I cannot emphasize how much of a game-changer this is

So, I found out today that Dr. Arpad Vass, a forensic archaeologist I’d heard of, has invented a nifty little widget that detects buried human DNA.

I have no idea how much it works, but it’s already proven its effectiveness: they found Gina Renee Hall‘s DNA in EIGHT PLACES along a river valley FORTY YEARS after her disappearance, as well as a piece of Gina’s bone (making her Charley Project case resolvable, which I have done), as well as DNA from someone else entirely: Angela Mae Rader, a girl who disappeared with her friend Tammy Lynn Akers in 1977. The girls (who were fourteen at the time) have been missing even longer than Gina.

Rather than thinking this means the guy who killed Gina (whose identity is known; he’s Stephen Epperly and he’s serving life in prison for her murder) must have also killed Angela, I think it’s more likely that both girls’ bodies coincidentally ended up somewhere in the same river valley and probably the same body of water. (DNA from Tammy was not found, but it seems likely that she’s somewhere in the same river valley.)

I haven’t resolved Angela’s case, since they only found DNA, not an actual body or even a piece of bone like with Gina. But I’m hopeful that her and Tammy’s cases can still be resolved, even after 43 years.

Dr. Vass’s invention could wind up leading to answers in a LOT of missing persons cases. This is really exciting.

NCMEC search becomes slightly less terrible, and more news

I first complained about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s search engine back in 2013, and things got even worse with later versions of it. However, when I checked today, they’d made yet another version, which is slightly better than the last. Like, you can now search based on how old the child was when they disappeared. That’s kind of nice, I guess.

You still don’t have the ability to search by category, which they axed in 2013. As far as I can tell it’s because the NCMEC decided to phase out categories. They did this because when people saw “Family Abduction” or “Runaway” they just automatically tuned it out. I can understand the logic of the NCMEC’s thinking there.

I added Duke Flores‘s case today. It’s pretty awful. Probably not as bad as Noah McIntosh‘s (I blogged about his case in March), but it’s still pretty bad.

The whole story about Duke’s murder being prompted by his attempt he was trying to kill his infant cousin looks a little sketchy at first glance. However, both women gave the police the same account of the alleged attempted murder, and I wonder if Duke, who had autism, was just unable to deal with the baby’s crying. Most people with autism (including me) are very sensitive to noises.

They tried to cover up his disappearance by saying they’d taken Duke to a psychiatric hospital. If he was indeed trying to kill his cousin, this would have been a perfectly appropriate action to take. Certainly much more appropriate than strangling him.

We’ll never know if he really tried to smother the baby or not; the only two people alive to tell the story aren’t exactly credible witnesses. But no matter what he did there’s no excuse for murdering a six-year-old child with a disability.

The thing about his mom and aunt taking the other kids along while they disposed of his body is horrifying. Though the alternative would have been leaving them alone at home, and they were both really little. Hopefully too little to remember this later.

I hope these women get what’s coming to them. They are probably not very popular in jail; most of the women prisoners are mothers too.

Added my fourteen-thousandth case today

Today the number of Charley Project cases (both active and in the resolved section) went up over 14,000. The “lucky” case number 14,000 is Taquila Sherell Hayes, a nurse who disappeared sometime after clocking out of work at a Memphis, Tennessee hospital a year ago today. She was 41 years old.

Taquila’s disappearance wasn’t reported missing until August because her husband Carl did various things to make it look like she was still alive and well. She was a responsible person, though, and kept in regular touch with her loved ones. Pretty soon people began to sense that there was something wrong. Finally her family, who had grown increasingly suspicious, notified the cops, and Carl’s story quickly fell apart.

He’s been charged with his wife’s murder, but her body has never been located and it’s not clear what happened. I’m guessing forensic evidence will come up at the trial; Carl replaced the carpeting in three rooms in the house and in Taquila’s car, and also repainted the house.

Another horrific child abuse murder

I don’t usually feel many emotions about the cases I put up — I’m kind of closed off from that — but child abuse cases really get to me sometimes. I added the case of Noah Thomas McIntosh today and the details are just horrific. The things that poor child went through in the months and years before his death. The apathy of social services. The stuff his dad bought after his disappearance, presumably to dispose of his body.

I don’t like kids myself, but I really don’t get people mistreating them. If Noah’s dad was so tired of him and his toileting accidents (which were not in any way Noah’s fault), why keep him at all? Noah’s grandfather loved him, and tried to save him. I bet he would have taken him, if Bryce had given up custody.

It doesn’t help that the kid looks so darn adorable in all the pictures, like a little doll. That smile, those teeth growing in.

