My first (of two, unless I write another) Executed Today entry of the month: Cordella Stevenson, a black woman who the victim of a horrific lynching in Columbus, Mississippi 101 years ago today. She didn’t even do anything “wrong,” not that anyone deserves that kind of death — she died because her son was suspected of arson. (Oh, and she was black.) The locals couldn’t find him so they took out their rage on her family. Of course no one was brought to justice. TJ Jarrett wrote a poem about her in her 2013 book, Ain’t No Grave.
This week’s “Let’s Talk About It” case is Ricky Jean “Jeannie” Bryant, a child who disappeared from Mauston, Wisconsin on December 19, 1949, five and a half weeks after her fourth birthday.
Jeannie was one of four children. The day she disappeared, the two oldest kids were in school and Jeannie’s grandma was watching her and her brother. That day a fire broke out at the Bryant home and I think the house was a total loss. One of the things that got lost was Jeannie.
Although what happens appears to be no mystery at all, Jeannie’s family thinks she did not die in the fire and was abducted by a strange well-dressed woman whom her five-year-old brother claims he saw that day. The theory is that Jeannie’s biological father was not the same father as her siblings’, and she was taken to be raised by her father and his family.
I don’t know that much about the case — why her family thinks that, whether there’s any evidence that she was illegitimate, any of that. As far as I can tell, it’s been years since there’s been any press coverage about the case.
What do y’all think? Was this a tragic accidental death, or is Jeannie alive and well and a grandmother, even a great-grandmother, not knowing who she is? If she’s alive she would be 71 today.
Let’s talk about it.
I got an email from a reporter today about Joan Risch, asking if he could use one of my photos with attribution. It was only then that I realized this was the anniversary of her disappearance. I sort of forgot about it quickly, but I was just on Wikipedia and she’s on the front page today, in the “did you know” section:
(I realize these last few days I’ve posted a lot of images on my blog entries. I think this is just an anomaly and not the start of a trend though.)
It’s a most mysterious case, one that will probably never be solved.
Michael and I were hanging out last night like we do. Because he’d come home right at the beginning of an episode of Say Yes to the Dress (my worst vice) and was forced to sit there watching silly girls try on overpriced wedding gowns for half an hour, I told him to pick whatever he wanted for the next show. He went on Netflix and selected something called Witness, because it “looks cool.”
Witness was FASCINATING and I highly recommend it to the type of crowd that reads the Charley Project and this blog. It’s a documentary where Bill Genovese, the younger brother of Kitty Genovese, who was the victim of an infamous murder in 1964, tries to figure out the truth behind his sister’s death and the story about how 38 people witnessed her murder and none of them lifted a finger, or a phone, to help save her.
I originally heard the murder story in a freshman psychology course at Ohio State. It’s become kind of part of American culture over the years. I think most people in the country have heard this story in one form or another. It got mentioned in the film Boondock Saints and served as part of the McManus brothers’ motivation to go on their vigilante spree.
(Spoiler alerts follow.)
The business about 38 apathetic witnesses is pretty much a myth. Their number probably did not equal 38, most of them did not realize that a murder was taking place, and some of them DID call the cops or otherwise tried to intervene. But the myth shredded Kitty’s family, lead to the early deaths of her parents, and cost Bill Genovese his legs.
I really had to admire Bill; he seems like a very tough person and also a very level-headed, good-hearted man. He tried to meet with Kitty’s killer Winston Moseley — who by any standard was a monster — and when Moseley refused to meet with him, he met with his son and stressed that he was trying to understand what had happened and hopefully find forgiveness in his heart. (Moseley died early this year, after the documentary came out. Good riddance.)
At the end of the film, Bill actually hired an actress to stand outside the same apartment building where Kitty died and sort of reenact the crime while he sat in his wheelchair nearby and listened in the dark. At the end of the scene the actress broke down sobbing; Bill was very calm and took her into his arms.
It was a very interesting and emotional film. Michael and I were still talking about it at lunch today.
