Yolanda Baker’s boyfriend convicted

Earlier I wrote that the boyfriend of Yolanda Baker, who disappeared in 1999, was on trial for her murder. Well, after three days of deliberation, Terrance Barnett has been found guilty of second-degree murder. He was charged with first-degree murder, but without the body and stuff, the jury couldn’t determine premeditation. No word on what the sentencing guidelines are, but presumably Barnett will be facing some serious time.

The two of them had twins together. I feel so sorry for the children. I can’t imagine what it would be like, growing up knowing my father killed my mother.

Please forgive my inactivity

Not too long ago I talked about headaches I get that last forever. Well, I have had a headache, pretty much continuously, since Wednesday night. It kind of moves around my head — one part of my head hurts and then an hour later that part feels fine and another part hurts. The pain is not excruciating, but it’s always there, and it’s been three and a half days now. Chronic pain is so exhausting. I am really sleep-deprived as well, because I keep taking these pain pills that have a boatload of caffeine in them. So it’s either I stay awake because my head hurts, or I fall asleep and then wake up way too early because I’m jittery from caffeine. I went to bed last night around ten-thirty or eleven, and woke up at two-thirty, and I’ve been up ever since. Those pills don’t work that well anyway.

Anyway, I’m not feeling terribly productive right now. About the best I can do is read books and review them on my Goodreads account. I really hope I don’t wind up having to go to the doctor for another shot. Groan. This couldn’t have come at a worst time. There’s the Charley backup, of course, and I’ve also got some other things I need to do that I need my wits for. I must have picked up some bad karma somewhere.

Reflections on Mitrice Richardson case

Today I wrote up and posted on Charley the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson, a very controversial case which I wrote about some months ago. She’s been missing under unusual circumstances since September 2009.

A quick rundown:

Mitrice, a 24-year-old black recent college graduate, was arrested at a restaurant for failing to pay her bill. This in spite of $2,000 in her bank account. People at the restaurant said she’d been talking about things that didn’t make any sense, claiming to be from Mars, etc., and the restaurant owner called the cops because he was concerned about her as much as anything else. The police found a small amount of marijuana in her car and arrested her for drug possession and defrauding an innkeeper. According to them, she was calm and polite and appeared to be quite sane while she was in their custody. She passed a field sobriety test, too.

A few hours later, they let her go. It was the middle of the night by then. They had impounded her car with her purse and cell phone inside it. Mitrice was unfamiliar with the area and had no money, and the buses weren’t running that time of night. The police claim they offered to let her stay till morning, but she said she wanted to go. She walked out and vanished off the face of the earth. Subsequently, mental health experts studied her journals and reports of her behavior just before her disappearance and they think she was suffering from some kind of nervous breakdown, possibly bipolar disorder.

Mitrice’s family has been up in arms and actually sued the police department, claiming they were negligent and caused her disappearance and probable death, and then tried to cover it up. According to the Richardson family, the police knew or should have known that something was wrong with Mitrice and they should have held her until she could get a psychiatric evaluation. The police have responded that (A) Regardless of what the restaurant people saw, the officers themselves did not observe any oddness in Mitrice’s behavior (B) She is an adult, was sober and appeared to be able to look after herself, and they have a legal obligation to let arrestees go as soon as possible and (C) Terrible as her disappearance is, there is no evidence that she’s dead.

Assuming that everyone involved is telling some version of the truth…I don’t know. I can see both sides of this. Obviously, hindsight being 20/20, the cops should have behaved differently. I can certainly see why Mitrice’s family is angry. On the other hand, if the officers didn’t see anything wrong with Mitrice, would they have really been on firm legal ground holding her for a psych eval based on what some third parties saw? Remember, she had no history of mental illness before, no criminal record, was a very high-achieving woman by all accounts. As for allegations that racism or homophobia (Mitrice is a lesbian) influenced the law enforcement’s behavior, I am not in a position to judge that.

I am reminded of an incident in my own life that had some similarities to the Mitrice Richardson situation. It happened like this:

I quit school when I was thirteen years old and was registered as a homeschooled student, to keep the truant officers off my back. The following year, at fourteen, I began taking classes at Ohio State and thus I got my education, but for the year in between I was left largely to my own devices. I was very isolated at the time and suffering from severe depression which went unnoticed and untreated by my parents. I spent a lot of time going on very long bike rides. Sometimes I’d ride like fifty miles in a day, through the countryside. It was one of the few things that brought me any pleasure.

I get lost really easily, unfortunately, and when I do get lost I tend to get upset. This is more likely to happen (both getting lost and getting upset about it) when I’m sleep-deprived. One day, having not slept at all the night before, I went on a long bike ride and wound up hopelessly lost, some 25 miles or so from home and going in the wrong direction. I spent an hour or two trying to get my bearings, getting more and more panicky. Then I decided to stop at a random house (I was out in farm country, not in town, btw) and ask for directions. By then I was crying.

