This week’s featured missing person is Beverly Ann Ward, a 13-year-old girl who vanished from her bedroom in Junction City, Kansas in the middle of the night on Independence Day, 1978. She was gone by the early morning hours, and is presumed to have been abducted by an intruder who climbed in through the window.
This week’s featured missing person is Reed Taylor Jeppson, who disappeared from Salt Lake City, Utah on October 12, 1964, at the age of fifteen. After church, he went out to walk his dogs and never came back. Neither did the dogs.
Come October, it’ll have been 55 years since anyone saw this young man. I doubt his case can be solved at this late date and I have no idea what happened to him. It is strange and interesting that the dogs disappeared as well.
Having noticed that Newspapers.com had loads of back issues of the Austin American-Statesman, I decided to start researching Austin, Texas cases. I have updated several on Charley, and learned a great deal more about the disappearance of Gracie Nell Nash and the one-woman crime wave that is Naomi Easley Moore.
Our story begins in May 1983, when Melvin Davis broke up with his girlfriend Naomi Easley. Almost immediately, the trouble started. Let’s have a list, shall we.
- Easley writes letters to Melvin’s boss trying to get him fired.
- Melvin and John Davis’s shared house is burglarized, and someone slashes the tires of John’s car and trailer.
- Melvin catches Easley pouring sugar and syrup into his gas tank.
- Easley and Melvin get in a physical confrontation inside his house, she pulls a gun on him, and he takes it away from her. She runs out of the house, then returns to ask for the gun back. He refuses to give it to her, and calls the police. Easley is put on a bond to keep the peace.
- Someone breaks into the Davises’ house, slashes all of John’s clothes and tries to start a fire in the bedroom.
- Someone sets the Davis brothers’ garage on fire, destroying one of John’s race cars.
- A third brother, Ronnie, is shot at by an intruder in Melvin and John’s house. He is uninjured.
- Easley shoots Melvin in the wrist. She is arrested, charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and bails out.
- Three days later, someone fires several shots at John and misses.
- Gracie Nash, the Davises’ sister, disappears, apparently abducted from the parking lot of her workplace, the day after Christmas.
- The next day, the Davis parents get a call from someone who tells them if they ever want to see Gracie alive again, Melvin has to drop the charges against Easley.
- Gracie’s car turns up abandoned with Nash’s coat and evidence of a shooting, including a large amount of blood. Her body is never found.
- John is shot to death outside his house.
- Easley goes to trial for shooting Melvin, but the jury deadlocks, and she takes a plea and gets probation.
- Four and a half years later, Easley (now married and using the last name Moore) shoots her husband to death and is FINALLY sent to prison.
I have several questions about this:
- Is the Austin Police Department really so incompetent that they can’t put a case together against Naomi for any of the other burglaries, arsons, attempted murders, and two murders she obviously committed?
- Did Naomi stop her campaign of terror against Melvin Davis and his family after she was put on probation, or did it just drop out of the news at that point?
- Is anyone in the Austin PD still bothering to investigate John Davis and Gracie Nash’s murders? I looked her up, and Naomi Easley Moore is very much alive in prison right now. In fact, she became eligible for parole in 2004. And, um, Texas is a death penalty state.
- Did Naomi Easley have a pre-1983 history of launching into psychotic crime sprees against other ex-boyfriends?
- If it’s ever legally verified that Naomi Easley murdered Gracie Nash and John Davis, along with the third murder of her husband in 1989, would that qualify her as a serial killer?
Honestly, I obviously don’t have all the information, but I’m getting the impression that the police just didn’t care about what was happening. I don’t know if it was a race/class thing or what; the Davises were black children of sharecroppers and there were 17 kids in the family. They seem to have been respectable people but no doubt they were poor.
At her trial in the shooting of Melvin, the jury wasn’t allowed to hear about the murders of John and Gracie, and I’m not sure how much they heard about all the other stuff that happened. Three of the jurors wanted to convict her of attempted murder. Six opted for aggravated assault, and three wanted to acquit her.
