Black History Month: Cherie Barnes

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Cherie Nicole Barnes, a two-year-old girl who disappeared from Missouri in 1986/1987ish.

Cherie’s NCMEC poster notes that she “is biracial and is considered to be black and white.” This would match her appearance. I thought the “considered to be” thing meant her paternity was unknown, but a source I found said Cherie’s biological father is known and lives in Los Angeles.

I put Cherie’s height and weight on Charley as “unknown” because, regardless of what the NCMEC says, she was definitely not four feet tall and eighty pounds at the age of two and a half.

So Cherie’s story is a bit complicated. Her stepfather, Larry Vasser, and mom, Elizabeth Ann Turek Vasser, had custody of her, and in 1986 they moved from Nashville, Tennessee to St. Louis, Missouri. Larry was, I guess, a pimp, and Elizabeth was working for him.

Elizabeth disappeared on December 1, 1986, and wasn’t reported missing at the time. Cherie was reportedly seen with her stepfather in Kansas City, Missouri (a three-and-a-half-hour drive west of St. Louis) on January 7, 1987. But I don’t know how solid that sighting is, because the NCMEC has Cherie’s listed date and place of disappearance the same as her mom’s: December 1, 1986, from St. Louis. In any case, no one has seen Cherie since.

Elizabeth’s nude body was found two months later, washed up on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis. It wasn’t identified for seven years, because the police didn’t know she was missing. They made the connection after Elizabeth’s family reported her and Cherie as missing persons.

Larry, who is in prison on unrelated convictions until at least 2028, said Cherie was being cared for by his relatives and is living under an alias in the Kansas City area. Who knows if that’s true, though. If it is, a publicity campaign in Kansas City might lead to her location.

Elizabeth’s murder, and her daughter’s disappearance, are still unsolved. If Cherie is alive today, as Larry Vasser claims, she’d be 34.

MP of the week: Deklon Ford

This week’s featured missing person (sorry about last week, it wasn’t a good week) is Deklon Ford, who disappeared on May 6, 2015. He was only six months old at the time, and would be four years old now.

He and his mom, 28-year-old Brittany Anne Ford, disappeared together, and although the place of disappearance is given as Columbus, Ohio, they were “last known to be” in Hardin, Montana. Brittany’s car (which had Georgia plates, incidentally) was found abandoned on Highway 87 between Billings, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming, but I’m a bit hazy as to which state it was in.

I’m not sure under what circumstances they’re missing, but they have a Facebook page set up for them, and Deklon’s dad set up a GoFundMe for search funds.

Black History Month: Ta’Niyah Leonard

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Ta’Niyah Monique Leonard, an eleven-month old baby who disappeared from Bartow, Florida on October 19, 2002.

Sadly it’s not likely that Ta’Niyah is alive today. The police have two main suspects: her parents, Michael Lewis and Miranda Jones. The couple often had violent arguments, sometimes involving weapons. The cops think one or both of Ta’Niyah’s parents was responsible for her death.

This is a problem in terms of the prosecution, as I note in her casefile, since the parents are blaming each other:

Investigators believe either Lewis or Jones is responsible for Ta’Niyah’s disappearance and probable death, but they cannot proceed with charges against either of them due to a lack of evidence and due to the two suspects’ conflicting stories. Prosecutors offered both of them immunity from any charges if they would return Ta’Niyah alive, but neither Lewis nor Jones accepted the offer.

This love-hate relationship between Lewis and Jones continued after Ta’Niyah’s disappearance. Even as they both blamed each other, they conceived another child, a girl, who was immediately taken away after birth and adopted. Last I heard, in 2006, Jones had had a son (not by Lewis; the father might have been this guy) and she was about to lose her parental rights towards this baby as well.

I don’t know what Ta’Niyah’s parents have been up to since 2006; with surnames like “Lewis” and “Jones” it’s hard to trace their movements. If Ta’Niyah is alive, she’d be 17 now.

Black History Month: Shy’Kemmia Pate

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Shy’Kemmia Shy’Rezz Pate, an eight-year-old girl who disappeared from Unadilla, Georgia on September 4, 1998.

Shy’Kemmia appears to have been abducted. Everyone in her family was cleared as a suspect, but the theory is that whoever did take her was someone she was familiar with. That could mean a lot of people — I mean, a neighbor, a teacher, a stocker at the corner store? She didn’t live in the greatest neighborhood.

I think it’s important to note that Shy’Kemmia had significant health problems, and the result is that if she is ever located, dead or alive, it should be easy to identify her. She had bad kidneys and a weak bladder and had to wear Pull-Ups — not exactly common in a grade-schooler — and she was also wearing a leg brace due to a displaced kneecap. She had surgery for the kidney issue and has a scar on her back at the waistline from this.

I highly doubt she’s still alive, for medical reasons alone; she would have needed regular treatment to survive to adulthood. But if Shy’Kemmia is still alive she would now be thirty this year.

Black History Month: Kimberly and Sarah Boyd and Linda McCord

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is actually three disappearances: 32-year-old Sarah W. Boyd, her friend, 31-year-old Linda McCord, and Sarah’s daughter, two-year-old Kimberly Janis Boyd, who disappeared somewhere between Dorchester County and Orangeburg County, South Carolina on April 3, 1987.

They had gone to a gospel concert and were last seen driving back home. They never arrived and their car was found abandoned in Dorchester County on April 5.

I haven’t been able to find a whole lot on this case. It seems like it should have gotten SOME media attention; I mean, three people gone missing at once, and Kimberly was just adorable, a little doll. It’s entirely possible there was significant attention and I just haven’t found the news yet; this was thirty years ago, after all.

It sounds like the three of them may have been harmed by someone they stopped to help. If evidence was properly preserved and could be analyzed with modern forensic techniques, the case could be very solvable.

Series from the Oklahoman on the Logan Tucker case

I wanted to call the reader’s attention to this excellent (and very sad) special series called Looking for Logan Tucker, about the disappearance and presumed murder of six-year-old Logan Lynn Tucker eighteen years ago at the hands of his sorry excuse for a mother, Katherine Rutan.

Most homicides of children by their parents are unintentional, a situation where the parent is frustrated and unable to cope with child care, loses control and kills the child in a rage. Although there are no witnesses to Logan’s murder and Katherine isn’t talking, his death doesn’t appear to have been one of those kinds of homicides. She thought Logan was a burden to her life, and decided to get rid of him, so she killed him. Period.

She sounds like a stone cold psychopath. There was evidence of disorder in her life long before Logan’s death — she was married four times by her mid-twenties, for example — and she had repeatedly told people that she considered her two sons a burden to her and wanted to get rid of them.

In the final days of Logan’s life, Katherine made increasingly frantic attempts to offload Logan, and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services did plan to take him within the next several days, but Katherine didn’t want to wait that long, I guess.

She is in prison and will probably die there, but continues to maintain her innocence.

Anyway, it’s a great piece of journalism, that series, and I wanted to recommend it to y’all.

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.