MP of the week: April Wiss

This week’s featured missing person is April Susanne Wiss, a sixteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Wichita, Kansas on January 11, 2000. Her case was initially classified as a runaway, but the police have since said the circumstances of her disappearance are “unclear.”

She was going through a rebellious phase at the time of her disappearance and living away from home, but she left all her clothes and money behind, which is not characteristic of a runaway. I have to wonder if the felony statutory rape trial she was a witness in had something to do with it. Was she just a witness, or was she the victim in the case? It’s not clear.

If still alive she’d be 37 now.

Ronnie Busick sentenced in Freeman/Bible case

So, last night I did a big update to the casefiles of Ashley Renae Freeman and Lauria Jaylene Bible, slipping them in under the bar just before midnight. I explain about what happened to them, and the witness statements from the court docs and so on.

I’d been putting this off for a long time but I just couldn’t anymore, now that Ronnie Busick, the only surviving suspect in the case, has been sentenced. I had been putting off the update because the details are just so horrible.

I may have said it before but I will say it again. I will never say that Danny and Kathy Freeman deserved to be murdered, because they didn’t. But I can’t help but think they bear some responsibility for what happened to the girls, even though by that point they were dead already.

When you get involved with using/selling illegal drugs and the kind of people who are deeply involved in that world, you are taking great personal risk. Danny and Kathy presumably knew this. They gambled anyway, and lost. Which is sad. However, Ashley and Lauria were just bystanders, children, innocent. They were NOT involved in the drug world, did NOT accept that personal risk, and wound up paying a far heavier price than the Freeman parents did.

I’m not sure which makes me angrier, that or the fact that Phil Welch and David Pennington died before they could face justice. (Though it’s said that Welch died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a horrible way to go, and if you ask me it couldn’t have happened to a better man.)

Or, maybe what makes me angriest is the fact that if the police hadn’t initially bungled the case so badly, it could have been solved in 2000, well before Welch and Pennington died. Who knows, perhaps the girls could have even been rescued. But instead two innocent young women died after being held captive and brutalized, and two vile men got away with murder. Four murders.

And Ronnie Busick will only serve ten years for his role in what happened, so he practically got away with it as well. But he is 68, and doesn’t appear to be healthy, and given what I know of his history (drug use throughout most of his life, and he got shot in the head and was left with brain damage) and what I know about prison health care, I wonder if he be alive ten years from now.

MP of the week: Aneshia Harris

This week’s featured missing person is Aneshia Chevon Harris, a nineteen-year-old black woman who went missing from Detroit, Michigan on April 3, 1993. She skipped school that day–whether high school or college I do not know–and decided to go to her stepbrother’s girlfriend’s place. I think she did arrive there, but that was the last time anyone saw her.

Unfortunately, that’s all I have on Aneshia’s disappearance. If still alive she’d be in her mid-forties.

Alissa Turney’s stepdad has been arrested

Michael Turney is honestly one of the creepiest missing persons suspects I’ve ever written about. He was extremely possessive of his stepdaughter Alissa: he regularly searched her belongings, monitored her phone conversations, sat outside her job while she worked, set up surveillance cameras in the family home “for security reasons”, and forced Alissa to sign weird “contracts.”

Now, if Alissa was a problem child who was involved with drugs and the wrong crowd, I could see a parent taking these kind of measures. But Alissa wasn’t a problem child. She was a good kid mostly, did well in school and had no history of running away.

Alissa allegedly told several people that Michael–who was, incidentally, her only parent since her mom died of cancer when she was little–had sexually abused her. This information never made it to the ears of Child Protective Services, but in 2000 Michael himself called CPS to pre-emptively declare his innocence, just in case Alissa should ever claim he was abusing her.

A year later, in the spring of 2001, Alissa disappeared at the age of seventeen. Michael said she ran away, but if she did it seems really weird that she left behind all her belongings including $1,800 in the bank, and never contacted her siblings, friends or boyfriend ever again.

In 2008, the police executed a search warrant on Michael’s home looking for evidence in Alissa’s case. I don’t know if they found any, but they did find 26 homemade bombs and a van filled with gasoline cans. It turned out Michael had been planning to blow up a local International Brotherhood of Electrical Works union hall and take his own life in the process.

He was sentenced to ten years, served seven, and was out by 2017. This afternoon he was arrested and charged with Alissa’s murder.

I don’t know anything about what in the way of evidence they have against him, as this is breaking news, only minutes old. But I’m thrilled to death.

MP of the week: Stratis Elmore

This week’s featured missing person is Stratis Elias Elmore, a nineteen-year-old young man of Greek and Hispanic descent who disappeared from Roseville, California on October 19, 2017.

It’s unclear whether his disappearance was a suicide, or a faked suicide. He was facing criminal charges at the time of his disappearance and he had a record, and the police think he might just have done a runner, but his mom thinks he might be dead. In any case, three years is a long time for a teenager to drop completely under the radar.

MP of the week: Amber Cates

This week’s featured missing person is Amber Elizabeth Cates, a sixteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Maury County, Tennessee on April 11, 2004. She’d had a bit of a chaotic life and had spent time in foster care, and was living with her older half-sister at the time of her disappearance.

