Local law enforcement opens up on missing persons cases
On an October day in 2001, 70-year-old Jane Bousley visited Angie’s Hair Design. After she dove off from the salon, she was never seen again.
Detectives with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office investigated the disappearance thoroughly, but no trace was ever found of Bousley or her car, a silver Mercury Tracer.
“That’s the only case I know of (where the subject wasn’t found) that the sheriff’s office has,” Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. said. “They really worked this very hard, they did an aerial search up and down the river, checked her computer, credit cards, everything you could think of. There was never anything found to indicate that there was something going on with her or wrong.”
Bousley was one of thousands in the United States who have simply vanished without a trace. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a database established through the Department of Justice to catalogue missing persons cases from law enforcement agencies across the nation, there is a total of 26,867 similar cases known to law enforcement, 13,516 of which remain unsolved.
The list includes three Clark Countians.
According to local law enforcement, disappearances do occur in Winchester-Clark County, but only very rarely.
Perdue has served as Clark County’s sheriff since 2007. Before that, he made his career as a police officer with the Winchester Police Department.
Perdue said in his decades of law enforcement experience, he has never worked a missing persons case where the subject wasn’t eventually found.
In fact, most missing persons cases are solved quickly, usually within 24 hours or less.
“They’re very infrequent,” Purdue said. “We get maybe 10 or 15 per year, give or take five or so.”
Winchester Police Department Capt. James Hall said in 2016, detectives investigated 26 missing persons cases. This year, 28 such cases have been looked into and resolved.
“The vast majority of those are juveniles, particularly between the ages of 13 and 16,” Hall said. “Most turn up within a day.”
Hall said when a juvenile is reported missing, law enforcement is mandated to immediately open a case to locate the child.
With adults, there traditionally is a 24-hour waiting period before a case is opened. However, many times when an adult is reported missing, it is only after they have not been seen for several days, even up to a week.
The exception to this rule is elderly adults, who may have medical needs they can’t take care of on their own.
Perdue said in many cases, the missing person isn’t necessarily even missing. Often, cases revolve around people not being some place they were expected to be or being gone longer than their friends or family thought they would. The police get called, and within a short period of time, the location of the subject is discovered.
Some may even still be at their home.
“A lot of them have just gone dark and don’t want to talk to anybody,” Hall said. “Sometimes they’ve just changed their phone number.”
Even cases like this can end badly though. Sometimes after a person is reported missing, law enforcement locates them after they’ve sustained a major, potentially life-threatening, injury.
Sometimes law enforcement will find a person’s body, having died either from an accident or foul play.
“We had a missing person, I think it was out in the Schollsville area,” Perdue said. “The guy went out on his four wheeler on his farm. We had a tragic end to that when we found him, he actually wrecked his four-wheeler. It was on top of him when we found him and he subsequently passed away later that evening.”
Perdue said he didn’t know if — in that case — starting the search for the farmer sooner would have changed the outcome at all. However, it did serve as a stark reminder that missing people should be reported to the authorities sooner, rather than later.
One factor Perdue said has made locating missing people easier is the advances in technology over recent decades. In particular, he said the ability to ping the last tower used by a cell phone has been invaluable in giving search parties an idea of where to look for someone who may be lost or in danger.
In 2013, the use of cell phone tracking was instrumental in the recovery of the body of Kyla Kline, who had been killed and whose remains were hidden on a farm.
Hall said another invaluable tool, especially when searching for juveniles, is social media.
“Sometimes people will run away, but remain active on social media sites, allowing us to determine where they are or where they’re going,” Hall said.
Social media has also become a tool for police to use when spreading the word about someone who is missing. The police department and sheriff’s office combined have more than 10,000 followers on Facebook, meaning a post alerting people about a lost child, an elderly person or someone who may have medical needs can reach a large portion of the local population almost instantly.
Law enforcement agencies also have the ability to check with credit card companies to see if any purchases have been made using cards the missing person may own.
In addition, Amber and Golden alerts sent straight to people’s phones have been useful in finding missing children and seniors, Perdue said.
Another benefit has been the creation of resources like the NamUs, which can be used to easily share information on missing persons with various agencies as well as the general public.
Those methods often lead to the location of the reported person, but occasionally, they don’t. That’s when old fashioned police work takes over, with detectives interviewing family members, friends and witnesses to formulate theories about where the missing person may have gone.
Agencies will also make use of methods like aerial flyovers, river dredging, search parties and K-9 units to thoroughly search an area someone is suspected to be in.
Hall said local, state and federal agencies will often partner and share resources when larger search efforts are required to find someone.
Still, occasionally there is a person who is just never found.
Perdue recalled Bousley’s case, saying the it was “quite frankly, dumbfounding.”
“We still pull the case file out every once in a while just to see if there’s anything we may have missed after all this time,” Perdue said. “These cases are very frustrating, not only because you can’t seem to get anywhere, but because you have to come back to the family empty handed.”
Hall said in some cases he’s worked where an adult has gone missing, police discover the person may not want to be found.
“In cases like that, they’re not committing a crime,” Hall said. “We can notify the person who reported them missing and tell them that they are no longer missing, but if they don’t want their whereabouts known then we can’t really divulge that information because they’re an adult, and if they’re in their right mind and not committing a crime we can’t tell anyone where they are.”
Other times, cases are resolved only after the remains of a body are found. NamUs contains a DNA database, allowing samples from the remains to be compared with open missing persons cases, which occasionally finds a match.
“It’s helpful to the family to at least bring some closure to their family member’s case,” Hall said.
Both Hall and Perdue said, when approaching a potential missing persons case, timing is a key component. The earlier law enforcement is made aware someone may be missing, the more likely it is that person will be found.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System lists three unsolved disappearances from Winchester, along with the information discovered by law enforcement agencies that investigated the case.
Jane M. Bousley was last seen Oct. 19, 2001 at Angie’s Hair Design. According to the report Bousley, then 70, left the beauty shop and may have headed toward Walmart or Lowe’s in her 1997 silver Mercury Tracer, license plate number 157-BXR.
Bousley has black hair, brown eyes and wears glasses. According to the report, she has multiple scars on her chest, scalp and abdomen.
Sarah May Estes was 25 or 26 years old when she was last seen in 1987. According to the report, she left Winchester with her husband, Mitchell Scott Estes, who was on the run from a murder charge in Lexington.
In late 1987 or early 1988, Sarah and her husband were spotted by family members in Brooklyn, New York boarding a Greyhound bus to an unknown destination. Mitchell is still at large.
Sarah is described as being 5 feet 5 inches tall with hazel eyes and medium-length brown hair. She has a triangle-shaped scar on her right arm from a clothes iron.
Thomas “Tom” Edward Profitt, 46, disappeared May 3, 2006. He is described as being 6 feet tall and weighing between 215 and 220 pounds.
He has gray or partially gray hair, blue eyes and a goatee. According to the report, he can be identified by a scar on his chest and a missing portion of his index finger on his right hand.
Profitt’s vehicle, a 1997 maroon and red Buick Century, license plate number 165-ADW, disappeared with him.
His car was reported to have a personalized front license plate that reads “Tom and Anna.”
If you have information about a missing person, contact contact the Clark County Sheriff’s Office at 744-4390, the Winchester Police Department at 745-7400 or the Kentucky State Police at 1-800-222-5555. On a national event, try the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children at www.missingkids.com or the National Missing or Unidentified Persons System at namus.gov.