36 thoughts on “Out of curiosity

  1. Jessica Hennessey April 23, 2014 / 8:57 am

    I don’t think it should offend people – But I know what you mean. Really though it is what it is. And those people may have visited clinics and what not. You never know.

    • Meaghan April 23, 2014 / 9:36 am

      I once got yelled at by someone’s niece for mentioning in the casefile that her uncle was gay. Big fracking deal. But I removed it anyway, as my policy is generally one of accomodation.

      In another instance I reported that a missing woman was separated from her husband and seeing another man. Her sister wrote me, angry, accusing me of trying to make the MP look like a whore. Which was of course not my intention. I, and I think most people, wouldn’t think there was much of anything wrong with seeing someone else whilst separated from one’s spouse. I mean, isn’t that kind of the point? Bizarrely, that SAME sister gave an interview with the press later on where she said the MP was seeing multiple men, was pregnant and didn’t know who the father was.

      • Jessica Hennessey April 23, 2014 / 9:52 am

        Wow – Crazy! I read your case files all the time – I always find them written very tactfully. I mean facts are facts. And sometimes those exact facts could be important information in an investigation! Alas sometimes you just can’t win! So I totally understand your dilemma.

        Let me just tell you I think you do an amazing job. I am very interested in missing people cases and I visit your site daily. Friends and Family of MP should be grateful for people like you who still give MP a voice – even one that have long since been (sadly ) forgotten.

      • Meaghan April 23, 2014 / 9:53 am

        Don’t get me wrong; most relatives and friends ARE grateful, and if I make mistakes they just politely correct me. But it’s the more irate ones that tend to stand out in my memory.

      • Jessica Hennessey April 23, 2014 / 10:02 am

        Totally understand what you mean 🙂

    • Meaghan April 24, 2014 / 4:21 am

      I appreciate your compliments, by the way. 🙂

  2. forthelost April 23, 2014 / 10:18 am

    Yes. They tested Heidi Balch’s remains (when she was a UID) and found she was HIV positive.

    • Meaghan April 24, 2014 / 4:05 am

      I hope she gave it to him. Please tell me she did.

  3. Angie April 23, 2014 / 10:28 am

    HIV only survives a few minutes outside the human body, but the viral proteins would probably stick around for as long as it took the other proteins in the body to decompose. HIV is diagnosed by testing for the presence of different viral proteins I believe.

    However, in most people who have been receiving HIV treatment for a while, the viral load is at undetectable levels, so in that case they wouldn’t be able to diagnose.

    • Meaghan April 24, 2014 / 4:05 am

      After the fact I recalled that they’ve identified HIV cases by testing decades-old preserved blood and tissue samples from dead people, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Rayford for example. So you’re right, they would be able to identify it in UIDs as long as they were fresh.

  4. Me April 23, 2014 / 10:49 am


    I wanted you to see this clipping from the Plumas County Newspaper regarding Mark Wendell (listed on your website) Wilson who went missing in 1967.

    Potential lead found in 1967 case of missing boy


    Mark Wilson was 13 when he disappeared in 1967. File photo

    Dan McDonald
    Managing Editor


    Trained dogs detect scent at abandoned well in Meadow Valley

    More than 46 years ago, 13-year-old Mark Wilson left his Meadow Valley home on foot. He told his parents he planned to try to hitch a ride to Quincy to watch a movie.

    The eighth-grader was never seen again.

    Shortly after Mark — his friends called him “Wilson” — disappeared without a trace Nov. 4, 1967, a search began.

    An all-points bulletin was issued by the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office to law enforcement agencies throughout the region.

    As the days and weeks passed, Sheriff W.C. Abernethy personally traveled the state searching for any possible leads to Wilson’s whereabouts. The sheriff would eventually distribute fliers nationwide.

    Wilson’s mother, Betty Wilson, offered a $500 reward for information that could help her find her son.

    Weeks, months and then years passed without a single credible lead. Wilson had simply vanished.

    Current sheriff Greg Hagwood said that despite having absolutely no clues to work with, his office revisited the Wilson case every year.

    “We haven’t had any actionable leads in the 26 years that I’ve been at the sheriff’s department,” Hagwood said.

    Until now.

