All the conspiracy theorists in the Gabby Pettito case are driving me mad

So social media can be a blessing AND a curse, and I think in the Gabby Pettito case it’s mainly turned out to be a curse. People who don’t know anything keep speculating, pulling all sorts of ideas out of their rear ends. There’s a reason I don’t normally hang around web-sleuthing and true-crime forums and Facebook groups and so on because this happens a lot in those places and I find it infuriating.

Back in the days when such talk was confined to one’s immediate social circle in the physical world (the breakfast table, coworkers, your friend group), it was pretty much harmless. But online, it is not necessarily harmless and I think the speculation in Gabby and Brian’s case is a pretty good example of the harm it can cause.

For example, during the time Brian was missing, Internet mobs were harassing men whose only crime was that they bore some vague physical resemblance to him. Armchair detectives were claiming that Brian’s parents must have him hidden in a bunker under their backyard and when his mom appeared to be gardening she was actually passing food and stuff down to his bunker. People were protesting outside Brian’s parents’ house and some rando sued his parents for $40 for absolutely no reason I can determine.

This all kind of reminds me of when the Internet (for some reason) decided the furniture company Wayfair was trafficking children through their website, listing kids for sale in disguise as overpriced cabinets. Internet mobs were actually HARASSING MINOR CHILDREN who had returned home after being missing for a period, to the point where one poor girl went on Facebook Live to say she was alive and well and with her family and had not been trafficked and was begging people to stop this nonsense as it was ruining her life. I was horrified and tremendously angry about this and still am frankly.

And now that Brian has been found, the Internet mobs who had seemed so dedicated to solving the case themselves now suddenly don’t want it to be solved and try to keep coming up with reasons why the remains that were identified as him could not be him.

It’s like these people think that this is a fascinating Netflix series, and now it’s over and they don’t want it to be over and are desperately trying to come up with excuses to carry on with another season of the Gabby and Brian Mystery Show…at the expense of the very real people involved in it. I am really hoping that Gabby and Brian’s respective families and friends are staying offline at the moment and don’t read any of the garbage that’s being spouted. Stuff about fake teeth, fake remains, substituted dental records, all sorts of conspiracies are being made up out of thin air.

But this isn’t Netflix. This is real life. And this is a very sad but very familiar story of a domestic abuser who killed his partner and then, probably, himself. It’s a story that happens every day all around the world and frankly I don’t understand why Gabby and Brian’s particular tragic saga has captivated so many people.

Honestly, I think the reason behind a lot of conspiracy theories is that people want to feel like they’re smarter than everybody else, even the experts. Like there’s some big secret thing going on that only they know about, so they get sucked into believing the most ridiculous things.

I certainly don’t mind if a person has legitimate good-faith questions that can be answered. Like, when I don’t know something, I look it up or I ask someone who knows.

Some people have asked why dental records were used in the identification and not DNA. Answer: dental records are much faster and cheaper than using DNA, and so that’s what’s usually done unless either the records or the decedent’s teeth are unavailable. Others have asked why only partial remains were located. Answer: probably his body had been lying in that nature preserve for weeks, maybe over a month, and animals would nibble on bits and take away pieces to eat.

But those people who ask the questions, then flatly dismiss your answers and laugh in your face and go chasing after some completely implausible story they made up themselves, I cannot stand that. Either you want to learn, or you don’t, you know?

If you DO want to learn, I have some recommendations of books on the topics of forensic science and domestic violence that you guys might find interesting. I have read all of these books myself and found them both interesting and educational.

