This article is headlined “Search Goes On For Missing Belleville Prostitute.” The prostitute in question is 47-year-old Janet Tillman, a mentally handicapped Illinois woman who’s been missing for two years. There are, as of this writing, 45 comments to the article, and a lot of people are upset about the headline referring to Janet as a prostitute. She is or was, in fact, a prostitute, but some of the commenters feel the headline demeans her and makes her sound like trash not worth looking for or whatever.

Perhaps the person who wrote the headline didn’t mean anything of the kind. Prostitution seems to have been Janet’s sole occupation; I can’t find any mention of another job. Would anyone complain about “Search Goes On For Missing Belleville Teacher” or “Lawyer” or even “Sewage Worker”? Nonetheless, it is a bit of a foot-in-mouth thing to do. Prostitution is, rightly or wrongly, a highly stigmatized profession.

I recall being troubled by a headline I saw several years ago: something like “DNA Links Mexicans to Murder.” The Mexicans in question were three specific men, all of them Mexican citizens born and raised in that country, who were suspected of committing a murder in Maryland. I remember thinking: Did they have to say “Mexicans”? What about just saying “men” or “suspects” or something similarly neutral? Would they have still used a headline referring to nationality if those men had been Slovenian or Zimbabwean or Japanese?

I think it’s similar to the prostitution issue. I need not point out that racism against Hispanics is quite prevalent in this country (my boyfriend is of Mexican descent so I see it firsthand). Most Americans, however, don’t tend to form negative opinions about people from countries like Slovenia. (Indeed, most Americans don’t know where Slovenia is. It’s in the Balkans, by the way.) Just the same way “prostitute” is a bad thing to call someone but “school teacher” is not.

Feel free to reflect and discuss.

Florida ranks third in number of missing children

According to this article, Florida has has the third-highest number of missing kids, behind only California and Texas. It also has the third-largest number of registered sex offenders, at a little over 50,000.

I’m not sure how much this actually means, though. Wikipedia says Florida is the fourth most populated state, behind California, Texas and New York, so it would stand to reason that they’d have more missing kids and more sex offenders. (No word on where New York ranks in the number of missing children.) Another thought: a significant number of missing children are teen runaways. It seems like there would be more teen runaways from warmer states (again, Florida and Texas, and southern California too) because they could sleep rough without fear of inclement weather.

I’d like to see how many missing kids per capita there are. The article does say that while Florida has almost the largest number of sex offenders, they’re actually ranked at number thirteen for sex offenders per 100,000 people. They have 281 sex offenders per 100,000; the nationwide average is 223.

Very sad article about runaways

The New York Times has done a very good article about teen runaways and why they run and why they stay away and how they survive. It’s really sad — especially the statistic on page 3 that 75% of runaways are never even reported missing, either because the parents don’t want them around or because they’re afraid to get the police involved.

I read an excellent book by Todd Strasser, Can’t Get There from Here, about a group of teen runaways and throwaways living on the streets of a major American city — New York, I think. They ranged in age from 12 to 22. They lived lives a lot like what’s described in the newspaper article.

I think maybe if a runaway is from a good home and they don’t come back, maybe it’s because they’re ashamed. They might not want to go home after having done things like sell drugs or sell themselves to survive. They might be afraid their parents will be mad at them and will reject them.

China’s missing children

There’s a fairly huge child trafficking problem in China right now. Little kids are getting kidnapped left and right. Authorities believe the children are taken by childless adults wanting a child of their own, by son-less households wanting a male heir, or by kidnappers hoping to use the children for labor or sell them for adoption abroad. The magnitude of the problem cannot be underestimated. According to this article:

There are 30,000 to 60,000 children reported missing every year in China, according to the ministry. But people like Tang, who are involved in the search for these kids, say the number is closer to 200,000.

Many, if not most cases are not formally listed because local police are unwilling or unable to investigate crimes that usually involve crossing provincial borders. As well, many of the parents think police might be complicit in the kidnappings. It is a lucrative business that can net about $4,000 for each boy sold and about $1,000 per girl.

To make the problem even more tragic, a lot of times even if the abducted children are recovered, it’s hard to reunite them with their families. Many of the kids were too young at the time of the abduction to remember their identities, and if they were never officially listed as missing, obviously that just makes it more difficult. There’s a national DNA database parents of missing children can contribute to, but not enough have done so and DNA testing is really expensive. This article says it costs the equivalent of $350 per test in Beijing, although the fee varies depending on what province you’re in. Wikipedia says the per capita income in China is a little less than $6,000 annually. I’m not sure whether the parents pay for the DNA testing or the government does.

The Chinese government has just posted this website with photos of kidnapped children and suspected kidnap victims whom they have recovered and are trying to identify. It’s written in Chinese, so I can’t read it and I doubt many of you viewers can either, but you can see the photos of those adorable kids with eyes that haunt you.

I’m not sure how effective this website will be. It seems like the majority of abducted children were probably stolen from poor families and I’m not sure how much internet access the average Chinese person has. But it can’t hurt, might help.

Photographs in my resolved section

As everyone knows, in my resolved section I put one photo of each located missing person as well as their names and particulars of disappearance and recovery. This is just so people can remember the original case — it seems to be easier to recall the face than the name.

