Organization spreads light on missing Natives
A screenshot of the Lost and Missing in Indian Country website shows scrolling photos of missing Native Americans. The website provides a way for people to seek help from the organization. LOSTANDMISSINGININDIANCOUNTRY.COM
A screenshot of the Lost and Missing in Indian Country Facebook page shows posters of missing Native Americans with accompanying information. COURTESY
Lost and Missing in Indian Country logo. COURTESY
LLANO, Texas – Janet Franson, a retired homicide investigator, said when it comes to lost or missing Native Americans, most of the time they fall through the cracks. With that in mind, Franson and two assistants created Lost and Missing in Indian Country to work missing cases involving Natives.
Franson, a non-Native, started the organization with sisters Megan McWilliams and Ashley Kroner in 2015.
“We saw that there was definitely a need for someone to be looking into missing person cases for Native Americans because nobody else was doing it,” Franson said. “I saw that there was a real disparity of numbers as far as how many Native Americans were being reported missing and how many Native Americans there probably are out there that have never gotten reported missing.”
Franson said one case involves Brittany Condray, who was designated a runaway and last seen on July 8, 2012, in Oklahoma’s Kiowa County. She said Condray, who is identified as Native American, was 17 when she was reported missing. Franson said a specific tribe was not listed for Condray and there was no available photograph, so this made it hard to investigate.
Franson said she checked with the Cherokee Nation to determine if Condray was a CN citizen.
“I called…and asked if she was on their rolls and they said, ‘no.’ So that’s one tribe down. How many more tribes just in the state of Oklahoma are represented?” she said.
She said Condray was in foster care when she went missing.
“She apparently was let go to her boyfriend’s house for the weekend by her foster mother and then she took off from there,” Franson said. “She was 17 in 2012, so now four years later she’s aged out. She’s not a juvenile anymore. She’s an adult. So is she still missing? Or did something happen to her back when she was still 17-years-old.”
Franson said that is what she’s trying to determine, if Condray is still a missing person.
“Needless to say, I didn’t get any help from child welfare people,” she said. “If she’s an adult and they just left her on the books because they can’t verify that she has come home, well let’s find out where she is and if she’s OK.”
Franson said when it comes to cases where the juvenile “aged” out or their adults, authorities often do not have the same “urgency.”
“So the first thing that you hear from a lot of law enforcement agencies is, ‘well, they’re an adult. They have the right to go missing if they want to.’ But what happens if they didn’t want to go missing and went missing,” she said. “They just seem to fall through the cracks. It doesn’t have the same urgency, usually, as like a juvenile case does, but they need to be investigated regardless.”
Franson said in such cases, or if a family member of a missing person needs help, she offers her services for free. “We don’t charge anybody for anything that we do. If we can help setup DNA collections for somebody that wants to give DNA, or if somebody has dental records and they want to give dental records or fingerprints or anything like that. Everything that we do, there’s no charge for anything.”
She said the organization’s website and Facebook page provide ways to contact the organization or share posts concerning missing Natives. Franson said www.lostandmissinginindiancountry.com provides a form that one can complete concerning missing people.
“It’s got questions about the missing person, and then they come to me and then I take it from there, and we see if we can determine if they’re still missing,” she said. “A lot of people go missing and then they’re found right away. So some of them will kind of take care of themselves after a few days, or a week or whatever and that’s OK. I’d much rather find out that somebody went missing for a few days or a week and they’ve been found and they’re OK so we can take them off the list…but a lot of those people don’t come back.”
She said its Facebook page also quickly spreads the word about missing Natives because people can “share” posts on their respective Facebook pages.
“You can get the word out really fast. There have been some people who were missing that were found because of the website,” she said. “We had one woman that was on the website. She had been entered by a law enforcement agency. She went to…a tribal law enforcement agency and I got a phone call from one of the law enforcement officers there saying, ‘I’ve got her sitting here and she’s not missing.’ So we actually have some people that kind of find themselves or somebody tells them, ‘I saw your picture on a website of missing persons.’”
Franson started her law enforcement career in 1979 and has more than 35 years of experience investigating missing person and homicide cases. “I would have never ever thought that I would have ended up in law enforcement or doing investigations, but it just seemed like a really good fit. So I guess when I saw that it just didn’t seem that there was anybody that was actively trying to work with Native American people I just thought, ‘I could do it.’”
For more information, call 325-247-3292, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.facebook.com/LostandMissinginIndianCountry/
.Steps To Take Concerning A Missing PersonContact law enforcement
• Make a police report
• Provide police with a photo of the missing person
• Provide any identifiers such as scars, marks, tattoos, jewelry or clothing worn
• Write down the case number and the officer’s name who took the report
• Contact Lost in Missing in Indian Country for assistance Conduct a search
• Check the local jail
• Check hospitals and coroner offices in the area
• Contact friends and acquaintances
• Check social media sites
• Put up fliers Get outside parties involved
• Ask people to spread the word
• Alert local media
• Consider hiring a private investigator
- Information provided by Lost and Missing in Indian Country