Wednesday, April 21, 1999

FBI says it needs a break

By Ty Phillips
Bee staff writer
(Published: Tuesday, March 02, 1999)

   The presence of FBI profilers Marie Ellen O'Toole and Mark Safarik in Modesto this week makes one thing apparent:

   The case concerning three people missing more than two weeks after visiting Yosemite National Park isn't progressing the way the FBI had hoped.

   "Sure, we're frustrated right now," said James Maddock, FBI special agent in charge, who made another announcement of no major developments at Monday afternoon's press conference in Modesto. "It's unusual for us to push so hard and not get the break we need.

   "If we don't get a break, this could go on for a long time. It's possible it could never be determined what happened here."

   Safarik and O'Toole are members of an elite FBI profiling unit specializing in cases with little evidence or promising leads. They typically work on high-profile cases with bizarre and unusual circumstances, or extremely violent crime.

   The profilers arrived in Modesto on Saturday.

   Working out of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, profilers primarily are used as a tool to help FBI agents narrow an investigation's focus.

   "By inviting us, (investigators) are asking us, 'What do you see here?' " O'Toole said.

   Safarik said profilers concentrate on victimology, or the study of a victim's behavior.

   Behavioral profiles are then combined with information from field interviews, searches and tips as agents develop possible theories. These theories involve the identification of a number of potential suspects.

   "The question we're usually trying to answer is, 'What type of risk level was the victim at?'" Safarik said. "We assess that, and it tells us how many people had access to the victim and what that person would have had to do to commit a crime."

   From there, investigators attempt to eliminate potential suspects through interviews, polygraph examinations and background checks.

   Safarik and O'Toole are two of more than 50 FBI agents investigating the disappearance of Eureka's Carole Yvonne Sund, 43, her daughter Juli, 15, and Silvina Pelosso, a 16-year-old exchange student from Argentina. The trio have been missing since Feb. 15 while on a visit to Yosemite.

   Sund's husband, Jens, and two other family members have taken lie detector tests. Carole Sund's father, Francis Carrington, said the FBI found nothing amiss.

   Nearly two weeks of air and ground searches have uncovered little evidence. Mariposa County Sheriff's Department searchers began Monday looking for clues in previously unsearched areas of Mariposa County and Yosemite, Maddock said.

   Modesto police detectives unsuccessfully re-canvassed a quarter-mile area surrounding the intersection of Briggsmore Avenue and Tully Road, Maddock said. That's where a teen-age girl walking to school Feb. 19 found Carole Sund's credit card insert.

   Investigators also used Modesto's automated telephone notification system to send messages to everyone in the area where the wallet was found.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI hot line at (800) 435-7883.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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