Well, that was fun

Yeah, so I’m back from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where they held an event today to honor the missing children of Ohio. Although I showed up in an unofficial capacity only, I had a blast.

I mainly came cause Gina DeJesus, one of the Cleveland kidnap survivors, was speaking. The event was at the Messiah Lutheran Church. I showed up slightly late and had to sit in the back. There were several speakers before Gina, and I spent some time trying to figure out which one of the people sitting in the audience was her. It was fairly easy because half or more of the attendees were black, and most of the rest were white. I zeroed in on two brown-skinned women in the front but couldn’t figure out which one was Gina. They turned out to be Gina and her older sister Myra.

My view from the back of the church; Gina is on the right and Myra is on the left.
My view from the back of the church during the sisters’ speeches; Gina is on the right and Myra is on the left.

Anyway, Gina read a speech off several sheets of paper about how it was important to pay attention to missing persons bulletins, and it was important to pay attention to your surroundings and the people in your neighborhood and so on because you never knew who might be hiding something. I mean, people went inside Ariel Castro’s house and had no clue about the women held captive there. I think a lot of that is because the idea that your friend, neighbor or relative might have three kidnapped women locked in his basement is just something that would not occur to most people.

Myra spoke also, and talked about what life was like having a missing family member. One of the things she mentioned was how a man known to the family told her parents, reassuringly, something like “Don’t worry, they won’t find her dead.

That man was named Ariel Castro.

There was an intermission before a middle school choir showed up to sing a song. I went around talking to people — not Gina, I was not sure whether to approach her or not at that point — and handing out business cards. There were booths about various topics set up in the lobby and an adorable remote-controlled talking boat that went around telling people about boat safety. I told the boat about the time I nearly drowned in Lake Michigan at age five, failing to mention the fact that this near-tragedy did not involve a boat, just some poorly supervised beach time.

Me and the talking robot boat.
Me and the talking robot boat.
Gina (far right) with members of the anti human trafficking group Break Every Chain.
Gina (far right) with members of the anti human trafficking group Break Every Chain.

So after all that was over we had a balloon release in the parking lot. Fortunately the wind cooperated.

Just before the balloon release.
Just before the balloon release.
Post balloon release. Each one has a missing child's name attached.
Post balloon release. Each one has a missing child’s name attached.

Just before we all left, I decided to approach Gina after seeing some other people do so. We didn’t really talk but she consented to have her photo taken with me before we parted ways. I wish I had remembered to smile in the picture. It was one of those days where it was cloudy out (it rained later) but the light hurt your eyes anyway, and I was squinting so hard I forgot about smiling.

Gina DeJesus (right) and me.
Gina DeJesus (right) and me.

And then I went home.

Altogether it was a most profitable visit. I made some contacts and hope to return next  year.

Reading a book about the Ariel Castro case

Right now I’m reading a book called Captive: One House, Three Women, Ten Years in Hell by Allan Hall. It’s about that notorious Cleveland case, of course. It’s British. I’m 40 pages in and the author hasn’t even begun to discuss the abductions; he keeps talking about Castro’s background instead. Apparently he came from a more or less normal family — I mean, they weren’t perfect, but weren’t horrendous either — and none of this relatives are psychos. The next chapter is going to be about Castro’s horrible maltreatment of his wife.

Read Michelle Knight book

I haven’t updated in the last few days, partly because Michael and I have both been sick (throat infection, taking antibiotics) and partly because I had to read the book about Susan Powell and also Michelle Knight’s memoir by today because I had to give them back to the library. Well, I managed to finish both in time and will thus avoid the fine.

Michelle’s memoir is called Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings. It says “by Michelle Knight with Michelle Burford” but I’m pretty sure Burford (described on her website as a “ghostwriter and story surgeon”) was the true author.

Not that it much matters: the more important thing is the quality of the book itself and that, I’m happy to say, is spot-on. I finished this story much more quickly than I did the Susan Powell book, moving at a fast clip (and not just because I was on a deadline). The story covers Michelle Knight’s sad childhood and adolescence in detail but without taking up too much page space, since the book is supposed to be about her ordeal with Ariel Castro. The descriptions of what she went through after the kidnapping were vivid and harrowing, but no more so than they needed to be.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in MPs. Even those who are not involved in the missing persons world, or even big true crime fans, would enjoy it.

MP books I need to read

I’ve already read quite a few nonfiction books and novels about MPs, but here’s a list of missing persons books I’ve heard about and have yet to read, in alphabetical order by author. The MP or former MP who is the subject of the book is included in parentheses. Once I have read them I’ll probably review some or most of on this blog.

