Justice In Name Of (JINO), an advocacy organization that has joined with the family of Johnathan Shay in searching for the missing child living with autism, organized a search Monday in which the president of the organization, Laura Wyleski, questioned whether recommendations in searching for children with autism established by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention were followed.

Justice In Name Of (JINO), an advocacy organization that has joined with the family of Johnathan Shay in searching for the missing child living with autism, organized a search Monday in which the president of the organization, Laura Wyleski, questioned whether recommendations in searching for children with autism established by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention were followed.
Two months ago, on July 9, Johnathan Shay and his cousin, Xavier Baylor, walked away from a family member's residence in the rural St. James area. Baylor was found by the Missouri State Highway Patrol after the boys had split up, the following day. Shay is still missing.
Shay is a white 13-year-old boy, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. Shay is a child living with autism who was last seen wearing a gray shirt, dark blue shorts and black tennis shoes.
Shay’s mother, Melissa Perkins told the St. James Leader-Journal, a sister paper of The Rolla Daily News, before she left Monday with a search team that included a volunteer who is a retired member of the U.S. Air Force who specialized in searching for downed planes, that she was unsure of how she felt.
Perkins said she was “afraid” of what the searchers might find, but she was feeling hopeful.
According to JINO, about 50 people were involved in the search Monday. Included among the searchers were members of the Southwest Missouri Autism Network from Springfield, local St. James residents, media, the Patriot Guard, family members and volunteers from places like St. Louis and the local region.
Searchers worked in teams, traveling over rough terrain and posting missing posters aimed at hunters.
Perkins had the idea of creating a poster to put up in the heavily wooded areas so that hunters will see it in the upcoming hunting season. Perkins said she hopes that someone might see Shay or know something about his disappearance.
The posters, provided by JINO, are encased in plastic and have hunter orange strips across the top and bottom to make them visible.
JINO has been working closely with Perkins and the rest of Shay's family to continue the search for the missing boy.

Questions runaway label
Perkins and other family members, as well as JINO, have had nothing but praise for the sheriff’s detectives working on the case, especially Detective Sgt. George Arnold, who is currently the detective in charge of this case.
However, they have been critical of Sheriff Rick Lisenbe and decisions they believe originated with him in the beginning of the case.
One thing that has struck a particularly raw nerve with Perkins and JINO is that they feel Shay has been labeled a runaway and as a consequence, his case may not have been taken as seriously as it should have in the beginning.
Perkins told the Leader-Journal in an interview in mid-August, which is available online at www.therolladailynews.com, that Shay is not a runaway. She said she believes he would have come home by now if he were able to.
Shay has a history of wandering off or eloping, as the Center for Missing and Exploited Children calls the phenomena.
According to the center’s literature on missing children with special needs, “It is estimated nearly half of children with autism will wander or elope, a rate nearly four times higher than non-affected children.”
Perkins reported during earlier interviews that the two previous times Shay wandered for several hours or more was because he was “going to Africa to see the elephants” and “trying to pet the coyotes in the woods.”
Wyleski and Perkins said they had a meeting with Lisenbe recently. Wyleski told the Leader-Journal that the sheriff called Shay a runaway during that meeting.
“I said, ‘he's not a runaway. He's a child living with autism.’ He said he's run off before and I said, ‘no, wandered off before,’” Wyleski said.
Wyleski said she was frustrated by the meeting and the sheriff's perceived refusal “to acknowledge his (Shay's) autism.”