And his sister… I didn’t include it in the casefile, she was occasionally forced to help her father torture her brother, by holding him down in the bathtub for example. And she may have been in the apartment when her brother was murdered, even if she didn’t actually see it happen. I really hope that girl is being looked after by someone who cares about her. And that she’s getting therapy.

As far as I know, the police are still hoping to find Noah’s body. Though looking at all the stuff his dad got, there may not be much of a body left to find.

I really hope Bryce just decides to plead guilty and be done with it. If he cares at all about his daughter (who will probably have to testify), he won’t put her through a trial. But then again, he DID torture and murder an eight-year-old, his own flesh and blood, which strongly suggests he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.

This is kind of horrifying to me

I read many of articles from different publications about the drowning deaths of brothers Ayden Leroy Cecil and Anthony Joseph Tullius, and I really can’t understand why their parents were charged with anything.

When I saw the headlines that said things like “Toddlers drowned while parents slept”, I thought perhaps maybe the parents were passed out under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or didn’t begin to look for the kids for hours, or something like that. I mean, there HAD to be more to the story, right?

I can only go by what’s been reported and I can’t find any more to the story.

On that tragic night they set up camp at a designated campsite near the river, and everyone went to bed. Dad zipped the tent and tightened the top zipper. Mom took one Xanax before bed, as her prescription said she should. Dad was exhausted after a long week of work. They went to sleep. And sometime during the night the boys unzipped the bottom zipper of the tent (which Dad had forgotten to tighten) and wandered into the river.

This is all terrible and I’m sure any parent in that situation would be full of what-ifs and should-haves and blaming themselves for a very long time, if not the rest of their days on earth, but I don’t see how this rises to the level of a crime.

At their first trial the children’s mother, Kasey, would insinuate her husband, their stepfather Richard, may have killed them on purpose. This is because, although Kasey thought she’d removed Ayden’s shoes before bed and he couldn’t put them on by himself, when his body was found he was wearing the shoes. I think it’s more likely that Kasey simply forgot to remove the shoes (she’d put them on over his sleeper so he could run around and play during the evening). If Richard were planning on tossing the boys in the river it doesn’t make any sense for him to have put their shoes on.

I myself nearly drowned as a five-year-old and a police officer had to pound life back into my chest after they pulled me out of Lake Michigan. This is because my mom, who was on lifeguard duty, decided to help the other adults pull a boat ashore and was distracted for a few minutes. Obviously she should not have done that, but the idea that a parent would be charged with a crime in such a situation is appalling to me.

As this story was reported I can’t understand why the Kleins were even charged, never mind convicted, in their children’s drowning deaths. Was something left out or was this the overzealous prosecution is appears to have been?

An unprecedented communication

So I heard from a lawyer today; they sent me an email regarding one of my cases. I am going to refer to the missing woman and her husband by the pseudonyms “Allison” and “Chad” because I don’t particularly want to hear from anyone else connected to the case, and don’t want this blog entry to turn up on a keyword search. However, this case should be pretty easy for viewers to find on Charley.

So Allison disappeared towards the end of a messy divorce from Chad. Her body has never been found. Chad was charged with her murder, and wound up being tried FOUR TIMES, which may be a Charley Project record. The result was this:

  • Trial #1: Conviction, overturned
  • Trial #2: Conviction, overturned
  • ¬†Trial #3: Hung jury
  • Trial #4: Acquittal

It was just a big mess. Chad is probably guilty, but “probably” does not equal “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And a person ought to get a fair trial the FIRST time, not the fourth.

So now he’s suing for wrongful prosecution or something-or-other. I wonder if it’ll go anywhere. He was a wealthy businessman, but his wealth has probably been drained considerably by four trials’ worth of legal expenses, and it would have been difficult for him to run his businesses from behind bars.

So back to the lawyer. They are representing the defense in Chad’s lawsuit, and wanted to know if Chad had ever donated to the Charley Project, and why was Allison listed on the site in the first place, and how long had she been up there. I replied that Allison is just one out of 13,000+ cases and there’s nothing special about her being on there, and that to my knowledge I have never either heard from Chad or received a donation from him, or from anyone else connected to the case for that matter.

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: Yessenia Suarez, and Thalia and Elijah Otto

[Yeah, so this was supposed to go up yesterday but somehow it didn’t. I am putting it up now. My apologies.]

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 three cases: Yessenia Ivette Suarez, age 38, and her children, nine-year-old Thala Ivette Otto and eight-year-old Michael Elijah Otto, who was addressed by his middle name. They were last seen alive in Deltona, Floria on October 22, 2013.

