Having noticed that Newspapers.com had loads of back issues of the Austin American-Statesman, I decided to start researching Austin, Texas cases. I have updated several on Charley, and learned a great deal more about the disappearance of Gracie Nell Nash and the one-woman crime wave that is Naomi Easley Moore.
Our story begins in May 1983, when Melvin Davis broke up with his girlfriend Naomi Easley. Almost immediately, the trouble started. Let’s have a list, shall we.
- Easley writes letters to Melvin’s boss trying to get him fired.
- Melvin and John Davis’s shared house is burglarized, and someone slashes the tires of John’s car and trailer.
- Melvin catches Easley pouring sugar and syrup into his gas tank.
- Easley and Melvin get in a physical confrontation inside his house, she pulls a gun on him, and he takes it away from her. She runs out of the house, then returns to ask for the gun back. He refuses to give it to her, and calls the police. Easley is put on a bond to keep the peace.
- Someone breaks into the Davises’ house, slashes all of John’s clothes and tries to start a fire in the bedroom.
- Someone sets the Davis brothers’ garage on fire, destroying one of John’s race cars.
- A third brother, Ronnie, is shot at by an intruder in Melvin and John’s house. He is uninjured.
- Easley shoots Melvin in the wrist. She is arrested, charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and bails out.
- Three days later, someone fires several shots at John and misses.
- Gracie Nash, the Davises’ sister, disappears, apparently abducted from the parking lot of her workplace, the day after Christmas.
- The next day, the Davis parents get a call from someone who tells them if they ever want to see Gracie alive again, Melvin has to drop the charges against Easley.
- Gracie’s car turns up abandoned with Nash’s coat and evidence of a shooting, including a large amount of blood. Her body is never found.
- John is shot to death outside his house.
- Easley goes to trial for shooting Melvin, but the jury deadlocks, and she takes a plea and gets probation.
- Four and a half years later, Easley (now married and using the last name Moore) shoots her husband to death and is FINALLY sent to prison.
I have several questions about this:
- Is the Austin Police Department really so incompetent that they can’t put a case together against Naomi for any of the other burglaries, arsons, attempted murders, and two murders she obviously committed?
- Did Naomi stop her campaign of terror against Melvin Davis and his family after she was put on probation, or did it just drop out of the news at that point?
- Is anyone in the Austin PD still bothering to investigate John Davis and Gracie Nash’s murders? I looked her up, and Naomi Easley Moore is very much alive in prison right now. In fact, she became eligible for parole in 2004. And, um, Texas is a death penalty state.
- Did Naomi Easley have a pre-1983 history of launching into psychotic crime sprees against other ex-boyfriends?
- If it’s ever legally verified that Naomi Easley murdered Gracie Nash and John Davis, along with the third murder of her husband in 1989, would that qualify her as a serial killer?
Honestly, I obviously don’t have all the information, but I’m getting the impression that the police just didn’t care about what was happening. I don’t know if it was a race/class thing or what; the Davises were black children of sharecroppers and there were 17 kids in the family. They seem to have been respectable people but no doubt they were poor.
At her trial in the shooting of Melvin, the jury wasn’t allowed to hear about the murders of John and Gracie, and I’m not sure how much they heard about all the other stuff that happened. Three of the jurors wanted to convict her of attempted murder. Six opted for aggravated assault, and three wanted to acquit her.
One of the ones who voted for acquittal said he wasn’t sure Melvin could see Easley clearly as it was getting dark at the time of the shooting. Another said he thought Melvin was “going out on” Easley, which seems very improper to me — whether Melvin was being unfaithful or how he treated her was not at issue, the issue was whether or not she shot him.
But even if the jury couldn’t hear about the murders, the court knew about it. And she somehow managed to get PROBATION, after all of that. And the story ended in another man’s death.
FINALLY got the wretched Hart case finished today, after weeks of researching and struggling to put the story together. The case summary is 3,200+ words, exceeding the Peter Kema casefile by over 1,000 words.
It was a challenge, trying to tell the story in such a way as to minimize confusion when there was so much going on, and so many lies told. While Jen and Sarah are abusing their three adopted kids in Minnesota, at the same time down in Texas three more kids who will be adopted by Jen and Sarah but whom they don’t know yet are being taken away from their biological mother. Etc.
And it’s such an awful story, just sheer horror and misery start to finish. The sadness behind those forced smiles. The tiny, scrawny kids, their limbs like sticks, hungry all the time because their mothers didn’t feed them.
