The Charley Project at CrimeCon

So Michael and I arrived home from CrimeCon late Sunday night and immediately went to bed. Yesterday I basically spent all day recovering from the weekend; it was a thrilling but EXHAUSTING weekend. Today I had some appointments and so had to drive to those (an hour to and from) and also trying (successfully) to catch up on Charley Project social media and (unsuccessfully) trying to catch up on the emails. Tomorrow I plan to sit down and slam updates in.

So! CrimeCon. I’m so glad my wonderful husband joined me on this trip; in addition to being my emotional support human in the airport, he proved indispensable at the event itself. He came up with the ideas for most of the booth materials. We had:

  • A banner
  • A cardboard trifold display board from Dollar Tree with:
    • Materials about the Charley Project
    • An “about Meaghan” page
    • Some sample cases from the Austin area
    • A sign saying we were both vaccinated but would mask up on request
  • Free Charley Project merch:
    • Stickers saying “The Charley Project” in the same font/colors as on the logo on the site itself
    • Rubber wristbands in various colors saying “Charley Project” with the site URL
    • Business cards which you’ve seen on this blog before
  • Three binders to leaf through, with printouts in clear plastic sleeves:
    • “Our Story” with info about the Charley Project and its “employees” (aka me, our cats and the dog)
    • “Charley Project Cold Case Sample Book”; I tried to select a cross-section of the database
    • “Resolved Case Sample Book”; again, I tried to select a variety of resolved cases

Mom had been under the impression that we were going on a vacation or something, and was texting me being all like “So are you going to visit the Alamo?” And I was like “lol no.” In fact I don’t think either Michael or I ever left the hotel the entire time we were there. (Fortunately it was a super snazzy hotel.) We were far too busy.

So we set up the booth right after we arrived, and we hadn’t even finished setting it up when I was approached by a woman whose sister is on Charley; she wanted to thank me. Throughout the weekend Michael manned the booth, telling people about the Charley Project and offering our wares. I went back and forth between manning the booth and mingling, talking to people at the other booths and to CrimeCon guests and speakers.

As for the other presentations that were given at CrimeCon, though I had been interested in attending some of them, I went to exactly none of them. I spent all the time meeting people and talking to them about Charley and about the work the other people were doing.

I met loads of people, some of whom knew about the Charley Project, some of whom didn’t. I met quite a few people whose relatives were on my site. And our booth was situated right next to Gina DeJesus’s booth; the Cleveland kidnap survivor (who survived a carjacking also, just last month) has started her own organization, the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults, to assist families of missing persons. I didn’t see much of Gina herself but did speak for awhile to her cousin and I think her aunt also.

While I was at CrimeCon, another speaker informed me that Sally Ann Hines, whose body was recently identified, was identified by someone who saw her on the Charley Project and recognized her as the woman in the composite sketch of the woman whose head was found in a bag in a Louisiana swamp. Someone had even written an article about how the Charley Project had helped with the identification, but no one told ME about it… until CrimeCon!

At one point, Nancy Grace walked up to my booth and basically told me she used the Charley Project as a source a lot, was very impressed by my work and wants me to call her producer to make arrangements to be on her show. And then she wrote down the producer’s number and walked back to her own booth leaving me slightly stunned in her wake. Like “did that really just happen?”

(She doesn’t look at all like she does on TV; without all that makeup and what have you, she looks like an ordinary sixty-something woman. She was also much nicer in person than on TV. I suppose that whole Judge Judy like persona is just that, a persona.)

Despite making sure to get plenty of sleep on Thursday night and Friday night, by Saturday evening I was dead on my feet, and my presentation was first on the lineup for the next morning. Not wanting to make a complete disaster of the presentation, I wound up going to bed, without any dinner, at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. I didn’t wake up again till 7:00 a.m. We had to be checked out of the hotel by 11:00 a.m. and at the airport to catch our flight home by as soon as possible after that, so we were packing up and I was trying to make myself look good for my 9:00 a.m. presentation.

I had feared I would get tongue-tied and forget everything I was supposed to say, but fortunately the presentation went awesome!

I’m not sure how many people attended because there were all these bright lights on the stage and the audience was in darkness and I couldn’t really see anyone beyond the first row, but I know over 170 people had pre-registered. And basically I told everyone about who I was, and what the Charley Project was, and brought up a few cases from it that touched my heart (Peter Kema and Garnell Moore), and brought up several examples of cases that had been solved as a direct result of the Charley Project. (And I forgot to mention Sally Hines among the examples. Phooey. She wasn’t in the PowerPoint I made in advance for the presentation, cause, well, I didn’t know about her at the time.) My presentation got loads of applause and some people have told me it was the best one they saw at CrimeCon!

I am so happy I went. I met so many awesome people and had a great opportunity to share with others about how the Charley Project can help solve cases.

Now I suppose I need to call Nancy Grace’s producer. Her TV persona isn’t what I would choose for myself, but being on her show could really be a great opportunity to further get the word out there.

MP of the week: Kristian Justice

This week’s featured missing person is Kristian Dejuan Justice, age 7 months, who disappeared with his six-year-old half-sister, Kaylah Neveah Hunter, from Detroit, Michigan on May 24, 2014.

Kristian’s father is Erin Maurice Justice. (Kaylah has a different father.) Erin had been married to the children’s mother, Alicia Marie Fox, for only four months when the couple separated and Alicia moved out with both kids. June 6, nearly two weeks after the children were last seen, Kaylah missed her kindergarten graduation ceremony and their family reported Alicia, Kaylah and Kristian missing. On June 9, Alicia’s body was found in the basement of a vacant home in Detroit.

Erin was subsequently arrested in Atlanta and charged with murder in Alicia’s case. He had left town on May 29. Although Erin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 45 to 80 years, he never revealed what happened to the children.

Authorities can only hope that Kristian and Kaylah are still alive. There has been no indication of their whereabouts since 2014.