This week’s featured missing person is Odell Vest, a 21-year-old Native American man who was last seen at a house party in Towaoc, Colorado on July 10, 2000. Towaoc is a tiny town located on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation.
Odell is described as 5’11 and 245 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. No information about scars, tattoos, etc., is noted. If still alive, Odell would be 43 today.
Though little information is available on his disappearance, the authorities seem quite convinced he was murdered. They’ve even offered a $10k reward for information leading to a conviction.
The FBI has put out this list of 170 Native American people listed as missing in New Mexico and throughout the Navajo Nation (which comprises 17.4 million acres in NE Arizona, NW New Mexico and SE Utah).
The list sometimes has pictures of the MP, although the way the PDF is formatted makes the pictures really small and not very helpful. It also has the MP’s date of birth and date of disappearance.
This list is quite helpful because it’s current and all these people are confirmed to be missing right now. Both NamUs and the New Mexico state database are absolutely terrible at removing resolved cases and I can’t really trust either source when I’m trying to verify that a person is in fact still missing. Regarding the New Mexico database, one time one missing person had like three or four separate, successive entries. He was a chronic runaway and would always turn up eventually. And he kept going missing, getting added to the NM database, not getting removed after he was found, then going missing again and getting another entry on the database. *facepalm*
I’m going to have to go down the list and start adding people to Charley, and adding dates of birth to the cases I already have.
This week’s featured missing person is Michelle Wells, a 13-year-old girl who disappeared from Detroit, Michigan in 1982.
And… that’s it. That’s all I have for this case. I don’t even have an exact date of disappearance, which is very sad, especially given as Michelle was a child.
I also only have one poor quality photo of her, and not much in the way of a physical description: of Native American and white descent, with red hair — though it doesn’t look red in the picture. No height and weight, no eye color.
If she’s still alive, Michelle would be about 53 years old today. It’s cases like this that deserve attention most of all, and that’s why I picked her for my missing person of the week.
Facebook didn’t like a meme I posted — despite the fact that it’s elsewhere on Facebook — and gave me 30 days in jail. But then they changed their minds and decided the meme is okay after all, but forgot to remove my 30-day sentence. Shrug. It is what it is. Facebook is broken.
- The biological parents of Classic and Cincere Pettus, later known as Orson and Orrin West, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state of California, alleging the state wrongfully removed the Pettus boys from a safe home and placed them with the people who have since been charged with their murders.
- There’s a new podcast about the disappearance of Joshua Cheney Guimond, a St. John’s University student who disappeared from the university’s Collegeville, Minnesota campus in 2002.
In New Hampshire:
- They’re still looking for Harmony Montgomery, and her father Adam’s lawyers have asked for police body cam footage of his arrest. Adam is charged with abusing Harmony prior to her disappearance, and with failure to report her missing. A little over a week ago the police searched Harmony’s old apartment and removed items, including a refrigerator. My guess would be they’re checking anything large enough to conceal a five-year-old child’s body.
In New York:
- On this coming Saturday, the New York City Medical Examiner is holding an event to publicize missing persons in NYC. At the event, the ME’s office will accept “will accept any voluntarily shared information, like photos and DNA samples to help identify missing people.”
In South Carolina:
- They interviewed the lead investigator in Shelton John Sanders‘s disappearance and presumed murder, asking him why they were unable to get convictions in that case. The investigator still thinks the suspect in guilty.
- They have identified remains found at a recycling plant as Duncan Gordon, a missing man. He was last seen sitting on top of a shredding machine, and “a substance that looked like ground up flesh” was later found in that machine. Sounds awful; I hope it was quick. I’m predicting Gordon’s family files a lawsuit and OSHA hands out fines for this.
In Washington state:
- Othram has identified two more unidentified bodies: they are Blaine Has Tricks, who disappeared in 1977, and Alice Lou Williams, who disappeared in 1981. I know with Alice they got some help from the Charley Project; I know because the guy who owns Othram told me so.
- They’re still looking for Vernon George Martin, who disappeared in 2009 after a fire at the airport hangar he co-owned. He could be missing or he could be on the run, as he’s wanted for sex offenses.
In New Zealand:
In the UK:
- The father of Claudia Lawrence, who disappeared in 2009, died in February, and in his will he left £10,000 to a charity for missing persons.
- They found Michael Anthony Lynch, a man who had been missing for 20 years. It appears he drove his car into Lough Erne, near Corradillar Quay, in Northern Ireland.