I’ve spent much of today combing through Newspapers.com looking up stuff on specific old MP cases when I came across a column in the March 27, 1983 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, written by someone named Elinor Klein. It was about how her brother disappeared when he was 17 years old, and the devastation it caused in her family.
I’m pretty sure I have never heard of this case. But I’m not 100% sure because Elinor Klein never said what his name was, or the town he disappeared from. Just that he was 17, a freshman at an unspecified, possibly Ivy League college, and that he was born on February 22, 1937 and disappeared on November 8, 1954. She even includes his picture with the column. But not his name!
I checked NamUs; there’s only two 1954 disappearances in there, and both are of females. I would love to be able to put this young man on Charley if I can. If he was still missing in 1983 — nearly thirty years after he was last seen — he’s probably still missing now.
I looked up more information about Elinor Klein hoping that would lead me to her brother’s identity. Turns out Elinor was still alive as of 2008 and her maiden name was Friedman. I also learned she had a son named Willy at age 40; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch column says, “When my child was born a few years ago… I named my son after my brother and my father.”
Still not enough to go on. Darn it.
See the below images screenshot from Newspapers.com’s PDFs, the column about the missing boy (Willy Friedman?):
On the bright side, Ms. Klein’s column did yield at least one nugget of information that’s of use to me: there were pictures of random missing children scattered across the bottoms of the first two pages, including one of Holly Hughes that’d I’d never seen before. It even shows her teeth! I added it.
I thought I’d make a list today of kids under 18 who were had atypical housing arrangements. I don’t mean kids residing with stepparents, adoptive parents, foster care, boarding schools, group homes or residential treatment centers. Nor do I include cases where the child was left with a non-relative in what was meant to be a temporary arrangement.
I mean minors living with their friends, those living with adult friends of their families, those living with a spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, those living alone, and those living with members of their extended family, provided the extended family were not officially foster parents or adoptive parents.
I know a guy who lived in a situation like that for a few years. I figured I’d talk about him here. I’m using alias names for everyone, and also placing the story in a different state, for privacy. This story is going to last for several paragraphs so skip to the list if you don’t care. This is what he told me:
START OF STORY: Basically, my friend Alec grew up in a tiny sneeze-and-you-miss it farm community in Illinois. Alec was the oldest of three siblings, and his mother abandoned the family when he was like six years old and dropped completely out of sight. There was a divorce but they couldn’t force her to pay child support because they couldn’t find her.
Alec’s father, Craig, was an alcoholic. The only jobs he could get were low-paying manual labor — construction, farm work, that sort of stuff. There was basically no chance of him improving his career prospects because he was more or less illiterate. Craig could write his name, and he could slowly sound out words if he had to, but his comprehension was just about nil. I don’t know if he had dyslexia or an intellectual disability or whether he simply wasn’t properly educated, but it’s hard to find any kind of decent job if you can’t read.
Craig was also an unreliable employee because of his constant drinking. At home, when drunk, he would verbally abuse his children. I asked Alec once if his father ever beat him and he said no, but he did say Craig “smacked him around” sometimes. When Craig wasn’t working, the family subsisted on food stamps and welfare (this was back before the big welfare overhaul in the mid-nineties) and on whatever Alec could bring in from his own part-time jobs.
One day, when he was 16 or so, Alec just fed up with it and left, with no belongings, and only the clothes on his back. He went across town to his best friend from high school, Trevor Martin. By rural Illinois standards, Trevor’s family was rich. Mom was a professional counselor. Dad was an anesthesiologist, which is one of the highest-paying medical specialties. Alec basically showed up on Trevor’s doorstep and asked the Martins he could stay there for two years until he graduated high school.
And they let him. I wouldn’t say the Martins treated Alec like their own son, but they provided for his material needs and they were nice to him and didn’t use them as their verbal or physical punching bag. Alec remains in close touch with the Martin family to this day.
After Alec graduated high school, the Martins’ generosity did not extend towards paying for his college education. I’m not even sure he wanted to go to college anyway, and his GPA wasn’t that great. He opted to join the military. After his discharge he got a high-paying job using the training the military gave him, and he’s doing well for himself.
