Claim: A toddler named Aaron Russell Steimetz is missing, and you should forward the plea to help find him to everyone you know.
Status:Not any more.
Example:[Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Aaron Russell Steinmetz
My name is Amanda Steinmetz. I live in Summerfield, Florida. My 3 1/2 year little boy is missing. His name is Aaron Russell Steinmetz. He was last seen with this father Michael Anthony Steinmetz on December 19, 1998 at 3:00 pm leaving a family wedding. They are traveling in a 1991 Chevy Astro Van Solid black with dark black window tint license plate #SFK47Q. I am asking that you help me by forwarding this letter to everyone you know and by posting his picture in your area. If you have seen or suspect anything suspicious, PLEASE contact the Marion County Sherriff at (352) 732-9111 as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation.
Origins: In common with the request for prayers for Amanda Bundy and the plea to find little Krystava Patients Schmidte-mails, this appeal illustrates the basic problem inherent to all such Internet enteaties — even when these things don't turn out to be hoaxes, there's no way to turn them off once the crisis has
Aaron Russell Steinmetz was returned to his mother on 18 February 1999. The entreaty to help aid in the search for him, however, lives on, rippling outward to an ever-widening circle of Netizens.
There was never any doubt but that little Aaron had been taken by his father and thus was in the care of a parent during the time he was missing. Unlike cases in which the child might be in the hands of a stranger who'd made off with him for God knows what evil purpose, parental kidnappings usually stem from a desire to have the company of the child (he's loved and missed, in other words), to rescue the youngster from the other parent (whom the abductor sees as a bad or dangerous influence), or to get back at the spouse by making off with what that person values most in the world. Whatever the motivation, the child's safety is generally not a critical issue — he might be in the wrong place and with the wrong parent, but he's probably safe. Consequently, though harried police departments do work to try to find the child and return him to the parent deemed to have legal custody, such cases are by necessity lower on the priority scale than an outright kidnapping by an unknown party.
In this case, the Marion County Sherriff's Office had pinned down the whereabouts of the errant dad by early February 1999. Sheriff's officials were initially powerless to make an arrest because although Mrs. Steinmetz had been awarded temporary custody, they needed a judge's order to take action. A warrant for Michael Steinmetz was finally sworn out on 7 February.
Michael and Amanda Steinmetz had been feuding over her demand for a divorce, and her husband took off with their son from a wedding all three had attended on 19 December 1998. Investigators say he called her Christmas Eve to tell her the next time she would ever see them again would be their names on a gravestone.
All's well that ends well, right?
Well, not really. As mentioned earlier, the cyber hunt for little Aaron is still on, at least in the minds of those who receive the appeal and who then forward the request to everyone they know. They've no way of knowing the hunt is over.
If you get a cybersolicitation to aid in the search for a missing child, still your natural desire to help long enough to do a bit of investigating of your own. Look to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for information about the child in question. If you don't find the child listed on their pages, call them at 1-800-THE-LOST and ask about the e-mail you've received. You might also look in the newsgroup alt.missing-kids.
Barbara "missing you(th)" Mikkelson
Last updated: 29 October 2007
Lloyd, Christopher. "Boy, 3, Returns to Mom After Dad Abducted Him."
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
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