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The Missoulian from Missoula, Montana • 33

The Missouliani
Missoula, Montana
Issue Date:
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INSIDE FEATURE DESK 523-5263 SUNDAY Book Life Engagements Advice Columns ONTANA Missoulian August 9, 1992 rr Life VI lf" ffu' 1 At left, the photo of Tommy Gibson that's been distributed on posters seeking help in finding the missing boy. Below, Judy Gibson and her daughter Karen look at a photograph and foot and thumb prints of Judy's son Tommy, who disappeared 112 years ago in Oregon. Judy and her husband, Larry, at right with their other daughter Lisa, say that Tommy was abducted from their yard by strangers. The Oregon State Police, however, still consider Larry a suspect in his son's disappearance. if ana ffllfik Mystery surrounds the disappearance of a little boy whose parents still search for him Language buff just thought you ought to knowe By MEA ANDREWS of the Missoulian VON It's been 1V5 years since little Tommy Gibson disappeared from the yard in front or his parents double-wide mobile nee again it's time for the popular educational feature "Ask Mister Language Person," brought to you this 1 fmm nr 4 i 7 1 a week by Ray's House of Fine Adverbs.

Remember Ray's motto: "Proudly Serving You, Eventually." Our first grammar question today comes from concerned reader Brian Cameron of Elora, Ontario, who writes: "Just what does it mean when someone says, 'But, by the same token'?" A. In grammatical terminology, this is what is known as a "constipating conjunction." It is used to separate two statements that would sound stupid if they were right next to each other. EXAMPLES: "Unemployment will definitely decrease. But, by the same token, it could increase." "In 27 years of marriage, Todd never noticed Marie's tentacle. But, by the same token, he was a fine tennis player." THOMAS BAUERMlMOUllan Q.

In the song "The Joker," what is the mystery word that Steve Miller sings in the following verse: DAVE BARRY home in Azalea, Ore. Judy and Larry Gibson have returned to Montana, moving next door to Judy's mother in Avon, a blip of a town on the stretch of Highway 12 between Garrison and Helena. Posters emblazoned with "MISSING" and a picture of dark-haired, pug-nosed youngster are piled in a box at the Gibsons' small, rented home near the Avon Post Office and Store. Larry Gibson eagerly sends posters to anyone willing to tack them up outside a coffee shop, near a shopping mall or on a grocery-store bulletin board. The Oregon State Police, meanwhile, still have an unsolved mystery on their books the disappearance of Tommy Gibson, 2Vi at the time, brown hair, brown eyes, scar in right eyebrow.

Larry Gibson himself remains a suspect in the case. Judy and Larry Gibson stick to their original story: that Tommy was abducted by strangers, a man and a woman in a car, from the Gibsons' yard. Their tale begins on March 18, 1991. It was a nice day "a half-way decent day, for a change not raining," says Larry and Tommy had gone outside to play. His older sister, Karen, AVi years old then, was in her room looking for shoes.

Larry, then a deputy sheriff for Douglas County, headed out for a jog, taking a gun with him. In the yard he saw one of the many stray cats that had become neighborhood nuisances. He said he aimed his gun, shot, thought he missed (the cat ran off but later died, he said), picked up the shell casing, and headed off for the rest of his run. Tommy was still in the yard, he said. "When I returned about 45 minutes later, Judy asked me if I'd taken Tommy with me," recalls Larry.

The rest of the day is a blur. Larry, Judy and Larry's half-brother searched the house again and combed the yard, nearby trees and a vacant trailer next door. Neighbors joined the search. Local kids were quizzed. Larry called his work, reported Tommy missing and got an official search party going.

"Within a couple of hours, we had several hundred people out there," Larry said. "It was a three-day, major, extensive search," said Judy. "People were out all night. My first thought was 'This is Tommy by himself wouldn't go anyplace. He didn't like to be by himself." But the search came to nothing: There were no solid clues.

Judy remembers hearing a car idling near the house about that time. Three months later, the young daughter, Karen, told her parents and her counselors that she saw a car stop, a man and woman get out to talk to Tommy, then drive away with Tommy in the car. In the emotion and stress right after Tommy's disappearance, Karen was scared and didn't remember details, Judy concludes. "Tommy and Karen were very close," Judy said. "After he was taken, Karen had a major loss.