Technically I suppose this was a runaway situation, but Craig knew exactly where Alec was the entire time, and never reported him missing to the police. Alec continued to attend the same high school, and the teachers knew he was actually living with the Martins, and nobody reported it. I mean, let’s face it, he was in a much better living situation than CPS could have provided him. END OF STORY
Now on to the list!
- Anthony Ross Allen
- Andria Ann Bailey
- Erica Monique Bradley
- Kristina Delane Branum
- Zackery Lee Brewer
- Niki Diane Britten
- Monica Cassandra Carrasco
- Amber Elizabeth Cates
- Christopher Gage Daniel
- Tracy Lynn Davenport
- Timothy Jacob Davison
- Theresa M. Fishbach
- Elizabeth Franks
- Angela Lee Freeman
- Debra Lee Frost
- Richard Gorham
- Coral Pearl Hall
- Tinze Lucinda Huels
- Jennifer Jane Hughes
- Karen Beth Kamsch
- Mary Sue Kitts
- Ruth Ann Leamon
- Kase Ann Lee
- Chloie Rhianna Leverette
- Alexandra Cassandra Livingston
- Kristopher Charles Loesch
- Faloma Luhk
- Maleina Quitugua Luhk
- Brianna Alexandria Maitland
- Tianna Neshelle Martin
- Ila Veronica Tucker Maynard
- Heather Lorraine Mehlhoff
- Launa Renee Merritt
- Garnell Monroe Moore
- Sophia Felecita Moreno
- Tristen Alan Myers
- Ariza Maria Olivares
- Victoria Jane Owczynsky
- Alicia Guzman Padilla
- Jose Francisco Fuentes Pereira
- Larry Wayne Perry
- Eric Wayne Pyles
- Christina Marchell Richart
- Joseph Rodriguez
- Kathleen Edna Rodgers
- Qua’Mere Sincere Rogers
- Cristina Ester Ruiz-Rodriguez
- Alisha Smiley
- Roland Jack Spencer III
- Rocio Chila Sperry
- Edward Ashton Stubbs
- Kylan Patrick Stubler
- Patricia Lynn Taylor
- Mary Rachel Trlica
- Daffany Sherika Tullos
- Jahi Marques Turner
- Leah Jean Van Schoick
- Mary Ann Verdecchia
- Brittany Renee Williams
- April Susanne Wiss
- Quinn Renard Woodfolk
- Shelby Raistlin Wright
An honorable mention: Marble Ace Arvidson. Although his residence was officially a foster home, his “foster father” was in his twenties — that is, only a few years older than Marble — and many accounts refer to the other residents in the home as “roommates.”
It’s pretty hard to put a list like this together. I may very well have missed a few, or more than a few. My apologies.
Anyway, I went to Newspapers.com and searched for the phrase “Ida Mae Lee” Arizona and found some interesting results:
The Arizona Republic, December 1, 1953:
(There were several other mentions of Ida Mae Lee attending Arizona State; an October 1953 article says she lived in Nutrioso, which has a current population of 26. There’s also articles from January and March name Ida Mae Lee among the honor roll students at Round Valley High School, which is in Eager, Arizona, a 21-minute drive from Nutrioso. And in 1952, Ida Mae Lee and some of her fellow Round Valley HS students staged a fashion show.)
And then there’s this, from the Arizona Republic, September 21, 1955:
I’m pretty sure the Ida Mae Lee who married Mr. Jones is the same one that attended Round Valley High School and Arizona State; note the reference to Nutrioso in the marriage announcement. And I think that photo looks an awful lot like NamUs’s picture of the Ida Mae Lee who vanished in 1956 — though I’m not prepared to swear to that, I am not good at all at identifying faces.
So, the 64k question then, assuming all these Ida Lees are in fact the same person: what happened to Mr. Jones during the 14 months before Ida vanished? The fact that she’s listed as missing under her maiden name suggests they were separated or divorced by then.
I did find this obit for a Niles Lee Jones who died in Mesa, Arizona in 2011, age 76. No mention of any survivors, but a search of addresses for Mr. Jones mentions Nutrioso, Arizona as well as other cities.