“Missing: Dead or Alive?” is a new Netflix docuseries of the increasingly popular true-crime genre, with its focus on cases of missing persons instead of any hardcore murder or drug ring. The show presents the missing person desk of the sheriff’s department in a small South Carolina town and has four cases of varying kinds spread over four episodes. Instead of focusing entirely on the cases, though, the series also brings to the fore the effect the investigations have on the personal lives of the detectives. But “Missing: Dead or Alive?” ultimately does not come off as a satisfying watch, as more could have been explored in the specific investigation of the cases.
What Is ‘Missing: Dead or Alive?’ About?
The series opens in Columbia, South Carolina, where a police investigator has received a new case about an elderly woman who has gone missing. This investigator is Vicki Rains, who has recently started work at the Missing Persons Department of the police force in the region. After having worked many years in Major Crimes, which mostly deal with cases of murder and homicide, Vicki finds the possibility of preventing any life-taking crime before it actually takes place rather exciting. She is joined by the captain of the department, Heidi Jackson, and another senior investigator, J.P. Smith, who handles the cases of minors going missing. The three individuals then take on four different cases over the course of the four episodes of the docuseries, as they try their best to find the victims before anything fatally harmful happens to them.
The first case presents sixty-one-year-old Lorraine Garcia, who goes missing from her house one day after having complained to her neighbors about her son being violent and threatening towards her. Having served in the US Army in the Iraq War, Lorraine’s son Anthony is found to suffer from PTSD and have a very violent nature, but the man constantly claims that he has done nothing to his mother. The second case involves a young girl named Amirah Watson, whose father comes in claiming that his ex-partner, Amirah’s biological mother, had kidnapped his daughter and ran off with her somewhere, as the courts had handed over the girl’s custody to the father. The investigators here not only have to find the absconding mother but also ensure that young Amirah is kept safe during this time. The third case is of seventy-one-year-old David Taylor, who mysteriously goes missing on a random ordinary day, leaving his truck behind by the side of the highway. But what could possibly turn the ordinary factor into extraordinary was that David had just won a $10,000 lottery and was looking for the office to cash in his ticket. The last case involves seventeen-year-old Sierra Stevens stepping out of her foster home to watch a movie at a nearby theater, never to return for days. Although there is the possibility that the girl had run away from home willingly, the fact that she had left all her personal belongings behind and that the area where she lives is known for girls being sold off into the flesh trade makes the case require utmost urgency.
What Had Happened To Lorraine Garcia? Was Her Son, Anthony, Involved?
After getting the first call about Lorraine Garcia having gone missing, Vicki Rains goes over to the woman’s house along with the rest of her team. Although Lorraine is known to live there with her son Anthony, the place is currently empty, so the police enter to investigate. There are strange holes in the inside walls of the house, and the doorknobs of every room are attached with strings, which confuses the detectives. A specific door is also found to be kept off-limits with a piece of wood stuck across it, and the police get a search warrant in order to go through it. Although this room does not ultimately contain anything useful, other suspicious items, like the photograph and carpet of Lorraine being thrown out of the house or her phone being burned inside a barrel in the backyard, are found. Gradually, as the police ask around the neighbors and speak to other crucial witnesses, the case starts to take a definite shape.
The son, Anthony, suffers from PTSD following his time in the Iraq War and is known to be violent towards family members. In fact, the phone call that asked the police department to look for Lorraine had not been made by Anthony but by his ex-wife, Lamanda, who was concerned about the elderly woman’s safety, as Anthony was often very violent and threatening towards her. Having faced such outrage herself, Lamanda now wanted to ensure that her ex-mother-in-law was safe since she had not talked with her for a particularly long time, which was unusual for them. As more information about Anthony gets revealed, he becomes the prime suspect for having done something harmful to the mother. It was he who had punched in the walls out of rage, and the man sometimes had fits of extreme paranoia, believing that someone was out to hurt him, and the strings on the doorknobs were probably makeshift safety measures he had made.
