Police are reluctant to rely on psychics
BY PAUL HAMMEL, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
February 23, 2003
http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_np=0&u_pg=36&u_sid=662023

GERING, Neb. - They don't believe in psychics, and they didn't call any.

But when it appeared that the search for their missing daughter had hit a
dead end, the parents of Heather Guerrero gave the supernatural a chance.

"We felt helpless," said Heather's mother, Irene.

Information from two psychics, along with an eyewitness account of a car
speeding toward a lake north of Scottsbluff, led family and friends to
continue searching for the missing newspaper carrier.

It ultimately led them to an abandoned farmhouse near Lake Minatare, where
the partially clad body of Heather, 15, was discovered Feb. 12.

The use of psychics is controversial among law enforcement. Yet, it's
commercially popular, because of television shows, the Internet and
telephone psychics.

While a few agencies across the country, most notably the Fresno (Calif.)
Police Department, often have used psychics, many police investigators say
they often lead an investigation down the wrong path or give false hope to
grieving family members.

"I've never heard of or received information (from a psychic) that has even
helped solve a case," said Sgt. Gary Plank, a criminal profiler with the
Nebraska State Patrol.

Representatives of three Nebraska agencies - the State Patrol, the Douglas
County Sheriff's Office and the Adams County Sheriff's Office - said they
would not employ a psychic in a criminal investigation, although they
wouldn't completely ignore their tips.

"I don't put any stock in psychics," Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning
said. "But when you hit a brick wall, you're willing to try anything."

Despite the skepticism, information from psychics has been taken in several
missing person-homicide cases across the Midlands over the years.

A television reporter brought a psychic to Douglas County detectives in
the 1992 disappearance of 27-year-old college student and waitress Mary
Cronin of Ralston. The detectives said the information was vague. Her skull
and other bones were found in 1993 in Cass County. The case remains
unsolved.

Investigators in Yankton, S.D., sent an officer to Florida to consult with
a psychic about the slaying of 19-year-old Tammy Haas, whose body was found
in a road ditch near a Crofton, Neb., golf course. The information proved
worthless, Plank said. A 22-year-old man charged in the death was acquitted.

After Traci Kenley and Bill Rundle disappeared in August 2001 without a
trace near Clay Center, Neb., thousands of tips poured in, including some
from psychics. They were checked out like all the rest but proved false,
Adams County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Furman said.

Recently, a psychic provided information to the mother of missing
4-year-old Brendan Gonzalez of Plattsmouth. Searchers found nothing at the
location suggested by the psychic, Plank said.

But the Guerrero family in Gering, and an Ida Grove, Iowa, family whose
daughter, Connie Ruddy, has been missing since 1997 said tips from psychics
have been helpful.

Irene Guerrero and other family members said that it was odd that
information forwarded by two psychics - one from Denver who was contacted by
a Guerrero cousin, one from the Scottsbluff-Gering area who volunteered
information - was similar.

Both, she said, told searchers to look at irregularly shaped, abandoned
buildings, maybe a log cabin, near water, near fish and near hayfields.

"These were two different people from two different places," Irene Guerrero
said. "We asked ourselves, 'Is it going to hurt to take them up on their
leads?'"

At the time - the first night after the 6 a.m. abduction - the official
ground search had been called off after finding nothing in the ditches and
fields near the Guerrero home.

But the psychics' information, plus a tip that a county worker had seen a
car speeding toward Lake Alice north of Scottsbluff, inspired family members
to continue searching on their own.

The next morning, they found Heather's body at an L-shaped, abandoned
farmhouse a couple hundred yards from Lake Minatare.

"I'm so grateful that they kept searching," Irene Guerrero said. "We didn't
want to sit there for another day, another week. We had hoped for better
news."

She said she did not know the names of either the local psychic or the
Denver psychic.

In Ida Grove, Iowa, about 50 miles east of Sioux City, Mary Neumayer said
her family consulted a psychic after the official search for her missing
daughter hit a dead end.

The psychic, she said, told them that Connie Ruddy was dead and that they
could find her body near "something that smelled really bad."

A jawbone, later identified as Ruddy's, was found by a canoer along the
Boyer River near Dow City in 1999. Her mother said the site is not too far
downriver from Denison, where odors from industrial plants are not uncommon.

"You're just willing to try anything," said Neumayer, who added that
authorities didn't use the psychic information.

Court TV will air a documentary, "Psychic Detectives," on Thursday that
details the use of a professional psychic by Tim McFadden, a Fresno police
detective.

McFadden, who retired last year, said psychic Kay Rhea proved herself over
and over, personally helping him locate bodies of three people who were
missing.

He said more police don't use psychics "because of one word: ego."