A great article from the Minnesota Star Tribune; I want to meet this Brian Guimond.

Minnesota’s missing: Terribly missed

They are still mothers and fathers.

Patty Wetterling still has Christmas presents saved for her son Jacob after he was abducted 14 years ago. Allan Sjodin still talks to his daughter, Dru, missing for four months, as he drives through the Red River Valley, looking for her in the wheat stubble.

More than nine months into the nightmare of 5-year-old LeeAnna’s disappearance, Kaelin Warner still wakes at 3 a.m. and instinctively listens for the rhythmic breathing and rustlings of sleeping children. But she hears only one. There should be two.

Even as they search for their children and hope dims, even as months and then years pass, the relationship endures: “My child — my child — is missing.”

There are haunting, heartbreaking similarities, but each family responds differently.

An anguished Brian Guimond presses police, college officials and students for information that might help him find his son Josh, or what caused his disappearance 16 months ago from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. Guimond the father presses so hard that he’s “scaring the students,” an official says in an affidavit.

At a hearing Wednesday in Stearns County District Court, a judge will determine whether to extend for two years a restraining order that has temporarily banned Brian Guimond from campus without permission and a school escort.

He has been ordered not to shout, swear or call names, an indication of his intensity.

“I’m just trying to get to the bottom of my son’s disappearance,” Guimond says.

While not necessarily endorsing all his tactics, Patty Wetterling understands the depth of his passion.

“He’s under a lot of stress,” she said. “Especially with a missing adult, a lot of pressure is put on the family to keep the interest going. That’s all understandable and reasonable.

“Some of the challenges have been his arguments with law enforcement. It’s difficult, because on the one hand they are the only people you’ve got to help find your son. But if you don’t feel like they’ve done their job, then you are all on your own. And I think that’s where Brian is.”

Jerry Wetterling, Jacob’s father, is also inclined to cut Guimond some slack.

“The thing with Brian, he’s kind of all alone in this,” he said. “Josh is his only child. His life is absolutely torn upside down, and I know absolutely what that is all about.

“I really feel for him — that isolation and desperation. Whatever reason, he’s justified just because you’re just reaching for straws, you know. You’ve got to do what you think you’ve got to do to give yourself some peace of mind and find your loved one.”

The school’s restraining order also makes sense, Patty Wetterling said, because it “is putting some boundaries back” in Brian Guimond’s life.

“Just because you have a missing child doesn’t mean you can do anything you want to do,” she said. Jacob’s abducter might be someone who still lives in the area, “but I can’t go pounding on doors and say, ‘What happened? Give it up!’ I may want to, but I can’t.”

Some parents of missing children cope by withdrawing from old friends and routines, even as they find themselves thrust into roles more public than they ever thought themselves capable of: talking with FBI agents and governors, accepting the sympathy of strangers at restaurants, putting on makeup to appear on network TV news shows.

“When your kid is missing, you cannot sleep,” said Carol Watson, executive director of Missing Children Minnesota. Her toddler son was missing for 13 months in the early 1980s. The memories are still searing. “When your child is missing, that’s the most important thing in the world,” she said. “It feels like the world should stop.”

It isn’t just parents who must find ways to cope with loss. JoAnn Nathe is a sister of Jodi Huisentruit, who disappeared in Mason City, Iowa, in 1995 on the way to work as a TV anchor.

Nathe still misses “my little sister, who I just adored.” And she still struggles with trust. “One time, I had my mom along at a concert and I couldn’t find her anywhere,” Nathe said. “I just assumed she had fallen or had a heart attack, and I went wild assuming what had happened.

“It’s gotten better. But for a while, I’d just overreact, assuming the worst. If my daughter was real late coming home from something, I’d think, ‘Oh, no.’ ”

Nathe, 53, teaches first grade in Sauk Centre, Minn. To get through bad times, to talk herself out of fear or depression, she becomes Jodi: always bubbly, ever the optimist.

“Just like this Dru Sjodin,” she said. “When you see Dru Sjodin on TV, that’s Jodi.”

In Brainerd, Minn., Colleen Dalquist also couldn’t help watching the family pictures of a smiling Dru Sjodin shown on TV as thousands of volunteers searched for her last year. Sjodin was 22 when she went missing after leaving work at a Grand Forks mall. Erika would be 22, too, Colleen Dalquist thought. “We look at Dru’s parents on TV and we feel so bad they have to be there, waiting and not knowing,” she said.

