Well, this is a bit odd

I found out that Maribel Oquendo-Carrero‘s dad, said to be possibly her abductor when she disappeared in 1982, is still around and his whereabouts are unknown and he gets arrested sometimes. Petty stuff. He was arrested at least three times this year. He’s 80 years old.

So where is Maribel? I have no idea. The Facebook page I found for her includes a scrap of some article about her disappearance, but it’s not enough to tell me anything, and I have yet to find the whole article anywhere.

Showing people as they are

I try to see the “whole person” in real life; I try to be conscious of everyone’s flaws and redeeming features, whether I personally love them or loathe them. And similarly, on my missing persons profiles I try to show the whole person, show missing people as they ARE, not how others would wish them to be.

Twice recently, I got yelled at by relatives of missing people for saying on the person’s profile that they were addicted to drugs. Both people who were mad at me admitted that their missing relative was, in fact, addicted to drugs. But they didn’t want it said out loud, basically.

One person said it sounded “harsh.” Another person claimed it was “confidential” when it wasn’t; she herself had been trying to admit her brother to a residential drug rehab facility, a fact that was publicly known on the internet. They don’t admit you to residential drug rehabs just because you want a vacation. But nevertheless, she didn’t want me calling her brother an addict.

While I can understand why these people feel this way, as I’ve gotten more experience I’ve felt less and less inclined to modify profiles and remove perfectly accurate information like that just because a family member asks me to.

When I was sixteen I read an excellent novel that reminds me of this situation: The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) Basically, the story is about a high-school boy who mysteriously disappears, and the aftermath and how this affects his classmates and the small town they live in. All sorts of ugly rumors are floating around, and Christopher’s mother makes public accusations of murder against multiple people.

In the end, however, it turns out that Christopher had been desperately unhappy at home because his mother was very controlling and volatile, and he’d simply run away from home because he couldn’t take it anymore. Furthermore, Christopher’s mom had KNOWN THIS all along, but didn’t want to believe it, going so far as to lie to the police and conceal evidence. She would rather believe her son had been murdered than admit, even to herself, to she hadn’t been a good mother and her son hadn’t been a normal, happy kid.

It’s always a bit of a conundrum I have to deal with, trying to tell the whole truth about a person while trying not to cause additional pain to their family members.

A long-ago disappearance and a repressed memory

I wrote up the case of Maxine Beatrice Green last night. The details, if true, are pretty horrifying. According to Maxine’s daughter Norma, her ex-husband, Hobart, raped Maxine and beat and strangled her to death and buried her body in a river bottom.

The problem with Norma’s story is that she says she repressed the memory and it only came back to her 25 years after the fact, and she has exactly zero hard evidence to support it.

That Norma herself believes the murder happened is evident in the fact that, after the police wouldn’t listen to her, she used her own money to have the alleged burial site excavated. That Hobart murdered his wife I can also well believe; he was a demonstrably violent man who later beat his baby son to death and buried the body on his farm.

But nothing turned up at Norma’s excavation site except a few buttons and some animal bones. They should have found at least Maxine’s purse, or part of it, or some of the contents of it, as Norma remembers the purse being buried with her mother.

It’s possible, I suppose, that every part of Norma’s story is correct EXCEPT the burial site. But I have some other questions:

  1. What about Norma’s sister, who was also alleged to be present at the murder and burial? What is she saying? How old was she at the time; was she old enough to remember any of this?
  2. What about Hobart’s girlfriend, who was also said to have been there? She is unnamed in the news articles. Does Norma know her identity, and was she ever interviewed?
  3. Maxine and Hobart had four other children. Where were they on the night in question, and do they remember anything?

I think Hobart must be dead by now. I can find no record of his death, but he’d be nearly 90 today and I can’t find him listed as an inmate in the Missouri Department of Corrections database.

Given how old the case is, and how Hobart was already in prison for life, I can understand that the police were reluctant to invest a lot of resources in this. But six children grew up with their mother, and it would be nice to know why, and where she is now.

