This is where my “photographic” memory gets me

People, being astounded at my capacity to recite useless information and scraps of poetry and prose, occasionally ask if I have a photographic memory. No, I do not. Michael could certainly tell you that; I often can’t even see what’s right in my face, never mind remember it. Not a day goes by that I don’t lose some small everyday item like keys or sunglasses and have to spend a bit of time frantically looking for it. I’m hopeless at recognizing people I don’t know and not that great at recognizing people I do know.

Oddly enough, however, I do have a good memory for photographs. I’m as great at recognizing photographs of people as I am terrible at recognizing actual people. Once two or three years ago, a friend showed me a very early (late 19th century) color photo of three or four Russian peasant girls and I recognized it instantly. A sepia-toned crop of that picture appeared on this book cover. I read the book shortly after it came out, in 2003, and had not given much thought to it since.

But getting to my point: I spent the better part of an hour today racking my brains and digging through my browser history trying to find another copy of this photograph which I had stumbled across while looking at a website about hairstyles. The second I saw it I knew I’d seen it only a few days or weeks before, somewhere online, and of course I just had to find out exactly where, the memory was like an insect stinging and wouldn’t stop bothering me. Being that most of the photographs of young girls that I see are on missing children’s websites, I thought the model might have appeared on a recent NCMEC poster. No such luck. I had to look harder, pouring over my history checking likely URLs.

Finally I found her here, on a website for an non-profit that assists foster care kids and homeless kids in Mississippi. I accessed the website a week and a half ago. I have no idea why. I’d accessed thousands of other sites between then and now.

So, the insect bite is soothed and I can go to bed. I cannot think of a LESS profitable use of my time. I need to get a life or something.

Articles about Gillian Jamieson and Susan Balken

I found a whole bunch of articles about Gillian Janine Jamieson and Deborah Susan Balken, who disappeared together from Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia on July 12, 1980. They were both 20-year-old trainee nurses from Sydney. The women were declared legally dead in 2006, but their cases remain unsolved.

The serial killer Ivan Milat is a suspect in their disappearances. He was convicted of seven murders, but the cops are looking at him also for 16 more murders and 46 unsolved disappearances. In the unlikely event that he actually did all of those, it would make Milat a murderer of Bundy-like proportions.

Phil Denmeade, a former police officer who is now a charter boat captain, has gotten obsessed with cracking the case and convinced the authorities to let him meet with and interview Milat in prison a bunch of times. He’s quite sure Milat killed Gillian and Deborah, in large part because Milat was working less than two miles away from where the girls were last seen. But Denmeade’s prison interviews have thus far come to nothing and the prison has revoked his access now.

I will lament again that I wish I had time to cover international cases on Charley. All I can do is blog about them occasionally.

One man’s ‘weird’ but wonderful passion to solve cold case (with additional photo of Gillian)
The man who met Milat
One man’s mission to crack Milat
Milat hunter deceived witness (with additional photo of Deborah and Gillian and a friend)

71 years ago yesterday

I’m three and a quarter hours too late, but better late than never: I thought I’d commemorate the passing of one Mirjam Sara P., who was recorded as having died on May 27, 1941 as a result of the Nazis’ T4 Program. T4 targeted people with mental retardation, mental illness and/or various deformities and infirmities, and as many as 275,000 people may have died between 1939 and 1945.

Mirjam wasn’t mentally ill so much as a brat. Oh, and she was Jewish. She ran away from home repeatedly as an adolescent, lied to people, stole, couldn’t hold a job and didn’t do well in the numerous residential placements (in group homes, hospitals, etc.) they tried for her. She and her mom and stepfather moved from Germany to Palestine in 1933, when she was fifteen and already known as a handful. She caused so much trouble in Palestine that they had her deported back to Germany (!) in 1936, but that didn’t make her change her ways. She was jailed, then put in a mental hospital, which she escaped from only to find herself jailed again for petty theft. After her release she was carted off to the mental hospital again, then to one of the T4 death institutions.

I say she is “recorded as having died on May 27” because a lot of times the T4 places delayed reporting people’s deaths so they could continue to get money from the state for housing and feeding those people. I don’t know Mirjam’s last name. My sole source for the story was a book called One Life by Tom Lampert, and he just used the initial, presumably to protect her privacy and that of her family. In any case it’s a very sad story. Mirjam may not have been a terribly likable person but she didn’t deserve that kind of death.

I read in my history books about people who lived long ago, and I feel a moral obligation to make sure others know about them. Learn from history or find yourself repeating it, etc. Not too long ago I got into an argument in the comments section of an online magazine with a guy who said “R-persons” (meaning retarded people) and “autisms” (meaning those on the autistic spectrum) were “not human beings.” This guy wasn’t a troll, either. I checked his account on the website, and he was a regular commenter, and his comments were ordinary enough. I think he truly believed what he was saying. Just how slippery is the slope that leads from that kind of thinking to the actual construction of euthanasia centers?

The TV interview

I haven’t yet written about my interview on NTN24. I haven’t myself seen it yet. I wrote to the lady who had invited me on, and asked for a clip, and she says I can get it in a few days. In the meantime, somebody from Colombia commented on my blog in Spanish.

At 7:00 p.m., NTN24 wrote me saying “Can we interview you on Skype at 10:00 p.m.” and I wrote back immediately saying “Yes” and then I remembered I didn’t have Skype. I began frantically calling various relatives trying to find someone who had it. My nephew did, so I went to my sister’s house and he helped me set up an account. (If you’re asking why I didn’t just do it myself, it’s because I wanted to make sure everything worked perfectly — otherwise no TV appearance.) Then my nephew left to go to a friend’s house and my sister and brother-in-law and me just sort of sat around talking and waiting.

