All the conspiracy theorists in the Gabby Pettito case are driving me mad

So social media can be a blessing AND a curse, and I think in the Gabby Pettito case it’s mainly turned out to be a curse. People who don’t know anything keep speculating, pulling all sorts of ideas out of their rear ends. There’s a reason I don’t normally hang around web-sleuthing and true-crime forums and Facebook groups and so on because this happens a lot in those places and I find it infuriating.

Back in the days when such talk was confined to one’s immediate social circle in the physical world (the breakfast table, coworkers, your friend group), it was pretty much harmless. But online, it is not necessarily harmless and I think the speculation in Gabby and Brian’s case is a pretty good example of the harm it can cause.

For example, during the time Brian was missing, Internet mobs were harassing men whose only crime was that they bore some vague physical resemblance to him. Armchair detectives were claiming that Brian’s parents must have him hidden in a bunker under their backyard and when his mom appeared to be gardening she was actually passing food and stuff down to his bunker. People were protesting outside Brian’s parents’ house and some rando sued his parents for $40 for absolutely no reason I can determine.

This all kind of reminds me of when the Internet (for some reason) decided the furniture company Wayfair was trafficking children through their website, listing kids for sale in disguise as overpriced cabinets. Internet mobs were actually HARASSING MINOR CHILDREN who had returned home after being missing for a period, to the point where one poor girl went on Facebook Live to say she was alive and well and with her family and had not been trafficked and was begging people to stop this nonsense as it was ruining her life. I was horrified and tremendously angry about this and still am frankly.

And now that Brian has been found, the Internet mobs who had seemed so dedicated to solving the case themselves now suddenly don’t want it to be solved and try to keep coming up with reasons why the remains that were identified as him could not be him.

It’s like these people think that this is a fascinating Netflix series, and now it’s over and they don’t want it to be over and are desperately trying to come up with excuses to carry on with another season of the Gabby and Brian Mystery Show…at the expense of the very real people involved in it. I am really hoping that Gabby and Brian’s respective families and friends are staying offline at the moment and don’t read any of the garbage that’s being spouted. Stuff about fake teeth, fake remains, substituted dental records, all sorts of conspiracies are being made up out of thin air.

But this isn’t Netflix. This is real life. And this is a very sad but very familiar story of a domestic abuser who killed his partner and then, probably, himself. It’s a story that happens every day all around the world and frankly I don’t understand why Gabby and Brian’s particular tragic saga has captivated so many people.

Honestly, I think the reason behind a lot of conspiracy theories is that people want to feel like they’re smarter than everybody else, even the experts. Like there’s some big secret thing going on that only they know about, so they get sucked into believing the most ridiculous things.

I certainly don’t mind if a person has legitimate good-faith questions that can be answered. Like, when I don’t know something, I look it up or I ask someone who knows.

Some people have asked why dental records were used in the identification and not DNA. Answer: dental records are much faster and cheaper than using DNA, and so that’s what’s usually done unless either the records or the decedent’s teeth are unavailable. Others have asked why only partial remains were located. Answer: probably his body had been lying in that nature preserve for weeks, maybe over a month, and animals would nibble on bits and take away pieces to eat.

But those people who ask the questions, then flatly dismiss your answers and laugh in your face and go chasing after some completely implausible story they made up themselves, I cannot stand that. Either you want to learn, or you don’t, you know?

If you DO want to learn, I have some recommendations of books on the topics of forensic science and domestic violence that you guys might find interesting. I have read all of these books myself and found them both interesting and educational.

