Lottery families

Some people just seem to hit the lottery for bad luck. I got this idea from Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun. The protagonist has lost his senses of sight and hearing, his ability to speak and swallow, and all four limbs to war wounds. I think he probably lost his senses of smell and taste too, but as he’s tube-fed it doesn’t really matter. He’s essentially a torso with an attached head that has no face. His mind still works fine, he just can’t do anything. In the story, as he becomes cognizant of what has happened to him, he reflects that some people lose a limb in war, and others are blinded, and he just happened to lose everything. It had to happen to somebody. Like hitting the lottery: the chances of an individual person winning a million dollars are vanishingly small, but someone always does.

The chances of a person going missing without a trace are also extremely slim. Maybe not as unlikely as winning the lottery, but still very rare. People get reported missing at the rate of thousands every day, but almost all of them turn up, usually in a short time. But some families are unlucky and their loved one stays missing forever. Like the wounded soldiers. And some families lose more than one person this way — like the guy in Johnny Got His Gun with his multiple disfigurements. I call them “lottery families.” I’d like to spotlight these cases today.

I can only think of a few cases where more than one member of a family disappeared in separate incidents. They are:

Stacy Peterson and her mother, Christie Cales. Everyone and their accountant has heard of Stacy. She was twenty-three when she disappeared from Bolingbrook, Illinois in 2007. Her police officer husband probably killed her, but he hasn’t been charged. Not many people know about Christie. She went missing from Blue Island, Illinois in 1998, when she was forty and Stacy was fourteen. Christie may still be alive and perhaps homeless somewhere, but I doubt it. She had a very unfortunate life: alcoholism, depression, divorce, minor criminal offenses and worst of all, the deaths of two of her children. If she is alive I hope she’s happy and has found a way to soothe her psychic wounds.

The Pooler brothers, Edwin and George. George went missing first, from Omak, Washington in 1988. He was thirty-seven. Edwin, then forty-five, disappeared from Keller, Washington in 1991. Foul play is suspected in both brothers’ cases, but they’re not believed to be related. A suspect actually pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Edwin’s case and got a six-year sentence, but the body has never been located.

Timothy Davison and his aunt, Cindy Smith. Four-year-old Timothy was apparently abducted by a stranger in 1985, when he was left alone in a parked car in Decatur, Illinois. Cindy disappeared from Winter Haven, Florida in 1987, when she was twenty-six. It looks like it could have been your typical homicide by romantic partner case, but no charges have been brought.

Annette Sagers and her mother, Korrinna Sagers Malinoski, whom I don’t have profiled on Charley because I lack a picture. This is really bizarre. Korrinna, who was twenty-six at the time, disappeared from a bus stop in Mount Holly, South Carolina in November 1987. Almost year later, in October 1988, her eleven-year-old daughter Annette vanished from the exact same spot, leaving a note saying her mom had come to get her. Neither of them have been heard from again. The cops have verified Annette did write the note, but I don’t think they’ve established that Korrinna really did pick up Annette. Perhaps she did. Perhaps someone (perhaps the same person who abducted Korrinna) forced Annette to write the note before taking her away. Perhaps Annette ran away to find her mother and left the note behind as a kind of fantasy. It would make a great plot for a mystery novel.

Dorothy Douglas and an unnamed brother, whom I don’t have on Charley and don’t know much about. Dorothy, a former nurse, got into a downward spiral and got involved with crack cocaine and prostitution. She disappeared from Cincinnati, Ohio in 1998. Her husband was the victim of an unsolved murder in 1982, and in 1983 her brother vanished in Tennessee, a presumed drowning victim.

I have quite a few more cases of family members who disappeared together, excluding family abductions. Less bewildering, they are just as tragic if not more so, because there’s no interval between disappearances to cushion the impact. There are probably more I don’t have listed here, but this is all I can remember right now.

