Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Where is Gabriel Johnson on his First Birthday?

by Pat Brown

I was reminded yesterday that it was little Gabriel's first birthday. Gabriel Johnson disappeared four months ago. His mother, 23-year-old Elizabeth Johnson, called his father from Texas, and told him that he would never see the baby again, that she had killed Gabriel and tossed his "little blue body" into a dumpster. Elizabeth was arrested and extradited back to Arizona when she was found babyless in Florida. But as the police questioned her, she changed her story again and again. First she claimed she left the baby with a couple in a San Antonio park; then she said she gave Gabriel to a couple who came to her San Antonio motel room. She said she had no idea who the couple was, but that she trusted them with her baby. Elizabeth is in jail now; we know where she is. But as to little Gabriel Johnson, we haven't a clue. We don't even know if he's alive or dead.

Yesterday was also the third anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, who went missing on a family vacation in Portugal. Maddie's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, two doctors from Britain, left Madelaine and her little brother and sister alone in their hotel room while they dined with friends. When Kate came back to check on the children, she claimed she found Maddie "had been taken." The Portuguese police came to believe that Maddie died in an accident there, and her parents removed her body to cover up the crime. For three years, Kate and Gerry have furiously denied this. But there are many, including myself, who've found the McCanns' behavior odd and the evidence leaning toward an accident, not an abduction. Nothing has validated either theory, but one thing is for sure: Maddie is still missing.

Do you remember 12-year-old Kayleigh Wilson, who left home in Greeley, Colorado, for a birthday party on the afternoon of March 28th but never made it to her friend's house? The FBI has been working night and day with police to figure out where she went, but there have been no leads. She was last seen on video camera passing by the mall parking lot.

On April 29th, the body of college student Morgan Harrington was found in a farmer's field. Morgan was last seen during a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Virginia. She had left the concert for reasons unknown and wasn't allowed back in. She was seen walking on the road. Her body was found in a far-off corner of a fenced-in piece of land not easily accessible to anyone but the property owner, friends, and workmen. This limited public access would seem to have made it possible to narrow down the suspect list and find her killer. But so far, no noticeable progress has been made toward solving the case.

Kristi Cornwell, a 38-year-old Georgia woman last known to be taking a walk near her home in August, vanished off the face of the earth. Her last words, heard by her horrified boyfriend as she screamed them into her cell phone, were: "Don't take me!" The case would seem be a stranger abduction, but no tips have turned out to be very successful leads.

One year ago, 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel went missing from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on a spring break get-away with her friends. Her family has been searching for her non-stop ever since but so far, no solid evidence has pointed to anywhere or anyone. Meanwhile, even though it's likely she isn't with us anymore, tipsters have reported iseeing her on a bus and in a store. Her family is praying that she'll beat the odds and show up one day.

Susan Powell
, 28, a Utah mother of two, has been gone since December 7, 2009. That fateful night, her husband Josh decided to take his sons on a midnight camping trip in the middle of a blizzard. He is the only "person of interest" in the case, but he and the boys now live in another state. Even though the husband's story is bizarre and unbelievable, and even though two fans were found blowing on a wet spot in his living room, I guess they don't have enough evidence, such as Susan's body, to persuade a jury to convict.

What links these cases together is not just that they involve missing people. They've all been featured on the CNN-HLN Nancy Grace show, and they're all still unsolved. I've been asked on occasion how often cases that I profile get prosecuted. I explain that because I am brought in so late on such cases (two years later, five years later, twenty years later and no DNA is in existence to definitively link the crime to the killer), it's unlikely they will see the inside of a courtroom. The cases may be "solved" -- my profile may have led the detectives to identify the likely offender, but they are not going to go public with this information unless they have solid evidence to prove the case.

This is the reason I eventually realized, after repeatedly beating my head against a wall, that profilers and crime analysts need to be brought in early on in the investigation. Doing so would improve the analysis of cases and generate more leads while the evidence is still there to collect. "Early on" means within the first 24 to 48 hours, or at least within the first week or month. Detectives need more training in crime reconstruction and criminal profiling themselves so they can go ahead and do their own profiling work on their cases rather than bring in an outside profiler. Most departments are reluctant to bring in outsiders, which is why they wait so long to do it.

It's a sad truth that no matter which professionals work these cases, whether local police detectives, state investigators, or profilers -- FBI-connected or independent -- and no matter how good some of them are, there will still be an extremely high number of cases remaining unsolved or unprosecuted, especially stranger abductions.

Think about this: The cases I've mentioned here are recent cases I'm recalling these cases just from Nancy Grace's show. If I went through the rest of the cases on her show for the last year, the list would be even longer. The high rate of unsolved crimes is a reality that many inside and outside of law enforcement don't want to face. Sometimes we just don't realize how many cases never got solved as time fades our memory of them. But this is exactly why I believe we need to change the way the system uses criminal profilers, crime analysts, and profiling methodology; we need to catch a few more killers and save a few more lives.

I'll be curious to see how many more unsolved cases you readers can come up with from the past 12 months of Nancy Grace shows. I listed seven. What's number eight? Number nine? Number ten?


TigressPen said...

I am not an avid watcher of Nancy's show so the ones you added in your article are the ones I remember also. But, it's been 3 years since Trenton Duckett went missing and that really was a 'bombshell' case on Nancy's show.

And we have Haleigh Cummings case. Yet unsolved. Not so sure it will be within the next year either, actually.

Barbara said...

I recall several unsolved murders involving women in their 20's. The one that left the nightclub and was found murdered, I believe burning in a dumpster. Then there was the woman hiking in Hawaii...was she ever found? And the new one from this week where the woman was abducted in front of her own house at the mailbox.

Its infuriating to see some of these cases where its so obvious who committed the crime...like the case of Susan Powell.

Thanks for all you do, Pat!