FBI Asking For Public’s Help In Search For Missing Idaho Children

Mar 9, 2020, 9:19 AM | Updated: 9:50 am
The FBI is asking anyone who visited Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019, to submit photos a...
The FBI is asking anyone who visited Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019, to submit photos and videos that may show missing children Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow. They were reported at the park with their mother, Lori Vallow, and their uncle, Alex Cox. (Photos provided by the FBI)
(Photos provided by the FBI)

REXBURG, Idaho – A former FBI special agent told KSL that pictures and videos from the public could provide crucial information in the search for missing 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow.

The FBI released pictures from the day trip the children took with their mother, Lori Vallow, and uncle, Alex Cox, to Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019.

On Thursday, they asked for the public’s help in the search.

“Law enforcement is seeking photos and videos which may have captured images of these persons and the vehicle, or images of crowds and other park visitors where these individuals may be present,” according to an FBI statement released last week.

Officials said they are hoping someone with a camera snapped a picture that could help solve the case.

“If Tylee did meet her demise in the park, she seemed blissfully unaware,” said Ryan’s aunt, Annie Cushing.

The FBI is asking anyone who visited the park on Sept. 8 to sift through their pictures for sightings of the family members or the Ford F-150 truck they were driving.

KSL TV’s Garna Mejia sat down with former FBI special agent Karl Schmae on Sunday for insight on what agents might be looking for.

Schmae worked for the FBI for 22 years and retired as a supervisory special agent from the domestic terrorism squad.

“It shows that the FBI is casting a wide net, they’re turning over every rock, every stone,” he said.

Yellowstone is an hour-and-a-half drive from Rexburg, Idaho, and sits on 3,468 square miles.

Millions visit the park annually and over 820,000 people — most of them with cameras — visited the park last September, during one of the park’s busiest months.

“The photographs I think can be crucial in several different ways,” Schmae said. “There is the obvious part of looking at the photograph to see what’s on it.”

Schmae said what you can’t see from the images that might lead to more evidence.

“The metadata — all these digital images have this metadata, which shows things like time stamps and GPS location,” he said.

Schmae also said the FBI’s request was not unprecedented, pointing to the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 people.

FBI agents asked for the public’s pictures and eventually identified the suspects from the attack.

“The FBI asked for the public’s help and they got an avalanche of material, cell phone images, photographs, videos and that was a lot of work for analysts to sort through, but the FBI did that and that was crucial to that investigation,” Schmae said.

Cushing hoped the public can help crack the case once again and help find Ryan and JJ Vallow.

“You just don’t know what someone might have picked up that will help them,” Cushing said.

An FBI spokesperson could not provide information on how many people have submitted pictures on their website but said it is just one part of the investigation that could help provide a timeline of the family at the park.

More of KSL’s coverage of this case can be found here.

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FBI Asking For Public’s Help In Search For Missing Idaho Children