We know what happened in this case, but this woman and children’s bodies have never been found. Luis Toledo, Yessenia’s husband and the children’s stepfather, murdered them in a horrific act of violence, then coerced a neighbor into helping him clean up the crime scene. After his arrest he tried to blame that same neighbor for the murders, but that didn’t go anywhere. For some reason, he was spared the death penalty when he was convicted.

It’s such a tragic story and such a waste. You might read it and think “if only Yessenia had pressed charges against him for the fight they had earlier that day” or “if only Yessenia had spent the night at her mom’s like she’d initially planned” and so on. But the real “if only” should be “if only Luis Toledo hadn’t done these awful things.”

In hearing stories about domestic violence people often ask why women stay. The real question ought to be why the men are so violent to them. Some people talk about anger management issues or whatever, but these men often have no problem controlling their anger in the workplace, with their friends, etc. It is a deliberate choice that they take it out on their wives and girlfriends.

Latest MP stuff in the news

So I wrote a blog entry on the WordPress app on my phone last night about latest missing persons news. But then the entry refused to upload, no matter how many times I tried to get it to. It wasn’t online at all, only on my phone, so I couldn’t even use my computer to upload it. Grr. Lot of time wasted. Now I will try my best to recreate it.

Some cold case missing persons have been resolved:

  • Edward “Ashton” Stubbs disappeared from Dickinson, North Dakota on June 17, 2013, a few days before his sixteenth birthday. He was from Texas and had gone up to North Dakota to stay with a cousin and work a summer job. He disappeared from his job site. Ashton’s skull was found on private property in Dickinson in December. It has just been identified. His death is under investigation.
  • Sheila Sherrell Franks, age 37, disappeared from Eureka, California on February 2, 2014. A woman of similar appearance, Danielle Bertolini, had disappeared a few days earlier, and people thought their cases might be connected. In 2015, Danielle’s skull was found in the Eel River. Now Sheila’s remains have been identified; her femur, or part of it, turned up in June, near the mouth of the Eel River. Unlike Danielle’s death, Sheila’s death has not (yet) been labeled a homicide, but it is considered “suspicious.”
  • Jo Anne Dolly Burmer has been identified, forty-six years after the 25-year-old disappeared in 1973. A fragment of her skull was found in 1993, but it wasn’t until 2017 that it was entered into the DNA database, and it wasn’t until now that there was a match. As nothing else has been found or is likely to be, probably we will never know what caused her death, but I wonder about exposure. This article is very detailed and talks about Jo Anne’s background and her son, who was put in foster care after her disappearance and later adopted by another family.

Some other news:

  • The police have a new lead on the possible identity of “Beth Doe”, a young pregnant woman who was raped and brutally murdered in 1976. Her body was dismembered, stuffed in three suitcases and thrown off a bridge into the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania. They think it’s possible that Beth Doe may be Madelyn “Maggie” Cruz, a sixteen-year-old foster child who ran away. They’re trying to find relatives of this Maggie Cruz to get DNA from them to test. I think it’s a long shot.
  • Georgia “Nadine” Kirk‘s son Ted has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for stealing his mom’s Social Security benefits after her disappearance and presumed death. Nadine was 98 years old and in poor health in 2010, the last time anyone saw her. She was reported missing in 2015, and Ted was unable to explain her absence. It seems likely that she simply died of age-related natural causes and Ted, who hadn’t worked since 1980, disposed of her body and kept cashing her checks. Fifteen months in prison, and $30k restitution, seems light, given the circumstances, and the fact that $80k in total was taken from taxpayers. Nadine’s body has never been found.
  • Bernard Brown, the ex-boyfriend of Moreira “Mo” Monsalve, has been charged with her murder. Moreira disappeared from Hawaii in 2014. Her body hasn’t been found and they haven’t said much about the case against Brown, but it seems likely it’ll be circumstantial and possibly include cell phone ping evidence. Murder-without-a-body cases aren’t that common in Hawaii (or anywhere) but other examples include Bongak “Jackie” Koja in 1997,¬†Masumi Watanabe in 2007, and of course Peter Kema in 2017.
  • Nancy Beaumont has died at age 92, 53 years after her children Jane, Arnna and Grant disappeared at the respective ages of nine, seven and four. The Beaumont children have never been found and their disappearance is one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in Australia’s history. Their father, Grant “Jim” Beaumont, is alive, but is also in his nineties and I think it’s unlikely he will find answers on this side of the mortal plane.
  • The police have released a new sketch of one of Christine Eastin‘s abductors, based off of a recent witness description. I think that’s a reeaaaallly long shot. It’s a rough drawing, this witness’s memory is by now almost fifty years old, and at the time they apparently didn’t realize the significance of what they saw and so they probably took little notice of it. Christine disappeared in 1971 at the age of 19.

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.