Last Seen Alive: Finding The “Mistaken” Runaway, Cami DiGirolamo

moica_caison_squareby: Monica Caison

16-year-old Cami DiGirolamo was last seen on Feb. 4th 2014 in Herriman Utah. After reading all the background on the circumstances of her disappearance, getting all the fact finding together and arriving at her family home in Utah, I had a clear sense that this was a “mistaken” runaway case. I believed after speaking with her family that this really was a case of miscommunication that had grown and gotten out of hand.

Cami had snuck out of her house on that February night for a period of time and then tried to return. Cami had run away before and her family thought she had again, so they involved law enforcement. When Cami tried to return home and discovered the police were involved she was too scared to return, she knew she was in trouble, even though she had not run this time. She was so fearful that she decided living on the streets was a better choice, and she did so for six weeks.

The challenge in this case from the beginning was getting the family to understand that what was most important was finding an avenue for Cami to come home, rather than punishing her for her initial crime of sneaking out. We needed to “find her a way home,” but I knew that walking into her front door was not going to be the best solution to the situation. Finding her long term care and a place that would provide her with tools to grow as a person and how to be more accountable for her life and her actions was the number one goal after finding her and getting our message to her.

cami

In doing my homework on the case, research and my victimology I began to get a true picture of who Cami was and what her growing pains were about. I began to get to the truth of the situation and I knew what kind of kid I was dealing with and what she was thinking. She had made some bad decisions and had set all of this in motion, and after the fact the adults involved played a part in it as well.

After meeting and speaking with the family I began reaching out to friends. Many of these kids had spoken with Cami but did not know where she was. Law enforcement had also spoken with many of the same kids but they would not give them any information.

I finally connected with a young man who had recent contact with her and we spoke in depth. Cami had reached out to him and wanted necessity items such as deodorant and toothpaste. Listening to him recount their conversation, I realized that she would not be able to survive on the streets for long and that she was not as savvy as everyone gave her credit for.

I met this young man at his job, we were able to speak in person and he began to trust me, he would become my messenger, and I knew if the message was right we could find Cami.

The message was simple really, it was about finding her a way home, I needed her to understand that I was not trying to trap her, but wanted to give her the help she needed. Cami needed to hear that we were seeking out alternatives for her, a place to go where she could heal and work things out with her family. Finding her was most important and it was not about “getting her in trouble”, she needed to understand and trust that. Cami needed to know that I was not lying to her, and her family and I needed to be patient with her as this part of the investigation unfolded. My messenger kept reaching out on my behalf and getting the word out.

While I worked at getting the message to her we never stopped searching, and the whole time we searched we worked on the plan for when she was found. Cami was also aware of when I would be leaving Utah, my plane information and more. I knew instinctively that her call to me would come after I left, and sure enough it was while I was in the air. I got back in touch immediately and we arranged through her sister, safe passage home. The plan was in place, which was key, there was a trust in place and now the healing could begin.

There needs to be a greater understanding of why kids run, many times these kids are “lost before they ever become missing.” Law enforcement needs to understand that these kids are not “just runaways”. There needs to be an understanding of who the kid is, a plan needs to be put in place so that once they are found there can be safe passage home and safe passage to a safe place. It is not about finding them and putting them in Juvy. It’s not about finding them and dumping them back from where they ran. Locate them and make sure they are and will be safe.

There needs to be more work done on addressing the issues of runaways. Every runaway does not have to be chased; they will come to you if you build the trust. In most cases, somewhere along the line their trust has been broken with an adult. This was true in Carmi’s case and I needed to live up to my message and what I had told her, because I know what it’s like to be lied to. I needed to get Cami’s family on board as well with all I was doing in the case and what my message would be.

In all runaway cases investigators need to get to the source of the problem and why the kid is running. What happens many times is the longer they are out there the chances are great that they will become a victim of another crime. We need to help fix the kid and help them to deal with their issues and then fix the situation to get them home.

