Let’s Talk About It: William and Margaret Patterson

Middle-aged married couple William Durrell Patterson, 52, and Margaret M. Patterson, 42, vanished from El Paso, Texas on March 5, 1957. They were last seen by a neighbor who dropped by with some Girl Scout cookies. Margaret looked upset at the time and William didn’t seem to want company. That night there was unspecified “unusual activity” observed at the Patterson home. The next day they were gone, and it looked like they had left in a hurry.

William in particular seems to have been involved in some kind of sketchy things. His own father said he “made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks” and he had always expected the Pattersons to disappear eventually.

There are some indications that they left of their own accord, the appearance of the house nonwithstanding. Let’s break it down:

  • On March 15, the Pattersons’ accountant got a telegram with instructions on how to manage their business in their absence. HOWEVER, the telegram was signed “W.H. Patterson” and not “W.D. Patterson.” The obvious explanations I can think of are (1) William did not really send that telegram or (2) William did send the telegram but messed up his initials on purpose as a duress signal.
  • William’s mistress, who lived in Juarez, said she saw him in the early morning hours of March 6 (the day after he and Margaret were seen in El Paso) and he told her he had important things to tell her and “when they come for me, I’ll have to go in a hurry.” HOWEVER, she later recanted this statement. What I’m wondering is: if William had important things to tell her, why not just tell her right then, since they were together and all?
  • The couple’s business associates went around telling everyone they were on an extended vacation. No word as to where they were getting this information, but as a result they weren’t reported missing for five months.
  • The Pattersons’ lawyer eventually got a letter, supposedly from William, postmarked May 29. It said they were getting out of dodge and would not be returning, and instructing that their property should be divided up. HOWEVER, the selection of heirs was…curious, to say the least, and handwriting experts were not sure that William had actually signed the letter, and for several legal reasons (starting with the fact that Margaret co-owned the couple’s photography business), it had no actual value as a will.

In 1984, a witness went to the police and said he had been hired to clean the Pattersons’ home after they disappeared and he saw blood in the garage, a piece of human scalp stuck to William’s boat propeller, and someone carrying away bloodstained sheets. The witness was an illegal immigrant and he said he didn’t go to the police at the time because he was afraid he’d be deported. I’ve got no idea if there’s any evidence to back up his statement. I’ve watched Forensic Files; I know they have all sorts of gizmos and experts in all kinds of obscure fields of crime scene analysis and it seems like if the house had still been there, they might have found something.

For what it’s worth, Margaret was completely estranged from her family. They hadn’t heard from her in 20 years and they assumed she was dead, which is an odd assumption if you ask me. She was a young healthy woman and she doesn’t appear to have vanished out of their lives into thin air; she became estranged from them because they disapproved of her marriage to William. So why would they assume she was dead?

Now, it’s been 60 years, and both of the Pattersons would be over 100 years old by now, so it’s a safe bet to assume they’re not alive anymore. What I would like to know is: do y’all think they were alive after 1957?

Let’s talk about it.

Flashback Friday: Lorraine Chance

Flashback Friday today is Lorraine Judith Chance, or Barrie-Chance according to this Facebook page someone set up for her. Her nickname was Lee. Lorraine’s been missing nearly seventy years: since 1948. On January 3 of that year, she left her only child at a babysitter’s and never came back to get it. This was in Santa Cruz, California.

Lorraine would be about 95 now so it’s very unlikely she’s still alive, but there’s also no evidence of foul play in her disappearance. They know she was alive nearly three months after she left her daughter at the babysitter’s, because on March 28 she applied for VA benefits; her deceased husband had been in the Navy. Her application got approved in August, but by then she was nowhere to be found.

There’s every chance in the world that Lorraine, a recently widowed single mother only 25 or 26 years old (I don’t know her exact date of birth, just the year), simply got overwhelmed and decided to walk away, only to resurface elsewhere and lead a long life. Maybe she remarried and had more kids, and her daughter has half-siblings out there.

I mean, it’s happened before many times. Think of Esther Gavin. Lucy Johnson.

Lorraine’s family would like to know her fate. I wonder if her daughter or any other relatives has tried submitting their DNA to Ancestry?

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:

joanrisch

(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.