On August 31, 1987, 8-year-old Ryan VanLuchene went out into his backyard, in a rural Montana town to play. It was the very last day of summer break. Ryan, a very outdoorsy, nature-loving boy went down to play on the creek that ran behind the family home. There, he was sure to catch minnows and butterflies and forget about the angst of school starting the next day. Little did he or anyone know that on that last day of summer break in 1987, the unthinkable would happen. Ryan disappeared right from his backyard.
Thinking that Ryan had simply wandered off, or chased a butterfly too far into the woods, Ryan’s family began to search for him. After an hour or so of searching, Ryan’s mother knew something was not right and called police. The police had little worry about the mother’s call for help, because they too assumed that Ryan had “just gotten lost,” and wasn’t “really missing.” In fact an officer was not sent to the VanLuchene home to investigate until six hours after Ryan was reported missing, because nothing like this ever happens in a small town.
The search for Ryan lasted throughout the night, into the next day, with no clues or sign of Ryan. A probation officer, who heard the missing child bulletin on the radio, had a really bad feeling about the situation, because he knew, that in the same community, a dangerous, repeat sex offender had just been released from the state prison, not even ninety days before Ryan’s disappearance. Thinking the unthinkable, the probation officer and law enforcement found this predator and questioned him about Ryan’s disappearance. Through this process, they found evidence connecting him to Ryan. Eventually, this unsupervised, repeat child molester led them to Ryan’s lifeless body.
The VanLuchene family was, to say the least, devastated and traumatized by Ryan’s abduction and murder. There were so many questions. The main one being: how does a predator like this get put into a community with no notification and no one monitoring him? This question and several others compelled the VanLuchene family to initiate change and to ensure that Ryan’s death was not in vein.
Ryan’s older brother, Derek VanLuchene, who was 17 when Ryan was murdered, founded Ryan United (RU) in 2003. VanLuchene, an 18 year veteran of Law enforcement, knew that Ryan’s case was rare (less than one percent of all abductions are stranger abductions that result in murder) but others had suffered in similar ways, either through having a missing child, or having a loved one suffer through the horrible crime of sexual assault. Thus, RU was born to provide a “Justiceline” for victims and their families, working both as an ally and a liaison with law enforcement and others who work on and investigate cases of child sexual assault and abduction.
Over the years RU has developed into more than just a Justiceline for victims. Working from a prevention perspective, RU also provides unique training that focuses on child and community safety. Having been in all 50 states talking with law enforcement, corrections, prosecutors, judges, and other child protection professionals about how important their role is in sex offender management and child abduction issues, RU has become known as a leader in this field.
About the Founder of Ryan United
Derek VanLuchene brings a unique perspective to the issues of sex offender management and child abduction. In 1987, when Derek was 17 years old, his 8 year old brother Ryan was abducted and murdered by a repeat sex offender. Ryan was taken right from the family’s backyard in a rural Montana community. Since that time, Derek has devoted himself to issues sex offender management as well as child abduction response.
Derek spent 18 years as a Montana Law Enforcement Officer working for both the Conrad Police Department and The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation. Currently, Derek serves as President and Founder of Ryan United, a non-profit organization dedicated to his brother. Through Ryan United, Derek provides resources to crime victims, Law Enforcement, Corrections officials specific to sex offender management, child abduction and community safety.
Derek works as a consultant for Fox Valley Technical College and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In Addition, Derek serves as a Senior Fellow with the US Department of Justice’s, Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Managing, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART). VanLuchene has been instrumental in developing curriculum for Law Enforcement, Prosecutors, and Corrections officials relating to sex offender management and child abduction response. Derek has also been active in developing and delivering curriculum specific to sex offender management and the investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse in Indian country.
Through his personal and professional experiences, VanLuchene speaks to criminal justice professionals and community organizations across the nation about how important their role is when it comes to protecting children. Derek and his family have been instrumental on a state and national basis promoting sensible management of sex offenders.
Derek is regarded nationally as an expert on all issues surrounding sex offender management and child abduction.