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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

August 29, 2007 |  9:09 am

Paul_coates Aug. 27, 1957

SUBJECTS' NAMES: Trudy, 6, Terry, 9, and Kim, 11, Ingram.

SUBJECTS' DESCRIPTIONS: All have blue eyes, light brown hair. Trudy and Terry, stocky build. Kim, slender.

Anyone with information as to their whereabouts is asked to contact Harvey Ingram, 1132 S. Holt Ave., Phone, WE bster 1-1501

Harvey Ingram's three children disappeared 14 months ago.

Today, he doesn't even know if they're dead or alive.

But in police language, they're not "missing persons." They aren't, because they disappeared with their mother.

To the police, Harvey Ingram's problem is (or was, until recently) a domestic one. If he ever wants to see them again, it's up to him to find them.

That's the official attitude of our law enforcement bodies.

It's a harsh one, but, in a way, it's a very necessary one. Because if the police found themselves dragged into every domestic entanglement in which participants sought their aid, they'd have little time for anything else.

The problem faced by Harvey Ingram is not unlike that of dozens of other husbands who emerge from California's divorce courts.

With rare exception, the mother--if at all fit--gets custody of the children. And from there, she has little difficulty slipping out of sight and leaving her ex-husband with two unpleasant surprises.

He can conduct an often expensive personal search and if he locates them, return to court (more expense) to request that his visitation privileges be absolutely enforced.

Or he can wait with the unlikely hope that someday they'll reappear.

Harvey Ingram selected the first.


And so far, his reward has been only additional expenses.

Ingram, a food distributor, and his wive, Vivian, were married in 1945. They separated eight years later and received their interlocutory decree in November of 1955.

It was a clean divorce. No scandal.

And Ingram, who didn't contest his wife's suit, came out of it better than most men do. He had been a good provider, and a clergyman testified that he'd never seen a stronger relationship between father and children.

The court psychologist recommended maximum visitation rights.

And the judge awarded him alternate weekends, certain holidays, plus half of the summer. Ingram was to pay $120 a month child support. His wife's alimony request was denied.

But then, according to Ingram, the trouble started. He says that on several occasions his wife wouldn't live up to the visitation order.

He adds: "I would have to have been a millionaire to go back to court on each violation." He, of course, was stuck with both attorneys' fees.

Then, on June 24 of last year, his wife and three children disappeared.

Immediately, Ingram sought help. He was turned down by the police and sheriff's office. It was a month before he could get the court to issue a subpoena on his wife. A deputy tried to serve it at her last known address. Naturally, she wasn't there.

It couldn't be served through her attorney, either, because she had withdrawn her papers.

When it became evident that the only way the subpoena could be served was if Ingram personally located his wife, he began a painstaking search.

He traced her and the children to Tucson, Ariz., lost the trail, picked it up again. But he never found her. He checked with city and county schools here. He checked with the state motor vehicle department. He checked lots of places.

Finally, last month, he got the court to issue a bench warrant for her arrest.

But it's just a piece of paper until the police accidentally stumble across her, or his continued search finally pays a dividend.

Ingram talks like a man who's very devoted to his children.

He talks like a man who won't quit searching till he finds them.

And maybe, someday, he will, in spite of some California divorce laws which almost make the state a party to his misfortune.