Vocabulary guidelines are subject to change

So there’s a case on the Charley Project where I talk some about the missing person’s brother (what particular case it is, isn’t important), and what he saw and heard on the day of the disappearance and in the days prior. He was a child at the time. I talk enough in the casefile about the brother that I had to refer to him by name. Let’s say I called him “Mark.”

Now, close to 20 years have passed since the MP vanished and someone is on trial for his murder. When I write about the trial in the casefile (I will update the case when the trial’s finished) I will have to talk about Mark and what Mark said, because Mark is a major witness at the trial. But Mark is now “Mary”, the MP’s transgender sister.

I really was not sure how to address this in the casefile so that I would not cause offense to anybody. Obviously, it will need to be pointed out in the casefile that Mark and Mary are the same person, and when accounts from years ago talk about the MP’s brother Mark, they mean the person who testified at the trial as his sister Mary.

But society is still learning how to talk about transgender people and I do not want to put the information out in the wrong way, with language that causes offense. I don’t want to unnecessarily upset anyone in what is already a very upsetting case.

(To give you an example of what I’m talking about: once I was on Reddit talking about some black people who had moved from another country to the US to live, and I called them “African-American”. By which I meant ”black”. I thought I was being polite to use this term, but my comment was downvoted to oblivion and I was yelled at by several other commenters and couldn’t figure out why. I asked a friend who is black what I did wrong, and she said black immigrants to the United States usually don’t want to be called African-Americans. I had not known this and thus, had caused offense. I grew up in Wonderbread-white land surrounded by Wonderbread-white people and believe I am very ignorant as to racial issues, though I am trying to learn.)

I wound up consulting a friend of mine, who is the mother of a transgender child. She, in turn, consulted her child, who said this: the first time I mention the MP’s sibling in the case summary, I should identify the person as the MP’s sister Mary, and include a note saying Mary is transgender and accounts from the time period her brother disappeared refer to her as the MP’s brother Mark. The trans position, my informant said, is that Mary was ALWAYS a girl, it’s just she happened to be mistaken for a boy.

Anyway, I decided to write this entry to (A) show people what I sometimes consider when writing casefiles and (B) educate people about how to talk about transgender individuals.

MP of the week: Rachel Anderson

This week’s featured missing person is actually a triple disappearance, or maybe a quadruple one depending on your point of view. Rachel Marie Anderson was last seen in Fulton, Mississippi on April 11, 2000, at the same time her brothers, Cameron and Kyle Anderson, and mother, Lesley Allen, also went missing.

Rachel was 13 at the time, Cameron was 12 and Kyle was 9. I don’t know Lesley’s age or description, though I do have some photos of her. Lesley was not reported missing.

Supposedly the family just vanished one day, leaving behind Lesley’s two older children, who both have mental disabilities. There’s been no sign of them since. In 22 years. No school or medical records transfers, no activity on any of their Social Security numbers, etc.

I think something terrible must have happened to them, but I have no idea what.

Rachel would be 36 today and her brothers would be 34 and 31. All the children are white, blonde and blue-eyed. Rachel has a strawberry birthmark on the left side of her face, Cameron wears glasses, and Kyle has a scar on his upper lip.

It’s a bizarre case and I wish it had gotten more attention.

Since I’m in Facebook Jail again, here’s the news

Facebook didn’t like a meme I posted — despite the fact that it’s elsewhere on Facebook — and gave me 30 days in jail. But then they changed their minds and decided the meme is okay after all, but forgot to remove my 30-day sentence. Shrug. It is what it is. Facebook is broken.

In California:

  • The biological parents of Classic and Cincere Pettus, later known as Orson and Orrin West, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state of California, alleging the state wrongfully removed the Pettus boys from a safe home and placed them with the people who have since been charged with their murders.

In Massachusetts:

In Michigan:

In Minnesota:

  • There’s a new podcast about the disappearance of Joshua Cheney Guimond, a St. John’s University student who disappeared from the university’s Collegeville, Minnesota campus in 2002.

In New Hampshire:

  • They’re still looking for Harmony Montgomery, and her father Adam’s lawyers have asked for police body cam footage of his arrest. Adam is charged with abusing Harmony prior to her disappearance, and with failure to report her missing. A little over a week ago the police searched Harmony’s old apartment and removed items, including a refrigerator. My guess would be they’re checking anything large enough to conceal a five-year-old child’s body.

