NamUS Missing Persons System

Tonight I discovered the NamUS Missing Persons System site. It has over a thousand cases, but as I took a closer look I was very unimpressed. I did not, admittedly, look at every casefile. But from what I did see, NamUS doesn’t offer any cases or information that can’t be found elsewhere. Disturbingly, though the site is apparently funded by a federal grant and claims to verify everything they post, I saw several people listed as missing who were found months or years ago — in some cases before the NamUS website was made! Is that the best they can do? I don’t think I’ll be using NamUS in the future.

Damaris Herrera Lopez and her feuding parents

Ten-year-old Damaris Herrera Lopez disappeared from Yuma, Arizona on December 10 of last year. At first, no one seemed to know what happened to her. Police tore the city apart looking for her, fearing she’d been kidnapped by a stranger. But as the days passed, suspicion fell on Damaris’s mother, Chrystal Lopez. Damaris’s father, Reynado Gomez Herrera, has had custody of her for several years, and Damaris disappeared during a visitation with her mother, the day before she was supposed to return to her father.

Recently, Chrystal confessed: she’d known where Damaris was all along. The child went to Mexico and her mother is with her there. Chrystal’s eighteen-year-old son, Richard Alvarez, is presently in jail in Yuma on charges of assisting Damaris’s abduction. Both Chrystal and Damaris are still in Mexico and Chrystal vows that she will never return and will never Reynaldo get his daughter back. She has accused Reynaldo of physically and sexually abusing Damaris. Damaris has repeated the allegations.

I am always very skeptical of mothers who abduct their children and then claim they did it to protect the child from an evil abusing father. The mother definitely broke the law by snatching the kid in the first place. Chrystal has three warrants out for her arrest in Yuma in connection with Damaris’s case. It seems to me that the burden of proof should be on her. But many times, whenever an abducting mother claims abuse, people seem to automatically believe her or at least give her the benefit of doubt. I’m sure sometimes the mothers are telling the truth, but I don’t think that should be assumed. Child abuse is a serious charge to level against anyone, and it had better have evidence to support it.

Furthermore, I see holes in Chrystal and Damaris’s stories. Chrystal claims her husband is facing felony charges in the United States and sexual abuse charges in Mexico. The Arizona police deny that Reynaldo is facing any charges on their soil. As for Mexico, Chrystal filed a complaint against Reynaldo there and the Mexican authorities are investigating, but apparently no charges have been filed, and in any case Mexico does not have jurisdiction over Reynaldo while he remains in the U.S. Furthermore, the Yuma police believe Chrystal and her son planted drugs in Reynaldo’s home twice to try to get him into trouble, though apparently no charges were filed against anyone in those instances.

Damaris claims she ran away from her father on December 10 and spent the night in a storage shed. I find this very difficult to believe. There was an extensive search for her throughout Yuma; wouldn’t someone have found her? Further, I don’t know anything specific about the weather in Yuma on December 10, but according to the Weather Channel website, average temperatures can drop to the mid-forties during December. Unless this storage shed was heated, I doubt Damaris would have been able to sleep. Out all night in such a cold, she could have developed hypothermia. I myself become uncomfortable in those temperatures after only ten or fifteen minutes, even while walking briskly and wearing a coat, and I’m not from a warm desert climate.

Damaris herself is now supporting her mother’s claims of abuse. This is very serious and should definitely be looked at, but I can’t escape the suspicion that Chrystal is manipulating both her daughter and her son. Damaris has been in hiding, mostly with her mother, for the past month and a half. Being as she is young, without any other influences, and undoubtedly loves her mother, I think it would be easy to put words into her mouth. I would be interested to see if Damaris changes her story after she’s placed with a neutral party, like in a foster home. Reynaldo says Chrystal has been trying to get custody of Damaris for years, to no avail. Custody of young children is typically given to the mother; if the father obtains custody, there’s usually some reason why the mother isn’t suitable. I am of course speaking in general terms here, as I don’t know the particulars of Reynaldo and Chrystal’s divorce and custody battle.