One of the ones who voted for acquittal said he wasn’t sure Melvin could see Easley clearly as it was getting dark at the time of the shooting. Another said he thought Melvin was “going out on” Easley, which seems very improper to me — whether Melvin was being unfaithful or how he treated her was not at issue, the issue was whether or not she shot him.
But even if the jury couldn’t hear about the murders, the court knew about it. And she somehow managed to get PROBATION, after all of that. And the story ended in another man’s death.
See the article here: Melissa Brannen’s abductor, Caleb Hughes, will be freed from prison after 29 years.
Hughes was only convicted of abducting five-year-old Melissa Lee Brannen, not of killing her, though I’m sure he killed her as well. It’s just that they never found a body or other physical evidence of death, or any witness to a killing, or a confession.
There was some blood on tissues in Hughes’s car that was possibly Melissa’s, but forensic testing at the time could only narrow the source down to 40% of the population. The fiber evidence, as detailed in the casefile, was solid, but all it proved was that Melissa had been in Hughes’s car. If they had tried to get him for murder, he most likely would have been acquitted.
So he was sentenced to 50 years for the kidnapping, but barring some unforeseen event in the next four months, he will be set free after just 29 years.
And before you start railing against stupid parole boards, this is not the parole board’s fault. The parole board has tried their best to keep him behind bars; they denied him twice. What is going to happen with Hughes is mandatory release, not parole. Per WaPo:
Under Virginia law before the abolition of parole, there are four classes of “good conduct allowances.” For particularly exemplary prisoners, 30 days of credit is given for every 30 days served, meaning a prisoner could cut their sentence in half…
Hughes has been in custody since January 1990, meaning he will have served 29 years and seven months if he is released in August 2019. That is about 54 percent of his total 54-year sentence, meaning Hughes must have been classified as an exemplary prisoner for much of his term.
: he’s been an exemplary prisoner and accumulated enough “good time” credits that they have to let him go. The law says so.
And before you start shouting about how we have to change this stupid law: it’s already been changed. But the change can’t be applied retroactively.
So Hughes is getting out and there’s no help for it. He will, I hope, get registered as a sex offender anyway, though the article has not said so.
Where’s Melissa, Caleb? He has no incentive to tell us, because they could still get him for murder if her body is ever found.
FINALLY got the wretched Hart case finished today, after weeks of researching and struggling to put the story together. The case summary is 3,200+ words, exceeding the Peter Kema casefile by over 1,000 words.
It was a challenge, trying to tell the story in such a way as to minimize confusion when there was so much going on, and so many lies told. While Jen and Sarah are abusing their three adopted kids in Minnesota, at the same time down in Texas three more kids who will be adopted by Jen and Sarah but whom they don’t know yet are being taken away from their biological mother. Etc.
And it’s such an awful story, just sheer horror and misery start to finish. The sadness behind those forced smiles. The tiny, scrawny kids, their limbs like sticks, hungry all the time because their mothers didn’t feed them.
And so many people, in so many parts of the country, screwed up. This is mostly on Jen and Sarah, but it wasn’t all them. They should never been permitted to adopt children, never mind a large number of kids from foster care. They should never been permitted to adopt the first set of kids after how they’d treated their foster daughter. They should never have been permitted to adopt the second set of kids when they had child abuse proven against them, and admitted by them. Once adopted, there was enough proof of abuse and neglect that the children should have been removed from their homes half a dozen times at least, over the years.
Devonte and his siblings did not have to die the way they did.
I have done my best for them.
I have been a very bad girl and neglected my missing persons of the week for the past two weeks. I have got one for this week though: Kristina Ann Perkins, a 21-year-old woman who disappeared from Phoenix, Arizona on September 10, 1975.
It sounds like her ex-husband was involved. Otherwise I don’t know why he’d tell her sister that they’d got in an argument and now she was dead. But he has not been charged and I don’t know who he is or if he’s even still alive. [Whoops, didn’t read the casefile properly, he’s dead. I am dumb.]