Once in awhile I get emails from people in that section asking me to take their messages off. (In one case, it was the daughter of a missing man who was found dead, who asked me to remove his notice. She didn’t say why.) I always comply with such requests. The last one was in June. This woman, a former runaway, was really ticked off and got all in my face about it (capital letters, etc) threatening to sue me. I removed her photo and reminded her that, as I say on my contact page, all she had to do was ask politely.

I confess that I am occasionally troubled, especially about young runaways. It’s a sad fact that teens occasionally get silly or compromising stuff about them posted online (often they do the posting themselves) and it comes back to haunt them later when they become adults and choose to apply for colleges and jobs. If a potential employer Googled the applicant’s name and discovered from my site that they had run away as a teen and were gone for a considerable length of time, that might kill the job right there no matter how qualified the applicant was. The employer might write him or her off as flaky and unstable or something.

However, my removing all mention of the located individual from my website would not solve this problem, as there usually are a lot of other websites out there with their names and often their pictures too. I Googled a random runaway boy who was found months ago and found him mentioned on six other sites besides mine. I don’t like to contribute to this problem, of course, but I can’t prevent what appears on other sites. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to simply remove resolved cases without any notice at all. Actually, I do this quite a lot, like in cases where I find out a person was found ages ago, sometimes even before I posted their casefile — this happens all too often, as other databases forget to remove their located MPs. But whenever I can I try to post a notice. It’s just easier for the viewer that way.

I suppose I ought to just go on as I have been doing — post notices, and then remove them if the (former) MP asks me to.

On a related note, once in awhile a relative of an MP is upset because I posted an unflattering photo (often a mug shot) of their missing loved one. I just got an email a couple of weeks ago about that. The woman claimed people were saying “unkind things” about her uncle because of his mug shot on my site. Well, I had no other photo. (She has since provided me one.) And I believe in posting as many pictures as possible, so even if I have other pictures I will post mug shots unless someone asks me not to. I reason it this way: if the MP is alive, who knows what he looks like now. Snaps and portraits show him in a relaxed and happy state. But maybe he looks like his mug shot now — strained, stressed, upset. Though I can certainly understand the position of the relatives too.

Positive ID in Boulder Jane Doe case!

Not too long ago I read an reviewed Someone’s Daughter: in Search of Justice for Jane Doe. Well, she’s not called Jane Doe anymore. She was just identified. She’s called Dorothy Gay Howard, and she was 18 years old when she was murdered in 1954. I had heard they had another possible match and was hoping the third time would be the charm.

Dorothy looks like she was a beautiful young woman. That photo is so fifties, with the Marilyn Monroe hairdo and everything. The bust of Jane Doe’s face looks a lot like her, except the hair.

Hats off and stand up for Silvia Pettem, for without her dedication to this case it’s highly likely that Boulder Jane Doe would never have been identified and Dorothy Gay Howard’s family would have been left wondering for the rest of their lives.

A new member of the family

My boyfriend went out and got an eight-week-old kitten today. Her name is Carmen. She’s a brown tabby with hazel eyes, long hair, white paws and a white bib. She looks like every other kitten in the world — that is, adorable. Pick her up and right away she starts purring like she’s got a little motor inside her.

That makes a current total of four pets: Carmen the cat, our two rats Gypsy and Belle, and Alley the chihuahua, who actually belongs to my boyfriend’s roommate.

Karla Rodriguez missing 10 years

Two days ago was the ten-year anniversary of the disappearance of seven-year-old Karla Rodriguez from Las Vegas, Nevada. She disappeared without a trace from her neighborhood on the evening of October 20, 1999 and is presumed to have been abducted, but no one saw anything. Police have investigated a number of suspects, including the now-deceased child serial killer Curtis Dean Anderson (posthumously declared responsible for the abduction and murder of Amber Swartz-Garcia who has also never been found). But there have never been really any strong leads in Karla’s case and there hasn’t been much news about it for many years.

Sadly, I could only find one article about the anniversary of Karla’s disappearance. Her case didn’t get as much publicity as it could have. Most of them never do.

Jacob Wetterling missing 20 years

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the abduction of eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling. He was kidnapped at gunpoint by a strange man in front of his brother and a friend, and never seen again. The police don’t seem to have any idea what became of him or who took him, though he is one of the most famous missing children in the country.

Of course there’s a slew of anniversary articles:
Minneapolis Star-Tribune (this is a nice one, focusing on how the abduction affected Jacob’s best friend who saw the whole thing)
Minnesota Public Radio
St. Cloud Times
St. Cloud Times again
USA Today
ABC News
Fox 9 News

Jacob’s abduction reminds me of a lot of cases, namely Jaycee Dugard, Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin, and the Groene family murders and the abductions of Dylan and Shasta Groene. (I wonder if anyone looked at Joseph Duncan as a suspect in Jacob’s kidnapping? Just a thought.) Whoever kidnapped Jacob was incredibly brazen and brutal. My guess is that the abductor had committed other crimes before — not kidnapping but perhaps assaults, burglaries, maybe some sex crimes. You just don’t wake up one morning and decide to stalk and abduct a child at gunpoint in full view of two witnesses.

Is Jacob still alive? Who knows?