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Private investigator believes Abby may still be in the region

By Daymond Steer
CONWAY – A private investigator, who has provided Fox 25 News with analysis regarding the case of missing Conway teen Abigail Hernandez, believes the teen is still somewhere in this region. But law enforcement officials say they don't know where she is and neither does her mother, Zenya.
Hernandez went missing Oct. 9 just before turning 15. She was last seen after leaving Kennett High School at the end of the school day. Since disappearing, Hernandez wrote a letter home to her mother but has not been heard from since.
At the end of February, private investigator Tom Shamshak told Fox 25 in Boston that he believes Abigail is "still in the area." Shamshak, who has offices in Boston and Providence, R.I., said he is a frequent contributor on Fox 25 and has been monitoring the Hernandez story since the fall. After doing an interview about Abby's case in November, he was contacted by Amanda Smith, who is a volunteer with the Bring Abby Home effort. Shamshak said since then he's spoken with Zenya to giver her his advice.
Earlier this month, a Sun reporter asked Shamshak to clarify where he believes Abby might be.
"I think she's still in the Northeast," said Shamshak. "I tend to think she may even be in the state of New Hampshire."
Shamshak said Abby didn't have a lot of belongings with her when she disappeared. He believes someone is providing Abby with things like food and shelter.
Shamshak also pointed to a news conference law enforcement held on Dec. 6 to announce that Abby had sent a letter home to her mother.
At the Dec. 6 news conference, Conway police chief Ed Wagner asked people to look out for anyone new in their community who may have a young woman living with them.
Shamshak says that Wagner, at the Dec. 6 news conference, was encouraging the community to increase its "level of surveillance" in order to assist the police.
"That's a strong indicator to me, as a former cop, that they had their suspicions that she's nearby," said Shamshak.
When reached on Monday, Wagner said his comments were general and aimed at viewing audience of the media outlets at the conference.
"I wouldn't expect someone in California to hear it," said Wagner.
Wagner said Hernandez is still a missing person and her whereabouts are unknown.
Senior Associate Attorney General Jane Young said law enforcement can't say if she's in a specific region. She said law enforcement did not cite a particular region of interest at the Dec. 6 news conference. Young isn't familiar with Shamshak and cannot speak to what he might know.
"We are still desperately trying to find this child," said Young.
Zenya said Shamshak speaks for himself.
"He told me that statistically most abduction victims are found within so many mile radius of their home," said Zenya. "This is statistical only, and has no real connection to my case."

Conway Police Lt. Chris Perley had no comment on Shamshak's analysis.
"I have no comment on the Shamshak information as I don't know who he is, what his information base is or what his involvement is, if any, in the investigation," said Perley.

Shamshak has been in the private investigation business since 1999. He began his law enforcement career in 1978 in Somerville, Mass. He went on to become the police chief in Spencer and Winthrop, Mass. Shamshak is Boston University's program director and lead instructor in BU's Certificate in Professional Investigation. Shamshak is also affiliated with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Shamshak believes law enforcement has done a "tremendous job" trying to find Abby.
"From what I know they are pursuing leads aggressively," said Shamshak.
Shamshak has encouraged Zenya to get the story in the regional and national media.
Shamshak said Zenya has been "very creative" in terms of the use of social media to find Abby. Smith operates a Facebook page called Bring Abby Home which has over 7,500 likes. It features numerous pictures of Abby, updates on the case and posts encouraging people to spread the word about Abby's disappearance. 
Another volunteer, Paul Kirsch, operates the Bring Abby Home website. The website pages features information about the case and comforting messages and videos from Zenya. 
"What the mother has been doing is reminding the daughter that she is loved by her family and her friends and everybody misses her and everybody looks forward to her safe return as soon as possible," said Shamshak.
According to Shamshak, Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted as a child and later found, felt that people had given up on her when she was held captive. Shamshak said Zenya, in contrast, is telling Abby that mom is "in pursuit."
One video on Bringabbyhome.com shows Zenya driving through Conway in order to show Abby images of her hometown. On Feb. 21, Zenya posted a message on Bring Abby Home. Zenya was writing about how she misses her daughter as do Abby's friends. That message contained an inside joke between Zenya and Abby. Zenya wrote "don't step on the sleeping bear."
People on the Internet have speculated about what the "sleeping bear" remark means. Zenya explained that it was her own silly way of reminding Abby to be careful.
Bringabbyhome.com also has a new map on which those who support finding Abby can mark their location and a brief message. There are posts all over the country and all over the world including Africa, Europe and Australia. Supporters mark their location with a virtual pin. 
"We thank everyone who puts up posters," said Zenya.  "It will be great if those who took their time and effort to put up posters around the country and around the world, put a pin on the map, and write that they put up posters, and approximately how many, in the name section of the map. Even if it's only one poster, every little effort matters."
Two members of the Conway Police Department recently attended a training seminar designed to teach police how to improve their response to missing children cases.
Wagner and Conway Police Det Sgt. Chris Mattei attended a two-day class put on by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on Feb. 23-24 in Alexandria, Va.
"The course was fantastic, " said Mattei on Monday.
About 50 law enforcement officials from all over the country, particularly the south, attended, said Mattei.
The course will help the department become more efficient when responding to the initial call about a missing child. Mattei said the course explained such things as what officers should do when they are deployed to a scene and how to bring as many resources to bear as possible, said Mattei. Conway police were brought up to speed on much of that type of work last fall when Hernandez disappeared.
Wagner said the information he learned at the seminar affirmed that the investigation into Hernandez was done well. Wagner said there isn't anything major that he would have done differently.
The department will be updating its policies and procedures and officers will go through some additional training which will allow the police department to be accredited by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a "first responder" agency.
Wagner said the cost of the trip was paid for by the center.
"I'm really glad we went," said Wagner
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children explains the course this way:
"This two-day seminar, hosted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, familiarizes participants with issues related to missing child cases including effective policies and practices, technical assistance, training and available resources," states the center's website missingkids.com.
Zenya said she has been impressed with law enforcement's response to her daughter's case.
"I think what they did was excellent," said Zenya.
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