Ancestry pictures

Last night I went on Ancestry.com and was running name after name through the system — older cases of people who disappeared in their teenage years. Found a bunch of high school yearbook photos I didn’t previously have. And I’m not done yet. Here’s the list thus far of cases with photos added:

  1. Marie Ann Blee
  2. Kellie Marie Brownlee
  3. Josephine Yvette Cogburn
  4. Joyce Irene Cogburn
  5. Phyllis Marie Corbin
  6. Perry Otto Corlew
  7. William Henry Forshee Jr.
  8. Dermot Faulkner Kelly
  9. Jeannette Rose Miller
  10. Sophia Felecita Moreno
  11. Cathy Marie Moulton
  12. Sherry Jean Pickle
  13. Marcia Estelle Remick
  14. Diane Marie Webb
  15. Mitchel Fred Weiser

I have to give credit where it’s due: I got the idea of fishing for photos on Ancestry from Carl Koppelman. He would often dig up a yearbook photo when there was a NamUs case of a missing adult that had no photo available. Even a pic of the person in their high school or college days, years before they went missing, is better than none at all.

I also happened to find some pictures of my great-grandparents and added them to Reddit.

Yesterday I got my first subreddit ban, for “using dehumanizing language.” The “dehumanizing language” was me referring to the 1920s-1930s era actor and comedian Roscoe Arbuckle by his stage name. It was supposed to be a seven-day ban but only lasted like five minutes because I messaged the moderators and pointed out the context and defended myself: I had said the word “Fatty” as an identifier and not a slur, and I didn’t think it was fair that I should get banned for this seeing as how Roscoe called himself that. The moderators saw it my way, rescinded the ban and apologized for the misunderstanding.

Now, if only Facebook mods were like that. But they can’t be, because they’re robots and not human beings. It was a Reddit modbot that automatically banned me for using Roscoe Arbuckle’s stage name, but there were humans operating that bot, humans who could be reasoned with. Facebook will remain broken for as long as robot moderators outnumber human moderators like a thousand to one. I posted on my Facebook about my Reddit ban and was afraid to even type Roscoe Arbuckle’s stage name, I was like “Look it up if you don’t know it, I don’t want to get Zucked for the zillionth time.”

Random thoughts while updating

So, on a regular basis, I encounter what I call “dead ends”: cases where I start writing up a casefile and then it turns out that, contrary to the source, the person either isn’t missing anymore or they disappeared significantly later than the date stated and haven’t been missing long enough to qualify for the Charley Project.

I encountered one of those today. The Virginia State Police database says a certain woman named Kelsey disappeared on August 8, 2021. So I wrote up a bare-bones starter casefile for Kelsey, then began looking for more info. I then found a flier for her on social media that said she disappeared in October 2021, not August.

But the flier said “according to her boyfriend”. This wording made me wonder if there was suspicion that he was involved, and perhaps no one other than him claims to have seen her between August and October. So I didn’t immediately delete the casefile but looked further. I entered her name into an arrest records database and discovered she’d been arrested on October 19, 2021. I was then satisfied that, regardless of what the Virginia State Police say, whatever happened to Kelsey happened in October and not August. I then sighed and deleted the casefile I had just made.

The date may not be the only thing wrong about her listing on the Virginia State Police missing persons page. The VSP says she has a tattoo of a heart on her cheek, but her mug shot on the arrest database (a photo taken just days before she disappeared) showed no such tattoo. Either it was a very recent tattoo or it doesn’t exist.

A case off the VSP site that I DID add today was a missing guy who, it turns out, is a Nazi. He made no effort to hide this, getting multiple swastikas tattooed on his collarbone/shoulder area and the letters “SS” on his throat where everyone can see. His personal Facebook page also has a lot of Nazi stuff on it.

I have never encountered such a person in real life and am not sure how I would behave if I did. Try to avoid them as much as possible, I guess. I remember once, back when I had a regular job working at a store, and I was a little friendly with one of my coworkers… until, while we were having lunch together in the break room, she casually dropped a racial slur into the conversation like it was nothing. I was like “Um, excuse me, what?” Then she, thinking I hadn’t heard her properly, repeated the racial slur slightly louder than before. I mumbled something like “You shouldn’t say things like that” and after that I made sure to eat my lunch alone, with a book out and my shoulders arranged in my very best “do not disturb” posture.

