MP of the week: Charles Rutherford Jr.

This week’s featured missing person is Charles “Chuck” Rutherford Jr., a 34-year-old attorney who disappeared with his girlfriend, Lana Stempien, while they were boating on Lake Huron on August 11, 2005.

Rutherford and Stempien at the Presque Isle Marina in Presque Isle, Michigan, and planned to go to Mackinac Island, but never arrived. Their boat was found idling in the lake, ten miles off Mackinac Island, the next day. Two weeks later, Stempien’s body washed ashore. There was elevated carbon monoxide in her blood, but the cause of death was drowning.

In spite of some mutterings about foul play and things being “mysterious”, it looks to me like Rutherford was probably also the victim of an accidental drowning; there’s a theory that they went swimming and became overcome with fumes from the boat motor.

Jonelle Matthews’s remains have been found

Earlier this week, skeletal remains turned up at an oil and gas site in rural Weld County, Colorado. Today it was announced that they were identified as twelve-year-old Jonelle Renee Matthews, who disappeared from Greeley, Colorado on December 20, 1984.

The Greeley Tribune was anonymously sent photos of the remains, which they said they would not be showing to anyone, but which they did describe in their article. Per the description, “tattered red- and blue-colored clothing” was found with the body, and Jonelle was wearing a blue jacket and a red blouse when she was abducted, so it sounds like she’s been dead since very shortly after her disappearance. Perhaps that very same night.

Yes, I know Larry Murillo has been located

Just about everyone has been texting, messaging and emailing me about the sad recovery of Larry Ely Murillo. His body turned up behind the coolers in the supermarket he used to work in. The business has been closed for years and a contractor was engaged in removing the coolers and shelving units when they found Murillo’s partially mummified remains in the eighteen-inch gap between the cooler and the wall.

Murillo was apparently having a psychotic break at the time of his disappearance. The day before, he had been prescribed an antidepressant, but his mental condition just deteriorated and he was paranoid and hearing voices. He ran out into the snow, coatless and barefoot, and vanished. Until now.

Per MANY the news articles about the finding, apparently workers at the supermarket would sometimes hide on top of the coolers when they wanted to take a break without the boss knowing. My guess is that Murillo, in his paranoia, went dashing for the familiar hiding space, only to slip into the space behind the units. The noise from the compressors would have drowned out his cries for help. And so he died a slow, horrible death.

The case reminds me of the tragic death of Joshua Maddux, whose corpse was found inside a chimney in a remote cabin in Colorado in 2015, seven years after he vanished. There was (and is still) talk of murder, but the most plausible theory is that he was trying to break into the cabin via the chimney and got stuck.

I am, not, of course, a psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist, but I don’t think the antidepressant was responsible for the mental breakdown leading up to Murillo’s death. He had been showing mental illness symptoms before taking the drug, and that’s why it was prescribed for him. And he had only been prescribed the drug the day before his disappearance.

Deaths like Larry Murillo’s remind me of just how lucky I am. As most of you readers know, I’ve got bipolar disorder. I’ve had psychotic breaks before. And one time, a common prescription painkiller I’d innocently taken interacted with one of my psychiatric meds and threw a party in my brain, resulting in very bad psychotic symptoms. This was not technically psychosis but delirium; however at the time everyone thought it was psychosis.

Anyway, that time I was hallucinating, delusional, and kept trying to leave the house at night in early March wearing only a shirt and underpants. The hospital refused to admit me, and the police wouldn’t help either, so Michael called his parents and they came over and stayed up with me all night to make sure I didn’t leave the house or do anything to harm myself.

If it weren’t for Michael and his parents, I might have died that night. I was lucky. Sadly, Larry Murillo wasn’t.

Missing persons news that happened while my computer was broken

Yeah, so this has been in the news:

  • They’re going to try to identify two bodies, victims of a terrible fire at a Connecticut circus in 1944. 168 people were killed and of those, five are still unidentified. Per the article: “State Chief Medical Examiner James Gill wants to compare the unknown victims’ DNA to that of Sandra Sumrow, the granddaughter of 47-year-old Grace Fifield, a Newport, Vermont woman who was at the circus the day of the fire but was never seen again.”
  • Hazel Rose Hess‘s daughter has gone on the news asking for information that could solve her mother’s 25-year-old disappearance. There isn’t much in the way of anything new in the article, however. I just found a few new pictures.
  • There’s been some news about the 1985 disappearances of Janet Shuglie and her ten-year-old daughter Marisa. It turns out someone found her class ring. They found it over 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that they realized the ring belonged to a missing person and turned it over to the police.
    The police seem to think the find is significant, and they have not disclosed where the ring was found. There were several articles about this: here, here, here and here. There is a picture of the ring (is it just me or is the stone missing?) but alas, no photos of Marisa. I don’t have a photo of her either, so only Janet has a casefile on Charley.
  • They’ve found the bodies of Danielle Marie Steiner and her five-year-old son, Aubrey Hall, who disappeared from Lansing, Michigan a year ago. The bodies were discovered by a clean-up crew in a vacant house in the 800 block of Loa Street. The article notes that “At various times, Steiner and Aubrey had lived in the 700 and 800 block of Loa Street.”
    No other details have been released, except that the deaths are being treated as homicides. I’m sure their families are devastated.
  • This month is the 13th anniversary of the disappearance of Melanie Metheny from Belle, West Virginia. She went missing on July 19, 2006. There’s this article about it.
  • Doreen Jane Vincent‘s 1988 disappearance has been covered in the second season of the podcast “Faded Out.” I grabbed a bunch of photos off this article, and the podcast sounds absolutely fascinating, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to listen to it. There’s 21 episodes in the season so far, ranging in length from 27 minutes to an hour and 17 minutes, during which time I’d have to be paying very close attention, stopping the play to take notes, etc. All for one case. I wish I had the time for this kind of thing; it would benefit the Charley Project greatly. But I just don’t.
  • A suspect, Bryan Lee O’Daniels, has been charged with murder in the 1995 disappearance of Timothy Jason Smart. Apparently there were many witnesses who knew the truth, but none of them spoke up out of fear of O’Daniels. The case broke after the police got an anonymous tip last year that led to a motherlode of information.

