The 10 Lessons I Have Learned From Researching True Crime for a Decade

Stay alert and stay safe!

I don’t know how I lived without the internet as long as I did. I love having thousands of pages of facts at my fingertips. My favorite research topic is true crime.

Due to the dark turn the world has taken, I’ve been avoiding researching the “dark side” as much as I used to.

For ten years, I spent three to four hours a night researching missing person and homicide cases. If you name a missing person from Canada, I can picture their face in my head and tell you facts about their case.

I know, you probably think I am strange.

I have always thought I was a missing person in my past life or maybe I would help find someone someday. There has to be a reason for my obsession, right?

In my ten years of research in this area, I have learned a lot about personal safety, our society, and life that I wanted to share with the world.

“If you have knowledge,let others light their candles in it” -Margaret Fuller

Marginalized People Are Often Overlooked

I used to think this was strictly ethnicity-based and in some cases, it is. However, the majority of the time, the missing person and homicide cases that are overlooked are the cases of poor people.

Poor people with addictions and/or a transient lifestyle to be specific.

Many times I have seen a missing person cold case on Facebook, copied and pasted that person’s name into Google, and had a sinking feeling when nothing showed up for them.

Millions of pages about a school shooter or cold-blooded criminal but an innocent missing person gets zero media or internet coverage because they lived “a high-risk lifestyle”.

When they go missing, it is expected and not salacious enough for the media to cover.

Some people ask: “What about their family, why don’t they advocate for them?”

There are many reasons why a family doesn’t pursue justice for a missing or murdered family member. Maybe there is a language barrier, systemic feeling of rejection or fear of the media or police, or a fear of public speaking.

The reasons do not matter because it shouldn’t be up to the family to spread awareness.

These cases should be pursued by the police and our media, regardless of what the family does or doesn’t do.

How can you help?

  • Share the crime cases of marginalized people on your social media.

  • “Adopt a missing person”: Choose someone whose case isn’t getting a lot of publicity and spread the word about them! There is a Facebook group that has an organized album of missing people you can choose from and instructions on how to promote their case.

  • If you are a blogger, write a blog post about a marginalized crime victim and use social media to promote your blog post.

  • If there is a marginalized missing person in your area: Take 5$, print off some posters, and put them up in a high-traffic area

  • Donate to the “Doe Network”, which is a website ran by amazing volunteers that match missing persons to their unidentified remains.

  • If you have someone in your life that lives a high-risk lifestyle: Encourage them to check-in with you when they’re going out, note what they are wearing when they leave, and never stop encouraging them to get help.

When you see a story about a missing marginalized person in the media, do not turn away, do something about it.

Being Complacent Is the “Kiss of Death”

I want to be clear about this: Crime victims are victims. They do not deserve blame in the situation at all. However, there is a commonality in the cases I’ve read about over the years.

Many attacks from predators happen close to home or in an area the victim is familiar with. This is because home is where we feel the most comfortable and we tend to let our guards down when we are too relaxed.

It doesn’t matter where I am, I am always aware of my surroundings. It’s not a fun way to live but my street smarts have saved my life many times.

When I was younger, I was so comfortable in my downtown apartment that I left my blinds open. Guess what? I ended up with a peeping Tom looking in my window!

As I stated above, I am not victim-blaming, but statistically, there are ways we can decrease our chances of becoming a victim.

How to deter a criminal from “choosing you”

  • Look alive: Walk with purpose and walk like you are a bulletproof badass.

  • Avoid using headphones so you can hear someone approach you from behind.

  • Keep a “personal safety device” visible and in your hands while walking alone.

  • If you suspect someone is following you, keep an eye on them and go someplace where there are people, like a store.

  • Lock your car doors while driving and as soon as you enter your car.

  • Close your blinds at night.

  • If you are intoxicated or planning on getting intoxicated, stay with your friends. Go home together and make sure your friends get home safely.

Becoming complacent can be dangerous.

Men Are Not Looking After Each Other

There are so many cases of young missing men in North America. The story is almost always the same: A young man goes out for a night on the town, gets too drunk, walks home intoxicated, and disappears into the night.

