Chosen by Tara H., this case is Erica Nicole Baker, a nine-year-old who disappeared from Kettering, Ohio on February 7, 1999. Kettering is a suburb of Dayton, and about an hour and a half south of the hamlet where I grew up.
Erica went out to walk her aunt’s dog and never returned. The dog was found running around unaccompanied with its leash still attached, and eventually got picked up by Animal Control, but there was no sign of Erica.
She has been missing for 18 years, but we pretty much know what happened: Christian Gabriel was convicted of evidence tampering and abuse of a corpse after he confessed to running over Erica with a van, panicking and then disposing of her body. There are two other suspects who were thought to have been in the van at the time, but one of them died and the grand jury declined to indict the other one. Gabriel, who has since been released from prison, has retracted his confession and nobody knows where Erica’s body is.
I got approached, via the private message on the Charley Project’s Facebook page, by a young man who said he thought he was a certain child who had disappeared from Florida. I advised him to contact the NCMEC and gave them their tip line number. He claimed the NCMEC were “corrupt” and trying to cover up the disappearance of another child, a girl, who had disappeared from that same county in Florida a few years after the missing boy did.
He said the girl’s parents were trying to help cover up her disappearance too, and that the police knew all about it and weren’t doing anything because they wanted to avoid a lawsuit.
I told him I was unable to assist him and then he accused me of being paid by the girl’s parents to help cover up her disappearance!
He also found a two-year-old blog post of mine that had been shared on Charley’s Facebook page, which mentioned the missing girl, and posted a photograph of a young woman whom he claims is her. Whoever that young woman is, I didn’t want her photo on Charley’s Facebook page, but I couldn’t figure out how to delete his comments so I had to delete the entire post from the Facebook page. Fortunately the only comments on it were his.
I’ve got an Executed Today entry for today about armed robber Margaret Savage, who was hanged in Dublin, Ireland on this day in 1787. She was one of the many victims of the UK’s Bloody Code, which levied the death penalty for all the manner of minor offenses that would have been punished with probation or a fine today. The idea seems to have been “the easier it is to commit a crime, the more harshly it should be punished.” It didn’t work.
(And before any of you tell me that Dublin isn’t in the UK, it was back then.)
This week’s FF case is Natasha Marie Shanes, a six-year-old girl who was apparently abducted from her mother’s Jackson, Michigan home on May 8, 1985.
Although they never identified the abductor or found any bloodstains or the like, I’m pretty confident Natasha died around the time she was taken, because of her medical problems. She had a seizure disorder and needed medication for that. She was also slightly intellectually disabled and she had scoliosis, though to what degree I don’t know.
In the very unlikely event that Natasha is alive, she’d be 38 today.
Sometimes it seems like I don’t get a resolved case for a month and then suddenly get hit with a dozen at once. This next update will have five. So far. I’m linking to their casefiles but they won’t be up for much longer.
- Runaway Sualee Jeseenia Gonzalez Castro has been found alive, per NCMEC. She had been missing for two years and almost two months and is now 19 years old.
- Runaway Alondra Hernandez-Trujillo has also been found alive, per NCMEC. She had been missing for almost three years. She is now 18.
- Convicted murderer Thomas Riffenburg has confessed to the killings of his girlfriend, Jennifer Anne Walsh, and their son, Alexander Mitchell Riffenburg, who had been missing from Palmdale, California since January 9, 2009. Jennifer was 23 and Alexander was only a year old. This article provides a lot of background info about their cases, more than I have on Charley. Thomas provided hand-drawn maps to where he’d buried their bodies, and the cops found remains and are awaiting DNA confirmation of their identities. I think I’ll resolve their cases now; it’s highly unlikely they’re anyone but Jennifer and Alexander.
- A skull found in the woods 2001 has been identified as Ella Mae Williams, an 80-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s Disease who wandered from her Gainesville, Florida home on March 25, 1990. (The article incorrectly gives her age as 78.)
This week’s featured missing person is Patrice Lynae Smith, a 28-year-old missing from Little Rock, Arkansas since March 24, 2012. She was last seen in the company of Michael Curtis Robinson, her abusive boyfriend. She had an order of protection against him and he sounds like a general dirt bag.
Suspiciously, Michael Robinson disappeared at the same time Patrice Smith did, and later turned up without her. He was in prison last I knew though he might be out by now.
[EDIT: Mystery solved! And I feel slightly annoyed with myself. See the comments section for deets.]
The other day WTVM did an article about missing people from Columbus, Georgia area. It talks about five people, but there’s an accompanying montage of photographs that shows SIX people. Five of them are the missing people mentioned in the article, but the sixth, a young black or biracial woman with a blonde afro, is not mentioned and I do not recognize her. I checked on NamUs and she doesn’t appear to be on there either; at least no one by that description is listed as missing from Columbus, Georgia.
In case the article goes away, I have the image shown below:
It’s the woman in the top middle photo. I wrote to the reporter who wrote the article to ask who she is, but he didn’t get back to me. Does anyone know who she might be?