Kimberly Boyd, her mother Sarah W. Boyd, and a family friend, Linda McCord. I only have Kimberly on Charley. She was two and was on the way home from a gospel concert with her mom and Linda when they disappeared without a trace in Orangeburg County, South Carolina in 1987. Their car was later found abandoned.

The entire Uden family: Virginia, thirty-two, and her sons Reagan, ten, and Richard, eleven. They vanished from Lander, Wyoming in 1980, on the way to see Virginia’s ex-husband. It’s not really clear whether he was the boys’ father or not. The Udens’ car was later found in a canyon. Someone had tried to hide it, and Virginia’s blood was inside it. It looks like the cops suspect Virginia’s ex-husband in this, but no one has been charged and there isn’t a whole lot of info available.

Nearly half the Sodder family: Maurice, fourteen, Martha, twelve, Louis, nine, Jennie, eight, and Betty, five. The five children disappeared from their parents Fayetteville, West Virginia home on Christmas Eve in 1945. A fire burned the house to the ground that night. The Sodder parents and five of their children got out, but the other five had vanished. At first everyone thought they’d been consumed in the fire, but that started to look less and less likely as time went on. Their parents are now dead.

Denise Fagot, twenty-two, and her one-year-old son, Daniel Spangle. They vanished without a trace from their apartment in Lancaster, California in 1989. There isn’t much evidence in this case, but it doesn’t look like they left on their own.

Fannie Stuart, her sister Jessie, and their mom, Mary. Mary took Fannie, one, and Jessie, two, out for the day in Honeydew, California in 1977 and never came back. It’s not clear whether Mom or their vehicle was ever found and I don’t have Mary on Charley. She might have been pregnant when she went missing, but I’m not really sure.

Brandi Summers, age five, and her two-year-old half-sister Tiffani Wise. They disappeared from San Bernardino, California in 1977. Their mother was found murdered in the house, and a baby was left behind unharmed. The Doe Network says Brandi’s father is a suspect in the murder and abductions. Brandi had cystic fibrosis, so she’s almost certainly dead now, even if she wasn’t killed shortly after she disappeared. Tiffani, who wouldn’t have been old enough to remember her mom, may be alive.

Ivy Matory, twelve, her sister Violet, nine, their half-sister Yolanda Williams, seven, and Sir-Kristopher Marshall, a three-year-old boy who was spending the night, disappeared from a house in Los Angeles, California in 1977. That night the house burned down and the next morning the girls’ mother, Earlene Williams, was found murdered inside. Earlene’s husband James, who is Yolanda’s father, was seen with the children at a restaurant early the next day, after the house fire and murder. Later on he was alone. He was later convicted of Earlene’s murder, but he never revealed the whereabouts of the children and he has since died. There’s been no sign of the children since 1977.

Michalle Houchman, age fifteen, her parents Elaine and Sol Solomon, and her brother Mitchel Solomon. I’m not sure why Michalle has a different surname. She’s the only one I have on my site. They disappeared from Reseda, California in 1982, leaving behind a violent crime scene at their home. Harvey Rader was tried for the family’s murders in 1992, but was acquitted.

Peter Davis, fifty-four, and his wife Joan, forty-seven. They disappeared together from Los Angeles, California in 1982. Harvey Rader is the prime suspect in their cases as well.

Claudia Berenice Guillen, twenty-one, and her two-year-old daughter Clauda Jareth Guillen. They disappeared from Yuma, Arizona in 2004. Little evidence is available here. Perhaps they left on their own.

James Diamond, forty-two, and his two-year-old son, Ptah. They went missing from Eloy, Arizona in 2001. At first this case was classified as a family abduction, but now foul play is suspected.

Sarah Skiba, age nine, her father Paul, thirty-eight, and one of Paul’s employees, Lorenzo Chivers, thirty-six. They disappeared from Paul’s moving business in Westminster, Colorado in 1999. At first this was also thought to be a family abduction case, with Chivers assisting the Skibas in their flight. That was before the cops found Paul’s truck, which was riddled with bullet holes and spattered with blood on the inside.