On forensic science, I recommend (in no particular order):

  1. Sue Black’s Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind and All That Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes
  2. Richard Shepherd’s Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain’s Top Forensic Pathologist
  3. Malcolm Dodd and Beverley Knight’s Justice for the Dead: Forensic Pathology in the Hot Zone
  4. Stefan Timmermans’s Postmortem: How Medical Examiners Explain Suspicious Deaths
  5. Colin Evans’s Blood On the Table: The Greatest Cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  6. Ryan Blumenthal’s Autopsy: Life in the Trenches with a Forensic Pathologist in Africa
  7. Zakaria Erzinclioglu’s Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist
  8. Cynric Temple-Camp’s The Cause of Death: True Stories of Death and Murder from a New Zealand Pathologist

On domestic violence I recommend:

  1. Rachel Louise Snyder’s No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
  2. George Lardner’s The Stalking of Kristin: A Father Investigates the Murder of His Daughter

(Incidentally, if you read a lot like me and you have a smart phone I highly recommend Scribd. It’s a reading app kind of like Amazon’s Kindle, and provides you with unlimited access to Scribd’s large, regularly updated library of books for just $10 a month. It has a wide selection of books, including academic type books that cost a lot of money to buy, and including some of the books I listed above. You can read as many as you like for just the flat $10 fee. For me, it’s more than paid for itself.)

So this has just hit the news

A woman has come forward claiming she’s Brittany Williams. She does not have HIV and has never had it. What she does have is DNA which, per the article, has already been tested against Brittany’s sister and confirmed the match.

I first heard about this last week and have been patiently waiting for the news to cover it. Well, now they have.

I await official confirmation from the cops. That’s really all I have to say on this at present. If you’re going to comment please read the article I linked to.

Theodore Kampf identified

So it’s been in the news in several places: Theodore Frederick Kampf, a 46-year-old man who was last seen in Oaklyn, New Jersey in July 1981, has been identified.

I was just talking to David Mittelman, the Othram Inc. guy, and he says it was in part cause of Charley that Kampf was identified. He was identified through DNA, but I guess Kampf wouldn’t have even been on the list of possibles except his Charley Project page notes he was road-tripping to Canada and was supposed to cross the border on July 13.

His body was found in the Yukon, you see. Specifically, “in a wooded area near the North Fork Dam and Dempster Highway in Dawson City.” Which is about as far away as it is possible for him to be and still be on the same continent. I looked it up and Dawson City, Yukon Territory is a 63-hour drive from Oaklyn, New Jersey — and that’s only if you take a direct route (which Kampf didn’t, since he was last known to be in Washington State). The direct route is 6,382 kilometers, or almost 4,000 miles.

After forty years I think it’s unlikely his murder will ever be solved. The killer could even be dead by now. But at least he’s coming home.

Two long-missing people turn up alive and well

Just another one of those “never give up hope” reminders: Nicole Denise Jackson, a Birmingham, Alabama woman who dropped out of sight in 2018, and Sajid Thungal, a man from Kottyam in the state of Kerala in India who was last heard from in 1974, have both resurfaced alive.

Neither of these people were ever listed on the Charley Project: Sajid because he didn’t disappear on American soil, and I’m not sure Nicole was ever officially listed as missing. They also have something else in common, in that both of them vanished after leaving their home countries.

Nicole stopped contacting her family after moving to Germany to be with a guy she met online. Her family finally hired a private investigator who was able to locate and speak to Nicole’s employer and landlord, and as a result Nicole went to the authorities with her ID and verified that she’s ok. She hasn’t gotten in touch with her family though. I don’t know if there were prior family problems, if she’s in a bad situation, if she’s embarrassed or what. But I’m glad to hear she’s alive and has a job and a place to live, anyway.

Sajid left home to make his fortune in the United Arab Emirates, taking a job managing a group of entertainers who were also Indian nationals. At some point in the ensuing few years he lost touch with his family. Then a plane with the entertainers he’d been managing crashed in Mumbai with the loss of all onboard. His family thought, given the circumstances, that Sajid might have died in the crash as well. However, that wasn’t the case.

The truth was that Sajid hadn’t made his fortune after all and was embarrassed by his poverty, and didn’t want to return home with his tail between his legs. And I suppose the more time passed without him writing his family, the more difficult it became to get started, and he just never did it. Until now. His father had passed away in the intervening years but his mom, wife and brothers are still alive.

When a person vanishes voluntarily like that, and then reappears after years have passed, re-integration into the family unit is often difficult. This Washington Post article from 2019 (which I’m quoted in) talks about several real-life cases of a missing person resurfacing and encountering bumps along the way.

