Home again, exhausted

So I was away for a bit cause my dad to have his thyroid gland removed at a hospital several hours away from our respective homes and I went with him to help out. Everything went fine in the surgery but they made him stay overnight, basically cause he’s old. So I had to stay overnight in a nearby hotel. They don’t let you camp in the waiting room anymore cause covid.

Dad has, or had, an extremely indolent form of thyroid cancer. So minor that for the past ten years he’s left it untreated because it was not causing any issues at all so why fix it? But the cancer did eventually start messing with his thyroid hormones so they decided to yank the whole gland out, cancer and all. As it had (still) not spread, no further treatment is necessary. Just replacement thyroid hormone medicine.

I’ve got a vested interest in all this because there’s a significant chance the same thing is going to happen to me. Dad’s cancer is caused by a genetic issue and there’s a 50% chance I’ve inherited the bad gene too. And if I did, there’s a nearly 100% chance that I too will get thyroid cancer, unless I have my thyroid removed before it can get sick. In fact, as this illness usually occurs in young people, I might have it already and might have had it for years, like Dad did.

Dad’s cancer is so ridiculously wimpy and pathetic that I’m not terribly concerned about my having possibly inherited the cancer gene, but I need to have a screening done anyway.

In other news, a woman is threatening to sue me for supposedly libeling her father, which I really don’t understand because the woman and the Charley Project are pretty much in agreement as to the facts of the case. In fact I’m not 100% sure she’s even actually read the casefile cause she’s wasting her time emailing me the story, the details of which I know already, having already written them all on the Charley Project. Sigh.

You’d be surprised how often this sort of thing happens.

In the Nguyen family case there is news: they have identified Stephanie, the mom, but there’s no indication as to what happened to either of the two kids. I don’t see this as good news; in fact from my perspective it’s almost worse than finding nothing at all.

The family is still stuck in limbo, wondering if the kids were in the car when it went in, or if she did something else with them. It seems likely that they WERE in the car and are still in the river somewhere. But there’s no proof of that. The case might remain unsolved forever.

I’m exhausted. I didn’t get much sleep or eat much of anything while I was gone. I came home to the discovery that our new kitten, Viola, had made a mess, and I was almost too tired to care, but I cleaned it up.

See y’all tomorrow.

MP of the week: Kenneth Saunders

This week’s featured missing person is Kenneth Albert Saunders, 31-year-old man who disappeared from Heidrick, Kentucky on August 5, 2015. He’s described as white, 6’1 tall and between 185 and 250 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He has some distinctive tattoos I’ve got photos of, and a scar running the length of his forearm.

Prior to his disappearance his estranged wife had asked Saunders if he was okay, and he’d answered, “At this second no, but I will be.” What he meant by that, no one knows. He wasn’t reported missing for three months.

I’m going to be away for several days. Tonight I’m going to my dad’s, and am staying to help tend to him as he has surgery tomorrow.

MP of the week: Mercedes Lodge

This week’s featured missing person is Mercedes Lodge, a 39-year-old woman who disappeared from Castro Valley, California on December 14, 1974 — close to fifty years ago. She’s described as white, with brown hair and brown eyes, and short, at 4’11 tall and 140 pounds. She may have been last seen wearing a black sweater, a green corduroy jacket, black pants and white sneakers. One notable characteristic for people attempting to make matches with Jane Does: Mercedes’s left leg is shorter than her right one.

Unfortunately I don’t know very much about the case, and don’t even have a particularly good photo of her (though I’ve seen worse). She’s considered missing under suspicious circumstances. The only other info available is that she was in Alcoholics Anonymous and attended meetings in Hayward, California.

Books of 2021

So I read exactly 200 books last year. On the evening of December 31 I realized I’d gotten up to 199 books so I grabbed a collection of quotes I had lying around on my Kindle and read that. Squeaked just over the line.

Mostly my books were about the Holocaust, true crime and history. There were only a few novels. I got really interested in the Jonestown tragedy and read six books about it, including a few by survivors, and learned it was not what I thought it had been. The Jonestown victims weren’t brainwashed cultists, more like terrified concentration camp inmates. And many of them didn’t want to drink the poison but were forced to do so.

If you want to learn more about it I particularly recommend Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman (who was one of the survivors from the airstrip) and A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres.

Some other notable titles I read last year, in no particular order:

Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors by Howard Sounes. It was very detailed and had some interesting insights into the relationship between Fred and Rose themselves. The 25th-anniversary afterword also had some shocking info that hadn’t been released earlier because legal stuff.

Somebody’s Mother, Somebody’s Daughter: True Stories from Victims and Survivors of the Yorkshire Ripper by Carol Ann Lee. Peter Sutcliffe’s victims are basically seen as faceless “prostitutes” in the media, but this book makes them into real people again, and debunks a lot of myths about the case. Netflix did a limited series on the case that I would recommend in conjunction with this book.

