You Can Run, Not Hide,
From Great Gumshoe Greene

Dana Canedy

When police in Troy, N.Y., failed to find Frederick Hogan after a two week search in 1976, Marilyn Greene stepped in. In just 20 minutes, she found the body of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate student, an apparent suicide.

That is the kind of success that has made the 37 year old Schenectady, N.Y., private investigator the United States' foremost finder of lost souls. Not all of her clients are satisfied with her performance, but she has nevertheless, located more than 200 people in the past two decades relying on instinct, certain tricks of the trade, her own theories, and various gumshoe accessories, including German shepherds and a sonar-equipped boat.

Once, she found a boy, whom she suspected had been taken by one of his parents to California, by calling libraries there to see whether he had applied for a library card. Another time she located the half-brother of a woman who wasn't even sure of his last name. The client and her half-brother had never met, but she had reason to believe that he lived in Hawaii. Mrs. Greene found him by sifting through phone books and calling listings similar to the name provided by her client.

Mrs. Greene's work as a sleuth is such an obsession that she says it cost her a marriage (she has since remarried) and, at times, has been a drag on her finances. She bills clients only what they can afford and thus accepted one case for just $6.50 (U.S.), one month's baby sitting wages for her 14-year-old client. “Missing-persons work is an eccentricity,” she declares.

“I give her only the highest marks,” says Ernest Lein, a retired Wisconsin sheriff, who worked with Mrs. Greene to find a missing hunter. He says he admires the way she analyzed the situation, organized searchers and mapped a plan before leading the search.

Consider the case of 24-year-old Frederick Hogan. He had vanished without his wallet, car or clothes. Mrs.Greene searched his room and questioned his friends efforts that hadn't provided any leads for the police.But she hit upon one important piece of information that authorities hadn't seen as significant: the previously straight A student had been upset about his grades. Three of Mrs.Greene's earlier cases involved bright students who had committed suicide.

Her attention turned to finding a body. She relied on her theory that people who killed themselves outdoors often are found within half a kilometre of where they were last seen and, often, at a higher elevation. (Mrs. Greene theorizes that they move to higher ground because they want to look down at their usual surroundings; also, they are seeking tranquility.) She found Mr.Hogan's body on an overgrown hillside visible from outside his dorm room.

Mrs. Greene has been called in by local police departments to solve unsolvable cases. She has even unravelled cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation had given up on. Her searches have taken her all over the United States.

Consider the search for the Wisconsin hunter, a wealthy 65 year old real estate developer.He apparently had been following a deer when things went awry, and he froze to death. Local officials, including the Civil Air Patrol, had searched in vain for four days before Mrs.Greene joined the effort and found his body in just six and half hours.

She succeeded by using one of her trained “air scent” dogs, which picked up the missing hunter's scent as they pushed through the swampy underbrush. Unlike traditional search dogs, hers don't follow foot prints and don't require any specific starting point.

Mrs.Greene also relies on some theories based on her own experience.For example, she says nearly all despondent elderly people who become lost are eventually found within six kilometres of where they were last seen. And first time teen runways usually take off in the company of a friend. The investigator says she began many years ago detecting patterns of behavior.

“She pretty much knew everything before I had a chance to tell her,” says Theodora Ruchalski, who sought Mrs.Greene's help when her 14 year old daughter ran away. Determining that the girl was a first runaway, Mrs.Greene contacted the girl's friends and discovered that one of them was also missing. Ultimately, she located the two girls by interviewing their chums, one of whom knew where they had gone.

She acknowledges that the cases that stump her are those in which the missing person doesn't follow a pattern. One such case involved a young man suspected of committing suicide. He was having family problems, a rope was missing from his garage, and his car was found with the key in the ignition and his wallet on the seat.

After conducting a routine suicide investigation, Mrs. Greene, frustrated and confused, had no leads. She began in her mind to retrace her steps. Then “it just hit me,” she says. “I couldn't find him because he wasn't there. “In fact, he had gone off to Boston and had wanted his family to think he had done himself in.

Mrs. Greene claims that agencies that try to find missing children would find more of them if they, too, paid attention to behavior patterns and other elementary investigative devices. “They plaster posters of a child on mall windows across the country when the child is 50 feet from home,” she says. “We really do know how to find them.” The majority of missing children, she contends, are victims of parental abductions or are runaways; they haven't been abducted by strangers.

When common sense and elementary investigative tactics fail her, Mrs.Greene leans on her research and on her book collection. She spends hours typing notes on each investigation to make sure she doesn't forget a relevant fact, and she also keeps files on every case in her cluttered basement office, which houses a library on subjects such as how to create a new identity. “It's a mini-institute of investigation,” she says.

She uses her $12,700 sonar equipped boat when searching for drowning victims. The boat charts the bottom of a body of water, and if it draws the shape of an inverted letter V, Mrs.Greene concludes that it is probably a body.

Mrs.Greene exhibits a nonchalant, almost coldly clinical attitude about some of the realities of her work. For instance, hanging in her office beside a small snapshot of her youngest son is a large framed photograph of herself digging a frozen body out of snow. Reminiscing about another case, she rolls around her fingers what she believes are the dentures of a woman whose body she never found.And while cutting into a rare steak at her dinner table, she boats of recovering a body lodged under water.

But Mrs. Greene considers herself a doctor and the missing person her patient. She tries not to become emotionally involved in a case. Occasionally, though, motherly concern sometimes gets the best of her. Her favourite case involves the 6 year old son of Martha Bicknell, a single mother. The boy had been abducted by a babysitter.

Mrs. Bicknell contacted the investigator after her own three year search for the boy had proved fruitless. Mrs.Greene says she became so engrossed in the case that she would wake up in the middle of the night to contemplate her next move.

The sitter's last name, Smith, made searching public records difficult. Through numerous interviews, Mrs.Greene learned that the woman had once been arrested for drunken driving. That was the lead she needed. Using motor vehicle records, Mrs.Greene found the sitter's current address. The effort took two months.

“I thought I would never see him again, “ says, Mrs.Bicknell, who is effusive in her praise of Mrs.Greene.

But the investigator does get her share of criticism. Clients Anatoly and Ludmilla Gotlib of Louisville, Ky., say they paid her $1,800 plus expenses in 1983 to help find their 12 year old daughter, who still hasn't been located. Mrs.Greene had been recommended by an organization that attempts to find missing children.

The girl's mother says she doesn't fault Mrs.Greene for failing to find her daughter, but says Mrs.Greene was unprofessional, in that she refused to share her discoveries with local authorities because they wouldn't open their files to her. And she never produced a final report, Mrs.Gotlib says. “I didn't want anything for my money but the names of the people she talked to,” Mrs.Gotlib says.

Mrs.Greene contends, however, that the police instructed her not to give the family a final report and told witnesses not to talk to her. “I honestly don't think it reflects poorly on me if the police wouldn't let me do my job, “ she says.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Greene has an enviable success record. “I'd like to think I'm so thorough,” she says, “ that if the only information I had on a missing person was a four year old traffic ticket, I could find him.”


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