Not every missing person or crime victim was a nice person. I try very hard not to judge because the important thing is to find them. If I’ve added child rapists to the Charley Project I can’t very well turn my nose up at Nazis.

The Nazi guy happened to have the same first and last name as someone else already on the Charley Project. (Different middle name, thank goodness.) I wound up accidentally stumbling across more info on the case of the non-Nazi missing person while I was looking for info on the Nazi, so I updated his case too.

On the covid front: I tested myself again today to see if my husband has given it to me yet. Nope. So it’s another night sleeping on two dog beds for me.

FBI publishes list of missing Native Americans

The FBI has put out this list of 170 Native American people listed as missing in New Mexico and throughout the Navajo Nation (which comprises 17.4 million acres in NE Arizona, NW New Mexico and SE Utah).

The list sometimes has pictures of the MP, although the way the PDF is formatted makes the pictures really small and not very helpful. It also has the MP’s date of birth and date of disappearance.

This list is quite helpful because it’s current and all these people are confirmed to be missing right now. Both NamUs and the New Mexico state database are absolutely terrible at removing resolved cases and I can’t really trust either source when I’m trying to verify that a person is in fact still missing. Regarding the New Mexico database, one time one missing person had like three or four separate, successive entries. He was a chronic runaway and would always turn up eventually. And he kept going missing, getting added to the NM database, not getting removed after he was found, then going missing again and getting another entry on the database. *facepalm*

I’m going to have to go down the list and start adding people to Charley, and adding dates of birth to the cases I already have.

Bits and pieces of things as I update

I make a lot of typos on the Charley Project, in particular leaving out words by accident. I’m sure you’ve all noticed. I don’t mind when people point them out to me, because that gives me an opportunity to fix the mistake.

It is kind of embarrassing though, when a news article quotes from the Charley Project and has to put in a typo correction in the quote. As happened today. *facepalm* Don’t worry, when I saw what I’d done wrong I immediately logged into the dashboard and added the missing words.

I am adding a case today where I found the missing teen girl’s Facebook page, and it had been updated multiple times after she went missing. Although not recently, at least as far as I can see; if you’re not “Facebook friends” with a person, what you can view on their profile is limited.

Just from the pictures I would have guessed the poor kid is being trafficked: the photos were very sexy and revealing, and none of the photos showed her face. Her face was always either cropped from the picture or covered with something, either that or she was looking away from the camera. The girl’s NamUs page confirmed my suspicion that this is a presumed case of sex trafficking. I called the NCMEC to tell them about the Facebook page, in case they didn’t know.

Michael Sewell‘s disappearance reminds me a lot of the Sodder childrens’ case. My guess is Michael died in the fire like his two friends. That cabin sounds like a serious fire hazard: made of railroad ties (which are of course wooden, and often coated with flammable creosote to keep the wood from rotting), with a wood-burning stove and a kerosene lantern, and with no windows and only the one door. It’s enough to give a fire marshal the vapors.

Articles report that they only found a few bones, and identified the dead boys based on their class rings. It’s not like they had DNA testing in 1971. The police, re-investigating the case in 2022, are going to exhume Michael’s friends’ remains to see if they didn’t accidentally bury some pieces of Michael in those coffins.

I added a case the other day of a missing twelve-year-old boy (he’d now be fourteen) who “may be in the company of an adult male.” When I was doing my research for the write-up I found some Facebook comments identifying the adult male in question by name, with a picture of him, and saying who the man is in relation to the missing boy.

But I can’t really rely on social media gossip for something like that, lest the Facebook comments are incorrect. If I did post the info and it’s wrong, it could muck up the investigation and I could potentially get sued into oblivion by the man in question for wrongfully accusing him of kidnapping a child. So on Charley it just says “adult male.”

