The Facebook gods smile upon me again

So a week or so ago the Charley Project’s Facebook page inexplicably tanked and all the sudden no one was seeing the posts, no one was liking or sharing or commenting on any of my posts. Now, equally inexplicably, the page’s reach has returned to normal. Shrug. I am glad of it, anyway.

I have no idea how online algorithms and analytics and whatnot work. Sometimes I wish I did. I was reading about the guy behind the hugely popular Twitter account that rates dogs, and he makes a six-figure annual income just from that account, like from selling ad space and merch. Which isn’t to say he isn’t doing anything. He pays very close attention to the analytics and, out of hundreds of dog pictures submitted for consideration every day, he selects the one he thinks will get the most likes and shares, and then after posting a tweet he keeps an eye on it for like fifteen minutes and if it’s not getting an acceptable number of likes and shares, he deletes it and tries again with another dog, another tweet.

So anyway. The most popular story on Charley’s Facebook at present is this one about Shawn Hornbeck’s family. Sadly, Shawn’s stepfather has passed away from cancer at only 57. He had help raise Shawn from infancy and Shawn and his siblings thought of him as their father. Another really popular story is this one, about a Chinese man who was found alive and well, eighteen years after his abduction at the age of three.

The story I would recommend, which hasn’t gotten much attention since I posted it during the time Facebook was ignoring me: this one. The headline basically says it all: “A Girl, 15, Reported a Sexual Assault, Then the Detective Abused Her, Too.”

I’m sure he had other victims as well.

MP of the week: Mia Patterson

This week’s featured missing person is Mia Lynn Patterson, a 26-year-old woman missing from Detroit, Michigan since May 30, 2017.

I don’t have much on her, but curiously, Mia’s cousin, Carlita Yvette Gentry Lohmeier, also disappeared from Detroit and was never found. The women disappeared years apart and as far as I know there’s no evidence to connect the two cases.

Victoria Prokopovitz’s husband charged with her murder

Victoria Lynn Prokopovitz has been missing from Pittsfield, Wisconsin for six years and counting. Her daughter, Marsha Loritz, was the one who started those missing persons event I go to every year. Marsha is a very sweet person, just lovely. She cries when she talks about her mother’s disappearance.

Well, it looks like answers may finally be coming, because yesterday, Vicki’s husband, James, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and perjury. James’s girlfriend, Kathryn Friday, whom he started seeing just a month after Vicki vanished, was charged with perjury and obstructing an officer.

This isn’t really a surprise; James had been a suspect in his wife’s disappearance for awhile now. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad for Marsha. James had been her stepfather since she was a kid and I’m sure she hoping someone else was responsible for whatever happened to her mom. She always said she didn’t know what happened and just wanted to find out, find her mother.

I hope James confesses, pleads guilty and discloses the location of Vicki’s body without any further BS. Not only is he a murderer, but he basically tortured Marsha and her sister and the rest of the family for the past six years by not letting them know what happened.

Articles:

A one-woman crime wave

Having noticed that Newspapers.com had loads of back issues of the Austin American-Statesman, I decided to start researching Austin, Texas cases. I have updated several on Charley, and learned a great deal more about the disappearance of Gracie Nell Nash and the one-woman crime wave that is Naomi Easley Moore.

Our story begins in May 1983, when Melvin Davis broke up with his girlfriend Naomi Easley. Almost immediately, the trouble started. Let’s have a list, shall we.

