Robert Boro was found; the family says it’s too little, too late

Robert “Bob” Boro went missing from 1832 S Curry Pike on Jan. 1 after he crashed his truck into the side of a house just after midnight.

Throughout the past three and a half months, his family went through what they described as a waking nightmare. His sister, Tracy Boro, lives in Iowa and said she constantly asked the police if they could do anything to help to little avail, leaving her family feeling helpless hundreds of miles away. Cassandra Elliott, Boro’s ex-wife and mother of his two children, said as days passed, she and her family tried to keep hope but began to assume the worst. Throughout this, they said they dealt with apathy and incompetence from both police and the media. Both said it only added to their grief for Boro despite having no answers about where he was and constantly wondering if he was alive.

On April 18, 2024, they no longer had to wonder. Three and a half months after police took Boro’s missing person report, the family said someone found his body in a yard less than half a mile away from the place he crashed and went missing.

“None of this had to happen,” Elliott said. “We could have had closure four months ago. Yeah, we would be grieving, but we could have had closure four months ago, and we wouldn’t have gone through hell.”

Who is Bob Boro?

Tracy Boro talking about Bob

The Elliott Family talking about Bob

Timeline of Boro’s Disappearance

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, Robert “Bob” Boro left the Bloomington, Indiana American Veterans Post, or AMVETS, on Airport Road in his gray Ford truck. Family said he wore a suit and spent the evening celebrating the New Year’s Eve at AMVETS after leaving the Bloomington Eagles Club earlier that night. He talked to his sister, Tracy Boro, on the phone just before midnight and his daughter, Kacie, around 12:05 a.m.

Minutes later, at 12:14 a.m. on Jan. 1, driving down South Curry Pike Road, Bloomington Police Department said he veered off the west side of the road, across the opposite lane of traffic, and into a house.

BPD responded at 1:22 a.m. and found the truck crashed into the house’s garage and porch. The damage to the house and truck was significant; the windshield was shattered at the top, and the hood and grill were dented head-on in the center. The crash had pushed in the garage doors, damaged the porch and left various potted plants and belongings strewn across the driveway and yard. When police arrived, Boro was nowhere to be found, though his phone and the tools he used as a repairman had been left in the truck. The family later told police that Boro almost always carried a gun with him either on his person or in that truck, but it was missing as well.

The next day, the family became worried after they didn’t hear from Boro throughout the day. In Iowa, Tracy began to worry when she couldn’t get a hold of him by phone. The Elliott family also tried to call him throughout the day, and on the evening of Jan. 1, they realized no one had talked to him that day. After checking Life360, Elliott said they saw his phone’s location in the Hawkins Tow Lot. Elliott said one of her friends at their house that evening went and checked the tow lot. Elliott said they confirmed her fear.

“They pulled up, and I had described Bob’s truck to her, and she said, ‘I really hope this isn’t it,’” Elliott said. “And she turned the camera around, and I saw Bob’s truck. I could tell because of the stuff that was in the window around the mirror. His truck was destroyed.”

At this point, the family knew something was incredibly wrong, both Elliott and Tracy said. The Elliott family contacted the police as Tracy, along with her and Boro’s mother, Betty, prepared to drive almost 10 hours to Indiana.

When they arrived, Tracy said they went to the police station and began a long and strained relationship with the Bloomington Police Department. Both Tracy and Elliott faced pushback when trying to file missing person reports for Boro. Elliott said she tried to file one on Jan. 1, and Tracy filed one on Jan. 2. Both said they were told by police that filing the report was unnecessary as they were already looking for him since they considered the crash a hit-and-run.

Boro did have a conviction in 2012 for Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana. Elliott said she thinks Boro may have been intoxicated that night, but she did not think that the fear of getting in trouble would cause him to leave his children for such a long time. Tracy said she thought the same; he would not abandon his kids.

“He loved those kids, those were his number ones,” Tracy said. “He would have done anything for those kids. [He’s] just very much a family man.”

After Tracy Boro returned home, she tried to pass along his bank account information and continuously asked the police for updates. She said they rarely had any leads. There was a tip that a man in a suit was spotted near Kroger, but this was proven not to be Boro. Since his disappearance, she said the case has changed investigating officers multiple times. 

At one point, there were rumors and concerns that Boro had gone back to Iowa or was hiding with Tracy and her family, but she adamantly said this was never the case, and later, Elliott said she also did not believe this to be the case. At certain points, Tracy said she felt police still thought she and her mother might have known where Boro was, and said she worried it caused them to keep thinking he had just run off.

