The Long Term Missing by Silvia Pettem

Silvia Pettem long term missingThis book is critical for all who wishes to research missing people cases. When a person is missing for more than three months, that case is usually considered long-term.

But when exactly is someone missing? Read this: “There are a variety of different circumstances which fit that description. A missing person may be a victim of misadventure, someone suffering from a health related issue (i.e. dementia), someone needing time out, or simply someone not where they are expected to be.

People talk about ‘missing’ in different ways including disappearance, abduction, homelessness, running away, couch surfing, sleeping rough, going walkabout or heading off. Missing persons can be of any age, gender, ethnicity, or background and the reasons why people go missing are many and varied.”

Pettem’s book teaches you how to use NamUs. The book splits up cases in categories. It covers the possibilities and the limitations of law enforcement. The author highlights how civilians can help search. Last, she outlines how to organize a missing person file.

Most important in these cases and emphasized throughout the book: always cross check databases of unidentified people.

Reasons and Misconceptions

There are many reasons why people are missing. You can find more about that here. There are cases where we do not suspect an abduction and/or murder. Some people leave on their own account. They have their reasons. In such cases it is useful to check online genealogy sites, the Census Bureau, and social media accounts and blogs from known friends. Sometimes you may wish to check a prison inmate locator. There are facial recognition search engines to explore as well.

A common misconception is that you must wait 24 hours before you can report a person missing. In fact, law enforcement wants you to report instantly if you have serious concerns. Especially in cases of unusual absences or possibilities of violence is rapid action crucial.

Another misconception: if you file a missing person report for an adult you have the right to know where they are if found. You do not have that right. Authorities will not disclose a missing adult person’s location when found without their permission.

Tips for searching the web

If you wish to explore more tips on searching the web read these two guest blog posts. They are from Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman, private investigators: Surfing the net part 1 and part 2. If you want to help, NamUs has information how you can volunteer. It lists other organizations as well.


The Long Term Missing by Silvia PettemSilvia Pettem is no stranger here on Defrosting Cold Cases. She guest blogged about Joe Helt and Joseph Halpern.

She is a Colorado-based self-employed researcher, writer, and author with a passion for cold cases, unidentified remains, and long-term missing persons.

Silvia contributed to the identification of “Boulder Jane Doe” (a murder victim), is an associate member of the Vidocq Society, and is one of the organization’s Medal of Honor recipients. She’s a volunteer in the Detectives Section of the Boulder Police Department, a NamUs instructor in classes sponsored by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and a member of AISOCC. In addition, she’s the author of more than a dozen books including The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families; Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe, and Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases.

Highly recommended book.