In New York:

  • On this coming Saturday, the New York City Medical Examiner is holding an event to publicize missing persons in NYC. At the event, the ME’s office will accept “will accept any voluntarily shared information, like photos and DNA samples to help identify missing people.”

In South Carolina:

  • They interviewed the lead investigator in Shelton John Sanders‘s disappearance and presumed murder, asking him why they were unable to get convictions in that case. The investigator still thinks the suspect in guilty.
  • They have identified remains found at a recycling plant as Duncan Gordon, a missing man. He was last seen sitting on top of a shredding machine, and “a substance that looked like ground up flesh” was later found in that machine. Sounds awful; I hope it was quick. I’m predicting Gordon’s family files a lawsuit and OSHA hands out fines for this.

In Virginia:

In Washington state:

  • Othram has identified two more unidentified bodies: they are Blaine Has Tricks, who disappeared in 1977, and Alice Lou Williams, who disappeared in 1981. I know with Alice they got some help from the Charley Project; I know because the guy who owns Othram told me so.

In Canada:

  • They’re still looking for Vernon George Martin, who disappeared in 2009 after a fire at the airport hangar he co-owned. He could be missing or he could be on the run, as he’s wanted for sex offenses.

In New Zealand:

In the UK:

  • The father of Claudia Lawrence, who disappeared in 2009, died in February, and in his will he left £10,000 to a charity for missing persons.
  • They found Michael Anthony Lynch, a man who had been missing for 20 years. It appears he drove his car into Lough Erne, near Corradillar Quay, in Northern Ireland.

MP of the week: Tavish Sutton

This week’s featured missing person is Tavish Sutton, missing from Atlanta, Georgia since March 9, 1993. He was abducted from a hospital at the age of one month (less one day), while admitted for minor surgery. There are two possible suspects in the case, neither of whom have been identified.

There’s an excellent chance he’s alive and well out there and doesn’t know who he is or that he’s missing. But there are no actual photographs of him, and I have no idea how accurate the age-progression done in 2010 is.

One thing that might be used to identify Tavish (who would now be 29 years old) is a quarter-inch surgical scar on his buttock.

(Sorry this is a day late. Been sick.)

Things can always be worse

From Sunday to Tuesday I was down and out with a stomach upset. In between lying in bed groaning and making many many trips to the bathroom, I was reading a book about the African nation formerly known as Swaziland, renamed Eswatini a few years ago.

Now, I do not wish to get into a political discussion on here but due to some current events a lot of Americans right now are very concerned about political officials’ corruption and abuse of power. But I’m here to remind you that there are parts of the world where things can be a lot worse, and there’s a missing persons element to the story as well.

Twentyish years ago, an 18-year-old Swazi high school student didn’t return home from school one day. She’d been about to take her A levels (the university entrance/placement exams in the British education system; Eswatini is a former British colony) and planned to go to university and eventually become a lawyer. But then she was gone.

It turned out the king had decided he had a liking to her, and wanted to marry her. His way of proposing was to have some of his palace guards (goons) kidnap the girl off the street, force her into a vehicle and drive her to the royal compound.

Days passed before her family found out where she was and what had happened.

The girl’s mother (a single parent, dad had died) was extremely upset by this, as you might imagine, especially because her daughter was a minor (21 is the age of majority there) and the king had acted without consent from either mother or daughter. She actually went to the courts to try to get her child back, but the case didn’t go anywhere, because in Swaziland/Eswatini the king’s word is law. He’s an absolute monarch.

The kidnapping did not come out of nowhere. The king had previously expressed his interest in the girl, who did NOT want to marry this lout and be condemned to a life of (as the book I was reading put it) “luxurious tedium”. She and her mom contemplated leaving the country to avoid something like what wound up happening, but decided to stay after finding out that, per Swazi tradition, the king cannot marry a woman who’s a twin. This girl was a twin; she had a twin brother. So she thought: Whew, I’m safe.

Well, it turns out Swazi tradition is whatever the king says it is. And if he decides Swazi tradition will make an exception in this case, it will. Hence, the abduction and forced marriage. The eighteen-year-old Swazi girl became his tenth wife, all her career and education dreams gone.

I want to emphasize that this occurred in like 2001 or 2002. The same century in which we live now. It sounds straight-up medieval.

