Adam Herrman’s adoptive father dies

I have written a great deal about the mysterious disappearance of Adam Herrman over the years, but this is my first entry on the subject since 2014. A recap:

Adam was adopted out of foster care by Doug and Valerie Herrman, when he was two years old. He “ran away” from Towanda, Kansas sometime in the late spring or early summer of 1999,  when he was ten or eleven years old. Doug and Valerie never reported him missing; his adoptive sister did, until 2008.

Subsequent investigation showed that Adam’s so-called parents had abused him prior to his disappearance, and after he went missing they told several different stories to family members to explain his absence. They also continued to claim him as a dependent on their taxes and collect subsidies for his care, both of which are illegal.

(A lesson for the uninitiated: Foster parents are paid a little — not nearly enough — to cover their expenses in caring for the kids. If you adopt a foster child, especially a special needs child, in many states they continue to pay you until they turns 18 or for as long as they live with you. A foster kid doesn’t necessarily need to have health problems to be considered “special needs.” The term also applies to older children, non-white children, members of a sibling group or any other type of kid who is considered difficult to place. Adam was a member of a sibling group, and even at two years old, he might have been considered an older child.)

Authorities have found no evidence that Adam is still alive and they’re pretty sure he was murdered by the Herrmans, but due to lack of evidence they were only able to get them for felony theft, regarding the subsidies they accepted after he was no longer living with them.

Anyway, fast forward to the present day: Doug Herrman has died of natural causes at the age of 61. This article says it was complications of a blood clot.

This is bad. With both of them alive, there was always the possibility that one might flip and testify against the other. Now, if Valerie is ever charged with Adam’s murder — and witnesses stated she was the more abusive parent and Doug sometimes even tried to protect him — she can blame Doug for the whole thing and claim she has no idea what happened or where Adam is. And on top of that, given that Valerie is also in poor health, it looks entirely possible that she too could die before this case is resolved.

But then again, they were able to convict Aarone Thompson‘s father of murder even after Aarone’s stepmother and co-abuser, Shely Lowe, died. So who knows.

A clarification

On the Charley Project’s Facebook page they recently asked me to upload a photo, so I did. It’s the photo that’s on the left side of the Charley Project’s banner. After I did so, some people said they had no idea who was in that picture and had always wondered. Well, just to clear things up:

The photo is of Charley Ross, the long-lost little boy whom the Charley Project was named after. (See Wikipedia for his story.) It’s the only photograph ever taken of him, and he was two years old at the time; he was four when he disappeared. After his abduction, his family had an artist draw another picture of him as he appeared at age four. It was probably the first age-progression picture ever done of a missing person. The AP photo is on the right side of the Charley Project banner.

MP of the week: Christopher Zaharias

This week’s featured MP is Christopher Louis Zaharias. He and his sister, Lisa Mae, were abducted by their non-custodial mother, Susan Elizabeth Zaharias, from from Santa Ana, California. Christopher was three years old at the time, and Lisa was one year and eight months old. I actually did a Select It Sunday entry for them almost three years ago but thought I’d cover them again. (Mostly because it wasn’t until after I put Christopher on the frontpage and had almost finished this entry that I remembered the SIS entry, and I don’t feel like writing another.)

This is one of the oldest family abduction cases featured on Charley: Christopher and Lisa have been missing for nearly thirty years. That’s concerning by itself. Even more concerning is what the children’s left-behind father, Louis, says: Susan was using cocaine and crystal meth at the time she took the children.

Louis has been very active online in his search for his children. He has Facebook pages for them here and here. Several possible locations have been suggested: Oklahoma (where Susan’s parents live), Michigan, Pennsylvania, Canada or elsewhere in California. Susan has a warrant out for her arrest for custodial interference, and according to this article, there is a thirteen-million-dollar civil judgement against both her and anyone else who assisted with the abduction or is helping to hide the family.

Given their respective ages at the time they went missing, I doubt the Zaharias children remember their father or realize they’re missing. And if their case follows the usual pattern of family abductions, they’ve probably been told their father was abusive or that he’s dead or that he abandoned them.

I can only think of one family abduction case where, before he was caught, the abductor, a father in that case, grew a conscience and admitted to his child that he had stolen her from her mother when she was little and that her mother loved her and was looking for her. He advised her to go to the United States (they were living in Mexico) and look for her mother, which she did, and so she was found. That was over ten years after the abduction, when the abducted child was almost grown up. This doesn’t, of course, take back what the missing girl’s father did, all the years he basically stole from her life, but at least he took responsibility for his actions and tried to fix things.

It’s been a very long time but I’m sure this case is solvable. Robert Maple Baskin and Katherine Christine Baskin were found after 20 years, Eva Marie Fielder was found after 26 years, and Kipper Lacey after an incredible 42 years. But will the kids be open to any kind of relationship with their father if and when their whereabouts are discovered? Zachary Stratton Smith and Chelsea Paige Smith were located 13 years after their mother abducted them, but last I knew, they refused to have any contact with their father.

Make-a-List Monday: Reservations

This list is of MPs who disappeared from Native American reservations. I’m only counting cases where the person was definitely last seen on reservation land; I left out the possibles.

  1. Cynthia Dyann Coleman
  2. Tina Marie Finley
  3. Augustine Lee Floyd
  4. Bryce Florian Herda
  5. Reinhard Kirchner
  6. Elsie Eldora Luscier
  7. Debra Lee McCoy
  8. Carlota Maria Sanchez

Yeah, I can’t find any Select It Sunday suggestions today, so…

So here’s one of my own.

I want to bend the rules a bit and talk about a case I just added to Charley last night: Samantha Jean Hopper, courtesy of the new Arkansas MP database. NamUs also had Samantha but without a picture, so I wasn’t able to add her to Charley before.

Per NamUs, Samantha was eight months pregnant and disappeared with her one-year-old daughter, no details provided for the child. The Arkansas MP database had a one-year-old girl named Courtney Holt who disappeared from the same city (Russellville) on the same day (September 11, 1998) so I took a leap of faith and decided this must be Samantha’s daughter. No picture for baby Courtney, though, so she doesn’t have her own profile. I also don’t know her DOB. I wish I did. There’s a huge difference, developmentally speaking, between a one-year-old who just turned one, and a one-year-old who’s almost two.

I can’t find anything about Samantha or Courtney in the news archives or anything.

In spite of the paucity of details this case strikes me as ominous. Why would a heavily pregnant young woman and her baby/toddler vanish into thin air like that? Who was that “friend” they were going with? Did the friend come back? What kind of concert were they attending?

I tried Googling the phrase “little rock” concert and the dates “september 11, 1998” and “september 12, 1998” to see if what bands were playing in the city at that time, but I could find nothing. Hardly surprising, 18 years after the fact, but frustrating nonetheless.

I’ve never cared for a baby or been pregnant, but it seems to me that if I were dealing with both situations at the same time, a concert doesn’t sound like it would be a lot of fun. I suppose it would depend on the concert, how the pregnancy was going and how manageable the child was/whether there was child care available. Certainly something like a mosh pit would be out of the question.

I’d love to know what’s going on with this case. Most importantly, I want to know why there has been no news or anything for nearly two decades.