Missing Persons Cases Show Need to Minimize Risky Behaviors

When a missing person investigation hits the news, it seems that the subliminal message is to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. 

When the missing person is a woman, the fear factor looms even larger.

The cases of women, who have disappeared, however, often end with a bizarre tale of risky behavior.

Consider the conduct of Heather M. Boyd, 28, a “dancer” at Cheater’s Adult Night Club in Coco Beach, Florida.  On August 28, Boyd did not return home—where she lives with her mother—after her shift at the club. Three weeks later, after her story appeared in the media, the dancer returned home, claiming that she had spent over 21 days with a “friend” in Vero Beach, but never bothered to telephone her mother to explain her absence.

Another missing person case that garnered national attention occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  On September 13, a 59-year-old woman seemingly vanished from her apartment. After obtaining a key from the apartment manager, the woman’s family members searched the woman’s abode, even calling out her name, but she was nowhere to be found.

The day after the initial search, nearly five days since the woman’s initial disappearance, her son reentered the apartment and heard a voice calling, “Help me. Help me.”  The missing woman was then discovered inside of a freezer stored in the apartment closet.

“It [the freezer] was plugged in and functioning,” Tulsa police Cpl. Daisy Vallely told CBS News.  “We’re not sure why she couldn’t get out. There was evidence she was trying. There’s evidence of that, but we don’t know how she got in there or anything else.”

Other news, although still peculiar, is not always as good.

On September 7, New York State Police confirmed that the headless torso of a woman found floating near the falls by an operator of a tourist boat was that of 30-year-old Loretta Gates. She was last seen alive on August 25 after telling her mother, whom she lived with, that she was going across the street to purchase a pack of cigarettes from a convenience store. Gates’ head and one severed hand were later discovered by a couple near a hiking path on Duck Island in Hype Park. Police appear to suspect that Gates might have left her mother’s home to meet someone that she probably knew.

The commonality with many of these missing persons reports are women secreting rendezvousing with another, which makes their cases much more difficult to investigate.

In the Gates homicide, for example, you can bet police are carefully combing through her computer and telephone records in search of those she might have contacted.  Since a forensic pathologist suggested that Gates might have been alive for up to a day since her initial disappearance, she likely spent time at a location familiar to her killer, who then used tools to dismember her body.  The sloppy method of disposal suggests that the perpetrator was in a relative hurry and somewhat disorganized.

Regardless of the circumstances, these missing persons cases each concluded differently, which is why it is important for investigators to keep an open mind. Moreover, it is imperative to minimize risk to avoid becoming a victim.  This can be done by alerting a third party to one’s particular whereabouts and providing a name of whom they will be seeing.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit




© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012

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