It with a deep sadness that I must report the passing of Doug Lyall. Doug’s daughter, Suzanne went missing in Albany, New York in 1998. I first met Doug when I was writing my book Gone Missing in New York. He was one of the first people I interviewed. I was nervous. I knew when I interviewed the familes of the missing I wanted them to talk about the thing that caused them the worst heart wrenching grief they had ever suffered. As you know, I’m not good with all that heart wrenching stuff. However, Doug was not heart wrenching. He was kind, generous, open, honest and courageous.
Instead of giving into anger, depression and despondency, Doug and his wife, Mary started The Center for Hope to help other families of the missing in their search. The Lyall’s have been able to do miraculous work; changing policies, changing laws and creating protocol for police departments. But that is nothing next to the hope, encouragement and help they have given to thousands of people who are left battered and confused by losing a loved one.
Doug has been a life line, inspiration and hope to so many people. I know the world is a lesser place because he is no longer in it.
She has been identified.
On Saturday April 5, 2014, the Center for Hope will host the 13th annual NYS Missing Persons Day event at the NYS Museum and Cultural Education Center in Albany, NY. This day is set aside for families and friends affected by the unexplained or unresolved disappearance of a loved one. You will be able to join together with other families, listen to stimulating speakers, and have the opportunity to interact with law enforcement and representatives of missing person’s organizations. Visit hope4themissing.org for more information. Feel free to email Doug and Mary Lyall and tell them I sent you their way.
If you are a family member of a missing person and are hesitant to go this event, let me assure you it will be everything you need. You will receive concrete information you can use in the search for your family member. You will also form lasting relationships that will help support you emotionally, physically and spiritually.
There is a myth surrounding the reason people go missing. The public thinks that a person goes missing while doing something shady or nefarious; that disappearing is the result of a bad choice. While people do go missing after making a bad choice; getting a car with a stranger, hitch-hiking or drinking too much and then trusting someone he/she just met, the vast majority of people go missing while doing everyday things. They go missing on their daily jog, a stroll through the neighborhood, on a shopping trip. While some people do go missing while out-of-town or vacationing, most people go missing in an area they know and are familiar with. And many people go missing on their way to work, at work on or on their way home. This is the case of Robert Mayer.
Robert Mayer is just a regular guy. He lives in Dix Hills, New York. He’s an electrician with a wife, Ida, and two kids he adores. He really doesn’t like to go out too much; he’d just rather stay home with his family. In their sixteen year marriage, Robert and his wife have never spent a night apart.
On June 14, 2013, Robert—Rob—left early, like he did every morning, for his job in Fort Green, Brooklyn where he was working as an electrician on a new theater complex. He was out the door by 4:30. He climbed into his bright red Pontiac GTO. The car was his baby. This morning was absolutely no different than any other work day. At around nine, he called his wife. They talked about the upcoming Fathers Day. They were planning a family bar-b-que. Ida promised to get some lobster. They also talked about the vacation they were planning in July, to Italy. They were excited. Then nothing. Rob did not come home that evening. He hasn’t been home at all.
It has been confirmed that Robert did show up for work at the job site at 262 Ashland Place. He put in a day’s work. The last known where-a-bouts of Rob Mayer was at 2:15 p.m. the Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon where he would go to sell scrap from his job. About a half hour after that visit Rob’s cell phone was turned off.
The next day, Rob’s car was found in the parking lot of the Long Island Railroad at the Deer Park Station. They keys were not in it. The seat was pushed up, as if someone shorter than Rob’s six foot frame had driven it there. The car’s trunk, where he kept his tools and lunch box was empty. Ida says that Rob never would have left his car there. He was too concerned about thefts.
So, where is Rob Mayer? I don’t think he got on that train for some unknown destination. I don’t think he walked away from his wife, his job and his children. I think someone knows what happened.
Robert Mayer is a 46 year old, white, man. He is 6 feet tall and weights 200 pounds. He left middle finger is slightly chopped off. He has a mole under his right eyes. He was last seen wearing a grey polo shirt with a J.C Electrical logo, light blue jeans, black work books and sunglasses. It is important to note that Robert left his wallet home that day so he does not have his identification with him.
