Kelsey Collins and teen prostitution

I found this really excellent article which is about the disappearance of Kelsey Collins in 2009, but also about teen prostitution in general. Kelsey was 18 when she went missing and had been involved in prostitution for several years. She had agreed to testify against her pimp, and did appear before a federal grand jury, but she disappeared afterward and was unavailable to testify at the actual trial. They had to drop the charges against the man for lack of evidence, because Kelsey wasn’t there. There’s strong suspicion that she was killed because of her testimony.

I feel very sorry for that poor girl and her family. It sounds like her mother tried to do right by her and tried to protect her, but there’s only so much you can do. Especially when you’re a single parent. Especially when your kid gets into their teens and you can’t watch them 24/7 anymore. Especially when you don’t have the money to pay for some fancy residential treatment center far away, or even for regular counseling sessions.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Tricks by Ellen Hopkins is an excellent novel-in-verse about teen prostitution. Each of the five teenagers (three girls, two boys) in the story became a prostitute through a different series of events. One character’s story was very much like Kelsey’s. The girl, Whitney, was fifteen years old. She was pretty and popular and came from a wealthy family, but she felt neglected and unloved by her parents, who seemed to favor her sister. Her boyfriend had just dumped her and bad-mouthed her to everyone, and she was hurt and humiliated. Then she met what seemed to be the greatest guy in the world and fell head over heels in love with him, and within weeks he had her turning tricks in Las Vegas. He was, of course, a pimp, and regularly scouted malls and other hang-outs looking for more Whitneys to sink his teeth into. I think, by making Whitney white and from a privileged background, Ellen Hopkins was trying to show that what happened to her could happen to anyone, not just minorities or teens from poor families.

I really hope Kelsey is alive out there somewhere. Maybe in a city far away. Maybe she doesn’t even realize people are looking for her. But it seems unlikely to me.

Louann Bowers sentenced

Last fall I wrote about one of those stranger-than-fiction cases (entries here and here): Louann Bowers, age 16, disappeared in 1993 leaving a note saying she was running away to get married. She vanished seemingly without a trace and some people wondered if she’d actually met with foul play. She was actually declared legally dead in 2004, eleven years after her disappearance. But Louann turned up in 2009, alive if not well, and stuck around just long enough for the cops to verify her identity, then she dropped out of sight again, only to reappear in 2010.

Louann, it turned out, had run off with her uncle by marriage, Sinhue Johnson, who is twelve years older than her. She thought of him as her husband. They had five children together (Louann was pregnant with a sixth when they were discovered) and had lived essentially off the grid all that time: the kids weren’t in school, they had no documents, lived in a filthy hovel that had no water or electricity and was later condemned. The children, who were between 2 and 13, were taken into foster care and their parents were charged. Louann said she simply didn’t know any better and hadn’t realized how abnormal the situation was. She said she kept the children underground to protect them from abuse.

Well, Louann just got sentenced after pleading no contest to five counts of child endangerment. (The article includes current pics of Louann and Sinhue Johnson.) She was given a term of 11 1/2 to 23 months in prison followed by 23 months of probation. She was in jail awaiting trial for nearly as long as her minimum sentence, so she might get out soon. Whether she’ll ever get custody of her children again is an open question.

As for Sinhue Johnson, his case is still up in the air. He was found incompetent to stand trial, but he wants a second opinion on that, and the case can’t go anywhere until that issue is taken care of. If convicted of all charges (in addition to child endangerment he’s facing weapons violations and theft charges) he could get up to 42 years in prison.

Bhutanese refugees missing in Washington state

I found this article out of Spokane, Washington about three young refugees from Bhutan who have been missing since June 11: Krishna P. Dhakal, age 17, Krisha Lal Dital, age 21, and Dilli Ram Bhattarai, age 28. They were last seen together at a park after playing soccer. Krishna Dhakal and Dilli Bhattarai are cousins; Krishna Dital is a friend.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, they spent many years in refugee camps in Nepal and then moved to the United States two years ago. Krishna Dakal was a student at Lewis and Clark High School. I found clothing and vehicle descriptions here, and here’s a nice big picture of all three of them.

I’ve had a bit of a fascination with Bhutan ever since I had to do a report on the country in the sixth grade. (And there are just four degrees of separation between me and their current king: I knew a girl at college who knew a girl who went to Oxford with him.) I would love to visit there someday — hopefully after the current “ethnic tensions” and “political unrest” (such mild-sounding euphemisms for such nasty things!) subside.

I really hope these young men are alive and haven’t run into any trouble. The fact that all three disappeared together may be a good sign. I hope they contact their families soon.

Tussionex is a wonderful thing…when you can get it

After my strep throat this weekend, the urgent care clinic prescribed Tussionex for the cough. That was the most troublesome symptom I had, as it was keeping me awake. Well, I took some, then I took a second dose and…accidentally spilled the rest. It was really runny for some reason. All the Tussionex I’d ever had before had been thicker, syrupy, but this was like water.

No problem, I thought, and called Dr. Easley’s office and explained the situation and asked him to phone in a script for me. He did so and I sent Mom to the pharmacy to pick it up. She came home empty-handed. The stupid insurance company was refusing to pay for a second bottle so soon and neither she nor I had $80 to buy it out of pocket. So for the next two days I was in much misery. I could barely sleep at all and I was coughing horribly and straining the muscles in my abdomen. It got to the point where, every time I coughed, it felt like I was being punched in my lower left side just above my hip.

I took aspirin and even applied Icy Hot to that region, without much result. My mom found some old cough syrup from a long time ago, but it expired in like 2004 and it didn’t seem to do me any good. Oh, and did I mention that my throat was so messed up I could barely talk at all. It hurt and it was hard to make myself understood to others. I think the actual strep throat is well on the mend, it’s just the after-affects I’m dealing with now. One time after a bout with strep throat several years ago, it took me six weeks and a course of steroids to finally stop coughing.

Well, the stupid waiting period or whatever finally passed and Mom was able to get the Tussionex for me this morning. Now I feel much improved. Not coughing so much, and my voice is somewhat better.

What is it with insurance companies and waiting periods? If it’s a valid script and covered under the plan, they ought to pay for it. If they have questions as to whether or not it’s valid, they can find out the truth easily enough by calling Dr. Easley’s office. Why make me wait for two days when I was in such discomfort?