Awesome two-part series on Gary Mathias and his four missing friends

Two years ago I blogged about the 1978 disappearance of Gary Dale Mathis and the mysterious deaths of his four friends, who went missing with him from Oroville in Yuba County, California. The comments on that entry are, I think, well worth a read.

I’m happy to announce that the Sacramento Bee has done a really good two-parter on the case.

Part one is titled: Out in the Cold: Four mentally disabled men died in woods. But what happened to the fifth? Part two is Were 4 mentally disabled men set up to die in the California woods?

The articles provide a lot more background information than I had had previously, regarding the disabilities all the men dealt with, and Mathias’s criminal history.

Most people with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia are not dangerous to anyone but themselves, but Mathias was a violent man with a history of attacks on both men and women. This probably had more to do with his drug abuse problem than his mental illness. It’s not clear to me whether Mathis was ever violent when he WASN’T under the influence of some illicit drug or other. But both mental illness and violence ran in his family.

The articles posit the theory, put forth by the families of the dead men and by others, that Mathias was in some way responsible for the situation that lead to their deaths. Certainly that’s possible.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone is ever going to find out what happened, and I don’t see any reason to believe Mathias is still alive. But it is an intriguing mystery.

Black History Month: Tristan Rivera

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Tristan Markey Rivera, a 21-year-old man who disappeared from Irving, Texas on August 5, 2007. He is biracial (black/white) and mentally disabled.

He was last seen in the Trinity River floodwaters and is presumed drowned.

Darron Glass revisited

So I just finished reading this book about the unsolved 1980 disappearance of Darron Glass, the only presumed Atlanta Child Killer victim who is still missing. I’ve written about Darron on this blog twice before.

The book is self-published and more of a booklet than a book, only 28 pages long in large type. Normally I wouldn’t have bothered with it, but it was written by Thomas Bailey, who was Darron’s foster care caseworker at the time of his disappearance, so I thought it might have some insights. It did.

Bailey says much of what has been reported about Darron is wrong. His foster mother, Fannie Mae Smith, was interviewed by the media and described him as “immature but streetwise.” However, Bailey says Darron was in fact mentally disabled, and that his IQ had tested at 65, and he “was in no way streetwise.” Smith claimed Darron, or someone claiming to be him, called her on the day of his disappearance, but Bailey doesn’t believe Darron called or even knew his foster home’s phone number.

I’m not sure what to make of this information. Certainly I’m going to put the info about Darron’s mental disability on his Charley Project profile, but I don’t think his low IQ necessarily means Smith didn’t know what she was talking about.

An IQ in the 60s indicates a mild mental disability. According to some research I did, most people with IQs in that range function relatively normally. They can take care of themselves in terms of stuff like bathing and dressing and keeping their living area clean and so on. They can conform socially and they can acquire reading and math skills up until around the sixth-grade level. With some support, they can usually work a job and live independently as adults.

With this in mind, and given that Darron grew up in inner city Atlanta and had a rough life (per Bailey, Darron’s father murdered his mother in front of him), I can totally see him presenting as “immature but streetwise” to most people. If anyone is in a position to speak about children with mild mental disabilities, I’d be happy to hear it.

Bailey has more to say. Fannie Mae Smith’s foster home, he says, was very unsuitable, both for a mentally disabled child and for kids in general; in fact, he says, “How this home became certified is a mystery to me.” He says there were often “people of questionable character” in the home, and suspicion of drug use and even drug selling. Bailey says he had raised concerns about the placement with his supervisor but was ignored.

Per Bailey, he was informed of Darron’s disappearance on September 15, the day after it happened. That same day, he got a call from a woman who identified herself as Darron’s sister. Darron did have a sister whom he wasn’t in contact with, and Bailey wasn’t sure how she would have gotten his number.

The caller said she lived out of state and wanted to adopt Darron. Bailey told her Darron was missing, and she ended the conversation without leaving any contact info, and did not call back.

Bailey started getting anonymous calls saying if he would give the caller money, the caller would disclose Darron’s whereabouts. He says it was always a child’s voice, “maybe a young boy with adult voices in the background.” He told the police about the calls and they put a tap on his phone. Nothing seems to have come of it.

Bailey does not believe Wayne Williams was the Atlanta Child Killer, or at least that if he was a killer, he did not kill all the victims lumped under the Atlanta Child Killer case. (I agree.) He also thinks Darron was probably not murdered at all.

Bailey’s theory is that Darron’s sister was in contact with Fannie Mae Smith and that there was some kind of plan for the sister to take Darron, and that she did so on the day Darron disappeared, and that Darron is alive and well today.

He has a lot of criticism for both the Department of Family and Children Services, and the Atlanta Police Department, and thinks the police were too quick to dump Darron in the pile of serial killer victims instead of actually looking for him.

Articles about other kids in the wake of Jayme’s recovery

As often happens when a high-profile missing child is found, especially when they’re found safe, news agencies are dusting off their local missing kid cases and being all like, “Hey, you know how Jayme Closs was found? Here’s some kids missing in YOUR area and their parents hope they’ll get found too.” So far we’ve got:

I highly doubt Adji or Diana is alive. Adji is a special needs child and if he was abducted, I don’t think the abductor could have kept him long without attracting some attention. As for Diana, a suspect has been charged with her murder.

Native American Heritage Month: Damon Boyd

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is Damon Lee Boyd, a 29-year-old Ojibwe man who disappeared from Itasca County in northern Minnesota on May 27, 2014.

Boyd has both an alcohol problem and some mental illness issues, and he’s been in several treatment centers in the past. He was last seen after “leaving” a residential facility in Polk County, Minnesota. I don’t know whether he was properly discharged from that facility, or absconded.

According to the Facebook page set up for him, he may have been in the Fargo, North Dakota area after his disappearance.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Keyla Contreras

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Keyla Contreras, a biracial Hispanic and African-American eighteen-year-old who disappeared from Manhattan on January 13, 2012.

Keyla’s case is concerning because she’s deaf and mute — meaning she can’t speak intelligibly and only communicates with sign language. Obviously that makes her extremely vulnerable. She left her home in the Spanish Harlem area at 7:00 a.m., perhaps to go to work or school, and vanished.

Unfortunately I know very little about her disappearance. Even the Whereabouts Still Unknown blog, known for its wonderful research, couldn’t find much on her.

MP of the week: Jessie Barnes

This week’s featured missing person is Jessie Barnes, a 28-year-old mentally disabled woman who disappeared from West Point, Mississippi, a small town in the northeast part of the state, on July 7, 2000.

Although she had mental challenges, Jessie was relatively high-functioning and would sometimes “drop out of sight for a few days.” Her family got concerned and reported her missing after ten days because her grandma had died and she didn’t show up for the funeral.

I think if she is alive (and this seems unlikely) she may be on the streets somewhere. She has a daughter, and if still alive she would be 46 years old today.