Let’s talk about it: Four patients in the same medical practice

Between 1996 and 1997 four people, all of them in roughly the same age group, disappeared from the Los Angeles area: Robert Vincent Black, 64, on March 12, 1996; Patricia Laxer, 63, on August 11, 1997; Goldie A. Swanger, 75, on August 29, 1997; Richard Dean Davison, 70, on October 29, 1997. Mysteriously, not only were all four of these individuals patients of the same doctor (I never found out anything about him), but they all supposedly disappeared while going either to or from appointments with him.

The first answer that strikes me is “serial killer connected with the medical practice,” but what little I knew about the cases didn’t seem to indicate foul play; in fact the police not only suggested they were alive, but that each “may be a patient in a hospital or nursing home.”

In 2004, I found out Goldie Swanger’s case had been resolved, but I did not learn her fate at the time, whether she’d been found dead, or what. I blogged about this in 2011, and in 2014 a commenter, claiming to be Swanger’s biological son, left a comment on that blog entry. I quote from it below. He, his daughter Andria and another of Goldie’s granddaughters traveled to Los Angeles in 2000 or 2001 and

did a little investigation, got medical records from a doctor that Goldie was seeing before she became missing. That doctor told me that she saw him about once a month and then just never showed up and that he wondered what became of her! We found out where she was last at, alive, during her being “missing”. I believe it was a nursing home or something to that effect. I believe the government department that we today call the SRS had something to hide as they threw roadblocks in our search of Goldie.

I’m not sure what he means by SRS. Google turned up “special retirement supplement” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, and “supported residential services” which does, but supported residential services isn’t an American government department, only a service provided by the state government in Victoria, AUSTRALIA. My guess is he meant something similar to supported residential services that the U.S. or California government provide, but got the acronym wrong. Anyway, on with what Goldie Swanger’s son said:

It seems strange that as soon as my wife and I determined that her last name was Swanger and informed the SRS we knew her last name, the “SRS” had one hissy fit, and we determined that Goldie was still alive! But when we got to California she had passed away! Now that is strange! We found out where she lived previous to this facility and saw the place (apartment) and met and talked with a person who knew Goldie (an apartment neighbor). The administrator of the facility she was last at clammed up when we started to question the circumstance as to why Goldie was at this facility. Andria talked with a person who worked in that facility and knew Goldie as a patient(?). Andria has the info on this place. Goldie’s biological family believe that what we discovered may possibly be something to do with medicare fraud. The other missing persons in that area may just have been admitted to that same facility. We don’t know. We couldn’t find out.

The plot thickens indeed. This is most peculiar. I’d love to learn more about this case — some questions that come to mind are who was this doctor, what was his speciality, is he still practicing, what the MPs were seeing him for, and what were their general states of physical/mental health at the time they went missing? The facility administrator may have “clammed up” because there was something sketchy going on, but it could have been for confidentiality reasons (HIPAA).

I suppose it’s possible the other three could be still alive, particularly if they’re in a reasonably good care facility. (Key words being “possible” and “reasonably good”.) By now Black would be 85, Davis would be 89, and Laxer would be 83. But I wonder if anyone is even looking for them by now. If I was looking to imprison some people in a care facility against their will for the purposes of committing medical assistance fraud, I’d be targeting people with no living relatives, or at least no close relatives, and few ties to their community — people who would be easily missed.

So what happened to these people? Let’s talk about it.

Yates girls found safe after 31 1/2 years

This has been all over the news so chances are you’ve heard it already: one of my oldest family abductions, the 1985 case of ten-month-old Kelly Ann Yates and her big sister, 3-year-old Kimberly Ann Yates, has been solved. The girls, who are of course now adults, turned up alive and well in Texas.

I haven’t removed their casefiles yet; you can still read them for now. This article from the Providence Journal also provides a really good grounding in the case.

And I want to address an issue that has come up time and time again in family abduction cases, particularly cases where the children were taken by their mothers: the assumption so many people make that the abductor must have been “saving” the children from an unfit and/or abusive parent.

Several of the news articles (such as this one) have brought up the fact that, before Elaine Yates took the children and vanished, there was a domestic argument between herself and Russell, and he struck her. However, if you check out my casefiles for the girls, I include the information that, according to Russell, he only kicked his wife in self-defense after she attacked him first and struck him several times.

I’ve had people being like “How do you know that’s really true” and “How do you know that’s the ONLY incident, maybe there was more.”

