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Cold case investigators seeking public help: Family of missing boy needs closure

Five-year-old boy still missing 20 years after he went into some W. Virginia woods with two older cousins.
The Charley

Too many families in the nation are experiencing the same thing that Nettie Shoemaker and her husband Victor Shoemaker, Sr. are experiencing: having a missing loved one who has never been found. The cold case, a term typically used to describe police investigations with no apparent leads over an extended period of time, remains unsolved 20 years after five-year-old Victor Dwight Shoemaker, Jr. first went missing, according to Yahoo News on April 30, 2014.

On May 1, it will be 20 years since the young boy was last seen playing on a West Virginia mountainside with his two older cousins, each aged nine. And Victory Dwight's parents hold out hope that another effort by them and the media will shed new light on what happened to their loved one--and if he is still alive.

Ten years ago the Charley Project enlightened the public about the missing boy's case once again, sharing case details in an effort to draw out any never-known-before information from the public about his disappearance. The hope then, as well as now, is that someone who knew what happened to the child (or saw him around that time back then), will now come forward, even if something prohibited them from doing so years ago.

Charley Project Cold Case Details

Victor and his family were visiting his grandfather in Kirby, West Virginia at the time of his disappearance. The elderly man lived in a mobile home near Short Mountain when Victor and his two nine-year-old cousins began playing in a wooded area behind the older man's residence early on the morning of May 1, 1994.

By 8:30 a.m., the five-year-old boy allegedly became hungry, according to his cousins, who said they had played approximately 30 minutes before Victor sought to return to the patriarch's residence on his own, to get something to eat, they said. The boy never made it back to his family, however, and his cousins say they lost track of him in the woods.

While investigators stated in '94 that they did not suspect foul play, thinking the child may have just gotten lost and died from exposure (since temperatures in the area dipped below freezing for five days after he disappeared, and it rained a lot during that time), they have never found his body, despite extensive searches of the area, including using a dog to assist.

The reported sighting of a dark blue 1990 pickup truck in the area at the time of the disappearance has never generated the lead police want, and that's because the driver has never made contact with investigators, to share what he or she may have seen in the area at the time. So two parents continue to wonder what happened to their little five-year-old boy 20 years ago, and if he will ever come home--or if his body will ever be recovered, so they can officially lay him to rest and gain some measure of closure about what happened that day.

FBI Cold Case Initiative

In 2006 the FBI began a cold case initiative, an effort to identify and investigate decades old murders, so families like the Shoemakers can get closure--and criminals can get what is coming to them. But this case doesn't qualify for inclusion in those ranks, as it isn't a racially motivated crime, as far as anyone knows.

Untold numbers of cold cases lie in the bottom of old filing cabinets in local and state police departments around the nation, because manpower and financial resources are stretched to the limit, with these agencies just trying to keep up with the new cases they get each day. So unless there is a cold case squad within the agency, solely dedicated to solving these older cases, police rely on anniversary dates of the cold case crimes to make once-a-year pitches for information from the public. And that's what is happening now in this case.

Law enforcement hopes their annual pitches in Victor Dewight Shoemaker, Jr's case (and others) will lead to case closure judicially, and some measure of comfort to the grieving families, who long to know what happened to their loved one--or if they are still alive.

Case Suggestions from Profiler

Nettie and Victor Shoemaker, Sr., have allowed the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to seek the location of their missing loved one (and to bring any criminal involved in that disappearance), to justice. They've waited 20 years for that to happen. And they hope that this year their public appeal, and the LE's efforts likewise, will finally pay off for them. And hopefully, prayerfully, it will, despite 20 years without success.

At this time, all investigative leads have been exhausted," FBI supervisory special agent Greg Heeb in Pittsburgh said.

The National Criminal Profiles Examiner Radell Smith knows first-hand that when it comes to uncovering new leads in extremely cold cases, especially when it comes to a decades old type of case, like this one, it sometimes requires looking at alternative investigatory avenues for help. Armed with a degree in criminal justice and behavioral forensics, she also knows first-hand that it sometimes takes a new set of eyes to see what seasoned police detectives and investigators may have missed, due to no fault of their own, typically.

And she also knows that some witnesses will speak more openly with someone not affiliated with the local LE agency, when they would otherwise refuse to disclose information to a local police detective. And that can mean the difference between having a cold case indefinitely, or finally having a solved case, which gives family's some measure of closure.

Smith recommends that these two parents continue to work with the members of the law enforcement community assisting them in finding out what happened to their son, as they also consider other alternatives in addition to that, such as participation in a reputable criminal justice college program.

Specifically, the profiler recommends they find a program which focuses strictly on allowing upper class college CJ majors to have full access to police case files and crime scene photos, as well as witness statements, with the full participation of the local police agency. But only under the tutelage of a doctorate-level criminal justice professor, who has had prior law enforcement experience himself. And she knows of an excellent program and professor to recommend.

In the meantime, this profiler offers up one case suggestion for exploration by those investigators working this unsolved missing person case: Start all over again doing a very thorough victimology on the missing male, or bring in a profiler with experience to do it for you.

You can reach the National Criminal Profiles Examiner at with questions or requests. Allow 24 hours for a response.

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