It’s horrible to think about, but children go missing all the time. Police investigators do their best to locate them, but not every missing child case gets solved. All anyone in that situation wants is some kind of closure, even if it takes years to get it.

When a young boy from Illinois went missing in 2004, his father, who had been fighting for custody, was completely distraught. For two years, no one found a single clue as to his whereabouts, until police finally searched one very obvious location…

In 2007, a young boy named Ricky Chekevdia went missing. Police, naturally, did everything they could to locate him, but for two years they made no progress. That was until they decided to investigate a close family member.

Ricky’s parents, Michael Chekevdia and Shannon Wilfong, had a tumultuous relationship even before their son was born in 2002. They were on again and off again for years, but one thing was always permanent: their arguing.

After the birth of Ricky, Michael and Shannon worked out an agreement to share custody. The environment they created wasn’t healthy for their son, so Ricky split his time between his mom and dad.

Although Ricky’s mother loved him dearly, it did seem like he had a closer bond with his father. Though Michael was in the Army, and got deployed to Iraq shortly after Ricky was born, he still managed to maintain a close relationship with his son.

When Michael finally returned home from his overseas duty, Shannon refused to let Michael see Ricky. Eventually, there was a court hearing scheduled to establish firm visitation rights for Michael. However, Shannon failed to show, and then the unthinkable happened…

Shannon and Ricky both disappeared! Two months after they vanished, the local department officially listed them as missing. Michael was in disbelief. Where was his son?

The police immediately issued a warrant for Shannon’s arrest. It wasn’t likely the two were in trouble; police assumed Shannon fled with Ricky to avoid giving Michael visitation rights. Why wouldn’t Shannon want Ricky’s father to play any role in his life?

When police questioned Shannon’s mother, Diane Dobbs, she told them Michael was abusive, and Shannon more than likely escaped to avoid Ricky growing up in a household were he was hit. She even took things one step further…

She began an intense smear campaign against Michael. She passed out hand-written flyers stating Michael was abusive, and she even went to Michael’s church to spread the word. However, was any of it actually true, or was Diane just covering for her daughter’s crime?

During this time, Michael had a strong suspicion Diane knew something about his son’s whereabouts, but he just couldn’t prove it. Two whole years went by without any evidence, and then in 2009, police received a tip that led them to Diane’s home.

Police had already conducted a search of the grandmother’s house when Ricky and Shannon initially went missing, but they didn’t find anything. This time however, the search led them to an unusually placed dresser. When the police pulled the dresser away from the wall, they gasped…

Behind the dresser was a small opening that led to a narrow crawlspace. Inside the crawlspace, cowering in the back corner, were Ricky and Shannon! After two years, the police finally found them!

When officers brought the boy outside, he began running around as if he hadn’t been outdoors in years, and that may have been the case. It was a heartbreaking sight for everyone. 

Shannon was immediately arrested for felony child abduction, and Diane faced charges of aiding and abetting her daughter. While out on bail, Diane claimed over the course of two years, Ricky spent a total of “five minutes” in the room. However, no one bought her story.

Almost immediately after appearing on the show, Diane was rearrested. The ugly truth was coming out about both mother and daughter, and it was one that painted a very different picture than what they first claimed about Michael’s abuse.

Michael, while obviously shaken by the bizarre series of events that unfolded, was overjoyed that he was finally able to hug his boy again. People no longer saw him as the abuser; he was clearly the victim. 

Not long after her arrest, Shannon plead guilty to her charges and faced a fine, as well as two years probation. Michael was granted full custody of his son and retired from his military duties so he could be a full-time father. But, how did the entire ordeal affect Ricky?

As much as you might think an isolated experience would have changed Ricky’s behavior, it actually didn’t. He was still energetic, talkative, and bright. Michael really couldn’t have asked for any other outcome to this upsetting, but eventually relieving, case.

It’s a shame that the very first time the police checked the grandmother’s home they didn’t look behind the mysterious dresser. What matters, however, is in the end, Ricky was safe and with a stable parent.

In a healthy relationship, you should be able to trust no one more than your partner. And once kids enter the equation, it’s important to know you can lean on one another to keep your family safe and happy. Unfortunately, that isn’t always to case…

Utah resident Micha Soble was just 16 years old when she met her future husband, John Coltharp. They had both grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the two hit it off right away.

But their happiness wouldn’t last. Trouble arose when it became clear that John’s beliefs extended far beyond the doctrines of mainstream Mormonism—he claimed he was a prophet. This eventually led to his banishment from the church.

John’s beliefs ultimately led to the end of his marriage, too. He wanted to disappear from society and live “off-the-grid,” something Micha had no interest in. Further Complicating matters were their four children: Dinah, Seth, Hattie, and William.

Micha Soble / Facebook

Despite their crumbling marriage, Micha and John still lived together. It was during this time that John really went off the deep end, forming a cult known as the Knights of the Crystal Blade. For Micha and the kids, the situation was becoming dangerous.

This was no casual organization. The co-founder, Samuel Shaffer (below), claimed to have received messages from God convincing him that the apocalypse was imminent. Together, he and John would show they were capable of truly terrible things…

Iron County Sheriff’s Office / The Sun

In September 2017, as John took the children on a trip to Spring City, Utah, where his parents lived 70 miles away, Micha began formal divorce proceedings. By November, she was awarded sole custody of their children. But there was one problem…

Mike Nielsen / Flickr

John still had the children with him at his parents’ house. Police accompanied Micha to bring the kids home, but by the time they arrived at the house, nobody was there—not John, not the children, not his parents. No one.

On December 1, 2017, the police finally located John and apprehended him on suspicion of kidnapping. Yet, even once he was in custody, he refused to reveal the location of the children. Micha grew worried, as did Cindi Ray, John’s sister.