All is well, doggo-wise

My adoption of Kinsey into our home has gone swimmingly. She always wants to be with me and here she is in my office settling down for the night:

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She has a dog bed but doesn’t always want to use it. The cats are weirded out by her but very curious about her.

When they’re in the same room together, Carmen just sits and stares intensely at her, and will sometimes raise her back when Kinsey gets too close for comfort, but there has been any aggression or even hissing. So far, Kinsey has really noticed her exactly one time. She was like, “Oh, what’s that? *sniff sniff sniff* Not interesting. I’ll back to following the hooman.”

Aria on the other hand keeps creeping up to where Kinsey is, then retreating and hiding, then creeping up again, closer each time. Tonight as Michael and I watched TV in the living room and Kinsey lay curled up on the floor, Aria got within like four inches of her before losing her nerve and fleeing.

I don’t know if they’ll ever be friends but right now I’m delighted that they just tolerate each other. Kinsey has no prior experience with house cats at all, only ferals.

We gave her a bath tonight in the yard, Michael and I, using a hose, a kiddie paddling pool, a bucket, Dawn Dish Soap and a judicious application of dog treats. She’ll get a proper bath done by professionals at the vet’s office a week from tomorrow, but in the meantime she at least smells better.

She’s shedding like mad, she’s half Labrador Retriever and half Husky and has the Husky undercoat. She’s shedding 2.5 dogs a day and no matter how much I brush it’s never enough. She leaves a trail of black fur wherever she goes. Ima have to vacuum. Michael’s parents will be thrilled when they find out about her (not).

As for today’s updates, the Rosselys Felix Hernandez case is particularly sordid and upsetting. As her fifteen-year-old daughter was a missing child for two months and presumed to be in the company of a suspected sexual predator, her name and photos were publicized and are plastered all over the internet. But I decided not to name her in the casefile, since she is a rape victim and a minor. Poor kid.

Perhaps with all these charges against Mr. York he might be persuaded to talk about his wife’s case with more candor than he has in the past. He’s probably going to prison for a very long time in any case. Better to go as a wife-killer than as a child rapist, I would think. Or maybe York told Rosselys’s daughter some things while they were together this spring.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Karen Zhou

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Karen Zhou, a ten-year-old girl who disappeared from this apartment complex in Grenada, Mississippi on May 21, 1994. She was born in China and had only been living in the U.S. for a few years before she vanished; her English was limited.

Karen used to be listed on the NCMEC, but she isn’t anymore. It’s my understanding that the family asked her to be taken off their database. She is, however, on NamUs.

The prime suspect in her disappearance is her stepfather, Shindong He. (I remember I struggled a bit to write Karen’s casefile, not sure which of the stepfather’s names was his family name, since the Chinese do this the other way around. I still don’t know.)

Prior to her disappearance, Karen frequently came to school with bruises, and Shindong He was also abusive to Karen’s mother, Wen Hua “May” Zhou. He later attacked her and, during the assault, told her he’d killed Karen. Shindong He was convicted of aggravated assault and then deported back to China, and who knows where he is now.

If still alive, Karen would be 34 years old. Her disappearance is still classified as a non-family abduction. I don’t know if Wen Hua Zhou is still in the U.S. Wherever she is, I hope she’s been able to rebuild her life.

Reader discretion advised

So here’s a copy of the court filing in the Ashley Freeman/Lauria Bible case. It is horrific. I haven’t even read it yet myself and I know it’s going to be horrific.

I did glance at the first few pages and it looks like the sole living suspect, Ronnie Busick, was the lookout and two men who are beyond earthly justice actually killed Danny and Kathy Freeman. And of course, if Busick and his lawyer have any brains at all they’re going to dump as much blame as possible on the dead guys and paint him as an innocent bystander or something.

I had bad dreams last night about the girls being held captive by those men. Some real Silence of the Lambs type stuff.

Not gonna update today. I’ve been out all day and now I’ve got some things to do. I’ve got to deal with an email sent in with about a zillion corrections on one of my cases. And possibly take Michael to the hospital when he gets home, depending on how awful he feels. He’s been sick for awhile.

