A murder-without-a-body case out of Britain/India

Last night I read a book called Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for Justice, by Sarbjit Athwal, describing the “honor killing” of her sister-in-law, Surjit, and the subsequent missing persons investigation and eventual prosecution of two of the people involved: Surjit and Sarbit’s mother-in-law, Bachan Kaur Athwal, and Surjit’s husband, Sukhdave Singh Athwal.

What it amounted to, basically, is that the Athwal family were very conservative Sikhs living in Britain, and Bachan Kaur had a high reputation in the community as a very devout woman. In fact, within the family she was an absolute tyrant and her sons were terrified of her, to say nothing of her daughters-in-law. When Surjit wanted a divorce from her abusive husband, Bachan Kaur decided she couldn’t have her daughter-in-law shaming the family like that.

So she convinced Surjit to go on a trip to India with her to attend a family wedding. When they were in India, some goons Bachan Kaur had hired drugged Surjit, kidnapped her, strangled her, removed her gold jewelry and dumped her body in the river. It was never found — at least as far as anyone knows. That particular river runs into Pakistan, which doesn’t have the greatest relationship with India, and corpses dumped in from India tend to wash up in Pakistan and never get identified.

Sarbjit Athwal had been at the family meeting where Bachan Kaur announced what she was going to do, and she called the police with an anonymous tip hoping they would stop Surjit leaving for India, or rescue her once she arrived, but the police did…nothing. After Surjit “disappeared”, Sarbjit wrote the police an anonymous letter describing exactly what had happened, in great detail, and the police did…nothing. Then she confided in her sister, who went to the police and gave a statement, and they did…nothing. And so on.

Sarbjit was too afraid to actually go to the police openly, because the Athwals made it clear they would kill her too. Something like a decade passed before the case broke open, and Sarbjit started cooperating with the cops. They went to her house and arrested everyone, including her (in order to trick the Athwals into thinking it wasn’t her who spilled the beans), but instead of taking her to the station they took her to her parents’ house. She was in witness protection for ages before the trial, staying in grimy hostels with her baby whom she was nursing.

I wouldn’t say justice has been entirely achieved in this case. The identities of the people who actually killed Surjit in India are known, but they have never been prosecuted and for legal reasons they weren’t even named in the book. (Media reports I found said one of them was Bachan Kaur’s brother.) Sarbjit’s husband, Hardave, was at that original family meeting and passively let the whole conspiracy unfold, repeatedly lied to the police, and threatened Sarbjit when he found out she was going to testify, but he wasn’t prosecuted either.

Surjit’s daughter, Pawanpreet “Pav” Athwal, had been told her mother abandoned her. She was a teenager when she found out the truth. Pav has been active in Britain speaking out against honor killings and set up a hotline for women who are afraid of being the victim of an honor killing or being forced into marriage.

I would recommend the book if you’re interested in this kind of thing. I’m glad the US isn’t the only country that prosecutes no-body homicides.

And of course it’s always worth saying there is no honor in murder.

MP of the week: Claudia Guillen

For this week the featured MP is Claudia Berenice Guillen, the 21-year-old mother of a toddler also named Claudia who disappeared with her from Yuma, Arizona on November 24, 2004. The child went by her middle name, Jareth.

I don’t have much on them, but the obvious suspect is Claudia’s boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence and went to Mexico shortly after Claudia and Jareth vanished. The cops in both Arizona and Mexico have interviewed him, with no result.

I’m thinking Claudia is probably dead, but maybe there’s a chance Jareth is alive and perhaps is in Mexico. I’d like to know more — particularly whether Claudia’s boyfriend is Jareth’s biological father.

ET yesterday: three alleged rioters

I had another Executed Today entry run yesterday: three men who were alleged to have participated in a riot and machine-breaking in Nottingham. I think this entry is a good example of how well Jason (owner of the blog, aka the Headsman) and I work together. I submitted an entry about the hangings, and then he added the information about the motivations for the riot and how dubious the evidence was against the three condemned, which made the entry much better.

Some other things: after two postponements, I finally saw the pain management doctor about my headaches. I was impressed with him, actually. He told me he had “no idea” what was causing my headaches and then he was like “because of your symptoms, I get the idea that Treatment X might work. Or it might not. We don’t know until we try. So I’ll write the prescription, and next time you get a headache try Treatment X.” I’m supposed to call the office to report the results. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, they’ll try something else. Frankly, it’s nice to hear a doctor admit he doesn’t know what the answers are.

Yesterday and today I spent some time in purging cases from Charley — notably from New Jersey. I went over the entire state and removed a bunch of outdated cases. I also got some additional information on some of them. Stephen Davaris, for example, was declared dead last May, a presumed suicide. His family has actually kept in touch with the people who found his bag washed up on a beach in Ireland. I was struck by this because I’ve actually been to the Cliffs of Moher, in January 2003, about two and a half years before Davaris is presumed to have leaped to his death.

