“Libeling” the missing

Anyone who reads my site, or this blog, ought to know that I try to be as inclusive as possible in terms of info on missing persons cases. If it’s out there, I’ll post it, because I feel that the more a reader knows about an individual case, the more likely they are to care.

Once in awhile I get emails from people, usually family members of the missing, who are upset about the info I posted on their loved ones. I’ve been accused of libel more than once. I usually try to work with them and often remove the parts of the casefile that upset them, though it often makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes I think the relatives are overreacting, but I don’t tell them so, because what good would that do?

I can think of some examples. One missing man was suspected of car theft, though never charged. One of his relatives asked me to remove that particular piece of information. I did so, but I didn’t like it, because the man’s alleged criminal activity could have played a role in his disappearance and I thought it was important information. But I didn’t want to cause even more pain for the family. Another woman I wrote about was separated from her husband and seeing other men. Her sister wrote me, very angry, accusing me of trying to make her look like a “loose woman.” I was a bit taken aback. I certainly wasn’t trying to imply anything of the kind, and most folks would agree that it’s okay to see other people when you’re legally separated from your spouse. That’s kind of the point of being separated, after all, to explore other options. But again, I removed the info.

Most recently, a man disappeared and I posted the only two photos I could find of him, one of which was obviously a police mug shot. His grandson wrote to me with concerns about the mug shot, saying he didn’t want people to think ill of his grandfather and he’d only been arrested for driving without a license. I convinced him to let me keep the photo on Charley, though, because it showed that the man was almost completely bald. In the other photo he was wearing a hat and had fairly bushy sideburns, and so it looked like he had a lot more hair than he actually did. I said (and the grandson agreed) that the mug shot pic was vital for identification purposes.

Of course my motives are good. When I write about these people I am not intending to imply anything at all about their character, I’m just trying to get as much info out there as I can. An MP is an MP, and they need to be found even if they had a criminal history or a substance abuse problem or a mental illness or whatever. If anything, you should be more concerned about those types, because they’re more likely to be in trouble than the average MP. I can’t help but pity most of those people. Like a woman whose case I updated recently, a very intelligent woman, mother, talented dancer, Dean’s List college student, but rather violently unstable and flaky with a drug addiction and severe mental illness. I put it all in her casefile. I am not judging her. I am shaking my head in sorrow at what she might have become if it weren’t for her troubles and her bad luck.

And those types of issues can be vital to solving the case. I recall one case where two girls were murdered. My memory is kind of dim, I don’t remember their names, but one part of it stands out. The media at the time portrayed them as little angels, innocents slain by an evil stranger. And of course, the children WERE innocent — they were both under ten years old, they certainly didn’t deserve to be killed — but the investigation turned up evidence of severe behavior problems in one of the victims, including fire-setting, which is suggestive of sexual abuse. Working from there, the police eventually found out an acquaintance had been molesting that child for years, and it turned out he’d killed her and killed the other girl who happened to be there at the time. It all started by looking the less-than-angelic aspects of the victims. Yet I can imagine the dead girls’ parents being like, “Our daughters were MURDERED and all you’re interested in is maligning their characters!”

And so I do the best I can: write down everything I can find, and if someone is offended, I’ll deal with it when it happens.

Okay, I have the After Etan book

The library ordered two copies. One for me, and one they’ve got on display in their “New Books” section.

It looks good, but it will have to wait. I’m afraid Pride and Prejudice and Zombies must come first, because other people have it on hold so I have to finish it and return it ASAP.

In the meantime, on May 13th the Charley Project had 12,229 visitors, when the average is between 2,000 and 3,000. Most of them were Etan-related. There’ve been 9,659 “entry visits” to Etan’s casefile (meaning his page was the first page on Charley viewed by a particular visitor). That’s 17.96% of all entry visits. Even Charley’s frontpage hasn’t gotten more than that this month.