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 in 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.

MP of the week: Moesha Pierce

This week’s featured missing person is Moesha Pierce. She was 17 years old when she disappeared from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania on November 20, 2015. She’s classified as a runaway. I’ll note that the NCMEC has her as missing since 2015, her Facebook page shows activity until February 2016.

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.