Find Emma

A blog about missing children and adults

Jaycee Dugard’s story

Written By: Abby Mason - Sep• 02•11

“In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.”

Simon and Schuster has just released A Stolen Life, a memoir by Jaycee Dugard. A portion of the proceeds from the book and audio book (read by the author) will go to The JAYC Foundation, which provides support and services for the timely treatment of families recovering from abduction and the aftermath of traumatic experiences.

Aboutthe book :About the book : Dugard narrates the story in the present tense, beginning with the harrowing day of her abduction at the age of 11–her confusion, her terror, her absolute powerlessness as Phillip and Nancy Garrido paralyzed her with a stun gun, dragged her into the car, shoved her to the floor, and drove her from Tahoe to Antioch, California, to the dismal backyard compound where she would spend the next 18 years of her life. Scroll down to read an excerpt.

Each chapter is followed by a reflection, in which Dugard, who has been in therapy since her rescue in 2009, reveals her feelings about the ordeal now, as an adult looking back at the suffering of her younger self. Dugard’s writing style is direct and lucid, filled with detail; the naturalness of her writing is all the more impressive given the fact that her formal education stopped at the age of 11.

Dugard writes about discovering she was pregnant at the age of 14, and about delivering two baby girls in her back yard prison. She writes about how dependent she was on Phillip Garrido for everything. For most of the first six years of her captivity, she was locked in a soundproof room. Garrido convinced her that he knew everything she did. She lived in fear of getting “in trouble,” certain that he would use the stun gun again.

When her youngest daughter was two years old, Dugard was finally allowed to begin going out in public. By then, she had been so manipulated by Garrido that she believed his terrible lie: that she was safer in the back yard compound than she would be out in the world, and that her daughters were safer there as well. On outings, she avoided looking people in the eye; repeatedly, she mentions her feelings of invisibility. (more…)

Written By: Abby Mason - May• 13•09

Today, CNN has a story about Etan Patz, who disappeared while walking to the bus stop in the neighborhood now known as Soho in 1979. Etan, who was six years old at the time of his disappearance, has never been found.

According to CNN, “The boy’s disappearance was one of the key events that inspired the missing children’s movement, which raised awareness of child abductions and led to new ways to search for missing children. Etan’s case was the first of the milk carton campaigns of the mid-1980s.”

While conducting research for The Year of Fog , I spent a lot of time on the website of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I was struck by how many of these cases remain unsolved: children who went missing decades ago, whose families have yet to find answers.

The Center is featuring a campaign called Take 25, urging parents to take 25 minutes to teach their children about safety. The campaign includes this list of 25 Ways to Make Kids Safer.

At Project Jason, you can download a free personal ID kit, which contains a list of the first steps to take in the event your loved one is missing, plus valuable information that law enforcement will need.

Still Searching for Madeleine McCann

Written By: Abby Mason - May• 05•09

Kate and Gerry McCann appeared on Oprah this week to remind the world that they are still seaching for their daughter, Madeleine McCann, who disappeared two years ago from a resort in Praia da Luze, Portugal. They showed an age-progressed sketch of Madeleine, whose sixth birthday is this month. “We’re looking for a six-year-old-girl,” Gerry stressed.

The picture we all have in our minds is of the four-year old face that became so familiar in the months following Madeleine’s disappearance. Of the age-progressed sketch, Kate said, “I don’t know that little girl.” She went on to say that the little girl she knows is the one in the earlier pictures. It’s heart-breaking to think of these two parents still searching desperately for their child. Gerry brought up the case of Elizabeth Smart, who was found a year after her abduction on a street in Utah.For more information on Madeleine’s case, go to

Read excerpts from the interview here.

