Tag Archives: victims

Working against human trafficking, from Moldova to Milwaukee

According to a report published by the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission in 2013 entitled “Estimating the Number of Sex Trafficked Youth Using Contacts with Milwaukee Police Department,” more than 77 youth below the age of 17 were trafficked in our city. This information is now more than 3 years old and does not account for adults.

There are many great organizations working to fight human trafficking in Milwaukee and abroad.

Please learn about, volunteer with and work alongside these groups.

Here are a few: Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Police Department, the Commission on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District Task Force on Human Trafficking, along with many nonprofits.

For a comprehensive list of organizations, please see the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee’s May 2013 report entitled, “Survey Results: Services for People Who’ve Been Trafficked.”

Another organization is Diaconia Connections, an international aid and development organization affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, the Czech Brethren and the United Church of Christ. Diaconia Connections maintains an office in the Plymouth United Church of Christ on Milwaukee’s East Side.

The following is a personal reflection from their director, Jeremy Ault, about his trip to Moldova, documenting the anti-trafficking work being done there.

After nearly two hours of traveling, my Moldovan colleagues Adrian and Livia stopped the car in the middle of a gravel road at the top of a long, winding hill. They made their way to a rusted gate that demarcated the property line of a family that lived in a dilapidated house. Turquoise paint peeled away from warped, sun-bleached wooden planks, while the breeze sucked curtains out of broken windowpanes. The yard was bare and rusted hulks of farm equipment could be seen through the crushed walls of a collapsed barn. There was no electricity, no running water and the outhouse door was left ajar.

It was at times like these between Adrian, Livia and me where our language barrier was most noticeable. I had no idea of their plans, so I just followed.

Upon reaching the threshold of the gate, I caught a glimpse of an elderly women making her way to the door. She walked with a severe bend in her spine — most likely the consequence of years of farm labor and osteoporosis.

With her came three children. Their ages varied, from 10-16. There were two boys and a young girl. They didn’t speak to us. After some hushed conversation, Adrian turned to me and waved me inside.

I hesitated.

I made it to the steps leading to the entrance, glanced at the children, and then turned back around. I walked across the yard, back through the gate, and stood by the car. I didn’t leave that spot for an hour.

***

In the summer of 2015, I traveled with three representatives from the Presbyterian Foundation to the European nation of Moldova to document the work of Diaconia Connections (the nonprofit I work for), and our Moldovan partners CASMED and ProCoRe. Our goal was to produce a video about the work being done to fight human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a reprehensible crime. And Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, is ground zero.

Cornered between Romania, Ukraine and the Black Sea, the country has experienced years of economic dysfunction, political corruption and civil war. For working-age adults and young people, opportunity is often found by seeking employment in Russia or the European Union.

Moldova is rated as a Tier 2 Watch List by the U.S. State Department. It is a primary source of men, women, and children trafficked for sex and forced labor. Victims are sent to Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Russia and the European Union. Nearly 80 percent of those trafficked work in the sex industry.

The problem is most egregious in Moldova’s rural communities, where educational and economic opportunities are lacking. Individuals in the countryside are desperate for opportunities. And desperate people without the proper means to acquire work visas, are prime targets for human traffickers. In Moldova, there are plenty of potential victims.

***

We met up with our Moldovan colleagues, Livia and Adrian, early on in our trip and they stayed with us for a few days, driving us around Moldova, where we visited villages and farm communities. But instead of listening to stories of capture, abuse, escape and healing from individual survivors, we instead visited the damp, musty homes of elderly women suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure.

We came upon the cottage of a 75-year-old man uncontrollably shaking from a neurological disease that rendered him unable to speak or feed himself. The nurse from CASMED that cared for him walked over 7 miles a day to wash his soiled bed linens and slice his bread.

We had lunch with a single mother and her son who was physically disabled and unable to leave the house. We listened intently as she pleaded with local government officials to assist her in rebuilding the foundation of her home. In the middle of the conversation, the mayor of the town leaned over to me and said in English, “Her house is going to be condemned next month. We don’t know what to do. We have no money to help.”

At some point I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like a voyeur. The overbearing sense of helplessness began to weigh on me, so I created an alternative reality.