A woman answered the door and found a slightly hysterical girl on her stoop. I was crying and trying to explain my problem, and perhaps she was the excitable type, I don’t know, but a severe communication problem developed, the end result being that the woman called 911 and said a strange girl had showed up at her house and didn’t appear to know who or what she was, and was acting crazy, so could someone please come and help her? I was like “WHAT?” Then I was thinking to myself: okay, calm down, and do it fast. And I did. A sheriff’s deputy showed up like ten minutes later and found me, white-faced but no longer crying. I opened the door to him and said, first thing: “She’s overreacting. I’m fine.”

He asked me a few questions: What was my name? How old was I? Why wasn’t I in school? I told him about being a homeschooler. Where were my parents? At work. Why was I so upset? I was just lost, that’s all, and got kind of freaked out. Was I running away from home? Of course not; I would not use a bicycle to run away from home. Okay, then, should he call my father or mother? No, I did not want to bother them over this non-emergency. Okay, then, how could he of assistance? Would I like directions? Would I like a ride? I told him I would take the ride. He put my bike in the back of his cruiser and drove me towards home. We didn’t talk much. I asked him to drop me off outside of town, because I didn’t want the neighbors to see me with the police and start up the rumor mill. He said okay. He dropped me off about half a mile from my house. I rode my bicycle home, let myself in and went to bed. I don’t think I ever told my parents about it, or anyone, at the time. I had no one to tell.

As far as I know, the cop made no effort to verify any of the information I gave him. He’d didn’t ask to see ID. (At thirteen, of course, I didn’t have any.) He didn’t ask for my exact address. I think he asked for my parents’ names, but not where they worked. I don’t believe he called any of the local schools to find out if they were missing anyone. When he let me out of the car he immediately turned around and headed back where he’d come from, didn’t bother to watch me head the rest of the way home. He didn’t call my house later that night to find out if I was okay. Presumably he just wanted to get me out of his hair and get back to doing whatever real law enforcement duties he had. And I didn’t want to be in his company any longer than I had to, either. I have no doubt that, if I had simply asked for directions and told him I could see myself all the way home, he would have provided them and then left me where I was.

It could have been like this: suppose I had disappeared somehow, never made it home. Then you would have had a situation with a cop who was called to assist a possibly mentally ill girl who was out in the middle of nowhere on a school day, a tiny girl who said she was thirteen but looked younger, and rather than take her to a doctor or try to get hold of her parents, drove her off to another spot also in the middle of nowhere and let her off, without bothering to even try to verify her identity. Negligence! Huge lawsuit! The blogosphere (not that there was much of one back then, but you know what I mean) would have been up in arms.

Or it could have been like this: the cop, either out of genuine concern or just in ass-covering mode, decides to detain me. He takes me to the police station and either makes me wait around in the office or something, or actually takes me to the holding tank at juvy. There’s a big hassle trying to get hold of my parents. After two hours or more, finally one or both of them would have arrived to collect me. (They both work pretty far from home, and in the kind of jobs where you can’t just drop everything and rush out in a minute.) Perhaps while I was waiting they would have had a doctor talk to me and make sure I wasn’t actually suffering from amnesia (thereby having to present a shrink’s bill for my parents to pay). Then I would be supremely pissed off and going on about violating my rights and they ruined my day, and my parent(s) would be supremely pissed off about being inconvenienced and having to come get me, and probably my mom would have done a lot of yelling, and we would have gone home. Then for weeks after that, Mom would have complained to anyone who would listen about the police bothering me and wasting everyone’s time when they should have been out catching criminals, and my siblings would find out and have another reason to make fun of me. On the plus side, perhaps Mom would have gone out and gotten me a GPS or at least a map or something.

All’s well ends well, in this case because the police simply were all “hands off” and decided to leave well enough alone. Much like they did in Mitrice’s situation — but it obviously didn’t end well for her, or for her family, or for the police. You’re kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You just have to hope luck goes your way and the situation turns out okay.

Rodney Alcala possible suspect in Cherry Greenman case

As many of you who follow the missing people/true crime news know, a serial killer named Rodney Alcala has generated a great deal of interest due to a bunch of photos he has of unidentified women. The police are trying to identify the subjects in the pictures, to see if any of them were his victims. Last week Alcala was convicted of murdering four women and a twelve-year-old girl in California in the 1970s, and is being looked at in a lot of other cases too.

According to the Seattle Times, one of those cases is the 1976 disappearance of nineteen-year-old Cherry Greenman from Waterville, Washington. The cops investigated Gary Leon Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, for Cherry but failed to find any linkage there. Perhaps they’ll have better luck with Alcala?

Interview with Florida reporter

A Florida newspaper reporter interviewed me by phone today. She was doing an article about Lisa Mowrey, and in general why some people get a lot of attention when they disappear and some people do not. She was very nice and I think she might quote me or something. She took pains to make sure she had my name spelled correctly (I always appreciate such efforts). I sent her a previous blog entry I wrote on the subject of missing people and media attention.

This has thus far been the highlight of a rather crappy day. I was violently sick earlier. I have hypoglycemia, which usually isn’t a problem, but I often forget to eat for long periods and I sure paid for it today. Groan. My fault.

