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.

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.

One murder trial ends while another begins

Brendt Christensen has been convicted of the murder of 26-year-old doctoral student Yingying Zhang, whose body has never been found.

Of course Yingying’s Charley Project casefile has the basics. I also recommend this Washington Post article, which links to a partial transcript of the trial. And there’s plenty of other news articles about this available.

There remains the punishment phase: LWOP, or the death penalty? (The state of Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but because Brendt was tried in federal court he can be executed.) The defense’s primary objective, as they said from the outset of the trial, is to save Brendt from the death penalty. I have a hard time imagining how they’re going to accomplish this.

Given the recorded confession and the blood found at Brendt’s apartment, the defense in this case is waging an uphill battle with a 50mph wind in their faces. But even so, their argument strikes me as pathetically weak: Brendt totally isn’t a vile human being and would-be (or, perhaps, actual) serial killer, not at all! He only kidnapped, raped, murdered and decapitated a complete stranger because he was depressed and flunking out of college and felt like a failure!

To which I say: SO WHAT? Lots of people are depressed. I’ve been depressed since I was in middle school. Lots of people flunk out of college. Most people feel like a failure at some point in their life. That isn’t an excuse to go out and murder some poor woman you don’t even know.

In other news, yesterday John Bayerl’s murder trial began in Wisconsin (which happens to be Brendt Christensen’s home state). John’s wife, DonaMae, disappeared in 1979 and was never seen again. Suspicion hovered over him for decades before he was finally arrested early this year.

I’m a bit surprised they’re going to trial so quickly; in most murder cases (as in Yingying’s) years pass between arrest and trial. But John is 79 and not getting any younger; I suppose he’s hoping they’ll acquit him and he can return to his retirement home in Florida and die on a beach instead of in jail.

John is another absolute turd and I firmly believe he killed his wife. I just hope the prosecution can prove it.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Girly Hossencofft

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Girly Chew Hossencofft, a 36-year-old woman born and raised in Malaysia who moved to the U.S. in the early nineties, after meeting and marrying an American, Daizien Hossencofft.

She disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 9, 1999. By this time, she and Daizien were in the process of a divorce, as Girly had tired of his infidelity and domestic abuse.

Daizien pleaded guilty to Girly’s murder in 2002 and was sentenced to life plus 61 years in prison. He testified at the trial of his mistress, Linda Henning, who was also accused of the murder. It was a memorable trial to say the least, as Daizien said under oath that he was “a reptilian shape-shifter and capable of being in several places at one time.” He claimed Henning was innocent, but she was convicted anyway and got 73 years.

Girly’s body has never been found. Daizien implied that it was cannibalized.