She wouldn't even go in her room (which she shared with Tommy). She wouldn't go out and play by herself." Law-enforcement officers are not convinced. "Larry was the last person that we know who saw Tommy alive," said detective Mark Ranger of the Oregon State Police in Roseburg, Ore. "We can't eliminate him because of the questions we have." Among the points unexplained, from a police view: a missing 20 minutes, the difference between how far Larry said he went on that jog and how long it took him to return home; seven miles on his sheriffs patrol car that are not explained, or explained with several different stories; and other unusual behavior by Larry the day of the disappearance. The patrol car was unfortunately not searched the day of the disappearance, Ranger said.

Nothing was found weeks later when a search was ordered. And the yard and nearby countryside were trampled by hundreds of searchers, erasing any clues that might have been there that first day. Alternative explanations for Tommy's disappearance, according to police documents, include death by accident perhaps a ricocheted bullet or death by abuse, Ranger said. The detective continues his work. He was in Montana just this summer investigating the Gibsons.

"The probability of a random abduction appears low," Ranger said. "But we are pursuing all theories" of the disappearance. Two airings of the Gibsons' story on the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" brought in many tips but nothing concrete, Ranger said. "We've been in contact with agencies all over the country. We do not have blinders on.

We will follow up on any leads. "But he will remain a suspect until we can clear him. Up until this point, he hasn't been cleared." Larry Gibson said he understands why the official investigation has focused in part on him. "My research into this tells me that we are not alone," he says. "A lot of families spend a lot of their time under suspicion.

These cases are so bizarre that the investigators don't know what to do. They don't have any leads. "They can investigate me all they want," he continued. "I don't really care about that. There's never been anything that I've done that I care they find out.

As long as they keep looking for Tommy at the same time, I don't care what they do with me." Stranger abductions are given lots of attention, but they are relatively rare. Out of 32,899 children reported missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from 1984 to 1989, 10,326 were runaways and 13,062 were kidnapped by relatives. Only 511 were abducted by strangers. Larry Gibson now hopes to make a difference for other families and children going through similar experiences. He wants to create a network of victim families who can keep in touch with each other and help other families in the future.

He envisions a national hot line to help victim families get through their ordeal. "We have friends and family who we can talk to, but they don't really understand," he said. Every state needs a registry of sexual offenders, he says. They should become prime suspects in cases of abducted children. He's also wants everyday folk and especially law-enforcement officers to pay attention to the posters of missing kids.

If CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS ran photos of missing children throughout the day, maybe more would be found, he said. "In 12 years of law-enforcement work, I couldn't remember the name of one missing child," he said. "There's too many of them. Maybe you've got 1,000 posters and you can't memorize every one so you memorize none of them." Now his son's face is on a poster. "Those posters are our only hope right now," he said.

"You have to take a third look at those pictures." "As soon as my eyes open every morning I think about him," Larry said. "People tell me that the way to get through this (tragedy) is to get focused on something. I'm getting focused on this." The Gibsons now have another child, Lisa, who is 4 months old. "Lisa has been good for me," said Judy. "She redirects my thoughts.

Instead of thinking about Tommy 24 hours a day, I can watch her grow and change. "I have to think about something positive," she says. "My mother keeps saying I don't seem very sad, but I keep my emotions inside. Tommy's on my mind 24 hours a day. But you can't talk about the negative things all of the time; it just drags you down." "The umbilical cord may be cut at birth, but a mother keeps a connection to her children," Judy said.

"I know he's not dead. I know he's out there with someone. He could be anyplace." "I allow myself to be pessimistic sometimes because of the statistics," said Larry. "And yet spiritually, personally, I've completely changed my opinion. I think he's alive too.

"I believe someone else is enjoying this time with him, is watching him learn to ride a bike, is teaching him to read, is playing with him. He's got to go to the doctor, to the day care, to school, to the grocery store. People are seeing him every day." "We are placing a lot of hope in those posters," Judy said. "You'd like to go knock on every door, look at every face. But you can't do that.

"There's no such thing as a story that doesn't end. Our story continues, but it will end someday, in some way." Larry Gibson wants to hear from other families whose children are missing or abducted, and from people willing to display Tommy's poster or circulate flyers. His number is 492-7120. To report information about Tommy Gibson, call: the Oregon Missing Children Clearinghouse at (503) 378-3720, or the Douglas County (Ore.) Sheriffs Office at (503) 440-4471. Some people call me the space cowboy Some people call me the gangster of love Some people call me Maurice cause I speak of the (SOMETHING) of love.