I convinced myself that the people we were visiting were acting — perhaps for the camera. I decided to look away, to ignore the problems that were presented before me — which is why, at our last stop, I refused to enter the house.

I stood by the car indignant and upset that Adrian and Livia had taken me to the home of an elderly women, caring for children, who was clearly uncomfortable and in need of some kind of material aid. Once again, I brought nothing. I had no food and no money. And this time, I had little empathy. I don’t know, maybe I was ashamed of my own privilege?

My colleagues from the Presbyterian Foundation, along with Adrian and Livia, returned to the car. None of them asked me about my decision to stay outside.

Instead, they recounted another tragic story that had become all too familiar: Six years ago, the children’s mother was lured by work “recruiters” from Russia, promising a job in the hospitality industry in Moscow. Thinking that she would work in a hotel or café, the mother gave money to the recruiters to purchase a work visa. She left. And has never been back. It is now known that she was trafficked into prostitution by an organized crime syndicate. Her children have spoken with her only twice since she’s been gone, and they do not know when or if she will return. The task of caring for her children has fallen to her impoverished and elderly mother — a situation that only continues the cycle of poverty and vulnerability that enables traffickers to take advantage of desperation.

***

After some reflection, I thought more critically about my own decision to not enter the house. Livia and Adrian, in the face of problems, never looked away. They listened to the stories of people and actively found ways to help. The work of CASMED and ProCoRe are testaments to the power of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming challenges. The nurses from CASMED provide not only medical assistance, but offer company and conversation, reminding those they care for that they are loved and remembered. Social workers from CASMED and ProCoRe assist elderly caretakers with their expenses, providing educational materials, a living stipend and food throughout the year. Youth counselors and workers provide job training, therapy sessions and organize cultural outings to help young survivors of trafficking heal. I began to feel ashamed that I, in my privilege, did not allow the children or the grandmother to tell me their story.

Livia, Adrian and all the individuals we visited, forced me to realize an often forgotten fact: that a crime like human trafficking affects entire communities in addition to those trafficked. Men who have been sent away to Moscow to work on construction sites as bonded laborers are unable to remain home and attend to their ailing mothers. Women forced into prostitution in Turkey are unable to care for their aging fathers. Bright students desperate for work and educational opportunities drift away to cities and across borders, weakening their communities and impoverishing the life and future of their villages.

But the story doesn’t need to stop there.

No matter how insidious the crime trafficking can be, together, survivors and regular people like you and me can fight back.

It is why Adrian and Livia continue to care and provide healing for all of those affected — the survivors and those who are left behind.

It’s why survivors themselves are often their own best advocates. They are strong, resilient people who have a lot to teach us.

It’s why we should never ignore their stories.

It’s why we should actively search for those places in our communities where trafficking is happening and volunteer, donate to, or work alongside those organizations fighting this terrible crime.

***

We were about an hour and half north of the capital Chisinau when I saw my final glimpse of the Moldovan countryside. It was awash in an auburn, early-morning light that intensified the dour hues of plowed fields and barren hillsides. Thousands of dried sunflower stalks shuddered in the wind while elderly farmers dressed in loose-fitting cotton overalls lounged under spindly beech trees. Women’s Orthodox headscarves splashed radiant shades of red and blue across the landscape as they slowly herded untethered cows into the irrigation canals for water. It was a bucolic, peaceful scene. For while the land showed signs of serious erosion and the people working the fields conveyed a life bereft of material wealth, it was nevertheless enticing. It was one of the few moments where I really paid attention, when I chose not to look away.

While Moldova might be far away, the trauma of trafficking hits close to home. As citizens of Milwaukee and the United States, we should work to fight injustice and human trafficking here and in places like Moldova. It might be uncomfortable and we might have to learn where we can be of help, but much more is lost when we avert our eyes and stand listlessly by on the roadside.

***

Jeremy Ault is the director of Diaconia Connections and an Analyst for Spectrum Nonprofit Services. He lives in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. For more information, please visit www.diaconiaconnections.org.

Read more

> Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, “A Crime Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking in Milwaukee,” Allison Dikanovic, Feb. 29, 2016,.

> Trafficking in Persons Report 2016, US Department of State.

> Homicide Review Commission Report, April 15, 2013, “Estimating the Number of Sex Trafficked Youth Using Contacts with the Milwaukee Police Department.”

