Founders Story

My first venture into missing person searches was during the search for Elizabeth Smart who had gone missing in Salt Lake City, Utah. During that search I played two roles, the first couple days was as an in the field volunteer searcher. The next few days were as communication with the Amateur Radio Emergency Services. When she was found alive it was a miracle that was hard to believe. It was during those days searching though that I had first picked up many things about search center operations from watching how the Laura Recovery Center was running the search.

Remember-1024x536In 2006 the unthinkable happened and a friends daughter, Destiny Norton had gone missing. Over the next few days, along with others, we tried to run a massive search operation that had over 5.000 searchers go out looking. During that time we worked to improve the process day by day, and even hour by hour. Some of that process included speaking with the Smart family, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI, and others. Sadly the outcome of this search was a tragic one.

After spending many hours working out details and the search process we couldn’t just let those lessons learned go to waste. Along with others who had volunteered as staff in the search for Destiny in 2006 and after several months of discussions and planning we formed the Destiny Search Project in her honor. We were then later incorporated as a 501(c)3 Nonprofit. In the next few months, we assisted several agencies in Utah with a dozen or so searches that had 100 volunteers and last only 1­3 days. Later in the fall of 2007, We were activated to help with the search for Camille Cleverley in Provo, Utah. The search lasted several days and we had nearly 1000 person come through our search operation. This was the first case that made national headlines that we had been involved in and resulted in interviews on multiple networks locally and nationally. This included the Nancy Grace and Larry King Live shows on CNN.

In 2008 we responded to South Salt Lake City, Utah when Hser Ner Moo went missing. This search was one of the only times we operated overnight. Even though it was the middle of the night we had nearly 200 persons volunteer. The next morning the newly formed Utah CART (Child Abduction Search Team) was to take over the operations but it was not a very smooth start for their first activation.From an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Marilyn Brusch, a South Salt Lake City Council member who helped sign up volunteers Tuesday morning, said search efforts the previous night

“seemed a lot more organized. . . . I just can’t believe this many people have been waiting around.” Councilor Brusch had been volunteering as a staff member registering searchers with the Destiny Search Project during the night before.

In the fall of 2009 after I had to move to Michigan due to a family emergency. The Destiny Search Project was still operating in Utah but on a more limited basis as myself, and some other all had moved away due to circumstances beyond our control. In December of that year, Susan Powell went missing in West Valley City, Utah. Though I was across the country media still had my number and had called to ask if we would be doing a search. Due to the distance, we did not set up any searches at that time but did make contact with friends and family to offer support, advice and anything that we felt would help.

Later on, Susan’s friend had the following to say in her blog “I received a huge and unexpected support/help in Damon Talbot, president of the non­profit Destiny Search Project. He has been an invaluable adviser to help us organize and focus our efforts on better ways to help with the search for Susan. “

In July 2011 the Destiny Search Project worked on its last official search operation. We were helping in Ludington, MI with searching for Katherine Phillips in which we helped with management of search operations and planning of a vigil event for the family

Throughout all of the many searches that I have been involved in I have always wanted to find ways to be more efficient, address the needs of Law Enforcement, and use volunteers effectively. Many times people want to help and come out to search but everyone is going there own way, doing their own thing. Doing so is not only ineffective as nobody knows for sure what, and where has been searched and by who but there is a real risk of compromising the missing person case.

Implementing a community-based volunteer search center allows members of the local area to help and provide more feet, and eyes on the ground covering much more space than Law Enforcement can do alone. Having a set plan that is implemented in a strategic, logical, and thought out process allows these volunteers to be effective and also provides a clear record to investigators when needed. Having the staff of volunteers also allows the police, and others to continue their work without spending time and resources in trying to manage volunteers. Thank you for your time and dedication to finding those that are missing and helping to bring them home to their families.


Damon Talbot

Founder, Director of Operations

Destiny Search Project inc.