MP of the week: Brian Perlish

This week’s featured missing person is Brian Perlish, a 30-year-old man who disappeared from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 23, 1997. He was last seen leaving his residence. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other details about his disappearance.

I did find traces of pre-disappearance Brian in the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1984, when he was sixteen and attending Pennsbury High School, he was quoted in an article about students learning math by studying the size of pizzas ordered from various chains. They calculated the size of the round pizzas, in square inches, using the Pi R Squared formula, then divided this by the price to determine how much the pizzas cost per square inch.

Two years later, Brian was quoted in another article about a university employees’ strike at Temple University. It said he was a music major. He would probably have been a freshman at the time, based on his age.

Brian’s father died in 2015, and Brian is listed, without comment, as one of his children in the death notice. From the notice I learned he has three siblings, all of whom are married, and four nephews and a niece.

Alas, I have learned nothing about what happened with Brian going missing.

So, about Crime Junkie

Crime Junkie is a true crime podcast. I’ve never listened to it and have no intention of doing so, but they are very popular and they’ve been praised by Rolling Stone as “the best true crime podcast” out of the many in existence, and there’s talk that they may create a TV show.

Unfortunately, however, it turns out Crime Junkie has been plagiarizing other people’s hard work: other podcasters, journalists, bloggers, Wikipedia… and me too, as an informant pointed out on Twitter.

In response to being called out, including by people whose work was plagiarized, Crime Junkie went back and deleted some of the episodes. When asked about this, they refused to admit to anything at all, saying they’d only deleted the episodes because the original citations were no longer available.

The accusations broke out on Buzzfeed a week ago. The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis being the residence of one of the Crime Junkie hosts, Ashley Flowers) did an article about it yesterday. The Reluctant Habits blog has also done a good, if speculative, entry about it as well. And so on.

The response from Crime Junkie? Some kind of bull about how their research was “thorough, rigid and exhaustive” with “clear references to other sources.”

Then why are they reading other people’s work WORD FOR WORD, and not mentioning it’s an exact quote, or mentioning the other source AT ALL?

The Charley Project gets plagiarized all the time and it always upsets me because it’s wrong, it’s stealing, it’s lying, but I’m pretty used to it by now and recognize there’s no way to really stop it.

But it REALLY upsets me in cases like this because Crime Junkie is, they say, enormously popular and is making tens of thousands of dollars per episode. At one episode a week, those two women would be making a killing (no pun intended). And all of that from other people’s work. Journalists and other podcasters, and me, trying to make an honest living and contribute to society, having their hard work stolen by grifters.

Now, I talked to a friend and he thinks probably Crime Junkie isn’t nearly as popular or making as much money as Ashley Flowers and Brit Pawat claim. The Reluctant Habits blog raises the same issue, suggesting they fudged the numbers. And if Ashley and Brit really were making $50k a week, why did Ashley not quit her day job till early this year?

Regardless, they are making more than me, more than many of the people whose work they’re stealing.

Now, I don’t know if what Crime Junkie is doing is LEGALLY wrong, since you can’t copyright facts, and the Charley Project is very much “just the facts, ma’am.” But it’s definitely MORALLY wrong.

My terms of use, for Charley Project material, are very generous. Use what you like; all you have to do is cite me. It would have taken SECONDS to just say “courtesy of the Charley Project” or “we found this info in an exclusive series of Randomtown Newspaper articles by So-And-So.” To be using other people’s work, word for word, and not even mention it–that’s both lying and stealing.

Crime Junkie owes an apology to the people whose content they used without citations, and to their listeners. But they won’t even do that.

MP of the week: Maria Martinez

This week’s featured missing person is 17-year-old Maria De Los Angeles Martinez, who disappeared from Phoenix, Arizona on October 13, 1990. Her disappearance is similar to the 1974 disappearance of Margaret Fox: Maria advertised her babysitting services on the radio, a guy hired her for a job, and she went with him and was never seen again.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to learn much more about Maria’s disappearance. I’ve heard that her family was undocumented, which may explain why there was little news about her case. Of course, looking in the news for a particular person named “Maria Martinez”, particularly in Arizona, is like the proverbial needle in a haystack.

She would be 46 if she was still alive today. But I think she’s still 17.

