Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Town 'N Country's Susan Jordan knew how to disappear

You can still get lost.

The local story of Susan Jordan and the national story of Mark Sanford seem strangely linked. They couldn't be more different, the two of them — a woman from north of Tampa, and the governor of South Carolina — but in this Big Brother-y age of surveillance cameras, GPS and Google Earth, the two of them have this much in common: They disappeared.

Jordan, a 57-year-old divorced mother, was gone for six weeks before calling family.

Sanford, a 49-year-old politician, was gone for six days before getting off a plane in Atlanta.

But the point is this: Both of them, at least for a while, got lost, and stayed lost, because they wanted it that way.

That's getting harder and harder to do these days.

"This is a profound question about our identity and our place in society," Peter Eckersley said Wednesday from San Francisco. He's a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He studies privacy issues brought on by rapidly advancing technologies.

"Do we," he asked, "have the right to say, 'Hey I want to escape the life I was living? I want to be a new person in a new place.' "

Jordan was reported missing on May 8. Deputies learned that she had bought a bus ticket under the name "Debbie Kelly." Surveillance tapes showed her on May 7 in the Greyhound station in downtown Tampa, later that night in Orlando and then the following morning in Tallahassee.

After that …nothing. Gone.

Sanford, the Palmetto State's chief executive since 2002, left the governor's mansion last Thursday. A cell tower near the Atlanta airport picked up a signal from his phone. Then it was turned off. State law enforcement officials called his phone and sent him text messages on Friday. No response.

The governor's office issued a statement Saturday that people shouldn't be concerned.

People were concerned.

The governor's office said he was "taking some time away" to "recharge." Then his wife said she didn't know where he was. Then his office said he was hiking on the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.

Where was Jordan?

Where was Sanford?

Our trails are tracked, because of where we get online, because of ATMs, because of credit cards, because of tolls, because of we shop on Amazon and because we carry cell phones wherever we go.

We feel watched, we feel tethered to some kind of network, because we kind of are, but we play along. We get on Facebook, and log in our status.

Here I am.

"As electronic devices become more equipped," Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman J.D. Calloway said Wednesday, "that definitely helps us find people, whether they are a fugitive or someone who has disappeared."

"Fifty years ago, it would've been easy to get lost," Eckersley said. "Now you can do this, you can go off the grid, but only if you're really savvy, or really lucky."

You need money, according to "skip tracer" Frank Ahearn, and you need a plan. One slip and you're not lost for long. It's hard.

Ahearn, 46, works out of California, and can be found online at disappear.info. Some 95 percent of the people who find him, he said Wednesday, come by searching these three words:

How to disappear.

Jordan "un"-disappeared earlier this week, authorities said, when she called her family to say she was in Savannah. Case closed.

A woman from the suburbs who disappears for a while is under no obligation to explain. A governor? Totally different.

Sanford landed in Atlanta on Wednesday morning. A reporter from the State newspaper in South Carolina was waiting for him. No, Sanford said, he had not been on the Appalachian Trail. Instead: Argentina!

"I wanted to do something exotic," he explained. He said he had needed a break and did some driving along the coast. Lovely.

Come afternoon, though, back in Columbia, he said he had gone to Argentina to meet with a woman with whom he has been having an affair.

Later in the day Sanford's wife said she kicked him out two weeks ago.

That's wronged-wife-speak for — wait for it — get lost.

Times researcher Will Short Gorham contributed to this report. Michael Kruse can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8751.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Town 'N Country's Susan Jordan knew how to disappear 06/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deputies: Wimauma teacher's aide sexually molested teen, 13

    Crime

    A Wimauma teacher's aide faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl.

    Sonny Juarez, 29, a teacher's aide in Wimauma, faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl on several occasions while working at the RCMA Wimauma Academy, 18236 U.S. 301 S, between November 2016 and March 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]

  2. Tampa Bay deputies head to UF to assist with Richard Spencer's speech

    Public Safety

    Local deputies are heading up to Alachua County in preparation of white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville on Thursday.

    Law enforcement is stepped up in Gainesville on Oct. 18, 2017, ahead of Richard Spencer's appearance. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

    Olympics

    Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

    U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney poses after completing her routine on the vault during the Artistic Gymnastic women's qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Maroney posted a statement on Twitter Oct. 18, 2017, in which she said she was molested for years by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar. [Associated Press]
  4. Top 5 at Noon: Facts on Richard Spencer's Florida visit; Column: Jameis, don't be a hero; Locale Market changes again

    News

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:

    White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida. [Getty]
  5. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Uncertainty surrounds Jameis Winston's health

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks about the Bucs' quarterback situation, with uncertainty around Jameis Winston's health, in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Jameis Winston takes the field for warmups before the Bucs' game against the Cardinals Sunday in Glandale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]