When a Victim Has No Voice

I was sent this email yesterday.  It stands alone without need of any further comment… we need a new sheriff:

I’ve spent the past hour reading blogs about the shortcomings of Sheriff Laurie Smith.  In my minimal experience with only one SCCSO investigation I would have to agree that the criticism is warranted.

My name is Danny Domingo and I am a retired police veteran of an east bay Police Department.  I have also volunteered with Klaas Kids Organization since 2000.  Currently I am embedded with the Search For Sierra Lamar and have volunteered my time in this worthwhile effort for the past two years.  The Sierra Lamar search is the fourth high profile search in which I have been involved since meeting Marc Klaas in 1999.  The Sierra Lamar search is also the ONLY ONE of the four searches in which I’ve been involved where the local law enforcement jurisdiction has refused to assist the civilian search effort.  Instead, Sheriff Smith and her media representatives have stated multiple times, in one way or another, that they wish they could discuss the case with the civilian search leaders but they CAN’T.  Allow me to make this point very clear.  The leaders of the Search For Sierra Lamar have never asked Sheriff Smith or her representatives to discuss the case with us.  What we have asked for is assistance in identifying viable search areas.

In the first days, weeks and months of the search effort we asked Sheriff Smith and her Search and Rescue leaders to share the areas where they’ve searched so that the civilian team could leap frog those areas thereby searching a larger area in a shorter period of time.  The requests led to empty promises of assistance from the Sheriff.  Finally, in October 2013, nineteen months after Sierra Lamar disappeared, civilian search leaders finally received a map outlining search areas covered by county SAR teams.  Nineteen months during which body decomposition, animal destruction and weather conditions have taken its toll on any evidence which might have been recovered.

In my personal estimation, Sheriff Smith has hampered the search effort for Sierra Lamar.  A couple of examples if I may; 1) for several months in the beginning of the search Sheriff Smith refused to disclose that all of the clothing connected with Sierra Lamar had been recovered.  Hence, civilian search teams spent countless hours searching for, logging and documenting an exorbitant amount of female clothing found during searches.  All of this documentation was then turned over to the Sheriff’s Office.  Hundreds of hours could have been saved by a simple statement by the Sheriff’s Office saying, “We are not looking for any outstanding clothing.”  Yet, Sheriff Smith forced her investigators to remain mum about any information at all.  2) The civilian search leaders have asked the Sheriff Investigators to assist the civilian search effort by suggesting areas in which the suspect and his friends might have frequented so that searches could be conducted in those areas.  These requests have been met with no response by the Sheriff or her investigators.  3) There are rumors of the existence of a video surveillance photograph taken of the suspect showing his clothing in a particular state of disarray taken on the date of Sierra’s disappearance and the existence of medical records indicating the suspect was treated for a particular condition days after the disappearance of Sierra Lamar.  A simple confirmation or denial of these two rumors could do a lot to steer this search in a particular direction.  Once again, the requests were met with no response.  Having been an investigator for 16 or the 25 years I served in law enforcement, I fail to see how assistance in any of the above would jeopardize this case.

I have been researching missing person cases since the disappearance of my own niece, Xiana Fairchild, in December 1999.  I have documented numerous cases in which missing persons have been located by civilian search teams.  In that same research I’ve yet to find a single case in which prosecution was compromised by the acts of a civilian search team member.  Conversely, I have a long list of cases in which SAR team members missed a body only to have the body discovered by a civilian or a civilian search team member at a later date.  The most recent example of this is the case of Michelle Le who was discovered by a Klaas Kids search team in a area that had been searched by SAR teams up to three times prior.

The case against Antolin Garcia has all the appearances of being a very difficult case to win.  It is not a secret that juries find it difficult to convict the defendant in a capital case in which there is no body.  Is there any question in anyone’s mind that the best chances of finding a body now rests with the civilian search team?  Why then does Sheriff Smith and her investigators, to this very day, still refuse to assist the civilian search effort.

If Sheriff Smith or her investigators had a loved one missing they would want as many boots on the ground as possible as quickly as possible.  Perhaps the rules are different when the missing is not one of their own.

I don’t even live in Santa Clara County but I will be making a donation to the campaign of anybody running against Sheriff Laurie Smith.  It is time for a change in philosophy.

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5 thoughts on “When a Victim Has No Voice

  1. Pingback: Who Will Find Your Child? | The Klaas Act

  2. I tell everyone who will listen after reading the letter from Mr. Domingo. I am very saddened to know that is how the Lamar Family is being treated.

    I just posted this on a blog about a NEEDED SHERIFF’S DEBATE! It is time to answer the questions Sheriff!

    Ms. Pirslin, June 3, 2014 will be the only time voters will have the chance to vote for the position of Sheriff. The Sheriff’s race will not go to the November ballot. Remind the voters June 3, 2014 is their chance to have their voices heard. Your point about the need for a debate in the Sheriff’s race is on point. There has been little to no coverage on this race and that there is a refusal to participate in a debate should be news. I have been following other blogs and found where Mr. Danny Domingo a retired Police Detective and a volunteer of the Klaas Kids Organization assisting in the search for Sierra Lamar says this about his experience and interaction with Sheriff Smith, “In my personal estimation, Sheriff Smith has hampered the search effort for Sierra Lamar.” It is a sad affair when there is a nationally recognized organization ready and willing to help the search effort to be stymied by the Sheriff. This topic maybe one of the reasons this Sheriff is unwilling to have the public debate to answer these questions. Please continue to push for the public debate.

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  3. Pingback: If it’s Broken, Fix it | Casey Thomas' World

  4. Reblogged this on Balanced Office Blog and commented:
    I am a member of Team Sierra and Danny Domingo is one of our most valuable contributors to our civilian search efforts. He has been involved since the beginning and still searches with us today. His three suggestions on how the Sheriff’s Office could assist us are poignant.

    In October I took control of the maps and began coordinating or search efforts. After extensive review and consolidation of our records, it is clear that clarification of information such as 1) clothing 2) search area suggestions 3) video surveillance & medical treatment would have added remarkable realignment of our search efforts.

    Today civilians continue to search for Sierra. We continue to contribute information about the case to the Sherriff’s Office and their response time is exceptional. However, restrictions on their ability to provide information have reduced our conversations to the ridiculous in some situations.

    My favorite was a recent discovery of a “farm” where children and starving pigs lived in filth. Both the Sherriff’s Office and Animal Control reacted immediately. We offered assistance, but neither could provide any information that would enable us to provide help. Their primary concern was giving me too much information.

    When we lost Sierra, Sherriff elect Laurie Smith questioned whether 63 other missing girls in Santa Clara could also be abductions. At the time I believed this would indicate a deep concern over the safety of children and teens. It is tragic that, in the case of the farm, the pigs were a larger concern than the children.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_20711534/many-santa-clara-county-sheriffs-missing-girls-arent

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