It’s amazing what you can find out about people using the internet (as one of my blog readers demonstrated to me some weeks ago). I always enter a person’s name into Google as part of my research when I write up their case. A lot of times, when I write up more recent cases of missing persons, I find traces they left online before their disappearances.
Back in the days when Jennifer Marra ran the MPCCN and we weren’t even really friends yet, I stumbled across the personal website of a young college student who had vanished without a trace. The site, which used webspace provided by her student account, had some pictures of her and some general information and some poems she wrote. The last was the day before she disappeared. It also had her AOL instant messenger screenname, which I added to my own buddy list, in case she should pop up on there. She never did. She’s still missing and it’s been nine or ten years. Her website is no longer extant.
Just today, as I was writing up a new case from 2008, I saw the missing woman quoted in a newspaper article from 2007. Ironically, it was an article about another missing person whose case she, a police officer, was investigating. Now the police officer herself is missing. In another case, I stumbled across a website about joining the Peace Corps where a missing man I was writing about had posted a short account of his own volunteer experience back in the seventies.
With MySpace and Facebook and such places, it’s getting easier to see the person behind the poster. One man who’s been missing since late this past spring posted on Facebook just a month or so before he vanished, writing about his conservative politics and predicting Barack Obama would go down as the worst president in history. I occasionally take missing people’s photos off of their own MySpace accounts to help find them. I hope they don’t mind.
It’s a bit eerie when this happens — kind of like seeing ghosts.
I am working on today’s updates and just wrote up a bizarre case from NamUs about a young man who was last seen when he got arrested following a domestic dispute. He was booked on some minor charges. The next day when his dad came to see him at the jail, they told him he’d been transferred to another jail in a nearby town. So Dad went over there and they didn’t have his son and didn’t know anything about the supposed transfer. The man hasn’t been seen or heard from since. This was in 1973.
I think there’s got to be more to the story than that — at least I hope so. How can a small-town police department simply lose a prisoner and NEVER FIND HIM? I can imagine this sort of thing happening in, say, Turkey, or Latin America, but in the United States?
A man emailed me a few days ago giving a list of cases where the birthdates and/or ages are wrong. He said he’d counted and I now have 8,010 cases on Charley.
I’m pretty sure that makes Charley by far the largest online database of missing persons, public or private. The California DOJ has a little over 2,000. NamUs as well. The NCMEC has 3,770 listed, if you count all countries. I didn’t count those classified as unidentified, but many cases that are not in that classification are actually unidentified live children (abandoned kids outside the US, generally). I don’t know how many cases the Doe Network and the North American Missing Persons Network have, but I’m quite sure it’s less than what I’ve got.
And yet, 8,010 is perhaps just ten percent of the people currently missing in this country.
Adji Desir, a developmentally disabled six-year-old Haitian-American boy, has been missing from his grandmother’s home in Immokalee, Florida for exactly 363 days now. He was playing outside with other children when he vanished, seemingly without a trace. No witnesses. No hard evidence of any crime. Just a little boy with the mind of a two-year-old, a little boy who could barely talk at all and couldn’t even say his own name, gone.
The Naples Daily News has just run an anniversary article about Adji’s disappearance. His mom and stepdad have had another child, a baby girl they named Adjiani after her brother. Adji’s grandmother, who was babysitting him that day while his parents worked, no longer lives in the same apartment. She’s moved in with Adji’s mother and stepfather due to health problems. Adji’s bio-dad lives in Haiti and as far as I know, he hasn’t said anything in the press; nor, I believe, is he considered a suspect in his son’s disappearance.
It’s looking more and more like Adji was kidnapped, although there were no witnesses and no suspects. If he had wandered away I think he would have been found by now. If he was abducted I suppose there’s reason to hope he’s still alive. A disabled child who cannot speak is unlikely to give his kidnapper(s) away, so they could have kept him around. I hope he’s alive, somewhere. It’s unlikely, I admit, but people like Jaycee Dugard, Shawn Hornbeck, Elizabeth Smart and Shasta Groene can testify otherwise.