Reynaldo doesn’t sound like a perfect citizen either. Chrystal filed two domestic complaints against him during their marriage, and according to one of the commenters on the article I linked to, in 2004 he was charged with disorderly conduct and driving under the influence. But those are fairly minor offenses and many people who have faced the same charges are basically normal ordinary citizens and good parents. No charges resulted from Chrystal’s domestic violence complaints, and the article doesn’t reveal exactly what she accused Reynaldo of.

The truth must be ascertained, and it can’t be while Damaris and Chrystal are still in Mexico. The child should be returned to her own country, taken out of the public eye, and given her life back while sensible adults try to figure out what’s good for her. I only hope she isn’t too traumatized by the domestic mess in her life.

Megan Emerick and Sheryl Tillinghast

Megan Emerick and Sheryl Tillinghast had a lot in common. Both were rather pretty brunettes, and their photos both resonate with a 1970s aura. Both seem to have had a strong streak of independence. Megan was attending a boarding school some 450 miles from her hometown; Sheryl was working at a reform institution 250 miles from home. They were both about the same size. They both disappeared in 1973, at the age of seventeen.

I’m not suggesting the two cases are connected; the girls disappeared over 4,500 miles apart. But looking at them, I can’t help but be struck by how much alike they seem. Why Sheryl isn’t registered with the NCMEC I don’t know. And for Megan, I wonder how the NCMEC managed to take a very attractive young woman and age-progress her into frumpy-looking middle age.

Both girls are probably dead. Authorities have a strong suspect in Megan’s case, a confessed serial killer, but he hasn’t admitted to her disappearance. Details in Sheryl’s disappearance are few and murky. Perhaps one of the inmates or former inmates at the school harmed her. Perhaps she ran away. But in that case, why did she leave behind her paychecks? Why did she never contact her family again? And why would she need to run away, since she was already living outside the family home and supporting herself?

Thirty-five years they’ve been gone. At this point we’d be very lucky to find their bodies, never mind their killers. Nevertheless, I can’t stop hoping that their families will get answers and justice.

Adam Herrman Post IV

The Cleveland Examiner has done a pretty good summary of Adam’s case. According to the Kansas City Star, the police are concentrating on the bathroom at the Herrmans’ former home. Perhaps looking for evidence to substantiate the allegations that he was locked up in there, made to sleep in the tub, etc?

I’m very glad the police seem to be really on this, though how could they not be, with all the publicity and pressure to solve the case. Adam’s disappearance has been plastered on the news all over the US and probably internationally too; if he was alive, he would have seen it and come forward. But I didn’t believe for one minute that Adam was alive past the summer of 1999.

I only hope they can find him so the people who actually cared about him can bury him.

Bad news from the other side of the pond

I followed Shannon Matthews’s abduction and subsequent recovery in the news when it happened in February and March 2008. For the uninitiated, Shannon was nine years old when she disappeared walking to school in West Yorkshire, England. She was presumed to have been kidnapped and a massive search was launched, costing ¬£3.2 million pounds (about $4.3 million in America).

Nearly a month later, the police found Shannon hidden under a bed less than a mile from her home. She had apparently been held captive in that room the entire time, and was drugged to keep her from fussing too much. The story gets worse: it turned out that Shannon’s mom and her ex-boyfriend’s uncle had kidnapped her their own selves because they wanted to collect the massive award they assumed would be offered for Shannon’s recovery!

I can think of nothing to say about that.

Well, yesterday both defendants were sentenced to eight years each for kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. Shannon is in the care of social services and will probably be in therapy for the rest of her life. The British legal system tends to give shorter sentences than the United States one, but eight years is not nearly enough. I hope both of them have a difficult time in prison.

Humans are capable of doing unspeakably evil things; it’s only a combination of self-interest and conscience that stops most of us from misbehaving too badly. Some stories are enough to make you want to write off Homo sapiens altogether.

Jimmy Ryce’s mother is dead

Claudine Rice is dead. Her nine-year-old son, Jimmy, was kidnapped, molested and murdered in 1995. He was missing for three months before his body was found in the trailer of the man who killed him. After Jimmy’s death, Claudine founded the Jimmy Rice Center, an organization focused on increased awareness and education about child kidnappings.

