MP of the week: Mercedes Toliver

This week’s featured missing person is Mercedes Zaevon Toliver, an eighteen-year-old black girl who left her Prescott, Arkansas home after an argument at around midnight on December 17, 2016. She was never seen again.

There doesn’t seem to be much out there to suggest might have happened to her. I do think it’s unlikely she left on her own, though, since she didn’t take anything other than her phone and $20, and since she was a responsible young woman who was planning to join the Air Force. I wonder if someone grabbed her while she was walking to her aunt’s house.

Mercedes’s nickname is Cede. I’m not sure if it’s pronounced “Say-dee” like the “cede” in her full name. She’d be about 23 if still alive.

MP of the week: Josie Meadows

This week’s featured missing person is Josie Taylor Meadows, an eighteen-year-old girl who was last seen in Huntsville, Ohio on March 2, 2017. There are very few details available in her disappearance, or about Josie herself. I know she might need medication “for unspecified reasons” and she was once arrested for underage drinking. And that’s about it.

I hope Josie is still alive. She is 23 years old now if she is. It’s been four years now and I wonder why there has been no news about it.

Per police, Kristin Smart’s body was buried in Paul Flores’s dad’s yard but got moved

More info has come out since the recent arrests of Paul and Ruben Flores for Kristin Smart‘s 1996 disappearance and presumed murder. Paul has been charged with murder and his dad, Ruben, as an accessory: authorities believe he helped hide Kristin’s body.

Now the police are saying that the Floreses buried Kristin’s remains in Ruben’s yard, but “recently” moved them to another location. And furthermore, that Paul is a serial rapist and “dozens” of women have come forward about his “sexual assaults and predatory behavior.”

None of this is terribly surprising to me. I don’t think it would surprise anyone who’s followed this case over the years.

If Paul had just confessed to Kristin’s murder at the time, owned up and apologized and taken some kind of plea bargain, he might very well be out of prison by now.

Honestly I despise him for torturing the Smart family over the past 25 years, as much as I do for Kristin’s killing. I don’t think there is any worse pain you can cause a family, than make their child disappear without a trace and never be found. At least my parents know where my two dead brothers are. At least they had a chance to bury them properly, and can visit their graves, and know they’re not scared or sad or suffering.

They finally made an arrest in the Kristin Smart case

Well, it’s about time: Paul Flores has been charged with murder in the 1996 disappearance of Kristen Denise Smart. They were both students at Cal Poly when she went missing and she was last seen in his company on campus. He’s been a suspect pretty much ever since. Paul’s father, Ruben, has been charged with being an accessory to the murder.

It’s been a quarter-century. I had thought this would never happen, unless they found Kristen’s body. As far as I know, they haven’t. I don’t know whether they just decided there was some time, or if some other evidence came up, or what.

I would think the Smart family would have mixed feelings about this day — justice will be done, but their daughter isn’t coming back and it’s official now.

People’s judgmental attitude in internet comments sometimes drives me mad

I often interact with the people who comment on stuff I post on the Charley Project’s Facebook page; I consider it my duty, as the admin of that page, to do so, and also I usually enjoy discussing things with them. We are, after all, talking about items of mutual interest. But sometimes people just… argh.

I put up an article recently written about the Bianca Noel Piper case (the article was of the “we’re still looking for” variety, nothing new), and immediately a bunch of commenters started saying awful things about her mother for making her go on that walk back to their house so she could chill out and deal with her anger. One of them even accused the mother of “abandoning” Bianca.

Well, here are the facts:

  1. The walk was about a mile. That’s not very far. It may seem like a long way since everyone is accustomed to driving these days, but a person Bianca’s size and age can walk a mile in ten or fifteen minutes.
  2. It was a rural area, not a big city.
  3. Bianca’s mother cooperated fully with the investigation and is not a suspect in her case.
  4. Bianca’s mother, by making her go for a walk, was following the advice of Bianca’s therapist, and they had tried the walking treatment before and it had been helpful. Loads of people go for a walk alone to cool down when they’re angry, and it’s a commonly recommended method of anger management.

I’m sure Bianca’s mother has regretted what she did every day of her life in the past sixteen years. But I do not think she did anything wrong here. She was following medical advice and the advice given sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I think Bianca was just very unlucky. And certainly casting judgment on her mom at this late date is not going to help at all.

Bianca was tall for her age, and heavy. I think that in the evening light, from a distance, she would have looked more like a woman than a child. My guess is some predator driving by saw her walking alone and grabbed her. Wrong place, wrong time.

I also grew up in a rural area and in the late nineties, as a young girl Bianca’s age, or younger, would often wander around by myself on foot or bicycle, sometimes traveling up to fifteen miles from home. It did me no harm and in fact I benefited from it. I got exercise and fresh air and learned how to amuse myself. It bothers me a lot that so much judgment is heaped on parents these days that it seems like they are expected to swaddle their youngsters in cottonwool until they graduate high school — and then people wonder why young college-age adults have no idea how to take care of themselves.