The family members, though delighted that their loved one is back in their lives, may also be very angry at the them for causing them so much pain by not picking up the phone. Often, whatever problems that led the no-longer-missing person to go missing in the first place (be it mental illness, family issues, etc.) are still there when they return, and the person might have picked up some new problems along the way while they were missing. Furthermore, they may have built another life for themselves in the meantime, a life which didn’t include their family, and now they have to find a way to fit their family into that life.

It’s a big adjustment and I recommend individual and family therapy in such cases.

Emily Lu found deceased

Earlier I had written about my college friend whose mom, Emily Lu, was missing. Well, after 50 days, Emily was found murdered in the woods less than two miles from her home. She rented out rooms in her house, and one of her tenants, Brian George Sayrs Jr., led police to the body. The cops are calling it a “brutal, vicious murder”, one which apparently occurred in her home.

No motive has been given, but my friend says her mom was having “issues” with Sayrs. Perhaps he owed her rent or something and they got into an argument. But no matter what happened there is no excuse for slaughtering an old lady.

I feel so bad for my friend and the rest of Emily’s family and friends. But I’m glad she was finally found and I won’t have to list her on the Charley Project.

EastPark John Doe, missing persons events, and other stories

Colorado: There will be two events to honor the May 10, 2020 disappearance of Suzanne Morphew from Chaffee County. (I haven’t added her yet cause it hasn’t yet been a year.) The first will be held at the Poncha Springs Visitor Center at 7010 U.S. Highway 285 in Poncha Springs, Colorado at 7:00 p.m. on April 30. This day would be/have been Suzanne’s fiftieth birthday. The second event is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on May 2, at the Community Garden at 202 East Church Street in Alexandria, Indiana; Suzanne grew up there and many family and friends still live there. I might attend that event as it’s only an hour and ten minutes from where I live.

Kentucky: In EastPark, on the edge of Boyd County, last July, hunters found the badly decomposed remains of a murdered man partially buried. He had been dead for between approximately two weeks and a month. The man was wearing only boxer shorts and there were no personal effects. The man was between 20 and 40 years old and about 5’8 and 140 to 160 pounds, with brown hair between earlobe length and shoulder length. He had been shot, but also had drugs in his system when he died. The place where he was buried, although somewhat secluded, had easy access to the interstate; the dead man “literally could have come from anywhere.” The man has yet to be identified.

Also in Kentucky: Skeletal remains found in Hardyville in February 2020 have been identified as Jacob Lewis Tipton, a 24-year-old man who disappeared from Berea on April 23, 2016. Unfortunately there wasn’t much left of him and they couldn’t establish a cause of death.

Also in Kentucky: They’re still looking for Andrea Michelle Knabel, a 37-year-old woman who disappeared from Louisville on August 13, 2019. A retired homicide detective has taken an interest in the case and believes he’s found a three-hour discrepancy in the timeline of the night of Andrea’s disappearance.

Mississippi: They’re still trying to identify a Jane Doe who were found under a bridge over the Pearl River in Rankin County in 1978. She was nude and wrapped in an old blanket. She had died of multiple blows to the head and may have been killed by serial killer Samuel Little, who died late last year. They’re looking into the possibility that the Jane Doe may be Wendy Susan Byron, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from Glendora, California just two days before Jane Doe was found in Mississippi.

New York: They’re still looking for Flossie A. Wilbur, a 75-year-old woman who disappeared from Angelica on August 24, 1985. David Sherk, one of her then-neighbors, confessed to her murder in 2020 and told authorities he had buried her body near the Almond Dam, but the body has never been found. Doesn’t mean the man was lying; the dam has flooded multiple times since 1985. Sherk had terminal brain cancer when he made his confession and I’m not sure he’s still alive now, but he was never charged.

South Dakota: In Rapid City, groups and leaders both from town and from Native American reservations across the state united yesterday to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous people. Here are some photos of the event.

