It’s been 14 years since 11-year-old Adam Joseph Herrman vanished from home.
It’s been about five years since his adopted sister called authorities, saying she was worried.
It’s been more than five years since Kelly Herzet, now Butler County sheriff, took on the case.
After a long span devoid of fruitful leads, Herzet was hopeful a $50,000 reward offered last month for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the boy’s disappearance would spur the tip that solves the mystery.
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By late Monday, about a half-dozen people had called. None yielded new clues.
Adam’s adoptive mother, Valerie Herrman, who along with husband, Doug, is considered a suspect in the case, called the reward “wonderful news.”
She maintains that Adam ran away, upset over a spanking she says was dealt as discipline.
She says she and her husband searched for Adam. They never found him.
He never came home.
19 missing kids
Disappointment tinges Herzet’s voice as he speaks about the case. He has been in the throes of Adam’s disappearance since 2008.
“I was hoping the $50,000 would maybe make somebody come forward and talk a little bit, you know,” Herzet said.
“I feel there’s people out there that know, and I just don’t know why they’re not talking.”
Adam is among 19 Kansas children listed as missing on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website, www.missingkids.com.
Seven on the list are from the Kansas City, Kan., area. Two are from Russell. Four disappeared from Wichita.
The others are from Garden City, Shawnee County, Linwood, Wathena and Salina.
Adam Herrman lived in a Towanda trailer home with his adoptive parents and siblings. He would be 26 now.
Some of the children are victims of suspected family abduction or are listed as runaways.
A few, like Adam and 5-year-old Jackie Dene Hay, whom family last saw 32 years ago, disappeared without a trace.
It’s hard when any person vanishes, Herzet said, “but we all get tuned up when it comes to children because children are young and unsure.”
Of the Wichita children listed as missing, two – 8-year-old Eryn Gray and 13-year-old Alfredo Perez – are thought to be with a parent, possibly in another country, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
A third, 16-year-old April Wiss, is thought to have run away on Jan. 11, 2000, a few weeks before she was set to testify against a man in a statutory rape case.
The fourth missing Wichita child – Jaquilla Scales – briefly drew the nation’s attention when she vanished from bed at her grandmother’s home at 1618 N. Volutsia on Sept. 5, 2001. Then 4, she was last seen wearing a flowered nightgown and tan barrettes.
Authorities combed her neighborhood and nearby areas but turned up nothing.
Her case remains open.
“There’s been no leads, no information on that case in several years,” Wichita police Lt. Todd Ojile said.
Jaquilla would be 16 now.
Adam Herrman’s case baffles law enforcement, as well. Authorities didn’t learn the boy was missing until 2008 – nine years after his adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman, claim he ran away from home.
The Herrmans failed to report Adam missing out of fear, they have said, that their other children would be taken away.
Herzet, the Butler County sheriff, has theories about what happened to the boy. But extensive searches of the trailer park where Adam lived, along the Whitewater River and in nearby wooded areas yielded no human remains.
Investigators also have no evidence Adam is still alive.
“He’s not come forward to say, ‘Hey. I’m Adam Herrman.’ We’ve exhausted all of our leads as far as ... locating someone through Social Security and social media” and other avenues, Herzet said.
Attention given the case by local and national news media has yielded no fruitful leads, either.
“The people responsible need to step forward and come forward,” Herzet said, “and tell us where he’s at.”
In 2011, Doug and Valerie Herrman pleaded guilty to felony theft for continuing to accept a $700-monthly state adoption subsidy until Adam’s 18th birthday, in 2005. A Butler County judge ordered the couple to pay $15,488 in restitution – the amount they admitted to wrongly accepting – fined each $2,500, and sent both to prison for less than a year.
Neither has been charged in connection with Adam’s disappearance.
Contacted by The Eagle, Valerie Herrman said she understands why authorities suspect her and her husband. They live in Grove, Okla., now.
“The reasoning we didn’t call police, that makes us look really suspicious. I understand that,” Valerie Herrman said. “I mean I would suspect anybody like that. And then, we were the last ones to see him.”
Herzet told The Eagle the Herrmans never call for case updates. “It’s basically like they’ve moved on,” he said.
Valerie Herrman said lawyers advised her not to call the sheriff’s office because she and her husband are suspects. Instead she looks to news media, she said, or asks relatives for information.
She said she’s grateful to the anonymous donor of the $50,000 reward’s donor.
“I am so thankful for the person that did this. ... If I knew the person, I’d given them the biggest hug I could,” Valerie Herrman said.
“I’ve never given up hope that they would find him (Adam). I just know he’s out there somewhere.”
‘Vested in this case’
Herzet, meanwhile, has vowed to continue the search.
“At this point, we’re not actively digging or excavating or doing ground searches on the case. But I assure you, if a lead would come in and tell us to look at a location, we’ll have a team (out),” Herzet said.
He added: “My detectives are vested in this case until the end or until they retire.”
Some carry photos of the boy in their patrol cars. Others keep portraits in their offices.
“We all have pictures of Adam etched in our minds,” Herzet said.
Authorities ask anyone with information about Adam Herrman’s disappearance to call the Butler County Sheriff’s Office at 316-322-4257 or 1-866-484-5924.
Tipsters can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s 24-hour hotline at 800-THE-LOST (843-5678).