But if I found those Facebook comments, you, dear reader, probably can too. I’m just saying.

Vocabulary guidelines are subject to change

So there’s a case on the Charley Project where I talk some about the missing person’s brother (what particular case it is, isn’t important), and what he saw and heard on the day of the disappearance and in the days prior. He was a child at the time. I talk enough in the casefile about the brother that I had to refer to him by name. Let’s say I called him “Mark.”

Now, close to 20 years have passed since the MP vanished and someone is on trial for his murder. When I write about the trial in the casefile (I will update the case when the trial’s finished) I will have to talk about Mark and what Mark said, because Mark is a major witness at the trial. But Mark is now “Mary”, the MP’s transgender sister.

I really was not sure how to address this in the casefile so that I would not cause offense to anybody. Obviously, it will need to be pointed out in the casefile that Mark and Mary are the same person, and when accounts from years ago talk about the MP’s brother Mark, they mean the person who testified at the trial as his sister Mary.

But society is still learning how to talk about transgender people and I do not want to put the information out in the wrong way, with language that causes offense. I don’t want to unnecessarily upset anyone in what is already a very upsetting case.

(To give you an example of what I’m talking about: once I was on Reddit talking about some black people who had moved from another country to the US to live, and I called them “African-American”. By which I meant ”black”. I thought I was being polite to use this term, but my comment was downvoted to oblivion and I was yelled at by several other commenters and couldn’t figure out why. I asked a friend who is black what I did wrong, and she said black immigrants to the United States usually don’t want to be called African-Americans. I had not known this and thus, had caused offense. I grew up in Wonderbread-white land surrounded by Wonderbread-white people and believe I am very ignorant as to racial issues, though I am trying to learn.)

I wound up consulting a friend of mine, who is the mother of a transgender child. She, in turn, consulted her child, who said this: the first time I mention the MP’s sibling in the case summary, I should identify the person as the MP’s sister Mary, and include a note saying Mary is transgender and accounts from the time period her brother disappeared refer to her as the MP’s brother Mark. The trans position, my informant said, is that Mary was ALWAYS a girl, it’s just she happened to be mistaken for a boy.

Anyway, I decided to write this entry to (A) show people what I sometimes consider when writing casefiles and (B) educate people about how to talk about transgender individuals.

I don’t know what is wrong with some people

For a case I’m adding today, there’s going to be info about a woman who knowingly provided false information in a case. The story left me shaking my head in disgust.

This is hardly the first time a person has provided false information in a missing persons case, but usually there’s a reason that makes sense. Usually, the person who is lying is trying to protect themselves or somebody else.

In this case, however, this lady was not a suspect. In fact, there were no suspects. This case isn’t a crime as far as anyone knows: the guy disappeared while hiking alone in a national park. And then along comes this “witness” and her detailed story about seeing the missing man, and having a conversation with him about where he planned to go next in his hike.

Her false information derailed the search for the guy. The authorities estimate they spent over $17,000 and many, many hours looking for this missing man in the wrong place before they finally realized the witness was lying. Meanwhile, the poor missing man was, if still alive by this point, presumably lost or injured somewhere and not getting help.

I don’t know if this was an attention seeker or what. (If it was, she needs to go therapy or something and find out what made her do that.) But it’s absolutely disgusting.

She was charged with filing a false report, but reached a deferred prosecution agreement where she will pay back restitution and is banned from the park for five years. It doesn’t seem to be enough.

There are STILL fliers and stuff for this guy floating around on the internet with her fake sighting listed on them as the last time anyone saw or heard from this man.

I hate having to use mug shots

On the Charley Project’s Twitter account I tweet two cases a day, one male missing person, one female. These tweets are pre-scheduled and go up automatically, and for the past few years they’ve always been accompanied by a photo of the MP.

If there’s a choice of photos, and the photos are all of basically equal quality, I choose the one that I think makes the MP look best. If the photos are of varying qualities, I pick the best quality photo: a clear image taken close up and in good lighting, making it easy to tell what the MP looked like.

