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Search for Herrman to go on today

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009, at 2:15 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, July 7, 2010, at 1:59 p.m.

As Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy prepares for another search today for the remains of a boy who disappeared 10 years ago, he says the extra money the investigation is costing the county is worth it.

Murphy said Thursday that he expects a "healthy overtime bill" for detectives who have worked 12- and 16-hour days to solve the disappearance of Adam Herrman. Murphy said he didn't have cost figures available to cite.

When a resident recently asked, "What is this costing the county?" Murphy said he replied, "If it was your family member, what would you want us to do?"

Even when detectives are home, the case still consumes them, he said.

"An investigator can't flush his mind of it and go home," Murphy said. "Their mind doesn't shut off. When they are off the clock, they are still asking the what-ifs and making a call.

"So what price do you put on that?"

Investigators expect to search again today near the Towanda mobile home park where Adam lived with his adoptive parents when he disappeared in 1999 at age 11.

Investigators plan to search a small area near Santa Fe Lake Road and Parallel Road, northwest of the mobile home park, Murphy said.

Three previous searches have focused on the banks of the Whitewater River. Investigators also have searched at least twice - including a full-fledged excavation - at the mobile home lot where the Herrmans' manufactured home sat before they moved it to rural northwest Sedgwick County.

Butler County Attorney Jan Satterfield has said that Adam's adoptive parents, Valerie and Doug Herrman, are suspects in the case and that the investigation could result in murder charges, with the underlying allegation being child abuse.

Several of Valerie Herrman's close relatives have said they saw her abuse Adam over the years. She left a telephone message at The Eagle this week saying her relatives are lying when they allege abuse. The Herrmans and their attorneys say they are innocent.

Adam's disappearance became known late last year after his older, adoptive sister voiced concerns about him to authorities. Investigators said they could find no records or indication that Adam was still alive.

Because of the lag, Murphy said, "We're behind 10 years on this thing. So it makes it hard for us, which only raises the cost of doing business."

He said volunteers - including search-dog handlers and anthropology experts looking for remains - have kept search costs lower. The volunteers are sacrificing time with their families, he said.

The searches have been conducted on Saturdays to help accommodate volunteers' schedules, Murphy said.

Valerie Herrman has told The Eagle that Adam, who was being home schooled by her, ran away after she spanked him with a belt in early May 1999 and didn't return.

She said that she and her husband looked for Adam but didn't report him missing because they feared it would cause authorities to take Adam and two younger siblings from their custody.

Relatives said Valerie Herrman explained Adam's absence by saying he had gone back to the state's custody.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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