It is alarming how often this happens.

I have witnessed it myself. I have stepped in to help a young man walk home in the dead of winter because his friends cared more about getting high or getting laid than his safety.

It is a double standard: We would never allow a drunk woman to walk home alone but we allow men to do it all the time.

I think the attitude of “he’s a big boy” shouldn’t apply here, when people are partying it should be “all for one and one for all” not “every man for himself”.

I can’t imagine the guilt people feel knowing their friend may still be here if they had walked him home or helped him hail a cab.

How can you help keep the men in your life safe?

  • Offer to hail a cab or walk your friend home if he is intoxicated.

  • If you see someone struggling to walk or talk, ask them if they’re okay.

  • If your friend insists on walking home alone, check up on him after he’s home or ask him to send you a text when he arrives home.

  • Help your friend gather their things and make sure they have dressed appropriately for the weather before they venture outside.

  • Be a friend: Adopt the “one for all” attitude with your friends.

  • Talk to your husband, brother, father, or son about the dangers of wandering alone intoxicated. My husband is a former infantry soldier and he and his buddies stick to the mantra “leave no man behind”. It is not emasculating, it is smart.

Men are also vulnerable to becoming a missing person or homicide victim. In one case I’ve read about, a young man left a party without his phone, jacket, and shoes in the dead of winter. Not one person at the large gathering he attended attempted to stop him from leaving.

This is not okay.

Please, when you’re out having fun: Look after one another.

Missing Women Recieve More Media Attention Than Missing Men

I am Canadian and as many of you know, one of my passions is writing about missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Recently, I have decided to expand this writing topic to include missing Aboriginal men as well.

The media attention on cases of missing men is sparse. Especially when the man missing is also marginalized or a minority. A story of a young, beautiful, missing female college student is juicier than a story about a homeless man who disappeared into the night.

This is one of the saddest facts I’ve come to terms with during my research. I have males in my family who have drinking problems and it breaks my heart to think that the media or police may not care if they go missing.

It’s horrible to think some people believe a disappearance is a given due to a certain lifestyle. Every one of these missing men are missed and loved by someone.

How can you help the missing men in your community?

  • Scour your local news for stories of missing men and share their stories on social media.

  • As I mentioned above, it is very inexpensive to print off missing person flyers. Print some flyers off of a local missing person, distribute them, or place them on buildings.

  • Many families of missing people have bracelets, t-shirts, and other “swag” made to bring awareness to their loved one’s case. Ask to purchase an item and wear it proudly. Post a picture of your item and use hashtags with the missing person’s name.

  • Donate to a cause like the Doe Network, which helps bring attention to all missing persons and homicide cases.

Get involved and help someone who has been forgotten by society.

When Someone Is Missing the First 24 Hours Are Crucial

When someone is missing, the first instinct is to call the police. Many times, the police may tell you to call back in 24 or even 48 hours.

That is a long time to do nothing.

There are certain circumstances that are time-sensitive when it comes to a missing person. Usually, this warrants an immediate reaction from law enforcement.

  • If the person is being held against their will: It could be a matter of time before the perp realizes the victim is a witness and does the unthinkable.

  • If the person is missing without their medication: This could be a life or death situation, immediate action is imperative.

  • If a person has wandered off into the wilderness without supplies or knowledge of nature.

  • If the person is intoxicated, suicidal, or in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Always attempt to contact the police. If the police are not assisting you, it is time to take matters into your own hands until their timestamp has expired.

What to do if your loved one is missing

  • Rack your brain and recall every detail you can about the last time you saw your loved one and write it all down. Remember anything they said, wore, and any strange behavior.

  • When you realize someone is missing, your first call should be to the police. Make sure you mention anything that may change their level of priority, such as medications they are on or state of mind.

  • Call or message all of your close friends and family: Let them know you will be making a post about the missing person and ask them to share it.

  • Make the post on social media and include their full name, last known locations, age, hair color, eye color, height, weight, and any other identifying traits like birthmarks, scars, and piercings.

