CINCINNATI – A missing 16-year-old teen in distress.
A lost backpacker trekking through the woods or an adult who chooses to leave home without mention.
There are various reasons why someone goes missing and it's those reasons investigators work to immediately identify when they begin their search. But with each passing day, emotions surge and leads can dry.
But the case of Brogan Dulle was uncommon for investigators: He was a seemingly well-adjusted, happy, 21-year-old University of Cincinnati student who seemed to just vanish without a trace. And that left police scrambling to find a plausible theory for his disappearance, they said.
“Twenty-one-year-olds don’t go missing without a reason,” said criminal investigations commander Capt. Eliot Isaac, who was at the scene of where Dulle’s body was found. “That is extremely rare.”
What also made Dulle’s case so captivating was the ground swell of support the family inspired during the eight days he was missing. And while police officials say the fervent public interest in the case was not a primary factor in dedicating CIS resources, they knew the public sought answers.
“The amount of media attention, coupled with the miraculous momentum of the search, we knew we were obligated to answer the public’s questions,” Isaac said.
After countless hours of searching, Dulle's body was spotted Monday night by a landlord inspecting the property at 173 East McMillan St. in Mount Auburn, a building that is currently being rehabilitated. That house is just feet from Dulle's apartment.
Missing persons cases range from runaways, to those who suffer various traumas or medical conditions and mental illnesses. Some are found alive, while others are eventually discovered dead. In other cases, police have located people who want to stay missing; those who leave their homes, loved ones and work, because they simply did not want to be found.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey said Dulle likely suffered from the stresses “any 21-year-old man” would suffer from.
But many questioned how Dulle's body could go undetected for more than a week right under investigators’ noses.
No Search Warrant
Why didn’t investigators request a search warrant for the property at 173 E. McMillan St.?
“There’s something called the Constitution of the United States,” Isaac said. “We can’t arbitrarily request a judge to sign a search warrant for an entire city block without exigent circumstances or probable cause.
“In our investigation, we found none,” he said.
Police made several attempts to reach the landlord of the property, who was sick during much of the week, investigators said.
Police said Dulle was equipped with a crowbar, and given his swimmer’s physique, police believe he managed to climb up a fire escape on the home and enter the building. Investigators believe Dulle pried open a window, completely removing the glass leaving no jagged edges, which would otherwise indicate a suspicious breach.
Assistant Police Chief James Whalen, who’s been a top police commander for nearly 10 years, said every case starts with a missing person report form that documents details about the missing person, from gender and eye color, to the missing person's emotional state and the friends they might turn to. Investigations start at the district level, in this case District 4, and then move to the criminal investigations section and then police seek assistance from federal agencies -- all of which was done in this case.
“That’s what made this one different: we got a few days into it and we didn’t even have a theory,” Whalen said. “Then we thought, ‘he was a victim of foul play.’
“How often does it happen when someone doesn’t see something? Almost never.”
Whalen assigned a traffic unit investigator to comb the area for skid marks on the street around his house. Whalen also reiterated what Isaac said about requesting a search warrant for a private building or residence.
“There are legal processes that have to be observed,” Whalen said. “What evidence did we have that he was in that building versus any other? And the answer is none.”