The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

With Banker's Hours You Can Bank On
Closed 128 Hours a Week, NCMEC Loses Sight of Its Purpose

They came into being with a drum roll and an act of Congress.

They came into being with millions of dollars and John Walsh's tears of rage. They came into being for the thousands of missing children, whose bodies litter the nation in unmarked graves. They came into being with a lie.

The abduction of Adam Walsh came, not as a result of deliberation, but of opportunity, because his mother, Reve, preferred to do her shopping without him, and left the six-year-old boy alone to fend for himself in a crowded department store. She placed decor over decorum and motif over motherhood. As a result, Adam Walsh was abducted and murdered. All that was ever found was his severed head.

Meanwhile, Reve Walsh continues to sit as one of the key board members of NCMEC, and in 2006 and 2007, now multi-millionaire, John Walsh, took $76,572 from the National Center's contributions to pay his doctor bills. Yet with income close to $48 million per year (the Federal share being $30.5 million), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nicknamed NCMEC (nickmeck), can't manage to stay open 24 hours a day.

But let's start with the lie. In his testimony before Congress, in the hearing that resulted in a bill creating NCMEC, Walsh stated, "While most of the reported missing children are later found, the unbelievable and unaccounted for figure of 50,000 children disappear annually and are abducted for reasons of foul play... This country is littered with the mutilated, decapitated, raped and strangled missing children." This figures out to be approximately one child every twelve minutes. But two investigations by the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children ["NISMART"] in 1988 and 1999 determined that an average of only 100 children were actually abducted by "non-family members," which might include the barely adult boyfriends of 17-year-old girls. General consensus today indicates the number of children involved in abductions similar to that of Adam Walsh is less than ten a year.

Ernie Allen is the President and CEO of not only NCMEC, but the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. The give the word Centre the British spelling to make it appear that ICMEC is headquartered abroad. It isn't. It's 12 short blocks—less than a mile—away. Allen runs the dog and pony show that has become iconic to the Western World.

But his salary is legendary as well. According to NCMEC's 990's (their charity reports to the IRS) in 2008, Allen waltzed home with a whopping $1,344,567, making his the third-highest non-profit salary in the U.S. Having failed Jaycee Lee Dugard for most of her 18 years in captivity at the hands of a registered sex offender, who raped her on a daily basis from the age of 11, who fathered two children with her, Allen offered the prospect of time healing her wounds. Posters of Jaycee stopped being distributed shortly after her abduction, even in the area from which she was abducted. NCMEC gave her a web presence, but that was all. Why do anything more? They assumed she was dead. Allen, as the national expert on missing children, fostered that notion.

And when Elizabeth Smart was abducted, Allen slept. "My dog could have found her in half an hour," said Joe Canfield, an ex-Florida cop, who had partnered with NCMEC as an expert bloodhound trainer. But Canfield was never called to the scene, and Elizabeth Smart, by her own testimony was, at age 14, raped by her abductor three times a day.

Neither Dugard nor Smart were found as a result of any of NCMEC's actions. Nor was Shawn Hornbeck, found by accident more than 4 years after his abduction. Nor was 8-year-old Shasta Groene, whose family was slaughtered by her abductor, recovered by their efforts.

As a matter of record, in its entire 26-year history, NCMEC has neither recovered, nor directly assisted in the recovery of any such child.

CASE IN POINT: Nevaeh Faith Norman is six years old. Her mother, Paige Norman, abandoned her years ago, first leaving her with her parents in Dallas, who then sent Nevaeh to her father, Raul Rosario, Jr. in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Raul obtained custody and has taken care of her since. Recently, Paige was granted supervised visitation, but at 4:40 PM on Friday, June 17, 2011, Paige abducted Nevaeh from the Southbridge Walmart and flew to Dallas. Raul filed a parental kidnapping report and Dallas police arrested Paige as she deboarded the plane, taking Nevaeh into protective custody. Kimberly Blair became Nevaeh's caseworker. Meanwhile, Raul fought for Nevaeh's return, but seemed to be getting nowhere. Southbridge Police Chief, Michael Hassett wasn't even around to authorize the release of a police report. It was the weekend. Both Raul and Nevaeh's aunt and godmother, Deborah Melendez-Otero, phoned NCMEC, where they reached the after-hours hotline and spoke with an unidentified male, Gretchen and their supervisor, Becky. No help came their direction. They were told they would have to wait until Monday, when a caseworker came to work. Raul begged them for at least transportation assistance to fly to Dallas. Raul's family had all pitched in money, but it wasn't enough. Deborah then phoned Thursday's Child, which she found listed as the Missing Children Hotline with toll-free directory. Don Austen, Founder and President of Thursday's Child, took their call. He, too, phoned NCMEC, and not only received similar answers, but was hung up on. He then contacted the on-duty social worker in Dallas, who assured him that Nevaeh was in good hands and not overly traumatized by recent events. What the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) said they wanted was a copy of the custody order (which Raul no longer had) and a copy of the police report (which Raul couldn't get). Austen encouraged Raul to go back into court on Monday morning for a new custody order, which he did, and the court faxed over a copy to DFPS. The problem was that no sooner did Kimberly Blair get the order, then she turned Nevaeh over to Paige's parents, while Paige's parents were in the process of bailing out Paige from jail. By the end of the day, Nevaeh was back with the woman who had just abducted her, and who could now vanish to parts unknown with Nevaeh. It was Monday. Nothing from NCMEC. Thursday's Child found a plane ticket for Raul and Nevaeh for $385 through Expedia. They made calls to the Dallas Sheriff's Department, Dallas PD and Constable Joe Barton in Princeton, Texas where Nevaeh's grandparents lived. Hopefully, Nevaeh was still there. But Barton wanted the police report, custody papers and a pick-up order. Austen advised Raul to go back into court for a pick-up order, which Raul did. But while most of Texas' counties are signatories to the Interstate Compact on Missing Children, the county where Nevaeh was, was not. Barton said that he required the order to be domesticated for Texas. Raul had no money for that. So, Austen contacted Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, and explained the situation. Attorney Jack Pepper was put on the case. Meanwhile, Raul and Deborah decided to drive through to Dallas in shifts. When they arrived, they learned that Pepper had conviced Barton to pick up Nevaeh on the Massachuetts order. The Norman's reluctantly surrendered Nevaeh into his custody and Nevaeh was given back to her father. Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, with NCMEC, said "Things should not have gone the way they did" with her center. But they did. In fact it took until Wednesday (five days after the abduction occurred) for a NCMEC caseworker to be assigned. The caseworker, Gary Kossky, patently refused to help recover Nevaeh. "She has already been recovered and given over to her grandparents," he said. "Case closed." Then he hung up the phone. Nevaeh is backwards for Heaven. What her father went through is forwards for Hell.

