Flashback Friday: Sharon Baldeagle

Unlike with many of my Flashback Friday cases and Charley Project cases in general, it’s pretty obvious what happened to Sharon Baldeagle.

This twelve-year-old girl ran away from her home in South Dakota, accompanied by an older friend. They made it to Wyoming, where they were picked up by Royal Russell Long, a probable serial killer. He took them back to his house and attacked them. Sharon’s friend was able to escape and go for help, but by the time the police made it to Long’s residence, he and Sharon were long gone. Although Long got picked up several months later in New Mexico, Sharon wasn’t with him. He claimed he put her on a bus for Dallas. Likely story.

If anything good came out of the disappearance of Sharon Baldeagle and the rape of her teenage friend, at least it got Long off the streets for good. Convicted of two counts of kidnapping, he was sentenced to life behind bars and died in prison in 1993. He’s a suspect in no fewer than four other disappearances of teen girls from Oklahoma and Wyoming, and as a truck driver, he could have picked up victims from all over the country and possibly Canada too.

Sharon’s case is one of those where an Amber Alert, had they been in place back then, might have saved her life. Certainly it fits the criteria: she had been kidnapped, they knew who did it and they had a description of his truck.

Her disappearance was one I was fascinated by when I first got interested in missing people over fifteen years ago, although I knew little about it at the time. She doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of press; being Native American, a runaway and probably poor didn’t help. But her father is still alive and wants to find her.

MP of the Week: Benita Spears

This week’s featured missing person is Indiana University Northwest student Benita Spears, who vanished from Gary, Indiana in 1989. I don’t have much on in her case, but her ex-husband had a history of domestic violence and was seen driving Benita’s car after her disappearance.

My friend Wendy the Minister lived Gary in the 1980s and was minister of a predominantly black church; I’ll see if she’s heard of this case. Probably not but it’s worth a go.

Sean Munger MP profiles I forgot to post earlier

A few weeks ago my friend Sean Munger profiled the disappearance of Madeline “Lynn” Babcock, missing for 45 years now. I forgot to mention this before. Sean, as many readers know, also ran Charley’s Twitter feed; or, at least he did until last month when he got sick and I was granted temporary guardianship. (Watch for two MPs a day, one male, one female, at a little after 1:00 a.m. EST. Thanks to TweetDeck, a really handy bit of software, I’ve got ’em pre-scheduled.)

Madeline looks quite beautiful in the only decent picture of her, which was taken when she was 15. (She was 35 at the time of her disappearance.) The other photos, while much more recent, are low quality and it’s hard to tell what she even looked like as an adult. But who knows, maybe more pictures, or better versions of the ones I already have, will show up on NamUs or somewhere someday.

Ten days ago Sean also posted an entry on the discovery of the McStay family’s remains.

Make-a-List Monday: Autism

This list is of people on the autism spectrum, which includes autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). The most current psychiatric parlance is to lump all those conditions under the term “autism spectrum disorder.” Given how common the condition is (and how often it goes undiagnosed) chances are pretty good there many more people on Charley who are autistic and I just don’t know it.

Allison Taylor Bayliss
Samuel Savage Becker Boehlke
Daniel Patrick DeSimone
Donald Leo Dietz (possibly)
Oded Gordon
Gary Dale Finck
Emanuel Ocampo
Gordon Thomas Page Jr.
Zev Ephaim Patt

Select It Sunday: the Thompson Family

This profile was selected by Michael (not my Michael, but a blog commenter): the very sad case of Everett Thompson, his wife Lydia, and their two young sons, Everett Jr. and Andrew. The Thompsons lived in Chicago — when they disappeared in the summer of 1996. Everett was a businessman.

It’s a lot like the McStay family disappearance: mom, dad and two boys gone without a trace. But unlike in the McStay case, it’s pretty obvious what happened. Although there’s some suggestion that the family simply pulled up stakes and moved away, the inconvenient facts are this: Lydia’s charming brother, Byron White, had a record for kidnapping and rape, he was living with the Thompsons at the time of their disappearances, and a few days before they were last seen Lydia called the cops because her brother had threatened her with an ax. Oh, and after the family vanished, White stole her van and forged her signature on a check.

Unfortunately, we may never know what exactly went down and, more importantly, where their bodies are. White committed suicide in jail (mail fraud) eighteen months after his sister and her husband and kids disappeared.

A very sad case. It must have been — and is — devastating for both sides of the family. The boys have such sweet, sunny smiles in their photos.

A book y’all might want to check out

I belong to the book organizer/social networking site Librarything and participate in their Early Reviewers program, where they give you free books, often before they’re published for the masses, in exchange for posting a review. My latest free book (which comes out in a few days), was Bosnia’s Million Bones: Solving the World’s Greatest Forensic Puzzle by Christian Jennings.

For those interested in the forensic side of missing persons, I’d recommend this book. Tens of thousands of people vanished during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the mid-nineties, and turned up in mass graves. The book is mostly about a group set up to identify them, the International Commission on Missing Persons. It reminds me quite a lot of NamUs: they approached the relatives of the missing, collected DNA samples, collected DNA from the graves, and set about doing comparisons. The book also discusses why it was so important for the families and the country in general to identify these bodies, even though the people knew their missing relatives were dead — something that certainly rings true with Charley Project type cases. Here’s the relevant part of my review:

A sort of combination true crime and science book, this is the story of attempts to identify the thousands of people who disappeared in the genocide in the former Yugoslavia. Employing Bosnian scientists and using DNA testing that was groundbreaking at the time, the International Commission on Missing Persons was successful at identifying loads of people, in spite of the fact that many of the bodies had been dismembered and buried in separate mass graves. (The same techniques would be used at the sites of 9/11, the Indian tsunami, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and more.) The book also covers the activism on the part of survivors of the genocide, and the manhunt for those responsible.