When Anthony is questioned by the police, he says that Lorraine was not taking her medications, for which he had admitted her to a local hospital, and the woman had checked herself out from there. Along with suspiciously throwing out his mother’s belongings after she had gone missing, the man then went on to sell off the house, which belonged to Lorraine. He had put up ads on Facebook Marketplace and then even signed paperwork with a buyer, even though he was not the rightful owner. Anthony is soon arrested on charges of fraud because of this, but the detectives intend to find out for sure whether he harmed his mother.
Ultimately, though, the case takes a positive turn when Lorraine’s bank sends the police a voice message recording in which an elderly woman named Lorraine Garcia calls asking for her own account details and mentions that she has recently moved to a new address. This gives hope that Lorraine is possibly still alive, and the police track down the number from which she made the call to the bank. Going to the area, Vicki Rains is ultimately able to find Lorraine Garcia alive and healthy. Broken down by the mistreatment that her son would mete out against her and also concerned for her own safety since Anthony would bring in strangers to her house, Lorraine had willingly run away from the hospital and her usual life. Moving to this new undisclosed location, she had settled down to have a new life with no contact with her son Anthony.
How Do The Police Find Amirah Watson?
The case of Amirah Watson is perhaps the least complicated one among the four, but the fact that the victim here is a young girl of just ten makes it just as worrisome. A report of Amirah’s disappearance is brought in by her own father, Mansoor, who reveals that it was his ex-partner and Amirah’s own biological mother who had taken the girl away. As Mansoor explains the entire matter, it is revealed that the man and his ex-partner had only been involved with each other for a few years, and their relationship was never good. But within this time, Amirah had been born to them, and both wanted custody of the daughter. A court case naturally followed, and it was ultimately decided that Mansoor was in a far better position to take care of the girl, and he was to keep Amirah. The mother was allowed to meet her daughter, but on the very first occasion of such a meeting, she had taken Amirah and gone off somewhere. Mansoor also states that an aunt of his ex-partner named Tynesha must know where she and Amirah are, but neither Tynesha nor any of the woman’s family has been helpful in any way so far.
The police start their investigation and try to convince Tynesha to tell them the truth. Although the woman says that she has been talking to the mother and knows for sure that Amirah is safe and happy with her, she does not say anything about their possible location. When pressured more by the authorities, Tynesha says that the reason her relative was on the run was that their family believed the court decision to have been unjust. Mansoor was apparently very abusive and hurtful towards young Amirah, and the mother apparently had proof of all this too. But since Mansoor was a rich individual, he had been given custody. The police checked the court records to find out more about this and realized that although the mother had made such allegations, the court found nothing against Mansoor and ruled these to be false claims. Ultimately, though, the police department alone cannot do anything about this and has to notify the police forces in neighboring states as well. Finally, the authorities found Amirah and her mother in Atlanta, Georgia where they were hiding at the house of an unnamed relative. Mansoor did not press any charges against his ex-wife, though, as he did not want Amirah to witness any police or legal action against her mother.
Can The Police Find David Taylor Before It Is Too Late?
The case of David Taylor happens to be the most intriguing one in “Missing: Dead or Alive?” as there is a major cause of suspicion in it. The pickup truck belonging to David is found randomly by the side of a freeway, with his wallet and ID still inside, while the man is nowhere to be found. Upon contacting his family, the authorities got to know that the man was very happy and excited as he had just won a $10,000 lottery, and he had been searching for the office where the ticket could be cashed in, and he could finally withdraw his winnings. As David’s past location for the entire day is tracked, it is found that he had indeed been driving around all over the town, possibly looking for the lottery office. A store on the way is also checked, and camera footage shows that David had walked in to buy lighters and then also asked a store employee about a certain location. A few days pass, but no trace of the man can be found, even though the police detectives try their best to learn more about the case. The prime concern becomes the lottery ticket, as it could have been that someone had kidnapped David only to steal the prize money. But checking in with the lottery company also reveals that nobody has cashed in the prize yet.
