Frank Bender dies

Frank Bender, a forensic sculptor, died a few days ago. I was not surprised, as he had been sick for some time and doctors had expected him to die over a year ago. He was 70 years old.

Bender created a number of awesome busts of identified people over the years, as well as busts of mummies, historical figures, etc. In the world of American crime he’s most noted for the bust he did of fugitive family-murderer John List. By the time Bender got involved, List had been on the run for 18 years. But Bender created an age-progressed bust that was a dead ringer for List, and this played a significant role in his capture. I saw the bust when I visited the Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C. in 2009.

Bender also sculpted a bust of the so-called Boy in the Bag, a four-year-old murder victim from Philadelphia who remained unidentified for 13 years, some of the murdered women from Ciudad Juarez (his busts were able to identify three of them).

He had a wonderful talent and will be sorely missed.

Th Philadelphia Daily News
The New York Times
The Bend Bulletin

Ted and Ann

I just found out that coming out sometime this fall, is a book called Ted and Ann by Rebecca Morris. It’s about the 1961 disappearance of Ann Marie Burr and also about Ted Bundy and what, if any, role he played in Ann’s apparent kidnapping. The book’s website has an excerpt and also pictures — finally, a decent quality photo of Ann Marie!

[UPDATE: Holy cow, another good photo!]

I don’t see a precise date of release. The book is self-published, so I don’t know if it’ll be available through Amazon, but it looks like you will be able to buy it off the website anyway.

FINALLY finished helping Michael move

We got the last of it out of the apartment today — just in time. Michael and F. have to work tomorrow and on Monday the keys must be turned over to the management. I managed to injure myself in the process yesterday and now I have a lovely bruise and some nasty scrapes on my leg. But I’m not as sore as I would have expected.

Now we just have to unpack all the stuff at the new place and put it away. Groan. There’s nothing like moving to make you want a minimalist lifestyle.

Update on the bat situation: I thought they were gone, but the other day I found one in my pajama pants. Fortunately I wasn’t wearing the said pants at the time.

At the library, happily

I was up all night working on updates for today. Hailey Dunn‘s case took longer than all the others put together. Now I am in the genealogy section of the library, researching my oldest Charley cases. My research has already borne considerable fruit: I’ve found several additional pictures, details of disappearances, etc. It seems I’m getting my motivation back in spite of this godawful heat. Last year was the hottest weather we’ve seen hereabouts in over a decade.

Eavesdrop on Michael and me

[a snippet of conversation between my boyfriend and myself]

ME: I never thought I would get so excited about gardening. I mean, obviously these are some really special plants, but I get the feeling that I would be just as excited if I was planting violets.
MICHAEL: That’s what I’ve kept saying all along. You need to get a hobby.
ME: I already have a hobby. [points at computer, Charley Project webpage visible on screen]
MICHAEL: That, my dear, is not a hobby. That is your life.

Still idling, in more ways than one…stupid summertime

I really haven’t accomplished much, website-wise, so far this month. I’ve got a massive pile of new cases to add and no motivation to do them. I think it’s partly because I’m still helping Michael move — we’ve got to the end of the month to get everything out of his apartment — and partly because of this godawful heat. It’s got to the point where we, I in particular, are doing moving stuff in the middle of the night because it’s cooler.

My car ran out of air conditioning some time ago. I can’t afford to get it recharged, and my father refuses to help because he’s immune to changes in temperature and doesn’t understand why I can’t be also. And there’s a fan broken as well, so when the car idles too long the engine starts to overheat. I can’t afford to fix the fan right now and the only way to counteract this problem when I’m stuck and can’t go anywhere is to turn on the heat full blast. It’s so hot out that the car overheats more often than usual now.

Yesterday, trying to get from Michael’s new home to his old one to pick up more stuff at like 5:30 p.m., I got stuck in traffic and construction and what have you. I had to spend a considerable time idling with the sun glaring down through the windshield, the heat on full blast, engine temperature gauge hovering right on the line between “safe” and “overheating.” The radio said it was 95 degrees and the heat index was 105. I mean, the heat was directed at the dash, and I had the window open, but I still found myself wondering how long I would be able to stand the situation before I got heat stroke. (I’ve had the beginnings of heat stroke before, once, during a long bike ride on a hot day. I was twelve or thirteen. I wound up having dry heaves in a ditch in the middle of nowhere. It was awful. It could have been much worse.)

It’s not that much better at night. The temperature drops some but it’s so humid that my glasses steam up and I still wind up really sweaty and yucky.

So I go to his apartment, pack a carful of stuff and take it to the new place, and by the time I get there I’m so hot and sweaty and tired and irritated that all I want to do is sit down and read a bit and play Sporcle quizzes. It’s telling on everyone, not just me. Michael’s roommate and I got into an argument about current events that ended with his shouting at me and stomping off to his room where he stayed for the rest of the night. This has never happened before. He’s a nice guy and usually we get on fine.

Thus I have been neglecting my responsibilities. I feel pretty guilty about it, actually. Hopefully once the move is finished (or maybe before then, who knows) I will feel more motivated.

Batman returns

A year ago, almost to the day, a bat woke me up while I was napping on the living room couch. Well, just now I was walking barefoot through the kitchen in the dark and opened the fridge, which threw out enough light to illuminate a bat on the floor like six inches away from me. I started and wound up kicking over a bag of clothes that was sitting on the floor (I’d been doing laundry). I picked up the bag…and underneath it was another bat, which thankfully had not been squished.

I did what I had done last year — wrapped my hand around a dish towel and picked them up and took pictures with my cell phone camera. I took the towel outside and spread it out on the ground, but the bats didn’t seem anxious to go anywhere, so I had to go inside, get a second towel and use it to cover my hand while I pried them off the first towel. Finally they spread their wings out and presumably flew away.

See this picture of them both. I messed with the contrast so they show up clearly; the original image shows two angular dark smudges. They appear to be the same species as last year. And if I found two sitting side by side in the kitchen, chances are there are more in the house.

I must tell my mother. The county has actually hired her to keep track of the local bat population. I guess they want to cut down some trees, but if those trees are inhabited by a certain protected species of bat than they won’t be allowed to cut them down. So Mom is on a fact-finding mission: she’s supposed to sit under the trees all night, awake, and count all the bats she sees for a few nights in a row. They’re paying her like $28 an hour for this!


Today I saw the documentary film Cropsey on Netflix. It tells the story of the disappearances of several children and one young adult in Staten Island in the 1970s and 1980s and Andre Rand, the prime suspect. There’s Alice Pereira in 1972, Holly Hughes in 1981, Tiahease Jackson in 1983, Henry “Hank” Gafforio in 1984, and Jennifer Schweiger in 1987. (There’s also Audrey Nerenberg from 1977, but she didn’t disappear on Staten Island and isn’t mentioned in the film.)

Only Jennifer’s body was ever found, and there was insufficient evidence to prove murder. Rand was convicted of Jennifer’s kidnapping and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. In 2004, he was convicted of kidnapping Holly and got another 25 years to life.

Hank didn’t really fit the profile of Rand’s other victims, since he was male and 21 years old. But he was mentally disabled and functioned at the level of a young teenager, and he lived very close to where Holly disappeared from. In fact, as Cropsey shows, at one point just after Holly’s disappearance when a TV reporter was talking about her case, you could see Hank standing on the street right behind her.

The documentary is really good and I highly recommend it. Needless to say, I got a few bits of information for the Charley Project off of there.