A very sad conversation I wish I hadn’t had to have

Yeah, so I’m home again. I got a text from Mom saying she’d be home around noon and after I fed her cat I could just leave if I liked. So I did.

Last night I had to have a very sad conversation, via text, with the mother of a teenage girl who ran away years ago and is still missing.

You see, when I first added this woman’s daughter to Charley, I had written a blog entry about two runaways: one who had been found alive and well in Canada (whom I did not name, since she had never been on Charley and she was not missing anymore and I wanted to protect her privacy), and the other being this woman’s daughter.

Then yesterday the woman commented on my entry saying “I’m so-and-so’s mother and I had no idea she was even alive until I read this entry. Please text me at the following number and tell me everything you know.” (I have since deleted her comment, because it had her phone number on it.)

And I realized to my horror that she had misunderstood my entry and thought I had been referring to one person, not two: in other words, she thought I was saying I had located her daughter in Canada and she was alive and well.

So then I had to text her and explain that I was very sorry but she had misunderstood me and I didn’t have any more idea about her kid’s whereabouts and well-being than she did. I felt absolutely terrible for raising her hopes for five minutes and then having to break them.

It turns out that, unbeknownst to me, this woman’s daughter had left a note saying she was running away to Canada. That’s probably a good part of the reason why she misunderstood my blog entry.

The thing is, her daughter could very possibly be dead. It’s more likely than in the average runaway case. She suffers from a very serious medical condition which, even with treatment, still kills people. And of course, as a runaway, she doesn’t have her medication with her or access to her doctors.

Fortunately the girl’s mother wasn’t angry at me, but I felt really bad. We texted back and forth for awhile. I kept telling her how sorry I was that I couldn’t be of more help. She told me a little about her daughter. I think I’ll add this info to the girl’s Charley Project page.

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Select It Sunday: Carla Vicentini

Vivi D., a woman from Brazil, asked me to profile fellow Brazilian Carla Vicentini. I was going to make her my MP of the week but decided to do a Select It Sunday case for her instead.

Carla was 22 and living in Newark, New Jersey on a cultural exchange program when she disappeared on February 9, 2006. Vivi D., when asking for me to give the case some publicity, said, “There was not a lot of publicity in her case since she was a student in Brazil, she was there only a month when it happened.” Carla’s Charley Project casefile notes that her case “has been well-covered in the media in Brazil and in Portuguese-language newspapers in New Jersey, but the mainstream American press has given it little attention.”

I haven’t updated Carla’s case since 2009, but I ought to. I found this 2010 article and this 2015 article, both from the Star-Ledger newspaper, with additional details about her case.

She was a very attractive young woman, didn’t speak much English, and was perhaps a bit naive — she grew up in a small farming community in Brazil, and Newark is a pretty rough city. She was last seen leaving a bar with a strange man; my guess is he was either a trafficker or, more likely, a garden-variety predator who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and that he knows what happened to her. The problem is that he has yet to be identified.

Follow-up on my previous post

Remember my previous blog post about the missing lady whom I believed was Aboriginal Australian? Well, I’ve heard from her brother again. I asked him directly if she was Aboriginal and he says not: she is of Sri Lankan and Indian descent.

But he also said:

I rang up your place at [a Burbank, California phone number] on 30th may 17 and spoke to a lovely lady called Jeanette. She took down my details and said she would get in touch with social security and try to find out about [his sister] but I haven’t heard back from her. Would you be able to just remind jeanette about this please and see if she can follow it up ??. Appreciate your Help as days are approaching fast ( I will be in L.A in 10 days time) and it would be nice if I can meet her.

Um…what? Jeanette who?

I think I’ll have to call this number himself and see if I can find out who on earth he spoke to. I’ll have to wait awhile, though, because right now it’s 3:00 a.m. California time.

Not sure what to do with this information

While I was in Poland I got an email from the brother of a missing woman. He explained that he lived in Australia, and he knew his sister had gone missing in California a number of years ago, and he was visiting California in June, and did I have any information about her disappearance?

I did not. But the information in his email provided an answer to something I’d wondered about in relation to her case.

The woman had an unusual appearance to me. She had very dark skin and sort of looked like she was black, but I didn’t think she actually was. She certainly didn’t look white. The California Department of Justice had her classified as “other Asian” but that didn’t mean much to me. I wondered if she might be a Pacific Islander, but CDOJ actually has a “Pacific Islander” classification and they hadn’t put her in it.

When the man said he was Australian, it suddenly hit me: this woman is almost certainly aboriginal — the very first on the Charley Project if I’m not mistaken. I checked out photos of aboriginal Australians and she looks very much like them.

So now what do I call her? Should I perhaps list her as “Pacific Islander” and explain she’s of aboriginal descent?

This particular detail could turn out to be very important if her body is found — there can’t be that many aboriginal Australian UIDs in North America.

Time Magazine article about evaporated people

Last fall I blogged about a book I read about people in Japan who walk out of their lives and never come back. It’s called “evaporating.” It’s very common, said the book, common enough that there are businesses specifically made for these people, to help them flee.

The story did strike me as kind of surreal and TIME Magazine has published an article about it saying the same:

It was captivating. But early inquiries revealed that many in Japan doubted the veracity of Mauger’s reporting. “Most of us who saw [the story] found it unbelievable,” says Charles McJilton, a longtime expatriate resident of Japan… Parts of Mauger’s book are “fantasy at best,” McJilton tells TIME.

Later on:

A cultural prevalence of vanishing…is not reflected in the country’s official statistics. Japan’s National Police Agency registered around 82,000 missing persons in 2015 and noted that some 80,000 had been found by the end of the year. Only 23,000 of them had remained missing for more than a week and about 4,100 of them turned out to be dead. In Britain, which has about half the population of Japan, more than 300,000 calls were made to police in 2015 to report a missing person.

The Missing Persons Search Support Association of Japan (MPS), a non-profit set up to provide support to the families of the evaporated, argues that official numbers reflect under-reporting and are way too low. “The actual, unregistered number is estimated at several times 100,000,” claims the organization’s website.

The aforementioned businesses actually do exist, and are described in the article. TIME interviewed the owner of one such business. She charges

between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they’re going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher.

Anyway, check out the article. It’s really cool.