Virginia: It’s been ten years now since Robert Lee Hourihan disappeared, leaving behind a wife and six-year-old daughter her adored. Foul play is suspected in his case. His wife has never remarried and still hopes every day that he will be found.

Also Virginia: Human remains found in the woods on the campus of Hollins University back in February have been identified as Jessica Darling Dickson, a 30-year-old woman who disappeared from Roanoke on June 1, 2019. Jessica’s death is under investigation, but the police said there doesn’t seem to be any connection to the university and they don’t think the students (it’s a women’s college) are in danger.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: There’s an interesting article/podcast episode on the systemic failures of Toronto Police and missing persons cases.

New Waterford, Nova Scotia, Canada: They’re still looking for Debbie Hutchinson, 59-year-old woman who disappeared on April 15, 2017 and wasn’t reported missing for twelve days. Her niece found groceries lying on the floor of Debbie’s home, and her car later turned up abandoned and burned.

When a missing person goes missing again

So a woman disappeared, and she was missing long enough to get posted on the Charley Project, so I posted her. I’ll call this woman Yvette. Then recently Yvette got arrested on some minor charges in another state. So I listed her case as resolved, explaining about the arrest etc.

I heard from Yvette’s sister-in-law. Apparently, she vanished again immediately after she got out of jail. and the family was frantic with worry. Could I relist the case?

I wasn’t sure what to do in this case. Presumably Yvette’s missing persons report had been closed when she was arrested; even if she has since been re-listed as missing with the police (and I wasn’t sure if she had been or not), didn’t her arrest kind of restart the clock? Like, wasn’t she now missing for a week instead of over a year, in which case she’d be ineligible for the Charley Project? It seemed that way to me but I wasn’t sure I had the heart to tell the relative I wouldn’t re-list Yvette’s case.

I decided to first settle the issue of whether Yvette’s is currently listed as missing with any law enforcement agency. I wrote back to ask the sister-in-law this. My email bounced. I can’t get in touch with her. Fooey.

It’s a very sad situation for the family. But I don’t know, if I were the police, whether I’d accept a second missing persons report. Yvette clearly does not want to be found.

No, Jane McDonald-Crone was almost certainly not found alive on the streets of Mexico the other day

I was seeing and hearing about a lot of chatter on social media yesterday about a homeless American woman who was found on the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, and called herself Jane McDonald, and was supposedly Jane McDonald-Crone, who disappeared in 1993. Almost immediately something seemed “off” about the story, though, and when I searched for information OFF social media, I couldn’t find anything.

Jane McDonald-Crone was a 34 year old divorced mother of two who went for a night out back in 1993, never returned and was never seen again. If still alive she’d be 62 today.

I think what happened is people jumping to conclusions. It sounds like, because this woman was calling herself Jane McDonald and bore some resemblance to the missing Jane McDonald-Crone, people thought it might be her and notified law enforcement. And then the story snowballed and the possible identification being reported to law enforcement suddenly became being confirmed by law enforcement.

I think the actual confirmation of identity would take some time, because the fingerprints, etc, if the authorities even have Jane McDonald-Crone’s prints, would be in possession of American authorities and would have to be officially requested by the Mexicans and then sent down there and compared against the homeless lady’s prints. I’m not sure if that’s even been done yet; it sounds like the homeless woman dropped out of sight again before the authorities could speak to her and I don’t know if she’s resurfaced. What I do know is that, per Missing Persons of America, Jane McDonald-Crone’s own children had not heard anything about their mother’s supposed recovery in Mexico.

So, as of the moment, Jane McDonald-Crone is unfortunately still missing.

Tragic news in one child’s case, and justice for another two

Yesterday a child’s body was found in a camper near Garryowen on the Crow Reservation in Montana; it has been identified as Mildred Alexis “Millie” Old Crow, who disappeared sometime in 2019 or 2020. She was living with her guardians, her aunt Roseen Lincoln Old Crow and Roseen’s wife Veronica Dust, and was last seen with them in April 2019. No one’s exactly sure when she disappeared and nothing much has been released yet about her death. It seems likely she was murdered; little girls don’t just die for no reason.

