What are the chances?

I found additional information about John Christopher Inman on the NamUs site (which is not as useless as I thought at first; I regret having judged it prematurely). It says he was attending a “school for the emotionally handicapped” when he disappeared. That’s got to be the Cedu School; I know of no other such school in the vicinity of Running Springs, California. (Paris Hilton attended the Cedu School for about five minutes back in 1994-ish.) Knowing the town he disappeared from, I wondered if he’d been a student at Cedu; now I know for sure.

This makes three—count ’em, three!—teen boys I have on Charley who are missing from that school. The other two are Daniel Yuen and Blake Pursley. All three have been missing for a considerable time, much much longer than the average runaway: Daniel for five years now, Blake for almost fifteen years and John for sixteen years. What are the chances?

*rant* Let me say I am extremely skeptical of the worth of private residential schools for “problem teens.” I’m sure that not all of them are bad, and in that many of cases they can be beneficial. However, many of these are for-profit institutions that charge upwards of thousands of dollars a month in tuition. (I checked out a website for one of them just now and they charge $6,650 a month. Average length of stay is 16 to 18 months, which is $106,400 to $119,700. That could put a person through four years at a decent private college, or get two bachelor’s degrees at a state school. The tuition at these places is almost never covered by health insurance plans, btw.) Thus, it’s in the schools’ interest to take as many students as possible.

Therapeutic boarding schools often issue alarmist literature to potential customers, listing behaviors of so-called “problem teens” and acting like the person’s teen child is going to kill someone or commit suicide or wind up in prison or become a crack ho or something unless the parent sends the kid to the school right away. Even such minor misbehavior as leaving dirty dishes out or refusing to clean his room have been given as reasons why the teen might need residential treatment!

In addition to that, many of these schools are not run or staffed by professional counselors and therapists, and their methods of helping the children are distinctly unhelpful at best and often very harmful. Children have been basically murdered at some of those places, by beating, being denied food and water and medical care, and so on. For more on this topic I refer you to the excellent book Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Or just Google the term “gulag school.”

Residential treatment centers (RTCs) should always be the method of last resort when dealing with a problem child. The idea is to use the least restrictive form of treatment that is effective; if the kid can get better at home, than they should stay at home. After all, they’re going to have to go home sooner or later.

I myself would have been a prime candidate for one of those residential treatment centers if my parents had had the money and the inclination. I practically flunked out of junior high and dropped out of school altogether in the eighth grade. I had no friends. I spent an entire year basically hiding in my room and hardly ever leaving the house. I tried to commit suicide. I went on to date a man over a decade older than myself (and we’re still together after seven years, he’s the light of my life, but many people would consider that a “problem behavior” in a sixteen-year-old). I’ve had severe depression for most of my life.

Yet I’ve turned out more or less all right. I still struggle with depression, but I graduated high school and went to a good college. I’m not homeless, I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic or a prostitute, I have no criminal record and I’ve never killed anybody. I got through a very difficult adolescence without much in the way of professional help. I think many problem teens will, like me, simply outgrow their problems if they hang on.

Another thing you have to consider is that often, it’s home that’s causing a large part of the problem. I think unless the residential treatment center works closely with the kid’s parents or whoever’s taking care of him, and there is real change in the home environment, things will never really improve. But I think that probably doesn’t happen usually because the parents think it’s all the kid’s problem and the RTC must “fix” the kid. I’m quite sure my own parents would not have felt any need to change their behavior or parenting methods to help me recover my sanity. My mother in particular has always blamed everyone for her problems except herself.