On forensic science, I recommend (in no particular order):

  1. Sue Black’s Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind and All That Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes
  2. Richard Shepherd’s Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain’s Top Forensic Pathologist
  3. Malcolm Dodd and Beverley Knight’s Justice for the Dead: Forensic Pathology in the Hot Zone
  4. Stefan Timmermans’s Postmortem: How Medical Examiners Explain Suspicious Deaths
  5. Colin Evans’s Blood On the Table: The Greatest Cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  6. Ryan Blumenthal’s Autopsy: Life in the Trenches with a Forensic Pathologist in Africa
  7. Zakaria Erzinclioglu’s Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist
  8. Cynric Temple-Camp’s The Cause of Death: True Stories of Death and Murder from a New Zealand Pathologist

On domestic violence I recommend:

  1. Rachel Louise Snyder’s No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
  2. George Lardner’s The Stalking of Kristin: A Father Investigates the Murder of His Daughter

(Incidentally, if you read a lot like me and you have a smart phone I highly recommend Scribd. It’s a reading app kind of like Amazon’s Kindle, and provides you with unlimited access to Scribd’s large, regularly updated library of books for just $10 a month. It has a wide selection of books, including academic type books that cost a lot of money to buy, and including some of the books I listed above. You can read as many as you like for just the flat $10 fee. For me, it’s more than paid for itself.)

Your latest issue of “why does this always happen to me”

I got an email from a lady about an old case, early 1980s. She was a bit confused cause she’d known the MP and the Charley Project said his car didn’t turn up for ten years, but she had heard about it’s being located just a few months after he went missing.

I went back and investigated and discovered a rotten bit of luck and an important lesson. Newspapers.com had several versions of the same article about the man’s disappearance, all written years after the fact. ONE of these multiple versions of the article had a small typo, giving the time the man’s car was found as October 1992. In fact the car was found in October 1982.

And of course of all the articles I used when researching the case for the write-up, I had to pick the one with the typo.

Whoops.

Note to self: in future, when possible try to compare articles against each other, even if all the articles appear to be exactly the same.

On the plus side, my disorder is starting to swing back out of depression so there’s that.

Another AP dump

Hope all of you are well and staying covid-free. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already.

I put up a bunch of age-progressions today. As is my custom, the cases I updated where there wasn’t already an existing age-progression, got listed on the Charley Project’s updates page. In cases where I was just replacing the previous age-progression with a more recent one, those are listed below:

  1. Aaron Mitchell Anderson
  2. James Eric Bess
  3. Diamond Yvette Bradley
  4. Tionda Z. Bradley
  5. Allen Briscoe Jr.
  6. Jan Andre Cotta
  7. Noel William Dalluge
  8. Curtis Mackeever Fair
  9. Diego Alejandro Flores
  10. Ann Gotlib
  11. Randy Wayne Leach
  12. Patricia Loya
  13. Stacie Elizabeth Madison (also added a photo)
  14. Maria Gabriela Medina
  15. David Joseph Miera
  16. Leigh Marine Occhi
  17. Amy Sue Pagnac
  18. Lydia Ann Perkins
  19. Timmothy James Pitzen
  20. Erin Kay Pospisil
  21. Yvonne Reglar
  22. Julian Michael Sam
  23. Jaquilla Evonne Scales
  24. Billy Sena
  25. Mary Lou Sena
  26. Denise Marie Sheehy
  27. Susan Renee Smalley (also added a photo)
  28. Cynthia Lynn Sumpter
  29. Caroline Victoria Teague
  30. Dorien Deon Thomas
  31. Cindy D. Valle
  32. Christopher William Vigil
  33. King Rajan Walker
  34. AbdulNur Wilson
  35. Fredrick James Workman

Well, crud, the problem is on my end

Per my tech guy, the problem that’s preventing me from updating at the moment cannot be replicated on his side, meaning whatever is wrong is happening with my computer and my computer only.

What FUN.

I tried emptying the cache and giving it another go; no luck. Now I’m going to spend an indeterminate amount of time messing up my browser settings while I try to get the gears clicking again.

The pitfalls of the trade

It goes with the territory that I hear from mentally ill people on a regular basis, but this past 24 hours have been quite exceptional. I might have acquired a stalker. Again. (Remember her? She kept emailing me for AGES, even after I reported her to the police.)

So this new guy has sent me 17 emails just since yesterday, some of them quite long. He believes he might be a missing child. I’m quite sure he isn’t, but even if he was, he’s also sending the same emails to the relevant law enforcement agency so I can’t do anything more for him than he’s already done himself.