Wisconsin Trip 2018

So last weekend I went to the Fourth Annual Wisconsin Missing Persons Awareness Event. (I also went to the first and second ones, but missed last year’s.) Here are some articles about it:

I arranged for an Airbnb and said I would be at my hosts’ house by six on Friday. But I left a bit early, and I had forgotten also that I would gain an hour by traveling west. So I was in Illinois, contemplating what to do about this extra time, when I saw a sign for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and I stopped there.

I wound up dropping $70 on books at the gift shop — and they were worth every penny. I didn’t get to see the whole museum but it seemed really nice, and I enjoyed walking on this exhibit which was set in the floor:

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So I got up into Wisconsin and in the last two hours or so of the drive I realized the car was making a funny noise. It was louder than normal. There didn’t seem to be any difference in the driving, but the engine was suddenly REALLY REALLY LOUD.

I arrived at my Airbnb and was let inside by a lovely married couple with two little kids. The wife escorted me to my room and the first question I asked was a recommendation for a mechanic. I didn’t want to risk a six-hour drive home on a faulty vehicle. The nice lady gave me a mechanic friend’s cell phone number.

The mechanic’s name was Matt. He agreed to collect my car from the Airbnb’s driveway and look at it in his shop while I was attending the next day’s event. I then messaged Marsha Loritz, the event organizer, to ask for a ride to the event, two miles from my Airbnb, the next morning. Marsha said she would ask a friend to pick me up.

The next morning the mechanic came and took my car away, and time passed and I waited patiently but Marsha’s friend never arrived to pick me up. Finally I got a ride with the nice Airbnb husband, a work-from-home dad who cheerfully put coats on his toddlers, bundled all of us into his car and trucked me over to the place. (I later gave this couple five stars and a glowing review on Airbnb.)

So I showed up slightly late and Marsha’s friend saw me and was like “OMG did I forget to pick you up?” and was upset with herself but I shrugged it off. I was there. It didn’t matter.

The first hour or so consisted of standing at my table and answering questions from passersby. I got a call from the Matt the mechanic. My car’s wheel bearing was broken. I COULD drive it home, but there was a slight chance that at highway speeds the wheel would come flying off and cause an accident that might kill someone, possibly me. Or he could fix the car right then and there.

Of course I wanted the car fixed, but there was a rub: Matt didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have enough cash on me to pay for the repair. He recommended someone else, but that shop turned out to be closed on weekends, and I was looking at the very real prospect of getting stuck in Wisconsin with no wheels until Monday.

I was quietly wigging out about this when I was approached by SAR (search and rescue) dog handler Rachel, my friend and fellow event attendee. I told her my problem and she promptly offered to lend me all the cash I needed to pay for the repair! Rachel saved my butt!

Problem fixed. She took me to Matt’s place after the event (stopping at an ATM for cash on the way), and went inside with me to meet Matt to make sure he wouldn’t be a creep. I paid him and drove home.

Getting back to the event itself: it was quite awesome. Rachel took this photo of me there:

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There were at least seven dogs present. Four of them were therapy dogs (from left: Louise, Gracie, Ava and Bernie.)

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There were also at least three SAR dogs. Rachel brought her Dutch Shepherd Rieken, and there was also Calvin, who was delighted to meet everyone and hammed it up for ear rubs and “good boy”s:

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And there was this SAR-puppy-in-training who was trying to be professional but kept jumping on people:

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Amber Wilde‘s family was there. Bobby Joe Fritz‘s family was there. DonaMae Bourgeois Bayerl‘s family was there. Marsha Loritz and her sister lost their mother, Victoria Lynn Prokopovitz, I’m sure other families were there as well but I didn’t see everyone. It was pretty well attended, pretty crowded.

The keynote speaker was Patty Wetterling. Of course most of you know the story of her young son Jacob, who was found in 2016, nearly thirty years after he was abducted at gunpoint. I didn’t get really good photos of her, but there’s this article you can read about her speech which has pics.

Patty told the story of Jacob’s kidnapping and the subsequent 27-year investigation into what happened. I hadn’t been previously aware of the role played by Jared, who was also a victim of Danny Heinrich.

