In thousands of young adult novels, kid detectives have helped solve mysteries and crimes, large and small. Outside those fictional worlds, however, it’s far less common for children to directly contribute to solving cases.
What is it like, from a child’s perspective, to help solve a mystery? A&E Real Crime spoke with two young people who helped law enforcement close cases within the past year to find that out. Here are their stories.
Logan Hultman and Friends, California
When Glenneta Belford, a 97-year-old woman with dementia who was living in a care facility in Roseville, California, was reported missing on September 30, 2019, the local police and fire department requested help from the community to find her. They distributed her description via social media and a community-notification app and broadcast it via a police helicopter, said Lt. Scott Blynn of Roseville Police Department’s patrol division.
A group of four young friends—11-year-olds Hope Claiborne and Makenna Rogers and 10-year-olds Logan Hultman and Kashton Claiborne—joined the search once they heard the helicopter announcement.
Logan, now 11, says that once his friends asked him whether he wanted to help look for Belford, he only stopped to ask his mom for permission before joining the group.
They first searched the woods on their bikes, since the missing woman had last been seen near a large wooded area close to the city, which had several bike trails and footpaths.
“We heard she liked to hide, so we checked on the trail because there are a lot of hiding spots there,” Logan tells A&E Real Crime.
While they weren’t successful at first, they decided to continue their hunt after a dinner break. Logan received first aid at that point since he says he scraped his knee during the search.
They then went back out to check around the neighborhood. That’s when their determination paid off.
By sunset, they found her while she was walking on the sidewalk on Woodcreek Oaks Boulevard, a main road in the community.
Hope Claiborne, who was able to identify Belford from a photo her father texted her, called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher that the group had found the woman. Police were able to respond to the scene within a minute.
“It’s a good thing we found her right then since she was about to walk into the street,” Logan says.
Logan’s mom, Alyssa, says the children burst through the door of their home, which is just a couple blocks from where they found Belford, and exclaimed that they had found her.
“I was surprised, and I was super happy,” Logan says. “I’m glad she’s OK and alive. It could have gone a lot worse, but it went great.”
Blynn says the police were able to bring her back to the care facility, in good health.
“It was great that the young kids went out all on their own and wanted to help find this lady and worked together with the community and the police department and help out,” he says.
Belford’s caretaker sent the four children each a thank you note and gift card, Alyssa says.
Logan says the only previous mystery-solving experience he had was figuring out “simple little things like who took my Xbox controller,” though he enjoys reading mystery books and “books with lots of action.”
“I just felt like it would be the right thing to do,” Logan says. “[Belford’s] caretaker and everybody else was probably scared about her and she’s another person, so I should help her. I also have faith in God, so I believe it would be the right thing to do, and I just hope she would be alright.”
Max Werenka, British Columbia
In October 1992, Janet Farris’s family reported her missing. Farris, 70 at the time, had been driving along the Trans-Canada Highway from Innisfail, Alberta, to Mill Bay, British Columbia, to attend a relative’s wedding. But she never arrived at the event.
While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police conducted a thorough search by land and air, they were unable to find Farris and her vehicle.
But nearly three decades years later, in August 2019, Max Werenka, 13 at the time, made a discovery in Griffin Lake, where his family owns rental cabins.
The Trans-Canada Highway runs along the area, and at the time of Farris’s disappearance, there were no barricades along the highway, Cpl. Thomas Blackney of the RCMP tells A&E Real Crime.
When a cabin guest noticed something in the water, Max decided to investigate and swam out to that location in the lake, about 10 feet from shore. There, he spied a car.
“[Finding the car] was really shocking and weird. Unexpected,” Max tells A&E Real Crime.
When the Werenkas researched online about any incidents of sunken cars, they found a story about people who had been rescued in 2009 after driving into the lake. They initially concluded that was the car Max had seen. The next day, they told an RCMP officer, who happened to be visiting a cabin guest, about the car in the lake and that they were surprised it was still there since the incident was several years earlier. But the officer informed the family that the car from that accident had been removed from the lake.
Blackney says the RCMP officer reported the incident, and the official investigation into the mysterious vehicle began. Two RCMP members were deployed to handle the case, and Max led them to the site on his family’s boat. He also took underwater footage of the wreckage with his GoPro.
On August 24, an RCMP diving team more closely examined the scene and ran the license plate through police databases. It was Janet Farris’s vehicle.
Blackney says that while the Trans-Canada highway sees a lot of traffic, there are stretches, such as the one by Griffin Lake, that aren’t busy—and that without someone like Max specifically exploring that part of the lake, the vehicle wouldn’t have been found. While the lake is only about a half-mile wide, there’s limited light and the car was right next to the highway, away from cabins.
Since the vehicle was found upside down in the water, it seemed to have veered off-road to the right from the highway, says Blackney. That was consistent with a car traveling westbound, as Farris would have been in her journey. The RCMP was able to match the plate to data in her missing person’s file and tow the car out of the lake, ending the 27-year-old mystery of her disappearance.
Blackney praised Max’s willingness to assist in the case by exploring that part of the lake, locating the vehicle and searching online to find out why the vehicle was in the lake.
“We commend Max for doing that and following through with that as opposed to just leaving it,” Blackney says. “We’re grateful for his help.” He adds Max will likely be formally recognized by authorities for his assistance to the case at some point soon.