When Searching For An Algorithm Leads To A Resolved Missing Person’s Case With A Theme I’ve Heard Before: Law Enforcement Needs Help

by Travis Mateer

On Wednesday I went searching for an algorithm–or, more accurately, the entity responsible for using an algorithmic tool to provide pre-trial supervision for people facing charges in CERTAIN courts, which I’ll get to in a minute–because a Request For Proposal (RFP) was recently opened up and closed by our Missoula County Commissioners. What does that mean?

To understand what that means I went to the wrong building on Stephens Avenue, instead of Mullan, because even now I get confused about the jurisdictional striations of our criminal justice system. The building on Stephens Avenue is where DISTRICT court people, doing time on FEDERAL probation or parole, must check in with their officers. Even though it was the wrong building, I still had an insightful conversation (on background) about anecdotal frustration.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s AMAZING what you can discover when you go IN PERSON to places like this:

It was through the combined locations of P&P and Pre-Release that I finally understood that the RFP process was opened up and closed, by request of our County Commissioners, in a pretty short amount of time, and the results are, so far, not known by the entities that would be impacted.

I have more people to talk to about all this, so if I hadn’t stumbled upon a missing person flyer on the door to the County Courthouse, this post would be pretty short and uninformative. But I did, and I spoke to two parents about their experience, so I’m going to shift to that anecdotal narrative.

I’m not going to use names, or the picture of the flyer, because the 16 year old teen has been located and the insights from the family have been provided in the spirit of HELPING law enforcement with perceived deficiencies in their response capacity.

Also, before getting to this family’s experiences, I’ll note I mentioned the name Joey Thompson in my outreach on Wednesday, and one of the offices I spoke with had a lot of familiarity with the case and the dynamics leading up to whatever happened that put Joey Thompson in the Clark Fork river where he allegedly drowned “in a period of minutes“.

I first spoke with the mother of the teen and found out the family (from New York) had sent their son to a boarding school in Montana. The program wasn’t working out for him, so mom was in Missoula with her son when he ran away and tried hitchhiking back to the boarding school. That is what prompted the missing person flyer I saw.

The mom suggested I speak with her ex-husband, since he had dealt with local authorities more than she had, so I gave him a call and learned a thing or two from his perspective as a former military ballistics expert who helps states like Texas understand the risks they are facing with the serious armament available to the criminal class. What I’m trying to say is this guy knew what he was talking about.

One of the main deficiencies (which I’ve heard before) has to do with technology. In this case, the teen was using Snapchat, and local law enforcement had no idea about the process to glean coordinate information from this platform. Once dad provided the steps for HOW to get the information, law enforcement DID follow up, but the delay was problematic, said dad.

Another delay happened when the member of law enforcement on the case was on vacation for 4 days. “Everything stopped during those 4 days,” the dad told me on the phone. This is ANOTHER aspect of the case that sounded familiar. Where did I hear THAT excuse before?

Jermain Charlo went missing on June 16th, 2018. So why did it take so long for authorities to get the case going? From the link (emphasis mine):

Charlo went missing on June 16, 2018. A Missoula Housing Authority security camera captured her about 1 a.m. walking through a downtown alley behind the Badlander bar toward Higgins Avenue.

That was the last known sighting of Charlo. However, according to a search warrant filed in Missoula County District Court, Charlo’s cellphone was “at or near Michael Defrance’s residence” between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the morning she disappeared.

Missoula Police received that information on June 27, 2018, according to the search warrant. Garcia doesn’t understand why Defrance hasn’t been arrested, she said.

Garcia wanted to make sure the protest was outside the department, rather than a march, Russell said. She wants answers from police. It took 11 days for them to begin searching for Charlo, she said.

“Now two and a half years later, how much evidence was lost?” Garcia said. “If they would have started looking for her right away.”

What caused the delay? I’m looking for a direct quote, but going from my memory of the Stolen podcast, the delay was because Detective Guy Baker was on vacation.

For an idea how SMOOTH Detective Guy Baker can be, here’s some fawning from Connie Walker, the indigenous journalist who swooped into Montana to make a true crime product for Spotify:

I’ve tried reaching out to Connie Walker several times on Twitter, since both Guy Baker AND Lowell Hochhalter were heavily involved in this case, but after getting conned, Connie moved on. But not before giving Baker more of the limelight he seems to enjoy. Here’s more fawning about how Baker even listens to DREAMS! Isn’t that amazing? (emphasis mine):

Yes, I’ve even heard this time-spiel before, and directly from Detective Baker himself! It was last summer, after a VERY concerning situation with a young girl selling flowers on the sidewalk of Missoula with her “dad”. I ended up calling 911, getting a shitty response from dispatch, then doing some of the work myself, which included emailing our County Commissioners.

Here’s the relevant part from the post I wrote about the experience (emphasis mine):

Maybe it was because I did some investigative groundwork the following day to get surveillance footage preserved, or maybe it was because I sent an email to County Commissioners and a contact at the Missoula police department. Regardless, it was nice to have someone in a supervisory role tell me the way dispatch handled my call was NOT appropriate.

After the apology I got the best indication yet this call was finally being taken seriously when the FBI called. Well, that’s how it showed up on my phone, but the guy on the other end of the line was Detective Guy Baker. Now the REAL action was about to begin, right?

The follow up call came a few days later, and I guess it was intended to put my concerns to rest. I was told by Detective Baker that a vigorous 6-8 hour investigation revealed the man was indeed a Russian out-of-stater traveling with his “family” from western Washington. There were two boys and a woman who appeared to be the “mother”. This family’s behavior had caused another bystander to call 911 two days after I did, and this concerned citizen took pictures, something Guy Baker suggested I could have done to make his job easier.

I kept scrolling through the transcript of the first episode for the exact time sequence of how the case was processed by Missoula PD and finally found it. Here it is:

No, Connie, they are NOT law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean Lowell Hochhalter doesn’t pretend to be one every now and then.

In my conversation with the father of the missing teen who was found, he was adamant that law enforcement needs MORE resources, and that the conversation about this need should be happening at the Governor/Lt. Governor/AG level. I listened, then gave him some of the troubling context making that prospect very unlikely.

Just because something isn’t likely to happen, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to get the message out that Montana needs to step up its game to combat a drug epidemic hitting during an economic crisis precipitated by a political crisis emanating from a societal decline designed by psychopaths because to do nothing is to be complicit with monsters, and who, other than the psychopath class, really wants that?

To help with this modest effort, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is awaiting your support, or you can use the donation button at my about page.

Thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to When Searching For An Algorithm Leads To A Resolved Missing Person’s Case With A Theme I’ve Heard Before: Law Enforcement Needs Help

  1. Pingback: On Being VERY Unimpressed By The City Club Drug Trafficking Presentation, Plus URBAN CAMPING SWEEPS SO SAD!!! | Zoom Chron Blog

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