A son goes missing. What do parents, investigators do next? – Tulsa World

It’s easier to find someone in a small town. 

Small communities make Darcie Parton-Scoon’s work as a licensed private investigator and forensic interviewer straightforward.

“It’s 3 o’clock, all the farmers are in the one gas station that serves food, and they serve coffee,” said Parton-Scoon, a citizen of the Caddo Nation. “You just go and put your business card down, you tell them who you’re looking for, and before you get out of town you get a phone call.”

Stillwater, a bustling college town with way more than one gas station, presented a different challenge for Parton-Scoon.

Starting in June, she combed through trailer parks, took pictures of license plates, handed out fliers and tracked down people using maps on social media to try to find Teedeenae Jackson Yearby. Six months earlier, Yearby, a high-schooler who was 17 at the time, went missing. 

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Yearby’s mother, Shema, said she wants as many people as possible looking for her son. Parton-Scoon is just a volunteer.

“I do not turn down anything because the more eyes and ears open or anybody looking into Jackson’s case, I’m welcome to it,” Shema said. 

Shema described her son as carefree, good-hearted and somebody who made his family laugh. 

Yearby attended Lincoln Academy, an alternative school in Stillwater, and was considering applying to Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. Shema said he’s protective of his two younger brothers and enjoyed painting and writing poetry. 

“He loves his family, loves being a big brother,” she said. “I have so many pictures of all three of my boys, and Jackson’s always in the middle with his arms around his little brothers.”

Yearby, who is affiliated with the Seminole, Muscogee (Creek) and Choctaw Nations, was last heard from on Jan. 30. He was one of about 82 Indigenous people reported missing in Oklahoma, as of June 30, on the national missing and unidentified persons database NamUs.

Eight of those are from Tulsa County.

Shawnna Roach of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service said people are coming from out of state to traffic Native women and girls.

Despite the efforts of police, private investigators and his mother, Yearby has yet to be found. 

Breaking his routine

Shema last heard from her son Jan. 25 and knew something was wrong when he stopped showing up to school and pulling shifts at McDonald’s. 

She said this wasn’t normal for him.

“There are all these patterns that he has, these routines that he has, and all of a sudden he’s not showing up,” Shema said.

He stopped responding to texts and calls from friends and family. Yearby reportedly told friends in January he was going to Marietta, his mother’s hometown, or Dallas, Texas. 

Yearby moved out of his parents’ house in November 2022 when he was four months from his 18th birthday. Shema said they agreed he would have to continue school, keep his job and call her at least once a week.

Yearby kept that promise until he went missing in late January. When she felt she couldn’t wait any longer, Shema filed a missing person report on Feb. 7.

“I was thinking he’s going to see the fliers,” she said. “He’s going to be mad, but he’s going to reach out to somebody who’s going to call me once he sees a flier.”

The case was assigned to Stillwater Police Department Detective John Johnson the following morning, according to police. Shema said Johnson contacted her two to three days after she filed the report. 

In the following months, she waited for her son and hoped he would be found or come home. 

“You go into panic mode — I’ve been there a few times,” she said. “Do everything we can to try to comfort ourselves.”

Relying on law enforcement

Robert, Yearby’s stepfather who has been in his life since he was 4, watches cop shows and expected police to talk to people like they do on television. 

“They didn’t do that,” Robert said. “They didn’t go see anybody.”

Johnson, in an email response to Tulsa World, said the department wants to talk to anyone with information on Jackson’s life at the time he went missing.

During her investigation, Parton-Scoon interviewed friends of Yearby’s who hadn’t been contacted by police. 

“Some people will speak with a private investigator and not speak with police,” Johnson wrote. “This is because private investigators do not trigger a fear of legal repercussion as much as police.”

Once the police started their investigation, Shema said she didn’t know what to do.

“You rely on the law enforcement, on the detectives, to help you and guide you through these steps,” she said.

The guidance the Stillwater Police Department offers is determined on a case-to-case basis, Johnson wrote. 

Missing people are entered into NamUs and the National Crime Information Center database, and reports are forwarded to the OSBI. Johnson said all of this happened in Yearby’s case and that he has spoken to Shema frequently.

When a child or loved one goes missing, there are several online resources for parents to post about cases, Shema said.

“It’s so overwhelming for one person to do it,” she said.

Friends and family suggested she start a GoFundMe for search efforts and expenses or use other platforms to boost his case. Shema wishes she had more help to explore these options.

“You’re trying to control your emotions,” she said. “You’re trying to control your mood. You’re still trying to function and go to work, function being a parent. Just trying to function.”

She said she and her husband have struggled with parenting their two other sons, who have become more hesitant, cautious and paranoid when they leave the house. 

At night, her youngest son talks to her about his brother. 

“I know when he’s missing his brother because he’ll come lay by me and I will hold him, put my arm around him and I won’t say anything, and he will just let it all out,” she said.

Shema said she wants her sons to cry and process their emotions instead of bottling them up. 

“All we can do is just support them and encourage them and let them express their feelings,” she said.

Shema said her family leans on each other to get through day-to-day life, but she said her mind is constantly working to find the next thing to do to find her son.

“You want to be hopeful,” she said. “But at the same time, do I prepare myself for something more that I’m not ready for?”

Parton-Scoon said she’s confident Yearby did not run away. Yearby has a large social circle but kept private about some in his friend group that Parton-Scoon is still hoping to find.

Speaking about murdered or missing Indigenous people in general, Parton-Scoon said older boys get less attention.

“We don’t allow them to be victims,” Parton-Scoon said.

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