CASE IN POINT: On July 6, 2011, 10-year-old Isaac Place of Tacoma, Washington, was already two weeks late in being returned to his mother per court order. The father, who had only visitation, informed her that he would not be returning him for a while. The mother phoned NCMEC's hotline, which simply referred her to the Washington State Missing Children Clearinghouse (which, according to one spokesperson, is out of money). On the morning of July 7, the mother faxed over all the paperwork, but never heard back. Meanwhile, on July 15, she went to court and obtained an Order to Show Cause to be served on the father for custodial interference, then travelled to Redlands, California, where she last knew him to be in order to have him served. In order to obtain his whereabouts, however, she had to contact some of his friends, who informed him that he was being looked for, so he deleted his Facebook account and fled with the child. The custodial interference now became felony parental kidnapping. And where was NCMEC during all of this?

CASE IN POINT: Varvara Lazaridis has been hiding in plain sight since November 25, 2002. She was two years old at the time. NCMEC says she is missing, abducted by her father, Emmanuel. They state that she is 3'4" tall and weighs 35 lbs., rather short and light for a now 12-year-old. The only problem is, is that Varvara's whereabouts are available to anyone who wants to know, but apparently NCMEC does not. Her father, who lives with her in Greece, has a website up, that speaks to the custody issue. Even if Emmanuel Laridis was unwilling to make her location unknown, which he is not, Interpol could find her in ten minutes from the IP address. John Shotton is the case manager at NCMEC on the Lazaridis "disappearance," but is seems that Shotton has made himself scarcer than Varvara, because he is nowhere to be found. Calls to him from March 1, 2012 regarding Varvara have gone unanswered. Neither does NCMEC's hotline staff seem to care, nor Marsha Gilmer Tullis, head of NCMEC's Family Advocacy Division. No calls have been returned. Varvara is still "missing" according to NCMEC's website, but then, so is the $30.5 million the taxpayers shell out each year to NCMEC for what appears to be an unprecedented level of incompetence.

In a 1991 report to Congress, entitled, The Kid is with a Parent, How Bad Can it Be? The Crisis of Family Aabductions, Ernie Allen stated, "The problem of child abduction by family members is a serious one... We must treat these offenses as serious criminal matters. They are violations of the criminal law in every state, and under most circumstances are now felonies in every state. They must be investigated seriously, and require a high level of knowledge and expertise by the investigator... The abduction of children by family members is a large and potentially growing problem, far greater than we ever imagined. It is time that we focus on the reality that these children are victims. In the vast majority of cases these children are not seized out of love, but out of anger and/or spite. We can no longer sit idly by, justifying our inaction with the fiction that merely because the abductor is a parent or family member, the child is not at risk."

This is what Ernie Allen said. This is not what he did; at least not for Neveah Faith Norman and not for Issac Place, who was finally found on September 11, 2011, but not as a result of any actions by Ernie Allen's group.

But the show must go on, it seems. The Walshes are viewed as victims; John Walsh, a hero, a father of all fathers. And Ernie Allen, but for his failure to find any missing children and his salary for the ages, wears his laurel wreath and halo proudly. Would though, that just a little bit of his takings might go to hire some after-hours critical staff, because some child abductors don't understand that nighttime is when Ernie Allen just wants peace and quiet and a good night's sleep.

Update: As of the second week of June 2012, Ernie Allen hung up his binoculars and stepped down from his post. Having retired with a penchant and probably a pension, he remains unreachable, his number being unlisted. And that he has in common with NCMEC for, as far as directory assistance goes, their number, too, is nowhere to be found.

A SIDE NOTE: In the early 2000's, retired Florida cop turned bloodhound handler instruction gave Larry Upchurch, then Director of Operations at NCMEC, a list of more than 100 highly qualified bloodhound trainers with their contact information. The list had taken him years to compile, but because he was not computer savvy, it was only on paper. Upchurch, who insisted that NCMEC have exclusive rights to the list, had his staff copy it onto a computer. But the printout left out the last digit of each handler's phone number, rendering the list useless. To add insult to injury, not only had Upchurch thrown away the original, but, according to Canfield, had inadvertently deleted the computer file. Canfield said that he did not have time to recreate the list and so a valuable resource for recovering missing children was gone forever.