She disappeared after going out with a male friend, who said he left her with another friend, who said he dropped her off and never saw her again.

Initially she was thought to be a runaway due to her age and background, but she’s been missing now for as long as she was alive beforehand, with nothing on her driving record, Social Security number, anything. It doesn’t look good.

I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly sheepish I feel right now

So forget everything I said a little bit ago. Turns out the “device for detecting DNA in soil” is a lot of hooey.

Had it NOT been a lot of hooey, it WOULD have been a game-changer, and I’m afraid I got so excited about the possibility that I didn’t actually bother to investigate what this thing consisted of.

This is me right now:

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Gina Hall’s sister clearly believes in it, and posted a comment (at the bottom of this page that I linked to before) defending Dr. Vass and saying he found Gina. But now I wonder if that scrap of bone that they found and said was Gina’s was ever actually scientifically confirmed to be hers. Based on what I’ve read about this device, it probably was not.

And I’d already resolved her case and everything.

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.

Happy belated Independence Day (and griping, and missing persons news)

I hope everyone had a good Fourth of July weekend. Mine was kind of terrible. We had a tiny party, four guests (Michael’s parents and two of his coworkers), and I wound up spending a lot of time hiding in the bedroom because I was so stressed by it all. And I was feeling like a failure in general, and wondering how I was going to pull off an entire wedding in October if I was freaking out from anxiety over four guests in my own house.

Of course, who knows if there will even BE a proper wedding in October the way COVID-19 is blazing through this country. I might wind up having to have a Zoom wedding ceremony because of the stupid government not listening to experts and not doing its job to contain the pandemic, and stupid people refusing to wear masks in public because mah rights and mah freedum. We could have been on par with Europe right now as far as flattening the curve goes, but nooooo, people have to be idiots.

(Of course I realize that my wedding is a very small thing in the grand scheme of things, and there are a lot of people out there who are suffering more than me as a result of COVID-19. That doesn’t make me any less angry.)

So some news from the missing persons world:

  1. Later this year, once Americans are allowed to travel to the EU again (assuming that ever happens), a private investigator, a former FBI agent and Annie McCarrick‘s uncle are going to Ireland to make another stab at solving Annie’s 1993 disappearance. (She is on the Charley Project because she was an American, though she disappeared on Irish soil.) They have a new theory about what happened, and have a suspect in mind. I don’t think it’s the same suspect the gardai (Irish police) have had their eye on. Neither person has been publicly identified.
    The gardai think a former IRA member may have killed Annie. He sounds like a nasty character and allegedly raped a twelve-year-old girl, and possibly other victims, and the IRA sent him out of the country so he wouldn’t get prosecuted. He went to the US; I’m not sure where he is now.
    I have wondered before why on earth the IRA would have assisted this man. To begin with, the twelve-year-old he allegedly raped was the daughter of another IRA member. And, though I don’t know much about the IRA, I know they had broad support among the ordinary people of Ireland, and it seems like that wouldn’t be the case if they routinely did things like try to help their child-rapist members escape prosecution. If any of you guys can provide some enlightenment on this, I’d appreciate it if you posted in the comments.
  2. They’ve created a park in Albuquerque, New Mexico in memory of the twelve victims of the still-unsolved West Mesa murders. I’ll say their names again: Jamie Caterina Barela, age 15; her 25-year-old cousin Evelyn JesusMaria Salazar; Monica Diana Candelaria, 21; Victoria Ann Chavez, 24; Virginia Cloven, 22; Syllannia, Terene Edwards, 15; Cinnamon Elks, 31; Doreen Marquez, 27; Julie Nieto, 23; Veronica Romero, 28; Michelle Valdez, 22; and Michelle’s unborn baby. All of the women, except Veronica, were on the Charley Project.
    There are quite a few young women still missing from Albuquerque, and some of them fit the same profile as the women whose bodies were found on the Mesa. I’ve got Nina Brenda Herron, Vanessa Reed, Christine Julian, Leah Rachelle Peebles, Anna Love Vigil and Shawntell Monique Waites, and possibly others.
  3. According to a private investigator, the authorities have a suspect in the 2001 disappearances of of ten-year-old Tionda Z. Bradley and her three-year-old sister, Diamond Yvette Bradley. (The girls disappeared 19 years ago today.) The article says there’s a solid circumstantial case against the suspect (who hasn’t been publicly identified) but prosecutors want some physical evidence, preferably a body, to bolster their case before they file charges against the person.

Oh, and although this isn’t strictly missing persons related, I highly recommend y’all check out this article about the woman who invented the rape kit. Hers was a fascinating and tragic story.

MP of the week: Heather Zimmerman

This week’s featured missing person is Heather Dawn Mullins Zimmerman, a 19-year-old who disappeared on May 26, 1997. She was married, but living with her parents while her husband was stationed with the Marines in Japan. She apparently disappeared after leaving her parents’ Gifford, Illinois home to attend a party in nearby Rantoul. She may have been dropped off near her parents’ home at 3:00 a.m., but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Another woman, 20-year-old Jamie Harper, disappeared from Rantoul in 2007. Both Jamie and Heather are missing under suspicious circumstances, and the police stated they had the same person of interest in both cases.