Waiting game difficult for kin of the missing
Caseload forces police to prioritize searches
The family of Kay Read, 62, knows she could not walk without her knee braces, which police
found in her home.
Her last contact with her family was Feb. 14. The next day, police found her van two miles from
her Southeast Side home. The interior had been torched.
The polio survivor's disappearance immediately raised suspicions of foul play.
How such cases are investigated, however, varies because the sheer volume of reports means
police must prioritize them.
Most missing people eventually turn up - despite the certainty of family members who say their
loved one would not just pick up and go.
Last year, TPD received 852 missing adult reports, and 802 of those people, or 94 percent, were
found. This year about 129 adults have been reported missing.
Police consider several factors - including age, mental capacity or history of disappearance - in
determining how extensively to investigate.
"They're not always missing people, but just don't want to be found," said TPD Detective Greg
Wright. "It could be that the individual that's run away or simply missing doesn't want contact
with the family. We've encountered plenty of that."
Before defining a missing persons case, Wright stressed, police must gauge how suspicious a
"Not every case is assigned and worked," Wright said. "That's the only way we can manage the
A detective 30 years ago might extensively work a case, but now vacation, compensatory time
and staffing must be factored in.
Also missing is 62-year-old Elnora Charles, last seen Nov. 15 by son James Pulliam, 39. Pulliam
gave her a ride to Gary's Towing, 5131 E. Drexel Road, to pick up her car. Charles' home is on
North Country Club Road.
Pulliam reported her missing when she did not answer his phone call the next morning. Two
days later, police found Charles' car, a light-colored 1980 Chevrolet Caprice, on Mount
Police said they do not suspect foul play - although they do think her disappearance is
suspicious. They have no suspects or leads, said Detective Bill Young. They were able to
confirm reports by family members of Charles having a history of mental illness, but they don't
know if that played a role.
Police received a report from a family friend that Charles had been spotted in December, Young
"It's a botched investigation by the TPD and the Sheriff's Department," said stepson James Lacy,
49, who still thanked those assisting in the search.
He said there is "no way our mother drove to Mount Lemmon," and said his mother doesn't have
a history of instability.
TPD Sgt. Tony Sabori said investigators believe that Charles might have gone to Mount
The family wants clearer answers. Pulliam and Lacy said they were unhappy that they did not
receive case information until several weeks after Charles was reported missing.
"It's important to our family," Pulliam said. "I've got kids that keep asking me every day: 'What's
going on with grandma's case?' ''
Young said, "We've done as much on this case, if not more on this case, than any homicide
investigation, even though it's just a missing persons case."
Some families of missing people turn to private detectives. But even if detectives find the person,
they sometimes can't say that they found them.
Agencies have more stringent regulations related to privacy than in the past, Tucson private
detective James MacIntyre said.
People are entitled to some privacy, he said, and a person found must be asked if he wants to be
contacted. Law enforcement must also check the client's motivation.
"You've got to look at the rights of not only the family or the unit that is reporting the person
missing. You've got to respect the rights of the missing person as well,'' MacIntyre said.
It is hard to say sometimes if family members of missing people are victims.
"If they feel they're a victim, they feel they're are a victim," said Rick Trevaskis, who runs the
private investigation service Metro Detectives, 2030 E. Broadway, Suite 24. "As far as the codes
or the laws they might not specifically be a victim. They aren't eligible for victims'
Trevaskis said investigators can work only with leads they have, and that families need to
understand those limits.
"I can only guarantee them that we will work diligently toward their case," he said. "If the results
are not there, they will not come. That is a tough thing to deal with."
As a private detective, Trevaskis may charge from $50 to $75 an hour on a case.
When a private investigator who knew Kay Read offered his services, the police did not provide
information on the case, her brother, Wes Read, said.
TPD homicide detective Kevin Hall said police cannot stop families from hiring a private
investigator. However, he pointed out legal pitfalls of having two investigations - duplicate
interviews and possible contamination of evidence in a criminal case.
Families do not always agree with how law enforcement makes case decisions, especially when
feelings run high. Some, said MacIntyre, might fear how law enforcement will handle the
missing person if he or she is found.
"It's a whole range of emotions," he said. "It could be that the individual missing comes from a
dysfunctional family. It's a control situation sometimes."
In Read's case, family and police continue the search.
Read is described as 5 feet 5 inches, 120 pounds, with brownish-blond hair. The day of the
disappearance, police said, someone tried unsuccessfully to use one of Read's ATM cards at a
"It's a case where we don't know where we are going," said Wes Read, 60, of Peoria, Ill. "We're
still grasping for straws."
Despite that, Read said he wants police to allow not only the family but also willing volunteers to
do more to help in the process.
"They keep us at bay, doing their job," he said. "I'm not the type to sit back and be patient."
