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Dear Outpost for Hope:

Thank you for your support. This is a very trying time for Tommie's family. For his mom, Mildred, because she lost her baby boy. For his sister and brother, who had so hoped to find him alive. And for myself, as I am the one who searched for him and had to deliver the sad news.

I already had to do this Dec. 2002, when I had to tell my mom that I found her father who had been missing 40 years. He had died Jan. 2, 1968 in Tulare, California. He was found lying in the street, a transient. And as in Tommie's case, they we're unable to locate any relatives. He was buried alone, as was Tommie. I wonder now how often this happens? How many of our missing loved ones have been found, identified, and buried alone, because they could find no relatives? And thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.

Love from Texas,

   Jo Layne  

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series about the disappearance of Norwalk teen Maria Anjiras, who went missing on Feb. 12, 1976.


Hour Staff Writer

Maria Anjiras has been missing since 1976, but investigators and nonprofits who work to find missing persons know she can still be found.

The Cold Case Unit of the Norwalk Police Department has been inching closer to finding Maria since reopening the investigation into her disappearance in 2001, but Sgt. Art Weisgerber, head of the cold case unit, still doesn't know if the trail will lead to a dead body, an emotionally distraught person or a happy 48-year-old homemaker.


On Feb. 12, 1976, Maria, then 14 years old, left home. Police were always a few steps behind her, but her trail went cold in 1978. She was last seen at the headquarters of the Charter Oaks Motorcycle Club in August 1976.

By the time the Cold Case Unit officially reopened the investigation into Maria's disappearance, law enforcement and Maria's family had changed drastically.

Advancements in technology -- such as DNA processing -- and a network of nonprofit and government groups geared toward helping to find missing persons gave investigators new tools to help them solve the case.

Investigators still had to sift through documents and evidence to determine their approach to the case before taking advantage of the new technology.

Maria's parents, Elsie and Constan Anjiras, passed away never knowing what happened to their daughter. Constan Anjiras' 1983 obituary lists Maria as one of his surviving children, although he had not heard from her in more than seven years.

Maria's siblings Carol and Thomas Anjiras told The Hour in 2003 that they had not heard from Maria in the years since her disappearance.

Investigators from the Cold Case Unit confirmed this fact before they commenced to digging -- literally and figuratively -- in 2002.

Constan Anjiras was never a suspect in the case, but investigators wanted to definitively prove that she was not buried near the family's former 2 Midwood Road home. In any investigation, investigators have to disprove as many things as they have to prove, Weisgerber said.

In May 2002, Norwalk Police used ground-penetrating radar to search the property for any voids in the ground. The device is used to determine if the ground has been disturbed.

"If we find a six-foot, three-inch void, that's an area of interest," said Weisgerber. "It could be an old stump, or it could be a body."

Six members of the state police K-9 Unit combed through the Anjiras residence and the surrounding property in June 2002.

Investigators found nothing to indicate any irregularities on the property and eliminated the possibility that Maria's final resting place was in a makeshift grave near her home, Weisgerber said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children developed an age-enhanced photo of Maria in 2002, but investigators received no solid leads after the release of the photo. The photo was updated in 2008 to reflect what Maria would look like as a 47-year-old woman.

Police obtained DNA from Maria's sister, Carol Anjiras, in March 2004. The DNA sample ruled out Maria as the identity of a Jane Doe in Warren County, N.J. Subsequently, Maria would be ruled out as the identity of other Jane Does because her physical features did not match those of the murder victims.

Weisgerber took over the case in May 2004 and started his investigation by examining Maria's connection to the Charter Oaks Motorcycle Club.

In order to follow the trail that leads to Maria's fate, Weisgerber has to find out what happened to Maria after the last reported sightings of her. He has a thick Connecticut State Police document detailing the gang's activities in his file on the Maria Anjiras case.

Norwalk Police gained information that she had been seen on Aug. 27, 1976, at a Danbury bar frequented by Charter Oaks members and gotten into a fight with a girl who hung around the bikers.

Weisgerber dug through a Bethel High School yearbook and found the girl with whom Maria fought. The girl had a common name, and Weisgerber had to look through a plethora of available records to find her, finally locating her in New Jersey by looking through a list of insurance reports.

When he contacted her, the girl had no memory of a girl named Maria or Mia who hung around the Charter Oaks. Weisgerber faxed her a picture of Maria, and the girl said she remember Maria but hadn't known her name. These small pieces of information, Weisgerber said, tell him he is on the right path.

Weisgerber uncovered a curious message from Sept. 1, 1976, that Danbury Police had left for Norwalk detectives, which stated that a girl named Maria was being detained as a suspicious person. He combed through about 19,000 archived police reports in Danbury until he found out the girl mentioned in the September 1976 report was a teenage runaway from a Norwalk halfway house whose name was also Maria.

Many of the people who have been missing for as long as Maria met an unnatural means to an end, according to officials familiar with missing persons cases.

Jerry Nance, a spokesman for NCMEC, estimates about 96 percent of the children that have been listed as missing by the organization were found to be deceased.

Maria could be among the pile of unidentified bodies in the United States, said Todd Matthews.

Matthews, founder of the Doe Network, an organization that works closely with NCMEC and various law enforcement outfits, estimates that tens of thousands of John and Jane Doe cases have not yet been closed. Matthews maintains a database of missing persons and Jane and John Doe cases and helps hook authorities into the resources they need to solve the case.