Let’s say my parents sent me off to an RTC. I think I would have quickly improved in that kind of environment — later in life, when I was hospitalized for depression, I got better rapidly. But then, went I went home, back to the bullying at school in junior high and the isolation later, back to no friends, back to my mother’s violent screaming tantrums and bullying, and my brother’s abuse and my parents condoning the same, I would have promptly gone right back off the deep end again, probably worse than before. I think that’s a large part of the reason why RTCs are often unsuccessful in the long run. I’m not saying RTCs are all utterly useless or that they are all bad places, but they should be used with great caution and if a less intensive treatment works, that should be used instead. I mean, if you stub your toe, morphine will take care of the pain. But so would an aspirin. *end of rant*

Getting back to the Cedu School: it closed in 2005 due to financial insolvency, in part due to the lawsuits filed against them by parents of children who attended the school and were allegedly mistreated. Daniel Yuen’s parents were among the plaintiffs. It’s worth noting that the school as many defenders, both the parents of alumni and former students who say it was very helpful to them. And perhaps it was. But clearly, Cedu failed these three missing boys, failed them spectacularly.

But THREE BOYS have been missing from there for a long, long time. John Christopher Inman had a seizure disorder, and Blake Pursley had so many health problems that he couldn’t have lasted a week on his own. What are the chances, I ask you. What’s going on here?

The Romanov children identified

The bodies of the lost children of the Czar Nicholas II of Russia have been identified through DNA testing. They were found in 2007, and there was never any doubt that it was them, but now it’s confirmed.

Nicholas II, his wife the Czarina Alexandra, and their five children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei, were assassinated by Russian revolutionaries in 1918. Most of the bodies were located, but the youngest two, 17-year-old Anastasia and 13-year-old Alexei, were missing for nearly a century. I remember the day I heard the two children’s bodies had been found. I got very excited. I’m very interested in history in general and the Czar’s lost children are a famous historical mystery. One woman who called herself Anna Anderson popped up claiming she was Anastasia and had escaped the execution. She managed to convince a lot of people. I’ve seen pictures and the resemblance was striking, but I think mainly it was that people wanted Anastasia to have survived, because she was young and beautiful and innocent and they didn’t want to face the cold hard fact of her murder. (And also, it made for a terrific story.) After her death, DNA tests proved Anna Anderson wasn’t a Romanov.

Those children were killed simply because they happened to be born in the wrong family at the wrong time in history. I hope now they can be buried in a proper grave with their parents and sisters and will rest in peace.

I have a beautiful and haunting song called “Anastasia” which is about Anastasia Romanov, but parts of it could speak for the loved ones of all missing people:

I kept your room just how you left it
There’s not a toy out of place
Just in case the fates are kind and you come back someday
I don’t want to live without my little Anastasia

Another Brittany Williams or Adam Herrman…

The police are searching for the body of Shane Graham, a ten-year-old child who’s been missing since 1999 or 2000. He was adopted, along with ten other special needs children, by a woman named Judith Leekin. Leekin abused, neglected and starved all the adopted children while collecting over a million dollars for their care.

Leekin’s been sentenced to twenty years in prison, but Shane is still missing and she won’t say where he’s at. He’s got to be dead. He was severely handicapped with Downs Syndrome, sickle-cell anemia and severe autism. He certainly couldn’t take care of himself.

This is the first I’ve heard of this. I can’t seem to find any pictures of Shane. I hope I’m able to locate one so I can put him on Charley, but there’s a good chance that photos simply don’t exist. That poor boy. He was born with a lottery’s worth of conditions and then they gave him a monster for a mother.

Other articles:

WPBF West Palm Beach
WPTV 5
USA Today
WCBS-TV

Jeffrey Bratcher found?

Jeffrey Bratcher has been missing from Washington State since 1974. I know very little about his case, but he made the news today. Apparently eight sets of human remains have turned up in the University of Washington’s anthropology department, including the “partial skull of a juvenile. The remains may have been found by a resident who mailed the remains to the University of Washington from Bay Center, Wash., postmarked Sept. 9, 1980.” They think the skull might be Jeffrey’s. For the sake of his family I hope it is.

Who the hell, when they find bones, mails them to a university anthropology department? When you find human bones lying around you’re supposed to call the police. If they turn out to be ancient, that’s for the police to determine. How on earth did this happen?

Bizarre.

Adam Herrman case moving forward

Police made a fourth and final search for evidence in Adam’s case. Nothing was found, however, and they plan to present a case to the prosecutor shortly. I really hope that charges result. At the very least, the Herrmans can be convicted of fraud; they have admitted they accepted public assistance money for Adam after he “ran away.” But my hope is that the DA decides to go a lot further than that.