A major breakthrough arrives when a random citizen contacts the police about a particular incident she remembered from the day David went missing. She says that a man had parked his car by the side of the freeway and then ran across the freeway in an almost crazed manner, causing traffic at the scene. As the location of the parked car matches that of David’s truck, the police now start looking at the places in which the crazed man had run off. The area happens to be frequently used by drug abusers too, and this makes the situation even more dangerous. But when David Taylor is ultimately found, it is already too late, and the man is found lying dead under a tree. With no wounds or injuries on his body, a detailed post-mortem is conducted, which reveals that the man had actually died from hypothermia, with a very high amount of methamphetamine found in his bloodstream. Although most of David’s family members had no idea that the man had a drug habit, and they even believed drugs to be very much against his principles, his daughter reveals that David had actually asked for some hard drugs from her once. It becomes clear that during his search for the lottery office, David Taylor must have taken meth, which turned him delirious and panicked, and he seemingly became fearful that someone or something was chasing him. This was why he left his truck by the road and ran into the forested area, where he, unfortunately, died from hypothermia as a result of the drug overdose.
Why Had Sierra Stevens Run Away From Her Foster Home?
After receiving a missing report about seventeen-year-old Sierra Stevens, the police detectives were immediately worried because of the place where she had gone missing. Sierra had left her foster home to go to a movie theater and was supposed to pass through a bus station on the way. This area happens to have a bad reputation because a number of teenage girls have gone missing from the place, and they were most probably sold off into the flesh trade. After doing some basic searches, the police take a look at the illicit websites, which put up ads for sex workers too, but no trace of Sierra can be found. Going through her personal belongings, all of which she had left behind, it seemed like Sierra was a normal girl with quite an interest in her school and studies, and nothing out of the ordinary could be found.
As the authorities now widen their area of search, calls from a nearby locality called Hartsville are received, and it is stated that someone had seen the girl there. Going over to Hartsville, the detectives talk with the witness, and she says that Sierra had been seen in the nearby area with an older man. A nearby motel, which has a reputation as a seedy joint for paid sex, is also checked, but Sierra is not there either. Now, with help from her school authorities, the police track down a certain friend of Sierra’s who was apparently very close to her. This friend is informally interrogated next, and although he states that he does not know where the girl is, he offers to call up Sierra and talk to her in front of them. As it turns out, Sierra Stevens was indeed alive and well, and she was staying with her best friend, Emily.
The reason behind this whole fiasco, which was more of a misunderstanding, was a certain event from Sierra’s past. The girl’s parents had severe drug addiction when Sierra was a child, and this led to the death of her mother in a few years. Sierra was being raised by her father alone, but this was not the most healthy home for the girl. At the mere age of fourteen, Sierra had gone out in her father’s car and then crashed into a woman on the road, causing her death. As the girl had essentially killed a woman, the father was charged with negligence, and Sierra was sent to a juvenile detention center. It was also ruled that she would not be allowed to stay with her father or her grandparents till the age of eighteen and would therefore be sent to a foster home after her release. The nineteen long months that Sierra had spent at the detention center had instilled in her a great fear of being caught breaking the law. On the night of her disappearance, Sierra had gone over to a friend’s place near her foster home and fallen asleep there. By the time she returned to her home the next day, her foster parents had already called the police out of sheer concern for the girl. But seeing the police made Sierra panic, for she thought that she would be arrested once again. Not knowing what to do, she contacted her best friend Emily, who then brought her over to her house in Hartsville and allowed her to stay there as long as required. The fact that Sierra could not be reached on her phone and that she had not contacted anyone after her disappearance was feared to be a clue that she had been kidnapped or was in great danger. However, as it turned out, it was only out of her fear that she would be sent again to juvenile detention and would therefore ruin her life because of it.
At the end of “Missing: Dead or Alive?”, Vicki Rains meets with Sierra at Hartsville and assures the girl that she is in no trouble at all. For some time, Vicki had been contemplating moving back to the Major Crimes Department since the death of David Taylor had severely affected her. Vicki felt that she could have saved the man had she acted sooner, and she felt that she could not bear with Missing Persons work anymore. However, Sierra being found alive and well gives Vicki a big reassurance that she could save and help more people working for Missing Persons, and so she informs her boss, Heidi Jackson, that she is going to continue with the department.