A big thorn in my side

Months and months (maybe a year, has it been that long ago?) after I did it, someone finally emailed me asking why I had added the javascript thingy to the Charley Project casefiles to make it more difficult to copy them. The script makes it impossible, in most browsers, to highlight anything on the page, therefore making it impossible to select and copy text. There are ways around this however.

The person tried to guilt me, saying that wasn’t the purpose of my site to get the information out there? I replied saying Charley gets the information out there quite nicely. I added the script because people were regularly copying my casefiles and putting them on their own sites without attribution, in violation of my extremely generous terms of service. I would be within my rights to prohibit any and all duplication of the stuff on Charley; as it is, you can take all you want as long as you include a link to me. But quite a few people wouldn’t even do that, in spite of my repeated requests and reminders. In one case, when I wrote someone to tell them they’d stolen my entire casefile and would they either remove it or add a link, they quickly altered the casefile and said, “There’s no stolen bits, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But I had taken a screenshot of the page before and could prove they had plagiarized me and then tried to cover it up.

I don’t understand why these people will not add a simple little link to me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I work hard writing up those files and putting them together. If someone isn’t aware of the terms of service, fine, I will enlighten them. But there are some people who are repeat offenders, who regularly apologized and promised to put up attribution in the future, and then continued on as usual, time and time again. I could name them, I suppose, but what good would it do, besides possibly starting another comment war?

The script may well go away soon as Pri upgrades my site for me. It doesn’t really work anyway — as I said, there are ways to get around it and still plagiarize my site at will. The theft still happens, but not as often as it used to I think. But I felt like I had to do something. The repeated thefts were really making me angry.

Primetime report on Alissa Turney

ABC Primetime has done a report on Alissa Turney, a seventeen-year-old girl who disappeared from Phoenix in 2001. For many years she was thought to be a runaway, but now the police think foul play was involved. Alissa never mentioned any runaway plans, she left all her stuff and money behind, and after her disappearance no one ever heard from her again, except for one phone call she supposedly made to her stepfather. The stepfather is, at the very least, a bit unhinged — late last year the cops found a massive stockpile of weapons in his house, which he was allegedly going to use to blow up a local union hall.

This article is very frustrating to me because of it ending, or lack thereof. “Watch our show to hear more!” Well, I don’t have cable, and I never watch TV anyway. But what little they did disclose seems to imply some kind of sexual abuse of Alissa by her stepfather. I wish I could find out more. For what it’s worth, Alissa’s younger half-sister stands by her father and says he was a good parent who never did anything bad.

As to whether Michael Turney harmed his stepdaughter…time will tell. But the girl’s been missing for over eight years. SOMETHING happened to her and it probably wasn’t good.

Missing persons case prompts investigation into possible police racism

According to this article, a brain-damaged Asian refugee (identified in this article as former Chinese dissident Yu Dongyue) wandered away from a relative’s Indiana home and was reported missing. Meanwhile, the police picked him up for public intoxication. He couldn’t tell them his name so they listed him as “Jackie Chan” on the intake papers.

Apparently some people think that is Seriously Not Funny. They even suggest that perhaps not calling him the usual “John Doe” hindered the search for him. That is, if his family checked the jail for an unidentified man (and it’s not clear that they did), they wouldn’t have been able to find him because he would be listed under a name but not his own name. (Dongyue was released without charge eighteen hours after his arrest and someone found him eight miles from the jail, recognized him from the missing persons fliers and took him home. He’d been missing about a day and a half.) So now there is a review at the police department and the chief is making a public apology and someone is going to get seriously yelled at and possibly fired.

Tasteless? Definitely. Insensitive? Definitely. I don’t know if the cop who did this was racist, but he certainly should have known better.

My review of Paul Begg’s book “Into Thin Air: People Who Disappear”

(This is quite an obscure book. You may have a hard time locating it, even online. My library had it, but in the storage section where all the old books go to die.)

Paul Begg is better known to me from his Jack the Ripper writings. I’m glad to see he’s turned his research talent and common sense to the topic of missing people. Though this book was written in the seventies, it’s not terribly dated. There’s a centerfold of pictures, some of them curiously irrelevant to the book. Begg mentions a few contemporary cases but mainly focuses on mysterious vanishings thought by some to be paranormal. He discusses the Bermuda Triangle, the disappearance of the captain and crew of the Mary Celeste, and the story about the guy who vanished crossing a field, among other cases. Begg is a very good debunker. Going back through the old records, he is able to prove that many of these wild stories about disappearances are replete with serious errors, if not made up entirely. (He’s especially good at this in his Bermuda Triangle chapter.)

I wouldn’t call this a true crime book, since most of the cases he discusses are not criminal in nature. But it would interest anyone interested in the paranormal (skeptic and believer alike) and, of course, anyone interested in missing persons.

In-depth report on Leigh Occhi

The Criminal Report Daily blog is doing a four-part series on the 1992 disappearance of thirteen-year-old Leigh Marine Occhi. They’re up to part III now, but I just found it today.

Part III says Leigh’s mother flunked three polygraph tests. I have some doubts about the value of polygraphs, but I also have some doubts about Leigh’s mom. Reason: Leigh’s glasses mysteriously arrived in the mail at her house a few weeks after she went missing. There was nothing else in the envelope and no further communications came. That doesn’t make any sense. If someone had abducted and/or killed Leigh and wanted to taunt her family, a letter would have been better. The eyeglasses thing sounds very much like someone close to Leigh harmed her and wanted to throw the police off the scent. John Douglas, in one of his books, talks about a very similar case where a missing girl’s mother received the child’s mitten in the mail. It turned out Mom had killed the child.

