NEW YORK -- The despair of parents searching for a missing child
was the theme of a network prime-time television show on Sept. 4
that focused on travel writer Claudia Kirschhoch, who disappeared
in Jamaica on May 27.
In a show cast as a mystery but with no resolution for viewers,
Claudia's parents recapitulated their efforts to locate their
Fred and Marianne Kirschhoch strongly suggested during ABC's
hourlong "20/20 Downtown" program that the police in Jamaica could
have redirected its efforts early on to speed up the investigation
of their 29-year-old daughter's disappearance.
The police force in Negril, where the Frommer's Travel Guides
writer had been staying, was hampered by a lack of manpower and
proper equipment for polygraph testing.
The program underscored the Kirschhochs' contention that the
time lag in involving both the FBI and the services of a trained
search dog delayed vital aspects of the investigation.
Although many of the Jamaican people were seen as compassionate
and concerned by the Kirschhochs, Jamaica itself did not fare quite
The destination was labeled a turbulent island with a rampant
drug culture and a murder rate five times that of the U.S.
However, locals did emphasize on camera that tourists are
neither the focus nor the victims of Jamaica's crime and drug
Footage of Negril, where Claudia had been a guest at Beaches
Negril resort after Sandals canceled a press trip to Cuba, included
nighttime shots of open-air beachfront reggae bars, including
Alfred's Bar & Restaurant which Claudia had visited with a
bartender from Beaches before her disappearance.
Negril was described by "20/20" narrator Cynthia McFadden as "a
mix of funk and elegance where most tourists come to forget their
Anthony Grant, the bartender, was subsequently fired from his
job for violating company policy of fraternizing with a guest. The
police, however, said that Grant is not a suspect.
Sandals chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart said he placed "the
Sandals organization at the disposal of investigators seeking the
whereabouts of Claudia. The search is our highest priority."
Sandals matched the reward offered by the Kirschhochs and paid
for radio ads to secure leads.
However, the Kirschhochs said they were angered and felt
betrayed by what they described as a character assassination of
Claudia by Leo Lambert, group public relations director for
Sandals, during a Sandals press conference in Kingston on June
Lambert defended his June statements in a phone interview
following the "20/20" show.
"ABC never gave the listeners a fair view as to what happend. It
gave a subjective opinon of what [Fred] Kirschhoch said and then
carried what I said," Lambert said.
He also denied the show's report that he had been reprimanded
for his comments.
"Mr. Stewart and I both regretted that the incident took place.
My organization was being portrayed in a negative light and I had
to defend it," Lambert said.
The Jamaica Touist Board refused comment on the "20/20"