Michael update

Michael is recovering pretty well. He’s lost a ton of weight and has a new “heart-healthy” diet full of such oddities as “dry toast” for breakfast and “a cup of soup with low-sodium crackers” for dinner. Zounds.

He’s taking a bunch of new medications and has appointments with some specialists. He plans to go back to work full time on Monday. (He had started part time Thursday.)

Interesting evidence released in Margaret Fox case

Today the police released an interesting phone recording related to the unsolved 1974 disappearance of Margaret Ellen Fox, a fourteen-year-old girl who disappeared 45 years and one day ago from Burlington, New Jersey, after going to meet with a man who said he wanted to hire her to babysit.

After her disappearance was reported, the police tapped Margaret’s parents’ phone in hopes that someone would call with information or a ransom demand or whatever. Someone did, a man who said, “Ten thousand dollars might be a lot of bread, but your daughter’s life is the buttered topping.”

That caller has never been identified, and the police held back all that info — the fact that they recorded calls, the call itself, all of it — until today, forty-five years later.

You can listen to the clip here. It’s very short: that sentence, followed by someone else saying “Who is this?” I am not sure — and perhaps the police are being deliberately vague here — whether that’s the entire call and the caller then hung up, or whether that’s not the whole call but it’s all they were able to catch on tape, or whether there’s more to the call that they decided not to release.

I posted articles about this on the Charley Project Facebook page, and a few commenters groused about the cops waiting 45 years to release the recording.

However, to that I have to say two things:

  1. The internet barely existed at all in 1974 and social media was not a thing yet, so it would have been harder for the police to disseminate the recording to the public even if they had wanted to.
  2. The phrasing used by caller is unique, and the police would have been able to use it to screen out false confessors — but ONLY if the exact words in the call were kept a secret from everyone except the investigating officers and, perhaps, Margaret’s parents. If the police had released this recording at the time they got it, they would have lost that critical advantage.

Now, about the call itself.

For those who are unaware, The word “bread” is or was occasionally used as slang for “money”. (The Oxford English Dictionary finds the first usage in 1935 and notes it may be criminal slang.)

The call sounds a little rehearsed to me. It sounds like something a character in an action movie might say, not someone in real life, and when you actually analyze the statement, it doesn’t even really make sense. (Obviously the guy meant “$10,000 is a lot of money but your daughter’s life should be worth more to you” but buttered topping is no good without any bread to put it on, so his analogy just falls apart.)

I think whoever made that call thought up that phrase ahead of time, trying to sound impressive.

Which doesn’t, of course, mean that the call WASN’T from someone with knowledge of the case. The police obviously think there’s a good chance that it was, or they wouldn’t have made a big deal of releasing this recording.

I hope this leads to something, anyway. The abductor could very well be deceased, but if at the time of Margaret’s abduction he was under, say, forty years old, he could also still be alive. And even if the abductor is dead, perhaps he told someone Margaret’s fate before his passing. When people get old they often start to fear eternal judgment.

MP of the week: Letitia Regans

This week’s featured missing person is Letitia Nuchelle Regans, a 29-year-old woman who disappeared from St. Louis, Missouri on November 16, 2006.

Unfortunately I don’t know squat about the circumstances of her disappearance; it’s a “few details are available” case. I’ve got a description of her clothes, and a tattoo, and that’s it.

If she is still alive, Letitia Regans would be 42 years old today. She’s been missing twelve and a half years.

One murder trial ends while another begins

Brendt Christensen has been convicted of the murder of 26-year-old doctoral student Yingying Zhang, whose body has never been found.

Of course Yingying’s Charley Project casefile has the basics. I also recommend this Washington Post article, which links to a partial transcript of the trial. And there’s plenty of other news articles about this available.

There remains the punishment phase: LWOP, or the death penalty? (The state of Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but because Brendt was tried in federal court he can be executed.) The defense’s primary objective, as they said from the outset of the trial, is to save Brendt from the death penalty. I have a hard time imagining how they’re going to accomplish this.

Given the recorded confession and the blood found at Brendt’s apartment, the defense in this case is waging an uphill battle with a 50mph wind in their faces. But even so, their argument strikes me as pathetically weak: Brendt totally isn’t a vile human being and would-be (or, perhaps, actual) serial killer, not at all! He only kidnapped, raped, murdered and decapitated a complete stranger because he was depressed and flunking out of college and felt like a failure!

