Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will host the Never Forgotten – Arkansas Takes Action event on Monday, July 10 at the Benton Event Center. The event was established to raise awareness of the challenges associated with missing persons cases and recognize Arkansas’ missing children and adults.
“Most of us will never know the pain of going through life with a missing loved one, but there are numerous families across Arkansas who live that hurt every day,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Never Forgotten event presents an important time for these families to come together, remember their loved ones and lift each other up. This year’s event also offers new, important training opportunities for law enforcement who are a critical element to helping solve these difficult cases.”
From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., a panel discussion will be held for the families of missing persons on available resources to assist them with locating their loved one. Participating agencies include Arkansas State Police, Arkansas State Crime Lab, Arkansas Crime Information Center, FBI, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Missing & Unidentified Missing Persons System.
At the same time as the family session, a law enforcement training will be held from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wayne Ruthven, a consultant with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, will provide local officers with an update on a program being created to coordinate efforts to assist children who become separated from their families as a result of a disaster. The Attorney General’s office and several other Arkansas agencies meet monthly to develop an action plan, coordinated by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, as part of 2-3 year pilot program. The program is intended to serve as a national model.
Officers will also hear from Gay Smither, president of the Laura Recovery Center. Smither’s 12-year-old daughter, Laura, went missing during a jog in Friendswood, Texas, on April 3, 1997. Her body was located 17 days later. Laura’s death led to the creation of the Laura Recovery Center, an organization that helps families and law enforcement agencies on missing child cases. The center has assisted with more than 1,700 cases and participated in more than 100 active searches. Accused serial killer William Reece was indicted Sept. 1, 2016, in the deaths of Laura and 17-year-old Jessica Cain, who disappeared Aug. 17, 1997.
The officer training session will conclude with a presentation from Lori Mcllwain, co-founder of the National Autism Association. Mcllwain will discuss autism, including a brief overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder, wandering and its unique dangers. Best practices for prevention and response to reduce risk will be discussed, along with findings and insights from six years of autism and wandering data that has been collected.
Rutledge will also host a luncheon, which will include a ceremony to honor families of missing children and adults and to recognize law enforcement officials who work to solve missing persons cases.
Representatives from the FBI, National Unidentified and Missing Persons System, Morgan Nick Foundation, State Crime Lab and Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigations Division will be available to assist families as part of the missing persons initiative.
Last year, Rutledge was part of a collaborative effort to launch a new website, NeverForgotten.ar.gov, which enables the public to access information on missing persons cases with an easy-to-use searchable database.
Every service offered at the event is free.
Registration can be found at ArkansasAG.gov. The Attorney General’s office has applied for three hours of Continuing Law Enforcement Education (CLEST).
The Attorney General’s office serves as an information clearinghouse for reports on Arkansas’s missing children and acts as the main point of contact between the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and nonprofit missing children organizations in the State. For information about Never Forgotten – Arkansas Takes Action, call (800) 448-3014 or email email@example.com. To reach the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tipline, call (800) THE-LOST (843-5678).