Police did use a drone to search, but it can only be flown over public roads or land, and though it had an infrared camera, the family said it was used likely after Boro had already died. While infrared has been used to detect the remains of the deceased, it often relies on environmental factors such as whether insects have discovered the body and what the temperature is where the body is located. For Boro, who likely died in early January according to the family, the average temperature during the month was 29.7 F, and insect activity (which is a major factor in using infrared cameras to detect remains) is typically low in these conditions, meaning it would have been harder to pick him up on infrared cameras.

Still, Tracy and Elliott both said they felt aside from the drone search and some searches on foot, police efforts were lackluster, especially combined with what they described as an assumption made by police that Boro had simply run to avoid being charged with a crime. Despite the disagreements and tension that have arisen between the families amid a strenuous situation, both Tracy and Elliott repeatedly and unequivocally agreed on two things: Boro would not up and leave his kids like the police were implying, and they worried about his physical and mental condition after the crash.

Concerns about the investigation

The Gun

Both Elliott and Tracy expressed worries about the missing gun Boro usually had. It was not found in the vehicle, but the family said he almost always kept it there or on his person. According to the family, police told them most people in the area carried guns and they were not concerned about it, despite the family pushing back saying they didn’t know whether Boro or someone else had it, and that he could have been confused or unwell from the crash.

“My concern was with the accident, if it triggered the head injury again, or if he was out there with confusion,” Tracy said.

She said she also worried that stressors in his life like financial troubles and personal issues may have been affecting him mentally as well.

While the coroner has identified his remains, his cause of death is still not officially known.

K9 Units

Additionally, the family said police told them using K9 units would be unnecessary. Elliott learned someone had reached out on their behalf to Indiana K9 Search Specialists, a nonprofit organization run by former law enforcement. She said they contacted BPD, who allegedly declined their services, even though it would be free to the department.

Andy Rebmann, a retired trainer with the Connecticut State Police who has over four decades of experience, said even if dogs had been used, it could depend on many factors like the environment and the handler’s training. In colder weather, he said it is slightly harder for a dog to find remains, and it sometimes requires they be much closer to the body, sometimes within just a few hundred feet. This could have presented difficulties had dogs been used early in Boro’s case, considering it was consistently below freezing. However, he said it depends heavily on having a well-trained handler; with a good handler, cadaver dogs are very effective.

Leah Snyder, the Founding Director of Indiana K9 Search and Rescue, has over 25 years of experience working with K9s. She said that given the details of the case, specifically the fact that the family expressed concerns about him being confused or mentally unwell, trained and accredited search dogs should have been brought in to find him.

“Honestly, they would have found him sooner,” Snyder said.

Snyder said even in colder temperatures, their dogs are trained to find bodies at all levels of decomposition. Handlers and their dogs in the group are accredited by the International Police Work Dog Association, which was originally founded by members of law enforcement here in Indiana.

“We push ourselves to the point where we can pass that certification,” Snyder said. And that training, she said, pays off.

“The dog works for what’s at the end of the trail,” Snyder said. Even among environmental factors, she said they are trained to get to the end goal, which is finding the person.

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re dogs, they’re going to stop and smell other dogs, they’re going to stop and smell for critters,” she said. “They’re going to act a little bit differently for different things, but the end of the line is, they work for reward.”

She said she wishes that law enforcement would use accredited search dog groups more often. Snyder said they are made up of all volunteers, are completely free to use and are dedicated to the work they do.

“We are just an extra tool for law enforcement or family,” Snyder said.

“It’s ‘use any tools that you have to use to get the job done.’ Law enforcement particularly doesn’t know how much training we do, they don’t know the amount of work that we put into doing this.” Snyder said.

“We do everything right, we follow all the rules, we have strict rules ourselves,” Snyder said. “And I wish law enforcement knew this. We’re here. Use us.”

Elliott said she wished using search dogs would have been something law enforcement at least tried in the search for Boro.

“My kids have had to grieve or figure out what they’re grieving for, for four months because they didn’t want somebody else to bring their dogs out to try and find him, and I promise you, he would have been found,” Elliott said.

Tracy was also enraged by this.

“[It] has my blood boiling because again, that just proves that you didn’t take any of it seriously at all,” Tracy said. “Had you done that, we wouldn’t have gone through all the anguish that we did, his kids wouldn’t have gone through all the anguish that they did. I mean, it is the most horrible thing to not know where your family is.”

