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Monday, August 13, 2012

the Texas forty - Is there a serial killer at large

The Missing Texas Forty

The Missing Texas Forty

With 40 people missing from two adjoining counties, is it something sinister or is it just a coincidence?

Written by Jerrie Dean
Researched and edited by Helen Harriman-Oliver

UPDATE:  Is there a connection between alleged killer of Mickey Shunick and the Missing Texas Forty?  

Larry Baker
About 10 months ago, I was contacted by Jerry, the brother of  missing Larry Baker that disappeared in Liberty County in 2010.  Jerry told me about Larry and he also brought up the name of another person,Rodney Stokely that was missing from the same small town in Texas called Cleveland.

Cleveland, Texas has a population under 8,000 people.  Two people missing from one small town seemed usual to me, and you would think that the odds would have it that the police would have found at least one of these men. 

When I wrote up the article, I mentioned that I thought the number was high and I received an email from Helen Harriman-Oliver.  She told me that the comment I had made about  "two people missing, especially two people living only blocks from each other is unusual," and she was interested in taking a closer look at that county.

As Helen did her research, she came up with several more names in Liberty County and several more from the adjacent Montgomery County, and emailed me a map she had put together.   As I was looking at it, my son, who is planning on becoming a U.S. Marshal when he grows up, said he saw a pattern, but there were a couple of spots missing.   So, I typed in the town along with the word missing person and sure enough a name popped up.  I typed in another town where there was a missing spot on the map, and another name of a missing person came up.  This new information warranted further investigation to see if there were more in that particular county.


I contacted Helen and after her extensive research in the two adjoining counties of Montgomery County (population 450,000) and Liberty County (75,000), she came up with an astounding 39 people missing.  Then yesterday another name was added raising the number to 40. 

In the whole state of Texas with a population of over 25.5 million people, there are 708 missing persons listed with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse.  Texas has the most counties in the U.S. at 254.  So if you average it out, that would mean there would be about 2 and ¾ people missing in each county of Texas.  If I reduced the counties in half to 137, then the number would rise to about 5 people per county.  Still not close enough to what Montgomery and Liberty Counties were showing with 40 missing people, 7 from Liberty and 33 from Montgomery.    

While doing the research for this article, I wanted to compare these two counties with others in the U.S., but it was hard to find overall statistical information and listings of missing persons.

I did find some interesting information about Alaska, that is nicknamed the Land of the Lost.  Alaska in 2005 had 650,000 people in the whole state, less than the city of San Francisco, but comparable to the combined population of Montgomery and Liberty counties.   According to the LA Times, "on average, 5 of every 1,000 people go missing every year, roughly double the national rate...Alaska has the highest percentage of people who stay missing" with a compiled list of 1,100 people who "remain" lost.

Reporting Gaps

This information is interesting but still 6 years old.  What was realized during the research is that the information is spread all over and there is no standard—every county and state reports missing persons differently.  Law enforcement agencies are faced with personnel shortages to update their databases, and each jurisdiction reports the various classifications of the missing differently. 

"A great example of this void is the literal void for Liberty and Montgomery Counties on this map.  As luck would have it, that map has one I hadn't found elsewhere here
and I just found this listing with Rita Mae Hughes, who I also did not have,” Helen said.

According to the Texas Dept. of Public Safety Clearing House, they show 14 people missing in Montgomery County and 4 in Liberty on their website. which is about half of what Helen found. 

Why is this?  According to Tara Lindborg from the Clearing House, "Not every person that is reported missing is listed on our site. We do not use a set criteria to put someone on our website. If a family wants someone to be listed all they need to do is call."

An example of this is written up in this article about the missing in Wisconsin.

"Entering a missing person into the TIME system does not place the information into the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children and Adults. Dana Brueck, communications officer with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said, “It is up to local law enforcement and the family of missing persons what additional dissemination takes place.”

This can be a problem, if there is a serial killer stalking people or some other unknown circumstance that is causing an anomaly.  You are not going to see it, if it isn't put into a database.  A police officer in Conroe, may never know there is several people missing in the nearby city of Spring because they were never put into a database.

In Kitsap County,Washington, according to the Central Kitsap Reporter "Parents of teens who have disappeared in the county in the last year are accusing police of using the distinction between missing person and runaway as an “excuse” to not investigate their children’s disappearance." 

Reporting Standards

The majority of police departments in the U.S.  go by a standard that is, if the child is under 10-12 and if they think there there is foul play suspected, they them put the child on their missing persons list and/or NCIC.  Sadly, in some cases, foul play is not found till there is a thorough investigation or the child has been missing for a lengthy amount of time.  And if we are talking about a runaway, although they may be put on the list, getting the police to thoroughly investigate that is very slim.  Not just for Texas, but all over the U.S.  Police go by stats and the statistics show that the majority of teens eventually come home.  So, unless there is foul play known, nothing more than cursory information is taken.

In the "Missing, but who searches? article, "...whether the department would involve state and national agencies depends on the circumstances. In most local cases, the child or person is found right away. He said the last missing child the department had was found within 24 hours. However, if not found in a short time, Dorner said the information would be entered into the various computer systems and while the news media might not be notified right away, he would certainly put out a press release. “The more eyes out there the better.”

In the article, Parents, authorities won't help find children, "...Sgt. Jim White, and several other deputies, [said] that since Nopp was classified a runaway, the department did not have the money to look into her case. 

List of Missing in Texas

So, after several weeks of research, a list of people missing in Montgomery County and Liberty County Texas was created, as shown below.   Whether there is something nefarious going on or pure coincidence requires even more research and study.

Over a 33-year span, the list shows ages ranging from 12-70, all races and both sexes.  The first person missing was in 1979, then 1983, 1986 and so on, but once they went missing they remained missing.

What I have found is that there is small similarities.  There was a group of seven teens that have gone missing from Montgomery County since 2008 and six of them were on foot.  I noted that most people missing were from the towns of Spring and Conroe.    But the most interesting is that the majorities were walking when they disappeared.

Were these people offered a ride and picked up by someone and were "spirited away?"  And if we are to assume that all of these people or even half of them are dead, where are they buried?  Could they all be in the same place, like Sam Houston National Park? 

Unless, one or more of these people are found, we will never know, and I can guarantee you that the list will continue to grow.

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