Takin’ it easy

I haven’t updated these last several days and might not till Tuesday. I just feel kind of lazy. I have been spending most of my time reading instead. Right now the second diary of Victor Klemperer, a German Jewish university professor who survived the Nazi era because he was married to an Aryan woman. Klemperer has three diaries published: 1933 – 1941, 1942 – 1945, and 1945 – 1959. I’m on the second. They are fascinating; you get to see the persecution of the Jews escalate, bit by tiny bit. Yet from what he wrote, a substantial percentage of the population of Germany disapproved of the way Jews were treated. So why did it happen? Why was nothing done to stop this? Many strangers would go out of their way to greet Klemperer in the street, or whisper encouraging words in his ear. Many Aryan friends were willing to help in small ways (like by hiding his diary, which would have been death for him if the Nazis found it). But more substantial assistance, or active protest against the government, simply wasn’t there.

By the end of 1942 (that’s where I’m at in the diaries right now) the German population as a whole was suffering horribly as well. There was a severe shortage of specialists (doctors, craftsmen and the like) because all the men were at the front. And there was a severe food shortage. It was all rationed, and often there still wasn’t enough available. Klemperer writes that everyone, not just the Jews, were walking around with stomachs bloated from starvation.

Reading history books frequently makes me feel fortunate to live in the USA in the 21st century.

Comment guidelines

I don’t know why I’m doing this; the people who need to pay attention to this will not. But here goes:

Some recent submitted comments to this blog have been trashed by me because they say nasty things about the missing people I profile, or their families, or occasionally about myself, or because they are full of profanity. I don’t mind the occasional swear word; I use them often enough myself. But it gets excessive. One commenter used the f-word about four times in her three-line comment; another called me a nasty name; a third I just deleted called a missing person a “drunk and a druggie” which, even if it were true (which it wasn’t, as far as I know) is not acceptable to post on the Charley Project blog.

I view such comments as disrespectful or even outright abusive and I want everyone to know they are not welcome here. I will not approve them, and if they go up automatically I will delete them as soon as I see them. Thank you.

Natalee Holloway Missing Persons Center to open in Washington

The Washington Post says a missing persons center named for Natalee Holloway will open in Washington D.C. next month. It will be based, appropriately enough, at the Museum of Crime and Punishment and will be a nonprofit that assists families of the missing and promotes safety.

When I was in D.C. last June, I actually visited that museum with my friend Jeff. We went on the weekend, a day or two before I left for home. I don’t remember seeing Natalee mentioned there, but it’s been awhile. It was a pretty cool museum, at any rate.

Etan Patz case is reactivated

A new Manhattan DA has been elected. He had promised to look into Etan Patz‘s disappearance and possibly prosecute the prime suspect in his case, Jose Antonio Ramos. Well, the day after the thirty-second anniversary in Etan’s disappearance, the new DA has reactivated the case. (They keep saying “reopened” but it was never closed.)

Ramos comes up for parole in two years. I doubt he will get it, but this man MUST be kept behind bars. I hope they can come up with enough evidence to prosecute, and get some justice for Etan.

Arrest in Alan Watson’s murder

Earlier I wrote about fifteen-year-old Alan Perez Watson, who disappeared from Atlanta in 2001. He was classified as a runaway, but earlier this month the police identified his skull, which was found in northwest Atlanta in 2009. He’d been shot in the head.

Investigators have arrested Dion Sims and charged him with Alan’s murder. He would have been 26 or so at the time. I looked up Dion on my public records search thingy and it says he has a conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute. You can see a picture of him with this article. I think it’s impressive that they were able to nab a suspect so soon, given how cold the trail was and how little evidence was available. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says they got a lot of tips from the public.

I hope Alan’s family is relieved to hear this news.

Is ANYBODY in prison guilty? About Robert Rivera

Last night I stumbled across a website proclaiming that Robert Rivera is innocent of the 1999 murder of his one-year-old daughter, Katelyn Rivera-Helton. Her body was never found.

Katelyn’s mother, Jennifer Helton, got a restraining order against him due to his violence, and Robert was only allowed weekly one-hour supervised visits with his daughter. Robert forcibly abducted Katelyn from her babysitter’s home on August 10, 1999. Katelyn was last seen that evening, when Robert bought gas. The gas station attendant saw Katelyn inside the car; she appeared to be happy and uninjured. A few hours later, Robert came back for more gas. Katelyn wasn’t with him then. She has never been seen again.

Robert subsequently told Jennifer that he was going to hell and Katelyn was going to heaven. He told that police that if he told them where Katelyn was, he was sure to spend the rest of his life in jail. Robert’s cellmates stated he had confessed the murder to them, and told them he threw Katelyn’s clothes out the window on Route 202. When the cops checked the spot, they did find a baby shoe and sock, which Jennifer said Katelyn was wearing on the day of her abduction. One of the cellmate witnesses also told the police where Robert had put the shovel he used to bury Katelyn. The police found the shovel at the specified location and a neighbor of Robert identified it as his own and said it had been stolen from his home around the time Katelyn disappeared. Robert, like an idiot, testified in his own defense. His testimony mainly consisted of trashing Jennifer. When they asked him on the stand where Katelyn was, he just said something like, “I have nothing else to say.” Robert was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life, plus twenty-seven years for the kidnapping.