Police investigation as a whole

The concerns Tracy and Elliott said they have around the investigation largely lie with how police treated the case from the start. Despite their numerous pleas, both said police spent the first weeks of the investigation assuming he was on the run.

As they talked to police, both Tracy and Elliott said they faced little effort returned and pushback about filing a report.

When Tracy and Betty went to report Boro as missing, Tracy said police would not take her seriously.

“He proceeded to take the report but informed me right then and there that they did not view him as a missing person but that they viewed him as being on the run so basically they were not going to pursue anything with him at that particular time. [They said], ‘Well, if he shows up, then we’ll know,’” Tracy said.

Tracy repeatedly told them that he would not abandon his kids and that she had concerns for his mental and physical health. Several years back, Boro had been assaulted with what Tracy said they thought was a crowbar. It caused skull fractures and brain bleeds, which Tracy and Elliott both worried were exacerbated by the crash, especially because no airbags were deployed, according to BPD.

Additionally, Tracy worried that stress from the crash, combined with this head trauma, may have left him mentally unwell and confused, but she said police never took this concern seriously either.

Tracy said she felt they did not believe that something was truly wrong until she called them one day after other remains were found.

“I just broke down and I started crying,” Tracy said. “I said, ‘Was that my brother that you found?’ And he said, ‘No, you would hear from me if it was,’ and I said, ‘Okay.’ And I think that is the first time that he believed me that we did not know where he was.”

Now, four months later, both say they wish they would have fought harder to make police believe them.

“There are so many things I wish I would have done differently,” Tracy said. “I wish would not have let them slap my hand, and I wish I wouldn’t have let them get me to the point where I felt like I was defeated, and I wish I would have been on them more than I was.”

Though Elliott said he likely passed away soon after the crash, she said her family could have been spared four months of extended grieving and confusion had the police taken some of their concerns more seriously.

“It’s unacceptable,” Elliott said.

Bloomington Police Department did not respond to requests for official comment on the family’s concerns.

“Missing White Woman Syndrome” in Media Coverage

Boro is no exception to a long-explored trend in missing persons cases where if the person missing is not a young, white woman, their case is often left behind, by both the media and the police. While Boro is white, he fits into two demographics that get very little coverage, according to the Columbia Journalism Review: he is middle-aged, and he is a man.

For men who are not white, it’s even worse. According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s data on missing person coverage, a young, white woman reported missing in New York could get 67 articles written about her. A Latino man of the same age and city would only get 17. CJR’s data also says a middle-aged Black man would get only four or fewer mentions in the media.

One of the most overlooked demographics is Native people. Liza Black, an IU expert on missing Native women, said it’s often because Native people, especially Native women, are dehumanized by both the perpetrators who often kill them, by outside law enforcement, and by the general public. She said she believes the public has to start to care for the media, too, but in the meantime, there are basic ways for the media to help.

“Just covering it would be an improvement,” she said “Not relying solely on the police as a source would also be helpful. Not undermining statements made by the families would be an improvement.”

This is not just in the case of Native women. The sheer number of missing person cases in general already displays disparity between white people who go missing and other races and ethnicities. In data released in 2022, Black people made up just 13.6% of the population, yet accounted for nearly a third of all missing person cases, according to data from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

But even the databases house issues. It is optional to put cases into these databases, and they often go unused by local law enforcement. The NCIC database has faced claims of inaccuracy going back decades. In 2007, a study found that 4 out of 5 medical examiners don’t use NCIC to enter data on unidentified remains. NamUs is a national voluntary database for law enforcement to enter missing person cases into, but only 16 states currently require law enforcement to enter that data:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

These issues all compound upon the issue of lacking media coverage, but even without fully mandatory and accurate data on missing persons, the data available shows that the amount of missing people of color, especially missing Black and Native people, is vastly disproportionate to their populations in the United States. on

In Indiana, arguably the most well-known missing person is Lauren Spierer. But there are dozens of cases like hers in the state that have gotten far less attention.

Dawnita Wilkerson, a 44-year-old Black woman, went missing from Evansville and was last seen getting into a 2004 Chevrolet Suburban on surveillance footage in 2020. Niqui McCown, a 28-year-old Black woman, went missing in 2001 from a laundromat in Richmond, Indiana, and her family is still trying to raise awareness about her case. These cases are among those that are more well-known to the public.

The tool CJR created to calculate possible press coverage estimates Lauren Spierer would get around 60 news stories and her story would reach 20 national outlets. According to the same tool, Wilkerson and McCown would receive 7 stories each.

Boro would receive around 13 news stories, according to CJR’s data. There were only four unique articles written about him before his body was found.