He currently has people working on nine facial reconstruction projects for unidentified deceased persons whose corpses were found in an advanced state of decomposition or had been decimated by its assailant. The reconstructive sketches are used by police to provide a visual depiction of what the unidentified person may have looked like while alive.

Libba Phillips, founder of Outpost for Hope, a nonprofit group that helps families find people who went "off the grid," said there is a small likelihood that Maria will be found alive.

While searching for her sister in seedy areas of the underworld across the nation, Phillips discovered an entire population of people who were considered missing by their families but not reported as such by authorities.

Networks of people in the United States go "off the grid," a phrase used to describe persons who are difficult to track down because of their transient lifestyle. The homeless, prostitutes and cults are just a few factions of the population that contain persons considered to be missing by their families.

Controlling authoritative figures and mental illnesses often build a wall between these individuals and the people trying to find them, according to Phillips.

Other people living off the grid, Phillips said, simply don't want to be found.

Weisgerber said if this is the case with Maria, a simple phone call or visit to police headquarters could end an investigation that has outlived her parents and the careers of some of the officers who first worked on the case.

"If she calls us up and says 'I'm fine, and I want to move on with my life,' that's fine," said Weisgerber. "We'll move on from there and close out the case."

According to the FBI there are approximately 109,968 Missing Persons reported as missing in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database today. This means that law enforcement has taken a report from a family member who has a lost loved one and has entered it into the national database that can be cross referenced by other law enforcement agencies around the U.S.

There is however, another undefined silent population of over 1 million persons who are lost among us. The ''Missing, Missing' population; these are persons who may be unreported as missing with mental illness as well as dependent children, who may be lost among the homeless population or whose whereabouts are unknown.

Inconsistent reporting of missing persons combined with the stigma of drug addiction and mental illness contributes to silent crimes of exploitation of at risk persons and their children. There are detrimental effects not only to the person who is lost but to the existence of an unknown and unaccounted for child who may be lost with him or her. Some facts to consider:

People with mental illness, regardless of gender, are 2 1/2 more times likely to be the victims of violent crime than the general population.

An estimated 50% of homeless adults with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar depression have a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Individuals with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders are among the most difficult to stably house and treat due to the limited availability of integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment in most communities.

Consequences for society are costly as those with co-occuring disorders constantly recycle through a life on the streets, and in and out of healthcare and criminal justice systems. Without the establishment of more integrated treatment programs, the cycle will continue.

Outpost for Hope, a nonprofit agency dedicated to raising awareness of the missing, missing population suggests that families and caregivers visit to learn more about how to locate lost loved ones and plan for the recovery and reunification process.


(c) Libba Phillips 2005

Five people were found shot to death early Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008, in a
makeshift homeless encampment covered by thick brush near the 405 Freeway in
Long Beach, Calif., police said. Unconfirmed reports indicate that several
of the victims suffered from severe mental illness.

The crime upset neighbors and puzzled police, who had no suspects and
struggled to comb the rugged terrain surrounding the crime scene near the
freeway's intersection with the 710 Freeway.

The incident follows the October death of another California homeless man,
John Robert McGraham. McGraham was living on the street for six years,
despite attempts by family members to get him treatment for his mental
illness. McGraham was doused with gasoline and sent to a fiery death by a
still unknown attacker. The incidents are focusing attention of the problems
of both homelessness and mental illness in southern California.

The two attacks illustrate what statistics show, that people living with a
mental illness are more likely than others to become victims.

Victimization is a serious consequence of failing to treat mental illness.  

The fact that people do not choose to be victims was pointed out by
McGraham's sister after his death.

"I wish people better understood the mental turmoil a human being can go
through that puts and keeps them in such a place that they can't seem to get
out," Susan McGraham-Paisley wrote.  Our family has tried for many, many
years to help him but it seemed beyond our reach." McGraham-Paisley and
other family members no longer live in the Los Angeles area, but still would
visit John Robert and kept trying to get him helped he was unaware he

"I hope the horrific crime against our brother will make people realize that
homeless people are human, they do have family, they are cared for. Several
people, when they had learned my brother was homeless for more than two
decades would say, 'He chooses to live this way," a statement she takes
strong issue with.

"I find that comment so offensive and so lacking compassion. Some might say
we all choose to be where we are, but we don't all start on an even playing
field, and we aren't all dealt the same cards. My brother didn't consciously
choose to live out on the streets, he just didn't seem to know what to do
with himself," she said. "Families of homeless are often helpless to make
diagnoses, correct problems without intervention. Both my sister and my
ex-husband contacted various agencies, but never with any success."

Putting in place assisted outpatient treatment may have helped the McGraham
family save their brother. California has the ability to implement Laura's
Law Now in each county.

Homicide Studies Victimization in the United States The Missing Missing: Toward a Quantification of Serial Murder

by Kenna Quinet

Read it online here

Kenna Quinet is an associate professor of criminal justice, law, and public safety in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and a faculty scholar at The Center for Urban Policy and the Environment in Indianapolis. Her research focuses on various aspects of homicide, including serial homicides and medical murder. She is also currently studying the demographics of external causes of death—accidents, suicides, and homicides. Most recently, she is a coauthor with Jamie Fox and Jack Levin of the third edition of The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder.