What’s a barracuda?

So yesterday I was looking for cases on NamUs and found a 1979 one where the missing man was said to be wearing a “blue barracuda” at the time he disappeared.

I was very confused because as far as I knew, a barracuda was a species of fish and nothing else. I wondered if they actually meant a balaclava, a type of ski mask.

I googled it and discovered Barracuda is a clothing company, but they make all kinds of clothes and I don’t think the company existed in 1979.

I called my mom, who was a grown woman in 1979, and asked if she had any idea what it could be. She did not, but told me a Barracuda is also a type of car. This was an interesting factoid but not very useful information.

I shrugged and posted the question to social media. In the meantime, I posted the case but omitted the barracuda from the clothing description.

Social media provided several answers (I learned that Barracuda is a name for an email screening software) but the only one that made any sense was from someone who asked their father and was told that sometimes back in those days, denim jackets were referred to as barracudas.

This is a pretty good example of why police reports shouldn’t use slang terms or regionalisms. Because people outside that particular time and place may have NO IDEA what they are.

Added a bunch of Virgin Islands cases today

Today I added twelve (as of this writing) cases from the U.S. Virgin Islands, working off this list of cases that came out in November. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find enough photographs and information to make casefiles for each of the names on that list.

Most of the people missing from the USVI are persons of color, which makes sense because the general population of the territory is mostly black and Hispanic.

I think it’s telling that the most famous missing persons cases from there–Hannah Upp, Sarm Heslop and Lucy Schuhmann–are all white women and none of them are originally from the USVI. Hannah moved there a few years prior to her disappearance to take a teaching job, and Sarm and Lucy were both tourists. There are quite a few islanders missing but very little press about those cases. Missing White Woman Syndrome strikes again.

I haven’t added Sarm to the Charley Project yet. I expect I’ll get to her tomorrow or something. Hannah I added in 2019. It’s likely she had another dissociative fugue state and went to the water like she had always done, and this time her luck ran out and she drowned. Why she moved to the USVI, when she knew she’d had repeated episodes of losing herself and turning up in water, is a mystery to me. If I were her I would have moved to someplace very far away from any body of water larger than a puddle.

A few years ago I actually spoke to one of Hannah’s island acquaintances on the phone and I asked her if it was possible for a person to go missing without a trace and without leaving the islands, since they’re so tiny. She said it was extremely possible due to the thick jungle terrain. She told me a story about a sheep or something that went missing and how its body was found months later; it had been lying unburied within yards of its home the entire time but nobody had found it before because of how thick the vegetation is there.

This keeps coming up

So I started to update today… and the first case I tried to update turned into a wall of text. You see, this is what I wrote:

And this is what came out on the actual website:

Nobody likes a wall of text, and I know from experience that until this issue of them not inserting my paragraphs is fixed, EVERY case I write or edit is going to turn into a wall of text. This problem has occurred before.

I messaged my web designer and asked him to fix this issue. Until he does I don’t want to update because every case I touch will show as a wall of text which is annoying or even impossible to read. And then after the problem is fixed I’d just have to wade back in and start adding paragraphs again. My designer should be able to fix whatever’s going on though.

I’m feeling a lot better; my nausea etc went away yesterday at last (had been sick since Thursday) and I’m eating again.

So about the guy who knows two people who are missing

I had posted earlier about how I accidentally stumbled across a possible connection between two cases that law enforcement might be unaware of, namely that both missing women were VERY well acquainted with the same man.

People were commenting asking if there would be an update. Well, I’ve notified the police in the respective jurisdiction but I don’t know if I’ll hear anything more about it. I just have to hope the police do their jobs and investigate this lead if they didn’t have the info already.

I am not sure if the man in question was actually the person responsible for these women’s disappearances. All I know is he knew both of them, and most people don’t even know ONE person who has disappeared without a trace, never mind two. I think it has to be one of three things:

  1. The man was involved in one or both disappearances.
  2. The man was not involved in the disappearances, but someone in his circle was.
  3. The disappearances are completely unrelated and the reason this guy was romantically involved with two people who were missing is because he has a “type”: vulnerable women who are much more likely than average to disappear. Both of the women were vulnerable, albeit in different ways.

So that’s kind of all I have to report for now. I hope the two police departments communicate and see if they can help each other out in these cases.

Unfortunately the nausea/vomiting thing has come back in the last few days. Michael and a friend and I went to visit the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and it was a very inconvenient time to get the sicks. But it’s not as bad as it was last time. Last time I was pretty much incapacitated. This time I was able to enjoy the aquarium, I just felt very uncomfortable, walked around clutching a plastic bag and once had to discreetly step into a corner and use it. I’m taking anti-nausea meds now and they’re working, I guess, since I haven’t brought anything up today, but I still feel very uncomfortable.

See you tomorrow.

Red herrings

In yesterday’s update I put up a quite mysterious case.

When the missing man’s car was located over a week after he went missing, there were no obvious indications of foul play such as bloodstains. (The car was never processed for evidence, so perhaps non-obvious indications were missed.) There was, however, something very odd: in the dirt on the back windshield was written the words “HELP ME HE IS NEAR.”

Obviously people were abuzz about this. A photo of the writing was published online, and I dutifully added it to the casefile I was putting together.

The MP’s family made comparisons between the windshield writing and known samples of the MP’s handwriting. Reading about this, I told my husband about it and we debated on whether comparing finger-on-dirt writing to pen-on-paper writing was a pointless endeavor or not. (I thought finger-writing was likely to be so dissimilar from pen-writing that there was no point in trying to compare the two. My husband disagreed.)

But then I read further on the case and it seems that after the story about the creepy message on the abandoned car hit the news, a group of young people contacted police and sheepishly admitted to having written the creepy message themselves. They’d seen the filthy car sitting there and, being on a bit of a lark and having no idea it was a missing person’s vehicle (he hadn’t been reported missing yet), wrote the words and went on their way and thought nothing of it till they saw the papers.

The message had nothing to do with his disappearance at all.

I deleted the writing photo from the casefile I was making. It didn’t seem relevant enough to include anymore. I did, of course, talk about the writing in the case summary and explained that it was a prank.

I’m glad the people who did it came forward. Else people would have probably debated and speculated about the message until the end of time, like they do.

The writing is not the only peculiar thing about this case and from what I read I have no idea what happened to the missing man. It could conceivably have been just about anything.

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.