I wanted to drop a recommendation for y’all

So this podcast series, “Through the Cracks: The Untold Story of Mbuyisa Makhubo” came out in 2016, but I didn’t discover it until a few days ago. I really wanted to tell everyone because it’s an awesome series, four episodes, great journalism, very thorough, telling a fascinating story about a missing person.

Mbuyisa Makhubo was a very ordinary teenage boy living in Soweto, South Africa in the 1970s when he became world-famous by accident. Basically, what happened was that a 1976 youth protest against the brutal apartheid regime got out of hand and the police opened fire on the crowd, killing a twelve-year-old boy named Hector Pieterson (and a lot of other people). Mbuyisa was the one who picked up Hector after he was shot and carried him to a nearby car — a photojournalist’s — to take him to the hospital. The journalist’s photos of Mbuyisa, running with a dying Hector in his arms and Hector’s screaming, hysterical sister running next to him, were displayed in newspapers across the world. You might have seen the images yourself; they’re still famous.

The result was that Mbuyisa (who hadn’t even been attending the protest, he just happened to live on that street) became a target of South African security forces. Afraid for his life, he had to flee the country. He got a scholarship to attend a school in Nigeria, but couldn’t adjust, began deteriorating physically and mentally, and ended up on drugs and living on the streets of Lagos. Sometime in 1978, he disappeared, and his family in South Africa never heard from him again.

Then he may have resurfaced, thirty years later, alive and well in a Canadian jail. Or maybe he didn’t.

From there the story just keeps getting stranger and stranger and more and more complicated. I don’t want to say anything more for fear of spoiling things, but I wound up listening to the whole podcast in one streak, ruminating on it for hours and puzzling it over with my friends afterwards.

So yeah, listen to it.

MP of the week: Sarah Murray

This week’s featured missing person is Sarah Lee Murray, a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from Kenbridge, Virginia on February 18, 1997. She had been living with a relative at the time of her disappearance; her mother had died a year and a half earlier. The police, at the time, thought Sarah had run away, and perhaps she did. But it’s been over 20 years, almost 25, and that’s a long time for someone to be under the radar. There is little evidence to support any theory.

If still alive, Sarah (also known as Susana) would be 38 years old today.

Finally out of Facebook Jail! And other stories

Two months and ten days after my one-month Facebook Jail sentence began, Facebook has finally deigned to let me out. Yay. Now let’s see how long I can stay out before the modbots once again take offense at some perfectly acceptable meme I posted years ago.

Arizona: A Portland, Maine man who disappeared from the Grand Canyon on December 20 has been, amazingly enough, found alive and in good health.

Connecticut: Found this article featuring various missing persons from that state.

Georgia: In Atlanta they’re going to set up a memorial for the missing and murdered children lumped under the Atlanta Child Killer case. The city council has allocated funds and approved a design. Just a few days ago I watched the series on the Atlanta child murders on HBO Max. It was very disturbing. I don’t know if Wayne Williams killed anybody, but he DEFINITELY did not get a fair trial.

Michigan: They’re still looking for Dean Marie “Deanie” Peters, a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from Grand Rapids in 1981. The article focuses on the theory that a local teen boy drove at Deanie to scare her and make her think he was trying to hit her, but he accidentally DID hit her and killed her. This person allegedly told different versions of this story to a couple of dozen people before his death, but it has never been confirmed.

Oregon: They’re still looking for Kacey Ann Perry, a 10-year-old girl who disappeared from Portland in 1990. The article has several photos I’d not previously seen.

Pennsylvania: They’re still looking for John Francis Lango and the local paper has done a two-part series on his disappearance: here’s part one and part two. Although his family and most of his friends recall John as a happy-go-lucky, popular sort of guy, one acquaintance said he’d grown shy, introverted and “sullen” prior to his 1988 disappearance from Pottsville, a month before his eighteenth birthday. None of his loved ones think he ran away.

Texas: They found the car of Carey Mae Parker in Lake Tawakoni. Carey was 23 when she disappeared from Quinlan in 1991. So far they’ve only been able to recover one half of the vehicle, and so far no human remains have been found.

Utah: Here is an article about the disappearances and murders of various Native American people in Utah.

Australia: They’re still looking for Colleen Walker-Craig, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared from Bowraville, New South Wales in 1990. Her clothes were found in the river, weighted by rocks, but no sign of her.

Also Australia: A jawbone that washed up on a beach in New South Wales in 2011 has been identified as Bill Moran, a 24-year-old man who was lost at sea when his boat sank off Evans Head in 1979. Bill’s wife Philippa also died in the accident, but I think her body was found earlier.

Canada: There’s been a podcast episode about the 1997 disappearance of 27-year-old Danny Gaulton, who was last seen in Grande Prairie, Alberta. He told his roommates he was going to work, but in fact he called in sick that night. Neither he nor his car was ever found.