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims by Robert Hume. He did original historical research into the victims’ lives, instead of just going back and repeating the same stuff a thousand other JTR books have said. I don’t necessarily agree with Hume’s conclusions about the victims’ lives, but I loved learning about their lives and was impressed by how much information he was able to dig up.

The Kindertransport: Contesting Memory by Jennifer Craig-Norton. Another mythbuster. The Kindertransport was an organized effort to bring about 10,000 children, mostly Jews, out of Nazi Germany to the safety of Great Britain. Most Holocaust books emphasize how grateful the children were for the opportunity and how the UK offered themselves as a sanctuary when no other country would. This book, however, gets into the weeds of what the Kindertransport kids actually experienced, and it was not all sunshine and rainbows after their arrival in the UK.

Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945 by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab. I had known that Germany forced a lot of Polish people to become slave labor in German factories and on farms during World War II, and that these people were frequently mistreated, but I hadn’t realized until I read this book just HOW bad the Polish slave laborers had it.

They Went Left by Monica Hesse. One of the few novels I read this year. It’s about an eighteen-year-old Polish-Jewish girl who was just liberated from a concentration camp and is trying to find her younger brother. It was definitely a page turner and I liked the author’s use of an occasionally unreliable narrator: the girl was so traumatized by her Holocaust experience that she had a nervous breakdown and sometimes can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.

John George Haigh, the Acid-Bath Murderer: A Portrait of a Serial Killer and His Victims by Jonathan Oates. I don’t know if there was ever a full-length book written on Haigh before, but I appreciated the depth of detail in this one. I also liked how he looked into the victims’ lives also. Before I read this book I knew basically nothing about them, except their names.

Absolute Madness: A True Story of a Serial Killer, Race, and a City Divided by Catherine Pelonero. The story of a fairly obscure serial killer in Buffalo, New York, who turned out to be… not what people expected him to be. It’s kind of told in real time as the investigation progresses, so you don’t really know much more than the police do, and you follow them as they chase dead ends.

Mud Sweeter than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania by Margo Rejmer. Before reading this I knew very little about Albania and less still about what it was like there during the Communist era. This book, an oral history, was definitely enlightening. I had read quite a bit about Stalin’s Russia and knew THAT was not exactly terrific, but Stalin’s Russia was a paradise compared to Hoxha’s Albania. Hoxha’s Albania has a lot more in common with North Korea than it did the Soviet Union.

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. Please get vaccinated for covid. If you have already been vaccinated, please get a booster. I don’t want any of my blog readers to die on me. Whether you are vaccinated or not, please wear a mask if in a public indoor place. And not a cloth one; a single layer of cloth isn’t going to provide much protection. Surgical masks are cheap and widely available. I myself wear KN95s, which are not as cheap but provide a lot more protection.

My husband and I are doing well. We have a four-month-old kitten; we got her at the animal shelter in November. Her name is Viola and she is adorable and loves snuggles. We walked into the room where the kittens were and she flung herself against the side of her cage and SCREAMED at us until we agreed to adopt her.

Oh, and a heads-up: in mid-January I will be absent for a few days. My dad is having surgery and I have agreed to drive him to and from the hospital (it’s like three hours one way) and to take care of him after the surgery until he can see to himself.

MP of the week: Constanteen Hamden

This week’s featured missing persons case is Constanteen David “Gus” Hamden, a 43-year-old man who disappeared from Bourbonnais, Illinois on December 7, 2017. He’s described as white, with graying black hair and brown eyes. He has a couple of scars, and is between 5’7 and 5’9 in height and 220 to 230 pounds.

Gus was experiencing “extreme highs and extreme lows” in mood prior to his disappearance, which sounds like bipolar disorder to me, but the word “bipolar” wasn’t mentioned and I don’t know if he was ever actually diagnosed with it. He was last seen wearing a black lightweight jacket. He left his job and said he was going across the street and would be back in half an hour. He never returned.

One of Gus’s siblings made a post about him on Facebook on December 7, 2021, the fourth anniversary of his disappearance. The post said, among other things:

Please share… someone out there knows something. My brother is not the type to lose connections with family, and people in general. Please share his picture and reach out even if it’s a question, a statement, or a hunch. Any information can be helpful, I refuse to settle, I still have hope and faith that my brother is out there somewhere.

I hope the holidays were good for everyone. I was away for several days visiting relatives for Christmas and it went okay, I think. Just hope this coming year sees an improvement in the covid situation.

Well, it happened

A year and a half ago I wrote on this blog about a Supreme Court decision that I was pretty sure was going to wind up affecting some of the Charley Project missing persons cases. And, lo and behold, it has.

I just started writing up Faith Lindsey‘s a murder-without-a-body case. Charges were filed against her boyfriend, then dismissed because of this Supreme Court decision that meant the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction, then charges were refiled in federal court and the murder case is pending there.

