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.

Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan

Yesterday I read a book, translated from the French, by journalists Lena Mauger and Stephane Remael, called Vanished: The “Evaporated People” of Japan in Stories and Photographs.

I don’t know much about Japan and I had never heard anything about this, but apparently it’s a pretty normal thing for people to leave and never come back, and according to the authors over half of these disappearances are never reported to the police. There were a lot of them in the nineties especially when Japan’s economy was on the rocks.

There’s a name for it: evaporating. Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the family — a breadwinner who lost his job, a college student son who failed an important exam — and sometimes the entire family will go. Many of the evaporated people wind up committing suicide within a few days of leaving, but many more will just pop up somewhere else in the country and start over. There’s an entire neighborhood in Tokyo full of these people.

In fact, there are even entire companies whose job it is to help people evaporate. Mauger and Remael talked about a company called something like “Midnight Movers.” By day they moved furniture; by night they moved people. They didn’t have to advertise the people part; the “midnight” in their company name was a hidden indication that they were willing to move more than just your stuff. The price was the equivalent of like $5,000, around three times the cost of an ordinary move. The whole “midnight movers” concept sounds like it could become a movie or even a TV show here in the States.

Anyway. Check out the book if you’re interested.

MP of the week: Hakan Karacay

This week’s featured missing person is Hakan Karacay, a Turkish immigrant who’d been living in the United States for eleven years when he disappeared from Clifton, New Jersey in 1999. The car he was driving, actually his brother’s, turned up on a remote road in the Adirondacks in New York five days later; the battery was dead and the tank was empty.

It’s a peculiar case. I wish I had more information about it.

An idea about APs

I first thought of this issue a few years ago, but I don’t think I’ve discussed it on this blog before. So I thought I’d bring it up and see what y’all think about it.

And a disclaimer: I’m doing my best to write things in a non-offensive way and to make sure my facts are correct, but I don’t know much about the Muslim world at all, so if I mess up, I’m sorry. If I’m wrong about something, feel free to call me out on it.

(Recently, on a chat app my phone, I spoke to a guy who grew up in Saudi Arabia and now lives in the UK. I had never spoken to a Saudi person in my life. I said, “I’ve heard X, Y and Z about Saudi Arabia, are those things true?” He confirmed they were and said I was, for an American, “surprisingly well-informed” about Saudi Arabia. Which is really depressing when you think about it because I don’t know much about the country at all. I can name three cities there: Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. The first two I know about only because they’re famous in the history of Islam, the third I know about only because I read a novel set there. So it’s not that I am well-informed about Saudi Arabia or Muslim issues at all, it’s just that everyone else knows even less than I do. In a blind world, the one-eyed man is king. But moving right along…)

I have an idea about APs for a very specific subset of people: Muslim girls who were taken by a non-custodial parent and are believed to be now living in a Muslim-majority country where the girls and women generally wear some form of the hijab.

I don’t know much about the hijab, but I know there are different types of covering and in a few countries (like Saudi Arabia) women are legally required to wear them, and in other countries it’s just sort of the done thing, a cultural expectation to dress in this way. But I’m not trying to talk about whether a Muslim girl or woman should or should not wear the hijab. What I’m actually thinking is this:

In the countries I’m talking about, the girls and women will usually wear, at minimum, a scarf on their head, and in most cases the scarf covers most or all of their hair. They’ll wear this pretty much all the time they’re out in public. So why, when the NCMEC makes APs for these girls, do they not show that scarf?

Sarah Molouk Amiri, for example, is believed to be in Iran, where the hijab is required by law and just about every female wears some form of head covering even if it doesn’t completely conceal their hair. My Google image search for “Iranian women” turned up a lot of photos of women in various scarves; many of these women wore scarves that covered most or all of their hair, and also their neck up to the chin. Yet Sarah’s latest AP (done four years ago) shows her wearing no headscarf, and her entire neck and parts of her collarbone were also uncovered in the picture. I find it hard to believe that a woman living in Iran, even a super-modern cosmopolitan city girl, would ever dress that way in public. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to show an AP of Sarah dressed in the clothing worn by the females of the country where she’s supposed to be?

And that’s just one example. There are many family abduction cases where the girls are thought to be living in countries where some form of hijab is commonly worn in public. And the NCMEC, when it makes APs for them, NEVER shows them in Islamic clothing. One time, years ago, do an AP of a missing girl who was supposedly in Pakistan, and it did show her wearing a headscarf, which is what made me suddenly realize that this was an issue. They never made another one like it, and when they updated this particular girl’s AP a few years later, the scarf disappeared.

The obvious counter-argument to the “have them wear a scarf in the picture” is that it’s necessary for the APs to show the girls’ hair and neck etc., so we can better see what they look like. And also that if they added a scarf to the picture, people would be distracted by it and be focusing on the scarf rather than the girl/woman’s face.

But the thing is, if they’re living in a country where the hijab is required by law or where nearly all women wear some form of it, literally no one in public is going to see these girls’ hair and neck and collarbones and what have you. So it doesn’t help show what the girl looks like. As for distracting from the focus on the girl’s face, you could argue that, if, say, an Iranian person was looking at Sarah Amiri’s AP, that person might get distracted by the exposed hair and neck and collarbone.

Anyway… So what do you think of my idea? I’m especially interested in hearing from any Muslims in the audience.

ET entry, William Taylor

Another Executed Today entry by me: William Robert Taylor, who was hanged on this day in Lancaster, England in 1862 after he murdered his three children and his landlord. The tragedy began in January of that year when the pipes at Taylor’s home burst and scalded his seven-year-old daughter to death. Taylor blamed his landlord for the accident, and the landlord refused to pay compensation and subsequently instituted eviction proceedings on the family.

The only survivor was Taylor’s wife, who was also charged, but acquitted. I wonder what became of the poor woman.