Let’s talk about it: Mimi Boomhower

This time I’d like us all to discuss one of my oldest cases: Mimi Boomhower, who’s been missing for nearly 70 years. She disappeared from Los Angeles in 1949, at the age of 48, and was never seen again. Her case got a fair amount of attention at the time, probably because her deceased husband had been a wealthy businessman and Mimi herself was quite the socialite. Contemporary press articles often called her “the merry widow.”

Mimi was childless and her closest living relatives were siblings who lived on the East Coast, but she had plenty of friends, and they all swore that it was completely unlike her to just drop out of sight without telling anyone where she was going. Yet I found a seeming contradiction in the news accounts: when she DID drop out of sight, her friends assumed she’d just gone off on a short trip and would be back in her own sweet time, and so she wasn’t reported missing for the better part of a week. I have to wonder if her friends knew more than they disclosed.

The only trace of her they ever found was her purse, which got left in a phone booth with a note saying “We found this on the beach Thursday night.” The police never found out who left it there, but they noted the purse didn’t look like it had been exposed to sand or water. And anyone who’s been anywhere near a beach knows that sand gets into everything.

It’s worth noting that, although she kept up appearances, she was having financial problems and was pawning things and selling other things at a loss and taking out loans and so on. A judge found it necessary to declare her legally dead a whopping eleven days after she was last seen, just in order to allow her attorney access to her accounts so he could keep paying on her home equity loan and the bank wouldn’t foreclose on her house. (The judge subsequently reversed his decision and declared that Mimi was legally alive after all. Seven years later, she was declared dead a second time. Shrug.) Mimi’s furniture and her late husband’s big game trophies were sold off after she disappeared to cover her debts, and I learned that one of the buyers discovered his new elephant head had tusks made of plaster-of-paris rather than ivory — presumably Mimi had sold off the ivory earlier.

Nevertheless, she can’t have been TOO hard-up. She was wearing $25,000 worth of jewelry when she disappeared, after all. That’s $25,000 in 1949 dollars, too. Factor in inflation and that jewelry would be worth over $250,000 today.

Mimi’s friends and associates all said she was neither suicidal nor thinking of eloping. One of her closest friends was quoted as saying, “We’ve ruled out everything but foul play.” Yet they couldn’t think of anyone who had a reason to hurt her, either.

Offhand the only sensible explanation I can think of is this: Mimi had arranged to meet someone, possibly to talk about selling or pawning more of her jewelry or something. Maybe this person was of the sketchy variety and that’s why she didn’t tell her friends about it. And this person, rather than buying whatever Mimi was selling, simply killed her and took it for himself.

But in that case, where’s the body? And can there have really been NO SUSPECTS AT ALL over the years? ‘Tis a puzzlement.

Let’s talk about it.

For Kindle users

I found out the book Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer, by David Roberts, is on sale in its Kindle form for just $1.99. I’m not sure how long the deal’s going to last, though.

I had Everett on Charley years ago — he disappeared from Utah in 1934. Then there was big news cause they thought his skeletal remains had been found, and I removed him and put up a resolved notice. Then it turned out the remains weren’t his. But I’ve never put him back up.

Thought y’all would like to know about this. I’ve never read the book, but if you’ve got a Kindle and a spare two bucks, it seems worth checking out.

ET: Cordella Stevenson

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.

Let’s talk about it: Ricky Jean Bryant

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.

Joan Risch disappeared 55 years ago today

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:

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(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.

Witness

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.

Oooooh, this is frustrating…

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?):

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elinorklein2

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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.