Claudine was 66 — not terribly young, but not very old either. Apparently it was a heart attack.

Jimmy’s killer, meanwhile, remains alive on death row.

Oh-kay…

This article from the San Diego Union-Tribune says the cops have apparently located an 80-year-old woman who’s been missing for a decade or so. Her identity hasn’t been released, so I don’t know yet whether she’s a Charley case or not.

San Diego police unearthed skeletal remains believed to be of a woman Wednesday in the back yard of a Clairemont Mesa home as part of an adult missing-person’s investigation.

Police said no foul play is suspected.

The woman was buried in some backyard and no foul play is suspected? What gives? Perhaps she died of natural causes and her son or whoever buried her in the backyard, either out of some twisted desire to stay close to her or because he wanted to continue to collect Social Security benefits and stuff. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

What a bizarre case. I’ll keep you posted on it, if I find out anything more.

Why people fake their deaths

I found an interesting article, which appears in the China Daily for some reason although it’s not China-related at all, about why people fake their own deaths. I think the reasons it gives are on-target and some of the cases they mention are awfully strange:

In New Port Richey, Florida, a woman named Alison Matera told her friends, family, and church choir that she had cancer, and only months to live. She went into hospice, and soon the community was notified of her death. Yet Matera was quite alive; her plan unraveled when she appeared at her own funeral service, claiming to be her own long-lost identical twin sister. She was recognized, and when police were called she admitted to faking both her cancer and death.

This woman clearly has a few screws loose and a pathological need for attention.

I sometimes¬†wonder how many presumed Golden Gate Bridge deaths are really deaths. It would be easy to pseudocide yourself, so to speak, by leaving a note saying you were going to jump from the bridge, and maybe leaving your car near the bridge or something, and then taking the BART train to the airport and buying a ticket to Australia. I know not all of the bridge suicide bodies are found, and common sense dictates that if you say you’re going to jump off the bridge, then you disappear and they find your bike parked on the bridge or whatever, then probably you jumped off the bridge. If you didn’t really jump off, they would basically have to prove that.

Everyone, me included, has had the urge to “disappear” at some time or another. I’ve often wanted to go far, far away where no one knows me and start over, no longer burdened by the difficulties in my current existence. The problem is, no matter where you go, there you are. If you had problems before, you’re likely to take them with you, and create more on the way.

The two (?) Carl Vikstroms

Awhile back, I profiled a missing man, Carl Vikstrom, on Charley. I later removed him because I couldn’t find any evidence that he was still missing. You can still read about this Carl and see his photo at the San Francisco Examiner though. He was in pretty bad shape, physically and mentally.

Then today, I profiled another Carl Vikstrom on Charley. The name is uncommon, to say the least, and Carl Two is listed as a “dependent adult” like Carl One was. Also, according to Yahoo Maps, the two men disappeared from cities only 17.92 miles apart. Nevertheless, I don’t think Carl and Carl are the same person. It’s hard to compare faces, because Carl Two wears a beard and Carl One does not. However, the noses look different to me, and Carl One was practically bald whereas Carl Two has a thick head of hair.

Nonetheless, the coincidence is an odd one. I would not entirely rule out the possibility that both Carls are the same person. I’m pretty sure they must be related in some way. There can’t be that many Vikstroms in the San Francisco metro area.

Woman missing for 12 years found in the Swiss woods

Article from the UK newspaper The Guardian: a middle-aged German woman who disappeared in 1997 has been found alive and well, living rough in the woods outside Bern, Switzerland. She’d apparently been living there for a year now; it’s unclear where she was the rest of the time, or why she walked out of her life.

One inevitably suspects that this woman is not entirely right upstairs, but she has managed to take care of herself pretty well in the past twelve years. Perhaps she just felt like living an alternative lifestyle. In any case, she can’t go on like that: another article says they’re trying to evict her from the woods and set her up in some kind of more conventional housing situation. I wonder what the woman’s reaction is going to be.