I wonder about Adam’s two younger siblings who were also adopted by Doug and Valerie Herrman. Are they still under 18? If so, are they still in the Herrmans’ custody? Have they been interviewed by police? Nothing has been said about them.

Mysterious caller update

I called the mysterious caller back today. Now I think he’s just as confused as I am. He said his nephew had told him about the site and he’d been on there at one time, and he hadn’t even known he was considered missing, and he wanted to know about it. He said his nephew had called me and I refused to give out any information. I explained that I had never had him on my site, I had never heard of him before and his nephew did NOT call me. The only thing I can think of is the nephew or the caller himself got my site mixed up with someone else’s. Shrug.

How do I research my cases?

A lot of people write to me asking where I get the info from my cases. Well, that’s at the bottom of every casefile, and I think it’s mentioned in the FAQ as well, but as I’ve observed, it seems nobody reads FAQs. Because it’s on my mind today, dear reader, I will take you through the process of creating a Charley Project casefile.

I find missing people listed generally in one of three sources: law enforcement websites; websites, blogs and forums run by private individuals or organizations; and news articles. (Once in awhile some relative of a missing person emails me a case submission but that hardly ever happens.) I check Google News and certain missing person databases and forums, such as the Texas DPS site and Project Jason, daily to look for new cases. Other places I check once every several days, and some sites don’t get updated too often so I only check them once a month or so.

Towards the end of every month, I go through all my sources and bookmark as many cases as I can that will be six months old the next month and therefore eligible for posting, so I can post them on the exact day they turn six months old. Like, in late June I’ll bookmark a bunch of cases for January. Then, on July 1, I’ll add a missing person who disappeared on January 1, and so on.

Once I find a missing person and decide to put him up (let’s be sexist with the gender pronoun here), first and foremost I run his name through Google. This often uncovers articles and other links with additional information about the MP. I write the casefile and read articles simultaneously, adding info as I come across it. If the case is more than a couple of years old, I also run it through the NewsLibrary database. NewsLibrary is an archive of old newspaper articles from around the country and I have a subscription to it. It’s a valuable resource because I can find articles that don’t exist elsewhere online.

Occasionally, when I Google an MP’s name, I discover he was actually found some time ago. Many websites are pretty bad about taking down their old, resolved cases. The California DOJ database is wonderful but they’ve got a few people listed who were found months or years ago. Of course, when I find out on Google that the MP was located, it goes no further; I start on another casefile. Once I’ve got all the information I can find and have run out of sources to check, I complete the casefile and post it.

I am continually updating old casefiles on Charley, as you can see. When I do my searches I frequently find articles and other sources about cases I already have. I add whatever I can find to the casefile and put it in my “to update” folder. At any given time that folder holds about 20 to 40 to-be-updated cases, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. Generally I update the case on Charley in the order in which I wrote the changes. Some updates get priority adding, though, like if there’s an age-progression added or updated, or charges are filed in the person’s disappearance, or whatever else strikes my fancy. I try to keep my “to update” folder about the same size all the time. If I find more cases to update, I add more to the website; if I don’t have that many, I add them just a few at a time.

Once in awhile, if I’m running really dry on new cases to post and updates, I’ll just run my MPs, name after name, through Google and see if I can find anything else on them. I call this “fishing.” It’s inefficient and time-consuming and really quite boring (much like real fishing), but it can yield valuable nuggets of information.

A new case can take anywhere from ten minutes to several hours to write up, depending on how much info I can find. Caylee Anthony would have taken me all day, probably, and I was relieved when her body got found just before the six-month mark. My first thought when I heard was, “Great, I won’t have to post her on Charley.” Depending on how many cases I’m adding and updating in a particular day, it can take anywhere from about an hour to half a day to write my daily updates. It’s a good thing I have no life.

Anyway. That’s that.