If she is alive today, Kristina would be 65 years old.
I am really having a hard time coming up with a decent summary of the Hart case. There’s a whole lot to unpack, even more so since the inquest, which is on YouTube in two parts, each lasting six hours.
There’s the crash itself: the car’s computer showing how it happened, how Jen had deliberately driven off the cliff, the location and identification of all the bodies (except Devonte of course), the fact that everyone except Jen had taken horrific amounts of Benadryl, Sarah’s internet searches showing she was in on it, etc.
And then there’s the background, the two adoptions, the various accounts of abuse and deprivation, the long term starvation of the children, the fact that the Hart women were able to adopt the second sibling group of kids WHILE CHILD ABUSE CHARGES AGAINST THEM WERE PENDING for beating the crap out of one of the kids they’d already adopted, the moves, the festivals, the homeschooling, Devonte’s viral photo in 2016, etc.
It’s such an incredible mess.
This will take awhile.
Everything at last weekend’s missing persons awareness event in Wisconsin went REALLY well. Even the one thing that didn’t go well, turned out to be more good than bad.
After an uneventful trip up there on Friday, I checked myself into a very nice hotel that I could never have afforded on my own. (A certain anonymous person covered the costs.) It had all sorts of plants, and a hot tub, and an open floor plan. Saturday morning, upon arising, I met up in the lobby of the hotel with one of the other people attending the event.
We sat at a table talking and I was lamenting about my makeup. I had forgotten to bring eyebrow pencil and had to make do with eyeliner and I thought it looked terrible, and he was telling me he couldn’t tell the difference.
Meanwhile, four or five stories up, a housekeeper accidentally bumped her cart into the rail of the balcony overlooking the lobby. This caused her clipboard to slide off the cart and over the rail, where it plummeted all those floors down right onto my friend and me. It missed me by a foot or so, but my friend took a direct hit.
He’d been drinking some Starbucks coffee when this happened, holding the cup to his lips, when the clipboard smacked him right there. If his hand hadn’t been over his mouth, and that cup hadn’t been made of cardboard instead of ceramic or something, he probably would have knocked a few teeth out. As it was he just sustained a small cut, and the coffee was of course a total loss.
In response to the two guests screeching in surprise, shouting the F-word, and then one guest jumping up on the table and staring up at the balcony, management and security came running. Profuse apologies were issued. Paperwork had to be filled out and photos taken of the little knick on my friend’s hand. CYA and all. The hotel announced that both our rooms were now free.
At the event itself, later that day, there was a very good turnout. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and got to talk to some awesome people.
Victoria Lynn Prokopovitz‘s daughters were both there; her daughter Marsha organizes these events and Marsha is an absolute sweetheart.
Amber Lynn Wilde‘s family showed up as they always do. I was talking a bit to her aunt, who was really happy to see me, about Amber’s case having been covered on CrimeWatch Daily.
Some of Kenneth Plaisted‘s relatives arrived; this was the first time they’d showed up to one of these things. His daughter explained to me that, although no one has seen Plaisted since 1971, he wasn’t actually listed as a missing person until 1998 or so, which is pretty horrifying. I can understand, given the whole embezzlement thing (see his casefile I linked to), the police thinking he’d just done a runner, but waiting 27 years to declare him missing is just lazy and uncaring.
My table was right next to the table for The Unidentified, and I had a fine time speaking to Rebekah Turner (a medical examiner in training who runs that organization) and her companions. They’re really great people. After the event was over, Rebekah, her friends and I went out to dinner.
My photos and some video from the event are on the Charley Project Facebook page; for some reason I can’t figure out how to link to the individual posts/images from there. I’m sorry.
I had an uneventful trip home but I haven’t been feeling very well, physically, since my arrival home. I think it was I got a bit overextended/overexcited. I am trying to force myself back on my regular schedule and to eat a bit more.