Barbara Burhans, eight, and her parents Diego Garcia, twenty-eight, and Carmen Garcia. I don’t have Carmen on Charley. I’m not sure why Barbara has a different last name than her parents. This family disappeared from Los Angeles, California in 1982. Their car was found abandoned in the San Gabriel Mountains a month later. No clues.

Nelta Jacques, twenty-seven, and her daughters Juanita Jacques, five, and Johanna St. Louis, seven. They disappeared in 1999, on their way home to Tampa, Florida from Nelta’s dad’s home in Fort Lauderdale.

Sandra Jacobson, thirty-six, and her five-year-old son John. They disappeared from Bismarck, North Dakota in 1996. Sandra’s car was later found parked near the Missouri River. She had been having a nervous breakdown and the police think she may have drowned her son and herself.

Van “Stephanie” Nguyen, twenty-six, and her children Kristina, four, and John, three. They disappeared Cincinnati, Ohio since 2002. The mother left behind a suicide note and again, this is thought to be a probable murder-suicide.

44 thoughts on “Lottery families

  1. Aimee June 5, 2009 / 1:01 am

    Really sad.
    There is a family in Canada who disappeared all together. In fact, I believe theirs is the only case of its kind in that country. The last name is Jack, the mother’s first name is Doreen and the two kids are Ryan and Russell. I can’t remember the father’s name, I keep thinking it’s Robert? Anyhow, they disappeared in I believe 1988 from British Columbia, they’d told their friends that the husband was looking for a new job.
    The Sodders case is probably one of the oddest on the Charley site. Very very odd.

  2. Aimee June 5, 2009 / 1:14 am

    Also don’t forget Heather Teague and her cousin Sueann…shoot, I forget her last name. Woodruff? *shrugs* brains’ working funny this evening. Heather Teague is still missing, Cousin Sue was missing for a while and then turned up dead.

    • Meaghan June 5, 2009 / 11:36 am

      Sueann was never on Charley though, she wasn’t missing long enough before they found her. That’s why she isn’t on the list.

  3. Anthony June 5, 2009 / 1:17 am

    The Sodder case has my vote for All-Time Weird. The only thing which might make sense involves a conspiracy within the community, and at high levels, to have vanished the children so completely.

  4. Aimee June 5, 2009 / 1:29 am

    But no matter who was involved, it begs the question: why those particular kids? IF somebody was REALLY out to get the family, why? And why not finish the whole bunch?

  5. forthelost June 5, 2009 / 1:54 am

    In Trumbo’s book, he’s lost the whole lower half of his face – no lower jaw or tongue. So he can’t taste and that is why he can’t talk, swallow, or chew.

    • Meaghan June 5, 2009 / 11:48 am

      Ah. It’s been awhile since I read the book. I loved it. I was really impressed with Trumbo’s ability to keep the story going and keep the reader engaged when basically all the guy did was lie there and think.

  6. forthelost June 5, 2009 / 1:58 am

    You forgot the Thompson family – mom Lydia, dad Everett, and kids Andrew and Everett Jr.

    I wish I could find that post from James Diamond’s mom again. It had some good details that spelled out why they probably didn’t leave on their own.

  7. donde June 5, 2009 / 3:24 am

    also that german family that dissappeared in that national park as well as that brother and sister who’s mom was murdered by that teacher she was having an affair with.

    also, there was that brother and sister in Alaska in the 80’s who were home alone and when their mom came home and they weren’t there, she assumed they were at the neighbor’s house.

  8. Aimee June 5, 2009 / 1:10 pm

    Which one’s the brother and sister whose mom was killed by her teenage boyfriend? Refresh my memory?
    I thought of one very unlucky family last night: Amber Swartz Garcia’s family. I mean, she’s the only member who is missing, but her father is murdered in the line of duty before she’s even born, and she’s born with an apparently rather severe hearing loss, and she’s hurt in a car accident.

