Twelve years ago yesterday, I officially launched the Charley Project. I had spent all summer and early autumn constructing the website. Michael was the one who suggested I name it after Charley Ross. At the time the site went live, I was living in a college dormitory room in Conway, Arkansas, I had just turned nineteen, and NamUs didn’t exist yet.
How time flies. Since then, in terms of the number of cases, the database has about tripled in size. I’m not sure whether, at nineteen years old, I thought I’d still be running the site solo at thirty-one. I think I probably never asked myself that question.
I wasn’t sure whether I should bring up this case, because I blogged seven years ago about Leigh Occhi‘s disappearance and even ventured a possible theory as to what happened. But I’m sure plenty of readers haven’t read every entry I’ve ever written, so here goes.
On the day 13-year-old Leigh disappeared, Hurricane Andrew had struck Mississippi and was causing some violent storms in the area. This was before the school year would have started, but Leigh did plan to attend an Open House at her school with her grandmother and was home waiting to be picked up. Her mother tried to call her a few times but no one ever picked up.
When Leigh’s mother came back home, there was a violent crime scene: blood everywhere and indications of a struggle.
All of this sounds like it could have been a fairly ordinary abduction; Evelyn Hartley‘s 1953 disappearance was much the same way. Yet, in this case there’s a very peculiar detail: a month after Leigh’s disappearance, her glasses were mailed to her home. Just the glasses. No note. The envelope was addressed to Leigh’s stepfather, but he and her mother were separated when Leigh disappeared. The mailed eyeglasses were the last trace of Leigh, who would be 37 today.
I have NEVER heard of any case where someone abducted a person from their home and then mailed one of their belongings back to the house with no other message.
So what happened here? Let’s talk about it.
I was checking out Reddit’s Unresolved Mysteries section and found a discussion about Samuel Byrd, with a link to this 2014 article about Connecticut disappearances. The article provides a few more details about his disappearance — not much, but I had almost nothing to go on before.
The article claims Samuel disappeared in 1976, but the NCMEC gives the year as 1977. Frustratingly, in the “date last seen” for Samuel on his NamUs page, it says 1977, but in the “circumstances of disappearance” it says 1976.
Perhaps his family, who didn’t report him missing till around 2014 or maybe a year or so before, simply doesn’t remember the year, But he is said to have gone missing just after his high school graduation, and it should be easy to figure out when that was. This piece of information would suggest the later year, as most people graduate at age 18 or sometimes 17, and Samuel would have been 17 years and 11 months in June of 1977. However, people occasionally graduate at 16.
So I have one source that says 1977, one source that says 1976, and one source that can’t make up its mind.