 

Images provided by Jeremy Ault.
Images provided by Jeremy Ault.

Attorney General offers ‘national strategy’ to combat human trafficking

As part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the Justice Department’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking , as required by the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

In addition to this new national strategy, every year, the attorney general also submits the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which details the programs and activities carried out by all federal agencies and sets forth recommended goals for the upcoming year.

The most recent report, for FY 2015, is available here.

The department also has launched www.justice.gov/humantrafficking as a central destination to learn more about the department’s efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is one of the most devastating crimes that we confront,” said Lynch.  “The National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking summarizes the work that our many components and our U.S. Attorney’s Offices are doing to better help survivors and target traffickers. These efforts encourage increased collaboration within the department as well as between the department and our partners in order to build on our successes as we prepare to take on the work that remains.”

The National Strategy sets forth plans to enhance coordination within the department and to develop specific strategies within each federal district to stop human trafficking.

The National Strategy includes the following:

  • An assessment of the threat presented by human trafficking based on FBI case information.
  • An account of the work of the department’s components that are most extensively involved in anti-trafficking efforts, including the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit; the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; the FBI; and various grant-making components within the Office of Justice Programs.
  • A description of the district-specific strategies developed by each U.S. Attorney’s Office.
  • A discussion of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts in Indian Country.
  • Information about annual spending dedicated to preventing and combating human trafficking.
  • A description of plans to encourage cooperation, coordination and mutual support between the private and non-profit sector and the department to combat human trafficking.

On the web

To learn more about the report and the department’s efforts to combat human trafficking visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.

Claim against Chiquita for funding Colombian death squads to go to trial in U.S.

After almost a decade of litigation, victims of Colombian paramilitary death squads funded by Chiquita are moving forward in a U.S. lawsuit against the banana giant.

This week, federal judge Kenneth Marra rejected Chiquita’s argument that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than the United States. This ruling could clear the way for the historic case to advance toward trial.

In 2007, EarthRights International and other co-counsel, filed a class action suit against Chiquita Brands International on behalf of the families of thousands of villagers, labor leaders and community organizers murdered by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a paramilitary terrorist organization.

The suit alleges that Chiquita made illegal, concealed payments to the AUC for years, totaling at least $1.6 million.

The lawsuit also alleges that the AUC shipped arms and drugs through Chiquita’s ports and on Chiquita boats.

In March 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty to the federal crime of funding a designated terrorist organization and paid a fine.

“Chiquita profited from its relationship with the AUC and paid the Department of Justice $25 million, but the victims of their conduct have received nothing — it is past time Chiquita compensates the families in Colombia,” said Marco Simons, ERI’s general counsel.

“We are pleased that the court agreed that ‘the United States has a strong interest in monitoring and deterring unethical and illegal conduct of American corporations in supporting foreign terrorist organizations.’ The plaintiffs sued Chiquita here in its home court where Chiquita will get a fair hearing on the merits, something the company seems to have been trying to delay for a decade,” said co-counsel Agnieszka Fryszman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

Chiquita has pulled out of Colombia and now has no operations or assets there. Still, Chiquita argued that it was more “convenient” to litigate in Colombia than the United States.

The court rejected this claim, finding Colombia to be an inadequate forum in light of serious security risks for plaintiffs and their lawyers.

“Our clients chose to litigate in the United States because it is the only forum where they can litigate safely and where they can be sure that Chiquita will pay,” said Simons.

The plaintiffs also sued several former Chiquita executives who were allegedly responsible for making, approving and concealing the payments to the AUC.

On June 1, Marra ruled the claims against those executives, including claims for torture and extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act, could continue. That case now moves into the discovery phase.

In addition to ERI, the plaintiffs are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and attorneys Judith Brown Chomsky, Arturo Carrillo and John DeLeon.

The case, Doe v. Chiquita Brands International, No. 08-MD-80421, is joined with several lawsuits against Chiquita proceeding before Marra.­

Wisconsin man sentenced for sex trafficking

Monta Groce, 30, of Sparta, Wisconsin, was sentenced this week to 25 years in prison for using violence, threats and coercion to compel three young women suffering from heroin addiction to prostitute for his profit in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In July, a  jury convicted Groce of three counts of sex trafficking by force, threats or coercion; one count of conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation for prostitution; one count of interstate transportation for prostitution; one count of maintaining a property for drug trafficking; one count of using a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and one count of witness retaliation.

