Thursday , June 10, 2004
Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, Dru Sjodin and Audrey Seiler: All young women whose cases have gripped the nation, starting with their mysterious disappearances and — except for Seiler — continuing with the discovery that they’d been murdered.
Their faces and those of other women who vanished — more recently, Juilliard (search) student Sarah Fox, who was found murdered in New York City, and Brigham Young University (search) student Brooke Wilberger, who is still missing after disappearing in Oregon — have been splashed across front pages, flashed repeatedly on TV screens and posted over and over again on news Web sites.
But where are all the missing young men?
Though statistics from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) show there are currently over 3,000 more reported cases of missing women in the 18 to 39 age bracket than males the same age, they still don't explain why the public rarely hears about men who vanish.
“Males that are missing don’t get that coverage,” said Erin Bruno, case manager for the National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA). “The dynamics of their case might not be enough for the media to grab it.”
As of May 2, the most recent date for which statistics were available, there were 15,182 active cases of missing females 18 to 39 years old versus 11,819 active missing male cases in that age bracket, according to the NCIC.
“Traditionally men are seen as the stronger ones, the ones who … can walk away,” Bruno said. “There’s that stigma placed on men. So they may be lacking in the coverage they’re needing.”
Anthony Guy Urciuoli Sr. of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has experienced and been upset by that kind of scanty attention on his son, Anthony Jr., who disappeared more than three years ago.
Though there has been spotty local and national coverage of Anthony Jr.’s disappearance, the media attention has been minimal — and authorities haven’t seemed to be giving the case much priority either, according to Urciuoli.
“I have called the stations — nobody bothers,” said the 61-year-old loan officer. “I’ve written e-mails to everybody and they don’t even get back to me. Has it been frustrating? Without a doubt. It’s an understatement.”
Anthony Jr. was 31 years old when he came home unusually early from his diner job Jan. 24, 2001, at 11 p.m., his father said. Half an hour later, he got a call from someone he told his parents was a friend asking him to shoot pool at a nearby hall.
But no one ever saw him at or near the pool hall that night, according to Urciuoli. Instead, Anthony Jr.’s abandoned car was found the next day, his wallet still in it, in a baseball field parking lot. No one has offered any clues or insight, and his body has never been found. The family has set up a Web site with information about Anthony Jr. and the case.
“It’s inconceivable that he would up and leave," Urciuoli said. "We haven’t gotten one nibble. Nobody, nobody, nobody will come forward.”
But in this age, media coverage is crucial to bringing in tips from the public. And those tips are often the keys to solving cases.
Urciuoli believes that if Anthony Jr. were a woman, the case would have gotten a lot more publicity and focus.
“If it was a gal, believe me, they would have covered it a lot quicker and a lot sooner,” he said. “They bring in the heavy hitters and then they have an investigation.”
He speculated the imbalance stems from the two-fold perception that men are stronger than women and women are more vulnerable and more likely to be crime victims than men.
“Most guys are thought to be macho. With gals, there’s the impression that they’re disadvantaged, that they can be preyed upon,” Urciuoli said.
Case workers say the male-female discrepancy isn’t for a lack of trying on the part of advocacy groups like the NCMA and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which now handles cases of people up to 21 years old.
“I faxed out a press release 10 times about missing adult males, but the media for whatever reason didn’t pick up on it,” said Bruno. “Often what the media looks for is that twist or turn. Sometimes, there’s just not that (element) and so the media doesn’t run it.”
Meanwhile, family members of men who have vanished but whose cases remain unsolved are upset, frustrated and yearning for answers and closure.
“It’s been more than three years and three months,” Urciuoli said. “Ever since he disappeared, I wake up every night at 3 o’clock. I’m on medication. I still go through nightmares. It’s very, very hard.”