    “I want people to know that regardless of how old the case is, we haven’t forgotten about it. And the family hasn’t forgotten about it. And we are going to take whatever efforts to conclusively determine what is at this site.”

    Greg HagwoodPlumas County Sheriff

    Last October, a specially trained dog (known as a cadaver dog) zeroed in on abandoned well in Meadow Valley. The dog and its handler, which were brought in by friends and family of Wilson, were definitely on to something.

    The Sheriff’s Office followed up by bringing in a cadaver dog of its own. That dog made “a positive alert” at the same location.

    In January, a third “highly credentialed” dog was enlisted by the sheriff. According to Sheriff Hagwood, the dog that specialized in the recovery of human remains picked up a scent in the same spot.

    “It was kind of a triple-blind test,” Hagwood said. The sheriff emphasized that the three dogs weren’t led to the site. They found it on their own.

    “We wanted to be completely objective about this,” Hagwood said. “Given that three dogs have independently alerted to human remains at this site, and its proximity to the area where Mark Wilson was last seen, we have an obligation to find out what’s in there.”

    Hagwood said he didn’t want to give the exact location of the well, which is on private property in Meadow Valley.

    “We aren’t identifying the property specifically at this time in the interest of the actual case and in the interest of the current property owners,” Hagwood said.

    The sheriff also cautioned that because the dogs were trained to detect “historic and prehistoric” human remains, whatever attracted them could be more than 100 years old.

    “That is important to bear in mind,” he said. “We have no evidence at this point to be able to say the dogs are alerting on (Wilson’s) remains. We don’t have that.”

    Excavating the well site

    Hagwood said an excavation at the well site would likely happen in May or June. He said the team of experts needs to be assembled. And it is important to have relatively good weather.

    He expects the excavation to take seven to 10 days.

    “Once this process starts, it won’t stop until it is completed,” Hagwood said. “It’s not a situation where we can work for a couple days and take a week off. Once it starts, it will go daily until it’s completed.”

    The cost of such an operation, which could involve as many as a dozen specialists and technicians, could total more than $100,000, according to the sheriff. However, Hagwood said he has enlisted the help of FBI experts from across the country.

    “They have what is known as an ‘evidence recovery team.’ They are FBI agents and specialists and technicians whose expertise is in processing, recovering and excavating historical sites,” Hagwood said. “And with that, it brings a level of expertise that is world-renowned at very little, if any, cost to Plumas County.”

    The sheriff said his office is fortunate to have the expert help. But he said he would have dug up the well even without it.

    “I’m gonna find out what’s in that well, come hell or high water,” Hagwood said. “That’s just the bottom line.”

    Little known about the well

    Hagwood said there are no records to indicate when the well was dug or when it was last used.

    “I know it was there in 1926. I’ve got photographic evidence that it was there in ’26,” he said. “But that’s about all we know.”

    Hagwood said his office has been trying to contact local people who might have some knowledge of when it was built.

    Wilson remembered

    The sheriff said people in the community have been very helpful in the case.

    “There are a lot of people still in the Quincy area and Plumas County who knew the young man and who were close to the family,” Hagwood said. “There is a high level of interest in a case like this.

    “I want people to know that regardless of how old the case is, we haven’t forgotten about it. And the family hasn’t forgotten about it. And we are going to take whatever efforts to conclusively determine what is at this site.”

    • Meaghan April 24, 2014 / 4:16 am

      Yes, someone sent that to me. I think it’s excellent that they’re still looking for him.

    • nancy INFERRERA September 3, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      So do you still plan to excavate that well? It’s been years now and very sad that they don’t
      do that much for that poor boy, and then fill that dangerous well in and be done with it,
      regardless of the outcome. Just the suspicion that the Wilson boy is down in that well
      should be enough, don’t you think, after all these years. You’re the only ones who can do all this.

      A former Quincy resident who attended Pioneer Elem. School at Mark’s age.

