Better nip this in the bud

I got a comment on this blog post today, from someone named “Jo”:

I am Brandi but everyone wants me to forget that I am pretty sure I have figured out who Tiffy is & what name she goes by now but the Meagan chic that runs the Charli Project thinks she’s god smarter than everyone else & thinks only she can solve any of these cases but if you read the disclaimer for the Charlie Project website it states she is not an investigator & they do not investigate the cases on that site. So I think this Meagan person is a misleading liar trying to convince people her words & thoughts are law written in stone. She claimed to do a hair strand DNA test on me yet that has never happened I have never met her. My DNA test was an oral swab that matched a member of the Summers Family we went through a private lab so people like Meagan couldn’t tamper with it.

And I replied,

What on earth are you talking about? I never convinced you to do a DNA test or said I did. I’ve always been very open that this website, and its administrator, doesn’t investigate cases and serves as an information portal only. You’ve got me mixed up with someone else.

I just want to make it very clear that I have never met Jo in my life or had anyone run a DNA test in any case. This person, if they didn’t imagine this entirely, clearly has me mixed up with another individual. I certainly have an idea as to who that individual might be, but let us say no more about it.

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The sadness I get from the runaways

I posted one runaway case with today’s updates, a girl from Philadelphia. I won’t say her name because, God willing, her case will get removed eventually and I don’t want this blog entry coming back to haunt her later when she applies for things like rental accommodation and college and a job.

She’s been missing since mid-October 2015 — almost thirteen months. Usually I wait two years to post kids classified as runaways, but I sometimes make exceptions if the runaway is under 14. (Don’t ask me why 14 is my arbitrary cutoff. It just is.) In this case, the girl was thirteen and a half years old.

She’s listed as 5’2 but she’s probably grown an inch or two in the past year. She’s Hispanic, but I would have mistaken her for black. She certainly seems to enjoy fixing her hair in African-American styles; one photo I found showed her with braided extensions down to her waist. But I looked up her surname, and although it doesn’t sound at all Spanish, a Puerto Rican university bears that name.

I found her Facebook account, which is not uncommon in runaway cases. Loads of them are on Facebook, and many keep active accounts even while they’re missing. I also found the girl’s Twitter account —  now THAT I’m pretty sure I’ve never found before, not for a missing person. To check and see I searched charleyproject.org for the keyword “twitter” and came up with only a link to Charley’s own Twitter feed and links to the Twitter accounts of two relatives of MPs.

Of course I could only see what this girl chose to make public, but she hadn’t updated the public part of those accounts since well over a year before her disappearance — May 2014 for Facebook, July 2014 for Twitter. (And she has 496 Twitter followers, over 5 times more than my personal Twitter has.) I snagged several pictures of her from both accounts, and wound up with twelve photos altogether, far more than average. I could have added more, actually, but generally I stop at twelve.

Now, I have no idea what her home life was like before she disappeared. All I know is the street where she lived in Philadelphia, and the elementary school she attended. (Oh, and that she has at least two brothers, probably three, maybe more. That info came from her Twitter.) I checked the school website and it’s a K-8. If you go by her age, she was probably in seventh grade, perhaps eighth, when she went missing. That’s all I know about her personal circumstances before she disappeared.

But nevertheless, the information I uncovered while putting together this child’s casefile just made me feel sad. According to the NCMEC and NamUs, she already had at least one tattoo, and perhaps more, by the time she went missing. Some of her pictures betrayed her age, but others did not; she was clearly trying to look much older than she was. One tweet, posted when she was eleven years old, said, in part, that she was “mad as SHIT” because she liked a boy who didn’t like her back. (I don’t want to quote the whole tweet on here.) Her Facebook page had a photo montage with the caption reading “Trust No Bitch.” When she posted that image, she was two weeks past her twelfth birthday.

Let me emphasize that I am not condemning this girl for her makeup and her social media posts. I think some of them are unwise, but she’s a kid, and kids make mistakes. Certainly I’ve made serious mistakes before about what I post on social media, and will probably keep doing so, and I’m an adult. I just think it’s sad because, from what limited information I have, it looks like she was growing up way too fast.

And now she’s been missing for over a year. There’s a good chance she’s got caught up in the child prostitution trade, drugs, that sort of thing. Child traffickers see kids like that as fresh meat. A child can get snatched up and devoured by those vipers within a few days of leaving home. If this girl has gotten involved with that sort of thing, as a substantial percentage of runaways do, she could be anywhere in the country, or even elsewhere in the world.

She might be too ashamed by what has happened to her to call home. She want to call home but be prevented through threats of violence or worse.

Or she might be dead, lying a slab in a morgue somewhere, or in a potter’s field. Or perhaps still undiscovered, in a shallow grave or a landfill. Think of Syllania Edwards, for example, who ran away from Oklahoma and turned up dead — on that notorious mesa in New Mexico, the youngest known victim of more than half a dozen women murdered by a serial killer who remains unidentified.

