A bad photo is better than none at all (and other thoughts on recent updates)

Just added Amanda Elise Southern to Charley. The 28-year-old woman disappeared from a nightclub in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana 26 years ago. Unfortunately the only photo I could find of her is absolutely terrible, but what can you do?

Reading the articles about how her ex tried to SELL THEIR KIDS (albeit to their grandparents) after her disappearance, I was struck by how much confidentiality and privacy norms have changed in the past few decades.

I can understand publicizing the kids’ information because for awhile they were missing. (When Amanda’s parents refused to pay for custody of the children, the dad took off with them and was on the lam for over a month.) But then when in the articles talking about how they were found, there was all sorts of information about the children and what they had been through, including the fact that they were believed to have been sexually abused. That kind of thing would not be published in the newspaper today.

I hope the kids are all right. I think Amanda’s parents got custody of them after they were found with their father. It seems super unlikely that she would have just walked away, what with one of the kids having disabilities, her parents living out of state and the children’s father overseas.

Some other random thinking-out-loud stuff:

  • I am not sure that Courtney Corrinna Holden is really white. She is pretty dark-skinned and looks more likely to be Hispanic or maybe Native American. Certainly I’ve seen mistakes in this area before. She is adopted, but one article mentions that she was in touch with her biological brother, so it seems like this is something the police should know for sure. Shrug.
    In any case, her story is incredibly sad. Especially the details about her family nickname “Cinderella” and her son calling his grandmother “mom” and his uncle “dad.” The articles I read said her son even did this before Courtney went missing. I cannot imagine how sad and scared and trapped Courtney must have felt, and I doubt she’s alive today.
  • The guy Melissa Ann Jordon was last seen with is SERIOUSLY bad news. Judges see a lot of crazy stuff and I was stuck by that judge saying Mr. Nesbitt was one of the most violent and dangerous criminals she’d ever encountered in her career. The “felon in possession of a firearm” thing was something he pled down to, by the way; the original incident involved him breaking into his ex-wife’s house and holding her at gunpoint.
    Given how long his sentence is, I wonder if the authorities have ever tried to sit down with him since he was imprisoned, pointed out he doesn’t have much to lose, and asked him to tell what happened to Melissa. I’m sure he knows.
    (Melissa’s NamUs photo, btw, is a high school yearbook photo and almost ten years out of date. That’s why I didn’t use it, as I found a more current pic in Newspapers.)
  • I dunno what I would do without Facebook as a source for recent cases. Okay, I do know what I’d do, I’d put up the cases, but there would be a lot less info. The case of Melissa Rose Ann Garrett is a great example; her daughter posted a bunch of photos of her and more info about her disappearance. Sad story. The daughter seems to suspect Melissa’s boyfriend may have been involved. Anne Marie Hubbert is another case where most of the pictures and some of the other info came from Facebook; Anne’s page and her daughter’s.
  • Shakeeta Young disappeared just a few months after her nineteen-year-old son died. I found a few “RIP” posts on Facebook from some of the young man’s friends but no mention of a cause of death. I wonder if Shakeeta’s disappearance is in some way related. It’s very sad for their family, just bad luck all around there.

MP of the week: Donald Hicks

This week’s featured missing person is Donald Lamond Hicks, a 33-year-old black man who disappeared from Hazelwood, Missouri on April 2, 2011.

He was last seen leaving a bar. Never made it home apparently, and wasn’t carrying his phone. His car turned up abandoned on a local interstate exit. I don’t know what condition it was in, if it was in running order or what.

He’s got some tattoos and two gold teeth. Nothing else remarkable about his appearance. If still alive he’d be 42 later this month.

At last! Dawan Ferguson charged with murder

Christian Ferguson, a severely disabled nine-year-old who could not speak, swallow, or toilet, disappeared in 2003. His father, Dawan, claimed he was abducted from the car when Dawan stopped to use the phone, but for years all the evidence has indicated that Dawan deliberately allowed Christian to die of his illness, a rare disorder called citrullinemia.

I had long wondered why Dawan had not been charged in the case, since even the cops were openly saying basically “yeah, he medically neglected him to death, on purpose.” Well, it’s finally happened. Dawan has been charged with murder. No word on if there’s any new evidence, or if the district attorney’s office just decided to go with what they had.

