How does local law enforcement handle missing-person cases?

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 11:22 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’ve reported on several missing persons cases lately, and the families are always desperate for answers.

A lot of times, they feel frustrated by the lack of attention when they see other cases drawing huge interest.

We talked to a mother searching for her son and an investigator who helps clear up some of the work happening behind the scenes.

We checked in with officials from our large counties.

Burke County has two missing people, Columbia County has none, Richmond County did not get back to us, but our records show at least seven since Sept. 1, and Aiken County says they have around 19 cases.

Sally Williams is one of many desperate mothers tired of waiting.

“He was always checking on me. And all the sudden, phone calls just stop,” she said.

Now she waits by the phone for a different call, this time from law enforcement.

It’s a call Captain Jimmy Wylds has been on the other end of countless times.

“There is no easy answer. We just don’t type it into the computer and know that he was here and he was there. It’s not like CSI where they find them in an hour. It’s a lot of hard work,” he said.

Have you seen these missing people?

A missing person case is a process, and it starts with the background.

“The first thing we do is try to get a history of the person that is missing. Do they have mental issues? Do they have drug issues? Is there a history of suicidal thoughts?,” said Wylds.

He says if it is a child, within two hours they are put in a national database, and the search begins. It’s the same for those with mental and drug issues or those who may be in danger.

“We take every case seriously. Even the cases where somebody has gone missing before,” he said.

Williams’ son Keith Styburski has gone missing before, but this time, she hasn’t received the answers she is looking for.

“I feel like I’m grieving now. But I just don’t have the facts in front of me,” said Williams.

It’s facts Wylds says law enforcement tries to figure out.

“You look at their bank accounts, you look to see if there’s been any movement on their bank accounts, you look at their cell phone records, or if they had an active cell phone,” he said.

According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office report, Styburski was last seen in Richmond County near Highway 54 on July 27. You just take them one case at a time and try to do the best you can with them,” he said.

He says a case never goes cold.

Simon Powell’s case went cold several times, and then something pops back up, and that’s back at the forefront, but it’s never forgotten,” he said.

Wylds says the goal is always to bring closure to families and put those away who are responsible for the crime, but it takes time.