Robert Hutter and family Submitted photo

TURNER – Several years ago, Robert Hutter of Turner was waiting for his oldest daughter, who was in kindergarten at the time, to get back from her second day of school.

After her bus came and went without stopping and letting her off, a paralyzing fear took over Hutter.

“I was standing around waiting for her, and when the bus didn’t stop to let her off, I started assuming the worst,” Hutter said.

Within minutes, he learned that his daughter got off at the wrong bus stop, but the feeling stuck with Hutter.

“Those 10 minutes – you don’t want that feeling,” Hutter said. “It’s horrible.”

Hutter never forgot it, and now, in 2019, it’s informing his interest in volunteering for the Center for Search and Investigations, a national nonprofit organization created in 2009 by a Texas private investigator named Chuck Foreman that helps track down missing children between the ages of 11 and 16 who have been missing for more than 90 days.

Foreman wrote on his website that he found it difficult to find missing children by himself and created the nonprofit, which helps train volunteers in a variety of roles, including social media “blast teams” that make sure missing children flyers are reaching as far as possible, and administrators that make sure the organization’s website runs properly.

The nonprofit organization also invites private investigators and detectives to donate their time and services to help track down children who have gone missing.

Hutter said he enjoys volunteering and giving back to his community when he’s not substitute teaching or spending time with his family, which led him to CFSI.

Name: Robert Hutter

Age: 44

Hometown: Turner

Occupation: Substitute teacher in RSU 4

How did you get involved with the Center for Search and Investigations? I’ve been in the investigative field, both public and private, for the last 22 years. Before I moved to Maine, I lived in New York and worked as a Medicaid fraud investigator. When (my family and I) lived in the city of Newburn, North Carolina, just before we moved to Maine, my wife and I would volunteer with the Newburn Police Department and dress up as McGruff the Crime Dog.

After we moved to Maine, I knew I wanted to volunteer with something again. We always tell our children that you’ve got to give back to your community in some way. I started getting involved with CFSI a little bit after we came to Maine.

While I was in the Medicaid fraud business, skip tracing was my big thing. I was responsible for finding missing people, and I was good at it. When I heard about CFSI in Maine, I thought, “Hey, here’s a good opportunity to help find people and not result in it having someone’s house taken away or their car repossessed.” It felt like a good way to give back.

What exactly does being a volunteer with CFSI entail? What we do is use social media to help us spread the word and track them down. We’ll send out flyers to people on Facebook, who share it with their friends, and their friends share it with even more friends. The police are helpful too. We’ll hand out the flyers to them and they make sure they get to where they need to be.

CFSI also offers you free leadership training to teach you what’s required of you as a volunteer. A lot of us volunteers are from different walks of life. It’s not just private investigators or former law enforcement officers who volunteer. We’re parents giving some of our time to help out a good cause.

Another thing we do, as CFSI volunteers, is never use the term “runaway” when dealing with a case. When you start using that term, it can feel like you’re blaming the person. We try to abolish that term when we’re looking for missing children.

One of the things I like most about CFSI is that it doesn’t take a dime from anybody. Nobody is making any money off of this. Rather than take donations, CFSI asks people to donate their services or their time. That’s how they operate, and I think it’s great.

Have you had to deal with many cases in Maine since you started volunteering? We’re fortunate that there aren’t as many cases here in New England as there are in other parts of the country. The places where you see the most missing kids is Texas, California and, surprisingly, Ohio.

In Maine, since 2013, we’ve only had a few cases that we’ve had to deal with. We only have seven or eight volunteers in Maine, but we’re always looking for more.

Each state has a chapter of CFSI, and since there aren’t as many cases in New England as in other parts of the country, I oversee the Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire chapters of CFSI.

CFSI actually just hit 1,800 “Found Safes,” which means we successfully found a child who had been reported missing. We’re very proud of that number.

What do you do for work when you’re not volunteering with CFSI? When I’m not volunteering, I do some substitute teaching at Leavitt Area High School. I’ve really taken a liking to it, and my wife does it too. RSU 4 is a really good district and both of my kids go to school there. It’s a little weird for them having their parents teach in their district, but that’s OK.

I also have a mobile notary and process service center (called Spectrum Judicial Services).

When I’m not working or volunteering, (my family and I) love the outdoors. On Sundays, we’re in church all day. We go to Victory Baptist Church in Winthrop. It’s a great place.

My 7-year-old son is into cars with me, so he and I tinker on cars and spend a lot of time together.

I’m also planning on taking some time and participating in the Citizen’s Police Academy in Auburn. It’s a really good way to network and learn about what goes on with law enforcement. From what I understand, it’s a program partially funded by federal monies where you go through about eight or nine weeks of training on how police officers perform their duties and what they do on the job.

I did something similar in North Carolina. There, they gave us a hands-on demonstration on firearms, did some ride-alongs, and taught us about the procedures that the police department used on the job. It’s a really good experience, and now that I have a little bit of free time, I want to try to complete the class.

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