A man has called me at home twice about Charley. I wasn’t available either time, but he left messages. He has a thick accent and gives his name and phone number and says he is on Charley, or he was on Charley, something like that, and wants to talk to me. I don’t recognize his name, though, and I’m quite sure he isn’t on Charley and never was. So I don’t know what’s going on and I’m kind of creeped out that he’s been calling me. I mean, my number isn’t a state secret, but still, why doesn’t he just email me or what? I’m going to have to call him back today and see what he wants.

I feel so lucky to be writing this

I am alive, dear reader. And that’s a precious thing.

The roads coming home from work this morning were about as bad as I’ve ever seen them. There was snow, and ice under the snow, and a terrific wind that was blowing snow around and causing practically zero visibility. My car went off the road three times. The first time I went flying over a ditch and fifty feet or so into a field, breaking off my tailpipe in the process. The second time I skidded into the ditch. The third time I skidded into the ditch again, nearly broadsiding a telephone pole in the process. Then I got back on the road again and less than two minutes later, when I braked, the car slid into the other lane and spun around 180 degrees and I almost got creamed by a passing semi. Miraculously, somehow I did make it home in one piece and without having to change my pants, and the only damage to the car is the tailpipe which is easily fixed.

Did I mention how glorious life is? How wonderful it is to be breathing air and to have a beating heart and to be able to sit at my computer and listen to music and blog and writing about missing persons?

This post has nothing to do with missing people, mind.

Miscellaneous ramblings

I have been idle these past few days. I hadn’t blogged in eleven days, and I hadn’t updated in three, until today. No particular reason, I’ve just had other things to do.

I think I will have to add a Contact Page to Charley. Right now I’ve just got my email on the frontpage. However, I’ve been getting way too many inappropriate emails lately. By which I mean people sending me tips on particular cases, potential matches to Does, etc. I say in my FAQ that I am not the person to send such information to, that a tipster should contact the law enforcement agency listed in the casefile. But no one ever reads FAQs really, I guess. I don’t even bother to respond to such emails. Maybe if I put up a Contact Page saying explicitly: “Don’t send me tips that would be better placed in the hands of the police,” people will actually listen. On the plus side, I haven’t gotten any lawsuit threats in ages. A particularly vicious emailer last month said “I hope you get sued,” but I decided that didn’t count since he didn’t say HE was going to sue me.

Today I added Giovanni Gonzalez to Charley. It’s actually a day too early, but the NCMEC gives an August 15 date and by the time I found out he’d actually gone missing on August 16, I’d already done a lot of work on the casefile so I figured, why not, I made this site so I can make the rules and break them if I want.

Giovanni’s case reminds me of the infamous Caylee Anthony and also Sam and Lindsey Porter, who disappeared from Missouri in 2004. Their father sat in jail for months, telling all sorts of outrageous stories about where the kids were, just so he could torture their mother. I think it was eighteen months later that he finally confessed he’d shot both children and he lead the cops to their bodies. Ernesto Gonzalez sounds like the same kind of man, except I’m not at all sure Giovanni’s dead, and I’m quite sure that if he’s dead it didn’t happen the way Ernesto says. In any case, I believe Giovanni has got to be somewhere very close by. Ernesto was a meatpacker; he didn’t have a lot of cash lying around for an expensive trip, and even if he’d had I think the police would have tracked his spending by now. He had no car and he used a bicycle or public transport to get around. So he could only have taken the kid so far. So either Giovanni is being concealed by a third party (but who?) or he’s in a shallow grave or a landfill in the Lynn area. Hopefully the threat of ten years in prison will loosen Ernesto’s tongue, but Daniel Porter didn’t talk even after he’d been threatened with forty years.

Nothing else to say at present.

Why am I not surprised

According to comments from readers of Glenn Sacks’s website, Holly Collins (reference my earlier post), is making similar abuse accusations against the father of one of her younger children. I guess the baby’s father filed a missing persons report but nothing was done about it. Now Holly and Jennifer both claim he was an evil child-abusing bastard too.

Holly certainly seems to have bad luck with men, doesn’t she? Snort.