A Profile of Tim Miller and Texas EquuSearch
"After Laura was found," Miller recalls, "there was a rash of murders of young girls in the area and I would go to the spots where they had been found to see if there was any similarity in the area where Laura was found. Then I started meeting with several of the families. It was pretty painful."
The disappearance of Laura Smithers in 1997 in the next town gave Miller the idea for an organization that would assist the families over and above what the police were able to do. For a few days, he assisted in the Smithers search, but it was more than two weeks before a man walking his dog found her remains. Her family grieved and then founded the Laura Recovery Center, so Miller volunteered there. While working one day, he got into a discussion with the center's director, who suggested to Miller, a horseman, that he start a mounted search-and-rescue operation. Something like that would be quite helpful in a state like Texas.
Miller put out the word in August 2000 and within a few months, he had 45 members coming to meetings once a month. Most had horses. But as word about their activities spread, the organization shifted. "People started coming who had boats and who were certified rescue divers offering up their resources and wanting to join," says Miller. "People even came with planes, or a helicopter. Many people came with four wheelers, and then we got our own infrared and night-vision equipment. We grew past just the horses and ended up with more resources than most places have."
As more people learned about them, they received calls from all over the state and then from out of state. "Even after Laura's death I didn't realize just how many people were really missing," says Miller. "I remember the seventh or eighth search we got called into was for Julie Sanders, about 250 miles away. We were still fairly new and we had no money, but I went up there and put the search together. At the end of the first day we found Julie's body."
Texas EquuSearch (TES) is now among the few specialized volunteer teams that offer law enforcement assistance in undertaking searches for missing persons presumed to be dead. Another such team, based in Colorado, is NecroSearch, a group of engineers and scientists who also tackle cases in difficult terrain. However, TES is set apart from any other in that they utilize the skills and abilities of horseback riders, they can quickly marshal a large force of volunteers, and they're flexible enough to accept assistance from a variety of disciplines. Funded solely by donations, they sometimes operate at a deficit, but they keep going, because Tim Miller can't imagine telling a family in need that he does not have the resources to assist.
On the Web site, www.TexasequuSearch.org, the organization offers the following statement:
"You will find our organization to be compassionate, dedicated and professional. We believe that we can better ourselves by working together to help the community and people in need. Many of our members are trained in various rescue and life saving skills such as CPR, advanced lifesaving skills and field craft. Our members come from all walks of life. We have business owners, medics, firefighters, housewives, electricians and students on our team. Our resources range from horse and rider teams to foot searchers, water (divers, boats) air (planes, helicopters), dog teams (air scent, cadaver and tracking) and 4x4's. We have also utilized infrared cameras in some of our searches."
Sadly, they receive plenty of requests.