I was going to update yesterday but in the evening the internet unexpectedly kicked it and didn’t come back on for ages. I should get something up today.

In honor of Kamiyah Mobley’s case being solved…

Here’s a list of others like her, who were abducted by strangers as babies and may very well be still alive out there not knowing who they are. I’m including cases of children 3 and under where non-family abduction is either the only explanation or is more likely than not, and it’s also more likely than not that the abductor(s) intended to either raise the child or give/sell it to someone who would. I’m not counting cases where it could be a non-family abduction but I have virtually no evidence available to say what happened.

  1. Christopher Enoch Abeyta, who would be 31
  2. Sabrina Paige Aisenberg, who would be 19
  3. Emmanuel Kalief Birts, who would be 27
  4. David Ezell Blockett, who would be 36
  5. Andre Terrance Bryant, who would be 27
  6. Christopher Milton Dansby, who would be 29
  7. Bryan Dos Santos-Gomes, who would be 10
  8. Paul Joseph Fronczak, who would be 52
  9. Elizabeth Dorothy Funchess, who would be 40
  10. Elizabeth Ann Gill, who would be 54
  11. Raymond Lamar Green, who would be 38
  12. Sausha Latine Henson, who would be 15
  13. Melissa Suzanne Highsmith, who would be 47
  14. Shaina Ashly Kirkpatrick, who would be 17
  15. Alexandra Marie McIntire, who would be 23
  16. Donel Jacoby Minor, who would be 32
  17. Vivian Paola Montanez Castellanos, who would be 30
  18. Mary Agnes Moroney*, who would be 88
  19. Saure Blizhaid Sanchez Vega, who would be 23
  20. Marlene Santana, who would be 31
  21. Aleacia Di’onne Stancil, who would be 22
  22. Tavish Sutton, who would be 23
  23. Angel Torres-Irizarry, who would be 41
  24. Jacqueline Vasquez, who would be 16
  25. Shane Anthony Walker, who would be 29
  26. April Nicole Williams, who would be 33

*Okay, Mary Moroney’s probably dead now just because of the passage of time, but there’s no reason to believe she didn’t live to adulthood.

Honorable mentions: Tiffani Claudette Wise, 2, and her half-sister Brandi Jondell Summers, 5, who would now be 41 and 45 respectively. It looks like the girls were taken by Brandi’s dad, Roy, but the case is, ah, a bit complicated, not a simple family abduction, and it’s likely they were raised by others. Brandi had cystic fibrosis, a very serious condition that is life-shortening even now and was much less treatable in 1977, and so she may be dead. But I haven’t seen any evidence that either of the children were murdered.

Let’s talk about it: Yuan Xia Wang

This week’s “let’s talk about it” case is Yuan Xia Wang, a young Chinese girl who disappeared from Lincolnia, Virginia on October 21, 1998. I was just getting interested in missing persons at that time and I remember seeing her NCMEC poster right after she disappeared and wondering about it. Like most of their posters, it said very little, and it was years before I learned the details of her disappearance.

Yuan was smuggled into the country by a Thai man, using someone else’s genuine Thai passport. According to this Washington Post article, the immigration and customs people caught them after someone at the airport realized she didn’t speak Thai, and her smuggler was arrested.

Usually, Chinese immigrants who get smuggled into the U.S. are sent “to restaurants or brothels where they are held in virtual servitude to pay off huge smuggling fees.” Yuan’s case was somewhat unusual in that her passage was paid for in advance.

She said she was twelve, but the authorities doubted it and so do I. I was five feet even at that age, about middling height for the girls in my class at school, and I think Chinese people tend to be smaller than Americans. Yuan was five feet six. They thought she could have been as old as fifteen. I don’t know what reason she would have had to lie; perhaps she felt she would be better treated if they thought she was younger.

Yuan was sent to a foster home. Her foster family welcomed her as best they could, but they didn’t speak Mandarin, and she was the only Mandarin-speaking student at her new school. If I were her I’d have been desperately lonely. She vanished without a trace six weeks later — significantly, perhaps, on a day she had a doctor’s appointment.

They’re not sure what happened to her. The most obvious suggestions are that she either ran away or got picked up (voluntarily or otherwise) by someone, like a relative or someone involved in the smuggling, in order to avoid deportation. (The U.S. authorities hadn’t decided what to do with her yet; she could have been either deported or allowed to stay.) I suppose it’s possible she could have been abducted for reasons having nothing to do with her immigration status, as well.

Other than a lead placing her in Kansas City in 2008, there hasn’t been any sign of her in almost twenty years.

Let’s talk about it.