  • Share the post you’ve made on all of the newsgroups local to your area on Facebook. If the person is a part of a subculture in your city or town, write to someone in that subculture and ask them to share the post.

  • Recruit able-bodied people to search on foot.

  • Do not touch any of their items until the police have gathered all of the evidence they need.

  • Make posters: To avoid hoaxes, use the police’s phone number on the posters and not your own.

When someone is missing, social media is your best friend. I have seen so many people be reunited with their loved ones via social media. From what I’ve seen, the sooner a person is searched for, the sooner evidence is found.

Don’t hesitate to jump into action, it could save someone’s life.

Our Gut Instinct Should Be Considered a Sense

There are so many cases of missing or murdered people telling loved ones that a situation felt “off” to them or “If I ever go missing, so-and-so knows where I am”.

This is very common in cases where someone is involved in an abusive relationship.

“Stranger-danger” is also a real thing.

A case that comes to mind is Lindsay Buziak, a young realtor from British Columbia, Canada who spoke to a client over the phone about showing her a mansion. After the phone call, Lindsay told her father that the voice on the other end sounded “weird”.

She went to meet the client anyways and ended up being brutally murdered.

Lindsay was so spooked, she even asked her boyfriend to sit outside in a vehicle as a precaution. Sadly, he was too late to save her.

The people she was showing the mansion to claimed to be motivated buyers and wanted to buy a million-dollar home.

It sounded too good to be true to Lindsay — and it was.

This case always stuck with me because it is a good example of how our gut can be our guide.

How do we tap into our intuition?

  • If you can’t shake an uneasy feeling: Avoid whatever is giving you the feeling of impending doom.

  • Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings, this is about you and your personal safety.

  • If you can’t cancel or reschedule the event, be sure to take every safety precaution possible to protect yourself.

  • If you are out somewhere (like a mall) and you feel uneasy, ask the security guard to walk you to your vehicle. That is what they’re there for!

  • Remember, if something feels wrong, that’s because it is wrong. Always listen to your intuition and never dismiss your own feelings.

“A gut feeling would be an intuition, a gut reaction would be an instinct”
– BenCole 2012

Human Trafficking Is Feared but Misunderstood by the General Public

Human trafficking is the “satanic panic” of the 2000s. Every time a young girl goes missing, human trafficking is mentioned as a possible motive.

The numbers are staggering with an estimated 20–40 million people being currently enslaved worldwide.

However, a victim of trafficking is not usually a well-put-together college student.

Generally, rebellious teenagers with limited supervision or broken homes are the most at-risk demographic for human sex trafficking.

Human traffickers usually prey on vulnerable and easily available victims. If they were to abduct a family-oriented and responsible college student, her posters would be all over town and she would be found immediately. This would result in a long jail sentence for the trafficker.

They don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

In many cases of human sex trafficking, recruitment is a long process and the recruiter usually takes time to get to know the victim. This way they can use the victim’s vulnerabilities to manipulate them.

The trafficker will typically act as a girlfriend or boyfriend for anywhere from 2 days to 2 months and then demand the victim “pay them back” by working the street.

Human trafficking for economic purposes is more common than we think, people are exploited every day in North America, made to work long hours with little pay, and live in squalor.

Warning signs that an individual may be being trafficked

  • They have an older boyfriend or friend that seems to be possessive over them.

  • They are showing physical signs of abuse (bruises, cuts, burns, or branding).

  • Someone who usually doesn’t have money, suddenly has a lot of money.

  • They are exhibiting sexualized behavior.

  • They are very tired at school.

  • They are breaking curfew and have unexplained absences at school.

  • They have become withdrawn, sad, or angry.

  • They avoid eye contact or social interaction with authority figures

  • They have a malnourished appearance.

  • They are missing official identification documents.

  • They are living at their place of employment.

  • They have little or no personal possessions.

  • You notice small children working in a store or restaurant.¹

Human trafficking is a very scary thought. The fear that the average North American has is understandable. I just wish it was understood more.