Sometimes, too many times, the literal only photos I can find, or the only ones of decent quality, are obvious mug shots. They are obviously better than no photos or really poor quality photos when it comes to identifying someone, and I even once made a blog post defending my use of mug shots and even arguing that they were more useful than candid photos or portraits. But all the same I hate having to use them.

I mean, to me, a photo is a photo. But it seems like the general public, they see something about a missing person and they see a mug shot of that missing person and immediately their empathy switches off. They stop caring about the case and assume the MP must have been a bad person or something. When the general public is just going off a mug shot, they don’t even know why the MP got arrested or what really happened. When even if the MP was not a perfect person they don’t deserve to be kidnapped or murdered and their families don’t deserve the torment and grief.

I especially hate it when the MP whose mug shots I have to use is a person of color. The reason it bothers me is I know it’s a common complaint in the black community that whenever the mainstream news media talks about an ordinary black person, they will use unflattering photos, including mug shots if those are available, and that the mainstream news media does not do this when talking about white people. (For example, it was some time before the news media started using blonde, blue-eyed rapist Brock Turner‘s mug shots after his arrest and eventual conviction for rape. They initially used other photos of him.) I do not wish to be accused of racism.

I do know that at least some police departments have become aware of the issue of using mug shots in their missing persons press releases. At least, they’re aware they are being criticized for it.

I know this because recently I saw a police department post about a missing (white) person and the woman looked a bit rough in the pic, with dark circles under her eyes like she hadn’t slept in many days. I don’t know 100% if the photo was a mug shot but I think it was. In the text of their post about this missing woman, the police department said this was the most recent photo of her and the family had approved of its use. Like they knew they were going to be called out.

This all came up today in my head when I was updating a case where there are a decent number of photos but none are good quality and some have filters. Except for one photo. And it’s a mug shot. And she’s a black woman. It was also used in the investigating police department’s post on Facebook about the missing woman, and people in the comments were complaining about its use, for the reasons I mentioned above. But all the other photos I’ve ever seen of this person are all either heavily filtered or poor quality, and aren’t very good for identification.

Unless I find a decent candid photo or portrait, the mug shot will have to be the photo I select, if I ever tweet about this case.

Inconsistent and minimal reportage strikes again

So I saw this article about Dale Pearl Smith‘s disappearance and it does not really provide any more info than I had before, other than the mention of Westmoreland Road. I have updated Dale’s case with that bit.

The thing is, though… it says she was last seen on Mother’s Day, May 11, 1987. But I looked it up and Mother’s Day was on May 10 that year.

There is no explanation for the discrepancy. Was it a typo? Or maybe there was a scheduling issue and Dale and her daughter decided to meet for Mother’s Day the day after instead of the day of? I have no idea.

I’ve got her disappearance down as May 10 but there’s a good chance it’s May 11. I have no clue.

If anyone who knows something about the case, such as one of Dale’s relatives, finds this blog I’d love to have this matter cleared up so I will know I have the correct date.

Wisconsin missing persons awareness 2022, and social media troubles

I had serious troubles with Facebook last year and the year before that, as documented on this blog. Unfortunately the problem hasn’t gone away, and will persist for as long as Facebook has almost 100% robot moderation.

A lot of my problems before because Facebook’s modbots basically decided I was a Nazi, since I was sharing a lot of memes and articles and such about the Holocaust and World War II. Because there’s definitely no other reason someone might be sharing this material, nope, I must be a Nazi. When any actual human reading my posts would have recognized them as educational content, the modbots just saw red flags all over the place.

Now I’m in Facebook Jail again, which means no posting about the Wisconsin missing persons event on the Charley Project’s Facebook page until I’m out.

What happened this time was that I saw this article on Facebook’s news feed. And I thought it was an interesting story so clicked the button to share the article on my personal Facebook page. Just the link to the article, no accompanying commentary at all. And boom, instant Facebook Jail for “violating community standards on drugs.” For a link to a mainstream media news article that was on Facebook’s own newsfeed.

This particular incident pretty much fits the legal definition of entrapment, but what can you do? I mean, I’ve appealed their decision but robots handle most of the appeals so…

The Wisconsin event was absolutely lovely as usual. I took some pictures and video footage which I will post when they let me out of Facebook Jail.