  1. Easley writes letters to Melvin’s boss trying to get him fired.
  2. Melvin and John Davis’s shared house is burglarized, and someone slashes the tires of John’s car and trailer.
  3. Melvin catches Easley pouring sugar and syrup into his gas tank.
  4. Easley and Melvin get in a physical confrontation inside his house, she pulls a gun on him, and he takes it away from her. She runs out of the house, then returns to ask for the gun back. He refuses to give it to her, and calls the police. Easley is put on a bond to keep the peace.
  5. Someone breaks into the Davises’ house, slashes all of John’s clothes and tries to start a fire in the bedroom.
  6. Someone sets the Davis brothers’ garage on fire, destroying one of John’s race cars.
  7. A third brother, Ronnie, is shot at by an intruder in Melvin and John’s house. He is uninjured.
  8. Easley shoots Melvin in the wrist. She is arrested, charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and bails out.
  9. Three days later, someone fires several shots at John and misses.
  10. Gracie Nash, the Davises’ sister, disappears, apparently abducted from the parking lot of her workplace, the day after Christmas.
  11. The next day, the Davis parents get a call from someone who tells them if they ever want to see Gracie alive again, Melvin has to drop the charges against Easley.
  12. Gracie’s car turns up abandoned with Nash’s coat and evidence of a shooting, including a large amount of blood. Her body is never found.
  13. John is shot to death outside his house.
  14. Easley goes to trial for shooting Melvin, but the jury deadlocks, and she takes a plea and gets probation.
  15. Four and a half years later, Easley (now married and using the last name Moore) shoots her husband to death and is FINALLY sent to prison.

I have several questions about this:

  1. Is the Austin Police Department really so incompetent that they can’t put a case together against Naomi for any of the other burglaries, arsons, attempted murders, and two murders she obviously committed?
  2. Did Naomi stop her campaign of terror against Melvin Davis and his family after she was put on probation, or did it just drop out of the news at that point?
  3. Is anyone in the Austin PD still bothering to investigate John Davis and Gracie Nash’s murders? I looked her up, and Naomi Easley Moore is very much alive in prison right now. In fact, she became eligible for parole in 2004. And, um, Texas is a death penalty state.
  4. Did Naomi Easley have a pre-1983 history of launching into psychotic crime sprees against other ex-boyfriends?
  5. If it’s ever legally verified that Naomi Easley murdered Gracie Nash and John Davis, along with the third murder of her husband in 1989, would that qualify her as a serial killer?

Honestly, I obviously don’t have all the information, but I’m getting the impression that the police just didn’t care about what was happening. I don’t know if it was a race/class thing or what; the Davises were black children of sharecroppers and there were 17 kids in the family. They seem to have been respectable people but no doubt they were poor.

At her trial in the shooting of Melvin, the jury wasn’t allowed to hear about the murders of John and Gracie, and I’m not sure how much they heard about all the other stuff that happened. Three of the jurors wanted to convict her of attempted murder. Six opted for aggravated assault, and three wanted to acquit her.

One of the ones who voted for acquittal said he wasn’t sure Melvin could see Easley clearly as it was getting dark at the time of the shooting. Another said he thought Melvin was “going out on” Easley, which seems very improper to me — whether Melvin was being unfaithful or how he treated her was not at issue, the issue was whether or not she shot him.

But even if the jury couldn’t hear about the murders, the court knew about it. And she somehow managed to get PROBATION, after all of that. And the story ended in another man’s death.

Had a great time at the Wisconsin missing persons event

Everything at last weekend’s missing persons awareness event in Wisconsin went REALLY well. Even the one thing that didn’t go well, turned out to be more good than bad.

After an uneventful trip up there on Friday, I checked myself into a very nice hotel that I could never have afforded on my own. (A certain anonymous person covered the costs.) It had all sorts of plants, and a hot tub, and an open floor plan. Saturday morning, upon arising, I met up in the lobby of the hotel with one of the other people attending the event.

We sat at a table talking and I was lamenting about my makeup. I had forgotten to bring eyebrow pencil and had to make do with eyeliner and I thought it looked terrible, and he was telling me he couldn’t tell the difference.

Meanwhile, four or five stories up, a housekeeper accidentally bumped her cart into the rail of the balcony overlooking the lobby. This caused her clipboard to slide off the cart and over the rail, where it plummeted all those floors down right onto my friend and me. It missed me by a foot or so, but my friend took a direct hit.

