Missing Arkansas Mother Dawna Natzke Search Could Have Used a Head Start

Dawna NatzkeIf I woke up one morning and the husband I'd left sitting in his chair watching TV the night before was gone, I would be frantic. So I can't imagine what it's been like for the family of missing Arkansas mother Dawna Natzke. The mother of three disappeared three days before Christmas, but she wasn't reported missing by her family for another two days.

What? Two days? All it takes to know time is of the essence in a missing persons case is a few viewings of any of the police procedurals on TV! And yet, I can't fault her kid.


Ironically, those cop dramas are the same shows that tend to spread misinformation about the missing persons process. I don't know how many times I've seen TV cops brush off a person's complaint that an adult is missing because adults have the right to walk off alone. And now the lack of news in the Natze case makes me feel for every family who has sat and tried to wait someone out because "Hey, they're an adult! Who knows where they went?"

I can imagine that was going through the minds of the Natzkes too. The mother of three was last seen sitting in front of the TV when her boyfriend went to bed on the night of December 21. Since then, there had been nothing. Her car has just been found by police burnt to a crisp in a remote part of the Oauchita National Forest, but there was no sign of Natzke herself. It makes you wonder what happened during the two days when cops weren't looking, doesn't it?

No wonder many police agencies are getting rid of the waiting period you hear about on TV. Too often, it's been found to hinder investigations rather than save police time they would waste searching for adults who made a conscious decision to walk off.

In Alabama, father Billy Leeth is pushing for an Amanda Alert, named for his murdered daughter, who he wasn't allowed to officially report missing for two whole days. The alert would put out word that a person's family is looking for them, even if police aren't actually putting manpower into the investigation yet.

But the Natzke family had an advantage over Leeth's. Arkansas is one of many states that puts no waiting period on reporting someone missing. The state's law requires all missing persons be added to the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File as soon as a report is made to the police.

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, the delay is frustrating to the police themselves. Natzke was their emergency dispatcher for the past six years, and they've been getting heat for the length of time it took to find the car even as they're worrying for one of their own.

I hope Dawna Natzke is found alive, but regardless, her story just gives us more proof that there should be no waiting period for reporting someone missing. The sooner police can look, the better.

If you had to report someone missing, would you know the rules in your state?


Image via Dawna Flyers

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