Oh, and before I left the house I changed out of my t-shirt that said “PROCRASTINATORS OF THE WORLD UNITE” and put on a shirt with a collar. Just to look more professional and all.

At 9:00, NTN24 called me to confirm the interview. A little before 10:00 they called to pre-interview, where basically they asked the same questions they did during the actual interview. It’s a good thing they did this because the interpreter had an accent that made it difficult for me to understand her, and I had to ask her to clarify something. Then they did the actual interview, which took only a few minutes. My sister’s family has three dogs but fortunately they were asleep and didn’t start yapping or photobombing. I was asked basic questions like how many missing kids are there in the U.S. (My answer: No one knows.) And then it was over, and the TV people said thanks, and I said thanks, and went home sometime later.

My sister and brother-in-law couldn’t hear the questions, only my answers, but they think I did all right. I’m hoping it did go okay and I didn’t make a fool of myself before the entire Spanish-speaking world. If, when the clip finally appears and it turns out I did, guys…don’t tell me.

Scanned some old photos the other day and thought I’d share them with you

I found a packet of photographs Michael took of me when I was sixteen or seventeen, and thought I’d post them on here:

Me on the boat going either to or from my parents’ lake house.

Me with my mother, a friend and my friend’s daughter, on the deck of the lake house. From my clothing and the weather I would guess it was taken on the same date as Picture #1.

Me on the boat again, either asleep or just trying to shelter from the wind. I think this was taken on a different date, since my hair appears to be parted differently.

I hate it when this happens

You all know that I try very hard to keep Charley as accurate as I can, but it’s extremely difficult when I get diametrically contradicting information from my various sources.

Got an email from a guy who had Googled an old classmate’s name and, to his horror, discovered she’s been missing for two and a half years. He said that back in the day, he had wanted to marry her. That wasn’t why he was writing me, though. He wanted to tell me her date of birth was off by seven or eight years. If the DOB I have on Charley is correct, she would be 43. This man is 50 and says she was the same age. I went and double-checked the source I got the DOB from, and I had copied it correctly. I discovered the woman is now on NamUs, and NamUs says her present age is 49 — that is, supporting the old classmate’s statement. I’m not going to quibble over one year or less. If the month and day of birth are correct and only the year is wrong, she’s 49 and a half.

*gives a weary sigh* Obviously somebody screwed up here. I’m inclined to believe the old classmate — if he was close enough to this person to want to marry her, he was close enough to know her approximate age, and if they were in the same class at school they were probably the same age like he says. Six years is a pretty huge difference in age when you’re in high school. But the only source that actually provides a DOB, says otherwise.

Oh, well. Sigh.

Stupid website went down right about now. It won’t let me make an update or even view pages. And it’s 11:30 now; unless it lets me in within the next few minutes I don’t think I’ll have time to post all the things I wanted to post before midnight. This includes an Etan update that includes all the stuff about Pedro Hernandez and the confession and all that.

UPDATE: I spoke prematurely. Like, three minutes after I posted this, everything started working again. w00t.

Etan Patz and the confession

The world is abuzz with the confession from Pedro Hernandez that he kidnapped and killed Etan Patz back in 1979. This after the police have been dogging Jose Antonio Ramos’s tail for the past few decades. He was the prime, and only, suspect, until this week. Hernandez was eighteen when Etan disappeared and said that, for reasons he was unable to explain, he lured Etan with the promise of a soda, strangled him and disposed of the body. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and his lawyer says he has visual and auditory hallucinations.

I hate to say it, but…I don’t think anything is going to come of this. I mean, it would be great if something would. I would be thrilled if I was wrong and Pedro Hernandez really did kill Etan and can prove it. Certainly the police seem to believe his story; otherwise they wouldn’t have arrested him.

But they also believed John Mark Karr in 2006, when he confessed to killing JonBenet Ramsey. And it turned out, after a huge media firestorm, that Karr (now a woman named Alexis Reich) had had nothing to do with the crime at all and may have confessed solely so he could get free passage from Thailand to the U.S. The police had arrested Karr prematurely, without getting the DNA test results back yet, results which would have proved he was a liar.

Anyway…Etan. I’m sure more will be revealed about this case, but as the Wall Street Journal says, a confession is not enough. There has be collaborating evidence to support Hernandez’s statements. For example, finding the body would be great, but even if his confession was accurate it may not be possible to find Etan after 33 years. Until the police have disclosed they have actual, significant evidence to support Hernandez’s statements, my money’s still on Jose Antonio Ramos.

Ramos, if he knows about all this, is probably laughing his fool head off right about now.

I’m on TV tonight!

At 10:00 p.m. eastern standard time I will be interviewed live via Skype, on NTN24. According to what the reporter told me:

NTN24 is the international news channel for Spanish-speaking audiences worldwide. NTN24 provides a complete coverage and information about Latin America, the U.S. and Europe through DIRECT TV, Sky and other cable systems such as TELMEX, TELEFONICA and UNE in different countries throughout the continent.

New ET entry from me

From me on Executed Today: one Frederick Bailey Deeming, a world traveler and petty thief who moonlighted as a serial killer. He murdered his wife and four children in the UK in 1891 and hid their bodies under his floor, then later that year moved to Australia, remarried, and killed her too. Fortunately he was caught just before he could close his talons around Wife #3.