I don’t know. That’s the thing. But just because I don’t know does not mean I am going to assume, based on a single incident that did not result in charges and that may have been self-defense, that Russell was an abusive husband and father.

What is DEFINITELY true is that Elaine committed a serious crime and put Russell through a lot of pain and grief for the past 30+ years. Elaine’s offense is much worse than Russell’s offense, which was basically simple assault.

Elaine will get a chance to tell her side of the story in time, but until then, I am a bit sickened by how some people people are automatically giving her the benefit of doubt. People don’t generally do this for most other crimes. Someone commented on my Facebook page about this case saying “some people do this [kidnap their own children] for a good reason.” Well, sometimes people who rob banks do it for a good reason — perhaps they have seven children and no food in the kitchen and they’re behind on the mortgage and about to be turned out of house and home into the frozen cold, and they really, really need the money. But nobody makes such remarks in response to news stories about bank robbery.

I cannot speak specifically on the Yates case because I don’t have all the facts. What I can say is this: in most family abduction cases, the abducting parent is not trying to protect the child or give it a better home. Most abducting parents take their children in order to spite the other parent. They hate their ex and want to hurt them in the worst way possible, by taking away the most precious thing in their lives.

Furthermore, parental abduction is child abuse. Most of the victims are lied to, told that the left-behind parent is dead or doesn’t want them anymore. In many cases the children are shifted from pillar to post, forced to live a lie, use false names, etc. Many times they don’t have access to education or health care while they’re missing, aren’t allowed to have friends, aren’t allowed to live a normal childhood.

I hope Kelly and Kimberly Yates prove willing to at least give their father a chance to get to know them again. That’s most important. I think it’s also important, though, that they follow through with prosecuting Elaine. I don’t think people should be allowed to get away with this sort of thing. The fact that it’s been thirty years does not lessen the gravity of what she did.

Missing persons news

I’ll cover the recovery of the Yates girls in their own entry, but here’s some other missing persons news:

  • This accountant’s hobby? Identifying missing people through his drawings
    My friend and Irregular Carl Koppelman has been featured in the Orange County Register. He does wonderful sketches of UIDs and was instrumental in identifying Cali Doe as Tammy Alexander. Congratulations, Carl!
  • Trial date in 20-year-old cold case pushed back to October
    A year and a quarter ago ago, more or less, Kirsten Renee Hatfield‘s two-doors-down neighbor was charged with her murder. The headline of this article is pretty self-explanatory, and the news story explains why: the suspect has new lawyers now who need time to review the evidence.
    Kirsten’s case, for whatever reason, fascinated me back when I was a child and first started getting interested in missing persons. I had a website when I was twelve or so, with some poems and stories I wrote, and one of them was a poem called “Missing, Presumed Dead” and it was based on Kirsten’s disappearance, as I explained on the site. Kirsten’s mom found it and emailed me, saying she was touched that a little girl in Ohio was thinking of her and her lost daughter, but she didn’t believe Kirsten was dead.
  • Judge orders suspect in cold case homicide to trial in district court
    Apparently the motive for Cari Lea Farver‘s homicide was a love triangle; both she and the suspect, Shanna Goylar, were seeing the same man. According to prosecutors, after Goylar killed Cari, she burned the body and then went on Cari’s social media accounts and tried to make it look like she was still alive.
  • Missing Oklahoma woman found more than 20 years after disappearance
    This case isn’t one of mine. It’s a really awesome story, though, how hard Shelly Jennings’s daughters looked for her, and how she was found largely through their efforts. Twenty-three years after she walked away from her family in Oklahoma, she turns up at a bus station in Modesto, California. I hope they can reconcile, although given Shelly’s mental illness, this may not be possible.
  • For families of missing persons, not knowing is excruciating
    This is about the disappearance of Cody Henry Turner, who went missing from Washington in 2015.
  • Missing Minnesotans: Susan Swedell
    Obviously, an article about Susan Anne Swedell (for whom I recently posted an updated AP).

This case reminds me of another

Is anyone else seeing shades of Mitrice Richardson in the Ebonee Spears case I posted today? Obviously Mitrice’s disappearance and death is a much more egregious example of neglect, but Ebonee made me think of her.

Out of curiosity I Googled Mitrice, and I discovered her case was in the news as recently as this past November and is still under investigation. Sigh.