Five (sorta) missing people in the wreckage of a crashed plane

So, if a plane crashes and they find the crash site but are unable to recover the bodies for whatever reason, I don’t usually consider those people to be missing, even by my quite generous definition. After all, their fate and the location of their remains is known.

But today, I added five people whose case fit those parameters: plane crash, wreckage found. I decided I could just about wedge the case within the Charley Project’s case requirements because, after the crash site was initially located, it vanished again. It moved.

I doubt that happens all that often, but this was in Alaska, the Land That Eats People.

A small plane carrying four Polish tourists and their pilot was on an aerial tour of Denali National Park when it hit the side of the mountain. This was at 11,000-foot elevation, on an unstable field of ice and snow. When park rangers found the site a few days later, the plane was embedded in snow right on the side of a cliff, as you can see in the photo accompanying this article. The fact that it’s gone now is not terribly surprising: shifting/melting ice and snow, wind, etc.

So anyway, the victims are now up on my site: the pilot, Craig Layson, from Michigan, and the four passengers: Janusz Intek, Maria Libacka, Kazimierz Miernik and Robert Sieniawski, all of them Poles. Rest In Peace. The mountain is their grave.

MP of the week: Charles Rutherford Jr.

This week’s featured missing person is Charles “Chuck” Rutherford Jr., a 34-year-old attorney who disappeared with his girlfriend, Lana Stempien, while they were boating on Lake Huron on August 11, 2005.

Rutherford and Stempien at the Presque Isle Marina in Presque Isle, Michigan, and planned to go to Mackinac Island, but never arrived. Their boat was found idling in the lake, ten miles off Mackinac Island, the next day. Two weeks later, Stempien’s body washed ashore. There was elevated carbon monoxide in her blood, but the cause of death was drowning.

In spite of some mutterings about foul play and things being “mysterious”, it looks to me like Rutherford was probably also the victim of an accidental drowning; there’s a theory that they went swimming and became overcome with fumes from the boat motor.

So, about competency for trial

After I shared an article on Charley’s Facebook page about how after years of psychiatric treatment and a second opinion, Catherine Hoggle is STILL mentally incompetent to stand trial in the murders of her children Sarah and Jacob, someone was asking questions about what it meant to be competent or incompetent to stand trial, so I thought I’d talk about that cause probably more than one person doesn’t know.

Basically, in order to face a criminal trial in the U.S. you have to be mentally capable of defending yourself. The barrier to this is not very high; you can have low intelligence and be severely mentally ill and still be competent to stand trial.

You have to know the basics of what a trial is, and the roles of everyone involved: the state says you broke X Law, the prosecutor is against you, the defense attorney is for you, the judge makes sure the trial is fair and legal, the witnesses tell what they know and the jury decides if you are in fact guilty of breaking X Law. A child could be made to understand these things.

You also have to be capable of working with your defense, and this part is what causes problems for people like Catherine Hoggle, who is incompetent to stand trial because of her mental illness.

Now, Catherine has schizophrenia and every psychiatrist who has tested her competency over the last few years, including the one the government recently hired for a second opinion on the matter, agrees she is not competent to stand trial but with treatment could become competent in the future. (She has recently been prescribed Clozapine, the last-resort Holy Grail of antipsychotic drugs which can work wonders for treatment-resistant schizophrenia.)

Speaking hypothetically here, if you are very intelligent and understand the mechanics of a trial and the roles of everyone involved, but you have a severe schizophrenic delusion that your defense attorney is actually an alien from the Planet Zog who only wants your brain for the Zog beings’ Museum of Humanoid Anatomy and will suck out your brain through your esophagus if you so much as part your lips in the attorney’s presence, obviously this is going to present severe problems in building your defense. If you genuinely believe your defense attorney is not actually on your side and only wants to steal your brain for alien naturalists to gawk at in a museum, you’re not going to be able to work with your attorney to come up with a defense in your upcoming murder trial. And the Constitution says the government can’t put you on trial if you are incapable of defending yourself.

So in order to make you competent, the government puts you in a secure psychiatric facility and has psychiatrists and therapists and other mental health clinicians treat you in hopes that you will eventually become well enough to cast aside the whole “Planet Zog wants my brain” delusion at least in part. The goal is just to get you to be able to talk to your defense and assist them in whatever strategy they’re going to use to defend you, and to know what’s going on with the trial and potential consequences.

So that’s my TED Talk on mental fitness for trial. Hope you found it illuminating.