Monday, December 05, 2005

Amateur Sleuthing Payoffs and Pitfalls

This week Stephanie Dietrich, a member of the public found the remains of two children that have been missing since July of 2003. Dietrich had been helping in the search for the missing Gehring children ever since hearing Teri Knight's plea. "She asked for help from the public, I figured I was the public."

Dietrich had read online transcripts, in which Gehring described where he'd left his children's bodies after killing them. Dietrich knew about an area in the town that could be the place Gehring had told police about. In the reports, Gehring described getting lost in the area located near Route 8. Dietrich also got lost in the same area when trying to find it. Last Tuesday afternoon, with the help of her dog, she found the location. Two days later, on Thursday, Dietrich called Law Enforcement and went back to the area, again getting lost. After once more finding the spot, she began to dig, and she found the answer to Teri Knight's question "where are my children?"

Dietrich talked to many of the officers and appreciated their attitude toward her. "They never once looked at me like I was a nut."

In contrast, in 1998, an amateur sleuth pored over the details and clues of Screenwriter Gary DeVore's sudden disappearance in 1997, and found what Law Enforcement, a private investigator and plane searches had missed. Namely, Gary Devore and his vehicle.

Amateur detective Douglas Crawford, while reading articles about DeVore, also read about a freak vehicular accident where a car had plunged into an aqueduct along the same route. That aqueduct was the same aqueduct where DeVore and his vehicle were found.

Speculating about the last trip that DeVore took, Crawford thought it was always possible that DeVore had fallen asleep while driving. The private investigator also mentioned that possibility. Others, including the widow, were absolutely convinced DeVore had been abducted or was suffering from a bout with amnesia. DeVore's publicist floated the theories of carjacking, and that he got "bumped." Some not as charitable said DeVore had run away from a tanking career and IRS conflicts.

Crawford personally visited the route DeVore would have taken, and the aqueduct where he theorized DeVore had disappeared into. Crawford found parts of a Ford Explorer by the aqueduct. After contacting DeVore's publicist and police with his theories, police divers found DeVore and his vehicle upright in 12 to 15 feet of water. DeVore's widow still isn't convinced that DeVore's death isn't connected to some sinister event, even questioning the amateur detective's involvement.

Law enforcement said that the amateur detective was not suspicious and that everything he'd deduced was easily available in the media.

Crawford later stated "even though his detective work was on target, he doesn't feel like a hero.
"I feel like a suspect," "That's the way I got treated by police."

While both amateur sleuths, Crawford and Deitrich are glad they were able to assist Law Enforcement and the families, with finding their loved ones, each experienced a vastly different reality when it came to expressing their theories.