Highlights in the latest missing persons news

Hank and Lisa Croslin, the sort of step-grandparents of the missing Florida girl Haleigh Cummings, have been arrested on drug charges. They join their son, daughter and former son-in-law in jail — all of them locked up for drug offenses. It should be a nice family reunion.

The Chinese government is still trying to identify children who were the victims of human trafficking within their country. Many of them were so little when they were taken and/or so traumatized by the experience that, when rescued, they don’t remember who they really are. A DNA database is in the works and they have already collected over 140,000 samples from “missing children’s parents, children suspected of having been abducted or with an unclear history, children in social welfare institutes, homeless children and child beggars.” The DNA gathering and comparisons will be done at the government’s expense, a good thing because most of these people can ill afford it.

I found this interesting article about the difficulties of locating children missing from foster care. (Charley’s latest such case is that of Patrick Alford, a seven-year-old boy who supposedly ran away from his foster home to find his biological mother. He’s been missing for six months.) The article points out that the very privacy laws intended to protect foster children seriously hinder the search for them. Even the police had to get a court order to look at Amber Nicklas’s file. I suspect there’s probably also a tendency to just not bother to report it when chronic runaways got AWOL for foster care for the fifteenth time. Another problem is that there may not be any family members to supply photos or DNA samples, or anyone who really knows the child well enough to say where they might have gone, and the only one left to advocate for the missing child may be a social worker who, well-meaning as he/she might be, has fifty other cases to manage and not a whole lot of time. It’s a mess.

A rare Puerto Rican case

Tomorrow I shall be posting the November 2000 disappearance of Yamaira Montes-Gonzalez. I don’t have too many Puerto Rican cases on Charley, in large part because I can’t read Spanish so most of the LE sources there are lost to me.

I am curious as to why Interpol is investigating Yamaira’s disappearance. The only thing I can think of is a suspected international kidnapping — perhaps human trafficking. She was a very pretty teenager, maybe even beautiful. I looked up Yabucoa and Wikipedia says it’s a coastal town. (They call it a “small town” but the population is close to 40,000. Speaking as someone from a town with a population of 600, give or take, Wikipedia doesn’t know what it’s talking about.)

I hope Yamaira just ran away or something and hasn’t been trafficked.

Prisoner musings

A lot of states have searchable online databases where you can look up information about people who are in prison. I was checking out Florida’s and it’s actually kind of interesting. You can search by name, age, type of offense, race and other items. I think I will try looking in state inmate databases for the names of suspects that are mentioned on Charley, so I can get their pictures and stuff and maybe learn more about the cases.

What I found most noteworthy in the Florida database is the imprisoned geriatrics. I found 272 people listed who are over 75. The oldest inmate I could find was one Samuel A. Bowman, born October 9, 1922. He’s been in prison since 2006 for strongarm rape and sexual battery on a victim under 12, and he is never getting out.

Of course, I am all in favor of punishing wrongdoers — certainly when the said wrongdoers are murderers or rapists — but one has to wonder what the point is in putting really really old people in jail. I mean, my grandparents live in a nursing home and it wouldn’t be that big of a step for them to go to jail, since they are already pretty much stuck in the home unless someone takes them out for a day visit somewhere. They can’t go anywhere overnight cause none of us can see to all their medical needs. Grandpa can walk only a little, and Grandma can’t even stand up. I suppose there really isn’t any good way to punish an elderly criminal. It’s like in one of the Saw movies, the guy says, “I’m a terminal cancer patient. What can you possibly do to me?”

Some of those people have been in for so long that it would probably not be doing them a favor to let them out. The culture shock would be tremendous — it would be like Rip Van Winkle. (Though my friend John pointed out that if you released such a person and followed them around with a camera, it would make a good reality show.) These people would have to relearn how to make their own food, do their own laundry, balance a checkbook, etc. All the choices they make could potentially paralyze them — even something as simple as choosing what clothes to wear today is something most prisoners aren’t able to do.

I read an article recently about a guy who’s been in prison since the age of 13, in solitary confinement much of the time. He was doing life without parole (he shot someone, non-fatally, during a mugging) but owing to a recent Supreme Court ruling that it’s cruel and unusual punishment to give juveniles life without parole if they didn’t kill anyone, they are having to prepare this man for release. They’re trying to take it in little baby steps — like, right now they’re giving him access to the prison commissary to select his own snacks, and so on. But I’m afraid the real world is really going to smack him in the face once he gets out. He has no education and no immediate family left on the outside, and he’s had very little contact with any humans at all for the past thirty or so years.

In the Florida database I saw one man who’s 74 and has been in prison since 1961, and a woman who’s almost 77 and has been in since 1968. I saw a guy who’s also been locked up since 1968; he was originally incarcerated in 1946, paroled in 1957, then returned to prison in 1968. I guess he violated his parole. He’s also in for rape. I saw another guy who was just sent in this year but won’t be eligible for parole until 2038, by which time he will be 110 years old.

It seems like after you’re in prison for as long as that, prison ceases to be a punishment and simply becomes a way of life. Like, most people in the USA would consider it a severe punishment if they were sent to some primitive and/or disease-ridden third world country like, say, Kiribati or Mali, to live without any amenities. But for the Malians and Kiribatians, it’s just how things are.

More on Loren Herzog

I found this interesting article about soon-to-be-released murderer Loren Herzog, whom I wrote about a little while ago. Herzog’s lawyer claims he was railroaded and is only guilty of being present at the scenes of Wesley Shermantine’s murders and not doing anything to stop him. Prosecutors are calling him a serial killer in his own right. Serial killer or not, he’s going free later this year and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about that.

Cold case, no picture

I found this article about the 1986 disappearance of Ruby Akers, an elderly woman, from a nursing home. It may be more than your standard demented-old-person-wandered-off case; there have been rumors of foul play.

Unfortunately, the article, while otherwise lovely, has no picture of the missing woman and I can’t find a photo anywhere else either. Meaning I can’t put her on Charley. Grr.

UPDATE: Now they have added a picture. Thanks to all who brought that to my attention.

Loren Herzog

Loren Herzog, one of two men convicted of killing Chevelle “Chevy” Wheeler in 1985, Cynthia “Cyndi” Vanderheiden in 1998 and one other person, is about to be paroled. His partner in crime, Wesley Shermantine, was sentenced to death and Herzog got 78 years, but most of that was tossed on appeal and he copped a plea to manslaughter instead. 14 years. Well, now those 14 years are up.

Initially is was announced that Herzog would be out on July 25. But the police say there was a “clerical error” in calculating his sentence and he’s not due to be released for “several weeks” more. This is very unfortunate. The man is a monster and suspected serial murderer.

The San Joaquin Record
The San Joaquin Record again
The San Joaquin Record x3
News 10
The Mercury News

Husband charged in 30-year disappearance of wife

Thomas Collard, who was married to June Collard who went missing in 1980, has been charged with second-degree murder in her case. At the time, Thomas said June had run off with another man. Earlier this week he finally confessed to causing her death. He said he hit June during an argument and she fell, struck her head on something and died. Apparently a lot of people have suspected something like this. The Collards’ oldest middle daughter, Tammy, said she repeatedly confronted her father and demanded that he tell the truth, but he always denied everything.

Kudos to the New York police for their persistence in investigating this very old case and bringing closure to June’s children and the rest of her family.

The Press Republican
The Empire State News
The Post Star
The Post Star again
The North County Gazette
The Birmingham News
The Albany Times Union