I am hopeful that in Cami’s case the healing process is well under way and that she has been given the tools that she needs to grow and make good choices in her life and to be accountable for all the decisions she makes as well as having the support and understanding of her family.

Monica Caison has dedicated 20 years of her life to the search for missing persons. In 1994, she launched the non-profit CUE Center for Missing Personswhich has since processed more than 9,000 cases across North America.

  • marshia morton

    So wonderful that this person is no longer missing but what is more impressive is the different view of understand to the “why”. I think Monica was able to show the problem in a new light and might be a way to fix the problems before they are missing.

  • Carol Daughtery

    It was a great show…. think it will also help parents realize not only the dangers, but the challenges that so many young people deal with…I so understood Cami…and that, many of us share…for when going home is not anything we might want, it places us in jeopardy..as we all say.. There for the Grace of God, Go I~ <3…am posting this on the show link…You rock it Monica !!!! <3

  • Another great episode. Monica seems to be able to relate to people in ways le has not been able to. She forms a connection and builds trust enabling the runaways path to home to become a possibility and then a reality.

  • CeJaye Myrick Hull

    I’ve been passing lost posters and searching for lost ones for 9 years
    now. I never took runaways but after reading Monica’s article I see
    things in a new light. Thank you Monica for the enlightenment!

  • Sunny Day

    Very glad to hear she is safe..Cami.I know if you see this u have heard the wait until ur older or a parent you will understand..Which is true you will..Remember just because they r ur parents they r still human and make mistakes..You will be surprised if you take the high road at times..That even though they r the parent ur move may be the correct one..Your parents have weaknesses and challenges also..It is amazing how much closer i am to my parents once I didnt exspect so much out of them..I really am not a pro and I doubt you will see this but if you do.Keep going strong..You have so many that r proud of you and so many that u can be an example for..Because the challenges never end just the way we deal with them can change with hard work..

  • Teresa Potapa Halliday

    Woo Hoo Monica, you rock! God Bless this young lady and prayers for healing and a bright future! Maybe someday she’ll be helping CUE with other missing person’s cases!!! Woot Woot!!!

  • David DeArmas

    Very glad she is safe, great job as usual.

  • Delilah Jones

    Always good to hear a happy ending, and as Monica Caison says in this article, law enforcement needs to step up for the runaways and use tactics other than chase, catch, and punish. They are almost always in danger, or will be if left on the street for long. This series is so important for the general public to watch and become educated about the real world of missing persons and how much volunteers do to bring them home.

  • Warren P. Crossman

    Great work, Monica! I love this new show, and hope there will be many more happy endings.

  • Judi Jordan

    This is an awesome story. Importantly, it is a true story. I don’t know anyone who is as patient and as thorough as you. Thank you many many times over for doing what you do, and for getting the message out there.

  • Kathleen Dorn Keller

    Kathleen Dorn Keller
    10 hours ago
    Monica you never cease to amaze me… You approach each missing person case as uniquely as every person can be… You try to get in the missing persons head to find out what caused them to go missing initially… You try to find out the family dynamic and work with them to bring a successful ending… You realize it’s not only important to bring the person home but to also provide a safe place to land… Thank you for what you do and I only hope others can learn from your experience… It doesn’t matter to you if the person is influential, living on the streets or a child… They are all someone’s child…

  • crystal

    This is an awesome show! Love to hear happy endings! Would love to have a link where others can submit cases also! My brother has been missing for almost ten years and we can’t get anyone interested in his story….someone please help me find him!

  • Randy Young

    Watching ID and Cami’s mom seems more worried about punishing her than getting her back. I think she would have come home in the first couple of days if it weren’t for the mothers attitude … Sad…

    • Vixx

      For one thing have you had a run away child? and 2nd she was really worried but also probably angry that her child ran away for no apparent reason? None was given on the show apart from the police being at the house because her parents were worried!! For me the case seemed like a spoilt brat wanting her own way. Oh it must be the parents fault..