Madeleine McCann, age-progressedMadeleine McCann, at the time of her disappearance

Child abducted from SoCal Home

Written By: Abby Mason - May• 05•09

Briant Rodriguez, 3 years old

Police have yet to establish a motive in the kidnapping of Briant Rodriguez, the three-year-old boy abducted from his family home in San Bernadino, CA, on Monday. Two armed gunmen entered the home and tied up the mother and five children, including Briant. They then left with Briant. An Amber Alert was not issued until nine hours after the abduction. The abductors apparently did not know the family. Read the full story here.

American Missing on Small Volcanic Island

Written By: Abby Mason - Apr• 30•09

From The Happy Booker:

Craig Arnold, whom some of you know, has gone missing on a small volcanic island in Japan while on a creative exchange fellowship. Craig, an experienced explorer of volcanoes, never returned to his inn after leaving alone to research the island’s active volcano for the afternoon. The authorities are on the third day of searching for Craig, and are scouring the small island (of only 160 inhabitants) with dogs and helicopters. If he is not found by the end of the day, the authorities will call off the search. (Read the rest of this post to see how you can help.) (more…)

Amber Alert: Toddler Taken at Gunpoint, San Leandro

Written By: Abby Mason - Apr• 16•09

Update, April 17 09: Yosseline found safe, father arrested.

Luis Meza Valdiva took his 22-month-old daughter, Yosseline, by gunpoint from her mother on East 14th Street in San Leandro this morning. I could not find this listed on the Amber Alert website. My information comes from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Valdiva is described as a Latino man with brown hair and brown eyes, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing about 160 pounds. He was last seen driving a white 1992 four-door Toyota Camry with California license plate 5GBD911. The suspect was last seen driving on state Highway 99 in central California and may be headed toward Mexico.</blockquote>

The Charley Project

Written By: Abby Mason - Apr• 15•09

Thanks to Wendy Robards for telling me about The Charley Project, which, according to the website, “profiles over 7,000 “cold case” missing people mainly from the United States and links to over 500 missing person related websites.” The site features a missing person each week.

Teen Missing in Redwood City

Written By: Abby Mason - Apr• 15•09

Seventeen-year-old Luis Antonia Ortiz called 911 on the night of Tuesday, April 14, to report that two armed men had broken into his home. He was babysitting his younger brothers at the time. According to the San Jose Mercury News, “investigators found blood in the home’s yard, and on some of Ortiz’s property, but haven’t pieced together what happened.”

Found in the Wilderness

Written By: Abby Mason - Apr• 14•09

As I write this post, Melissa Huckaby, a 28-year-old mother and Sunday School teacher from Tracy, California, has just been charged in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of eight-year-old Sandra Cantu, a playmate of Huckaby’s five-year-old daughter. A child’s murder is unthinkably tragic under any circumstances, but this case horrifies in a very unusual way. We simply do not expect women to commit this kind of crime.

On this sad day I’d like to share an article by Wendy Robards, a search-and-rescue volunteer who, along with her husband and their beloved dog, Caribou, participated in a search for a three-year-old girl named Hanna who was lost in Lassen Volcanic National Park in June of 2003. This is a story with a happy ending. You can read the entire article here.

As we work South, my eyes are continuously scanning for clues. Hanna was wearing a pink shirt when she disappeared and I am looking for snatches of pink amongst the green foliage. We also look for track in the soft ground. Humans cannot pass through a forest, or any environment for that matter, without leaving sign of their passage: a broken stick, a scuff mark on a rock or a signature print of their shoe. Hanna, we have been told, is wearing Winnie-the-Pooh boots with the shape of an acorn and leaf imprinted on the bottom. It will be an easy boot print to identify if we see it.

Elizabeth Smart interview

Written By: Abby Mason - Jun• 20•08

Six years ago this month, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her family’s home in Salt Lake City. On March 12, 2003, a bystander spotted her on a Salt Lake City street and alerted the police. Elizabeth’s stunning rescue from her kidnapper was one of the rare cases in which an underage victim of a stranger abduction is found alive.

In this week’s People Magazine, Elizabeth Smart speaks out about her ordeal and her survival.