I want you to take a good look at his picture and the picture of his car. Did you see Robert on June 14th or after? ? Did you see his car? Did he buy coffee from you? Did you notice him at a stop light? Did you see him get into or out of his car? Did you see him go into any place of business? Any residence? If you know Robert, did you have any sort of conversation with him that seemed odd or out of place? Did he appear ill? Even if you think you saw this man on June 14th (or after) I want you to call the police. If your tip is nothing the police would sincerely rather have a nothing tip than you keep quiet and a small, but significant lead, get lost.
If you have any information about Robert Mayer call the Suffolk County Police at 631-854-8252. If you are involved in Rob’s disappearance and are afraid to come forward, please contact a lawyer. Communications between a lawyer and client are confidential. You will be able to pass along vital information while remaining anonymous. You may also send an anonymous letter to Suffolk County Police, 30 Yaphank Ave. Yaphank, NY 11980.
We all woke up to a miracle this morning; Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight had been rescued from a decade of captivity. Pictures of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were emblazoned on every paper and TV channel. Missing posters of Amanda and Gina were hastily scrawled with the word FOUND across it. It was joy. Cleveland broke out into spontaneous celebrations. Did you notice there were no pictures of Michele Knight? There is a frightening reason for that; no one was looking for Michele Knight.
This is yet another case of a person reported missing and police agencies doing little to locate her. Michele was last seen on August 22, 2002. She was 20 years old at the time of her disappearance. Police concluded, wrongly, that she left on her own and just didn’t return. Twenty year olds do that all the time, right?
I know what you may be thinking; people do just pick up and leave. Recently the news reported on the Pennsylvania mom, Brenda Heist, who decided on the spur of the moment to join some drifters and leave her family and life behind. She had been missing, for 11 years before she was recently located in Florida.
But I’m going to keep saying this until someone hears it: every single missing person deserves an active and aggressive investigation. The ONLY way to find missing people is to use every available resource to look for them. The only time an investigation into a missing person should be closed is if the missing person is found. If a missing person is found alive, living on the beach in Florida, so much the better! I know investigations are costly but we’re talking about a national epidemic. More people go missing each year than die of AIDS and all types cancer combined. Unlike, Brenda Heist most of these people are not living on the beach in Florida. Most of the missing are victims of crimes. The United States needs to commit to training groups of highly skilled investigators in the search of the missing.
We owed Michele Knight a full scale investigation into her disappearance. Law enforcement dropped the ball. I don’t know what would have happened if there had been a full scale investigation. Maybe this story would not have ended any differently. But what if law enforcement had been able to locate the Michele Knight sooner? What if, in the course of an active, aggressive investigation, they had come across a clue or received a tip that would have lead them sooner to Ariel Castro’s home shortening the hell that had become Michele’s life?
We owed Michele Knight a full scale investigation. Now we owe her an apology.
I have a theory that cannot be proven. I believe that for every single missing person there is at least one person who knows where he/she is. The reason I believe that is most missing people are victims of an undiscovered crime; therefore you have an offender and the victim. The victim is missing. The offender is out walking around.
I also have another theory. I believe that it is difficult for the average person to keep a secret. I believe that most people share their secrets but even the ones who don’t openly share secrets give us hints into pasts they’d rather not let anyone know about.
So, this comes to the third leg of my theory; someone knows something about what happened to each of the millions of missing. For each missing person someone is holding the precious key to the locked mystery of what happened.
If the country wasn’t suffering from a crisis of morality at the same time we are suffering a missing persons epidemic we’d be able to give answers to so many waiting family members. But unfortunately, morals seem to be at an all time low.
My work as an advocate for the missing has allowed me the privilege of working with many family members who have shared their heart breaking stories with me. I can tell you without the smallest doubt that having a loved one is more devastating than any disease out there. It is a daily suffering that destroys lives, relationships, health, jobs, and finances. When a family has a missing loved one there is no aspect of their life that is not impacted. In many cases, the suffering is never alleviated and people go to their graves after a life-time of indescribable suffering.
Laurie Travis’s sister, Rose Marie Gayhart has been missing for 28 years. Recently, Laurie Travis recently posted on her Facebook page:
I am ready to explode my words, I will never understand why Rose Marie Gayhart DOES NOT get the publicity 28 yrs missing and my fight I have been through for these 28yrs….all I ask is help me get the words,posters etc. out….been too long SOMEBODY KNOWS SOMETHING!…all I am asking is for help..I can not afford tee-shirts,wrist bands,pins, etc….I just want help for closure and Justice.. ♥
Closure and justice, that is all she wants. If my sibling was missing, I’d want him to walk through the door one day, happy, healthy, with one hell of story to tell me. But Laurie isn’t even asking for a happy ending. She wants closure. She also wants justice. She just wants what is promised us as Americans; justice for all.
