Case Studies: Individuals
A Runaway Teenager Found; a Confidence Man Arrested
Angie McDonald’s father was a nervous wreck when he came to our office. Angie was a rebellious 17-year old who had run away four days earlier. “Mac” McDonald had filed a report with the sheriff’s office, but there had been no sign of Angie. She had run away before, but this time was different; she had developed a fondness for marijuana and “bad boys,” specifically an older man, J.P. Kenner, known to local authorities as a confidence artist with a knack for avoiding prosecution. Kenner denied any knowledge of Angie’s whereabouts. Mac, unfortunately, had made a nuisance of himself by staking out Kenner’s house and harassing Angie’s acquaintances, all of whom denied any knowledge of where she was. In desperation, Mac contacted Trace Investigations.
We notified the sheriff we were going to assist the McDonald family, and that we had convinced Mac, we hoped, to leave the investigation to the professionals. A surveillance team was set-up in Kenner’s neighborhood, where some of Angie’s friends also lived. Meanwhile, a field team distributed missing person flyers and conducted interviews of neighbors. One of the neighbors told us she thought Angie was in the neighborhood, moving from house to house to avoid detection. Two days later, late one night, our surveillance operative spotted a young female walking from Kenner’s house to the home of one of Angie’s friends, a short walk across two back yards in the dark. Our investigator walked up to the door of the house, noticed lights on in the back and spotted Angie and a friend inside. We phoned the police. Angie was returned to her parents, who had her committed to a drug rehabilitation program. J.P. Kenner was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and harboring a runaway.
Result: A runaway teenager was found and placed under professional care, with her family’s support. Other teenagers learned a lesson about a life at risk. An irresponsible and enabling adult was arrested and prosecuted.
A Birth Family United
Our client, let’s call her Ms. Wellman, was the heir and executor of a large estate in Indianapolis. She was a professional woman from a large international city. Her father, a famous jurist, had been dead for several years and her mother had recently passed. When she was going through her mother’s things she discovered a file that she had no knowledge of, and it was quite a shock: she had been adopted as a baby. She had been adopted within a few days of being born in a hospital. Her birth mother was 16 and unwed. Such adoptions were not uncommon at the time. The file revealed one critical piece of information: the name of the 16 year-old young mother. But Ms. Wellman was now 45 years old and the name meant nothing; there were no phone listings, and this was the early days of the internet, which revealed no connections to the name. Besides the young mother had most likely eventually married, perhaps more than once. Ms. Wellman contacted Trace Investigations for assistance in locating her birth mother, and perhaps her birth father. Although she had a good life growing up and loved dearly the only parents she had known, she wanted to know her birth history.
We confirmed Ms. Wellman’s own research and then dispatched one of our investigators to search through old phone books and court house records, which were in archived files because court cases from the era had never been digitized and uploaded to any searchable databanks. After several days going through old records, we got lucky. We found the marriage record of a woman with the same name of Ms. Wellman’s birth mother; the information on the marriage license application matched the birth year of the mother, who at the time of the marriage was 18 years old. We also had the name of her first husband. With this information we moved forward in our research and discovered the couple had divorced after four years, but we now had another address and her married name. We continued our research into marriage and divorce records and, after another divorce, had an address on the birth mother than was only 15 years old, but we could not determine who lived there presently.
The house was a rental property owned by an out-of-state company. It was in a neighborhood on Indianapolis’ south side. We decided to knock on the door, using a pretext so as not to alarm the resident, whoever it might be. An older woman answered the door, and she was possibly the right age, but our investigator couldn’t be sure. After introducing himself, he stated he was trying to locate possible heirs to an estate. Suddenly, a strange look came over the older woman’s face and she started crying, and asked: “Is this about my little baby?”
In the end Ms. Wellman was reunited with her birth mother and, eventually, her birth father, who lived in another state. He was the first husband of the 16-year-old. After losing one set of parents, Ms. Wellman established a comfortable and interesting relationship with another one.
Result: A birth family was reunited and a client found the peace of mind she was looking for.
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All names have been changed for privacy concerns.