Unsolved homicides are never closed, according to prosecutor Kathleen Mayer of the Pima
County Attorney's Office.
"Sometimes they (families) get frustrated, when they get repeat notices, and the cases don't seem
to get resolved," Mayer said. "Agencies continue to work on them as they get more information,
but they don't always keep victims apprised of that."
And sometimes in a missing-persons case, it can't be established that a person was slain.
Mayer speaks with sympathy about the despair of never finding an answer.
"In my conversations with these families, it's just the heartache of not knowing what happened to
their loved ones." additional information
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of adults, juveniles and runaway juveniles reported as missing, and the number
reported as located in the past five years and so far this year, according to Tucson Police
2003 853 831
2004 910 885
2005 878 859
2006 969 944
2007 852 802
2008* 129 89
TOTAL: 4,591 4,410
2003 204 202
2004 194 193
2005 183 178
2006 152 151
2007 165 157
2008* 23 22
TOTAL: 921 903
2003 2,570 2
2004 2,787 7
2005 3,231 27
2006 2,919 43
2007 2,592 71
2008* 409 104
TOTAL: 14,508 254
*2008 missing person numbers as of March 12.
Finding order in bipolar disorder
Scanning through books about bipolar disorder, Tucsonan Kate McLaughlin found nothing that
described the mental illness in an uplifting way.
That persuaded the 48-year-old to write "Mommy, I'm Still in Here: One Family's Journey with
Bipolar Disorder," released last month.
"People need hope, people need faith. And I wanted to put something out there that would offer
that," she said.
For the past decade, writer-speaker- mental health advocate McLaughlin has faced the challenge
of raising three children - two with bipolar disorder.
The disorder is a chemical and an electrical imbalance in the brain that causes periods of
depression and mania. And treatment for the illness in children is on the rise.
According to a September article in The New York Times, the number of American children and
adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased fortyfold from 1994 to 2003, with the number
continuing to rise.
While she believes there is a lack of services for mentally ill kids in Pima County, McLaughlin
said there is more help now than a decade ago.
McLaughlin, who taught special needs children, did not at first suspect her eldest daughter,
whom she calls Chloe in the book, had the disorder. Chloe, at the time a junior in high school,
had been an overachiever, but she would sink into depression, and attempted suicide half a dozen
Though Chloe was very academic, her mother said, the illness and treatment made school
"It was very difficult for me to accept that she wasn't going to be able to pursue that part of who
The illness also strained the relationship between Chloe and her younger sister. Chloe lashed out
as treatment made her gain weight and get acne. The two recently reconciled.
Chloe's younger sister has a 75 percent chance of having bipolar disorder. The disorder has not
been diagnosed in the 19-year-old Arizona State University student.
With medication and therapy, Chloe has learned to manage her life, McLaughlin said.
Therapy "is often missing in the treatment of bipolar disorder," she said. "Her therapist, who
she's seen for years, saved her life literally and figuratively. She imbued some skills I couldn't
and Chloe couldn't find on her own.
"It also helped to build her self-esteem back up. And really helped her to learn that you are not
Chloe, 25, recently moved to Europe with her husband. She has gained independence, held art
shows and hopes to complete a fine arts degree, her mom said.
"Neither of us expected that she would be well enough to pursue a relationship and then find
someone who is as loving and insightful enough to tolerate the differences it requires," she said.
McLaughlin's son, whom she calls Michael in the book, battles the illness as well.
He used drugs to make himself feel more normal, and in June 2007 overdosed and nearly died,
Michael, now 23, attends college, works and has been clean from drugs for about eight months.
"Michael will probably find a way to tell his own story because he is pretty open," his mother
Because her husband was sometimes away for work, McLaughlin felt a magnified sense of
responsibility to her children.
"There's nothing the people I love could ever do that would make me stop loving them.
Nothing," she said.
The family worked vigilantly to not let go of normalcy.
McLaughlin hopes her book will help families facing mental illness feel less isolated.
"As long as we refuse to talk about them, and tell the truth about them, they will remain
misunderstood and thus stigmatized."
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder involving episodes
of serious mania and depression. The person's mood ranges from overly high irritability to
feelings of sadness and hopelessness. At least 2 million Americans have it.
There are periods of normal moods and most with the disorder can find stabilization for mood
swings. If untreated, it may worsen. More difficult cases, called ultra rapid cycling, occur when a
person has three or more mood swings yearly.
The disorder usually starts in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life.
An early sign may be hypomania - when an individual displays high energy levels, excessive
moodiness or irritability and impulsive or reckless actions. The medication lithium is usually
effective in controlling symptoms. Psychotherapy, which provides support to the patient and
family, is considered a complement to medications.
Source: National Institute for Mental Health