Make-a-List Monday: Family abductions of kids who are now adults

This list is for kids who were abducted by parents or other relatives, and are now over the age of 18. In some of these cases, the MP has siblings who were abducted also and are still minors. Many of these children have been missing for a depressingly long time. I did not include cases where they believe the abductor killed the child after taking them.

I should emphasize that just because the kid is now an adult and still hasn’t resurfaced doesn’t mean they want to stay missing or were fleeing an abusive situation. Many times children are lied to by the abductor and told that their left-behind parent is dead, or that the left-behind parent was an abusive, horrible person and they’re better off without them.

Many victims of family abduction are young, below school age, and thus they wouldn’t have much, if any, memories of their former life. Even in cases of older children, it’s still possible to poison their minds against the left-behind parent. You have to consider the idea that children want to believe their parents have their best interests at heart. Especially in a situation where they have no other influences, it can be easy to convince them of things that are not true and alienate them against the other parent.

There’s also the issue of international abduction cases where the child/children were taken to a country (such as, say, Saudi Arabia) where women are not allowed to travel without the permission of a male relative. So, even if they wanted to come back, they can’t.

There is one case I know of where a girl was abducted by her father and taken to Mexico. She was very young at the time and her father told her that her mother was dead or had abandoned her, I can’t remember which. I don’t even remember her name. When the girl was 17, I guess her father’s conscience had been bothering him because he finally told her the truth about what happened, that he had stolen her from her mother and that her mother was alive and looking for her. The girl then traveled to the United States and eventually did locate her mother.

This happened like ten years ago — I know because remember writing about it on Websleuths and I haven’t been active on there in ages. I wrote that I was glad that the father owned up to what he had done and gave his daughter a chance to reunite with her searching mother. Other posters on the forum were angry at him, saying “I can’t believe you’re defending this man, he did something horrible.” Well, I wasn’t exactly defending him, and I freely admit that yes, he did do something horrible. But at least he eventually tried to do right by his daughter and his ex-wife, which is more than can be said for most abductors in such cases.

  1. Jehad Ahmed Abuhamda (was 13, is now 18)
  2. Berania Teresa Agapito (was 11, is now 18)
  3. Wendy Agapito (was 14, now 20)
  4. Gloria Aguilar (was 13, now 21)
  5. Amina Ashraf Al-Jailani (was 9, is now 20)
  6. Layla Ashraf Al-Jailani (was 7, now 18)
  7. Sarah Molouk Amiri (was 3, now 26)
  8. Cameron Jeffrey Anderson (was 12, now 28)
  9. Kyle Nicholas James Anderson (was 9, now 25)
  10. Rachel Marie Anderson (was 13, now 30)
  11. Yareli Marlem Barajas (was 12, now 19)
  12. Anastacia Marie Argentova-Stevens (was 5, now 19)
  13. Emad Ali Ben-Mrad (was 3, now 19)
  14. Shoshana Kaila Black (was 2, now 22)
  15. Reuben Bennett Blackwell II (was 2, now 23)
  16. Halle Patricia Bobo (was 6, now 18)
  17. Jacob Allen Bobo (was 9, now 20)
  18. Ebrahim Bozorgi (was 6, now 23)
  19. Zafar Bozorgi (was 1, now 19)
  20. Miranda Elaine Budiman (was 4, now 22)
  21. Angela Estella Burns (was 1, now 21)
  22. Natasha Alexandra Augusta Carter (was 10, now 26)
  23. Brittani Nicole Dolbear (was 3, now 22; today is her birthday)
  24. Olivia Addison Edwards-Tuttle (was 8 months, now 26)
  25. Sarah Raquel Elsafi (was 9, now 18)
  26. Tariq Ahmed Elsafi (was 12, now 26)
  27. Joseph Zachary Ernst (was 10, now 18)
  28. Marcus Antonio Farina (was 9 months, now 25)
  29. David Eduardo Gosnell (was 3, now 21)
  30. Antonia Guerrero (was 12, now 23)
  31. Stephanie Guerrero (was 13, now 24; tomorrow is her birthday)
  32. Austin Cole Hernandez (was 4 months, now 20)
  33. Ethan James Hernandez (was 2, now 18)
  34. Leonid Jacobson (was 3, now 21)
  35. Jesse Robert Kaslov (was 1, now 19)
  36. Jewel Koranteng (was 2, now 19)
  37. Mario Lopez* (was 6, now 18)
  38. Sandra Lopez (was 11, now 21)
  39. Sarah Anne Lord (was 3, now 22)
  40. Bianca Isabella Lozano (was 1, now 23)
  41. Ezra Lok Lui (was 2, now 19)
  42. Brandon Mema (was 2, now 18)
  43. Ray Preston Morrison IV (was 2, now 21)
  44. Diana Judith Portillo (was 12, now 18)
  45. Soomaiiah Jalaaluddeen Quariishi (was 7, now 23)
  46. Kyle Ivor Rae (was 2, now 22)
  47. Melissa Erin Reiter (was 1, now 25)
  48. Andrea Michelle Reyes (was 1, now 19)
  49. Alejandra Rivera-Romero (was 8, now 20)
  50. Wesley Rivera-Romero (was 6, now 18)
  51. Nadia Rougebianni (was 2, now 18)
  52. Stacy Ann Kathleen Rudolph (was 13, now 29; today is her birthday)
  53. Isabella Saileanu (was 2, now 18)
  54. Domingo Sanchez Gonzalez (was 11, now 19)
  55. Esmit Sanchez Gonzalez (was 15, now 23)
  56. Deborah Lyyn Sanders (was 1, now 34)
  57. Nicolas Marcel Santin (was 12, now 23)
  58. Emily Michelle Sawyer (was 3, now 33)
  59. Adam Osama Shannon (was 4, now 19)
  60. Kamelia Maria Spencer (was 2, now 19)
  61. Caroline Victoria Teague (was 4, now 19)
  62. Bethany Maria Tiner (was 3, now 23)
  63. Gabrielle Torres (was 12, now 21)
  64. Vivian Aileen Trout (was 2, now 22)
  65. Therese Rose Vanderheiden-Walsh (was 5, now 32)
  66. Prathima Venkatesan (was 8, now 18)
  67. Charles Jason Vosseler (was 3, now 33)
  68. William Martin Vosseler (was 2, now 32)
  69. Brianna Christine Warnes (was 2, now 23)
  70. Takoda Tei Weed (was 6, now 18)
  71. Tiffany Susan Westford (was 2, now 25)
  72. Kelly Ann Yates (was 10 months, now 32)
  73. Kimberly Ann Yates (was 3, now 35)
  74. Christopher Louis Zaharias (was 3, now 32)
  75. Lisa Mae Zaharias (was 1, now 30)