He’s schizophrenic. I’m not even guessing this, because he mentioned his diagnosis in several of the emails. The first one at least made it clear enough what he wanted from me, but since then they’ve degenerated into basically gibberish, such as these two (click for close-up view):

He sent a bunch of his documents too, scanned identity cards and such. So I know his name and address and a lot more besides. Fortunately it’s a long way away from me. Based on the scanned documents he sent me, it appears the authorities where he lives are already aware of him and his problems.

The poor guy clearly needs help but it’s not the kind I can provide. Nothing to do at this point but hit the block button.

Hit a win on Facebook yesterday

These days, in addition to checking the missing person’s own Facebook accounts, I often check those of their family members and friends cause sometimes I come across info about the missing person or the circumstances of their disappearance that isn’t available elsewhere. Photos, nicknames, etc.

Yesterday I was writing up a case of a missing woman whose disappearance had a decent amount of coverage on the internet. Articles, listing on her local Crime Stoppers page, listing on NamUs, etc. After I pulled all the info off those sources I checked social media and found even more.

The MP had a tattoo on her chest and one on her upper arm which I was already aware of. I got the best photos I could find of those tattoos off her Facebook account. But then I noticed that, when a friend posted about her disappearance and tagged the MP’s Facebook account, the friend had (probably unintentionally) actually tagged an old account the MP hadn’t used in several years. I had not been aware of this old account, but I had a look, and discovered photos which showed two additional tattoos, on the wrist and thigh, that were not mentioned ANYWHERE ELSE.

I was able to grab a photo of the thigh tattoo, and I mentioned the wrist tattoo in the distinguishing characteristics. (The only photo I could find of it was poor quality and not at a good angle and I couldn’t really tell what the tattoo looked like, so I just noted its presence and didn’t use that photo.)

It may not sound like much but that kind of info could break a case open. Last summer a man on my site was identified because I mentioned, and had a photo of, a tattoo he had that the official “This man is missing” articles, fliers etc. said nothing about.

I thought I’d share this story because I know a lot of people who read this blog are trying to identify dead bodies and make matches with missing persons, so I thought they might try to do what I’m doing (that is, look at the missing person’s loved ones’ posts about their case to find more info).

As for the case, it’s not up yet. The MP disappeared on August 22 of last year, which isn’t quite a year ago yet. But I was doing a bunch of cases from her city and figured I’d write this case up a few days early while I was at it.

Social media update, and contemplating a language change

I am happy to say I now have Facebook access back and no longer need to keep running to my husband’s office to use his account. Hopefully I can avoid further troubles with the platform but honestly I have my doubts. During my time away I encountered, and commiserated with, many people online who had been kicked off Facebook for no good reason, and sometimes no reason at all, and unless the platform makes major changes I think things are only going to get worse.

So posts on the Charley Project Facebook page have resumed as before. Need I also remind you the Charley Project is on Twitter?

I’m also happy to report that I’ve had no side effects from Thursday’s COVID-19 vaccine, other than a sore arm. It was very sore yesterday and much less so today. I also have a sniffly nose, but I’m pretty sure that’s just pollen.

Now on another topic: Occasionally I have adjusted the Charley Project’s vocabulary to fit with the times. For example, I stopped saying “confined to a wheelchair” after it came to my attention that, for people who cannot walk, a wheelchair is not a tool of confinement but liberation. Instead I started saying “uses a wheelchair” or “needs a wheelchair for mobility.” I also changed “committed suicide” to “died by suicide” because suicide is no longer a crime in most jurisdictions, and referring to the act as if it was still a crime contributes to the stigma against it and against people who die in this way, most of whom were suffering terribly.

Josh Duggar’s recent arrest (is anyone surprised? not me!) has got me thinking: I’ve seen a trend, in some publications, to replace the term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse images.” I think it’s a good change. Adult pornography, whatever feelings you might have about it, is legal in most jurisdictions throughout the world, and participants are doing it voluntarily and are usually paid. Child pornography is obviously not legal and the participants are being exploited and abused, and the term “child sexual abuse images” reminds a person of what is going on in those pictures and videos and the crime that must be committed to produce them.

So I’m thinking of making the change myself, and changing all references of “child pornography” on the Charley Project to “child sexual abuse images” instead.

Thoughts, anyone?