In 2012, Leslie Taft thought that it’s time to offer some tough love. Her 25-year-old daughter, Jamee Grossman, had been addicted to drugs and could lose custody of her children, so she decided that estrangement is the best way to show her daughter she cares.
Taft said, “We were estranged for some years, because you know, tough love.”
However, her decision to show some tough love may be the decision she will regret the rest of her life.
It has been four years since her daughter was reported missing, and she still keeps on looking for answers as to Jamee’s whereabouts, scared that she is running out of time, if she hadn’t already.
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“The longer it goes on, the more it’s forgotten,” Taft said. “Even my details are foggy and I think about it every day.”
The last place Grossman was seen was at a birthday party in Lockwood in March 2012. Taft is convinced that her disappearance is somehow connected to her boyfriend, but there has not been enough evidence to arrest him. Tips and leads have landed on Taft’s lap over the years, yet her daughter is still one of the 142 faces on the list of missing people in Montana.
The ever-changing list has been updated constantly as some found dead, and others, too long gone that reports have simply been canceled. Department of Justice Program Manager Jennifer Viets, who manages the list, said, “Fortunately, most of the time, they’re located alive. And that’s the way we’d prefer it. We do have 80 missing person cases on our Web site that have been there over a year, and I’m afraid some of those may be deceased.”
The list is made up of runaways, infants, senior citizens, mentally disabled individuals, and victims of violence. Most of the people from the South Central region of Montana are suspected to be deceased.
Twenty-four-year-old John Zander was recently found dead in a Shepherd drainage ditch years after he was reported missing. Amanda Waller from Kalispell was believed to have been murdered by her boyfriends. Wyatt Little, a 3-month-old from Billings, may have been eaten by animals.
“As time goes on, it makes it that much harder to go back through and retrace the steps of these folks,” Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Captain Vince Wallace said. Many of the missing persons are likely in danger as well, considering that 95 percent of these missing people are runaways.
One of the many teenagers from Billings is Trenea Isakson, who was listed when she was 17. However, she was not technically missing. “I never thought I’d be put on a missing person’s list, because to me I didn’t think I was missing,” she shared.
She also said that she still goes to work and attends classes even though she already left her non-functioning school. For now, she’s hoping that officials will remove her name from the list, which was put there after her mother reported her missing.
Isakson also added, “I bet a lot of people aren’t missing, they just want to leave a bad situation.”
Wallace said that this is the case for many runaways, and unless the person wants to be found, searching for them will be fruitless. He also shared that the initial investigation is made of bulk reports from friends and family. “The most information that we get that we base our investigation on is when people call us and report it, friends and family usually.”
The information, which is filed with the National Crime Information Center online database, is said to be updated automatically. “They are removed once they’re located, we don’t take any one off the list if they’re still missing because we care about every missing person,” said Viets.
In Montana, only five years will have to pass before a missing person can be declared legally dead.
Forest Stanton, a man who disappeared 56 years ago, however, is still on the list and will likely be kept there until his body can be found.
Despite the process, people say that there are some things missing from the released list, including updated photos and information about the disappearance, and several of these entries don’t even have photos of the missing persons.
Taft herself thinks that a list of names is not nearly enough. She believes that her daughter has been harmed, but the police is not doing enough to help. “I feel like my daughter slipped through the cracks because she was a big fat nobody, drug addict, alcoholic, and who cares?” she said.
She also said that she has strong reasons to suspect her daughter’s disappearance to have foul play—she wouldn’t just disappear into thin air.
This feeling is natural for those who have lost people they love. No matter the circumstances of the disappearance, family members want as much as possible to hold on to hope. Nobody wants to know that their loved ones could just disappear.
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