As bad as things have gotten here with corruption and abuses of power… I can walk safe in the street knowing no U.S. president will ever have his goons kidnap me and force me into marriage, and no U.S. court would ever let the president do it if he tried.

I don’t know what is wrong with some people

For a case I’m adding today, there’s going to be info about a woman who knowingly provided false information in a case. The story left me shaking my head in disgust.

This is hardly the first time a person has provided false information in a missing persons case, but usually there’s a reason that makes sense. Usually, the person who is lying is trying to protect themselves or somebody else.

In this case, however, this lady was not a suspect. In fact, there were no suspects. This case isn’t a crime as far as anyone knows: the guy disappeared while hiking alone in a national park. And then along comes this “witness” and her detailed story about seeing the missing man, and having a conversation with him about where he planned to go next in his hike.

Her false information derailed the search for the guy. The authorities estimate they spent over $17,000 and many, many hours looking for this missing man in the wrong place before they finally realized the witness was lying. Meanwhile, the poor missing man was, if still alive by this point, presumably lost or injured somewhere and not getting help.

I don’t know if this was an attention seeker or what. (If it was, she needs to go therapy or something and find out what made her do that.) But it’s absolutely disgusting.

She was charged with filing a false report, but reached a deferred prosecution agreement where she will pay back restitution and is banned from the park for five years. It doesn’t seem to be enough.

There are STILL fliers and stuff for this guy floating around on the internet with her fake sighting listed on them as the last time anyone saw or heard from this man.

MP of the week: Rita Papakee

This week’s featured missing person is Rita Janelle Papakee, who was last seen leaving a hotel in Tama, Iowa on January 16, 2015. Because she had a substance abuse problem and sometimes dropped out of sight, she wasn’t reported missing until February 18, over a month later.

Rita is Native American and an enrolled member of the Meskwaki Indian Nation. She’s described as brown-haired, brown-eyed, about 5’4 and anywhere between 145 and 200 pounds.

In spite of her drug and alcohol abuse issues, it would be uncharacteristic of her to be completely out of touch with her family, and they’re afraid she’d being held against her will.

I wonder if this is the same man or not

In 1960, a Jimmy Lavern Bushbaum, age 24, and his co-defendant, Arthur G. Jones, pleaded guilty to murder in San Bernardino, California and received life sentences. This is per the San Bernardino Sun’s September 30, 1960 issue:

In 1965, a Jimmy Laverne Bushbaum, age 29, disappeared from Sacramento County, California:

I’m pretty sure they are the same person. The age is right, the unusual name is almost right (I’m not going to quibble about Laverne/Lavern) and the disappeared Jimmy appears to bear a striking resemblance to the murderer Jimmy, though it’s hard to tell due to murderer Jimmy looking down in the photo instead of at the camera, and the photo not being of the greatest quality. The nose and ears look similar, anyway.

Now, “life” sentences tended to be a lot shorter in 1960 than they are now. Don’t quote me on this, but I think the average time actually served on a life sentence in those days was just seven years. I think it’s possible that Jimmy could have pleaded guilty and gotten a life sentence in 1960 and be a free man and able to disappear by 1965.

But I’m not sure. It’s also possible he disappeared by escaping from prison. Sometimes prison escapees who’ve been gone a very long time get registered as missing persons.

I’m going to add him to the Charley Project but I really hope I’m not adding someone who is a fugitive and not a missing person.

The Uvalde police are really bothering me

I’ve got nothing to say about their horrific bungling of the massacre in Uvalde that hasn’t already been said by someone smarter than me, really. But the lack of courage and empathy shown by those cops (who aren’t cooperating with the Texas state investigation into their failures, who have repeatedly made statements to the media that were later proven to be untrue, whose chief has said he won’t answer families’ questions till the families “quit grieving”), and the rampant dishonesty and impunity they’ve showed is very troubling to me.

Because my job kind of requires me to depend on the honesty of cops. Most of the information I get on the missing persons cases, comes from police. I don’t have much of a choice there.

So many times I’ve heard from families of missing people saying the cops don’t care, they tell untruths to the media about missing persons cases, the cops didn’t investigate the case and the family has had to do most of the legwork themselves.

I’m doing the best I can but I find myself sitting here wondering if I’m part of the problem too. And I don’t know how to fix it if I am.