A blog that tries to inform others about at least a few of the hundreds, if not thousands, of missing children and adults in America. If you have a loved one missing, and would like me to add their story here, please contact me a.s.a.p.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Justin Phillip Harris

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Missing Since: February 15, 2004 from Casper, Wyoming
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: August 20, 1990
Age: 13 years old
Height and Weight: 5'0, 110 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Blond hair, green eyes. Harris wears eyeglasses.
Clothing Description: Possibly a gray jacket and black snowboots.
Medical Conditions: Harris is on anti-depressant medication; he may not have the medicine with him. He is developmentally disabled and has the abilities of a six- to seven-year-old.

Harris was last seen at the R. L. Mills Home, a children's home where he resided in Casper, Wyoming. At 7:00 a.m. on February 15, 2004, workers at the home found his room empty after he failed to show up for breakfast. His bed was found stuffed with clothes.

Casper Police Department
Source Information
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The Casper Star-Tribune
CasperWyGov: the Official Site of the City of Casper, Wyoming
Vanished Children's Alliance

Charley Project Home


Little Boy Lost; The Disappearance Of Justin Harris

Sometime between the late hours of Saturday, February 14th and the early morning hours of Sunday, February 15th 2004, thirteen year old Justin Phillip Harris disappeared from the R. L. Mills Home, a state run boy’s home where he had been residing since the summer of 2003.

At the time of his disappearance Justin was reported to be approximately five feet tall and weigh roughly 100 pounds. He has blonde hair and green eyes.

The R. L. Mills Home is a group home for extremely troubled boys aged ten to seventeen, and is said to be for “youth who are suicidal, sex offenders, or delinquents”.

Staff members from the R. L. Mills Home first discovered something was amiss when Justin did not show up for breakfast with the rest of his housemates. When staff members went to Justin’s room to wake him they discovered his bed stuffed with clothes, made to appear as if he were still lying there.

Professionals at the R. L. Mills Home, where Justin resided, reported him as having the functional ability and emotional response of a six or seven year old and also stated that Justin was on “some pretty heavy duty psychiatric medication”, some of which was for the treatment of depression. However, early into the search for Justin, Justin’s father, Phillip Harris, denied that his son suffered any disability at all.

Over a period of four days, several law enforcement agencies the fire department, other first responders, and numerous volunteers conducted an extensive air and ground search. Response teams combed the north side of Casper including the neighborhoods around the R. L. Mills Home and the Wyoming Medical Center's Life Flight helicopter assisted in the search along the North Platte River. Searchers reported scouring every empty home, shed, and camper in case Justin had crawled inside and lied down. Law enforcement circulated flyers with Justin’s face and details of his disappearance throughout Casper as well as within Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and states surrounding Wyoming. Although tips came in, there were no solid leads.

Police narrowed Justin's disappearance to three possibilities. He ran away, he was abducted by a stranger, or he was abducted by someone he knew.

In my previous post, Joseph Duncan and the Disappearance of Justin Harris, I addressed the possibility of a stranger abduction and proposed a theory that Justin may have become a victim of Joseph Duncan. While I still think that this is a very plausible scenario, statistics tell us that children are more likely to be harmed by a family member or someone they already know.

Although law enforcement has said that there is a possibility that Justin ran away, at this time, I just do not find this to be a plausible theory. It is true that reports have stated that Justin had threatened to run away to Swink, Oklahoma to be with his father. However, reports from a staff member at the R. L. Mills Home stated that Justin had been doing really well in school and really well at the boys home. In addition, weather reports for the time period in which Justin disappeared indicate that the temperatures were approximately twenty-five degrees with nineteen mile an hour winds. It seems logical that a child who is not doing well in school and had not adjusted to being in the boy’s home would be more likely to run away, let alone run away in bitter cold weather in the middle of the night, but not a child who had adjusted and was doing well.

I think that there are only two plausible scenarios here. Either someone at the R. L. Mills Home removed Justin from the facility, such as a volunteer, a staff member who may have since departed, or one of the boys themselves took him outside the home, or Justin was spirited away by a family member.

Because the R. L. Mills home is a state run facility for delinquent youth, it should be taken into consideration that there is a high probability that this facility is locked down in the evening. If that is the case, then it seems likely that someone inside the home would have to facilitate Justin’s departure from the facility. Based on the weather conditions it would also seem likely that Justin went from the R. L. Mills Home directly into a waiting vehicle rather than head out into the cold, dark, night alone.