Lisa Mowrey found dead

Eighteen-year-old Lisa Anne Mowrey, a cosmetology student, disappeared on her way to class in Tampa, Florida on February 6, 2004. Well, last week her skeletal remains were found along Interstate 75 in Florida. The bones were identified today. There’s no indication of a cause of death or foul play or anything at this point; they may never know what happened. A salon smock was found with the remains. Lisa was wearing one the day she disappeared; she probably died within a short time after that.

She was probably the victim of a homicide, simply because she was only eighteen and didn’t have any medical conditions that would cause her to drop to dead. It may be worth noting that she was mentally ill: she had ADD, bipolar disorder and OCD, but those conditions were being controlled with medication.


The Northeast News and Tribune
The Miami Herald
The St. Petersburg Times
ABC Action News

In other murder without a body news

Two suspects have been convicted of killing Darryl Miller, who’s been missing from Spartanburg, South Carolina since 2005. Miller had a troubled past; he shot a man to death when he was a teenager and served ten years in prison. But after he got out he kept his nose clean and didn’t get in trouble again. He was apparently killed during a robbery attempt. The murderers will both serve 30 years in prison with no chance at parole.

Last I knew, a suspect in the Yolanda Baker disappearance — her boyfriend, the father of her children — is currently on trial. However that article is over ten days old. I don’t know whether he’s still being tried, or if there’s been a verdict or what. Anyone who does know, please pass it along my way so I can update her case. From my reading, the case against the guy looks flimsy — not only no body, but no weapon, no witnesses, only a few drops of blood. But you can get a conviction on that. The Reiser case in California comes to mind.

Earlier I posted that, per Project Jason, Katesia Weathers had been found dead. Not so, apparently; it’s just that her family now considers her deceased and her case done with. What has happened is that her killer (yes, the boyfriend again) pleaded no contest to murder earlier this month. He got twenty-five years, this on top of twenty-two years he got for attacking Katesia earlier. I don’t know about the assault sentence, but the murder sentence is without parole, so chances are he’s never going to see the light of day again. He could have faced the death penalty if it had gone to trial. No contest pleas are, excuse my French, chickenshit — basically, they’re a way to plead guilty to get reduced time and all that without actually admitting you did anything wrong. A guilty plea usually requires adjudication, meaning you have to stand up in court and say yes, you did what they said you did.

Tad DiBiase, a prosecutor who’s done no-body cases before, has put up a tip list of how to successfully prosecute such cases.

More news on the Clinton Avenue Five murders

As promised, the police have released more info. The suspects are the aforementioned Lee Anthony Evans, as well as Philander Hampton, both in their fifties. A third suspect, Maurice Woody-Olds, died in 2008. The three men are all cousins. As to motive, this article says: Police say Evans routinely hired teens to help with odd jobs, and they believe the boys broke into one of the suspects’ apartments and stole marijuana. Drugs. I suspected as much. Getting involved with drugs is like poking Death with a stick.

And here’s how it happened:

The five teenagers were led into an abandoned house on Camden Street in Newark, where they were locked inside at gunpoint, authorities said at the conference. The house was then burned to the ground.

God, what a horrible way to die.

This has made a big splash in the news, making headlines as far away as Malaysia. Here are some articles:

The New Jersey Star-Ledger
The Associated Press
The Alternative Press

Holy CRAP — murder charges filed in “Clinton Avenue Five” case

One of the more puzzling cases on Charley was the disappearance of five teen boys from Newark, New Jersey on the night of August 20, 1978: Randy Johnson, Michael McDowell, Melvin Pittman, Ernest Taylor and Alvin Turner. All of them black, between 16 and 17 years old. All of them good kids; only McDowell had a record, and that was just one arrest for getting into a fight. They were hanging out that night, playing basketball, cramming a little bit more fun into the last days of summer…then they were gone.

It wasn’t for a long time that I was able to get photos of the boys to put them on Charley — and the photos are not very good quality. Their cases did not get anywhere near the attention they deserved. Their disappearances mystified me. Why would someone snatch five teenage boys? And how would they do it without there being a fierce, noisy struggle? No one saw anything. The kids just disappeared into thin air.

Well, there’s been a breakthrough: two men have been arrested and charged with murdering all five of the boys — and arson as well. One of the suspects, according to an unidentified law enforcement source, is Lee Evans. Evans is the last person known to have seen the boys alive, but previous reports stated he’d been ruled out as a suspect. There will be a news conference later this morning with details.

I think this just goes to show that, even if it’s not in the news, you shouldn’t assume the cops aren’t doing anything to find someone. There had not been anything about these boys in the news since the summer of 2008, but it seems the police were quietly plugging away, and now they have results. I just hope they can make a case after over thirty years.

Justice delayed is still justice.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger (this one has pictures of the suspects)
The Associated Press
The Los Angeles Daily News

Possible Holloway lead fizzles

Earlier I wrote that some tourist thinks they photographed a skeleton (Natalee Holloway’s?) off the coast of Aruba. Well, that lead is going nowhere fast: a forensic pathologist says the “skeleton” is just some rocks.

Of course, maybe it isn’t rocks, but even if it’s a skeleton, they’d have to find it again, and prove whose bones it was.