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, don’t hesitate to call your local police department to file a report, it could save a life.

Many People Are in Denial About Their Loved Ones

This is one of the saddest truths I’ve noticed in my many years of research. Some people will come up with any way to explain a loved one’s death to avoid accepting it was caused by suicide.

“She would never commit suicide, she was so happy”. Often the most unhappy people are really good at hiding their pain and sometimes suicide is a split-second decision with no warning signs.

I have no idea how I would react in any of these situations, I have been fortunate to never lose someone in this way.

Another common theory people believe is the sex-trafficking theory. Maybe this is because, for some people, its easier to think your loved one is out there still alive. There is a chance they could still be found if they are being trafficked.

I don’t think I could stomach the thought of either and I think the families of missing people are some of the strongest people in the world.

I’ve seen family’s so deep in denial that they insisted their loved one was injected with a drug and that’s how toxicology results determined their death was caused by an overdose.

It is easier to accept a beautiful lie than an ugly truth. Especially when the media is releasing all of the information for everyone to see.

Today and every day as I read about these situations, I think about the families and I feel their pain.

Children Can Go Missing in the Blink of an Eye

In Nova Scotia, a three-year-old boy and his nanny were outside playing. The nanny turned her back to look at the dog, and when she turned around little Dylan was gone.

He vanished on May 6, 2020, and every day I check for updates. Little Dylan was a “runner” and he was fast. He literally disappeared into thin air.

Children are fast, reckless, and some are fearless. This is why I never take my eyes off of my 2.5-year-old toddler.

Dylan’s disappearance was a terrible reminder of the worst that can happen.

How can you prevent your child from going missing?

  • If your child is a runner, maintain physical contact with them.

  • Leave your phone in your pocket when you’re outside with your little one. It is easy to become distracted by your phone and lose track of your child.

  • When choosing a camp or school, ask about enclosures and how many staff are catering to the children.

  • The local police station has identification kits available to the public, you can get your child’s fingerprints and a hair sample. You keep one copy and give the police the other one.

  • Make sure you have your doors locked at night so if your little one wanders out of bed, they cannot leave your home.

“Precaution is better than cure” – Edward Coke

Never Take a Polygraph Test!

Polygraph tests are notoriously unreliable. Truthfully, they are pointless and merely a police tactic to make us uncomfortable. They are not admissible in the court of law and since they are based on body chemistry, they are not accurate in some cases.

There are three possible results of a polygraph and even if you pass, it really won’t help you much:

  1. You pass: It is believed that sociopaths can pass a polygraph easily so the police may still think you are guilty.

  2. You fail: You’re considered guilty in the court of public opinion and even if the results can’t be used in court, the police now focus their investigation on you.

  3.  The test is inconclusive: This could result in you being accused of doing something to manipulate the test results because you’re guilty.*

Polygraphs usually measure things like blood pressure, changes in a person’s breathing, and sweating on the palms.

Polygraph enthusiasts claim that polygraphs are accurate 88%-90% of the time, critics say it is more like 70%. Either way, I would not put my life in the hands of a machine that bases its results on my level of anxiety.

A 10% level of inaccuracy is a large margin for error, especially when we are talking about prison.

What to do if you’re asked to take a polygraph test

Say no and ask for a lawyer.

“The use of the polygraph has done little more than create confusion, ambiguity and mistakes.” -Aldrich Ames

Sometimes, we think we are passive observers of life but we have a lot more power than we think.

We can help victims of crime and proactively help prevent ourselves from becoming victims.

The #1 thing I’ve learned about crime in my many years of research is to trust your instincts. Anyone can become a victim of crime, and everyday people are victimized.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a small village or a big city — brutal crimes happen everywhere.

If you feel something isn’t right about a situation: Remove yourself from that situation immediately.

You are not being ridiculous, too sensitive, or a wimp. You are following your instincts, which takes more bravery than conforming.

“Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.” — Jeff Cooper

[1] The Official State of Nevada Website. (2019). Warning Signs of Human Trafficking

*This was a quote from a Redditor from the Unresolved Mysteries subreddit.

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