked to them. You see it click in their minds. They ask these certain questions and you can hear it in their voices. They actually got it. You see some think "It can't happen to me." And just from looking at them and knowing them and knowing some of their families, you're pretty high risk. You still don't even care. You know the high risk people when you see people that just "He can stay out as late as he wants", "He's thirteen years old, he can come home" , "We'll get a ride with somebody, it's ok." And you never go out and see, who did he ride home with?
ERIC: You know, we're coming down to the last minutes. If there is anyone out there listening. 866-921-2205, we want to hear from you as either a parent or a child. But you want to make it quick, we only have about 7 to 10 minutes of the show left.
TODD: We're about out of time again. It goes by so fast. How many hours have we put into this now?
ERIC: Oh my goodness.
TODD: At some point and time I have a special guest. I'll have to ask her first, I'll probably have to ask her tonight after we go to bed. I'm going to try to talk my wife to coming on here. I think you're going to have some questions for her that I'd like to know myself.
TODD: She's bent so much to help me work in this world, but in some ways she's been uhhh resistant. Because sometimes maybe, I want a normal family. Maybe I don't want to have to deal with these issues.
ERIC: Faced with our loved ones; more than anything else, it means we want the best for them. And sometimes that means kind of really getting down in the dirt and deal with things.
TODD: As a parent, sometimes we're selfish. I don't want to call her a selfish person or anybody. But sometimes, why can't we deal with our two? But that's a parent thinking as a parent. Let's keep a closer eye. What are you going to do if you go to save somebody else and you lose one of your own? That's a real possibility.
ERIC: It is a real possibility. If it helps save someone else. Take for instance, when I worked with juvenile corrections. Giving the very best of me meant that maybe one of those children won't go out and kill one of mine.
TODD: That's what I hope for. Taking these cases one at a time. Never do it. Maybe if I just try to work on or improve the whole overall situation, it would be easier. Because we're affecting so many more and by doing this show. We're doing that to some degree. Because instead of reaching out to one person, maybe we reach out to several hundred. One little thing they might remember. One hesitation. One second thought, that maybe it will change their world in ways we might not ever know.
ERIC: I think you're addicted to this.
TODD: I am. You know? I went to bed the other night and the dress was talking back to me in a dream. I was so concentrated on this dress, the dress was actually talking back to me in a dream. You need to take a sleeping pill so you can go to sleep. So you can nourish your body so you can get back up. Sometimes, it's so hard to let go when you're researching. But I had been drilling into that point so much that day. It's so hard to let go for the night and just say "Ok, I'm going to relax."
ERIC: You know Todd? I know on the turn of the New Year, we're going to go back and explore those cases in the new year. You've got a full line up of guests that you have planned to come on.
TODD: We have a huge amount of guests. And right now, it's going to be hard for the rest of the year with the holiday changes. Switch at the last minute, having to accommodate so many last minute holiday things. It's going to be very difficult for the rest of the year. But I hope at the first of the year, things will normalize and we'll have a more locked in pattern. We have dozens of guests lined up already.
ERIC: Let me ask you this. Since you did bring up the holiday situation. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years....how do the families that have experience the loss of a loved one deal with it?
TODD: You know. I actually spent part of Thanksgiving with the family of Leoma Patterson. They had invited me to the dinner, but of course my primary obligation was to my own family. My own mom and dad. We went up afterwards and had dessert with them and got to spend time with them and they remembered their mother that day. It was really good of course. We were working too, trying to build a case file. That type of thing. But I saw one of them. I heard one of them say "I wish she was here." I wish I could find a way to bring her back, but I can't.
ERIC: Years later.
TODD: Yeah, I'd love to. I wish I could and we're going to try everything we can. But, I know we're not going to be bringing her back alive. I'm pretty confident of that. She was in her 50's when this happened. Chances are, she's not walked a away from this family. It's not like a child. You take a 12 year old and you can almost convince them of anything by the time they are 18. But an adult? You're not going to sway them, not that easy. Not somebody that had children and grandchildren that were there everyday in their lives and just suddenly brainwash them. Not very likely. They've all come to accept that fact. They just want her remains back so they can bury her and live in peace. But you know? Being there with them, it was amazing to sit there and think I wish this family was whole again.
ERIC: So overall, a lot of families deal with this? Right up close and personal during the holidays?
TODD: Oh yeah and it's so hard during the holidays. The emails I get will continue to grow all through Christmas. During the holiday time, when families are supposed to come together. I'll hear about new cases I've never heard about before. Somebody will make that first step. "You know; my brother, I haven't heard from him since 1963." You'll get a lot of that type of thing. I'm beginning to think; the possibility is, that he wasn't just a rebel that left. Could he be in this unidentified world? I'm beginning to come to grips. Something they didn't want to think about before. It was comfortable to just think he left and you've got to look. But the emails between now and Christmas it will be overwhelming. They will continue to grow. It will be the midyear before I can get through all of it, but I do keep them all. I try to get to as many as possible or I'll refer them to somebody. Just to refer them to somebody to be more of a quick help for them because it's not always my field. I try to send it to somebody more capable, more suited to handle a specific problem.
ERIC: So you do get to a point; sometimes, where you can't handle a specific case?
TODD: Yeah, I'll think "I can't really do that." It might be distance or lack of physical evidence. If they have something so small, somebody has to be closer to them. Somebody closer to that. Make a local report, build a case at a local level. So they'll have something to look at. You can't always type a name into a search engine and something pop out. Though I've seen it happen. Somebody Google their own name and find the family is looking for them. I've seen that happen more than once. So that's interesting. If any of our listeners think someone is looking for you, try Googling their own name. To Google, search engine. Googling their own name in the dictionary. Named after the popular search engine. It's a pretty good search engine for something like that. You might be surprised what you might find out who is looking for you.
ERIC: It can be that simple?
TODD: It could be that simple, it has been that simple.
ERIC: You know Todd, we want to thank you for the consideration of coming on tonight. We want to wish you and yours the very best. We're here to help you in anyway we can. Thanks for coming on tonight.
TODD: Thanks, talk to you next week.
TODD: Alrighty. Bye-bye.