You’ll note that some of the subjects of these books aren’t on Charley. That’s because either they’ve already been located, or they are non-US cases.

Hands Through Stone: How Clarence Ray Allen Masterminded Murder from Behind Folsom’s Prison Walls by James A. Ardaiz (Mary Sue Kitts)

A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard (Jaycee Dugard)

A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation by Tal McThenia and Margaret Dunbar Cutright (Bobby Dunbar)

We Is Got Him: The Kidnapping that Changed America by Carrie Hagen (Charley Ross)

Memoir of a Milk Carton Kid by Tanya Nicole Kach and Lawrence Fisher (Tanya Kach)

3,096 Days in Captivity: The True Story of My Abduction, Eight Years of Enslavement, and Escape by Natascha Kampusch (Natascha Kampusch)

Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings by Michelle Knight and Michelle Burford (Cleveland girls)

Shannon: Betrayed From Birth by Rose Martin (Shannon Matthews)

Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer by David Roberts (Everett Ruess)

My Story by Elizabeth Smart and Chris Stewart (Elizabeth Smart)

Also, a movie:
Abducted: the Carlina White Story (Carlina White) This is a Lifetime movie you can watch for free if you have Amazon Prime.

If anyone has any suggestions about more books I should read or movies I should watch (nonfiction only) I’d be happy to consider them as well.

Quotes in Australian media

Back when the girls in Cleveland were located, I got contacted by a whole bunch of different media people wanting to interview me. One of those was from Australia. I spoke to the reporter on the phone but never heard back from him as to what had been published, so I figured he hadn’t used my material. (That happens sometimes: not everyone who gets interviewed by a news source gets published. It’s like how if you’re researching a paper or a book you’re writing, you’re not going to use every source you come across.)

Well, I stumbled across quotes my Australian interview while looking for something else. It appears they used it after all, and just forgot to tell me about it. Here it is: The World Today: Finding missing women alive a rare occurrence.

I’m pleased that my quotes are included in the same article as Elizabeth Smart’s. I admire her very much.

This makes four continents I’ve been in the news at: North America of course, and Europe (I got interviewed by a TV station in Paris after the Cleveland girls story broke), and South America (in May 2012 I got interviewed by a TV station in Colombia) and now Australia. There remains Asia and Africa. And, I suppose, Antarctica, but what are the chances of that ever happening?

Something to chew on

This is a pretty interesting Slate article that argues that, although nobody liked Ariel Castro, we should not be rejoicing that he managed to kill himself in custody. That his death indicates some serious problems with the system that was supposed to keep him alive.

Unfortunately, much as I hate to admit it, I’m inclined to agree with them. I’m not thinking about Castro so much as other people I’ve heard about, people locked up for far lesser crimes, who were also permitted to kill themselves behind bars. The article points out that suicide is responsible for about one-third of all inmate deaths — and that’s not something anyone should be proud of.

Internet commenters can gloat that Castro’s no longer a guest of the taxpayers, but he’s also not serving his sentence. And if you want to talk about where your taxpayer money is going, you might also want to ask how it’s managing to pay for a system of “protective custody” that makes it that easy for a man to die in it.

Quite so. As for Castro himself, as the article points out:

And on NBC Wednesday, psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos said that Castro “decided his fate, something [his victims] were never ever able to do for themselves. He had ultimate control. To some extent this was in a way his last slap to their faces — ‘I’ve got this over you.'” […] Today, it appears instead that Ariel Castro got to choose a means of escape – an escape that came mere weeks after his confinement — in sharp contrast to the years of isolation his victims knew. That death suggests that a man whose entire modus operandi was about power and control got to exercise his power and control right up to his final breath. And there’s no way you can convince me that’s any kind of justice, for anybody.

Ariel Castro hangs self in prison

According to absolutely everybody (but I heard it first from Justin): Ariel Castro has done the world a favor and offed himself in his prison cell.

I cannot think of anyone in the world more friendless, and less mourned, than him. Is there anyone out there, with the possible exception of his own mother, who’s going to be sorry he did it? I’m just happy that my parents’ and siblings’ hard-earned tax dollars don’t have to go towards feeding him anymore.

The only other thing I have to say is directed at the idiot on Slate who said, “They should have saved him, or at least caught him with these staggered rounds. It takes more than 30 minutes to die from hanging, sometimes hours (unless he successfully snapped his neck or crushed the esophageal tube).”

Uh, no. It does NOT typically take more than half an hour to die from hanging; I’d wager it usually takes half that time or less. I wrote about one judicial execution where the prisoner was pronounced dead after a minute and a half; for judicial hangings, the average time is around twelve minutes, whether the person’s neck breaks or not.