Hope everyone is doing okay out there

Hi all. Hope y’all are doing okay and are in good health. Michael and I are doing well, though it’s getting hard to stave off depression. I never went to many places, but the fact that now I basically never leave the house at all is getting to me. On top of worrying about Michael possibly getting infected at his job. But I know a lot of other people are worse off.

Recently I read an interesting book called The Origins of AIDS. It was extremely interesting and all the little connections, the butterfly-effect stuff of what happened, was astounding to me. At around 1910 a hunter in sub-Saharan Africa cut himself while killing or butchering a chimp, some of the chimp’s blood got in the cut, and a century later 30 million people are dead. And there were a lot of events that happened in the intervening years, and if even one of them hadn’t happened as it did, the history of AIDS would be much different now.

Stay safe, everyone. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. No one should consider themselves immune from COVID-19. Something like 15-20% of the people who have died were under 65, and around 10% had no underlying illnesses at all. That doesn’t even count the people who only survived by the skin of their teeth after a stint in ICU. Coronavirus is insanely unpredictable; a 108-year-old woman survived while a healthy five-year-old did not.

On the bright side, a Chinese man who was abducted in 1988 has been reunited with his parents after 32 years.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Alexandria Suleski

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Alexandria Christine Suleski; her father is white and her mom is Korean. She disappeared from Radcliff, Kentucky on October 26, 1989, at the age of five.

What happened to her is known, and two people were convicted, but I don’t think it’s possible to recover her remains: supposedly the bones were crushed to crumbs.

I updated her case recently after reading Alexandria’s stepsister Nyssa’s self-published memoir, Dark Secret: The Complete Story: The True Account of What Happened to Little Alex Suleski. For a self-published book it’s pretty good, and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited. (Though you might want to skip the last hundred pages or so; the post-trial stuff dragged on and on and on.)

The book describes in vivid detail what life with Nyssa’s sociopathic mother was like, how her mother ultimately tortured and murdered Alex because she kept having potty accidents, and how Nyssa ultimately turned against her mother and testified against her in court.

Poor Alex was let down by every adult in her life. The best that can be said is that after her death, her siblings were all raised by good people, and her killers are both still in prison.

Incidentally, Alex was also a family abduction victim: her dad told her mom he was just taking her and her sister on a vacation, but never returned them, and within two months Alex was dead.

This is just to say…

Norman Zierold’s book about the abduction of Charley Ross, which I read under its original title of Little Charley Ross, is on sale today under a new title Defy All The Devils, for $1.99 on Kindle. I read the book years ago and enjoyed it very much.

I just thought I’d mention this in case any of y’all want to get a copy.

Darron Glass revisited

So I just finished reading this book about the unsolved 1980 disappearance of Darron Glass, the only presumed Atlanta Child Killer victim who is still missing. I’ve written about Darron on this blog twice before.

The book is self-published and more of a booklet than a book, only 28 pages long in large type. Normally I wouldn’t have bothered with it, but it was written by Thomas Bailey, who was Darron’s foster care caseworker at the time of his disappearance, so I thought it might have some insights. It did.

Bailey says much of what has been reported about Darron is wrong. His foster mother, Fannie Mae Smith, was interviewed by the media and described him as “immature but streetwise.” However, Bailey says Darron was in fact mentally disabled, and that his IQ had tested at 65, and he “was in no way streetwise.” Smith claimed Darron, or someone claiming to be him, called her on the day of his disappearance, but Bailey doesn’t believe Darron called or even knew his foster home’s phone number.

I’m not sure what to make of this information. Certainly I’m going to put the info about Darron’s mental disability on his Charley Project profile, but I don’t think his low IQ necessarily means Smith didn’t know what she was talking about.

An IQ in the 60s indicates a mild mental disability. According to some research I did, most people with IQs in that range function relatively normally. They can take care of themselves in terms of stuff like bathing and dressing and keeping their living area clean and so on. They can conform socially and they can acquire reading and math skills up until around the sixth-grade level. With some support, they can usually work a job and live independently as adults.

With this in mind, and given that Darron grew up in inner city Atlanta and had a rough life (per Bailey, Darron’s father murdered his mother in front of him), I can totally see him presenting as “immature but streetwise” to most people. If anyone is in a position to speak about children with mild mental disabilities, I’d be happy to hear it.

Bailey has more to say. Fannie Mae Smith’s foster home, he says, was very unsuitable, both for a mentally disabled child and for kids in general; in fact, he says, “How this home became certified is a mystery to me.” He says there were often “people of questionable character” in the home, and suspicion of drug use and even drug selling. Bailey says he had raised concerns about the placement with his supervisor but was ignored.

