Doe Network volunteers search for missing people

Doe Network volunteers search for missing people

April 5, 2008
Maine Coast Now
Dan Harrington

Doe Network volunteers search for missing people

AUGUSTA — Bruce St. Amand wants a minute of your time. A point and a click are all it might take to find a missing person.

“If I could help solve a mystery and put an end to a family’s suffering, why not?” he asked.

The Augusta resident is Maine’s media representative for the Doe Network, a nationwide volunteer organization devoted to assisting law enforcement find missing persons. He joined the network in 2006 after thinking about his own family.

“I have a stepgranddaughter that kind of got me involved. I thought ‘My God, what would happen if she went missing?’ I’d want to utilize everything I could to find her,” St. Amand said.

The Doe Network specializes in cold cases involving unexplained disappearances and unidentified victims. Around 500 volunteers across the United States share a vision that St. Amand describes as providing a voice for the missing and the unidentified.

He believes there is a discrepancy between the way the media treats cases involving famous people and the everyday person.

One example, he said, was when Patrick McDermott, Olivia Newton-John’s boyfriend, went missing in 2005.

“They [the media] went on and on with coverage, but [it’s like] the person on the street doesn’t matter,” St. Amand said.

Thousands of people are listed on the Doe Network Web site, which accepts cases from law enforcement and family members of the missing. The site displays photographs of victims as well as information about the last time they were seen. Sometimes forensic artists supply photos that show how the person may have aged. Some of the people listed on the Web site are from Maine.

For example, Douglas Charles Chapman has been missing from his home in Alfred, Maine since June 2, 1971.

According to the Doe Network, he was 3 years old when he vanished. His mother last saw him playing in a sand pile in front of their home. No clues have ever been found to explain his whereabouts. He would be 40 years old if he were still alive today. The network encourages anyone with information to contact police. Chapman is just one of thousands of cold cases across the United States that remains unsolved. Many cases involve missing adults, the elderly or mentally ill.

St. Amand said that the organization’s volunteers are ready to help when local attention to a case has tapered off.

“Once a person is gone only family members and close friends remember the person,” St. Amand said. Doe Network volunteers work together through the Web site forum to discuss missing person cases, swap theories and consider clues. Volunteers often work among themselves to try and find answers. St Amand said the network has helped solve about 34 cold cases. He welcomes amateur sleuths to join and invites everyone to visit the site.

“If more people looked at the site, more cases would be solved,” St. Amand said.

Since joining the organization, St Amand has made a difference. In an effort to bring attention to the cause, he worked with Sen. Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, to make May 25 Missing Person’s Day in Maine.

St. Amand also corresponded with best-selling author Tess Gerritsen who may use the Doe network in a future novel.

He stresses that anyone can make a difference when it comes to providing a pivotal clue. He believes what someone might consider an incidental event could supply new information in an unsolved case.

For St. Amand, the network is all about helping the victim and the families who agonize over the unexplained loss of a loved one.

“I like to see a good outcome and want to provide answers to families,” he said. The Doe Network can be found on the web at