The sentence was announced by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with U.S. Attorney John W. Vaudreuil of the Western District of Wisconsin and Special Agent in Charge R. Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division.

“Groce beat, tormented and enslaved vulnerable young women struggling with heroin addiction,” said Gupta.  “He treated them as sex slaves rather than human beings and his unconscionable actions offend the most basic standards of human decency.  Nothing can undo the harm Groce inflicted or the pain he caused, but hopefully this sentence provides some measure of closure and relief for the victims.”

“Sex trafficking is modern slavery, and cannot be tolerated in any civilized nation,” said Vaudreuil.  “These crimes, which took place in a small Wisconsin city, demonstrate that sex trafficking is not just a big city issue; it is a horrible problem in rural America too.  We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who violently exploit vulnerable victims in Wisconsin.”

“Sex trafficking has no boundaries and can occur anywhere,” said Tolomeo.  “When combined with drug addiction, the results are devastating.  Groce used heroin and violence to force victims into prostitution.  The FBI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to target these predators.”

Evidence presented at trial included the testimony of the three victims identified in the indictment as Jane Does 1 through 3. They testified that Groce sold heroin in Sparta between December 2012 and April 2013.  During that time, he enticed the victims to begin prostituting for his profit by providing them with heroin .  As their dependency increased, he turned to violence and threatened to cut off their heroin supply if they disobeyed him, withheld money earned from prostitution or otherwise refused to prostitute.

Groce further kept some of the victims in perpetual debt by fronting them heroin and charging fines as punishment.

He advertised the victims on Backpage.com and paid other addicts to drive them from Wisconsin to Minnesota to prostitute.

 

The case was investigated by FBI’s Milwaukee Division with assistance from the Sparta Police Department and Monroe County, Wisconsin, Joint Investigative Task Force.

Newtown families’ lawsuit against gun maker dismissed

A judge has dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit by Newtown, Connecticut, families against the maker of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre.

The judge cited an embattled federal law that shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products.

State Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis granted a motion by Remington Arms to strike the lawsuit by the families of nine children and adults killed and a teacher who survived the Dec. 14, 2012, school attack, in which a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle made by Remington.

The families were seeking to hold Remington accountable for selling what their lawyers called a semi-automatic rifle that is too dangerous for the public because it was designed as a military killing machine. Their lawyer vowed an immediate appeal of the ruling.

The judge agreed with attorneys for Madison, North Carolina-based Remington that the lawsuit should be dismissed under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005 and shields gun makers from liability when their firearms are used in crimes.

Advocates for gun control and against gun violence have criticized the law as special protection for gun makers.

It became an issue in the presidential campaign this year when Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic nominee, criticized then-challenger Bernie Sanders for his support of the law in 2005.

Sanders, a Vermont U.S. senator, is now backing a bill to repeal the law.

Lawyers for Remington said Congress passed the act after determining such lawsuits were an abuse of the legal system.

But the families’ attorneys argued the lawsuit was allowed under an exception in the federal law that allows litigation against companies that know, or should know, that their weapons are likely to be used in a way that risks injury to others, and the judge disagreed.

“While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight,” said Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families. “We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”

Jonathan Whitcomb, an attorney for Remington Arms, declined to comment.

The company recently had been fighting to keep internal documents requested by the families from public view. The judge issued an order in August allowing certain documents containing trade secrets and other information to be kept from public view, but she said the order did not apply to all other documents in the case.

Besides Remington, other defendants in the lawsuit include firearms distributor Camfour and Riverview Gun Sales, the now-closed East Windsor store where the Newtown gunman’s mother legally bought the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle used in the shooting.

Gunman Adam Lanza, who was 20 years old, shot his mother to death at their Newtown home before driving to the school, where he killed 26 other people. He killed himself as police arrived.

Wisconsin bill would remove barrier to reporting sexual assault

Wisconsin legislators are proposing a bill that would ensure sexual assault victims and others who report such crimes can’t be cited or disciplined for underage drinking.

Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, introduced the bill Monday at a news conference, saying the goal is to provide peace of mind to underage victims when they’re deciding whether to report an assault.

“The fear of consequences for drinking should never come in the way of a victim seeking help and being treated by medical professionals after a horrific crime of sexual assault,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel, who attended the news conference and supports the proposal.

Schimel said Wisconsin colleges and police departments typically don’t discipline or cite people for underage drinking if they’re victims of sexual assault and report the crime. The bill’s supporters say this measure would solidify that practice in state law and encourage more reports.

About 80 percent of rape and sexual assault victimizations of students are not reported to police, according to a 2014 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Assistant Police Chief Kari Sasso said that surveys and conversations with survivors show that the fear of getting in trouble can be one of many barriers to reporting sexual assault.

Sasso said the department practice for approximately the past five years has been not to cite victims or those who report assaults for underage drinking. She said the department has seen an increase in reporting of sexual assaults over the past several years.

“There is no other crime that goes so underreported,” Schimel said.

Ballweg said she hopes the legislation will be passed this session. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he is reviewing the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s spokeswoman said he plans to discuss the proposal with the GOP caucus.

‘Coercive’ behavior made illegal in England, Wales

Physical violence will no longer be needed to prosecute someone for abusing their partners or family members in England and Wales.

A new law makes it a crime to use repeated threats, humiliation and intimidation to control people.

It will mean that “coercive or controlling” behavior can be seen as domestic abuse and can be prosecuted as a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Authorities say stopping someone from socializing, controlling their social media access or using apps to put them under surveillance will in some cases be covered by the new legislation. Making threats to publish personal information can also be viewed as a crime.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders says this type of behavior “can limit victims’ basic human rights” by reducing their freedom of movement and their independence.

“This behavior can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behavior might seem playful, innocuous or loving,” she said. “Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else’s rules. Often they fear that violence will be used against them, or suffer from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.”

Many victims say the trauma from psychological abuse is worse than the trauma of physical abuse, Saunders said.

The new legislation was created after a majority of people consulted by the government said that existing laws on abuse did not offer sufficient protection. It is supposed to apply only in cases where the offending behavior is repeated or chronic.

Unintended result: John Wayne Gacy probe clears 11 unrelated cold cases

His task was to solve a cruel mystery decades after a serial killer’s death.

Sgt. Jason Moran’s work began in a graveyard, his first stop in his quest to identify the eight unknown victims of John Wayne Gacy. More than 30 years had passed since Gacy had murdered 33 young men and boys.

Investigators now had more sophisticated crime-solving tools, notably DNA, so the Cook County sheriff’s detective was assigned to find out who was buried in eight anonymous graves.

Moran quickly helped a family confirm Gacy killed their brother.

Since then, though, Jason Moran’s search has led him down a totally unexpected path: He’s cleared 11 unrelated cold cases across America. After eliminating these young men as Gacy victims, he’s pored over DNA results, medical and Social Security records, enlisted anthropologists, lab technicians and police in Utah, Colorado, New Jersey and other states — and cracked missing person’s cases that had been dormant for decades.

Most recently, Moran identified a 16-year-old murder victim in San Francisco who’d been buried 36 years ago.

He’s brought comfort to some by proving, through science and dogged research that their missing loved ones are dead.

He’s brought joy to others, finding long-lost brothers and sons still alive.

Marveling at this remarkable detour from the ghastly Gacy trail, Moran says he recently told his boss:

“Is it possible that an evil serial killer has done some good?”

Moran’s work began four years ago after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart publicly urged anyone who thought a relative was an unidentified Gacy victim to submit to a DNA test.

Moran prioritized about 170 tips from more than 20 states, representing some 80 missing young men.

He focused on those similar in age (14 to 24) and background to Gacy’s victims: Many had troubled families or substance abuse problems. Some were gay. Others had worked construction for Gacy, a building contractor. He was executed in 1994.

Authorities had long ago removed the jaw bones and teeth of the eight unknown victims, hoping for eventual identification. Decades later, they were buried, only to be exhumed in 2011. Moran took them to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, where lab workers developed solid DNA profiles for four victims. For the other four, the entire remains had to be exhumed.

Within weeks, Moran cracked one case.

