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Mother Continues Search For Missing Son 15 Months Later
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People go missing in Columbus every day. You won’t hear about the majority of the cases. Children and the elderly garner the most attention. But there are dozens of missing adult cases each year, and some of them will not be solved. WOSU talked with a mother who still searches for her son who disappeared more than a year ago.
“Now, not this street. Down Rea [Avenue], it’ll be the next one. Turn down there,” Eileen Paver directed.
Paver doesn’t sleep much these days. She hasn’t since her 46-year-old son, Ricky Frayer, went missing last March.
Image: Ohio Attorney General
Missing from: Columbus
Missing since: 3/29/2012
Missing age: 46
Current age: 47
If you have any information contact Columbus Police Department at (614) 645-4545.
“At the end of this here road. Turn left.”
Paver is taking WOSU to the house where her son was last known to stay with a friend more than a year ago, before he disappeared. We’re on the West Side, close to West Mound Street.
“And you’ve looked all through here,” WOSU asked. “I can’t remember every place I’ve looked. I’ve looked so much.”
Paver points to a row of 10 rental houses in the low-income neighborhood, “OK, right in here, you go in that there grass side and he lives in there in one of those houses.”
Frayer was homeless and stayed with friends.
“He don’t like my rules and regulations.”
Paver said her son left his friend’s house and hasn’t been seen since. When Frayer didn’t show up to his mother’s home to get his food stamp card, take a shower and grab some cash, Paver said she got a gut feeling.
“Somebody did something to him because Ricky never ever failed, ever, not to come over here every week or two weeks. Never, never, never,” Paver said. “I’d wash his clothes and everything. And I know, something just tells me.”
About 2,000 people go missing in Columbus each year; this number does not include runaways or child custody cases. Most missing adults will be located, many of them within a couple of days. But every year, there are about 20 cases, like Frayer’s, that stump police.
Columbus Police Detective Jon Compson, in the missing persons department of the special victims unit, was assigned to Frayer’s case.
WOSU Public Media is tracking missing persons in Central Ohio. Each month we will feature an adult that has gone missing at wosu.org/missing.
“Other than what little bit of information we retrieved from the family, the very little information we retrieved from his circle of friends, we have nothing,” Compson said. “His social security number has had no activity. He has not received any benefits for over a year or so. He has not checked into any homeless shelters. So literally we have someone who has vanished.”
Of the cases like Frayer’s, only “a couple,” Compson said, probably involve foul play.
“We don’t know because obviously we haven’t found them. A couple of the cases cause more concern than others. Some of the cases we just do not know,” he said.
Missing adult cases pose different challenges than when a child vanishes. An adult has a larger social circle – people they work with, their family, acquaintances and close friends. And Compson said adults have the means, and the right, to vanish. Sometimes people do not want to be found.
“We have that quite often where we end up finding that person,” Compson said. “And when we find that person we can’t tell the family where that person is because that person has the ability to be safe in their own environment and so forth because they are over the age of 18.”
This is one reason why many adult cases do not get media coverage. Race and gender also play a role.
Al Tompkins, senior faculty at the Poynter Institute, a school for professional journalists in Tampa, Florida, said women, especially Caucasians, receive the most media attention in missing adult cases.
But Tompkins said other factors play a role: Are there other similar cases; what’s the competition? What’s intriguing about the case? Is the person affluent? Are people talking?
“Is somebody available to become a spokesperson? Is there some evidence that we’ll know eventually what happened, is another interesting question. Do police cooperate,” Tompkins listed. “Are there photographs? Is there video? Is this is a visual story? I mean, television is a visual medium. And for something to become a sensation there have to be visuals.”
Tompkins said if the case is pretty clear cut, it often won’t get national coverage. And he adds media is to blame for sometimes focusing on the wrong issues.
“I’m not saying don’t cover these cases…if they’re missing for nefarious reasons, it seems we have a duty to report…But there’s a difference between having a duty to report and making, you know, CNN Headline news channel that profits from exploiting a missing person,” Tompkins said.
Not every adult case makes it on the air in Columbus. Detective Compson said police contact local reporters when cases become more serious, for instance if foul play is suspected.
Back on Eakin Road, Eileen Paver sat at her small kitchen table. She told some of the dreams she has about her son, Ricky Frayer.
“He knocked at the door in my dream, opened it up, his face was there, but, but he was gone,” Paver said. “And then one other time, I seen like the woods with a bench, like someone would sit, like a park, and he’d be sitting there. When I would look away, he was gone. I don’t think he’s alive.”
Paver said her son often showed up at her house with bruises. She said she thinks Frayer may have tussled with someone and was killed unintentionally. Nevertheless, Paver still looks for her son. Every time she leaves the house, she looks.
“Up and down the streets. In alleys. I look everywhere, in stores. Oh yeah, I look everywhere…Ricky has a plate in his leg, too. And his finger is half cut off right here. So, that’s all I can tell you. I don’t know what else to do. I keep trying for someone to help me, and no one will do nothing.”
Frayer’s case remains on Compson’s desk. When he’s out on other cases, he asks about Frayer, too.