Doing runaways now

Having so significantly reduced my accumulating NamUs updates pile, I have turned my focus to all the runaways stacked and waiting. Most of them don’t take very long at all to write. At the rate of about 20 a day, the folder should be just about empty by tomorrow.

Of course, some of the cases turn out to be not runaways. Jiovany/Giovany/Giovanni/Xovane Gomez, for example, who went missing with four other men, one his uncle, when they apparently decided to go shopping just across the border in Mexico. That was almost two years ago and they haven’t been heard from since. No one knows what happened, other than that it probably wasn’t good.

Forest Ferguson ran from Carlbrook School, a boarding school for troubled teens. I don’t know much about it. Before he came to Carlbrook, Forest was at Diamond Ranch Academy, which I’ve heard is quite horrible. I don’t know anything about whatever problems lead to Forest being placed in residential treatment. All I know is that he hated Carlbrook bad enough to run away and he’s been gone almost two years.

I have serious concerns about such institutions. Some of them can be good, but there is so much potential for abuse, and it seems like a lot of those places just basically torture and brainwash the kids into good behavior. Back when I was a teenager, I would definitely have qualified for one of those “therapeutic boarding schools.” If it was a good place, I probably would have benefited. But then I would have graduated and returned home to the very environment which messed me up so badly in the first place, and it would have solved nothing.

As for Forest Ferguson, his grandparents would like to hear from him and apparently didn’t support him being sent away in the first place: on their website they say, “We know you weren’t happy at that school. You ran away. Good! You showed initiative, strength of character and spirit, and we’re proud of you standing up for your rights.” I hope Forest is all right. He’s over 18 now.

Why a human is necessary to do this job

I was going through old emails and stumbled across one from yonks ago. I thought I’d share the following anecdote with you:

There was a guy I was about to post on Charley (he’s not on there anymore), and his details said he was Chinese. The problem, though, was that his last name was Nguyen. Nguyen is a Vietnamese name as far as I knew. It certainly didn’t sound Chinese, and it made me wonder whether they’d gotten his national origin wrong. Without further I contacted my friend John (you’ve heard of him before) to ask about it. Not only is John’s father Vietnamese, but John himself has a master’s degree in East Asian Studies with a focus on China. Oh, and he’s a lawyer too. He’s a genius and everything I might have become and didn’t.

Could a person named Nguyen be Chinese, I asked him, or were there any Vietnamese people living in China? He replied that Nguyen was most definitely Vietnamese and only Vietnamese, and although China did have a small Vietnamese population he thought it was much more likely that the agency had just made a mistake.

Just to be on the safe side I marked Mr. Nguyen as “Asian” without specifying where in Asia.

In another instance, even further back, a young woman missing in California was wearing a Bowdin College sweatshirt. I saw that and knew right away that it had to be a mistake: there is no such place as Bowdin college and as far as I know there never has been. There is, however, a Bowdoin College, and I think it’s pronounced “Bo-din.” And it may significant that Bowdoin College is all the way over in Maine, about as far away as you can be and still be in the country. It’s a stretch but that case is one of the “few details are available” ones so I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, I don’t think a computer could have been able to figure out either of those things. Computer-generated matches and stuff are great. But sometimes a human eye is required.

Be prepared for a big update today

I’m going to do a bit of housecleaning in my “NamUs updates” folder. I’m tired of looking at the 148 bookmarks in there, and most of them only take a few minutes each to do; just add height and weight, etc. NamUs isn’t really big on “circumstances of disappearance” which is the real meat of the Charley Project.

I thought writing up Sierra Lamar‘s case yesterday would take forever, but it didn’t. The police are being pretty tight-lipped about the investigation. Sierra looks like such a beautiful girl in the pictures, all-American. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Antolin Garcia-Torres had been stalking her for some time before he grabbed her.

A fairly typical conversation with Michael’s father

This happened yesterday. We were sitting alone in the car together while Michael and his mother were in a store buying curtains. I had just told David about an article I read where a guy had a brain injury followed by a stroke and woke up gay — flamboyantly gay — though he had never been interested in men before. He even became a hairdresser! And David had said, “Nope. Didn’t happen” and I was like “Yes, it did” and he said, “No, it couldn’t happen, he must have been gay before” and round and round and round we went.

ME: You know, David, it really upsets me when I tell you something and you just dismiss it out of hand. Frankly, that kind of behavior is insulting.
DAVID: You have a right to feel upset, but also you have to understand that I don’t care.
ME: But I’m supposed to talk about my feelings, and I’m telling you, I feel belittled and ignored.
DAVID: But I’m entitled to my feelings too, aren’t I?
ME: You don’t have any feelings! You just said you don’t care!
DAVID: *laughs*
ME: I’m sure you know that strokes and brain injuries can cause radical personality changes. Look, why don’t you believe the story?
DAVID: Because it’s not part of my life experience.
ME: Do you believe the Holocaust happened? That’s not part of your life experience.
DAVID: Yes, it is. I was born in the forties.
ME: *exasperated sigh* Fine, do you believe the Armenian genocide happened? That was in the nineteen-teens.
DAVID: Of course I believe it happened.
ME: How can you believe that? It’s not part of your life experience.
DAVID: Because it’s recorded history, that’s why.
ME: *mentally screaming in frustration*
DAVID: We’re just going to have to agree to disagree about that guy. You have your version of reality, and I have mine. In your version, his brain problems caused him to become gay; in my version, it didn’t.
ME: But there’s an objective truth OUTSIDE our versions of reality — and — *sighs again* Even if you don’t believe it, you can come up with a less insulting way to put it than just “Nope, didn’t happen.” You could say something like, “I have a hard time believing that” and then we could discuss it.

At this point, Michael and his mother returned and interrupted the conversation before I could strangle his father.

Contrary to what this conversation — which is very much like many conversations I’ve had with David — indicates, David isn’t really an a-hole. He adores me and I consider him to be a very good friend. He just has no social skills and serious boundary issues, and he no longer cares because he’s 68 years old. Rarely does a day with him go by where I don’t at some point want to start beating him with his own crutches.

Good news, I think, maybe

I have on Kerry Lynelle Johnson‘s casefile that the cops have lost her dental records and lost touch with her family, which makes her body well nigh impossible to identify if she’s a Jane Doe somewhere. Well, Kerry’s NCMEC poster now has a new picture of her and some additional information about her disappearance.

I’m thinking the police are back in touch with her family.