All the conspiracy theorists in the Gabby Pettito case are driving me mad

So social media can be a blessing AND a curse, and I think in the Gabby Pettito case it’s mainly turned out to be a curse. People who don’t know anything keep speculating, pulling all sorts of ideas out of their rear ends. There’s a reason I don’t normally hang around web-sleuthing and true-crime forums and Facebook groups and so on because this happens a lot in those places and I find it infuriating.

Back in the days when such talk was confined to one’s immediate social circle in the physical world (the breakfast table, coworkers, your friend group), it was pretty much harmless. But online, it is not necessarily harmless and I think the speculation in Gabby and Brian’s case is a pretty good example of the harm it can cause.

For example, during the time Brian was missing, Internet mobs were harassing men whose only crime was that they bore some vague physical resemblance to him. Armchair quarterbacks were claiming that Brian’s parents must have him hidden in a bunker under their backyard and when his mom appeared to be gardening she was actually passing food and stuff down to his bunker. People were protesting outside Brian’s parents’ house and some rando sued his parents for $40 for absolutely no reason I can determine.

This all kind of reminds me of when the Internet (for some reason) decided the furniture company Wayfair was trafficking children through their website, listing kids for sale in disguise as overpriced cabinets. Internet mobs were actually harassing minor children who had returned home after being missing for a period, to the point where one poor girl went on Facebook Live to say she was alive and well and with her family and had not been trafficked and was begging people to stop this nonsense as it was ruining her life.

And now that Brian has been found, the Internet mobs who had seemed so dedicated to solving the case themselves now suddenly don’t want it to be solved and try to keep coming up with reasons why the remains that were identified as him could not be him.

It’s like these people think that this is a fascinating Netflix series, and now it’s over and they don’t want it to be over and are desperately trying to come up with excuses to carry on with another season of the Gabby and Brian Mystery Show. I am really hoping that Gabby and Brian’s respective families and friends are staying offline at the moment and don’t read any of the garbage that’s being spouted. Stuff about fake teeth, fake remains, substituted dental records, all sorts of conspiracies are being made up out of thin air.

But this isn’t Netflix. This is real life. And this is a very sad but very familiar story of a domestic abuser who killed his partner and then, probably, himself. It’s a story that happens every day all around the world and frankly I don’t understand why Gabby and Brian’s particular tragic saga has captivated so many people.

Honestly, I think the reason behind a lot of conspiracy theories is that people want to feel like they’re smarter than everybody else, even the experts. Like there’s some big secret thing going on that only they know about, so they get sucked into believing the most ridiculous things.

I certainly don’t mind if a person has legitimate good-faith questions that can be answered. Like, when I don’t know something, I look it up or I ask someone who knows.

Some people have asked why dental records were used in the identification and not DNA. Answer: dental records are much faster and cheaper than using DNA, and so that’s what’s usually done unless either the records or the decedent’s teeth are unavailable. Others have asked why only partial remains were located. Answer: probably his body had been lying in that nature preserve for weeks, maybe over a month, and animals would nibble on bits and take away pieces to eat.

But those people who ask the questions, then flatly dismiss your answers and laugh in your face and go chasing after some completely implausible story they made up themselves, I cannot stand that. Either you want to learn, or you don’t, you know?

If you DO want to learn, I have some recommendations of books on the topics of forensic science and domestic violence that you guys might find interesting. I have read all of these books myself and found them both interesting and educational.

On forensic science, I recommend (in no particular order):

  1. Sue Black’s Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind and All That Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes
  2. Richard Shepherd’s Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain’s Top Forensic Pathologist
  3. Malcolm Dodd and Beverley Knight’s Justice for the Dead: Forensic Pathology in the Hot Zone
  4. Stefan Timmermans’s Postmortem: How Medical Examiners Explain Suspicious Deaths
  5. Colin Evans’s Blood On the Table: The Greatest Cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  6. Ryan Blumenthal’s Autopsy: Life in the Trenches with a Forensic Pathologist in Africa
  7. Zakaria Erzinclioglu’s Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist
  8. Cynric Temple-Camp’s The Cause of Death: True Stories of Death and Murder from a New Zealand Pathologist

On domestic violence I recommend:

  1. Rachel Louise Snyder’s No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
  2. George Lardner’s The Stalking of Kristin: A Father Investigates the Murder of His Daughter

(Incidentally, if you read a lot like me and you have a smart phone I highly recommend Scribd. It’s a reading app kind of like Amazon’s Kindle, and provides you with unlimited access to Scribd’s large, regularly updated library of books for just $10 a month. It has a wide selection of books, including academic type books that cost a lot of money to buy, and including some of the books I listed above. You can read as many as you like for just the flat $10 fee. For me, it’s more than paid for itself.)