He’d been drinking some Starbucks coffee when this happened, holding the cup to his lips, when the clipboard smacked him right there. If his hand hadn’t been over his mouth, and that cup hadn’t been made of cardboard instead of ceramic or something, he probably would have knocked a few teeth out. As it was he just sustained a small cut, and the coffee was of course a total loss.

In response to the two guests screeching in surprise, shouting the F-word, and then one guest jumping up on the table and staring up at the balcony, management and security came running. Profuse apologies were issued. Paperwork had to be filled out and photos taken of the little knick on my friend’s hand. CYA and all. The hotel announced that both our rooms were now free.

At the event itself, later that day, there was a very good turnout. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and got to talk to some awesome people.

Victoria Lynn Prokopovitz‘s daughters were both there; her daughter Marsha organizes these events and Marsha is an absolute sweetheart.

Amber Lynn Wilde‘s family showed up as they always do. I was talking a bit to her aunt, who was really happy to see me, about Amber’s case having been covered on CrimeWatch Daily.

Some of Kenneth Plaisted‘s relatives arrived; this was the first time they’d showed up to one of these things. His daughter explained to me that, although no one has seen Plaisted since 1971, he wasn’t actually listed as a missing person until 1998 or so, which is pretty horrifying. I can understand, given the whole embezzlement thing (see his casefile I linked to), the police thinking he’d just done a runner, but waiting 27 years to declare him missing is just lazy and uncaring.

There was no balloon release. Instead, we were issued little candles, each labeled with a missing person. I got Steven F. Woelfel and Madeline Kelly Edman.

My table was right next to the table for The Unidentified, and I had a fine time speaking to Rebekah Turner (a medical examiner in training who runs that organization) and her companions. They’re really great people. After the event was over, Rebekah, her friends and I went out to dinner.

My photos and some video from the event are on the Charley Project Facebook page; for some reason I can’t figure out how to link to the individual posts/images from there. I’m sorry.

I had an uneventful trip home but I haven’t been feeling very well, physically, since my arrival home. I think it was I got a bit overextended/overexcited. I am trying to force myself back on my regular schedule and to eat a bit more.

Black History Month: Monique and Sidney Smith

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 actually three rolled into one: sisters Monique Rae Smith, one month old, and Sidney Keara Smith, one year old, and their mother, eighteen-year-old Jennifer Dawn Lancaster. They all disappeared together from Topeka, Kansas on May 12, 2000. The children are biracial, black and white, and their mother is white.

The family’s car was found at an apartment complex a week later, and that doesn’t look good to me at all. However, I have been able to find very little information on this case, no articles, nothing.

If Sidney and Monique are still alive, they’d be 19 and 18. Jennifer would be 37.

Black History Month: Ta’Niyah Leonard

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 Ta’Niyah Monique Leonard, an eleven-month old baby who disappeared from Bartow, Florida on October 19, 2002.

Sadly it’s not likely that Ta’Niyah is alive today. The police have two main suspects: her parents, Michael Lewis and Miranda Jones. The couple often had violent arguments, sometimes involving weapons. The cops think one or both of Ta’Niyah’s parents was responsible for her death.

This is a problem in terms of the prosecution, as I note in her casefile, since the parents are blaming each other:

Investigators believe either Lewis or Jones is responsible for Ta’Niyah’s disappearance and probable death, but they cannot proceed with charges against either of them due to a lack of evidence and due to the two suspects’ conflicting stories. Prosecutors offered both of them immunity from any charges if they would return Ta’Niyah alive, but neither Lewis nor Jones accepted the offer.

This love-hate relationship between Lewis and Jones continued after Ta’Niyah’s disappearance. Even as they both blamed each other, they conceived another child, a girl, who was immediately taken away after birth and adopted. Last I heard, in 2006, Jones had had a son (not by Lewis; the father might have been this guy) and she was about to lose her parental rights towards this baby as well.

I don’t know what Ta’Niyah’s parents have been up to since 2006; with surnames like “Lewis” and “Jones” it’s hard to trace their movements. If Ta’Niyah is alive, she’d be 17 now.