BANGOR, Maine — Dozens of children are reported missing every month in the state, but almost all are found or return on their own within a couple of days or even hours, Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Friday.
Only about once a decade does a child go missing for longer than a few days, he said.
Friday marked the fifth day since 15-year-old Nichole Cable was reported missing from her Glenburn home. She was last seen on Sunday evening on Route 221 in her hometown and an intense search involving multiple law enforcement agencies has ensued.
“Missing children [who aren’t soon located], and there are only a handful, go back 40 years,” McCausland said.
Aside from Cable, the most recent case of a child missing for a significant length of time is Ayla Reynolds, who was last seen 18 months ago.
Reynolds was 20 months old when she was reported missing from her father’s Waterville home on Dec. 17, 2011. McCausland said on Friday there have been no new developments in the case. Police continue to investigate her disappearance, although they have stated they do not think she will be found alive.
Ayla Reynolds’ disappearance is not the only open missing child case in Maine.
Douglas Charles Chapman, then 3, of Alfred was reported missing June 2, 1971; Cathy Marie Moulton, 16, of Portland was reported missing Sept. 24, 1971; Kurt Ronald Newton, 4, of Manchester was reported missing Sept. 1, 1975; Bernard Ross, 18, of Ashland was reported missing May 12, 1977; and Kimberly Ann Moreau, 17, of Jay was reported missing May 11, 1986.
Chapman was last seen playing by a sandpile about 25 yards from his home in Alfred while his mother was inside on the phone and his father was at work, according to a Maine State Police website dedicated to missing Mainers.
Moulton was last seen in downtown Portland, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website.
Newton wandered away from his family’s campsite at the Chain of Ponds Public Reserve Land near Coburn Gore on the Quebec border, according to media reports. He was last seen riding his tricycle at the campsite while his mother was out of sight washing muddy shoes.
Moreau was last seen in the company of an individual she met earlier in the day and foul play is suspected, the state police website states.
Two older Maine teenagers who disappeared years ago also remain unaccounted for.
Bonnie Ledford, 19, of Dedham, who went missing in 1980, and Angel Antonio Torres, 19, of the Saco-Biddeford area, who was reported missing by his family on May 24, 1999, are listed on the state police website.
Foul play is suspected in both cases.
Nationally, more than 700,000 children are reported missing each year, according to the website amberalert.com. The Amber Alert program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases, according to its website.
Cable’s disappearance did not meet the qualifications to issue an Amber Alert, Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said on Friday.
“It has to be an abduction [to qualify for an Amber Alert]. This came in as a missing person,” said Ross. “We also have to be able to put out information immediately such as a white vehicle traveling on the interstate, not just an all-points bulletin.”
The three criteria for an Amber Alert include a reported abduction of a child 17 or younger; belief that the missing child is in imminent danger of physical harm or death; and there is information available to disseminate to the public that could aid in finding the child and/or apprehend a suspect.
Ross said the Sheriff’s Department used other means for getting Cable’s disappearance out quickly, such as contacting media and alerting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“We circulated through all of our means that were available to us,” said Ross.
Social media, particularly Facebook, has also provided an avenue for people to spread the word about Cable’s disappearance. The Facebook group Bring Nichole Cable Home had more than 5,000 members as of Friday.
The social network site has been criticized because of people creating fake profiles in order to meet teenagers, which may have happened in Cable’s case. The Facebook group, as well as fliers seeking Cable, say that Cable may have been lured by someone using a fake Facebook profile.
Ellsworth police Detective Dotty Small asked parents on the Ellsworth Police Department’s Facebook page to monitor their children’s profiles and friends.
Small said she received a message from a woman who received a friend request from a male who was also friends with several area teenagers. The woman did an image search on the person’s profile picture and discovered it had been lifted from the Internet.
Small asked parents to sit down with their children and go through each of the people on their friends list and delete those they don’t know.
“I’m not saying spy on your kids, I’m saying have open communication with them,” said Small.
Many teenagers have more than one Facebook profile — one for family to see and one for friends to see, she said.
According to its website, Facebook cooperates “with law enforcement where appropriate and to the extent required by law to ensure the safety of the people who use Facebook. We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law.”
“We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities,” continued the statement.
In 2010, A 33-year-old British man was sentenced to life in prison after kidnapping, raping and murdering a 17-year-old girl he lured through Facebook by using a fake profile.
A Texas man was sentenced to 118 years in prison in 2010 after he was convicted of three counts of felony aggravated sexual assault of a minor and one count of felony criminal solicitation of a minor. Alfedo Ramirez Jr. searched Facebook and MySpace for victims. After gaining their trust, he arranged to meet with the person to sexually assault them.
“Tell them what’s happening and what’s dangerous and try to keep them safe,” Small said.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.