The fact that his bed was stuffed with clothes indicates to me that this was probably a premeditated disappearance and that he probably disappeared shortly after bedtime. Staff members reported seeing him at bed check around mid-night, but I really think that they only thought they saw him and were actually viewing the ruse that was created. Justin had a functional ability of a six or seven year old, so would he have the presence of mind and forethought to come up with the idea of making his bed look as though he was still in it without having been told how to do it?

Although Justin was technically reported missing on Sunday morning, February 15th he most likely disappeared late Saturday evening. I wonder if any of the boys may have snuck out that Saturday evening to go party and took Justin with them. He doesn’t seem to me to have the make-up of one of the “cool kids” that would sneak out of the boy’s home to party, so if he was invited out by fellow housemates, I fear that it was for no good purpose.

There is the possibility that during the time that Justin resided at the Mills Home someone encountered him that was a pedophile and used their position with the Mills Home to facilitate his removal and disappearance. Phillip Harris, Justin’s father, has stated to reporters that he believes whatever happened to Justin happened to him at the Mills Home and that there is a cover-up. However law enforcement does not appear to have turned up any evidence to support Harris’s assertions and have indicated in media reports that there is no evidence that what happened to Justin occurred at the Mills Home or that the Mills Home had anything to do with his disappearance.

How plausible is a familial abduction? In order to answer that question we need first to look at how Justin came to be in the care of the state of Wyoming and the R. L. Mills Home, how his family has responded since his disappearance and what has been done, and by whom, to get Justin’s face and story out to the public at large.

After being in a custody battle since 1995 with Phillip Harris, Stephanie Sidebottom, Justin’s mother, willingly turned both Justin and his twelve-year old sister over to state custody rather than turn them over to her ex-husband. Although Justin’s mother willingly gave these children to the state the state apparently did not severe her parental rights. A newspaper article that was dated after Justin’s disappearance was found in which Stephanie Sidebottom is being sued by the Department of Family Services for failure to pay child support..

“Wyoming DFS and two minors v. Stephanie Sidebottom, collections (child support), respondent-obligor is in contempt for failure to pay child support as previously ordered;”

What a strange situation. We have a father fighting for custody of two of his children for seven / eight years and a mother who instead of giving the children to the father who wants them, makes a decision to give them to the state of Wyoming instead. The state takes them, admits Justin into a boy’s home rather than placing him in foster care and then assigns the payment of child support to the mother who gave them up, rather than the father who wants custody. What in the hell is going on here? What is in Phillip Harris’ background that would enable the mother of his children to give them to the state and have the state agree that he has no right to them?

There is much more to this story, but I’m going to have to write it in a separate post, as this one is simply becoming too long. There are questions to levy. Like why have the parents of this child done so little to find him and why has the father of this child, a man who by all accounts has proven himself to be a control freak, not so much as taken control of the email address that tips and questions regarding his son are directed to. The email address doesn’t even appear to be associated with Project Jason, who hold the domain registration for Justin’s web site. In two-years this control freak of a father has not bothered to assume ownership of the site, allows all the email to go to some woman in Racine, Wisconsin and has allowed the picture of missing person Jason Jolkowski to remain attached to a story about his son. after two-years, he still doesn’t appear to care if his son’s face is not on that story or not. Taking this into account with the fact that he demanded that I take his son’s photo off of this site, even after I told him that 2,500 people had seen his son’s face in ten days, it appears as though Phillip Harris doesn’t really care about getting his son’s face or story out.

Where is Justin’s mother in all of this? Why is she not involved in any activity geared toward finding Justin? She has no involvement in the web site, she isn’t associated with the email address that the tips go to, she’s not part of the domain ownership, she let’s her ex-husband, who she didn’t want to have two of her children, run the show. As the mother of a missing child would YOU sit back and have no involvement in anything at all?

There are questions as to why the two-year anniversary of Justin’s disappearance came and went with neither parent making an attempt to use the anniversary to put his face and story back out into the public. Oh there are a LOT of questions here, much more than I’ve just mentioned.

I certainly hope this isn’t another case like little Ricky Holland.

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE 4/2/2006 9:30am PST

Looks like Justin Harris' father, Phillip Harris, wasted no time in getting here. If you missed out on Mr. Harris' previous rants to me you can find them by clicking herehttp://tinyurl.com/nheeg. You can find my response to the below in the comments section of this post.