And so many people, in so many parts of the country, screwed up. This is mostly on Jen and Sarah, but it wasn’t all them. They should never been permitted to adopt children, never mind a large number of kids from foster care. They should never been permitted to adopt the first set of kids after how they’d treated their foster daughter. They should never have been permitted to adopt the second set of kids when they had child abuse proven against them, and admitted by them. Once adopted, there was enough proof of abuse and neglect that the children should have been removed from their homes half a dozen times at least, over the years.
Devonte and his siblings did not have to die the way they did.
I have done my best for them.
I am really having a hard time coming up with a decent summary of the Hart case. There’s a whole lot to unpack, even more so since the inquest, which is on YouTube in two parts, each lasting six hours.
There’s the crash itself: the car’s computer showing how it happened, how Jen had deliberately driven off the cliff, the location and identification of all the bodies (except Devonte of course), the fact that everyone except Jen had taken horrific amounts of Benadryl, Sarah’s internet searches showing she was in on it, etc.
And then there’s the background, the two adoptions, the various accounts of abuse and deprivation, the long term starvation of the children, the fact that the Hart women were able to adopt the second sibling group of kids WHILE CHILD ABUSE CHARGES AGAINST THEM WERE PENDING for beating the crap out of one of the kids they’d already adopted, the moves, the festivals, the homeschooling, Devonte’s viral photo in 2016, etc.
It’s such an incredible mess.
This will take awhile.
The Charley Project does not discriminate: if you’re have not physically turned up alive or dead, you’re missing for the purposes of this database, even if everyone knows perfectly well what happened to you.
Which brings me to the godawful case of the Hart family, of whom one of them, Devonte, has never been located. His sister’s foot washed ashore months ago, but not a tiny bit of Devonte has turned up, not so much as a single vertebra. I had been desperately hoping they’d find some of Devonte before the year was up so I would not have to start digging into this. I might as well be digging a grave.
And with a case as high profile as this, I feel obligated to put him up. Even though we all know, basically, what happened to Devonte and where he is — swallowed up in the Pacific.
And with a case as high profile as this, I feel obligated to do a detailed write-up. It’s just that there’s so much to look over (high profile ya know) and it’s all so absolutely and unrelentingly horrifying. I’ve been reading about the case for the past twelve hours and I feel the way I did when I visited Treblinka.
Even the photos of the kids. So many photos. And they’re so SKINNY. Knobby chins and cheekbones, their faces like skulls, stick arms and legs. And so SMALL. They were starved of food and love for so long, and under so much stress.
The inquest into the family’s deaths will be held next week. It will take two days, will be live-streamed, and is said to be releasing some shocking information, as if what is already known was not shocking enough already.
Those poor, poor children.
In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Irwin Yafeth Stewart, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy who was abducted by his non-custodial mother, Elvia Bravo Ibarra, from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2002. Irwin is biracial; his mother is Hispanic and his father is black.
Elvia and Irwin may still be in the Houston area, or they may have gone to Mexico. Iwin would be 17 years old today.
This article has some more on the disappearance and identification of Randi Stacey Boothe-Wilson, which I blogged about the other day. Included in the article is a color photo of Boothe-Wilson. It looks like she was light-skinned and had straight hair, which might explain why the body, when it was found, was thought to be a white woman.
They got the DNA sample from “a stamp from a letter purportedly sent by Boothe-Wilson.” That’s clever. Sometimes investigators have to get creative. I read about another article today that was accomplished by fingerprints, and they got the prints, not from an arrest or military record, but from a pawnshop. When you pawn something you have to give a fingerprint.
(The stamp thing wouldn’t work for me. I loathe the taste of them and I buy stamps with sticky backs, or I use a wet sponge to dampen them.)
So it looks like Randi really did send that goodbye letter. It says the cause and manner of death is unknown, as of course is how she made her way to North Carolina. Such a strange case.
In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Nicole Sherese Cearo, a 20-year-old pregnant woman who disappeared from Seattle, Washington on March 30, 2009.
Nicole’s disappearance was the subject of excellent, in-depth coverage by the podcast Under the Redline, and various people close to the case were interviewed. Unfortunately, as far as I can determine, the Under the Redline podcast is no longer extant. (Which is a shame; it was really good.) But I was able to get most of their information onto Nicole’s page.
This is one of those cases where it is manifestly obvious what happened, and well-known in the community, it’s just that the police don’t think they have enough evidence to prosecute the suspect. I am sorry for it; Nicole deserves justice.