    • nancy INFERRERA September 3, 2016 / 9:18 pm

      So when are you planning to excavate this dangerous old well? Very sad case,
      casts a cloud over Plumas County where I have wonderful memories of being
      close to Mark Wilson’s age. Seems he deserves going the extra mile to try
      to find him in that well.
      Thank you, Nancy Inferrera

  5. Princess Shantae April 23, 2014 / 12:14 pm

    Its good that you try to keep family members happy, but I realy don’t think you should erase stuff from the case file just b/c somebody gets mad about it. The one that wanted you to take off that her uncle was gay? It was her that had the problem, you should not have to take down facts that as far as you knew were true just so she could pretend they weren’t true. And you should not ever respond when somebody is rude like these ppl were. The one that accused you of making her sister sound like a whore was just nuts; if she realy thought you were doing that she would never go on record saying things that were way worse than what you said. There’s a big difference between dating somebody while you are seperated and having so many boyfriends you don’t even know who the baby’s father is. Yuck.
    Also if you worry about family members getting upset over things like being gay or having aids or something, you might as well worry about showing pics of ppl’s ugly tattoos, and tattoos are something that realy do relate directly to the person being identified.

    • jim April 23, 2014 / 2:28 pm

      Or people missing from Eugene, Or.
      Seems a lot of people missing from there.

    • Meaghan April 24, 2014 / 4:14 am

      I sort of deal with that sort of thing, removing info I mean, on a case by case basis. I HATE removing information; on the other hand, these families have already suffered so much and I don’t want to contribute to their suffering by making them feel ashamed or embarrassed, even if they shouldn’t feel that way. I did once remove info that the MP had a record for car theft, though I didn’t much like doing it. His family asked nicely and it wasn’t clear whether car theft had anything to do with his disappearance.

      What is very annoying is when the families outright lie to me. One person said everything I put on her aunt’s casefile was false. There wasn’t much on there, besides that she was a prostitute last seen in a neighborhood known for its drug and prostitution activity. The niece insisted it wasn’t true. But I had confirmation from the police, arrest record and so on, that she really was a prostitute, and I refused to take it down. She threatened to sue me. Then I never heard from her again. If she had been reasonable, and simply said “We are embarrassed by this info and would like you to remove it,” I MIGHT have done so. But I’m not going to let people lie to me and bully me. And in a disappearance like that, her “career” may well have been a contributing factor in her disappearance.

      In another case, a murder-without-a-body case where the body still hasn’t been found, the mother asked me to take the case down. When I didn’t within eighteen hours, or maybe as much as twenty-four — because I was away from my computer at the time and didn’t even know she’d made the request — she sent like six increasingly irate emails demanding I do what she said, finally threatening to sue me if I didn’t. All over the course of less than a day. I removed the casefile, as I would have in any instance, but told her she was out of line.

      Afterwards I told a friend about it and complained, “What’s her problem.”
      My friend said, “Her daughter was murdered.”
      “But I didn’t do it!”
      “Doesn’t matter. She’s taking it out on you.”

      • forthelost April 24, 2014 / 12:57 pm

        Weirdly enough, her kid is on my site and she’s never written me about it at all.

  6. Mer April 23, 2014 / 4:18 pm

    I would imagine they could tell if an unidentified person had hiv if their remains were fresh, but likely not skeletal. By the way I would love it if you could make a Make-a-List Monday of people with eating disorders sometime. Sometimes unidentified people may show very weak bones possibly due to eating disorders.

    • Meaghan April 24, 2014 / 4:15 am

      Coming up in a few weeks is a list of women under 100 pounds, though probably most of them did not have eating disorders; they were just small.

      • Mer April 24, 2014 / 10:11 am

        Oh nice. You know when Jenika Feuerstein was recently found recently, authorities thought her body was of a preteen. A lot of people thought her remains were going to be of Isabel Celis.

  7. whereaboutsstillunknown April 24, 2014 / 4:35 pm

    Meaghan, have you ever done a Make-A-List-Monday on really old runaway cases? Like the Niki Brittens and Debra Tomlinsons? I’m kind of curious how many there are.

  8. amy April 24, 2014 / 10:29 pm

    I know some people get offended at their loved ones HIV status being in the public light, but I think if your loved one is missing you want as much information out there as possible in the hopes that someone will get found. Make your list.

  9. zinc April 26, 2014 / 11:40 pm

    I generally favor openness of information in MP/UID case files, but I’m of the opinion that HIV status should be left out of MP files unless the MP was open about it, or unless it’s something the MP’s family and friends or law enforcement are publicizing as relevant to the MP’s recovery.