  9. Karen June 5, 2009 / 3:14 pm

    Karen and Michael Reinert disappeared nearly 30 years ago, June 22, 1979. Their mother was murdered at the same time, probably by her boyfriend.

    Joseph Wambaugh told the whole bizarre story in the book “Echoes in the Darkness.”

    • Meaghan June 5, 2009 / 3:54 pm

      Yeah, I know, I read it. It was quite good. I think there’s another book out on it too.

      • Anthony June 5, 2009 / 3:58 pm

        The convicted principal guy self-published his “life story,” basically saying that he’s not guilty of anything at all.

      • Aimee June 5, 2009 / 6:04 pm

        So there’s Jay Smith’s book proclaiming his innocence, and there’s Wambaugh’s book, and there’s the one I read which was called “Engaged to Murder.”

  10. Meaghan June 5, 2009 / 3:59 pm

    Jay Smith, the principal, died of heart disease recently. I don’t know whether he was guilty or not. I never really formed an opinion, I mean.

    • Anthony June 5, 2009 / 4:27 pm

      Yup, that’s the guy. As for that high school, I thought I’d taught in some odd places, but Upper Merion Area made my experiences seem extra-normal.

      From Wiki, the other books on the subject: Engaged to Murder (1988), by Loretta Schwartz-Nobel, Principal Suspect (1996), by Smith’s trial and appeal attorney, William Costopoulos, and Joseph Wambaugh and the Jay Smith Case (2008) by Jay Charles Smith.

  11. Terrie June 5, 2009 / 5:30 pm

    Easiest explination of why Michalle would have a different last name from the rest of her family: If she was born before her parents got married, she would probably end up with her mother’s maiden name. Mom and Dad then get married, Mom changes her name and they have a second kid. I have a cousin whose oldest has her maiden name for that very reason.

    • Todd March 2, 2010 / 3:45 am

      Actually Michalle was the only child of her Mother’s previous relationship, thats why she had a different last name. The family actually disappeared from Northridge, not Reseda. They lived on lassen Street directly across from Nobel Jr. High, where I attended school with Michalle. Harvey rader not only murdered this family and the couple you mentioned, but is the prime (and only) suspect in another mans murder. Harvey also owed him money…see the pattern? This man killed 7 people in cold blood, over money, and now still lives within miles of where his victims lived. They couldn’t even deport his ass since he married a US citizen.

      • Darren Ross March 31, 2010 / 10:06 pm

        That other man was named Ron Adeeb. Harvey Rader was my stepdad during the time of all of these disappearances.

  12. Donna June 5, 2009 / 6:54 pm

    There is the Hughes Family out of NC who vanished in 1995. Robbie, her sister jennifer, Robbie’s twins, Brent and Brentina and I believe another boy and another girl. They were last seen loading the family van up and planned to leave the area. I have spoken with her Aunt and this case bothers me greatly. Authorities say that Robbie is safe she doesn’t want any contact with her family(?), yet Jennifer Hughes is still listed as missing on NCMEC. Curious.

    • forthelost June 5, 2009 / 10:15 pm

      Do you have confirmation for this? They’re on my site.

      The twins are Brent and Brenttany.

  13. Aimee June 5, 2009 / 7:07 pm

    It was Robbie and Jennifer and Robbie’s three kids: the twins were Brent and Brenttany; and then a daughter Serena, or some spelling of it.
    I hadn’t heard that Robbie had beenlocated.

  14. Donna June 6, 2009 / 6:42 pm

    I spoke with Robbies Aunt Sue a few months ago. She was told by Alabama authorities that they had located Robbie. Robbie and her children recieved Social Security benefits that have been left unclaimed for all these years. I aplogize about the mis-spelling of their names, I was in a rush to write about them before work. Robbies ex-husband has one of her children-their son in his custody. He has been questioned and is not considered a suspect. It wasn’t until 2 years after they disappeared that her family found out what happened. Robbie didn’t have a phone so it wasn’t unusual for her to lose contact for awhile-not 14 years though. I do have confirmation and can contact her Aunt if need be.

