Three years later, boy's disappearance raises more questions than answers

Cops, those lifelong law enforcement officers in both career commitment and talent, come to the profession possessed and sometimes leave haunted.

They come to the career to fix all that is wrong with the world. They most often leave understanding and accepting they have made a positive difference in the daily lives of individuals they have protected and served.

But if a law enforcement career takes that fateful turn, there will be that one unsolved case: that one victim, that one set of circumstances or that one suspect that will forever haunt that cop or cops.

Others may get to move on, but those cops will have no choice but to chase this ghost.

June 4 marked the third anniversary of the disappearance of Kyron Horman from his school in Northwest Multnomah County. And although the end of the story is yet to be written, investigators in the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office are beginning to feel the haunting. 

There is a true sense of professional loss in the Kyron case. The deputies and officers involved in the Kyron case are committed and talented. Nonetheless, they are clearly looking in the rearview mirror, wondering what might have been different. There may be no second guessing out loud, but privately there will be much unresolved professional angst.

They have been battling three things: what has seemingly been a go-nowhere investigation, the motivation not to be outsmarted and, most of all, the refusal to accept defeat.

Publicly, the quest has been answers for the family and justice for Kyron. Privately, it will be about getting the ghost out of the room.

Consider, too, that the sheriff’s office has been living with the substantial fear of losing the public’s confidence. In retracing the past, even if the technical part of the investigation appeared to be sound, there is no doubt the public’s perception could be different. That public view probably seemed like a series of continual promises of progress, that results were “just around the corner.”

Looking back, it was a search-and-rescue operation without a rescue and a search that lacked any evidentiary value. A Multnomah County grand jury conducted inquiries into Kyron’s disappearance but did not publicly announce any conclusions. A formal task force seeking leads in the case disbanded July 2011.

At the same time, Kyron’s father and stepmother, Kaine Horman and Terri Moulton Horman, are divorcing, and Kyron’s mother, Desiree Young, is suing Terri Horman. In fact, it could be in either of those two cases where justice might be eventually found for Kyron.

After all this time, the public may have tuned out the case. But on Aug. 1, courtroom activity is scheduled to resume and perhaps more information may be revealed. Last November, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Henry Kantor granted a delay in Desiree Young’s civil suit against Terri Horman. Impressions at that time were that Kantor’s decision indicated that progress had been made in the investigation and that the civil proceedings might jeopardize the criminal investigation.

I believe the judge made the right call. In fact, it was the only call he could make.

But we have to face the possibility that there may be nothing magical about Aug. 1. If that’s so, then what’s next? There certainly is great risk that further investigation might become irrelevant and the public’s confidence will continue to erode.

Blame for an unsolved crime is not the issue here, but there have been missteps that have led to wounded feelings because hope had been high. Measured, meaningful and accountable public communication is the least the public should expect.

Bernie Giusto was Multnomah County sheriff for six years before retiring in June 2008. Sheriff Dan Staton was in charge when Kyron Horman disappeared on June 4, 2010.

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