LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Missing but not forgotten… One Little Rock family is holding on to hope that their daughter will come home alive. They’re discouraged, though, after some say mistakes were made during the most crucial hours after the now 20-year-old Ebby Steppach disappeared.
“There are only so many hours in the day,” Tommy Hudson, retired Little Rock detective, said. As each minute goes by–
“Time went on and on and on and on,” Laurie Jernigan, Ebby Steppach’s mother, said.
20-year-old Ebby Steppach is missing — and has been for nearly two years.
“Those early hours, early days, early weeks are critical,” Michael Jernigan, Ebby’s stepfather, said.
“For the first part of the investigation, no one looked for her,” Laurie said. Ebby’s mom, Laurie, and Ebby’s step-father, Michael, know all too well about time, and they say Little Rock Police know it even better.
“The whole first 30 days was just counting on Ebby showing back up,” Michael said.
Ebby fell off the grid in October 2015. Her family reported the then 18-year-old missing. Little Rock’s Violent Crime Squad picked up the case.
“The detective that was assigned to it at that time was one of our newer detectives,” Hudson said. Laurie says it didn’t take long–
“I would back track.”
–for her to lose trust in law enforcement.
“Part of the investigation that was going on didn’t match up with what they were telling me,” Laurie said.
About a week after Ebby vanished, her 2003 Volkswagen was found abandoned in Chalamount Park in West Little Rock. Ebby’s mother and step-father say a security guard reported the car, but the LRPD didn’t check on the tip for several days.
“The department itself, when the call came in on three different occasions that week, did not recognize and connect that this car belonged to a missing person,” Michael said.
“Didn’t put it together that this was a crime scene,” Laurie said. Ebby’s parents say the car had a dead battery and was out of gas, making Laurie think the worst.
“Her car was running and someone took her from it,” Laurie said.
The Central High School student’s cell phone, makeup, keys and eye contacts were left behind. Laurie says she encouraged the detective on the case to get surveillance footage from the Walmart across the street from the park.
“He said, ‘Do you know how much tape that is to look through?’ and I said ‘Yes I’ll look through it. I mean, I don’t care, I’ll look through it.’ And he said, ‘No, no, I’ll look into it.’ He never looked into it,” Laurie said.
“I think something has happened to her,” Hudson said. Ebby’s case would eventually be moved to Little Rock’s Homicide Squad — a group of the city’s most experienced detectives.
“When I got the case, there were things that weren’t done that should’ve been done on the front end,” Hudson said.
— Which included asking for the surveillance footage from Walmart. By then, the tapes had already been erased.
The retired detective says the case — which currently has the potential of being a homicide — needed to be “cleaned up.”
Hudson says some key people were never interviewed.
“I believe there’s somebody out there that’s in her circle, in her social media circle, that may know what happened to her and hasn’t come forward for whatever reason,” Hudson said. Hudson says the original detective skipped parts of the social media search.
“We always look at that. Why it wasn’t done at the time, I can’t answer that. I can tell you it’s been done now,” Hudson said.
“I don’t know if I can explain the level of powerlessness I felt,” Laurie said. From the balloons at Chalamount Park, to the interstate that connects city to city and state to state —
“The biggest fear is that we will never know,” Michael said.
–The clock will keep ticking, and Ebby’s family will keep praying for an end.
“I just want closure,” Laurie said.
–No matter the road it takes.
Ebby’s parents have both taken polygraphs. Sources say both parents passed. Hudson says the parents are not suspects.
Little Rock Police are still asking for tips regarding the case. If you know anything about what happened to Ebby Steppach, you’re asked to give them a call.
DES PERES, Mo. — A Missouri police officer is out of a job, after he’s accused of trying to steal hamburger meat from a grocery store. Last month Des Peres police say Sergeant Matthew Barthelmass was caught by security in a compromising situation. The police report obtained by News 4 says the security guard spotted him walk to the meat department and then walk away,
“I saw the subject conceal the product inside of his waistband in the aisle,” wrote the guard.
When confronted, Barthelmass said he was an officer with Saint John Police Department. News 4 actually interviewed him two years ago when he rescued a man from a burning home. His attorney says they are reviewing the allegations.
“Once we get all that, I’ll take a look and see if it was a misunderstanding or what the circumstances were,” Attorney Travis Noble said. According to the report, the security guard had a photo of Barthelmass from a shoplifting incident back in March.
This time, when stopped by security, the report says he begged for them not to call police, saying: “he will lose his job and this is his life.”
“He’s obviously pretty upset, law enforcement is his career, he’s been a police officer now for the last 15 years, it’s all he knows,” Noble said. Now charged with shoplifting, he has resigned from his position at Saint John Police Department.
“It does cause me concern that the security guard is alleging that there’s a prior incident, but yet they don’t take any actions, they didn’t do anything, they didn’t stop him? That doesn’t make any sense to me,” Noble said. The grocery store says it had to report the incident to police as the amount of meat involved totaled over $30.
(Alexis Zotos for KTWO, CNN)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – – Hackers stole software from the National Security Agency on Friday, which resulted in a worldwide cyber attack that affected 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries. Many are still fighting the fallout of the attack. We look into how cyber security is changing, and what you need to do to protect yourself.
“So what happened on Friday is we saw a new strain of malicious software hit the internet,”Don Faulkner, Chief Information Security Officer for the University of Arkansas said.
It’s an attack that’s wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of computers all around the world.
“There’s a variety of different kinds of malicious software. the particular kind that’s going on right now is designed to encrypt or scramble the files on your computer and essentially hold them for ransom,” Faulkner said. Businesses in the U.S. have been affected by the hacking and some even chose to pay the ransom, according to Faulkner.
“The risk is real, the other side of it is, you encourage more activity by paying, so the best choice is to not have to pay,” Faulkner said. Faulkner says a lot of what people do in this world now is connected to the internet, and we unintentionally put a lot of information out that allows people to be victimized.
So how do you protect yourself when hacking software and its users are getting better everyday? Faulkner said It affects everybody and everyone needs to be prepared to defend themselves.
“Do you have a strong password on all of your accounts? D o you keep your computer up to date with patches and the latest software?That’s a big deal, the fact that not all computer systems are patched and up to date is the reason for the outbreak that we saw over the weekend,” Faulkner said. It’s not just your personal computers you have to worry about, you may need to adjust your shopping preferences too.
“The advantage big business is they can hire large teams of people to defend their computer systems, if you’re a small business owner.. you don’t have that,” Faulkner said.