  15. Donna June 6, 2009 / 6:54 pm

    I have contacted Robbie’s Aunt via email just now. I asked for specifics as far as what the Alabama authorities said to her, and when. I’m hoping she will blog on Charley about her Family.

    • Meaghan June 6, 2009 / 9:11 pm

      This is very odd. I don’t understand why Jennifer is still listed as missing then.

    • Ashonda Glenn October 26, 2021 / 9:36 am

      I’m Serena family on the Glenn said and you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. They’re all still missing. I’m sure you never talked to Sue, because we the family know that they haven’t found them.

  16. Aimee June 9, 2009 / 4:02 pm

    I thought of another seriously bad-luck lottery family last night. (Some people count sheep when they’re trying to sleep; others do deep breathing exercises; I go over all things morbid in my mind. Is there some problem with that?!)
    Te family of Joan Gay Croft, who I believe is featured on Charley and the Doe Network. (Isn’t that a great name for a band: Little Charley and his Doe Network?)
    Her town of Woodward, Oklahoma, is hit by one of the worst tornadoes ever, her mother is killed, her father is badly hurt, she and her sister are waiting in the hospital basement with a lot of other storm victims, probably everybody is scared to death and grieving, many are injured…
    And somebody apparently takes advantage of all the excitement and confusion to spirit Joan away to who knows where, to endure who knows what?

    • Anthony June 9, 2009 / 5:55 pm

      Good one! Or—“bad one,” I guess I should say. Yep, that one has sent the shiver down this old spine. If it were a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, the child would have been said to have actually died in the twister but had not realized it and thus what was seen after the tragedy was her ghost, still in earthly form, not knowing were to go; and that those who later spirited her away were guides from Above.

      Something like that. Spooky as heck, though, that case.

    • Meaghan June 9, 2009 / 10:57 pm

      There is another family I thought of, the Herberts of Abbotsford, Canada. 9-year-old Donnie drowned accidentally in 1974. 11-year-old Kathryn-Mary was abducted, raped and killed in 1975 (unsolved to this day). Then 21-year-old William killed himself in 1983.

      Also: I read a memoir written by a guy who lost his entire family — mom, dad, siblings — to the Holocaust. He subsequently became very rich, married a model, had four kids and moved to a chateau in France. His wife and all his children were killed in a forest fire about twelve years later. Now in his seventies, he is remarried and has another four or five kids. I think I would have given up.

  17. Aimee June 9, 2009 / 8:29 pm

    I wonder if it got much publicity at the time. I’m sure the twister itself got plenty of press, but would her disappearance get buried in hte whole rest of the story?

    • Anthony June 9, 2009 / 8:59 pm

      I’m sure it must’ve gotten coverage, although, since that was even before my time, it probably involved slate tablets bearing carved inscriptions being passed on from hand to hand. (Not unlike “print journalism,” also nearly extinct.)

      Growing up in KS, I’d heard of the Woodward tornado—one always has to keep up with the destructive potential of those things when one lives a mile east of Dorothy and Toto, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry—but I didn’t hear of the kidnapped child till years later.

      The big “case from the past” involving a stolen child was the Bobby Greenlease kidnapping in K.C. the year before I was born; the kidnappers at one point had driven through my little town.

  18. Aimee June 9, 2009 / 9:07 pm

    Aha, Anthony! I am familiar with young Mr. Greenlease’s unhappy fate and the entirely predictable fate of Carl Hall and Bonnie Headey. And because of that familiarity I can now ascertain, as I could not before, your year of birth!
    You didn’t think you could keep that a secret from me forever, did you?

