This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Puyallup police have finally done right by Misty Copsey, even if belatedly.
Misty disappeared in 1992 after a visit to the Puyallup Fair. The 14-year-old – originally labeled a runaway but now considered a homicide victim – was never seen again.
As The News Tribune’s Sean Robinson reports today, the department has spent two years reviewing every inch of Misty’s disappearance and the police’s half-hearted initial investigation.
The review was prompted by Robinson’s 2009 series that detailed how police had bungled the original case – in large part because they let their distrust of Misty’s mother and others cloud their judgment.
The criticism could have prompted the boys in blue to close ranks, to defend their handling of the case from outsiders and pesky reporters.
To the department’s credit, Puyallup police officials took a different course. A detective, backed by a trio of police commanders, has worked diligently to ensure that this time, no lead goes unchecked.
They have re-interviewed witnesses, tracked down new suspects, sent untested forensic evidence to the lab and cleaned up a jumbled case file. They combed the grounds of a 100-acre farm in Buckley owned by the family of one of the suspects.
Whether the investigators are any closer to cracking the case remains to be seen. That’s the nature of police work – detectives collect the pieces, hoping that someday they will fit together. Sometimes they never do, even after the most thorough probes.
Police never know when a new witness will come forward or someone will discover a forgotten piece of evidence. Puyallup police have done what they could to make the case ripe for a break by helping keep the case in the public consciousness.
Sometimes, time is on law enforcement’s side. People with vital information eventually talk about what they know. But more often, time also works against the police.
That is the lesson from Misty. Even the most determined police work cannot recreate memories and evidence lost to the passage of years. The first few hours and days after a child’s abduction are crucial. Once the trail goes cold, it often stays that way.
No doubt, there are a lot of things Puyallup police wish they had done differently after Misty vanished. It is some measure of justice that because of her, they are more likely to take a report of a missing child seriously.