I found some additional articles about Yuan Xia Wang and updated her case with a lot more detail today. A citizen of China, She attempted to enter the U.S. illegally with someone else’s passport in 1998. They caught her and sent her to a foster home, from which she disappeared six weeks later. She told the authorities she was twelve, but her foster parents thought she was more like fourteen or fifteen. In any case, she’s been missing for thirteen and a half years.
They don’t seem to know much about Yuan, only what she told them: that she comes from the city of Fuzhou in China and all her immediate family lives there. (Assuming this is all truthful.) Her parents paid big bucks to a Thai man to take her to the U.S., where he was supposed to drop her off at a hotel. He served eight months for passport fraud; I couldn’t find anything else about him. Yuan didn’t speak a word of English, only Mandarin Chinese. Her foster family didn’t speak Mandarin. She was enrolled in junior high, where none of the students spoke Mandarin and only one teacher did. Her foster parents thought she seemed happy enough in their home, but she must have felt really lonely.
It’s up in the air what happened to Yuan, whether she ran away to avoid deportation, or if the smugglers’ network rescued/kidnapped her, or if something else entirely caused her disappearance. The police said it didn’t seem to be like an ordinary human trafficking situation, where the people arrive in the U.S. owing money to the smugglers for their passage and have to work as virtual slaves at sweatshops and brothels: Yuan’s parents had paid for her trip in full ahead of time. In 2008 there were leads placing her in the Kansas City area, but I don’t believe they were ever able to prove she was there. I suppose she could have returned to China.
If she is alive today, Yuan Xia Wang would be somewhere between 25 and 28 years old. Maybe someone out there will recognize a tall Chinese girl with a very round face.
The police have located human remains in a crawl space at the former home of Glen Fryer, the prime suspect in the thirteen-year-old disappearance of Nicholle Coppler from Lima, Ohio. Fryer hanged himself in jail in 2002, just after he pleaded guilty to an unrelated rape charge.
Authorities believe Nicholle, who was 14 at the time she went missing, ran away from home at first, then Fryer prevented her from returning and either killed her or forced her into prostitution (or both). Obviously, right now they’re leaning towards the “he killed her” theory.
This article from last month talks about the case and about human trafficking and teen prostitution in general. A friend of mine told me he knew a girl who’d been forced into prostitution in Nevada and had met Nicholle out there, but I didn’t give much credence to the story.
This case touches me more than most because my old stomping grounds are in Lima. I have gone to Ohio State University at Lima off and on since I was fourteen, my father worked at the university for 37 years and now lives in an apartment downtown, and I have driven on Elizabeth Street (where Fryer’s house is) many a time. Probably passed that house scores of times.
I was sent this heartbreaking article about Jessica Mojica Estrada, who’s been missing for a year. Her mother believes she was forced into prostitution. Jessica was 13 when she disappeared and had been having problems for a long time:
When she was as young as 11 or 12, Jessica dated heavily tattooed older gang members and snuck out at night with them to parties as far away as Mattawa, Mojica said. The girl told her mother some of them gave her marijuana and that she often threatened to beat up her younger brother Alexis, now 10, if he told on her.
The single mother lost count of how many times her daughter ran away.
Once, the mother received a menacing phone call in which a male voice said something to the effect of, “We have your daughter but you’ll never see her again if you call the police.”
Scared, Mojica complied that time, but has worked with the police over the years. She tried grounding, yelling and even left Jessica overnight in jail one time. She has since attended counseling and parenting classes.
Sometimes, even in the best families, something goes terribly wrong with the children. I’m not sure why — and no one else is either.
Nepal, a tiny county between India and China (home to one half of Mount Everest), had a civil war the last decade. Probably not many Americans know about it; probably a significant minority have never even HEARD of Nepal. But it, like its neighbor country Bhutan, has fascinated me for a long time now and I’d love to visit (not to climb Everest, though).