Per Bailey, he was informed of Darron’s disappearance on September 15, the day after it happened. That same day, he got a call from a woman who identified herself as Darron’s sister. Darron did have a sister whom he wasn’t in contact with, and Bailey wasn’t sure how she would have gotten his number.

The caller said she lived out of state and wanted to adopt Darron. Bailey told her Darron was missing, and she ended the conversation without leaving any contact info, and did not call back.

Bailey started getting anonymous calls saying if he would give the caller money, the caller would disclose Darron’s whereabouts. He says it was always a child’s voice, “maybe a young boy with adult voices in the background.” He told the police about the calls and they put a tap on his phone. Nothing seems to have come of it.

Bailey does not believe Wayne Williams was the Atlanta Child Killer, or at least that if he was a killer, he did not kill all the victims lumped under the Atlanta Child Killer case. (I agree.) He also thinks Darron was probably not murdered at all.

Bailey’s theory is that Darron’s sister was in contact with Fannie Mae Smith and that there was some kind of plan for the sister to take Darron, and that she did so on the day Darron disappeared, and that Darron is alive and well today.

He has a lot of criticism for both the Department of Family and Children Services, and the Atlanta Police Department, and thinks the police were too quick to dump Darron in the pile of serial killer victims instead of actually looking for him.

77 years ago today

Another Executed Today entry by me, this one about the massacre of 3,500 Jews in Zloczow, occupied Poland on July 3, 1941.

My biggest source for this entry is the wonderful diary by Ephraim Sten, 1111 Days in My Life Plus Four. It is, hands down, the greatest Holocaust diary I’ve ever read, and I’ve read EIGHTY of them. It’s beautifully written and tells a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat story.

Ephraim was a thirteen-year-old Jewish boy and he was not present at the massacre, but his father was and miraculously survived it. For awhile, anyway — his father’s health was ruined by the physical and mental trauma and he died later that year. Ephraim and his mom survived the war, hidden by some Ukrainian Catholic heroes.

A murder-without-a-body case out of Britain/India

Last night I read a book called Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for Justice, by Sarbjit Athwal, describing the “honor killing” of her sister-in-law, Surjit, and the subsequent missing persons investigation and eventual prosecution of two of the people involved: Surjit and Sarbit’s mother-in-law, Bachan Kaur Athwal, and Surjit’s husband, Sukhdave Singh Athwal.

What it amounted to, basically, is that the Athwal family were very conservative Sikhs living in Britain, and Bachan Kaur had a high reputation in the community as a very devout woman. In fact, within the family she was an absolute tyrant and her sons were terrified of her, to say nothing of her daughters-in-law. When Surjit wanted a divorce from her abusive husband, Bachan Kaur decided she couldn’t have her daughter-in-law shaming the family like that.

So she convinced Surjit to go on a trip to India with her to attend a family wedding. When they were in India, some goons Bachan Kaur had hired drugged Surjit, kidnapped her, strangled her, removed her gold jewelry and dumped her body in the river. It was never found — at least as far as anyone knows. That particular river runs into Pakistan, which doesn’t have the greatest relationship with India, and corpses dumped in from India tend to wash up in Pakistan and never get identified.

Sarbjit Athwal had been at the family meeting where Bachan Kaur announced what she was going to do, and she called the police with an anonymous tip hoping they would stop Surjit leaving for India, or rescue her once she arrived, but the police did…nothing. After Surjit “disappeared”, Sarbjit wrote the police an anonymous letter describing exactly what had happened, in great detail, and the police did…nothing. Then she confided in her sister, who went to the police and gave a statement, and they did…nothing. And so on.

Sarbjit was too afraid to actually go to the police openly, because the Athwals made it clear they would kill her too. Something like a decade passed before the case broke open, and Sarbjit started cooperating with the cops. They went to her house and arrested everyone, including her (in order to trick the Athwals into thinking it wasn’t her who spilled the beans), but instead of taking her to the station they took her to her parents’ house. She was in witness protection for ages before the trial, staying in grimy hostels with her baby whom she was nursing.

I wouldn’t say justice has been entirely achieved in this case. The identities of the people who actually killed Surjit in India are known, but they have never been prosecuted and for legal reasons they weren’t even named in the book. (Media reports I found said one of them was Bachan Kaur’s brother.) Sarbjit’s husband, Hardave, was at that original family meeting and passively let the whole conspiracy unfold, repeatedly lied to the police, and threatened Sarbjit when he found out she was going to testify, but he wasn’t prosecuted either.