Unfortunately, when it comes to mental illness, the laws are such that unless the person agrees to get medical attention, the police and medical professionals usually can’t help. Almost two years ago I had a bad reaction to some medication and started hallucinating and having delusions and babbling nonsense and what have you. Michael took me to the hospital; they shrugged their shoulders and sent me home again. That night I kept trying to walk right through his glass deck door out into the winter cold, wearing only a turtleneck and underpants. Michael called the police and they came and assessed the situation, and they said there was nothing they could do. I wasn’t suicidal, and as long as I was indoors, I didn’t qualify as a danger to myself. They told him to just make sure I didn’t leave the house. Michael had to call his parents to come and stay up all night with me and physically prevent me from leaving. If it weren’t for the three of them, I almost certainly would have wandered off and frozen to death.

The situation totally sucks. How do you toe the line between respecting people’s civil rights, and making sure that they can get help when they really need it?

I really, really hope Ebonee doesn’t turn out to have shared Mitrice’s fate. But I’m not optimistic. It’s been a year.

A New Year’s miracle

As several people have already told me, Kamiyah Mobley has resurfaced alive and well in the small town of Waltersboro, South Carolina. After EIGHTEEN YEARS. She is, I believe, the youngest person profiled on the Charley Project; she was abducted from the hospital in Jacksonville, Florida only hours after birth, on July 10, 1998.

It’s much like the story of Carlina White: Kamiyah was raised under the name Alexis Manigo, and thought her abductor was her mother. A couple of months ago, “Alexis” started to suspect there was more to the story, and DNA testing has just verified her true identity.

The abductor, 51-year-old Gloria Williams, has been arrested and will be extradited to Florida to face kidnapping charges. Her prior criminal offenses include welfare fraud and writing bad checks. If convicted of kidnapping, she could get a life sentence. (Carlina’s kidnapper got twelve years.) If you ask me, in cases like this, the abductor ought to have to serve AT LEAST one day for every day the child was missing.

From what little has come out so far, Kamiyah/Alexis grew up in poverty and moved around a lot across several different states. She was able to graduate high school, though. It says Williams is married, but I don’t know whether she was married to this man when Kamiyah was taken or whether he was complicit in the abduction.

I am delighted for Kamiyah’s family, though I feel very sorry for Kamiyah herself; she must feel absolutely torn to bits right now. The sheriff was quoted as saying Kamiyah/Alexis “appears to be a normal 18-year-old woman” who is “taking it as well as you can imagine.” A neighbor said, “She wasn’t an abused child or a child who got in trouble. But she grew up with a lie for 18 years.”

Maybe Carlina can offer some advice to Kamiyah. I know Elizabeth Smart reached out to Jaycee Dugard after the latter was found alive.

A few articles:

Awesome article on the Benjamin Kyle case

I thought I would share with you a comprehensive retelling of the famous unidentified man “Benjamin Kyle”, who is unidentified no longer, and the twelve-year search to give him back his name. Given my line of work, I’ve known about the case since the outset, but never followed it closely. This is a really good article about it. It’s really long, but it kind of has to be, as the case is so mysterious and took so long to come to a conclusion.

An evolution of thinking

I wanted to share with you guys a conversation I had on the Charley Project’s Facebook page, about a mother who disappeared almost a decade ago and has turned up alive:

fbdiscuss

After getting that final response I realized I’ve become much less judgmental than I used to be about MPs who left of their own accord. I know that around ten years ago I was interviewed by a newspaper about such a case and I said it was “abominably selfish” for a person to do that. Whenever I heard about an MP who turned out to have simply walked out of their lives, leaving their family wondering what happened and if they were still alive, I used to get angry — like the other person in this conversation here. Now my response is much more tempered. I’m not sure when it changed.

I think back to my own early- to mid-adolescence, when I was suffering from horrific, untreated, mental illness. I had very intense thoughts about running away from home, traveling to a distant city, taking my own life there without any ID or anything on me, and getting buried as a Jane Doe. I do not know why this seemed like a great idea at the time. My brain was basically broken.

Mind you, I still think it’s selfish to desert your loved ones without a word, and I still tend to feel much more sorry for the left-behind family and friends than the MP who left them. But now I also tend to wonder “what was going in that person’s life that was so bad that they felt they had to take such steps?” I don’t get mad anymore, I don’t judge them. I just feel glad their family has learned their fate, and hope they all can reconcile or at least reach some level of acceptance.

I was talking about it with Michael today and I asked him if he thought my change in attitude about MPs like this woman was due to an additional decade of learning about these cases and what motivates these people to walk out, or was it just that I was once 21 and am now 31 and I’ve simply grown up. Michael said the one cannot be separated from the other, that learning new things through reading and stuff is one more part of growing up.