I will admit I have much to learn in regards to missing persons. My basic beliefs have not changed. I think it is a serious problem, that even though most missing children are runaways and family abductions does not mean that they are unimportant, and both those issues have needs that need to be addressed. However, every now and then a case comes along and tells me to assume nothing. It will shake up my perceptions of other cases.
Ricky Holland is one of them. I am still not sure why I believed his parents’ story of running away. He was a seven year old child and even if he did run away from home it was a sign of far more serious trouble than what I would consider in an adolescent. It took me months to start to question the story. And of course it was a lie. He had been abused and killed, and the former at least should have been obvious to me right away. I may not have directly known him but I know through that assumption I indirectly was one who failed him.
Shasta Groene is the other. In some ways this is a reversal of the above case because I took nothing at face value and jumped to the conclusion she and her brother were dead, killed by the intruder. I will give myself a little credit for not suspecting a family member and thinking it was a stranger or a friend of the family, but no more. Like with Ricky, I failed. She was not dead; is not dead, and the only reason her brother is is because we all assumed they were. The motto of our site is “If you look for a person, you may find a body. But if you look for a body, you may miss a person.” I had used that phrase for almost two years and it took this case to brutally remind me I was not always operating under it.
If there is no real evidence a child was killed, I don’t presume it for the most part. I never rule it out but with no credible evidence I can’t really consider it either. Evidence, however can be in non-physical forms. Like in the classic battered child syndrome, evidence of past abuse can make me assume the child was killed, even if no actual physical evidence exists. Michelle Pulsifer, for example. And I now add Adam Hermann to the list. All reports say siblings say he was abused. He wasn’t reported missing for ten years. Just like Michelle. The parents claimed he ran away but not only couldn’t be bothered to try to locate him if that were indeed true they told others the state took him. And if it had only been a few days or weeks I would still reach that conclusion mostly because of his past abuse.
Ricky and Shasta both tell me in very different ways to never assume too much. And I think about them and Adam. I may not be able to do anything but advocate for finding his remains and charging his parents, but at least I know better now than to think otherwise.
Rest in peace, Adam. You deserved far better than what was given you.