William Bundy’s mother had suspected Gacy killed her son, but the case was stymied because his dentist had destroyed his patients’ records after retiring.

Three decades later, Bundy’s mother was dead, but his sister and brother provided DNA, resulting in a match to the unknown victim. It wasn’t enough for a firm identification.

Moran then studied the man’s dental records, noticing empty spaces where his upper canine teeth had been removed. Bundy had those same teeth removed, saved them — and his sister kept them all those years.

Case cleared.

Bundy is the only Gacy victim Moran has identified. But he’s helped other families who feared their loved ones died at Gacy’s hands.

In every case involving DNA, Moran told families the results would be entered in CODIS, the federal Combined DNA Index System. If a genetic link emerged, he’d call.

It took almost four years for Willa Wertheimer to get that life-changing call.

In 2011, she’d told Moran about her half-brother, Andre Drath. Their mother died when both were very young.

When the grief-stricken little boy began getting in trouble, his stepfather turned him over to the state. Drath was abused in foster homes. Then one day he disappeared.

“I used to fantasize about finding him,” Wertheimer says. “I just wanted to hold him and tell him I love him and say I’m sorry about everything that had happened.”

Her DNA eliminated any link to Gacy victims, but last fall, a Texas lab worker notified Moran it was associated with an unidentified body found in San Francisco in 1979. That DNA hadn’t been submitted to CODIS until late 2014.

Moran reviewed the San Francisco police and medical examiner’s reports, which showed the man had been shot multiple times. It also disclosed an all-important detail: A tattoo — Andy — on his right shoulder.

Moran found more evidence in files from the Illinois agency that supervised Drath as a state ward — including dental records matching those of the teen buried in Ocean Beach.

It was bittersweet news for Wertheimer.

“I was relieved that he wasn’t hurting,” she says, “but knowing how he died … I felt awful.”

San Francisco police have reactivated their investigation. Moran hopes to soon have Drath’s remains exhumed from a California cemetery.

“I brought her to this point,” he says, “now I’d like to help bring him home.”

___

Jason Moran cradled an urn as he arrived at the North Side home.

It had been 36 years since Edward Beaudion left that house, a 22-year-old heading to a wedding. Now, the detective was delivering his cremated remains to his sister, Ruth Rodriguez, and elderly father, Louis.

DNA and old-fashioned police work brought this mystery to a frustrating end.

The case had a suspect: A petty criminal named Jerry Jackson told police in 1978 that he’d fought with Beaudion in downtown Chicago, dragged his body into a car, then dumped him in a suburban forest preserve, according to Moran.

Jackson was arrested in Caruthersville, Missouri, with the car Beaudion had been driving. It belonged to his sister; she found a bullet inside.

A search of the woods, though, turned up no body. Jackson was convicted only of stealing the car and items inside.

Decades later, Moran started investigating. “I really felt the sadness and desperation in their voices,” he says.

Last year, their DNA was linked to skeletal remains that had recently arrived at the Texas lab. Some kids had spotted a leg bone in the woods where Jackson said he’d dumped Beaudion’s body.

That discovery was in 2008. Unfortunately, the remains sat in the Cook County medical examiner’s office five years before being sent to be tested. Studying the autopsy report, Moran noticed the leg bone contained a surgical screw in one knee. Beaudion had one, too. 

That was enough to confirm his identity — yet that five-year delay thwarted Moran’s bigger plan: While preparing to go to Missouri to arrest Jackson in Beaudion’s death, he discovered: Jackson had recently died.

Still, Moran sensed the family was relieved.

“His father told me when he dies, he’ll have Edward’s ashes in his casket and said, ‘All of three of us will be together in perpetuity.””

Thousands of miles away, a 75-year-old Army vet had his own lingering questions.

Ron Soden contacted Moran about his younger half-brother, Steven, who’d vanished in 1972.

He’d run away during a camping trip organized by the New Jersey orphanage where he lived with his sister, April. Their mother had placed them there.

Steven’s father lived in Chicago. Could he have traveled there looking for him? Moran thought it possible, and teamed with New Jersey State Police to work the case. 

April’s DNA was ultimately linked with skeletal remains found at New Jersey’s Bass River State Forest, about a mile from where Steven was last seen. That discovery was in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2013 — and more DNA tests from another half-brother — that Steven was identified. Hypothermia is suspected as the cause of death.