Now, I might have a slight interest in reading about legal rulings of this kind, but I am not sure the average Charley Project reader has the same interest. It seems to me that a paragraph about the McGirt ruling and its significance would probably just clog up Faith’s casefile.

My husband suggested I say “dismissed on jurisdictional grounds and then refiled in federal court”, and then add the McGirt info in a footnote or something. Hmm.

MP of the week: Celina Mays

This week’s featured missing person is Celina Janette Mays, who was last seen in Willingboro, New Jersey on December 16, 1996. She was twelve and a half years old, and nine months pregnant; the baby was due on the 29th. She’s biracial, with black hair, brown eyes and eyebrows that tend to grow together. At the time of her disappearance she was 5’0 and 120 pounds, but she might have grown since then.

It appears that she sneaked out of the house in the night, with the intention of returning; she’d left behind all her things, including her purse and prenatal vitamins. There’s speculation that she’d gone out to meet with the father of her baby, but the problem is no one except Celina knew who the father was. She didn’t even tell her obstetrician.

Celina’s father, CJ, was threatening to have paternity tests done to determine the identity of the father, and whomever it was could obviously have faced serious criminal charges.

When a child as young as Celina becomes pregnant, one tends to suspect incest (or at least I do). Per this article, the father of Celina’s baby could not have been CJ, as he’d had a vasectomy. But there were rumors implicating one of Celina’s cousins.

I don’t think she lived long after leaving her house that night. It seems like, if she had run away, she would have resurfaced at age 18, if only to collect the inheritance due her from her mother’s life insurance. (Celina’s mom had died a few years earlier.)

But if Celina is still alive, she would be 37 today, and her baby would be about to turn 25.

There’s a first time for everything

So today was a Charley Project first: the database’s first example of a Florida Man.

By Florida Man, I am not speaking merely of a man who happens to live in Florida. I am speaking of the headlines that begin with the words “Florida Man” (or sometimes “Florida Woman”) and tell a story of some absolutely INSANE, often drug- and alcohol-fueled mess that the person got themselves into.

While researching the life of a gentleman I added today, I learned that, several years prior to his disappearance, he had a naked run-in with some alligators.

And that this was his SECOND naked run-in with alligators. And that the first time this happened, said alligators attacked him and he lost his arm. He nearly lost both arms in fact. He was in the hospital for months recovering.

I didn’t put this information in the casefile because I didn’t consider it to be relevant, but based on the reports of what had previously occurred I thought it might be a good idea to mention in the distinguishing characteristics that he might have scarring on his back, buttocks and thigh — it said the gators bit him in those areas too.

MP of the week: Troy Marks

This week’s featured missing person is Troy Spencer Marks, a 39-year-old man last seen in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 6, 2006. He is described as as white, 5’10 and 175 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes and a goatee. He has three tattoos, all described in the casefile, and scars on his shoulder and chin, and his nose was broken once between his toe has a protruding bone which might be an indentifier if someone finds skeletal remains.

Marks was driving his company vehicle at the time of his disappearance. It later turned up in Baton Rouge, an hour and a half from New Orleans, in an apartment complex parking lot.

The most recent article I can find out Troy Marks is from 2011. It has some more details that aren’t (yet) in his Charley Project casefile, such as the fact that Troy was living in a halfway house when he disappeared and when his truck turned up, the windows had been shot out.

Marks was a recovering addict and it seems likely that he relapsed and something bad happened to him. His wife said he’d relapsed before but never disappeared without a trace; he’d always keep in touch even through the addiction throes.

Why I look at so many pictures

I was writing up a case today and I discovered NamUs had the wrong information about the MP’s tattoos. This often happens when people are just going off by what they remember the tattoos looked like or said, without using photographs to verify.

Fortunately in this case the MP had a Facebook page with loads of public photos of himself and he liked to post photos where he was wearing practically nothing but his ink and (sometimes) boxer shorts. In fact I think he was doing sex work, or at least used to, unless the screenshots he put up of Backpage ads for his services were a joke. Unfortunately most of the tattoos blended with his dark skin and it was hard to tell from the photos what they were supposed to be.

So far I’ve put the clearest three images I could find on his casefile and hope someone will recognize the tattoos. I’ve got two super clear images where you can clearly tell what the tattoo is, and one faded design that has me scratching my head. There were more tattoos than that but most of them looked like just blurs in the pics.

This kind of thing matters a lot, at least to me, because I know of at least one Charley Project case where the guy was identified because I’d posted a picture of his tattoo (cropped from a photo he’d put on social media) and somebody recognized the tattoo. I don’t want someone to spend unnecessary years on a John Doe list because I was lazy.

It was pointed out to me that, as I’ve had this awful fatigue lately, lasting for like a month now, and as my husband has had the same, that we might have gotten covid. I’m getting tested tomorrow. If I’m positive we’re going to assume he has it too. Wish us luck.

[UPDATE: I found MP’s second Facebook page with much better quality pics! Yay!]