*Mario’s case was probably a family abduction; at least it stands to reason that it was. He and his three siblings were in foster care, with Mario and Joel placed in the same home, and the boys vanished together and their biological parents disappeared at the same time. (Mario’s brother has since been found.) He’s still classified as “endangered missing” though, and I don’t think warrants have been issued for his parents.

 

Let’s talk about it: Ashok Narain

NamUs gives the year 1987 for when Ashok Kumar Narain disappeared from Eugene, Oregon. Other sources say it was in April 1988. Regardless, Ashok’s disappearance is a very mysterious case — was he a murderer, a victim, or both?

The story begins in 1983 when Ashok, a native of Fiji, married Raj, a fellow Fijian from his village. It was an arranged ceremony. The couple moved to Oregon and subsequently had a little girl, Kamnee Koushal Narain.

The Narains regularly wrote letters to their families back in Fiji. Nobody back home detected anything amiss from the letters; it looked like a normal marriage and Raj seemed happy enough. The letters eventually stopped, but the couple’s Fijian relatives weren’t worried.

In the meantime, in September 1987, the dismembered remains of a pregnant woman were found in two different rivers in Washington and Oregon. A few days later, a toddler’s body was found in yet a third river in the vicinity. Although the police suspected the woman and child were related, they couldn’t prove it, and there were no missing persons that matched either of them.

Ashok’s brother reported the Narains missing in 2006. He’d heard about the dead woman and baby in Washington, and Raj’s family couldn’t find any trace of her online. In 2007, DNA testing confirmed the bodies were Raj and Kamnee. Mother and daughter were taken back Fiji for burial. Raj was 24 years old at the time of her death; Kamnee was only fourteen months.

I haven’t seen anything about a cause of death. It’s possible the police don’t know due to the condition of the remains. It’s equally possible that police do know and are withholding this information from the public.

So… where’s Ashok, the last surviving member in the family? Nobody knows.

When a woman, particularly a pregnant woman, is murdered, the police always start their investigation by looking at the husband or boyfriend. Yet, there’s no warrant for Ashok’s arrest and he isn’t even being called suspect; he’s only wanted for questioning as a witness. He certainly seems to have dropped off the map entirely since his wife and daughter’s killings — although I must admit, he had a really good head start.

Yet the dates here are pretty significant, because if the 1988 date is correct, that means Ashok was last seen over six months AFTER Kamnee and Raj’s killings. And that’s kind of hard to explain away.

I have no idea whether or not Ashok committed the murders. I do, however, think whoever did it was someone close to the victims. I believe this because the killer(s) went to a great deal of trouble disposing of the bodies and concealing their identities. I mean: dismemberment, hiding Raj’s head where it would never be found, and dumping the pieces in three different rivers in two different states. I think if the person was a stranger or only a slight acquaintance, they wouldn’t bother with all that.

R.I.P. Raj, and the baby you were carrying. R.I.P. Kamnee. I hope they find out who committed such a terrible crime.

And… let’s talk about it.