Sanpete County Jail / The Sun

It turned out that John had made statements about his intention to murder his children rather than give them up. All that Micha could do was pray they were safe and would be found soon.

Iron County Sheriff’s Office / The Sun

Then authorities received a tip that led them to Lund, Utah. With the help of helicopters, they located their target—a compound—in the middle of the desert. The site, which consisted of three worn-down trailers, was a sinister-looking environment for children.

CBS Denver / YouTube

“[Coltharp and Shaffer] had manufactured this place for them to live,” Iron County Sheriff’s Lieutenant, Del Schlosser, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It wasn’t the safest conditions, by any means, for where we are.” 

CBS Denver / YouTube

Soon, seven-year-old William and six-year-old Seth were discovered at the compound. They were safe! Unfortunately, Dinah and Hattie (8 and 4) were still missing. Samuel and his own daughters were also nowhere to be found. The search continued…

CBS Denver / YouTube

An AMBER Alert was issued for Dinah, Hattie, and the other children. Authorities were then tipped off to a 34-year-old man a few miles away from the compound. After what must have felt like forever for Micha, Samuel was finally apprehended.

Iron County Sheriff’s Office / The Sun

Once he was captured, Samuel told the police where to find the four missing girls. Police located two of them in a trailer—and the others were hidden in empty water barrels. It had been at least 24 hours since any of them had been given food or water.

“Had we not received that tip today,” Lieutenant Del Schlosser said, “these girls probably wouldn’t have been alive in the morning.” Thank goodness for the AMBER Alert—and for the police officers’ diligence…

After John and Samuel were arrested, horrifying details about the children’s abduction were revealed. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that John had actually promised one of his daughters to Samuel in exchange for a similar pledge from Samuel. It got worse…

CBS Denver / YouTube

Samuel said that he had actually already “married” Dinah, while John had done the same with one of Samuel’s daughters, who was just seven at the time. As disgusting as this was, it fell in line with what the authorities knew about the men’s beliefs.

Iron County Sheriff’s Office / The Sun

In January 2018, both men were charged with crimes that took place before the December raid: reportedly engaging in sexual activity with a child. If there was any good news, it was that the Coltharp children were finally reunited with their mother.

Micha Soble / Facebook

Despite their ordeal, the kids were apparently doing well. “It took three baths to get their hair unmatted,” Micha told Utah’s KSTU Fox 13. “They are happy to be clean and brushing their teeth again. They are also happy to have a warm place to sleep at night.”

Micha Soble / Facebook

That being said, Dinah, William, Seth, and Hattie would likely still need a significant adjustment period. “[Although] they are in high spirits, [they] will need some help,” Micha added. At the very least, they’re finally safe again…

The thing is, childhood is a formative time for young people, and what happens during those early years can have serious effects down the road. This is true not only for the victims of trauma but also for the ones that inflict the trauma and how they came to be who they are…

The early days of youth are a time for lemonade stands, flower-field frolicking, and hours spent plopped in front of the television. But how much does our lifestyle at age three impact our adult lives? Probably more than you’d think.

In fact, countless studies show the details of your childhood play a major role in your adult personality. Also, it’s possible to use this knowledge of childhood development to better understand the ins and outs of adults, too. Even the really despicable ones.

Pexels

In the case of Jim Jones—propagator of the infamous “Jonestown Massacre,” which saw the mass suicide of 918 people via poisoned Kool-Aid—early childhood is a useful lens through which a little clarity about his future is found. The clues were seemingly there all along…

Nancy Wong / Wikimedia

As a boy, Jones loved rituals and would regularly lead his schoolyard friends in bizarre funeral processions for mice. These funerals were no half-measures, either, and often featured lit candles, altars, shrouds, and all manners of holy rites…

Stephen lliffe / Flickr

As an adult, Jones was a smooth talker, able to charm and win over nearly anyone and everyone he spoke with. Even his vocal inflections, which were said to recall those of a spirited preacher.

He developed this command of language in his early childhood, as he was known to deliver sermons to his classmates in a barn behind his house. There, he provided his guests with something telling of the future…

ARC’s Photos / Flickr

At his gatherings, Jones’ love of ritual was on full display. He wore a bedsheet that served as a makeshift robe, and he read from an old Bible. As a refreshment, the future cult leader would provide lemonade or sweet punch, a haunting foreshadowing of the future massacre.

Susanna Valkeinen

The greatest indication of his monstrous future, however, started with a gift from Jones’ mother. Holding big dreams for her charismatic son, Lynetta Jones bought young Jim a medical kit, which he put to horrifying use.

Mars Lander / Flickr

As just a boy, Jones would use the kit to perform medical experiments on rodents, cross-species blood transfusions, and on time he even amputated a chicken’s leg in order to place it on a duck. Red flag, mom!

Even though he wasn’t shy by any means, Jones felt like an outsider as a kid, readily aware of how different he was from his classmates. Later on, this influenced his tendencies to flock to and “recruit” people he perceived as being marginalized, such as African Americans and even hobos.

Nancy Wong / Wikimedia

Despite living in a secular family, Jones sought comfort in churches throughout his neighborhood. He found a home in the Gospel Tabernacle, a house of worship where people spoke in tongues.

There, an influential woman at the church helped him nurture his gifts as a speaker. The older Jones grew, however, the less influence he found his sermons having with this crowd…

Indytnt / Wikimedia

Fewer and fewer friends and classmates showed up to his barnyard sermons, which Jones took personally. It’s no surprise, then, that when people started leaving his People’s Temple cult, he took that personally as well.

Obviously, signs of the future tragedies were observable from an early age for Jim Jones. Would it have been possible to foresee what he would become—and save 918 lives?

Nancy Wong / Wikimedia