Five years ago Adam Barton spent his week-long spring break from college helping search for his 25-year-old missing brother, Brian Barton, who had disappeared from his home in Federal Way, Wash., without his truck, wallet or cell phone.
Adam and his father, both of Bonsall, searched from Seattle to Tacoma in hopes of finding Barton or any leads relating to his disappearance.
Adam has since graduated college and works in the legal field, but Brian Barton has never been found.
“This whole ordeal is ever-present in my mind. It always weighs on me on a personal level,” Adam said.
In 2009 he established For Our Families Foundation, which provides grants to law enforcement agencies for training on missing persons and cold case investigations.
“We decided to set up the foundation because we needed to have something proactive come out of this,” he said.
Adam said there were obstacles his family experienced while searching for his brother and they were irritating.
He said the purpose of his organization is to provide police officers, or whoever is willing to go, scholarships to receive up-to-date training on handling missing persons cases at an annual conference hosted by Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis.
He said current training is important because it is something that evolves, such as updates on how DNA information can be used.
Regarding his brother’s disappearance, Adam said a lot of suspicious things happened that made him think foul play was involved.
In September 2008, America’s Most Wanted aired a brief story on Brian Barton, which reported that prior to his disappearance Barton’s Washington-based band had “recently received a recording contract from a Southern California company, but Brian, who was preparing to quit the band, was ‘holding out.’ Fellow band members, cops say, were trying to convince Brian to go to California with them.”
Then, according to the show, just days after he vanished, a 1976 pickup truck was discovered in a local junkyard by detectives.
They reported that the truck had belonged to one of the band members and was found completely destroyed, adding that the police were unable to find any new clues that aided the investigation into Barton’s disappearance.
Back in 2005, after Barton had been missing for just over two months, Brian’s mother, Maureen Barton, said a private investigator she hired was working on the case and that a detective from the police department had not yet been assigned.
As reported earlier, authorities said they did not yet have enough evidence at the time of Barton’s initial disappearance to assign a detective to the case.
But Maureen was diligent about staying in contact with the police department every couple of days, she said.
On approximately May 19 it was discovered that Barton’s roommate had Barton’s driver’s license and was using his cell phone, she said.
“I called the police chief and got a detective [assigned] that day,” she said.
Maureen said that she and her sister made another trip to Washington in search of answers, and that Barton’s belongings were still in the house that he had shared with at least two roommates.
She was still hoping that her son would return, she said, so she decided to leave his belongings there. However, she did take his cell phone and said her sister retrieved the text messages in hopes of finding a lead.
Then the police obtained a subpoena for Barton’s cell phone records, Maureen said. They also impounded Barton’s two trucks that had been left behind.
Barton’s money was also left at his place, and Maureen paid his bills for the first month after he went missing.
Today, she still has his wallet with everything in it just as it was left.
But there is still no trace of what happened to her son.
Maureen said she feels that something happened to him.
“We did all sorts of investigating into this and were unable to determine any foul play was involved” said Officer Raymond Bunk, public information officer for the Federal Way Police Department.
As Maureen searched for answers, she found the National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA) online, which she said helped provide information on additional steps to take.
She said it also led her to Project Jason, an organization that provides assistance to families of the missing.
Project Jason was founded by Kelly Jolkowski, the mother of a 19-year-old who disappeared without a trace from the family’s driveway in 2001.
Maureen said Jolkowski was a “Godsend” in the wealth of information that she shared, and that she wished she would have learned about helpful organizations sooner. Jolkowski said Project Jason assists families in understanding how to dialogue with law enforcement and obtain information.
The organization also provides information such as on the three identifiers that should be gathered immediately after a person has been reported missing: dental records, fingerprints and DNA. These identifiers should then be placed in a national database.
In September 2006, Maureen provided a sample of Barton’s hair from a brush, and at that time, the police handed the case over to King County for some assistance. The hair samples went to the state crime lab and Barton’s DNA was entered into the system, Bunk confirmed.
That was the last report written before three separate polygraphs were administered in the summer of 2007 by the King County Sheriff’s Department.
The summary report about the polygraph states that the test was comprised of two questions regarding Barton’s disappearance, and that all three people tested passed the test.
“We did lots of statements and brought out the polygraph, which is pretty substantial,” Bunk said. And, according to Bunk, that’s where law enforcement has left it.
“We have no arrests and zero leads. It’s a classic cold case, if you will,” Bunk said.
Commenting about the For Our Families Foundation, Bunk also said that anytime a law agency can find “extra dollars” or funding for training, it’s definitely appreciated.
Bunk said officers at Federal Way do receive training on missing persons, but that it varies from person-to-person, depending on what they are assigned to.
As for the ongoing anguish experienced by the Barton family, Maureen said, “You hope for the best, but on the other hand you have to learn to live with it, because you don’t know.”
“You have to adapt your life to this situation. You still have to work and pay bills.”
For more information on the For Our Families Foundation, visit www.forourfamilies.org
To comment on this story online, visit www.thevillagenews.com.