Monday’s search
The Leader-Journal was on scene at the search command post from before 8 a.m. until just after noon Monday. The only law enforcement agency that appeared at the post was the St. James Police Department, which periodically stopped by to check on searchers.
St. James Police Chief Ron Jones personally stopped by to introduce himself to Wyleski and those manning the command post. However, Shay's case is in the jurisdiction of the Phelps County Sheriff's Department, not the St. James Police Department's.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which receives part of its funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, has created a packet for law enforcement to use when they are responding to cases of missing children with special needs.
According to missingkids.com, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website, “the guide outlines recommended practices for law enforcement investigating missing child cases and was authored by a team of professionals from local, state and federal agencies. It describes a recommended step-by-step investigative process and offers a wealth of valuable resources to assist with missing and abducted children cases.”
The packet includes a checklist that is “meant to enhance the response measures taken by law enforcement to safely recover missing children with special needs.”
JINO was using the packet as a tool in their search. The packet can be downloaded as PDF files at www.missingkids.com/publications/NC13.
Among the materials included in the information available from the packet is an informational addendum that outlines how to handle the search and rescue of special needs children and particularly children with autism.
The addendum states, “While cases of missing children with special needs should be treated as critical incidents requiring elevated responses by law enforcement and first responders, children with autism have an unusually high mortality rate and are especially at risk.”
The addendum advises, “As with all critically missing children, time is a vitally important factor in a safe recovery. Public safety telecommunicators are encouraged to obtain the information noted below and immediately share it with all first responders. Additionally law enforcement agencies are encouraged to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) for additional assistance and resources, including search-and-rescue experts who may be able to immediately deploy to help find the child.”
Wyleski says she doesn't believe the advice from the packet, or “protocols” as she called them, were followed in Shay's case “from the get-go.” The packet is offered as advice to law enforcement by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but it is noted in the legal statement at the bottom of the document that it is “provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or professional opinion on specific facts.”

Sheriff explains missing persons classifications, provides updates on search efforts

Phelps County Sheriff Rick Lisenbe said while there are always Monday morning quarterbacks who like to look back and question what could or should have been done, “we’ve tapped into as much information as we could” in the search for a 13-year-old autistic boy who has been missing for two months as of today.
Lisenbe explained to The Rolla Daily News Tuesday that when a child is reported missing and entered into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES), information about the missing individual is taken into account in order to decide whether it fits the AMBER Alert criteria or another missing or runaway persons category.
Lisenbe said he believes the classification as a runaway for Johnathan Shay was likely made because the boy had been classified as a runaway before in the system and there had been a history of him leaving home.
The sheriff also said he believes several department heads at the Missouri State Highway Patrol reviewed the classification before signing off on it.
“You tell them (patrol) the situation, and they'll tell you if it qualifies as an AMBER Alert or it's a missing child (report),” Lisenbe said.
One of the previous times Shay left home, he traveled about 12 to 13 miles overnight before he was he was located.
“It may be that he’s out on an adventure...or that he wants to explore...but this is not his first time,” the sheriff said.
Lisenbe also updated the Daily News on the department’s efforts to search for the child. The sheriff’s office is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has shared publications and missing child alerts for Shay.
Sheriff’s deputies also were out last week searching to Shay with canine units, and Lisenbe said another search with dogs from the St. Louis area will take place later this week, when temperatures are forecast to be cooler.
Lisenbe said whatever searches the family organizes are fine with him as long as the volunteers be respectful of other people’s properties during their search.
“This area is so vast,” Lisenbe said, noting that the child could be within 5-10 feet of a searcher and the search party may not know.
The sheriff said his office continues to respond to calls about possible places where Shay might be. One recent call turned out to be dead livestock.
“There’s been no piece of clothing” of Shay’s located, Lisenbe said.
The sheriff also said Shay’s cousin, Xavier Baylor, who went missing with Shay but was found July 10 in the Dry Fork Creek, has been interviewed about five or six times by the sheriff’s office.
Adolescent psychologists and counselors also have interviewed Baylor about any information he may have about Shay.
When asked if the sheriff’s office plans to give up the search, Lisenbe said, “You never do if there is a reasonable likelihood that he’s out there.”
Lisenbe said he hopes with the leaves beginning to fall and hunting season starting that signs or clues to Shay’s whereabouts will surface.