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.

MP of the week: Carol Norton

This week’s featured missing person is a very old one, 54 years old in fact: Carol Frances Norton, missing from El Cerrito, California since June 2, 1965. Unfortunately the only photos I have of her are from the mid-fifties, about ten years earlier.

What happened to Carol is pretty much established, and I think if it had happened today, her husband Harvey would probably have been charged with her murder. The mystery is where is her body is. It looks like it could be anywhere between Oregon (where Harvey said they parted ways) and Corpus Christi, Texas (where his bloodstained car was found abandoned).

Orville has returned, and I was on a podcast

Hi all! I was finally able to pick up Orville this morning. I had thought I would be able to do it Saturday, but they still weren’t done with him by closing time, and the shop was closed Sunday. But now I have him back and I’m adding updates as fast as I can.

Also, I was interviewed for the Victimology podcast! Check it out on your favorite podcast app or here on your browser.

The end is in sight

Per Computer Guru Jamie, the new motherboard has finally arrived at the shop, and Jamie and the techs are working on installing it in Orville. I assume this involves a soldering iron but I have idea.

I am soooo looking forward to getting the computer back. I actually get super depressed when I don’t work on Charley for awhile. Which I know is a bit ironic, given the content of the site, but *shrug*

News from the shop about Orville

So Computer Guru Jamie just called and they WILL have to replace the motherboard, as I had thought. Either that or upgrade the entire system, as the computer is now five years old.

I told Jamie to order the new motherboard. He says it should come in by the end of the week. It’ll be expensive but far less so than a new system, and definitely worth it to me.

I miss Orville. Since I was eight years old, one PC or other has been my lifeline. Of course my iPhone is a marvel of technology and can do many of the same things, and indeed some things Orville can’t do, but it’s not the same.

I appreciate everyone’s patience and support.