This week’s featured missing person is Rita Janelle Papakee, who was last seen leaving a hotel in Tama, Iowa on January 16, 2015. Because she had a substance abuse problem and sometimes dropped out of sight, she wasn’t reported missing until February 18, over a month later.
Rita is Native American and an enrolled member of the Meskwaki Indian Nation. She’s described as brown-haired, brown-eyed, about 5’4 and anywhere between 145 and 200 pounds.
In spite of her drug and alcohol abuse issues, it would be uncharacteristic of her to be completely out of touch with her family, and they’re afraid she’d being held against her will.
This week’s featured missing person (I am sorry it’s late, and sorry that I missed last week entirely with updates cause I was failing at life or something) is Derrick James Tenorio, a 21-year-old Native American (Navajo) man who disappeared from Steamboat, Arizona on August 5, 2011.
He is described as 5’7 and between 170 and 190 pounds, with dark brown hair and the word “KAOS” spelled across his left-hand knuckles. I’m assuming his eyes are dark too though the description didn’t say. He was last seen wearing pretty standard young man apparel: a red long-sleeved shirt, black pants, and tan steel-toed work boots.
Derrick was at Steamboat Standing Rock at close to midnight. (No, not the Steamboat Rock that’s in Washington State. I got those two mixed up at first.) He was walking to visit his girlfriend but never arrived. He left behind two toddler-age kids and his girlfriend was pregnant with a third.
It’s hard to tell from the limited info what might have happened, but looking at the images of the Steamboat Standing Rock area, it doesn’t look all that safe to walk in after dark. I wonder if there was an accident of some kind, perhaps a fall.
The #MMIW (missing and murdered indigenous women) hashtag has resulted in some decent traction as far as press/searches/laws passed regarding missing and murdered Native women, but Native men also disappear at higher rates than average and they too need attention. Because of Derrick’s disappearance, three kids are growing up without their father.
This week’s featured missing persons case is Daisy Mae Tallman, aka Daisy Heath (she was in the process of changing it legally when she disappeared). The 29-year-old woman, a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of Yakama Nation, disappeared from Toppenish, Washington on August 30, 1987.
Her family wasn’t concerned at first because she would sometimes leave for short periods and she was capable of surviving in the wilderness on her own. But two months later they reported her missing.
At some point, some of Daisy’s belongings were found in a remote area of the Yakama Reservation, an area that’s off-limits to non-tribal members without permission.
The police believe Daisy was murdered, but no suspects have been named in her case.
A year and a half ago I wrote on this blog about a Supreme Court decision that I was pretty sure was going to wind up affecting some of the Charley Project missing persons cases. And, lo and behold, it has.
I just started writing up Faith Lindsey‘s a murder-without-a-body case. Charges were filed against her boyfriend, then dismissed because of this Supreme Court decision that meant the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction, then charges were refiled in federal court and the murder case is pending there.
Now, I might have a slight interest in reading about legal rulings of this kind, but I am not sure the average Charley Project reader has the same interest. It seems to me that a paragraph about the McGirt ruling and its significance would probably just clog up Faith’s casefile.
My husband suggested I say “dismissed on jurisdictional grounds and then refiled in federal court”, and then add the McGirt info in a footnote or something. Hmm.
This week’s featured missing person is Ira Kennedy Yallup Sr., who disappeared from the Lone Pine fishing site on the Columbia River near The Dalles, Oregon on May 20, 2010. He was 47 years old at the time and would be 57 or 58 today, if still alive.
Because Yallup was last seen at a “fishing site” I initially assumed he probably drowned and listed him in the Lost/Injured Missing person category. However, when I decided to make him MP of the week I thought I’d look up more info on the site and discovered more than just fishing happens there: people actually live there, some year-round, some just during the fishing season, which lasts from spring to fall.
Although one resident described Lone Pine as a “close-knit community” in this article, the residents of the site live in some pretty bad conditions as this 2021 article makes clear:
At Lone Pine, blankets and boards cover broken windows on trailers and campers, some of which don’t even have doors. There is only one bathroom and two outdoor water spigots. One picnic shelter has been walled off and is being lived in, but two other picnic shelters have burned down. There is no fire hydrant at this encampment, and only one rutted lane, in and out.
It’s an extremely sad story involving the Columbia River dam and a bunch of broken promises to the Native Americans whose original villages and fishing sites were drowned when the dam was built.
Ira Yallup’s case is one of those “few details are available” ones and I don’t know if he was a year-round inhabitant of Lone Pine, was just there for the fishing season, or was visiting or what. Perhaps he drowned, or perhaps something else happened to him. I really can’t say.