“We always held out that hope … then all of sudden you find out and it’s not there anymore,” says Ron Soden, who lives in Tacoma, Washington. “To realize he probably died at 17 … it’s just a shame his life had to be that way through no fault of his own.”

These poignant stories, Moran says, motivate him.

“You’ve got these young kids who struggle through their short lives,” he says. “Now they’re anonymous. They don’t have a headstone saying they were ever on this earth. I want them to have some dignity and respect so the world knows they once lived.

“I mean, everybody deserves a name.”

There are happy endings in Moran’s work.

Amazingly, he’s located five living men who’d vanished in the 1970s. “I scold them and say, ‘Why would you do this to a loving family?””

In 2013, Moran reunited Edyth and Robert Hutton — after 41 years.

Edyth had made numerous attempts to find her brother, including mailing about 300 postcards to various Robert, Rob, Bob and Bobby Huttons nationwide. 

A relative who is a private investigator thought he’d located Hutton in Colorado. But when Edyth and her father wrote letters to that address, they were returned as undeliverable. 

In a last-ditch effort she searched NamUs, a website featuring missing and unidentified people, narrowing her list to seven. She contacted the respective law enforcement agencies. One person replied: Jason Moran.

Using Hutton’s vital statistics, Moran thought he’d tracked him to Colorado but when police arrived, the man was gone.

Moran waited several months and when the sheriff’s analysts checked updated databases they found a match in Montana.

“Your brother is alive,” Moran told Hutton’s sister. The siblings re-connected the next day.

“I felt like a hole in my heart had been filled,” she says. 

Her brother, she says, told her he’d gotten involved with drugs, straightened out and returned to the family’s hometown in California but everyone had moved. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

Robert Hutton recently moved to Nevada to live near his sister.

“We see each other almost daily,” she says, “and we love it.”

Shooting suspect asked for directions to Planned Parenthood clinic

The man accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado asked at least one person in a nearby shopping center for directions to the facility before opening fire, a law enforcement official said, offering the clearest suggestion yet that he was targeting the reproductive health organization.

The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors are charging Robert Lewis Dear, 57, with murder and other crimes in the Nov. 27 attack that also left nine other people wounded. Colorado Springs police have refused to discuss a motive for the fusillade, but there’s mounting evidence to suggest Dear was deeply concerned about abortion, having rambled to authorities about “no more baby parts” after his arrest.

Dear asked at least one person in the nearby shopping center where the Planned Parenthood was earlier that morning, the official said.

A second law enforcement official said Dear assembled propane tanks around a vehicle and brought at least 10 guns, including rifles and handguns, to the clinic, where he swapped gunfire with officers during an hours-long standoff. It was unclear whether Dear purchased all of them, but despite brushes with the law, he had no felony convictions that would have prevented him from buying a firearm.

Planned Parenthood cited witnesses as saying the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion.

A Colorado Springs police spokeswoman this week referred questions about the investigation to El Paso County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Frank, who said she could not comment on the ongoing investigation. 

Dear had been living in remote locations without electricity or water and was known to hold survivalist ideas. One of his three ex-wives, Barbara Mescher Micheau of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, said he had vandalized a South Carolina abortion clinic at least 20 years earlier, announcing to her that he had put glue in the locks of its doors, a common protest technique among activists trying to shut down abortion clinics.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers would not discuss Dear’s motive or details of the investigation, but he praised responding officers, who he said rescued 24 people from inside the clinic building and helped remove 300 people from the surrounding businesses where they had been hiding while the shooting unfolded.

“They went in at their own peril, but that contributed to basically 24 people getting out of that building safely,” Suthers said of the officers. Six officers were shot in the rampage, one of them fatally. The other victims were accompanying separate friends to the clinic when they were killed.

Safety concerns raised over ride-sharing services

One of the early lessons children learn is to never get into a stranger’s car. They carry that lesson into adulthood, with an exception for hailing a taxi.

But what about lining up a ride via Uber, Lyft or another ride-sharing service? Safety advocates say they have serious concerns about the security of passengers in Uber vehicles, especially female passengers.

