When 27-year-old Joseph Jordan first heard the convoluted tale of missing 3-year-old girl Caylee Anthony, the story resonated with the Coco, Fla., father of two.
Allegedly left by her mother with a friend, Caylee has been missing from her Florida home since June, although her disappearance wasn't reported to authorities until July. Since then, Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, has been charged with child neglect, making false statements and obstructing an investigation for allegedly lying to the police.
"It was close to home. We wanted to help," Jordan said. "The family seemed really frustrated and, initially, that's what prompted us to go out and try to help."
Jordan began looking for information online and quickly found others who also were eager to volunteer for an independent search, but law enforcement experts question how much amateurs can really help and point out that, in some cases, they can even do harm.
Using message boards on the Web sites Websleuths.com and Sacredmonkeys.com, Jordan found those fellow amateurs -- other concerned citizens who wanted to organize search parties for the young girl.
"I've been going out every day after work and we do a big group thing on the weekends," Jordan said. "The [Orange County] Sheriff's office has been phenomenal. They've been very responsive to our calls."
In an unsolved case such as Caylee's, tips from authorities are constantly solicited from the community and, in this case, stoked by sordid allegations and the media frenzy that followed, tips have been coming in droves.
Earlier this week, the state's attorney's office released more than 400 pages of court documents that included an arrest report and transcripts of witness interviews. Those documents included allegations that Caylee's mother wanted to give her up for adoption while she was pregnant, and deleted more than 200 online digital photos of her daughter.
A $225,000 reward is being offered for information that could lead to Caylee's safe return.
The sheriff's department has received more than 2,000 tips, according to Jim Solomons, a spokesman for the department.
"Anything that comes to us that's open-ended, they are looked at without hesitation. We let the investigators pick and choose what they want to follow up on," Solomons said. "But in a case like this, and I've been doing this for 23 years, I go back to that [idea]: it's that one little obscure piece of information that can turn the light in the right direction."
But volunteer-organized search parties that aren't handled well can slow down an investgation, according to experts.
"Unless they're working with law enforcement, it sort of sets up a situation where they're sort of working against each other," said retired Los Angeles police detective Frank Linley.
His wife Sarah Linley, who he met on the job when she was a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, agreed.
"Sometimes, it's people that are wannabes that are struck by the excitement of law enforcement, or people that watch 'CSI' too much. People who decide they want to get involved [but] they don't know anything about what they're doing," she said. "I have no doubt they are good at heart, but at the same time, how would they know if they find something that might be of interest?"