    • Anthony June 9, 2009 / 9:18 pm

      I believe that I, at one time, possibly referred to myself as being 55, or “older than the hills; no, not those hills, the other hills. I’m way older than those particular hills. Older than these too, though not as much.”

  19. Aimee June 9, 2009 / 9:19 pm

    Plain English: you are a year older than my mother.
    But take heart: you are four years younger than my father.

    • Anthony June 9, 2009 / 9:30 pm

      I suppose I should say, “Ouch!” but it’s so humid here I’m sweating goat butter and we’re under a tornado watch and the dog has passed out on the kitchen floor from the abject heat.

      Air conditioning? What? What are you talking about? God would condition it Himself if He thought it needed it. “Now, back in my day” (heard as if listening to the static of an AM radio program fearturing interviews with octagenarians in a nursing home) “we didn’t have air conditioning; why, not until I was 16 did we even own one, and it didn’t work that good.”

  20. Aimee June 9, 2009 / 9:42 pm

    Tell us about how it was in the war, Grandaddy.
    We had a terrible thunderstorm this morning, lots of rain. My herbs are loving the rain (nothing works as well as natural rain) but they could use a week or so of straight sunshine too.
    I hate AC myself, mainly because most people turn it up too damn high and I am always the first person to get cold.
    When I was very little, we had a big window AC in the living room, and I used to kneel up on the couch and press my face right into the stream of cold air blowing from it. Nothing to me has ever felt or smelled quite as good since that. My mom would always try to make me stop doing it, because I was probably breathing in loads of pollen from outdoors too, but I loved that AC smel and the feel of that icy air.
    Am I crazy, or do some AC’s really have a special smell to them?

    • Anthony June 9, 2009 / 10:00 pm

      I think that smell’s known as “ozone.” Once I rented an apartment above the square—great place, high windows—and the a/c smelled like (drumroll) “mildew.”

      I don’t mind a/c. My folks, immediately after I moved out (of COURSE), got a smaller place with central air and a color TV (and CABLE even!!), none of which we’d ever had. Seems they didn’t want to spoil me. (Didn’t work, of course—I’m an only child and thus it was inevitable.)

      Oh, when I was a real little kid, we had a cooling fan, which was, basically, a big exhaust fan with a trough of water at the bottom for evaporative cooling. That smelled like ozone too.

      I could live in a cave. Summer is not my favorite season.

  21. Aimee June 9, 2009 / 10:37 pm

    I love summer, because in winter I’m always cold and my skin dries out and…I just like being warmer, and growing things, and wearing sandals.
    As best I can describe it, the old AC smell was like cold wet metal to me. *shrugs* So I’m no good at descriptions.

    • Anthony June 9, 2009 / 10:54 pm

      “Wet metal” = ozone. That’s the smell. With the water cooler thing, it was more of a “wrecked plane in the steamy jungle in the dripping rain”-type metal smell.

      I can confirm that every woman I’ve ever known has thought it too cold when I thought it was just right! (And, speaking of women and of The Missing, one of my girlfriends—tumultuous affair, that one—looked exactly like Kristine Kupke, especially the fifth picture on her Charley page. Third, fourth, and sixth ones, too. Haunting.)

  22. Aimee June 10, 2009 / 1:30 pm

    My aunt worked with a woman who she swore looked exactly like Laci Peterson, only overweight.

    • missinginhendersonky August 2, 2012 / 2:13 am

      If anyone knows anything about Heather Danyelle Teague Please come forward! We are STILL looking for her. It will be 18 years August.
      There is a someone in our town terrorizing Sarah Teague, Heather Mother on Topix in the Henderson forum the person goes by the handle Wilbur. He also in the biggest scandal in Henderson thread released what I believe to be new info. It’s time for Heather to come home!!!
      Does anyone think she alive? Does anyone know if she is the witness protection program. On site reported she worked for KSP. Please let us know! If anyone can help please DO!!!

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