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Adam Herrman / Irvin Groeninger III case- Eisenbise’s remarkable “runaway” comments and the ongoing search

This is the latest post in a series I have done around the Adam Herrman/Irvin Groeninger III case. I urge readers to explore my earlier work to gain familiarity with the case and my interpretation of it. See my Irvin Groeninger III tag for more. My most recent post will always appear first on the tag.


I’ve been advising readers to use KWCH’s chart profiling Adam Herrman’s Family to help keep track of the variety of voices in this story.

By way of a second tool, I’d also like to begin pointing readers towards the Wichita Eagle’s A timeline for the Adam Herrman case. It too, is a very useful tool in keeping track of the all the dates in this story.



So by way of a midweek update, firstly, earlier this week (Kansas) State Senator Jean Schodorf, the Senate assistant majority leader called for an audit of the State’s interactions with the Herrmans. See this January 11th AP story Kan. lawmaker seeks audit for case of missing boy:

State Sen. Jean Schodorf, the Senate assistant majority leader, said Friday she had asked Don Jordan, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, to look for any signs that authorities had needed to take Adam out of the home and whether the state played a part in his disappearance by not acting on them.

“We need to … find out if indeed the state or the system lost this child somewhere,” said Schodorf. “It is just a mystery. Maybe everything was done correctly.”

A review was already underway:

Michelle Ponce, spokeswoman for the social services department, said it already was conducting a “very thorough review” and would cooperate with any criminal investigation.

The department and Derby police said they investigated at least two reports of suspected abuse of Adam in 1996 and 1998.

Adam was in protective custody for two days following the 1996 report, but was returned to adoptive parents Valerie and Doug Herrman after authorities determined the report was unsubstantiated, Ponce said.

The article also elaborates on the state’s homeschool requirements, which are at best, pathetic, not even requiring ongoing evidence that the child is being educated let alone ever completed their education:

State law requires operators of home schools to provide a name and address but doesn’t require records of students who are home-schooled, said Ed Libber, general counsel for the Kansas Department of Education. State records listed a Herrman School with a Derby address as a non-accredited private school in January 1998.

Schodorf said she wasn’t pushing for changing the laws to increase scrutiny when children are withdrawn from school.

“I think we’ve got to piece together this boy’s life and then decide if the state needs to change their regulations,” she said. “And it’s probably too hard to tell now.”

As I have said time and again in these homeschool/kid gone missing cases, the lack of follow up means the default assumption is that the kid is still there, but it’s never anyone’s job description to verify that.

If there is any one lesson to be learned from these cases it’s that disappearing a kid off into “homeschooling” and never so much as checking to see if the kid is still there is a recipe for disaster. See my homeschool tag for other examples of cases where such has been a factor.

In any case, for more on the SRS review also see this Wichita Eagle article, SRS to review contacts with Adam Herrman, which while essentially the same as the above, also points out this important detail:

The Eagle has filed a request with SRS under the state’s open-records law for information about Adam.

Then there has been today’s news, the search in the Towanda trailer park. I’ve pulled a bunch of articles and some video about the search, read any one to get the overview I’m going to try to highlight the portions of the different articles that bring forth interesting details.

Start with this, Mobile Home Park Searched for Remains and the related videos in the upper left hand corner box.

Then see The Science Behind the Search and the video the accompanies it.

As both stories point out what prompted the search at the trailer park, unlike the earlier search near the river was a tip:

An out of state tip takes Butler County Sheriff’s investigators back to the shed near the family’s old mobile home Wednesday.

Of the search:

Wednesday Sheriff Craig Murphy would only say they found ‘trash’ that shouldn’t be underneath a shed.

The shed was apparently erected during roughly the same time frame as Irvin/Adam’s disappearance.

Next see this AP piece, Updated: Deputies dig at boy’s former home:

Investigators found no human remains while digging at the mobile home park where a Kansas boy whose disappearance went unreported for a decade once lived, the local sheriff said today.

But Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said searchers have found something connected to the investigation, although he wouldn’t elaborate. The dig also brought up trash and other things that investigators were examining, he said.

More about the tip and the shed:

Investigators — acting on an out-of-state tip about some “unusual activity” in the area at the time of Adam’s disappearance — removed a shed and concrete pad today that was installed in the summer of 1999 at the mobile home lot where Adam and his adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman, lived.

This is the second time the investigation has probed the area:

Authorities searching the lot last month had drilled holes into the concrete slab and probed the ground.

The Herrmans, who managed the park, moved their mobile home from Towanda to Sedgwick County after Adam disappeared.

This article also importantly also contains new details about the Herrmans’ claims that Irvin/Adam was a frequent runaway and their interactions with the local police department:

The family’s attorney, Warner Eisenbise, has said his clients didn’t have anything to do with the boy’s disappearance. He has said Adam ran away frequently, and every other time police were called or the boy wandered back. The last time, the parents c, he said.

But Towanda Police Chief Erik King said today that he has searched police records from September 1998 through January 2000 and has been unable to find any runaway or abuse reports dealing with the Herrmans.

The only contact police had with the Herrmans was in their capacity as managers of the mobile home park, he said.

(emphasis added)

In short, based on the article the notion that the police were called about Irvin/Adam running away has no paper trail to substantiate it.

That said how does this relate to the 1998 timeline entry?

Jan. 14, 1998: Adam runs away, according to Derby police.

He “returned on his own within two hours of the report and no further action was taken,” Brant said.

Also note that his claim that the Herrmans “didn’t try to find him” contradicts the earlier claims of having gone looking for him.

Their lawyer’s claim is pretty remarkable in and of itself, the kid disappears and they “didn’t try to find him”?!?

What parent, adoptive or otherwise, would show such indifference to an eleven year old?

Finally, see the Wichita Eagle’s No human remains found beneath Towanda storage shed:

“We’re done here,” Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said shortly after 1:30 p.m. at the Pine Ridge Trailer Park on the south edge of Towanda.

The missing boy lived with his adoptive parents in a home next to the storage shed when he was last seen in 1999. His adoptive mother was manager of the trailer park at the time.

Despite dismissive articles from earlier on in the week such as Monday’s AP piece Search for missing Kansas boy growing cold, according to the Wichita Eagle piece, the investigation is still “very active”:

“From here, we’re going to be moving on, evaluating the case,” Murphy said.

Murphy adamantly denied the case has grown cold.

“It is not cold,” he said. “It’s very active. It’s going to stay active, and it’s going to come to a conclusion sooner or later.”

Murphy said investigators have found “some things” in the course of today’s dig, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

Apparently the two searches of the site have a common thread for investigators:

Today is not the first visit authorities have made to the storage shed site, Murphy said. Investigators had holes drilled into the storage shed pad and probed for evidence on New Year’s Eve.

Murphy has said that investigators found an “answer” during the earlier search, but he still won’t say what that answer was.

Today’s search is connected to that answer, he said.

Perhaps that “answer” is related to the January 5th entry to the timeline:

Jan. 5, 2009: Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy holds a news conference in El Dorado, telling reporters that detectives are treating Adam’s disappearance as a death, although he could still be alive. Without elaborating, Murphy says investigators are “holding tightly” to something they found and not revealing it. He welcomes national attention to the case, saying it could help locate Adam if he is alive. He asks for the public’s help and releases Adam’s fourth-grade picture.

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