I’m not saying I believe Leigh’s mother killed her daughter. I am just wondering. It appears to have been quite a brutal attack, bloodstains everywhere. It doesn’t sound like something a woman would have done, and there’s no mention of any trouble in their relationship, prior abuse incidents, etc. It doesn’t make sense. But nothing about this case makes sense.

Foreign nationals on Charley

Writing up some cases for some foreigners who disappeared within the United States, I was inspired to go and see just how many foreign nationals were listed as missing on the Charley Project. I found 146 people from 69 different countries. I daresay there are probably a lot more than that, but I only included cases I was sure of. I did have to guess a few times as to the person’s nation of origin — for instance, the Holocaust survivor who speaks fluent Polish and Yiddish is probably from Poland, etc.

The numbers seem to align with American immigration patterns. The best-represented, unsurprisingly, was Mexico, with 19 people. Germany was an unexpected second, with 12 people, followed by Canada with 8 people. Altogether there were 18 people from South and Central America, 13 from the Caribbean, 36 from Asia, 48 from Europe, 3 from the Middle East, 2 from Africa and 2 from the South Pacific.

I realize this does not equal 146. Clearly I made a mistake counting somewhere, but I’m too lazy to fix it.

I’m a little bored. Can you tell?

Mindi Chambers

The Arizona Republic has an article about Mindi Chambers, a seventeen-year-old girl who disappeared from Mesa, Arizona in 1982. I hadn’t really had much info on her case before, other than the peculiar fact that she wasn’t reported missing for seven months. But this article says it was actually thirteen years. Go figure.

It really doesn’t look good. Mindi’s dad sounds like a monster. He was suspected of killing Mindi’s mom when Mindi was two, but never charged. Mindi disappeared just days after she said her sorry excuse for a father had been molesting her for years. The police sent her to live with her stepmother, who was in the process of a divorce. She disappeared. No one seemed to care.

Mindi’s father is dead now. The police don’t have her dental records, and they only DNA they have is from her half-sister, which isn’t really conclusive for identification purposes. They have a body that might be hers, but they can’t tell for sure. It seems to me that an exhumation is in order — get her father’s DNA, or her mom’s.

In any case, none of this will do her any good.

A roundup of resolves

It sometimes happens that I get several resolved cases dumped on me all at once. Today is one of those days. We’ve got:

Alice Louise Donovan, 44, who was kidnapped from Conway, South Carolina on November 14, 2002. Her abductors were too thoroughly frightening young punks, Brenden Basham and Chadwick Fulks, who’d broken out of jail and gone on a multi-state crime spree of robbery, car theft, burglary, kidnapping and murder. The suspects were arrested two days later. They were later convicted of carjacking resulting in death in Alice’s case. Bone fragments found in Horry County, South Carolina in January have just been identified as Alice’s. Basham and Fulks are both on death row now. Another of their victims, a West Virginia college student named Samantha Burns, is still among the missing.

Michael Ray Larsen, 49, a transient who disappeared from Fort Bragg, California in August 2003. His skeletal remains were found near a homeless encampment in Fort Bragg last week, and were identified this week. There was no indication of foul play. It looks like he might have fallen off a cliff.

Tiairra Jo Garcia, 19, disappeared from Pasco, Washington on June 22, 2008. Her dirtbag boyfriend and three of his associates were charged in connection with her disappearance. The police believe Tiairra’s boyfriend accidentally shot her and then let her die without trying to get help for her. Tiairra’s remains turned up in Mount Rainier National Park. The boyfriend was sentenced to eight years in prison and one of his friends got one year for their roles in her death. It hardly seems to be enough.

Brody Shaun Shelton, 3, and his sister Logan Willow Shelton, 1, were kidnapped by their mother from Las Vegas, Nevada on March 19, 2004. The children have been found safe, according to the NCMEC; I have no other details.

Why do I do it?

Frankly, I get a bit embarrassed when people tell me what a wonderful person I am for making the Charley Project. My motives for making and maintaining the site are essentially selfish: I do it because I want to. It has been suggested by some people in a position to know, and yet never formally diagnosed, that I might have a touch of Asperger’s Syndrome. One of the characteristics of this peculiar condition is an obsession with and encyclopedic knowledge of one or more extremely narrowly defined topics. Charley would definitely qualify. (My other obsession, incidentally, is the author-god Robert Cormier, whom I’ve been in love with since I was twelve years old — curiously, about the same time I became obsessed with missing people. Hmmm.)

I view Charley as not a charitable effort but more like a hobby. Some people collect stamps or bugs or rare coins; I collect missing people. My hobby happens to be helpful to others, which is great. Like most people, I like being helpful. But I would continue my work anyway even if it wasn’t benefiting a single other person besides me.

(This, by the way, is why I don’t have unidentifieds on my site and why I don’t try to do my own matches. Unidentified people, for whatever reason, do not interest me very much — certainly not enough to spend many hours every week gathering the cases together and updating them as needed. So I let other people find the unidentifieds and try to match them with cases on my site. That seems to work out fine for everyone.)

I suppose, however, that much the same could be said for most people who do charitable work. No one is going to spend day after day doing something they hate for no pay, even if it does help other people. People do things like volunteer in soup kitchens, or donating money to charities, because they like to and it makes them feel good. There are enough charitable efforts out there that you’re bound to find something you like doing. Charley just happens to be mine.

If that makes any sense at all.

Charley Project upgrade progress

So I just talked on the phone to Pri, my angel designer, and he showed me just what he had accomplished so far and what he planned to do. He reckons it should all be done in a month or so, joy! His upgrade would save me loads of time. He also wants to change the site design a bit. He says Charley looks like it was created in 1998 or so. The upgrade would, among other things: create cases for me so I won’t have to mess with HTML anymore, figure out the missing person’s age so I won’t have to do it (not a biggie, but occasionally I make mistakes), add new cases to the listings, create my updates pages for me, and many more.