To which I say: SO WHAT? Lots of people are depressed. I’ve been depressed since I was in middle school. Lots of people flunk out of college. Most people feel like a failure at some point in their life. That isn’t an excuse to go out and murder some poor woman you don’t even know.

In other news, yesterday John Bayerl’s murder trial began in Wisconsin (which happens to be Brendt Christensen’s home state). John’s wife, DonaMae, disappeared in 1979 and was never seen again. Suspicion hovered over him for decades before he was finally arrested early this year.

I’m a bit surprised they’re going to trial so quickly; in most murder cases (as in Yingying’s) years pass between arrest and trial. But John is 79 and not getting any younger; I suppose he’s hoping they’ll acquit him and he can return to his retirement home in Florida and die on a beach instead of in jail.

John is another absolute turd and I firmly believe he killed his wife. I just hope the prosecution can prove it.

Some things

  1. Michael was released from the hospital today, having dumped 25 pounds of fluid that was backed up around his heart. (No wonder he was having trouble breathing.) He will have to make some dietary and lifestyle changes and take some medications and maybe ease up on working so many hours, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
  2. June 16 was the tenth anniversary of the rape. And I… forgot about this entirely. It wasn’t until like two days later that suddenly that fact popped into my head. For me, that’s recovery.
  3. I’m thinking of making a new category of missing persons listed on the Charley Project: migrants who disappeared while trying to cross the border illegally through the desert. Most of them are kind of assumed to have died out there, but a lot of times there’s no hard evidence of that.
    I would like some feedback from Charley Project users: should I make this new category for the migrants, or should I just keep putting them in “endangered missing” or “lost/injured missing” like I’ve been doing? (Part of the reason I was thinking of making a category just for them is because I’ve never made up my mind whether they should be in endangered missing or lost/injured missing.)
    I’d like it if you put your about this opinion in the comments.

Wanted to refer everyone to this article

Charley Project Facebook user Michelle S. found this article about the 1987 disappearance of Ronald Oquilluk (who was not on Charley) and how he was identified over thirty years after he went missing. It’s a very good article and there’s a bit at the bottom about the recent identification of missing hunter Patrick Chambers.

Oquilluk’s case reminds me of the 2016 disappearance of Walter Hawk, another Native Alaskan man with special needs who wandered into the wilderness and never came back. What’s particularly frustrating in Hawk’s case is that searchers actually saw him in the days after he went missing, just hoofing it across the tundra, but apparently they weren’t able to get his attention. So close, yet so far.

I’ll say it again: Alaska eats people.

Oquilluk’s remains were found a full 450 miles from where he was last seen, and I wonder whether Hawk wandered as far as that. He disappeared during the summertime, and if he knew how to live off the land he might have been able to survive for an extended time period.

Followup

So Michael is still in the hospital and they’re thinking he will be until Monday. There’s a lot of fluid backed up around his heart that they’re trying to flush out.

They’re saying his is a mild case. They think chances are he caught some kind of virus last winter and it lay in wait for a few months and then decided to start kicking his butt. If the congestive heart failure was caused by a viral infection — which is usually the case with younger patients like Michael — he can make a full recovery.

My own father developed severe congestive heart failure out of nowhere six or seven years ago, and they were predicting he’d die or at least need a transplant, but then he inexplicably got better just as quickly and mysteriously as he’d gotten sick, and his cardiologist called him a medical miracle. They think Dad’s CHF was also caused by a virus.

I saw Michael today and he looks and feels a lot better, though he’s tired and spends most of his time sleeping. He was chronically sleep deprived anyway, and this whole “sleep sitting up” thing the last several weeks hasn’t helped. While at the hospital I signed papers to be his medical proxy if necessary.

meandmike

Our friends have been awesome, helping both of us out a lot. They were worried about me but I’m doing fine actually. He’s in the hospital, he’s where he needs to be, and he’s getting better. There’s nothing more I can do for him at this point, besides visit, and I’m doing that.

I think our pets are confused by Michael’s absence. Our one cat, Carmen, keeps wandering around looking in all the rooms and I swear she’s looking for him.