To friends who asked why she insisted on following the Sjodin case so closely, Dalquist said “I’m drawn to it. I’m drawn to them.”

Months before, Colleen and Duane Dalquist had gone with investigators to watch as farm ponds were cleared of ice, drained and searched. They had walked with searchers through fields and woods, and they had watched, holding hands, as divers went into a deep, water-filled mine pit where a 24-year-old suspect had told police he might have left Erika.

The divers couldn’t find her. The suspect was released.

Duane Dalquist, a machinist who took a year off work after Erika disappeared so he could spend more time at home with their two sons, still gets the urge to go looking for his daughter. Like Allan Sjodin, like Chris Warner (LeeAnna’s father), like all the others, he returns from a fruitless search disappointed — and relieved. “I’m partly glad each time when [we] find nothing,” he said. “But that tears you apart, too.”

To find nothing is to not know.

“I think it’s easier to deal with death than [with] not knowing,” Kaelin Warner said.

Added Chris Warner: “I can deal with facts. I can’t deal with not knowing.”

The Warners have taken antidepressants to help them through the worst times, but there have been moments when nothing could keep the pain at bay. On a cold night last October, they had a disagreement that led to Kaelin driving off in a fit of anger — striking Chris, who suffered minor scrapes. It was determined to be an accident, a consequence of the strain on the family.

“I think, honestly, that’s the point at which we hit the bottom,” Chris Warner said.

“In my heart, there is still some hope,” Colleen Dalquist said in December, more than a year after her daughter disappeared and just three weeks after the Sjodin abduction.

“I look at the reality of the situation and my head tells me no. But until we find her and bring her home, there’s a part of me that still expects to see her come through the door. We have to have that.”

Jacob Wetterling had scribbled his name on the back wall of his closet. His mother found it years later when she was repainting the room for her daughter, Carmen. “There it was, almost like he was saying, ‘Hi, Mom,’ ” Patty Wetterling said.

She didn’t paint the closet. How would she explain that to Jacob?

Allan Sjodin is a shy, soft-spoken man who initially barricaded himself with his family after his daughter disappeared. Then — realizing he needed the reach of their reports — he gave his phone number to journalists and said, “You may have as much of me as you need.”

Now he shuttles more than 300 miles weekly between his Twin Cities construction supervisor job and a temporary home in Grand Forks, a base for searches for Dru and for monitoring the judicial proceedings against her alleged kidnapper.

Allan Sjodin used to enjoy losing himself in rows of empty seats in center field at a Minnesota Twins baseball game. A while ago, a friend asked him how he was doing. Sjodin responded, “There are no more center fields for me.”

But even as prosecutors detailed the ominous evidence they had collected — a knife, blood spatters, DNA test results — Sjodin, too, refused to surrender that last shred of hope that she is alive and waiting for him to find her.

“Certainly with everything that’s happened, it’s hard to hold on, but I do,” he said. “I’m her father. And if your father abandons you …”

Dr. Daniel Broughton, professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and former board chairman of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said that hope is vital and shouldn’t be dismissed as wishful thinking.

“As long as there is a chance that the child is alive, the parents really need to be supported in that,” he said.

“We know that the first several hours are the most important, especially in stranger kidnappings.” The longer a child is gone, the more ominous it becomes. “But more ominous does not mean quit.”

Often, after “a huge outpouring of support,” that support dwindles, Broughton said. But the trauma stays with the family. “It never, ever goes away.” Lisa Cheney, Josh Guimond’s mother, stays busy with work and with the search for her son. She has talked with politicians and with other parents of missing children, including Patty Wetterling. She visits Web pages devoted to the missing. She distributes buttons and ribbons, and she keeps Christmas lights blazing on a big sign — “Keep hope alive” — outside her house.

“Every day you wonder, ‘Am I doing enough or not?’ Until they find him, you don’t know.”

Some parents wallow in work, Watson said. Others can’t work at all. Some can’t eat; some eat compulsively.

“It’s very hard to try to carry on any kind of a life,” she said. “You think you’re coping, then all of a sudden you’ll fall apart. It’s very common for [marriages] to come to a crashing halt.”

If it’s an extended absence, “There will be a time when you will laugh or smile or you’ll have a good day. Then you feel like you’re betraying your child.”


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: