A sobering thought

Maggie Thompson, the murder victim in my Executed Today post from yesterday, reminds me so much of Kathleen Shea who was never found. The girls were almost the same age and both of them vanished without a trace, like “the sidewalk might have opened and swallowed” them. Both times it was during their school lunch break (Maggie was walking home to eat; Kathleen had finished her meal and was walking back to school). Both of them stopped to talk to neighbors while en route. Kathleen disappeared in Pennsylvania, Maggie in the bordering state of Ohio. And, though we may never know for certain, I think Kathleen’s fate was probably much the same as poor little Maggie’s.

Obviously, the two cases aren’t related: they occurred some 70 years apart, and Maggie’s killer was caught and suffered the supreme penalty. I’m just saying, these kinds of crimes are timeless. Homicide committed by juveniles (Maggie’s killer, Otto Lueth, was only sixteen) is not rare or new either. I get annoyed when people talk about how “the youth of today are out of control” (Aristotle said the same thing about the youth of 3rd century BC) and also “how bad crime these days” and how “in this day and age, you have to be extra careful.” The good old days were terrible.

Still idling…

I have had NO desire to work on Charley lately, in case you haven’t noticed. Every time I think about it I groan inwardly and return to my books. (And those awesome Epic Rap Battles of History vids on YouTube.)

I don’t know whether to take an official vacation, or to grit my teeth and start daily updates again, hell or high water.

Years ago one of you warned me against burnout: “You are battling the tide here and you are doing it alone.” Certainly it feels like it now. There’s so much WORK. And there’s no option to quit. Partly because there’s no one to take my place. But mostly because, if I do, it’ll be just one more thing I’ve failed at.

God, I’m tired.

Life’s longest journey begins with a single step and all that. Carry on.

Got another ET entry: Otto Lueth, a sixteen-year-old boy hung in 1890 for the murder of a seven-year-old girl.

Why does this always happen to me?

My mother has been remodeling the house for the past several years now (no kidding; I referenced this in my blog back in 2010 and it had been going on for some time by then) and recently got around to the living room. She wished to get rid of her couch. It is a fine couch, kind of old but sturdy and in good shape, made of velveteen, but it was too big and heavy for her purposes. (It’s a hide-a-bed.) Michael’s living room furniture is all junk, so I asked Mom for permission to give the couch to him. She said okay.

So today Michael and I picked up the couch and took it to his house. It took all afternoon: we had to drive from Fort Wayne to Ohio, pick up the couch, put it on Mom’s truck, take it back to his house, install it inside, drive back to Ohio, drop off Mom’s truck, pick up Michael’s car, and drive back to Fort Wayne. The couch turned out to be about two inches wider than the front door frame no matter how it was turned, so we (Michael, me and his roommates — collectively known as “the boys”) got it in through the (unused) sliding glass door, which required moving all the furniture and so on that was in front of that door. This took a long time and involved much swearing, grunting, and nasty arguing, particularly on the boys’ part.

But that wasn’t what I wanted to write about.

On the way back to Ohio we stopped at a gas station. I got out of the truck, opened up the gas compartment preparing to fill, shouted “Holy Jesus!” and took several steps backward, eventually bumping into a pillar.

“What now, Meaghan?” Michael asked wearily.

“Gas — crap — can’t — wasps — two of them,” I hyperventilated.

He got out of the car and looked and saw what I saw: a very tiny wasps’ nest, about an inch and a half across and three-quarters of an inch in depth, with two wasps buzzing around it. I’d never seen anything like it and wish, now, that I’d taken a picture with my phone.

I have a terrible phobia of stinging insects of all kinds, although I’ve never been stung. (In fact, I think if I was my phobia might go away, once I realized being stung is not unbearable.) “I’m not sticking my hand in there!” I said, and promptly legged it across the parking lot, leaving Michael to deal with the problem.

This he did in boyfriendly fashion, using the gas station’s windshield wiper thingy to knock the nest out of the gas compartment. Only then did I consent to go back there and fill the gas tank.

En route again, we speculated that the wasps were a gay couple staying in a nice little apartment. I hope they found another place to live. I have nothing against wasps personally, but I don’t want them anywhere near me and certainly not in any vehicles I’m driving.

