Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Profile of Tim Miller and Texas EquuSearch

Mass Disasters and Missing People

On December 26, 2004, tsunamis swept across the Indian Ocean, spawned by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Aside from Indonesia, the island nation of Sri Lanka suffered the most casualties. More than 31,000 Sri Lankans died, and throughout Southeast Asia, the tsunami's overall death toll topped 200,000.

An organization in Sri Lanka contacted TES, asking for their assistance to search for missing people. "We had no clue how we were going to pull that off," says Miller, "but we did. I took 14 people to Sri Lanka for 14 days. In the first hour and 15 minutes, we found eight bodies. While we were there, we adopted a village, and when we left, it was cleaned up and ready to rebuild. In all, we found over 220 deceased people."

A Village in Sri Lanka after the disaster
A Village in Sri Lanka after the disaster

In the U.S., they were close to the state of Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans and destroyed many homes, so once again TES pitched in. "We adopted a family after Hurricane Katrina. Donations come in to help, but sometimes I don't know how we keep going, paying the phone and electric bills. God just blesses us. We keep giving, but we keep getting in return."

They operate on donations, fundraisers and the occasional grant. Members help, as do volunteers who participate in searches. Yet until they got involved in a high profile case, most people had never heard of them. That changed one day with a phone call on Father's day in 2005. It was from Paul Reynolds, the uncle of Natalee Holloway, missing in Aruba.

"I don't know if there is any way you can assist us," Reynolds said, "but we really need your help." He lived in the Houston Area, so Miller agreed to meet with him to discuss the situation. He already knew from news reports that the search was in Aruba. Since he'd led a search in another country, he was ready for the challenge, except for one thing: "We only had about $1,600 in our account." He knew that wouldn't get all the people he'd need to Aruba, but he told Reynolds that he'd go. "I took money from my company, off a job I'd been working on, but then the media did stories on us and we started getting donations, including plane tickets from Continental. I was able to take 115 people to Aruba with every resource you can imagine. We took the best of the best."

He would need it.

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