Surjit’s daughter, Pawanpreet “Pav” Athwal, had been told her mother abandoned her. She was a teenager when she found out the truth. Pav has been active in Britain speaking out against honor killings and set up a hotline for women who are afraid of being the victim of an honor killing or being forced into marriage.

I would recommend the book if you’re interested in this kind of thing. I’m glad the US isn’t the only country that prosecutes no-body homicides.

And of course it’s always worth saying there is no honor in murder.

For Kindle users

I found out the book Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer, by David Roberts, is on sale in its Kindle form for just $1.99. I’m not sure how long the deal’s going to last, though.

I had Everett on Charley years ago — he disappeared from Utah in 1934. Then there was big news cause they thought his skeletal remains had been found, and I removed him and put up a resolved notice. Then it turned out the remains weren’t his. But I’ve never put him back up.

Thought y’all would like to know about this. I’ve never read the book, but if you’ve got a Kindle and a spare two bucks, it seems worth checking out.

Let’s talk about it: Ann Marie Burr

This week’s “let’s talk about it” case is the abduction of eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr from her home in Tacoma, Washington on August 31, 1961.

WHAT happened is clear enough. This is an “every parent’s nightmare” scenario: a child taken from her own home in the middle of the night, never to be seen or heard from again. The mystery here is WHO DID IT. Because there are a lot of people who believe, with very good reason, that little Ann Marie was a then-teenage Ted Bundy’s first victim.

Ted knew Ann and her family and lived just blocks from their home. He was only fourteen years old at the time of her abduction, but it’s not unheard of for a serial killer to begin at that age, and Ted was extraordinary even by serial killer standards. Independent evidence — the size of the footprint outside the Burr family’s living room window — suggests whoever took Ann was young.

Ann Rule herself, Bundy’s biographer and onetime friend, believed Ted was involved. In her book — if I recall correctly, I read it several years ago and no longer have a copy — she said someone had contacted her once claiming they had been a high school classmate of Ted’s and at one point Ted invited to take this person “to see a body.”

The whole “did he or didn’t he?” question has occupied the minds of Bundy hobbyists since his serial murder career exploded onto the national news in the 1970s and 1980s. I don’t really have a strong opinion on the subject and I don’t pretend to be an expert on Bundy.

Rebecca Morris published a book about it, Ted and Ann, in 2013. I read it and thought it was excellent, and it’s got 4 of 5 stars on Amazon with 251 reviews. I highly recommend the book; if you’ve got a Kindle it costs just $4.99.

So do you guys think Ted Bundy took Ann, or do you believe it was someone else entirely? Let’s talk about it.

Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan

Yesterday I read a book, translated from the French, by journalists Lena Mauger and Stephane Remael, called Vanished: The “Evaporated People” of Japan in Stories and Photographs.

I don’t know much about Japan and I had never heard anything about this, but apparently it’s a pretty normal thing for people to leave and never come back, and according to the authors over half of these disappearances are never reported to the police. There were a lot of them in the nineties especially when Japan’s economy was on the rocks.

There’s a name for it: evaporating. Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the family — a breadwinner who lost his job, a college student son who failed an important exam — and sometimes the entire family will go. Many of the evaporated people wind up committing suicide within a few days of leaving, but many more will just pop up somewhere else in the country and start over. There’s an entire neighborhood in Tokyo full of these people.

In fact, there are even entire companies whose job it is to help people evaporate. Mauger and Remael talked about a company called something like “Midnight Movers.” By day they moved furniture; by night they moved people. They didn’t have to advertise the people part; the “midnight” in their company name was a hidden indication that they were willing to move more than just your stuff. The price was the equivalent of like $5,000, around three times the cost of an ordinary move. The whole “midnight movers” concept sounds like it could become a movie or even a TV show here in the States.

Anyway. Check out the book if you’re interested.

Visited my car yesterday, and so on

Yeah, so yesterday Dad came over to see me and together we went to the tow lot to have a look at my car and retrieve the last of my belongings from it. Turns out the thing is in even worse shape than I thought. Presenting exhibits A, B and C:

carweck

carwreck-wheel

carwreck-windshield

Yeah, so not only is just about the entire driver’s side trashed, but the front driver’s side wheel is bent and the windshield is cracked. I emailed the photos to the insurance company. I also noted, and photographed, a pile of automobile detritus in front of my car. I’m not sure whether it’s mine or not, but I sent it along.