"you were told to remove your articles by the authorities, you are writing you know nothing about and you still dont have my permission to use my sons photos, you will be contacted again this week by the le again and if you dont remove the articles, you will find yourself in court - phillip

UPDATE 5/19/2006

Well, it's been over a month since this story was posted and I still have not heard from any law enforcement agency asking me to remove my posts about Justin, as Phillip Harris threatened would happen. He knows full well that law enforcement has never contacted me, at any time in the past or present, and told me to remove ANY of my posts on Justin.

I've heard from a source that Big Daddy Harris has been in Wyoming interfering in the investigation. He has been repeatedly told by certain individuals that he need to work with law enforcement, however Harris prefers to go around town threating people with legal action if they don't talk to him. The quote I received was

Wyoming Resident: "Mr. Harris, you're supposed to be working with law enforcement on this"

Harris: "You're either going to talk to me or your going to talk to my lawyer"

No one has seen any evidence that Harris actually HAS a lawyer and no suit has been filed to date by either Harris or Sidebottom in connection with Justin's disappearance.

UPDATE 6/5/2006

Note to my Sheridan, WY visitor: I know you've very interested in this missing child. I see you here all the time. So I'm curious as to what your interest is. I've seen the different search queries you use to get here and the referring links from another crime blogger and from Court TV's message board. I've seen you query 'imahologram' so it's apparent you are trying to figure out who I am. Who are you? I've also seen you query 'justin harris dead', so are you interested in finding Justin or are you here to watch this blog for any stories regarding Justin because you are part of the team that escorted him from the Mills Home in February 2004? No one has ever said that the child was deceased, so do you know something that no one else does? Are you working with Phillip's friends in Livingston, NJ and Racine, WI to ensure that there is no new interest in this case?

Missing Child's Parents Left Out
Star-Tribune staff writer Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The latest local effort to find teenager Justin Harris, who's been missing for 18 months, has included the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the U.S. Postal Service, and local and federal law enforcement agencies.

It did not include the boy's parents Tuesday.

Phillip Harris said he didn't receive any response to questions when he heard of a news conference Tuesday announcing letter carriers would distribute 38,400 missing child fliers to area households and businesses.

"They failed to return my phone calls," Harris said. "I was supposed to be there."

Stephanie Sidebottom didn't hear anything, period, she said.

"I'm stunned," Sidebottom said. "I feel like I'd been kicked in the gut."

Sidebottom learned of the event late Tuesday afternoon after a reporter contacted her.

"This was a complete surprise," she said. "Nobody said, 'hey, this is coming.'"

Participating agencies had good intentions.

"This is to help aid in the search for Justin Harris," Casper Postmaster Susan Gray said at the main Casper Post Office at 411 S. Forest Drive. "Few things are more frightening than the abduction of a child."

Justin was reported missing from his residence at the R.L. Mills home in north Casper on Feb. 15, 2004, acting Casper Police Chief Mike Moore said.

Justin, who would be 15 now, had blond hair and stood 5 feet tall, he said.

He also required medication but did not have it when he was reported missing, Moore said.

"It is our sincere belief that somebody and someone, somewhere knows where Justin is," Moore said.

Police detective Stacia Francisco said Justin's parents have been cooperating with authorities in the search.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the nation's oldest federal law enforcement agency, joined the Deliver Me Home Network two years ago, said Andrew Rivas of the Postal Inspection's Denver regional office.

Rivas said later Tuesday that he didn't know why, nor could he comment, on why Justin's parents weren't at the news conference.

"It's the Casper Police Department's case," he said. On the other hand, Moore said late Tuesday that the Postal Inspection Service set up the event."The news conference was organized by the Postal Inspection Service and law enforcement felt it would be best to be there at that," Moore said.
Gray could not be reached for comment.

Sidebottom expressed gratitude toward those looking for her son and would have attended the event had she known about it, she said.

But the lack of communication has been a recurring problem, Sidebottom said. "We've asked to be kept informed of this investigation, and we have not been."

The past 18 months have been painful enough, and were made that much more poignant when she and her other four children honored, but did not celebrate with cake and presents, Justin's 15th birthday Saturday, she said.

Members of law enforcement agencies should spend a week with her family to understand the pain, Sidebottom said.

"A little compassion would go a long way," she said.
Phillip Harris, a truck driver who lives in Fort Towson, Okla., believes Justin is alive and knows of his possible whereabouts, he said.

Harris also said he and Sidebottom are now working together to solve the mystery of their son's disappearance.

"I will get it done," he said. "I will nail the sons-of-b--s behind it."

Teen's folks surprised by fliers
Associated Press

CASPER - The parents of a 15-year-old who has been missing for a year and a half say they were not told about plans for letter carriers to distribute tens of thousands of fliers with information about their son.