England: They’re still looking for Anne Simpson, a 60-year-old woman who disappeared from Skegness in 2004. She was last seen drinking with two biker types and her partner.

Japan: I found this interesting article about how North Korea kidnapped some people, including a thirteen-year-old girl, from Japan and took them back to North Korea so they could help train future spies.

Remains found in 1979 identified, and other stories

Today is National Missing Persons day. This article has some info about how the new Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act, which was signed into law on New Years’ Eve, will help communities along the Mexican border.

In Alabama: Skeletal remains have been found in Conecuh County, Alabama. Though they haven’t been identified yet, the police think they’re those of Brian Estrada, who disappeared last October. His ID was found near the bones.

In California: They’re still looking for Sydney West, a 19-year-old University of California, Berkeley student who disappeared from San Francisco on September 30. Her parents are offering a $10,000 reward for info leading to her return.

In Colorado: The murder trial of Donthe Lucas in the disappearance of his 21-year-old pregnant girlfriend Kelsie Jean Schelling from Pueblo has begun. Kelsie was last seen on February 5, 2013.

In Florida: They’re still looking for Lemuel Robert Hall, a 79-year-old man who disappeared from Escambia County in 2019. He was last seen in July, but wasn’t reported missing till September.

In Maine: They’re still looking for Jason D. Reil, a 33-year-old man who disappeared from Brunswick in January 2012. He had schizophrenia and was off his meds when he went missing.

In Mississippi: They’re still looking for William Brian McKenzie, a 21-year-old who disappeared in September 2019.

In Ohio: They’re still looking for Nylo Lattimore, a 3-year-old boy who disappeared from Cincinnati on December 4. His mother was allegedly stabbed to death in her home on December 5 and her body dumped, but it wasn’t found for a week. Desean Brown has been charged with Nylo’s mother’s murder, but Nylo has never been found and Brown hasn’t cooperated in the case.

In Pennsylvania: They’re still looking for Robert Scott Baron, who disappeared from his restaurant in Old Forge on January 25, 2017. It looks like he was probably killed in a robbery of the business; they found some blood in his car and a tooth in the restaurant’s sink.

In South Dakota: 9-year-old Serenity June Dennard disappeared from the Black Hills Children’s Home two years ago today. Though the case is still open, the police have suspended the search for now, for lack of any ideas where to look.

In Tennessee: They’re still looking for Shelley Lynn Mook, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from Shelbyville on February 28, 2011. Her husband Tyler is a person of interest in her case, but has never been charged.

In Texas: They’re still looking for Joshua Jayvaughn Davis Jr., a one-year-old boy who disappeared from New Braunfels on February 4, 2011 — ten years ago tomorrow. The police seem to think his parents were involved or at least know what happened. I’m not sure. I am a firm believer in the axiom that there’s usually no smoke without fire. But one thing I will observe: Joshua’s parents have talked to the media a fair bit about his disappearance and tried to publicize it as much as they can, which in my observation is inconsistent with people who were responsible for their child’s disappearance.

In Oregon: They have identified remains found at the bottom of Multnomah Falls in September 1979. His name is Freeman Asher Jr.

In Washington: They’re still looking for Sofia Lucerno Juarez, who disappeared from Kennewick on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. 18 years ago tomorrow.

In Australia: They’re still looking for Lisa Govan, a 28-year-old woman who disappeared from Kalfoorie, Western Australia in 1999. The police believe she was murdered.

Also in Australia: They’re still looking for Steven James Goldsmith, a 28-year-old arborist who disappeared from Toowoomba, Queensland in 2000. Authorities believe he was murdered. There’s a $250k reward out to help solve the case.

In Canada: They have identified a body that washed up on Gulf Island Beach in British Columbia in 1972. The name of the man, who was 41 when he disappeared from Coquitlam in 1967, has not been released.

Also in Canada: They’re still looking for Ben Tyner, a ranch manager who disappeared from Merritt, British Columbia in January 2019.

In Belgium: A car was found in a canal in Bruges; it turned out to belong to Ronny Lateste, a 39-year-old man who disappeared in 1990. His body was inside it.

MP of the week: Michelle Mulcahy

This week’s featured missing person is Michelle Meredith Mulcahy, a seventeen-year-old girl who disappeared from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on July 7, 1979. She left all her belongings behind, including her new car, so she isn’t believed to have been a runaway. She didn’t need to run away in any case; she had already moved out of her mom’s house and was living with a friend. There were some issues going on in her life: she had gotten involved with drugs and was dating a man who was himself into the drug culture.

I have to wonder if Christopher Wilder was ever looked at in this case. 1979 is a little before his time — his known victims were killed in 1983 and 1984 — but Michelle did want to be a model and was last seen en route to a dance contest, which would fit the profile of Wilder’s victims.