It had less than 100,000 miles on it. *sobs* It was a really nice car, too. I mean, yeah it was old (1996) and fracking HUGE and consequently it didn’t have the greatest gas mileage. I doubt its Blue Book value will be much. But it was a luxury model with all the bells and whistles, and its very size may have prevented me from further injury. While we were out I showed Dad the ditch I went into and he was like, “Oh. My. God.”

Last night, Michael and L. and I went out to Granite City, my favorite restaurant, to celebrate my birthday. When the waitress found out it was my birthday they gave me a free, delicious “birthday cookie” with caramel and nuts and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. We had a good time. Today Michael’s parents came over with a card and a cake for me, which was nice.

I don’t know what’s going on but I can barely talk at all and it’s been like this for a few days now. I was able to talk to the insurance companies on the phone on Wednesday, but my voice sounded very hoarse, and gave out almost entirely after that. It’s not so bad with Michael because he’s used to it, but today his parents kept asking me questions and I kept pointing and shaking my head in frustration.

My throat hurts, but not very much — not even enough that I’ve wanted to take aspirin or anything. I don’t feel sick — no sniffling or coughing, no fever, ears don’t hurt, etc. It has been suggested that maybe it’s just a stress reaction due to the accident; I dunno. Certainly I often have physical reactions from stress but I’ve never lost my voice from it; usually my back just freezes up. If I’m still like this by Monday I suppose I’ll have to go back to the doctor.

It’s kind of inconvenient being without a car of course. I had a friend drive me to the doctor this week for my concussion followup, and then my mother drove me back to Fort Wayne. Earlier this week I took an Uber ride to the library and back. But that’s just not practical for anything outside the city. Mom thinks I should demand a rental from the insurance company until my car gets replaced.

As for the Charley Project: I have been working on it, but it’s been “behind the scenes” type stuff you guys can’t see. (Purging cases, answering emails, etc.) Tomorrow I’m planning to start public updates again.

Today I read a book called Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. It was very good. It mentioned several accidents where the person undoubtedly perished but the body was never recovered — by author Lee Whittlesey’s reckoning there are at least a dozen, perhaps as many as twenty, bodies in Yellowstone Lake and he doesn’t recommend that ANYONE take a small boat out on there, EVER, because the water is so cold (year-round average temperature is around 45 degrees) and storms can come very quickly and capsize small craft. I have several Yellowstone cases on Charley, and in the book Luke Sanburg was mentioned, as was Dennis Johnson. Whittlesey mentioned one case from 1900 where the guy disappeared from his hotel in the park and was never found; he thinks the man went out for a walk after dark and fell into one of the hot springs. The book also mentioned — and had a copy of the poster for — another case I don’t have on Charley.

If you’re interested in such things I also recommend Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers’s book Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. It’s really good too, and quite similar to the aforementioned book, except of course it’s about a different national park. It does however have a mistake in it for which I am partially to blame: they claim Connie Smith‘s body was found in Grand Canyon National Park several years after her disappearance. In fact, the remains were misidentified as Connie at first; the mistake was quickly rectified and Connie is still missing, obviously, and “Little Miss X” remains unidentified to this day. When I read that in the first edition, I remember thinking “Someone should tell them they’re wrong.” That someone should have been me. When I read the second edition of the book and realized the error was still there, I emailed Mr. Ghiglieri and told him about it and provided some links. He said they were working on another edition and he’d try to make sure the error was corrected, but it might already be too late for that.

Amazon also recommends Death in Glacier National Park: Stories of Accidents and Foolhardiness in the Crown of the Continent, which just came out in May, for readers who enjoyed the two aforementioned books. I will have to check that one out. WorldCat says neither the Allen County Public Library nor any library in the OhioLink system has it, but I’ve got birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and I could spend some of it on that. I had thought Glacier National Park was in Alaska, but I was mistaken; it’s in Montana. The Charley Project has Patrick Terrence Whalen who disappeared from there. I think I had Glacier National Park mixed up with Arctic National Park, which is in fact in Alaska; Thomas Seibold is missing from there.

For the first two books (and probably the third although I haven’t read it), the moral of them is basically this: “These places are beautiful and offer a unique experience you’ll remember for the rest of your days and we highly recommend a visit. BUT pay attention to the warnings and obey all the rules and don’t go over the guardrails, and generally don’t be an idiot, because almost everyone who got seriously injured or died here did so at least in part due to their own arrogance and/or stupidity.” Amen.