I told Mom and she promised to spray.

I also hate it when this happens, but for different reasons

I got an email the other day that just said, “My wife is [an MP who’s been missing for nearly 50 years]’s sister. Please contact me.”

I wrote back saying, “How can I help you?”

And he responded the next day saying he was so glad I answered; he’d emailed a lot of people and I was the only one so far who had replied. The case was still open but the police seemed to be doing nothing to investigate it, and weren’t answering his or his wife’s phone calls, were brushing them off, etc. He really didn’t know what to do and was begging for my assistance.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails like that over years and I always feel horrible about them. They make me feel terribly guilty because I can’t really do anything to help this poor guy or his sister. I’m just a private citizen who publicizes missing person cases; I have no credentials, no influence, I’m not a cop or any other kind of investigator. I can offer nothing but sympathy. I know I SHOULDN’T feel guilty for being unable to help this family — after all, I do a lot more than most people — but I do anyway. They’ve been through a lot.

I’ll refer him to Project Jason, I guess. They can provide moral support, anyway, and will understand him better than I can.

Sigh. One person can’t save the world. One of the things I’ve been trying to learn through therapy is to stop taking the weight of everyone’s sufferings and putting it on my own skinny shoulders. Maybe someday the message will sink in.

Names and nicknames

The NCMEC just put up today the poster of one B. Hansen, an Arizona middle-schooler who’s been missing since 1995. NCMEC says his name is Brad, and just about every account calls him Brad, but I have it on good authority that his legal name is Bradley.

I have trouble sometimes with trying to figure out whether the name used in the articles etc. is really the MP’s name, or whether it’s a nickname. This goes back to one of my earliest cases, the Gaffney case of 1927. For years I called him Billy and you can see his URL still says Billy. An embarrassingly long time passed before I found out his real name was William.

Because, sometimes people choose nicknames as legal names. In 1923, the year Billy Gaffney was probably born (I don’t have his DOB but he was four when he disappeared), Billy ranked 78 on the list of most popular names given to baby boys. William ranked 3. If all the sources I can find refer to the MP as Billy (or Willie, or Bobby, or Ricky, or for girls Maggie, Betty, etc.), I find myself obliged to do so as well even if I have a suspicion that that’s not the correct legal name. It seems right to call MPs by their legal names on Charley, even if they weren’t addressed that in real life.

I encountered a kind of similar problem with Neo Babson Maximus. His birth name was Charles Allen Jr. and he legally changed it only a month before he disappeared. Everybody he knew still called him Charlie and I got some emails from people asking why in heck was I calling him by that silly name when his family and friends had posted “Find Charlie Allen” websites. (Wearily, I would direct them to the Distinguishing Characteristics part of his file.)

I have the same problem when people are addressed by their middle names. Like how Craig Dowell was actually Edwin Craig Dowell and it took me awhile to figure that out.

Ah, the many challenges of a Charley Project administrator…

I finally updated

For the first time in nearly two weeks. I suck, I know. I wasn’t even busy. Just kind of chilling out, hanging around with Michael and his parents (I spent two days and two nights in a row at their house, one of which was without Michael), and reading. I’ll try to update more in the future.

The new MP of the week is Rosario Pacheco-Flores, age 28, missing from Phoenix since 2008. She vanished with her boyfriend, 30-year-old Luis Villafana. Foul play is suspected but I’ve got nothing beyond that.

(Aside: A curious thing about the name Rosario — and also the name Consuelo — most of the time in Spanish, female names end in an A, but not in those cases. I don’t know why they aren’t Rosaria and Consuela. Rosario in Italian is male, sez Nameberry. Consuela and Rosaria aren’t even listed on the site.)

The last MP of the week (which was, of course, two weeks ago *hangs head in shame*) was Ka Ming Kwan, a 39-year-old man who vanished fishing off the west end of the Golden Gate Bridge back in 1981. Pretty easy to surmise what happened to him.

And I have a new Executed Today entry: Israel Lipski, hung for murder in London in 1887. It was a strange case — the victim was killed by being forced to swallow nitric acid — and it was controversial and notorious in its time but almost forgotten now. I love writing about those kinds of cases.