Uber operates in more than 250 cities in more than 50 countries. In May, the company announced an expansion of services in Wisconsin and now has contracted drivers operating in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Lake Geneva, Waukesha and the Wisconsin Dells. 

Uber, in its Wisconsin announcement, said the expansion “followed passage of statewide regulations that have created a framework that embraces ride-sharing across Wisconsin.”

“In Wisconsin, our ride-sharing service UberX offers Uber convenience with prices cheaper than a taxi,” the company stated. “UberX driver partners have vehicles in a variety of colors and styles, with seating for up to four passengers.”

Passengers pay a base fee, plus costs per minute and per mile, with minimum fares set in some communities.

Ride-sharing is a service that’s particularly popular with young, urban adults.

“I don’t have a car and I don’t want one,” said Emily Brune, 21, of Madison. “But I can’t walk or bike everywhere and Uber has been the perfect answer for me and some of my friends.”

Michael Clauson, 28, of Milwaukee, is another customer and he’s considering becoming a driver.

“I like the idea that you can just work when you want,” Clauson said. “For someone who wants to make some extra money, that’s cool.”

Uber conducts background checks on driver applicants.

“To maintain the Uber standard you expect, all driver partners must undergo Uber’s rigorous screening process and every ride is covered by our $1 million commercial liability insurance policy,” the company said in introducing its Wisconsin operation. “After every trip, riders and drivers rate one another on a scale of one to five stars to maintain a safe and respectful environment for all users.”

However, Uber’s drivers are contractors, not employees, and the terms of service for passengers say the company “does not guarantee the quality, suitability, safety or ability of third-party providers.”

Over the past two years, there have been multiple reports of violence by Uber drivers against passengers. The Who’s Driving You? campaign — which was launched in 2014 by a trade association of taxicab, limousine and paratransit companies — collects and tracks complaints against Uber and Lyft drivers and reports of crimes.

The campaign’s website contains reports of drivers brandishing knives, negligent crashes, fights, thefts, kidnappings and rapes.

One report tracked by Who’s Driving You? involved a driver in D.C. who delivered an anti-gay tirade and assaulted a passenger who burped. Another involved a D.C. passenger suing Uber for $2 million after a driver repeatedly stabbed him.

In Los Angeles earlier this year, an Uber driver was arrested for attempted second-degree burglary. He allegedly dropped a female passenger off at the airport and then went to her home to break in. The woman’s roommate thwarted the attempt.

In Massachusetts, an Uber driver accused of raping a female passenger in December has now been linked by DNA evidence and witness accounts to five other sexual assaults between 2006 and 2010.

There have been at least three other assault-related incidents reported in the Boston area, as well as violent crimes reported in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Uber drivers also have been arrested in England and India for sexually assaulting passengers. A lawsuit filed early this year after the rape of a female passenger in India described Uber’s service as the “modern-day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking.”

In March, Uber responded to the concerns with a new code of conduct for drivers and passengers, a quality assurance program, worldwide incident response teams, stronger partnerships with law enforcement and improved background checks.

Uber also pledged new technology updates for safety. In India, the Uber platform features an SOS button so riders can contact local law enforcement directly from the app in emergencies. Another feature enables riders to keep multiple people informed of their exact location at all times while riding with Uber.

“With more than a million rides per day in 295 cities and 55 countries, continually improving rider and driver safety is the most critical component of what we do,” stated Phillip Cardenas, head of global safety at Uber.

But concerns continue. Referring to “multiple accounts of sexual and violent assaults that have been reported to date,” a petition circulating on Change.org asks Uber to provide an option for female passengers to choose female drivers.

Another issue of concern is the impact of Uber and other ride-sharing services on the economy. Uber drivers — who set their own hours — collect a fee from passengers and Uber takes a commission from the fees. Uber drivers don’t earn the wages of taxi drivers and other transportation workers and could negatively impact wages in the field.

Earlier this summer, progressive New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to limit the number of Uber drivers on the streets, putting him at odds with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, says she wants to crack down on companies that classify workers as contractors rather than employees. These companies avoid the costs associated with hiring personnel, put the burden of some expense on their contractors and earn profits off those contractors.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently responded to Clinton by taking an Uber ride in San Francisco.

Bush’s driver, however, didn’t recognize the candidate and told reporters he probably would vote for Clinton.