Justin Harris was 13 when he disappeared from the R.L. Mills boys home in Casper on Feb. 15, 2004.

Clothes were found stuffed in his bed and it wasn't clear whether the developmentally disabled boy, who functioned at the level of a 6- or

7-year-old, ran away or was abducted.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service and local law enforcement held a news conference to announce plans for letter carriers to distribute 38,400 missing-child fliers with information about Justin.

But the boy's parents weren't there.

Justin's mother, Stephanie Sidebottom, learned of the news conference from a reporter who called.

"This was a complete surprise," she said.

"Nobody said, 'Hey, this is coming.' "

The boy's father, Phillip Harris, of Fort Towson, Okla., said he also had difficulty getting information.

"They failed to return my phone calls," he said.

"I was supposed to be there."

The fliers are being sent out through U.S. Postal Inspection Service's Deliver Me Home Network. Denver-based postal inspector Andrew Rivas said he didn't know why Justin's parents weren't at the news conference.

"It's the Casper Police Department's case," he said.

Police Chief Mike Moore said the Postal Inspection Service organized the news conference.

"Law enforcement felt that it would be best to be there," he said.

Sidebottom said lack of communication has been a recurring problem.

"We've asked to be kept informed of this investigation and we have not been," she said.

Police detective Stacia Francisco said Justin's parents were cooperating with authorities.

Casper Journal Article
Casper police have begun distributing an updated flier, as they continue their search for missing Justin Harris, 13.

The new flier will replace others that were handed out in the first few days of the investigation, when the teen-ager turned up missing after running away from the R.L. Mills Home in Casper.

The flier now lists Justin as a missing person and endangered runaway. Sgt. Larry Baker says police still don't have any reason to believe that Justin has run into foul play, but they believed it was necessary to update the case to a missing teen and endangered runaway because the boy has been missing for so long.

Baker says police still are receiving some tips, and they follow up on each one of them. But they still have no idea where the teen-ager is.

Anyone with information about Justin Harris can contact Crimestoppers at 577-TIPS or the Casper Police Department.

Youngster Still Missing After One Month
Star-Tribune staff writer

Four weeks ago today, 13-year-old Justin Harris was discovered missing from the R.L. Mills Home in north Casper.

The teen's bed was stuffed with clothes when staff there tried to find him at breakfast Feb. 15, police said.

A ground and air search by several agencies in Natrona County, massive circulation of a missing child flyer and an investigation by top experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have failed to locate him.

But Casper Police Sgt. Larry Baker said Friday he remains hopeful that Justin will be found.

"I think we have to be -- if we don't, we lessen our chances of looking in the right places," he said. "We have to be optimistic and stay broad in our focus."

Police so far have narrowed Justin's disappearance to three scenarios: That he ran away; that he was abducted by a stranger; or that he was abducted by someone he knew.

Detectives have conducted polygraph examinations of an undisclosed number of people in the case, including Justin's father, Phillip Ernest Harris.

Phillip Harris has been conducting an independent investigation, he said. He said he is concentrating that inquiry on the bed-check policies and security at the R.L. Mills Home. He wants to know how his son could have left the facility unnoticed, he said, and why the child's bed apparently wasn't checked between midnight, when he was last physically seen by a staff member, and 9:15 a.m., when he was discovered missing.

He said Friday he is convinced his son did not run away from the facility.

"There was a crime or something happened right there in that home," he said. "It's a cover-up."

Police, however, deny any such allegation.

"It's entirely possible from anyone I've talked to that this boy is a runaway," Baker said. "He could function within runaway circles -- kids that aid each other when they do run away."

Meanwhile, Baker continues to keep in close contact with the experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, he said.

The center's Team Adam program dispatches nearly 40 retired investigators to assist in some of the thousands of cases reported each year, according to the program's director, Bob O'Brien.

The week after Justin's disappearance, the center sent Lee Reed, formerly of the Abilene, Texas, Police Department and Ray McCauley, formerly of the New York City Police Department, to aid in the missing-person investigation.

O'Brien would not comment on what, if any, conclusion had been drawn by those experts, but he did praise the efforts of the Casper Police Department, which made the request of the center.

"My two consultants were very impressed with them," he said. "The people (in Casper) are very talented."

He said he is optimistic that Justin will be found.

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In many cases, these blogs are obtained from other sources on the web. Source information will be added whenever possible. My apologies for those already up that may not be sourced, or credit given. This will be fixed.