Select It Sunday: Robin Kerry

Chosen by Anka, this week’s Select It Sunday case is Robin Ann Kerry, who disappeared with her sister Julie from St. Louis, Missouri on April 5, 1991. Unlike with many of my cases, it’s perfectly obvious what happened to Robin: she and her sister were gang-raped and thrown off the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. Julie’s body turned up several weeks later but Robin was never found.

I wrote about this case in 2009. It was a horrific crime, made all the more so by the fact that the four perpetrators were complete strangers who just had a random encounter with Robin and Julie and their cousin Tom Cummins that night, and the fact that Tom Cummins was wrongfully arrested and charged with his cousins’ murders before the situation got sorted and the cops caught the real killers.

I will quote part of my earlier entry:

There are still some people online who think Cummins killed his cousins and framed the four suspects, but the evidence against the defendants is pretty strong. One of them had Cummins’s wallet either on his person or in his house (I forget which) when he was arrested. All four suspects confessed at one point or another, although three of them later retracted their statements. One defendant pleaded guilty and testified against the others. Cummins’s sister Jeanine wrote a wonderful book about the case called A Rip in Heaven. Many news accounts say Cummins confessed to the crime. According to his sister’s book, after the police told him their theory about him being the killer he said something like, “If that’s what you said, then that’s what I did.” That’s hardly a confession.

I Googled the case again for today’s entry and discovered that Reginald Clemons, who spent over twenty years on death row for the Kerry sisters’ murders, had his conviction overturned and is awaiting a second trial. I don’t think he has much of a chance, though, even though it appears his confession has been ruled coerced and cast out of evidence. This article says they’ve got “a match consistent with Clemons’ DNA to a degree of one in 16,690 individuals in the African-American population,” something they didn’t have in 1991. I’ll have to update Robin’s casefile, I guess.

One of the four defendants, Daniel Winfrey, was released from prison in 2007. He was the only one who didn’t take part in the rapes, and he only fifteen years at the time of the crime, too young for the death penalty, and he took a plea deal: thirty years in exchange for testifying against the others.

Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan

Yesterday I read a book, translated from the French, by journalists Lena Mauger and Stephane Remael, called Vanished: The “Evaporated People” of Japan in Stories and Photographs.

I don’t know much about Japan and I had never heard anything about this, but apparently it’s a pretty normal thing for people to leave and never come back, and according to the authors over half of these disappearances are never reported to the police. There were a lot of them in the nineties especially when Japan’s economy was on the rocks.

There’s a name for it: evaporating. Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the family — a breadwinner who lost his job, a college student son who failed an important exam — and sometimes the entire family will go. Many of the evaporated people wind up committing suicide within a few days of leaving, but many more will just pop up somewhere else in the country and start over. There’s an entire neighborhood in Tokyo full of these people.

In fact, there are even entire companies whose job it is to help people evaporate. Mauger and Remael talked about a company called something like “Midnight Movers.” By day they moved furniture; by night they moved people. They didn’t have to advertise the people part; the “midnight” in their company name was a hidden indication that they were willing to move more than just your stuff. The price was the equivalent of like $5,000, around three times the cost of an ordinary move. The whole “midnight movers” concept sounds like it could become a movie or even a TV show here in the States.

Anyway. Check out the book if you’re interested.