Anyway, this website I’m talking about is almost funny the way it works trying to prove Robert’s innocence. I admit I didn’t look at the whole thing, but what I did find was amusing. It’s amazing where the lemmings of logic will go. Basically, the site argues that Robert didn’t kill Katelyn because it wouldn’t make sense for him to do so. I quote from this page, which speaks for itself:

Because of Robert’s love for Katelyn, it is clear that he would never kill Katelyn out of malice. Legally a killing must be accompanied by malice to be classified as murder… Robert was unhappy with Jennifer for seizing or attempting to seize exclusive custody of Katelyn. But the prosecution never demonstrated that Robert was mad at Jennifer for any other reason. The prosecution presented a Catch-22 paradox. If Robert loved Katelyn, then he could not have killed her. If Robert did not love Katelyn, then he had little reason for being mad at or wanting some alleged revenge on Jennifer.

The site claims the key physical evidence against Robert — Katelyn’s clothes on the highway median and the shovel — was all planted by the police. The site also seems to equate “illiterate” with “stupid” as in: Being illiterate, it is unlikely that Rivera would entertain any theory about how leaving clothes on Katelyn would inhibit her decay, or why it was important that her body decay faster. No one has suggested that Robert is mentally retarded, and I think even a person who could not read would be able to realize it was better if the body decomposed as fast as possible, and that perhaps removing the clothes would help. Certainly the clothes, if found with the body, could help identify it. It doesn’t take a lexicographer or spelling bee champion to figure that much out.

The creator of the Free Robert Rivera site, Dan Rastatter, runs another site called Victims of the State about alleged miscarriages of justice. I had a look at his murder without a body section and saw two cases, besides Katelyn’s, where the victim is on Charley.

It seems like everybody in prison — particularly those convicted of murder — is claiming they are not guilty, that their incarceration is a terrible miscarriage of justice. One would wonder if we should have anyone in our prisons at all. Of course miscarriages of justice do happen on a regular basis, sad to say, and I’m all for investigating questionable convictions and exonerating and releasing wrongfully convicted people. Somehow, though, I get the feeling that Robert Rivera did exactly what the jury thinks he did and does in fact deserve to be locked up for the rest of his life.

Article about Kirsten Hatfield

An Oklahoma TV station has run an anniversary story for eight-year-old Kirsten Hatfield, who’s been missing for thirteen years this month. She disappeared from her bed in the middle of the night. But apparently — this is the first I’ve heard of this — the police think the abduction was staged. Now that I think of it, it does seem unlikely that someone could sneak into Kirsten’s bedroom and take her without a sound (and with her sister asleep in the same room) or any struggle. This was an eight-year-old, not a baby or toddler. The cops believe Kirsten was harmed by someone close to her, possibly a relative.

I wrote a poem about Kirsten Hatfield when I was twelve or thirteen and posted it on my personal website that I had at the time, which had stuff about me and some short stories and other poems I’d written. Some time later, Kirsten’s mother found the poem and emailed me about it. She said she was sure her daughter was still alive. I felt very sorry for her.

Article about Ekaterina Shcherbakova

I found this article about the 1998 disappearance of thirteen-year-old Ekaterina Shcherbakova from Monterey, California. She’s classified as a runaway, but I had little info on her case and wondered how a runaway so young could stay away for so long — she’s been missing for nearly half her life now.

It seems Katie, as she was called, was having problems in her life. She moved to here from Russia at age five, and started getting in with the wrong crowd after she had to go to a middle school different from her friends’. Eventually she was sent to a special education class for problem kids. She had a lot of problems with her mother, and it seems she really did run away back in 1998. Even her mom thinks so. But foul play is now being considered in her case, just because she’s been gone for so long.

This article details speculation of a link between Katie and Christina Williams, who attended the same school. Christina, who was twelve, disappeared from the area two months before Katie and was found murdered over six months later. I remember her abduction when it happened; this was just around the time I started getting interested in missing people, and I followed news of her disappearance with great interest; we were the same age. No one has been charged in Christina’s death, but investigators have a prime suspect, Charles Holifield, and they’re looking at him for Katie too. Katie disappeared just a few blocks from the Holifield’s brother’s home. Holifield is presently serving life in prison for other crimes. He sounds like a real scumbag.

Katie’s mother still hopes her daughter is alive out there somewhere. And perhaps she is. I have heard that for runaways, the longer they’re gone the harder it is to come home. They develop their own lives, perhaps they get involved with things they shouldn’t, and they don’t want to face their loved ones’ anger and disappointment (though, after over a decade, I’m sure Katie’s mom would be much more likely to hug and kiss her than scream at her for being so selfish). I hope that if Katie is alive, she calls home. She’s a grown woman now and can’t be forced to do anything or live anywhere unless she wants to, but I’m sure her mom would love to get a phone call from her.

Family of missing man tries to turn their tragedy into something better for others

This is the first I’ve heard of this: the family of Brian Barton, a 25-year-old who mysteriously disappeared from Federal Way, Washington five years ago, has created an organization, the For Our Families Foundation, to assist with the finding of missing persons. The foundation provides money to law enforcement agencies to train officers on missing person investigations; many cops just really don’t know how to handle long-term missing person cases, apparently. The article also mentions the inestimable Kelly Jolkowski, herself the mother of a missing child, and the founder of Project Jason. That organization, and Kelly herself, are awesome. Kelly was recently honored by Congress for her work.

I think it’s all the more impressive when families of the missing become activists for this sort of thing. Because it’s such a terrible thing to experience, a person could be forgiven for falling utterly to pieces or just wanting to avoid the whole topic for the rest of their lives. People like Kelly Jolkowski, and Adam Barton, try to transcend the tragedy and use it to help other people.