MP of the week: Cecil Baker

This week’s featured missing person is Cecil O. Baker, a 47-year-old man who disappeared from Barbourville, Kentucky on May 1, 2011. He’s described as white with sandy brown hair and brown eyes, between 5’10 and 6’0 tall and 185 to 200 pounds. He had a few tattoos, one of which I have a photo of (though I don’t think that tattoo was finished in the photo; it isn’t filled in, it’s just an outline).

When Baker went missing he said he was going to visit his daughter in Michigan. He never arrived there and it isn’t clear whether he even made it out of Kentucky. His car has never been found. It’s a 1994 Geo Metro and would probably stand out due to its lime green color. It had the license plate number 474CDH.

I did find this 2020 article about Baker’s disappearance, but it doesn’t have anything new. It doesn’t look like there have been any leads in the case in a long time.

Olisa Williams’s dad charged with murder

I’ve been pretty sure Olisa Williams‘s dad killed her for a decade and a half now. Like, since before the Charley Project was ever even a thing. I never expected the case to actually get solved, though.

Well, 39 years after the fact, Isiah Williams has finally been charged with one count of open murder. “Open murder” doesn’t mean he committed the crime in public or anything. It just means they aren’t picking a specific degree of murder, like first- or second-degree murder.

The Michigan Attorney General did a press conference about the case and another, unrelated case, an hour ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot that’s publicly available about the case against Isiah. It does say Olisa’s body has not been recovered. I’m not sure there’d be anything left of the poor baby by this point. (The comments at the bottom of the press conference link aren’t about Olisa’s case but about the other one being discussed. Plus some bonus homophobia thrown in.)

I hope the case processes through the system quickly. Isiah is not getting any younger.

MP of the week: Shannon Hawkins

This week’s featured missing person is Shannon Marie Hawkins, a 35-year-old woman who was last seen in St. Johns, Florida on July 31, 2010. She’s white, 5’5 tall and weighed 135 pounds at the time of her disappearance. Her hair and eyes are naturally brown but at the time she went missing, her hair was dyed auburn.

It sounds like Shannon may have taken her own life. She has a history of suicide attempts due to depression, and was apparently in a crisis at the time she went missing, since she had placed a call to a mental health hotline the night before. In her diary she’d written that she wasn’t sure she would live to see her 36th birthday.

If suicide was what happened, though, her body has never been found.

Shannon would be 46 if she is still alive today. She left behind two children and a husband.

Your latest issue of “why does this always happen to me”

I got an email from a lady about an old case, early 1980s. She was a bit confused cause she’d known the MP and the Charley Project said his car didn’t turn up for ten years, but she had heard about it’s being located just a few months after he went missing.

I went back and investigated and discovered a rotten bit of luck and an important lesson. Newspapers.com had several versions of the same article about the man’s disappearance, all written years after the fact. ONE of these multiple versions of the article had a small typo, giving the time the man’s car was found as October 1992. In fact the car was found in October 1982.

And of course of all the articles I used when researching the case for the write-up, I had to pick the one with the typo.

Whoops.

Note to self: in future, when possible try to compare articles against each other, even if all the articles appear to be exactly the same.

On the plus side, my disorder is starting to swing back out of depression so there’s that.

MP of the week: Eulace King

This week’s featured missing person is Eulace King, a 29-year-old man who disappeared from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 3, 2003. He visited his mom’s house that day and I guess no one was home or something, so he left a note saying he’d been there. Twelve days later his car was found abandoned in Philadelphia. It had been wiped clean of fingerprints, which seems ominous.