    It’s not really a useful detail for those of us among the public who attempt to match MPs and UIDs. Heidi Balch is the only person I can recall off the top of my head whose unidentified remains were announced to have been infected. (Consider too the era in which her body was recovered, in which HIV-positive status of a dumped corpse would have been seen as a salacious, really frightening juicy detail for a tabloid to publish.)

    Apart from that, I can think of very few scenarios in which revealing a private HIV status would be useful to public readers, and plenty in which it could be harmful, dangerous, or viewed as an invasion of privacy, particularly for MPs who are believed to still be living or who took off voluntarily.

    I had a close family member who died as a result of HIV a couple years ago. He kept his status private, but many people knew he had been sick on and off since a blood transfusion he received in the 1980s. The whispers and hinting questions I overheard at his funeral were honestly pretty shocking — here was someone who died, in our supposedly enlightened 21st century, from a chronic medical condition he contracted as a child in the most mundane way possible, yet the stigma and shame carried in both tone and words were very noticeable.

    If HIV status were known to be useful to public readers in some specific way, my opinion could be changed, but at present I see it as just as likely to pose harm or danger without being at all useful.

    Regarding the uncle, if authorities considered his being gay important to his being located and it was being publicized, or if he himself was “out”, I would have left it in the file (unless possibility of harm or danger to the family). It’s information that is known to be useful.

    • Meaghan April 28, 2014 / 12:31 pm

      I’ve always put in the casefiles if a person was HIV-positive or had active AIDS; I never really thought anything about it. But you may very well be right, at least about HIV status. I’ll reconsider my position on that. I think it would be more important to say if they had actual AIDS, because then we’re dealing with someone who will be obviously quite ill and this could be a major factor in locating him or her.

      I’m fascinated by illnesses of all kinds and have read books about smallpox, tuberculosis, the Black Plague and yes, AIDS. I do not understand why people in the 1980s would not take the disease seriously and I don’t understand why they kept going on about “morals” and what have you. It was a public health problem, not a problem of “morals.”

      I agree that it’s shocking how ignorant people are about AIDS even today. At a previous job I had, a coworker was complaining about how someone who worked at a nearby restaurant supposedly had HIV and “those people” should not be allowed to work in food service and she would never eat there again. She was, I believe, in her thirties — young enough to have gotten some HIV education in school, I should think. I explained that you could not spread the virus through casual contact and it was perfectly safe for an HIV-positive person to work at a restaurant. And she was like, “I don’t want to take a chance.” And I was like (quite flabbergasted now), “You don’t understand. There is no chance! None!” But she remained unconvinced and I just let it drop.

      • zinc May 2, 2014 / 1:18 am

        Thanks for thinking about it, appreciated.

        After my relative died I went through the old AEGiS HIV newspaper archive. After dozens of 1980s articles I felt forcibly suspended in time, thinking “I am watching a death sentence being carried out, consciously. Here are the words with which this quoted official vaporizes thousands of people in front of me, one by one. Because it’s politically expedient.” The amount of documented early negligence is excruciating to read now.

        If your co-worker wasn’t convinced at the time, you still added to the water drops that wear down the rock; if she gets it eventually it will be because of that.

      • forthelost May 4, 2014 / 1:09 am

        I once met a woman, my age or close to it, that thought you could get HIV from sharing a cigarette with an affected individual, and got all pissy when I said HIV isn’t in saliva.

      • Meaghan May 4, 2014 / 6:17 am

        I think, technically, it is, just not in a high enough concentration to cause any harm.

  10. zinc April 27, 2014 / 12:10 am

    (P. S. since I think I wasn’t clear, in an ideal world no one should suffer ostracism for having any disease, regardless of how it was contracted. Certain risky behaviors may reasonably carry a public stigma, but that has to be separated from disease state itself, once someone is already ill, injured, or at serious risk of either.)

  11. Dan April 29, 2014 / 8:28 pm

    Please Keep the message private I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone of Donald’s Family by that comment.

    • Meaghan April 30, 2014 / 8:09 am

      The answer to your question in the private message is yes; I was asked to remove info and did so.

  12. Dan May 1, 2014 / 12:10 am

    Please Remove that comment to avoid problems. Thanks.

    • Meaghan May 1, 2014 / 6:11 am

      I actually don’t have any particular theories. I don’t spend a lot of time theorizing about what’s happened to the MPs listed on my website; I’m just trying to get the information out there.

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