Heinrich, Jacob’s killer, specialized in what I’d refer to as “grab-and-gropes.” He would basically snatch a child — a boy of a certain age — and drag him into his car, sexually abuse him, then release him within minutes. Jared was snatched a few months before Jacob was taken.

As the years passed Jared became convinced that whoever had done this to him had also taken Jacob, and he thought the perpetrator must have committed many, many similar crimes that were not reported to the police. Because you know, it’s a young boy just getting into adolescence, they’re embarrassed and ashamed, don’t want to talk to cops or parents about what happened to them.

But they might talk to Jared, because he was also a victim. So he started reaching out saying basically “this happened to me, and if anything similar happened to you, please come to me and let’s talk because we need to identify this man.”

Patty talked about campfire gatherings of Heinrich’s victims, where they would tell their stories while staring into the fire, because something about the presence of the fire got people to open up. You weren’t looking into someone’s face and seeing all the shock and horror and whatever as you walked, you were just talking to a fire.

The cops worked very hard on the case, and the Wetterling family worked very hard, but without Jared I’m not sure this would have ever been solved.

Patty also talked about how in the immediate aftermath of the abduction, other people began to prey on the family. Specifically, she mentioned several men who came, supposedly to help support the family and support the search effort, but really to creep on the kids. Like, they’d offer to babysit all the kids while all the grownups in the town were out searching for Jacob, then they’re creep on them.

This was absolutely vile. I hadn’t even considered that someone would want to do that. Patty said she learned the hard way — and she advised other families of missing children, so they wouldn’t have to learn the hard way — to run background checks and ask for credentials for everyone who showed up offering to help.

She also made a lot of good points about education. How parents need to be educated about signs to look for, signs of predatory adults, signs that children are being abused. How children need to be educated to know when they’re being creeped on, or taken advantage of, and to know who to go to for help.

(It reminds me of an episode from my own childhood: when I was in second grade I was repeatedly touched inappropriately by an older boy on the school bus. On the ride home from school this boy — who, it must be said, was severely mentally handicapped, nonverbal, and probably didn’t have the capacity to realize what he was doing — would sit on top of me on the bus seat and touch me in a way he shouldn’t have.

This lasted for weeks and I kept coming home in tears over it. My mother asked why and all I could think of to say was “a boy is touching me and bothering me.” She did not understand what I was trying to tell her and thought it was a situation of teasing, and was like “so stand up to him and tell him to stop, then.”

This incident was referenced in the Longreads article about me. I remember the frustration I felt at the time, because I knew something was very wrong about this but I didn’t know what it was or how to explain it, and it didn’t occur to my mom to ask any questions like “Where exactly is he touching you?” And so nothing was done, and the situation continued until the boy got tired of this game and stopped of his own accord.

This could have all been avoided if even one of us had been properly educated, like Patty Wetterling was saying, on the signs to look out for and how to ask for help. Fortunately I wasn’t really traumatized by what happened, I think mainly because even at eight years old I realized this boy had something wrong with him and didn’t know what was he doing. It was just a very uncomfortable experience for me is all.)

So Patty Wetterling gave this awesome speech that had me tearing up, especially when she talked about the nice boy Jacob had been, and what the world lost when he died before he could become a man, and how people reached out to to help them in their grief and loss and show solidarity for them.

And Marsha gave a speech and read the names of missing people aloud, and their families got to come up and say “My name is so and so, and this person is my relative who disappeared from this town on this day.” It was very emotional.

Instead of a balloon release, Vincent, this year they did pinwheels instead. Each of us got a shiny foil pinwheel with the name of a missing person on it — I got Evon Young — and the suggestion that we could put it in our yard or our window or whatever in this person’s memory.

I handed out plenty of business cards. Then we all packed up and left, Rachel took me to my car, I paid the mechanic and I drove home, arriving shortly after midnight on Sunday.

I’ve been super tired since I got home but unable to sleep well. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt well-rested. The medication I take messes up my sleep and I often wake up after only about four hours, unable to go back to sleep again even though I feel like hammered dog poo.

Ima start the engines again today though.