I am really hoping that Christian didn’t have much awareness, and that he didn’t feel much suffering when his father allowed him to die slowly for months before he disappeared.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Gustavo Machado

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Gustavo Machado, a 44-year-old biracial black/Hispanic man.

Machado suffers from severe mental illness and was a patient at the now-defunct Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital┬áin Morris Plains, New Jersey when he initially disappeared in 1992. He was 33 years old. He resurfaced in Paterson, New Jersey on November 13, 2003, where I guess he was arrested; the photo taken of him at that time looks like a mug shot. He hasn’t been seen since.

Machado has a lot of tattoos, including several of writing in Spanish. If he’s still alive he’d be 60 years old and, probably, still living underground.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Nora Aguayo-Flores

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Nora Aguayo-Flores, a black/Hispanic woman who disappeared from Pasadena, Texas on May 26, 2012. She was 28 years old, and if still alive would be 36 today.

Unfortunately I don’t know much about the circumstances of Nora’s disappearance. I do have some information on her many tattoos, including photos of three of them.

MP of the week: Alice Mae Sullivan

This week’s featured missing person is Alice Mae Sullivan (I’ve also seen it as Alicia), a twenty-year-old African-American woman who disappeared from Nashville, Tennessee on August 28, 1986. She was a sophomore business major at Tennessee State University and lived with her boyfriend and three-year-old son. She was last seen at a friend’s dorm room on the TSU campus.

Alice’s boyfriend is a person of interest in her case; I don’t know if it’s just by virtue of him being her boyfriend, or if there were some other indications. Another person of interest is the maintenance man at their apartment complex, who had a friendly relationship with Alice and was later convicted of rape and murder.

In the unlikely event she’s still alive, Alice would be 53 years old today.

So, about competency for trial

After I shared an article on Charley’s Facebook page about how after years of psychiatric treatment and a second opinion, Catherine Hoggle is STILL mentally incompetent to stand trial in the murders of her children Sarah and Jacob, someone was asking questions about what it meant to be competent or incompetent to stand trial, so I thought I’d talk about that cause probably more than one person doesn’t know.

Basically, in order to face a criminal trial in the U.S. you have to be mentally capable of defending yourself. The barrier to this is not very high; you can have low intelligence and be severely mentally ill and still be competent to stand trial.

You have to know the basics of what a trial is, and the roles of everyone involved: the state says you broke X Law, the prosecutor is against you, the defense attorney is for you, the judge makes sure the trial is fair and legal, the witnesses tell what they know and the jury decides if you are in fact guilty of breaking X Law. A child could be made to understand these things.

You also have to be capable of working with your defense, and this part is what causes problems for people like Catherine Hoggle, who is incompetent to stand trial because of her mental illness.

Now, Catherine has schizophrenia and every psychiatrist who has tested her competency over the last few years, including the one the government recently hired for a second opinion on the matter, agrees she is not competent to stand trial but with treatment could become competent in the future. (She has recently been prescribed Clozapine, the last-resort Holy Grail of antipsychotic drugs which can work wonders for treatment-resistant schizophrenia.)

Speaking hypothetically here, if you are very intelligent and understand the mechanics of a trial and the roles of everyone involved, but you have a severe schizophrenic delusion that your defense attorney is actually an alien from the Planet Zog who only wants your brain for the Zog beings’ Museum of Humanoid Anatomy and will suck out your brain through your esophagus if you so much as part your lips in the attorney’s presence, obviously this is going to present severe problems in building your defense. If you genuinely believe your defense attorney is not actually on your side and only wants to steal your brain for alien naturalists to gawk at in a museum, you’re not going to be able to work with your attorney to come up with a defense in your upcoming murder trial. And the Constitution says the government can’t put you on trial if you are incapable of defending yourself.

So in order to make you competent, the government puts you in a secure psychiatric facility and has psychiatrists and therapists and other mental health clinicians treat you in hopes that you will eventually become well enough to cast aside the whole “Planet Zog wants my brain” delusion at least in part. The goal is just to get you to be able to talk to your defense and assist them in whatever strategy they’re going to use to defend you, and to know what’s going on with the trial and potential consequences.

So that’s my TED Talk on mental fitness for trial. Hope you found it illuminating.