Anyway, I found some articles addressing the missing person problem in Nepal. Loads of people disappeared during the civil war and many still have not been found. All the headlines say “hundreds” are missing but that doesn’t explain the opening paragraph of one article:
Almost five years after the end of the decade-long insurgency in Nepal in which almost 14,000 people were killed, the status of more than 13,000 other people who went missing during that period is still unknown.
Um, 13,000 is not “hundreds.” Someone needs to check their math. Or maybe they meant to say 1300, in which case they need to check their typing.
Nepal: Families losing hope of meeting missing kin (Hindustan Times)
Hundreds still missing in Nepal after the end of its civil war in 2006 (World Tribune)
Five years after war, hundreds still missing in Nepal (Daiji World)
I know of a nonprofit organization, Next Generation Nepal, which works to reunite victims of human trafficking with their families. I read the founder’s memoir, Little Princes, and it was excellent. He was inspired to start the organization after he spent some time volunteering at a Nepalese orphanage and discovered that few, if any, of the children were actually orphans. They were in fact victims of trafficking and had families who were alive and trying to find them.
I found this really excellent article which is about the disappearance of Kelsey Collins in 2009, but also about teen prostitution in general. Kelsey was 18 when she went missing and had been involved in prostitution for several years. She had agreed to testify against her pimp, and did appear before a federal grand jury, but she disappeared afterward and was unavailable to testify at the actual trial. They had to drop the charges against the man for lack of evidence, because Kelsey wasn’t there. There’s strong suspicion that she was killed because of her testimony.
I feel very sorry for that poor girl and her family. It sounds like her mother tried to do right by her and tried to protect her, but there’s only so much you can do. Especially when you’re a single parent. Especially when your kid gets into their teens and you can’t watch them 24/7 anymore. Especially when you don’t have the money to pay for some fancy residential treatment center far away, or even for regular counseling sessions.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Tricks by Ellen Hopkins is an excellent novel-in-verse about teen prostitution. Each of the five teenagers (three girls, two boys) in the story became a prostitute through a different series of events. One character’s story was very much like Kelsey’s. The girl, Whitney, was fifteen years old. She was pretty and popular and came from a wealthy family, but she felt neglected and unloved by her parents, who seemed to favor her sister. Her boyfriend had just dumped her and bad-mouthed her to everyone, and she was hurt and humiliated. Then she met what seemed to be the greatest guy in the world and fell head over heels in love with him, and within weeks he had her turning tricks in Las Vegas. He was, of course, a pimp, and regularly scouted malls and other hang-outs looking for more Whitneys to sink his teeth into. I think, by making Whitney white and from a privileged background, Ellen Hopkins was trying to show that what happened to her could happen to anyone, not just minorities or teens from poor families.
I really hope Kelsey is alive out there somewhere. Maybe in a city far away. Maybe she doesn’t even realize people are looking for her. But it seems unlikely to me.
I found this excellent, if brief Times of India article about missing kids in India. Of course children run away or get kidnapped there same as anywhere else, and India is such a huge place, with so many people, and so poor, that it’s even more difficult to find them than it is in more developed countries.
In India as in China, there’s a lot of human trafficking with kids being forced into slave labor making tchotchkes at five cents an hour for export abroad. I read a novel, Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth, about a child who was forced into a situation like that.
This out of Pakistan: a barber who has made it his mission to reunite lost children with their families. Anwar Khokar says that since 1988 he’s helped 8,500 missing children. Missing children are a big problem in Pakistan — as they are, I suspect, in all third world countries. Kids run away or are thrown out by families who can’t afford to keep them. Child trafficking goes on. And the police often can’t help. If they’re not simply corrupt, they have a lot of other problems on their plate.
I recently read a book called The Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. This American guy went to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal for a few months and discovered that all of the “orphans” had in fact been stolen from their families by child traffickers. So he decided to reunite them, and journeyed to an extremely remote region of Nepal (without even road access) to find their parents. And he founded a non-profit for this purpose. It was dangerous work — the child traffickers were often well-connected and powerful, and there was the business of having to trek through the Himalayas — but the looks on the parents’ and kids’ faces made it all worth it for him.