Meanwhile in Florida, former cult leader Anna Young was sentenced to 30 years in prison for second-degree murder in the beating/starvation death of Emon David Harper, a toddler who disappeared sometime in 1988 and whose body was never found, and manslaughter in the death by neglect of Katonya Jackson, a two-year-old girl with epilepsy who died because Young withheld her medication. Both children and their families were members of Young’s cult.

This article talks about the plea deal and sentence Young accepted, but fails to mention that Young is tied to two other missing children: the 1973 (pre-cult) disappearance of Catherine Barbara Davidson, Young’s six-year-old stepdaughter, and the 1984 disappearance of two-year-old Marcos Antonio Cruz, another child whose family was involved in the cult. Marcos may have been abandoned in Puerto Rico by a cult member at Young’s orders. Catherine, however, was almost certainly murdered; one of Young’s other children reportedly saw her body in a closet before her disappearance was reported. It seems unlikely that Young will confess to her involvement in her stepdaughter’s case or help authorities recover the body; she’s got nothing to gain by it.

Finally out of Facebook Jail! And other stories

Two months and ten days after my one-month Facebook Jail sentence began, Facebook has finally deigned to let me out. Yay. Now let’s see how long I can stay out before the modbots once again take offense at some perfectly acceptable meme I posted years ago.

Arizona: A Portland, Maine man who disappeared from the Grand Canyon on December 20 has been, amazingly enough, found alive and in good health.

Connecticut: Found this article featuring various missing persons from that state.

Georgia: In Atlanta they’re going to set up a memorial for the missing and murdered children lumped under the Atlanta Child Killer case. The city council has allocated funds and approved a design. Just a few days ago I watched the series on the Atlanta child murders on HBO Max. It was very disturbing. I don’t know if Wayne Williams killed anybody, but he DEFINITELY did not get a fair trial.

Michigan: They’re still looking for Dean Marie “Deanie” Peters, a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from Grand Rapids in 1981. The article focuses on the theory that a local teen boy drove at Deanie to scare her and make her think he was trying to hit her, but he accidentally DID hit her and killed her. This person allegedly told different versions of this story to a couple of dozen people before his death, but it has never been confirmed.

Oregon: They’re still looking for Kacey Ann Perry, a 10-year-old girl who disappeared from Portland in 1990. The article has several photos I’d not previously seen.

Pennsylvania: They’re still looking for John Francis Lango and the local paper has done a two-part series on his disappearance: here’s part one and part two. Although his family and most of his friends recall John as a happy-go-lucky, popular sort of guy, one acquaintance said he’d grown shy, introverted and “sullen” prior to his 1988 disappearance from Pottsville, a month before his eighteenth birthday. None of his loved ones think he ran away.

Texas: They found the car of Carey Mae Parker in Lake Tawakoni. Carey was 23 when she disappeared from Quinlan in 1991. So far they’ve only been able to recover one half of the vehicle, and so far no human remains have been found.

Utah: Here is an article about the disappearances and murders of various Native American people in Utah.

Australia: They’re still looking for Colleen Walker-Craig, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared from Bowraville, New South Wales in 1990. Her clothes were found in the river, weighted by rocks, but no sign of her.

Also Australia: A jawbone that washed up on a beach in New South Wales in 2011 has been identified as Bill Moran, a 24-year-old man who was lost at sea when his boat sank off Evans Head in 1979. Bill’s wife Philippa also died in the accident, but I think her body was found earlier.

Canada: There’s been a podcast episode about the 1997 disappearance of 27-year-old Danny Gaulton, who was last seen in Grande Prairie, Alberta. He told his roommates he was going to work, but in fact he called in sick that night. Neither he nor his car was ever found.

England: They’re still looking for Anne Simpson, a 60-year-old woman who disappeared from Skegness in 2004. She was last seen drinking with two biker types and her partner.

Japan: I found this interesting article about how North Korea kidnapped some people, including a thirteen-year-old girl, from Japan and took them back to North Korea so they could help train future spies.