I was writing up cases to post tomorrow when I came across a rather odd one: the January 2009 disappearance of Benjamin Bearrick from Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was 55 years old, unemployed, and living alone. He rented out a small cabin to Shawn Sponholz. Bearrick was a longtime resident of Vickburg; Sponholz had only been living there a couple of months.
On the evening of January 23, Bearrick drove Sponholz to the hospital. Sponholz had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and he died in ER. Bearrick, when questioned, said he’d gone to the cabin and found Sponholz there, injured. It doesn’t look like he provided any more information, but the police are being pretty tight-lipped about it so I don’t know for sure. Anyway, the police questioned Bearrick as a material witness and released him. On January 26, they went to his house to question him again and he was gone. The last time anyone saw him was on January 25.
The cops stated they believed Bearrick’s disappearance was connected to Sponholz’s murder and they think Bearrick, too, was probably killed. They haven’t said why they think this. They claim they have a suspect in the homicide but haven’t named this person, and it’s been a year and no charges have been filed. Presumably, Bearrick saw something he shouldn’t have.
I looked up both men’s backgrounds and both of them have criminal records, but not serious ones. Bearrick has one ancient burglary conviction in Texas. Sponholz has a record in Georgia for marijuana possession and traffic-related offenses. I’m sure there are several decent enough citizens in my neighborhood who can say the same thing about themselves. Nobody seems to know much about Bearrick. He has a daughter and a son, and his daughter was interviewed by a newspaper and said her father was a Vietnam vet and had relatives in Texas whom he hadn’t heard from in twenty years. Even she didn’t seem to know an awful lot about her father.
So what the hell happened? From the sounds of it, either Bearrick committed the murder himself and then split (unlikely, since the cops don’t seem to think so, and they know a great deal more about the case than I), or there’s a double murderer floating around Vicksburg somewhere. A scary thought, either way.
Bonita Karen Sanders‘s family — her father’s side, anyway — has held a memorial service for her, 23 years after her disappearance. The child, who was a few days shy of two years old, almost exactly a year older than I am, was supposedly abducted from the front porch when her mom wasn’t looking. However, Bonita’s mother (also called Bonita Sanders) had a pretty bad habit of misplacing her kids. She abandoned Bonita at the hospital after she was born, and later had another baby and abandoned it too. It looks like she had eight children in all. Why are the most rotten parents always also the biggest breeders?
Bonita Sr. is the prime suspect in her daughter’s disappearance, and the police are now certain that the baby was never abducted at all but died at her mother’s house. They haven’t been able to find a body or any evidence of a crime, however. Her dad, Abdul Salaam, was in jail at the time the baby disappeared, and he seems like a decent man. He was never a suspect in baby Bonita’s disappearance. You can read a touching letter Bonita’s older sister wrote to her and read at the memorial service.
The things that people will do to their children. Sigh. What else is there to say?
Ernesto Gonzalez, father of the missing child Giovanni Gonzalez, has been evaluated and found to be fit to stand trial for charges related to his son’s disappearance. Giovanni, then five, disappeared in August 2008 during a visitation with Ernesto. His mom had custody. Ernesto later claimed he’d stabbed Giovanni to death, but the police can’t find any evidence to support that story. All that remains is that the boy’s missing and Ernesto certainly had a hand in it somehow. He’s awaiting trial for kidnapping and misleading the police.
I feel so sorry for Giovanni’s mother, Daisy Colon. I think she did all the right things. When Ernesto announced he wanted to be part of Giovanni’s life, Daisy said okay, because the boy ought to have a father. She insisted that she and Ernesto go into counseling to learn parenting techniques, and they worked out an informal visitation agreement until they could go to court. And then Ernesto did…whatever it was that he did. And Daisy doesn’t even know whether her son is dead or alive. This case remains me a lot of the Sam and Lindsey Porter case. Their father murdered them to spite their mom, then jerked her and the cops around for years with this story and that one, before he finally confessed to the crime. I hope Giovanni’s fate will be better, but I am not at all optimistic.
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe again
The Boston Herald