There were like seven or eight dogs there, all search and rescue dogs I think, including a Clumber Spaniel which is quite a rare breed. Riken, a Dutch Shepherd and S&R dog owned by my friend Rachel, was so enthusiastic about greeting me that she actually jumped up on my table.

I talked to loads of people. Attendees had an “event bingo” sheet of stuff to do at the event and one of the things was “visit the Charley Project table and find out who Charley is.” One woman who was there with her children, listened to me tell Charley’s story and then pointed out to her kids that his story is a great example of why they should stay away from strangers. (You know the axiom “don’t take candy from strangers”? That was cause of Charley. He got lured away from home by two strange men who offered him candy.)

Rose Marie Bly’s family was there this year. I don’t remember seeing them at previous events. Rose has been missing since 2009. And Rose’s niece, Summer Wells, disappeared last June. Lightning struck twice in that family.

Anyway we had a nice discussion about the garbage way missing people’s families are often treated by the general public, especially online. It seems like people say all kinds of awful things about crime victims in general and their families, but it gets even worse when it’s a child who disappears and their parents are being discussed.

I told Rose/Summer’s family that seems like missing kids’ parents can’t do anything right. If they don’t go on TV about it, they didn’t care about the child and probably were the perpetrator of the child’s disappearance. If they go on TV to beg for their child’s safe return and are reasonably calm about it during their segment, they were TOO calm and probably were the perpetrator of the child’s disappearance. If they go on TV and beg and they are sobbing hysterically, they’re faking it and relishing in the attention and were probably the perpetrator. You get the picture.

I remember reading about one high profile child abduction where, like three days after the child’s disappearance, her mom (who had been too worried to eat until that point) finally had a sandwich so she wouldn’t collapse from hunger. She was photographed eating and criticized for having the gall to sit there and EAT A SANDWICH while her poor baby is MISSING, what a cold and uncaring mother, how could she?!

Sigh.

So I think I hit it off with Rose/Summer’s family. I hope I don’t have to add Summer to the Charley Project but I expect I probably will.

I also spoke to Amber Wilde’s family, briefly (they said as far as they know there’s been no recent progress in her case), and to a group of Native American motorcycle riders who had helped search for Gene Cloud (whose family attended the event several years ago, dressed in the ceremonial regalia of the Ho-Chunk Tribe to which they belonged, but haven’t been back since).

I asked the Native bikers if they thought Pacific Islanders should count as indigenous under the MMIW (missing and murdered indigenous women) movement, which focuses on Native Americans. This came up recently when I tweeted about a missing woman from Hawaii who was of Native Hawaiian ancestry and I wasn’t sure if I should use the #MMIW hashtag or if it would upset people. The Native bikers, however, believed missing and murdered Pacific Islanders ought to be included in the movement, since they are indigenous too.

The speeches at the event were very moving. The police who investigated Victoria Prokopovitz’s case talked about the case and how finally her killer was prosecuted in a murder-without-a-body case, and there was no going into great detail about what went down. What I mean is, this isn’t the kind of event true crime fans necessarily flock to, it was more just about providing support for missing people’s families and trying to get answers.

I had a great time. I always do. My husband, who was accompanying me for the first time, says he too had a good time.

News outlets, please do better than this

So this article came out yesterday and I wanted to bring it to attention because it’s useless.

The article says Bula Mae Robertson disappeared “back in 1993” from Warner Robins, Georgia. And that’s pretty much all it says. No exact date of disappearance, no information about the missing woman, how old she was, her physical appearance information, etc. The accompanying video isn’t much better, it only adds that Robertson disappeared during the month of October. Which is still a 31-day window.

I mean, they were able to go to her old house and show that on the screen, and interviewed a neighbor who remembered the disappearance, but they didn’t put out the most basic, crucial information. What’s the point?

Fortunately, the press release the police put out (I think it was flashed on the screen in the news video, but you weren’t able to actually read it) has the necessary information. But it would have been nice if the article had had it too.