This week’s featured missing person is Raymond Samuel Poland, a 35-year-old man who was last seen in Erie, Pennsylvania on August 22, 2001. Since he wasn’t reported missing for a year, I’m not sure how they fixed the date of his disappearance, but that’s what I’ve got.
Poland was an occasionally homeless alcoholic who had trouble keeping a job because of his problem. I think he may still be alive and just unaware that his family’s looking for him, or he may be a John Doe in some far-off part of the country.
I forget who suggested this, but I promised to do a Select It Sunday for Timmothy James Pitzen, who disappeared from Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin on May 12, 2011 at the age of six. He is missing under unusual circumstances.
Timmothy’s mom, Amy Fry-Pitzen, signed him out of kindergarten and took off with him without telling his dad. They went to the zoo, then to two resorts before checking into a hotel in Rockford, Illinois. The next morning the hotel staff found Amy dead; she’d taken her own life. There was no sign of Timmothy. Amy left notes saying he was being cared for, but she didn’t say where he was or who was taking care of him.
Investigators believe Amy may have been planning her son’s disappearance for months. As to where he is, or if he’s still alive, nobody seems to know.
This week’s Flashback Friday case is Belinda VanLith, a 17-year-old girl who disappeared from the Little Eagle Lake area of Wright County, Minnesota on June 15, 1974. (I wrote an Executed Today entry set in Wright County.) She disappeared from a neighbor’s residence where she was house-sitting.
I looked up the name of the suspect, Timothy Joseph Crosby, in Newspapers.com and found several articles that mentioned him. He was very young when Belinda disappeared, only seventeen or eighteen, but according to court documents he’d already started abducting and sexually assaulting young women. This article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about Belinda’s disappearance. As of 2013, anyway, Crosby was off the streets as a civilly committed “violent sexual recidivist.”
Chosen by Tara H., this case is Erica Nicole Baker, a nine-year-old who disappeared from Kettering, Ohio on February 7, 1999. Kettering is a suburb of Dayton, and about an hour and a half south of the hamlet where I grew up.
Erica went out to walk her aunt’s dog and never returned. The dog was found running around unaccompanied with its leash still attached, and eventually got picked up by Animal Control, but there was no sign of Erica.
She has been missing for 18 years, but we pretty much know what happened: Christian Gabriel was convicted of evidence tampering and abuse of a corpse after he confessed to running over Erica with a van, panicking and then disposing of her body. There are two other suspects who were thought to have been in the van at the time, but one of them died and the grand jury declined to indict the other one. Gabriel, who has since been released from prison, has retracted his confession and nobody knows where Erica’s body is.
I got approached, via the private message on the Charley Project’s Facebook page, by a young man who said he thought he was a certain child who had disappeared from Florida. I advised him to contact the NCMEC and gave them their tip line number. He claimed the NCMEC were “corrupt” and trying to cover up the disappearance of another child, a girl, who had disappeared from that same county in Florida a few years after the missing boy did.
He said the girl’s parents were trying to help cover up her disappearance too, and that the police knew all about it and weren’t doing anything because they wanted to avoid a lawsuit.
I told him I was unable to assist him and then he accused me of being paid by the girl’s parents to help cover up her disappearance!
He also found a two-year-old blog post of mine that had been shared on Charley’s Facebook page, which mentioned the missing girl, and posted a photograph of a young woman whom he claims is her. Whoever that young woman is, I didn’t want her photo on Charley’s Facebook page, but I couldn’t figure out how to delete his comments so I had to delete the entire post from the Facebook page. Fortunately the only comments on it were his.
I’ve got an Executed Today entry for today about armed robber Margaret Savage, who was hanged in Dublin, Ireland on this day in 1787. She was one of the many victims of the UK’s Bloody Code, which levied the death penalty for all the manner of minor offenses that would have been punished with probation or a fine today. The idea seems to have been “the easier it is to commit a crime, the more harshly it should be punished.” It didn’t work.
(And before any of you tell me that Dublin isn’t in the UK, it was back then.)
This week’s FF case is Natasha Marie Shanes, a six-year-old girl who was apparently abducted from her mother’s Jackson, Michigan home on May 8, 1985.
Although they never identified the abductor or found any bloodstains or the like, I’m pretty confident Natasha died around the time she was taken, because of her medical problems. She had a seizure disorder and needed medication for that. She was also slightly intellectually disabled and she had scoliosis, though to what degree I don’t know.
In the very unlikely event that Natasha is alive, she’d be 38 today.
Sometimes it seems like I don’t get a resolved case for a month and then suddenly get hit with a dozen at once. This next update will have five. So far. I’m linking to their casefiles but they won’t be up for much longer.
- Runaway Sualee Jeseenia Gonzalez Castro has been found alive, per NCMEC. She had been missing for two years and almost two months and is now 19 years old.
- Runaway Alondra Hernandez-Trujillo has also been found alive, per NCMEC. She had been missing for almost three years. She is now 18.
- Convicted murderer Thomas Riffenburg has confessed to the killings of his girlfriend, Jennifer Anne Walsh, and their son, Alexander Mitchell Riffenburg, who had been missing from Palmdale, California since January 9, 2009. Jennifer was 23 and Alexander was only a year old. This article provides a lot of background info about their cases, more than I have on Charley. Thomas provided hand-drawn maps to where he’d buried their bodies, and the cops found remains and are awaiting DNA confirmation of their identities. I think I’ll resolve their cases now; it’s highly unlikely they’re anyone but Jennifer and Alexander.
- A skull found in the woods 2001 has been identified as Ella Mae Williams, an 80-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s Disease who wandered from her Gainesville, Florida home on March 25, 1990. (The article incorrectly gives her age as 78.)
This week’s featured missing person is Patrice Lynae Smith, a 28-year-old missing from Little Rock, Arkansas since March 24, 2012. She was last seen in the company of Michael Curtis Robinson, her abusive boyfriend. She had an order of protection against him and he sounds like a general dirt bag.
Suspiciously, Michael Robinson disappeared at the same time Patrice Smith did, and later turned up without her. He was in prison last I knew though he might be out by now.