I added a category of links called “The Missing” and felt the need to detail why it was such an important addition to Wrestling The Hyperbole. It’s not just a ProSocial effort, but each one of the sites I have linked have become a family member in a sense.
On January 29th, 2001, an eighteen year old boy disappeared and wasn’t heard from for five years. Merely five months into his eighteenth year, Jeffrey Lee Ben, was no longer a child by the legal system and not an adult by ways of the world. Nonetheless, he was considered a missing adult except to former Sheriff and felon, Elvin Flood, who chalked it up to a runaway case. Flood was at the reigns of the very first missing person case in Clayton, Oklahoma, and due to the aggressive campaign of Jeffrey’s loved ones (lead by Jeffrey and my mother, Linda Miller), the highest profile missing person case in Oklahoma.
We spent five tortuous years searching for Jeffrey even when the legal system worked against us and those hired to protect-and-serve proved to be incapable of just that. I can’t even count on two hands the number of times my mother was told she would have to drag a body of water herself for her son, and she did, because they had more pressing cases like what to have for lunch. They most always supplied the tools for searching for Jeffrey, minus the compotence, but it was my family in the trenches earning your hard-earned money for those that protect-and-serve. Once the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation got involved, which was typically always after mom got some national press, they promised us and the world that they “would find Jeffrey Ben.” As soon as the cameras were off, they stopped returning our calls. The only investigator that invested in my brother’s case was bogged down by protocol and ultimately forced to become a paper pusher.
Thankfully, our mom never stopped searching and pushing forward enough to put a small visual in the back of the head of a common logger. In March of 2006, by an act of God, two loggers did everything they typically never do at their jobs that resulted in finding a human skull. Two months after the five year mark of when my brother went missing, his remains (that mountain critters fed on after his body was dumped–like garbage–less than a mile from the last person to see him–my cousin’s house) were positively identified and we had our answer to the five-year question; where is Jeffrey? The family was allowed up the mountain where Jeffrey’s skull was found, the same mountain that the law enforcement had not deemed a crime scene, to dig for more remains. The evidence we found could not be used (a cigarette butt that indicated someone else was there that night, coins all before 2001 that had fallen out of Jeffrey’s pocket proving he was dumped by the way they were scattered down the mountain, threads of his clothing to answer what he was wearing, and other evidence) since it wasn’t indexed by a police officer or ‘investigator’. The great State of Oklahoma permitted us to pull ribs, teeth, and other pieces of my brother from their soil without any involvement because since we got our answer it was good enough for them. Hell, the killer was probably less than a mile away and probably would require a lot of work and since we were too busy mourning the death of our loved one we wouldn’t be going to press. Our family didn’t even get a mental health specialist assigned to us for grievance and trauma for the unimaginable torture we had just gone through.
The above true story is pretty damaging to the system and certainly to one’s soul, but it is by no means a unique story. My brother, Jeffrey, was a smile in the hearts of so many people that offered so much of their support and searched in the trenches with us to find this boy that had somehow touched their lives. The links to the left of these words are amazing people or organizations that selflessly educate and advocate for the missing and their families. I do hope you will take the time to visit their sites because all it takes is one person, like yourself, to change the status of a person missing. Much like my brother’s status that changed in March 2006 to ‘deceased’–after five years of cyclic mourning without any means to the last stage, acceptance–we were finally able to lay my baby brother to rest (April 5th, 2006). Many families are not this lucky (how’s that for wrestling with hyperbole).
I will be posting more about my brother as the months come. I’m buttoning up my first book (Divide Community, a memoir), but on January 29th, 2010, I will embark on a missing person story like no other so keep checking back for updates.