Three more of Terry Rasmussen’s victims identified

It hit the news today (see here on Boston 25 news and here on the Daily Beast, among other places) that authorities have identified three of the four victims found in Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire.

It’s an infamous case. The bodies were found wrapped in plastic and electrical wiring, in two barrels, close to each other: one barrel was located in 1985, and another in 2000. One young woman, and three little girls, two of whom were shown by DNA to be her own daughters. They all died around the same time, sometime between 1977 and 1981.

Now, three of them have names: Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch and her daughters, Marie Elizabeth Vaughn and Sarah Lynn McWaters. They disappeared from California in 1978, shortly after Marlyse started dating Terrance Peder Rasmussen. Marlyse was then 24, and the girls were 7 (Marie) and 11 months (Sarah). It doesn’t look like they lived long afterwards.

Rasmussen is a very unusual serial killer, in that he formed romantic relationships with women and sometimes even had children by them before killing them. He committed his final murder in 2001, that of his wife Eunsoon Joon, and died in prison in 2010. At the time, his other crimes were mostly undiscovered.

Denise Beaudin, who disappeared in 1981 at age 23 and listed on Charley, is presumed one of his victims, but her body hasn’t been found. She had an infant daughter at the time of her disappearance (not Rasmussen’s kid), and that little girl was abandoned by Rasmussen in California in 1985. It was the best thing he ever did for her, because as a result she was raised by a good family and apparently doing well. She has chosen not to speak to the media or let her current identity be known.

The fourth person found in the barrels at Bear Brook State park is still unidentified, but DNA proved she’s Rasmussen’s biological daughter. She was a toddler, about two to four years old when she died. She may have Native American ancestry.

There’s a good chance the little girl’s mother is also dead. Rasmussen was arrested under the name Robert “Bob” Evans for minor charges in New Hampshire in 1980, and he had a woman living with him who called herself Elizabeth Evans and said she was his wife. Perhaps this is the mother of the child in the barrel.

I have done my best for it

FINALLY got the wretched Hart case finished today, after weeks of researching and struggling to put the story together. The case summary is 3,200+ words, exceeding the Peter Kema casefile by over 1,000 words.

It was a challenge, trying to tell the story in such a way as to minimize confusion when there was so much going on, and so many lies told. While Jen and Sarah are abusing their three adopted kids in Minnesota, at the same time down in Texas three more kids who will be adopted by Jen and Sarah but whom they don’t know yet are being taken away from their biological mother. Etc.

And it’s such an awful story, just sheer horror and misery start to finish. The sadness behind those forced smiles. The tiny, scrawny kids, their limbs like sticks, hungry all the time because their mothers didn’t feed them.

And so many people, in so many parts of the country, screwed up. This is mostly on Jen and Sarah, but it wasn’t all them. They should never been permitted to adopt children, never mind a large number of kids from foster care. They should never been permitted to adopt the first set of kids after how they’d treated their foster daughter. They should never have been permitted to adopt the second set of kids when they had child abuse proven against them, and admitted by them. Once adopted, there was enough proof of abuse and neglect that the children should have been removed from their homes half a dozen times at least, over the years.

Devonte and his siblings did not have to die the way they did.

I have done my best for them.

Awesome two-part series on Gary Mathias and his four missing friends

Two years ago I blogged about the 1978 disappearance of Gary Dale Mathis and the mysterious deaths of his four friends, who went missing with him from Oroville in Yuba County, California. The comments on that entry are, I think, well worth a read.

I’m happy to announce that the Sacramento Bee has done a really good two-parter on the case.

Part one is titled: Out in the Cold: Four mentally disabled men died in woods. But what happened to the fifth? Part two is Were 4 mentally disabled men set up to die in the California woods?

The articles provide a lot more background information than I had had previously, regarding the disabilities all the men dealt with, and Mathias’s criminal history.

Most people with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia are not dangerous to anyone but themselves, but Mathias was a violent man with a history of attacks on both men and women. This probably had more to do with his drug abuse problem than his mental illness. It’s not clear to me whether Mathis was ever violent when he WASN’T under the influence of some illicit drug or other. But both mental illness and violence ran in his family.

The articles posit the theory, put forth by the families of the dead men and by others, that Mathias was in some way responsible for the situation that lead to their deaths. Certainly that’s possible.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone is ever going to find out what happened, and I don’t see any reason to believe Mathias is still alive. But it is an intriguing mystery.