Three of those articles were written within the month he went missing. Since then, only one has been published with updates on the case and input from the family.

Tracy Boro said she felt that men do not get enough attention when they go missing, nor does their mental health, and that this is part of why his case wasn’t taken seriously. Elliott said she noticed the disparities, as well.

“They go to great lengths to do all this other research for different cases, and then you get to this one, and it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s just a drunk driver, he just crashed into a house, he’s just trying to escape,’” Elliott said. “He was still here, and you should have looked for him, and you should have found him, and you should have let our family grieve a long time ago.”

Curing an Epidemic

The amount of missing person cases in the US, and the lack of attention for those who are part of minority communities, is often dubbed an epidemic. So how can this epidemic cured?

For one, it starts with awareness. CJR said it has to be a conscious effort on both journalists’ and their reader’s part; readers need to pay more attention to cases where people of color and older people go missing, while journalists need to close the gaps in their reporting and ensure missing minorities don’t slip through.

Organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation repeatedly say it is important for news organizations to establish a policy on handling missing persons. Additionally, working with law enforcement can help get more information out faster.

Indiana State Police First Sargeant Brad Stille agrees. In his experience, he said there are two things they need more of when media cover cases like these.

“I’m gonna be brutally honest on this one, in my 23 years, I’m gonna say honesty and loyalty,” Stille said. “We want and need to have a good relationship with the media, but the dialogue needs to be there, and the respect and the integrity. We need the media to get things out to help us in our investigation. That’s the best avenue, and now you have social media on top of that which is [harder] to control. But from the media side, just being understanding of what our goals are. We’re trying to solve the case.”

On the investigatory side, Stille said it starts with how cases are treated from the get-go.

“The whole 24 or 48 hour thing, I think a lot of that’s TV myth,” Stille said. “All you have to do is watch some of the crime shows on TV and see that time is not on your side. It’s not a good idea to wait that long.”

Stille also said that relies on families trusting their gut and filing a report when they know something is wrong, as well as police trusting the families when they do.

“Family knows family better than you or I ever will,” Stille said.

In the weeks after Boro’s body was found, the nightmare has continued, both Tracy and Elliott say. Between convoluted laws as to who gets his remains and the knowledge that he could have been found sooner, their anger is far from subsiding, especially for how his case was initially investigated.

“At this point, if I had the means to sue the police, I would,” Elliott said.

Both the Boro and Eillott families have grappled with the idea that they could have had answers four months ago. Elliott said she is angry over how long they have had to suffer when she said she believes K9 units would have found him had they tried using them.

“In my opinion, they’re the ones that are responsible for my family having to grieve this long,” Elliott said.

Tracy said she was also enraged. She said she sees Boro’s case as a prime example of how missing people, especially those who are middle-aged or older men, are not taken seriously, and neither is their mental health. 

“If people would take it more seriously when men specifically go missing and not dismiss it, or not dismiss a mental health aspect of it, or think it’s not a big deal,” Tracy said. “Had they listened to the family, I think this would have been resolved way sooner and not [three] and a half months later.”

Despite all of this, both said they are pushing through. Elliott said her kids have grown somewhat closer because of it and that they’re finding ways to memorialize Boro. They plan to put pictures of him up in their house.

“We’re just going to try and figure out how to have our normal celebrations, our normal life without him, which is going to be weird because we’re used to having him in our everyday life,” Elliott said. “We see him usually every day, and the past four months we haven’t, and I still don’t think we’re used to that. I don’t know how to get used to that. So that’s what we’re going to be doing. Taking it day-by-day, trying to get used to the thought of knowing that we’re not going to get to see him again.”

Despite finding some light in the dark, Elliott still says she hopes no one has to go through this, and if they do, she says not to back down.

“Go to the police station every day,” Elliott said. “I don’t care if they arrest you. Show your face every day.”

Tracy is back in Iowa and trying to figure out what to do with Boro’s remains. She says with a son who just left for the army and her mother devastated by the loss of her son, they’re still trying to piece themselves back together. She said she also hopes to raise awareness about Boro’s case and prevent others from going through the same situation they did. More than anything else, both echoed one sentiment:  

“Make yourself be heard,” Elliott said.

“There [were] a lot of things I wish they would have done differently,” Tracy said. “You have got to start listening to families because you as an officer do not know somebody. You don’t know what a case is, you don’t know how it’s going to go. Just listen to what the families are actually telling you, and again, maybe we wouldn’t have sat here in anguish for [three] and a half months.”