Sunday, October 8, 2006

Article spotlights long-term Pittsburgh area missing children

Nicole Bryner has been generating headlines lately, but some of these others have not been talked about in a while. This is a good chance for them to get attention!

On the left are the children around the time they went missing. On the right are age progressions of how they might look today.
Photos from top to bottom: Nicole Lynn Bryner, Jon Michael Dabkowski, Gabriel Minarcin, Toni Lynn McNatt-Chiappetta, Ranee Ann Gregor.
1982 photo of Nicole Bryner from article. Age progression of Toni McNatt-Chiappetta from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. All others from the Charley Project.

Article from

Hope lives on for abducted children
By Jill King Greenwood
Saturday, October 7, 2006
Though two women who disappeared as children
resurfaced recently with stories of being held by their abductors for up to a
decade, experts say most missing children are killed within hours.
The two
cases - one in McKeesport and one overseas - spawned screaming headlines,
astonished loved ones who never stopped hoping their children would be found and
inspired hope in others who believe they might get a miraculous reunion with
their long-missing children.
But the case last month of a man charged with
killing a South Side toddler who went missing in 1982 represents the more likely
outcome of heartache and devastation: Families wait for years for a child to
return alive, only to discover he or she is long dead.
"The reality is,
those cases where a child resurfaces after that long are just not the norm,"
said Tarentum police Detective Mark Glogowski, who nevertheless periodically
looks at the case files on two boys -- ages 10 and 11 -- who disappeared
together from Tarentum in 1982.
"You might be able to take a child and hold
them captive for awhile, but you can only do that for so long before someone
around you says something, the child says something to someone, or you trip
yourself up. It's just not logical to think that all these kids are still out
there, being held hostage somewhere."
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
agent Al Danna, who for 25 years has investigated crimes against children, said
44 percent of children abducted by strangers are killed within the first hour.
The statistic rises to 74 percent within three hours and 91 percent are killed
within 24 hours of being abducted.
Within a week of a child going missing,
99 percent have been killed by the abductor, Danna said.
"Sometimes it's a
matter of the abductor knowing they will victimize and kill a child right from
the start, or they'll let them go," Danna said. "Or it's a case where the child
does something that panics the abductor, or the publicity of the child going
missing gets too great, and the abductor kills them to eliminate the witness.
But normally it's planned and not a spur-of-the-moment outcome. Abductors rarely
hold onto children for years."
At the beginning of this year, the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children listed 13 children from Western
Pennsylvania as missing. The oldest case dates to 1977.
Two of those cases
recently were solved. One child resurfaced as a woman. Authorities are looking
for the remains of the other.
Tanya Kach, now 24, disappeared from
McKeesport in February 1996 and surfaced in March. She said she was held captive
in the home of a former middle-school security guard.
The second child,
Nicole Lynn Bryner, 3, was reported missing from a South Side grocery store in
1982. On Sept. 26, Pittsburgh police cold-case homicide detectives charged
Thomas Widman, 51, of Brookline, in Nicole's slaying. This week, detectives and
a cadaver dog scoured heavily wooded, rough terrain in several Brookline
locations, looking for Nicole's remains.
The other case of a long-missing
child who later resurfaced involved Natascha Kampusch, 18, who escaped from a
man she said kidnapped her in 1998, when she was 10, and kept her captive in a
basement in Vienna, Austria. Kampusch was reunited with her shocked parents days after she ran from the man's driveway and banged on a neighbor's door.
Glogowski, investigating the Jan. 14, 1982, disappearances of Jon Dabkowski, 11,
and Gabriel Minarcin, 10, has been difficult. Glogowski was the same age as
Minarcin when the children disappeared, so when he became an investigator for
Tarentum police, he was forced to review old case files. Investigators and
bloodhounds traced the boys' footprints to the frozen Allegheny River.
are three case books -- each more than 4 inches thick -- containing interviews
and information about the boys, who disappeared after they left Jon's house in
Tarentum at 5:30 p.m. to walk three doors to Gabriel's home.
Leah Keeney
gets emotional when she sees the reports of long-missing children who resurface
alive or hears that detectives are using cadaver dogs to search for Nicole's
Keeney's little sister, Toni McNatt-Chiapetta, 14, vanished from a
Clairton intersection in 1981. Keeney said she'll always harbor hope that her
sister -- who would be 39 -- will walk through the front door with an amazing
story of living somewhere, possibly under another name, for 24 years.
want to believe that they're alive and OK out there, because you've seen these
other cases where they were," said Keeney, of McKeesport. "But even though I try
to keep the hope alive, I know in my heart that she's dead and she's an angel in
heaven. You just want answers either way, no matter how devastating the truth
might be. You just want to have a grave to go visit."
Robinson police Chief
Dale Vietmeier checks a few times a year on the case of Ranee Gregor, 16, who
disappeared in October 1977, nine days before her birthday. Vietmeier said
investigators long have believed Gregor is dead. She was last seen on Oct. 21,
1977, at a gas station's parking lot with her boyfriend, who was found dead the
next day in his car in Findlay. Gregor hasn't been found.
"It's an open case
for us, but really, it's a dead one," Vietmeier said. "But it will remain open
until we find out what happened to her, who did it and where she is now."
Jill King Greenwood can be reached at or 412-321-2160.

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