I’m going to tell you something about the immoral, like the person who knows what happened to Rose Marie Gayhart. That person won’t wake up one day and find their morals lying in the bottom of a dresser drawer and decide to finally use them. What happens is people, people like you and me, not just law enforcement, ask questions and ask questions and ask questions. We make them feel uncomfortable until they make a mistake, slip up and get caught. Perpetrators must be made aware every waking moment of their lives that someone is looking for the truth.
Rose Marie Gayhart was raised in Dansville, New York. Her early life was never easy. She made a series of very bad choices. Some of those choices lead to dire consequences. She plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the death of her 6 month old son, Danny Shaver. Danny’s father was in prison at the time for burglary. Rose’s sister claims it was actually Rose Marie’s boyfriend, Kevin Burns, who was responsible for Danny’s death. But he was never charged. Rose also had another child she gave up for adoption. It’s easy to see what path Rose Marie’s life was taking.
But Rose Marie was given another chance and she took it. She moved to Florida with a new boyfriend, Bobby Paddock and his mother, Dorothy Rittenhouse. Bobby had a job carpet cleaning and Rose bragged in a letter to her sister of his salary. She, herself had gotten a job at a hot dog stand, not much, but it was a start. She wrote to her sister of the hopes of buying a home in Cape Coral, Florida. In her last letter home to her sister she sounded happy, albeit lonely. She asks her sister to consider moving to Florida and even if she wouldn’t consider moving she encouraged her to visit. She also tells her sister that Bobby’s mother is “losing her mind”. At this time, they are living in a camper, quarters are tight and there is some suggestion that there are tensions between Rose Marie and Dorothy. Then Rose Marie is gone.
About two weeks after Rose Marie’s upbeat letter to her sister, Rose Marie’s mother received a letter from Dorothy Rittenhouse. The letter is to inform Rose Marie’s mother (also Dorothy) that Rose Marie has disappeared. Dorothy Rittenhouse paints a terrible picture of Rose Marie, one where she sat around, drinking in bars with men, stealing money from Bobby and having a temper tantrum where she destroyed Bobby’s National Guard uniform and personal papers. Rose Marie mentioned at work that she was not getting along with her boyfriend. A neighbor claimed she witnessed a big fight between Rose Marie and Rittenhouse where Rose claimed she was pregnant and wanted to have the baby. Bobby wanted her to have an abortion. The argument ended with Rittenhouse throwing Gayhart out of the trailer. The neighbor claimed she saw Rose Marie walking down the road with a suitcase.
I’d be willing to believe that Rose Marie walked down that Florida road to her unknown fate but three things keep bothering me. Dorothy, in her letter to Rose Marie’s mother says that she bought Rose Marie a bus ticket to New York and Rose Marie refused the ticket. Dorothy then goes to the Sheriff’s Office to give them the “proof” of the offering the ticket to Rose Marie. She writes to Rose Marie’s mother, “Sorry but I can’t do anymore if I find her I’ll be sure give the ticket and if I can’t find her I’m covered—because I have proof—“ What does Dorothy need proof of? Why does she need to be “covered’? Why did she feel the need to show the Sheriff’s department an unused bus ticket?
The second thing that bothers me is that I have no doubt that Rose Marie would have returned to New York if things went bad with Bobby. In her letter to her sister she writes about wanting to visit New York while Bobby is off on his three week National Guard training. She writes, “I would like to come home then, if I’m not working, but Bobby refuses to let me. I think he’s afraid that I won’t come back <smiley face>. I’ve got him spoiled.” Rose Marie was not averse to returning to New York. She had loved ones there.
The third thing that bothers me is that according to Rose Marie’s sister, Bobby Paddock failed a lie detector test. While failing the test is not proof that Bobby knows Rose Marie’s where-a-bouts it does indicate that he has not been honest with investigators.
I know why this case has been shuffled and reshuffled and generally forgotten. At one point the Florida police actually handed off the investigation to the Livingston County, New York investigators. The police think that searching for Rose Marie Gayhart isn’t worth it. They believe she is the kind of girl that got what she deserved. But this case is as much about Laurie Travis, Rose Marie’s sister, as it is about Rose Marie Gayhart. Like the police, you may draw some judgment about Rose Marie. As a mother I had trouble writing about Rose Marie. How can I write about a woman who plead guilty to the death of her son? But justice is for all, not just good people. Though I would disagree, many believe that Rose Marie has gotten her justice. But I can assure you Laurie Travis has not. I know that Laurie Travis is suffering. I know her suffering is undeserved and I know it is time for her to have closure and justice.
So, it’s time for the police to open the investigation again. It’s time to start asking questions. It is time to start making people feel uncomfortable. It’s time to start asking people, “Hey, what ever happened to Rose Marie?” Someone knows what happened to Rose Marie Gayhart and Laurie Travis is waiting for that answer.
ROSE MARIE GAYHART
Missing From: Cape Coral, Florida
Missing Since: 03/1985
Classification: Missing Endangered
Age at Disappearance: 23
Date of Birth: 02/08/62
Hair: Dark Brown curly hair
Distinctive Characteristics: Wears brown frame glasses ( May have been replaced),
Scars Marks, Tattoos: pierced ears, scar under chin, scar over eye. Chipped front tooth. Stretch marks from prior childbirth
Clothing: wears size 7 clothing and size 5 shoes
If you are interested in helping with the search for Rose Marie Gayhart or any missing person feel free to contact the CUE Center <ncmissingpersons.org> or the Center for Hope <hope4themissing.org>
Senator Nozzolio and Representative Oaks,
I am writing to you on behalf of Judith A. Geurin. She is a missing person who has been missing from your representative district since 1991.
Missing people are some of the most vulnerable of our citizens. When a person goes missing they lose their voice and all their rights as a human being. Everything is ripped from their lives as well as their family’s lives. If they have a loving, caring, intelligent and financially well-off family, then they will have people who will speak for them and make sure law enforcement does the right thing. If they don’t, well, they are subject to the luck of the draw and are often are forgotten. Does that sound right to you? It doesn’t to me.
Let me tell you Judith Geurin’s story. Judith was a housewife and mother then, without warning, her life went terribly wrong. Her husband died in 1988. She had trouble dealing with the overwhelming grief. She turned to alcohol for solace. That is when she met Curtis Pucci, an abusive and manipulating man who took advantage of Judith’s fragile state. (He also “took care” of the life insurance she received from her husband’s death.) He convinced her to move to Sodus Point, New York, leaving behind her four children. It was a mess. It was a huge mess. Times got hard for Pucci and Guerin. They ran out of money. Judith was arrested for passing a bad check. But Judith’s daughter, Amy, never gave up on her mom. Actually, during their last conversation, Amy suggested that her mother come home and they all start over again. But Judith never got the chance. She simply disappeared.
In late January 1991, Amy realized something was amiss. As bad as things got, she always heard from her mom. She was unable to reach her and finally took a drive to Sodus Point. Her mother was gone and no one knew where she was. Amy went to the police. They refused to take a missing person’s report. They told Amy her mom probably just “took off” and she’d hear from her soon. Soon never came.
Amy tried to report her mother missing again. And again. And again. Incredibly, the police refused to take a report and investigate until 2006. Yes, you read that right; 2006. Fifteen years after Judith Geurin went missing the police begrudgingly opened an investigation. The injustice done in this case is just staggering.
I’d like to tell you this is a very isolated case but it’s not. Every day people go missing and every day they hear that their loved one is just somewhere blowing off steam or has lost track of time. It is time that New York became a leader in the search, investigation and recovery of the missing.
New York State needs:
1) a standard protocol for every single missing person investigation. It shouldn’t matter where you disappear from or who you are, a thorough investigation should be standard.
2) a state funded missing persons investigative unit that is highly trained and on call to begin investigations immediately when it is determined a person is missing
3) training for every single police agency in the state on how to handle missing person cases.
4) a centralized, searchable data base where every single missing person is entered into a system where that information can be cross referenced against unidentified human remains.
5) a law requiring every single missing person and unidentified human remains be reported to the FBI and entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).
We can’t prevent the great travesty of justice that has happened to Judith Geurin and her family. However, we can prevent it from happening again. As her representative, it is your job to look into the injustice that Judith Geurin and her family have suffered for twenty-two years. But it is also time to look into how missing persons investigations are handled in New York State.
Thank you so much for your time. I am sure you will do the right thing.
Any response received from the Senator or Representative will be added here.