A. According to the Broward County Public Library, the word is "pompatus. Q. What does "pompatus" mean? A. Nothing.

Steve made it up. That's why some people call him "the space cowboy." Q. How come we say "tuna I mean, tuna IS a kind of fish, right? We don't say "tomato vegetable" or "milk dairy product" or "beef meat," do we? And how come we call it "beef? How come we don't say, "I'll have a piece of cow, And how come we say And how come the waiter always says, "DID you want some dessert," instead of, "DO you want some dessert?" Does he mean, "DID you want some dessert, before you found those hairs in your lasagna?" And how come everybody says "sher-BERT," when the word is "sher-BET And how come broadcast news reporters end their reports by saying, "This is Edward M. Stuntgoat, reporting." What ELSE would we think he's doing? Hemorrhaging? And how come some people call Steve Miller A. Those particular people call EVERYBODY "Maurice." VICE PRESIDENT QUAYLE (reading from a cue card): You forgot the in "tomatoe." Alsoe "Ontarioe." Q.

Last year, when your son, Robby, was doing a fourth-grade homework assignment that required him to use the word "combine" in a sentence, what sentence did he write? A. He wrote: "Unfortunately, many people have died being shredded by a combine." Q. Are you making that up? A. No. Q.

According to a March 18, 1992, New York Times article sent to you by alert reader Mclanie Allen, what were Russian anarchists chanting at a Moscow street demonstration? A. They were chanting: "Eat Gaseous Worms." The Times states: "Nobody figured out what this was supposed to mean, but the slogan stirred considerable emotion." Q. What do The Dalai Lama's friends call him in informal social settings? A. They just call him by his first name. Q.

They call him "The? A. Yes. They say, "Hey, The! Don't hog all the Tater Tots!" TODAY'S TIP FOR NOVEL WRITERS: Remember that you can make big money if your novel is made into a movie, so in your writing, always be alert for opportunities to include scenes that will appeal to the motion-picture industry. WRONG: "Apprehensively, Hugo entered the room." RIGHT: "Apprehensively, Hugo entered the room and found Julia Roberts in there naked." VICE PRESIDENT QUAYLE: You forgot the in "Hugoe." Dave Barry writes fur the Miami Herald. His column apfxars Sundays in Montana Life.

Technology helps search for missing kids By LAURIE FLYNN Knight-Ridder Newspapers IBM's Mountain View, multimedia facility, case workers will be able to search for and view a digitized photo of the child, a photo or composite drawing of the suspected abductor, and possibly an image of the child that has been computer-enhanced to reflect age progression. This information would be accompanied by existing data on the child's family history, a description of recent leads and possible sightings, and contact information. Called the Have You Seen Me Network, the new system uses IBM's Audio Visual Connection, commercially available software that IBM 'developed to enable personal computer users to vtrreate presentations incorporating photographic images, tcxC sound and video. Don Carlson, an IBM systems architect, developed the missing-'thildrenapplication using AVC in only a few weeks at IBM senior management. Such a quick match never would have been possible without the center's vast computerized data base of information on missing children amassed from the files of state missing-children agencies, local police departments and the FBI.

The national data base is just one of several personal computer-based technologies being put to use in identifying and locating abducted children. Computers also are being used in disseminating leads and information to law enforcement agencies and in tracking sightings of alleged abductors. "Technology is a point of emphasis for us," said Ernest E. Allen, president of the center. "Wc are in the information and image business." Soon the files in the center's on-line data base will contain more than just a physical description of the child and information on the abduction; Thanks to software under development within Last year a frightened toddler was brought to Seattle police by day care workers who suspected the child had been abused.

When the girl acted confused about what her name was, the police officer in charge of the case called the hot line of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "I've got a 2- or 3-year-old Hispanic female, 36 inches tall, 37 pounds, and her name might be Vanessa," he told a case worker. By entering the sketchy information into a computerized data base, the center came up with 13 possible matches within minutes. Closer investigation showed that the girl whose original middle name was indeed Vanessa had been abducted in Flower Mound, Texas, a few months earlier..

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