Eulace is described as black, 6’0 and 155 pounds, with pierced ears, cataracts in his right eye, and quite a few tattoos, the description of which is detailed in his casefile. I don’t have much on this case but it doesn’t look good, given his uncharacteristic lack of contact for the past 18 years.

I hope everyone is doing well. I’m still pretty depressed and having a hard time getting anything done. Just moving sometimes takes a conscious effort.

So this has just hit the news

A woman has come forward claiming she’s Brittany Williams. She does not have HIV and has never had it. What she does have is DNA which, per the article, has already been tested against Brittany’s sister and confirmed the match.

I first heard about this last week and have been patiently waiting for the news to cover it. Well, now they have.

I await official confirmation from the cops. That’s really all I have to say on this at present. If you’re going to comment please read the article I linked to.

I wish someone (not me) would take a look at these people

I listen to Small Town Murder every week and last week’s episode (that is, the most recent one) was about a whole family of, basically, serial killers. Two generations of people, traveling around the country with little kids (the third generation), robbing and murdering everywhere they went. The primary offenders were Sherman Ramon McCrary, his son Dennis Taylor and his son-in-law Carl Taylor; their wives and the grandkids were just along for the ride. I think the oldest of the grandkids was only like six years old or so, so not in a position to stop what was going on or tell anyone about it.

They liked to target small businesses where women were working alone; they had a particular fondness for donut shops. They would rob the business (usually not getting much cash), abduct the women, take them to some out-of-the-way spot, rape them, kill them and dump the bodies. (The wives were present, and aware of what was going on, but didn’t do anything to stop it. Love, they said.) The family is believed to have been responsible for 23 deaths. At least, that’s how many they could tie to one particular gun. They were finally caught in 1971.

The podcasters, and I also, think it’s likely the family could be responsible for other murders besides those 23. I have to wonder if they could be responsible for any of the cases on the Charley Project.

On the face of it, it seems unlikely cause these people didn’t make much of an effort to hide the bodies of the people they’d killed. For example, in the murder of Leora Rose Looney, the only one they were actually charged with, they just dumped her in a field without attempting burial or anything like that.

But I think it’s not impossible that they’ve killed people who haven’t been found, and possibly people who have been found but haven’t been identified. Someone ought to look into this. Like, track the family’s road trip across the country, and check for news articles wherever they were at, to see if anyone has disappeared or turned up murdered.

From what the podcast said, only Carl Taylor and his wife are still alive, and Carl is in his eighties (and still in prison; the wife turned state’s evidence and wasn’t kept locked up long). So there isn’t a lot of time left here.

So… Websleuths? Anyone?

I hope everybody is doing okay. I’m not doing okay. Bipolar is bipolar, and even while stable and on meds I find myself having downswings. Right now my depression level is pretty bad and it’s really hard to get anything done. I just want to sit in bed and watch stupid YouTube stuff all day. For this past weekend that’s pretty much all I did, and it didn’t help. It never does.

I saw my therapist today and spent most of our allotted time ranting about how selfish everyone in the world is. But the world was just as selfish earlier this month when I wrote “I am very happy and satisfied with my current life circumstances.” I know it’s just the chemicals in my head acting up and it’ll pass, but that doesn’t do anything for my current emotional pain.

I forced myself to put in a small update today but it was very difficult for me. I’m still having trouble with WordPress. I had fixed the earlier glitch by resetting my browser to its default settings; well, every time I change the settings, I have to reset them to default again before I can update. Logged out of everything I’m in, no browser extensions going, etc. And I kind of liked the (non-default) settings I had and would like to keep them. But that’s technology; it is mysterious to me.

MP of the week: Justine Flynn

This week’s featured missing person is Justine Gabrielle Flynn, a 21-year-old woman who was last seen on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California on September 9, 1982. She’s described as white, with brown hair and brown eyes, though her only available photo leaves a lot to be desired. She was wearing a purple sweater, loose black pants and flat black shoes with a strap. No scars, tattoos etc. are noted.

I have written a great deal on this blog about Golden Gate Bridge disappearances. Many of them are presumed to be suicides, but I don’t know very much about the circumstances of Justine’s case. Just that she was last seen there.