Wherever she is, this girl from Philadelphia, I hope she’s safe, and I hope she turns up alive and able to put her life back together.

My “Unfound” podcast interview

Although Ed Dentzel released the podcast on I think Tuesday, I didn’t mention it on my blog till today cause I wanted to listen to the whole thing. (Why that was, I don’t know; I’d heard the whole thing already, when I gave the interview in the first place.) Well, Michael and his parents and I listened to it all this afternoon and it turned out great. I wish I hadn’t talked so fast though. My apologies if people have trouble understanding me.

The entire podcast — the introduction, interview and after-interview statement — is 1 hour and 12 minutes long. And I would recommend you guys turn up your volumes a bit.

It’s on Podomatic and on Stitcher and on iTunes.

An evolution of thinking

I wanted to share with you guys a conversation I had on the Charley Project’s Facebook page, about a mother who disappeared almost a decade ago and has turned up alive:

fbdiscuss

After getting that final response I realized I’ve become much less judgmental than I used to be about MPs who left of their own accord. I know that around ten years ago I was interviewed by a newspaper about such a case and I said it was “abominably selfish” for a person to do that. Whenever I heard about an MP who turned out to have simply walked out of their lives, leaving their family wondering what happened and if they were still alive, I used to get angry — like the other person in this conversation here. Now my response is much more tempered. I’m not sure when it changed.

I think back to my own early- to mid-adolescence, when I was suffering from horrific, untreated, mental illness. I had very intense thoughts about running away from home, traveling to a distant city, taking my own life there without any ID or anything on me, and getting buried as a Jane Doe. I do not know why this seemed like a great idea at the time. My brain was basically broken.

Mind you, I still think it’s selfish to desert your loved ones without a word, and I still tend to feel much more sorry for the left-behind family and friends than the MP who left them. But now I also tend to wonder “what was going in that person’s life that was so bad that they felt they had to take such steps?” I don’t get mad anymore, I don’t judge them. I just feel glad their family has learned their fate, and hope they all can reconcile or at least reach some level of acceptance.

I was talking about it with Michael today and I asked him if he thought my change in attitude about MPs like this woman was due to an additional decade of learning about these cases and what motivates these people to walk out, or was it just that I was once 21 and am now 31 and I’ve simply grown up. Michael said the one cannot be separated from the other, that learning new things through reading and stuff is one more part of growing up.

MP event in Arizona in November

Stuart Somershoe, a detective with the Phoenix Police Department, sent me a flier about an upcoming missing/unidentified persons event planned for November 5. It will be held at Arizona State University, West Campus, which is in Glendale at the edge of Phoenix, bordering Glendale.

flier.jpg

Det. Somershoe says:

We have had nine (!) resolutions from last year’s event. We opened/re-opened 22 new cases at the event and collected 41 DNA samples. We have had 3 “cold” DNA hits, connecting missing person cases with unidentified remains where previously no association had been made.

We want families to come to this year’s event. Investigators will be on hand to open new missing person reports (no matter how old) and also to collect identifiers like DNA, dental records, and photographs for existing cases.

It doesn’t matter how long the person has been missing (our oldest case from last year’s event was from 1965).

He asked me to spread the info around on social media. I ask that those of my readers who have their own social media accounts do the same.

I wanted to thank everyone

I just wanted to put up a special post thanking everyone who has come to my support about a certain troll who, since early this year, has criticized and attacked everything I do, both in terms of my missing persons work and my personal life. This person has literally never had a single nice thing to say about what I do or who I am.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t completely ignore his comments and usually did respond in some form, it’s because I like to give people a chance to rethink what they did and maybe change their opinions or at least they way they say things. I try to tell myself that a lot of people aren’t stupid, they’re just ignorant. An ignorant person might be willing to learn what the facts are. Stupid people just don’t care.

Sometimes it works. Once, a Twitter troll was saying nasty things on my personal twitter account. I had a photo of myself posted on there and the troll was like “your skin looks all nasty and filthy, you need to moisturize and when was the last time you had a bath, you’ve got dirt all around our mouth and on your forehead.” And I explained about my melasma and how the “dirt” he saw was actually the product of an incurable skin condition. And the Twitter troll was mortified and deeply apologetic.

But the whole “engaging the troll” thing obviously hasn’t worked with here, so I blocked him today. (I say “him” out of convenience, by the way; this troll might be female.) Assuming the blocking thing actually works — I don’t know, cause I’ve never blocked anyone on here before since I started this blog almost ten years ago — all future comments from him will go straight into Spam without me having to even look at them. And if it doesn’t work and this person keeps sending in comments, I’m just not going to approve them. And if WordPress posts them automatically without going through the referral thing, I’m going to delete them as soon as I find out. I’ve just had enough.

But what I really meant to say was… you guys have no idea how much it means to me when you stand up for me like that. I’ve been online long enough to recognize trolls when I see them, and weigh their statements appropriately (that is, 0.0), but it’s nice to know other people have got your back. Thank you.