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.

Aundria Bowman has probably been located

So they’re pretty sure they’ve found Aundria Bowman, a fourteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Michigan in 1989. Aundria was listed as a runaway for years, but her biological mother was adamant that her adoptive father, Dennis Bowman, had killed her. Aundria disappeared shortly after accusing Dennis of sexual abuse.

Dennis is a seriously sketchy character. In 1980, he attempted to kidnap a nineteen-year-old girl at gunpoint. She got away from him and he served six years in prison. In late 2019, he was charged with the 1980 murder of a 25-year-old Virginia woman, Kathleen Doyle. In January, still in jail awaiting trial for Doyle’s murder, he finally confessed to killing Aundria.

The police didn’t take long to find a body when they searched Dennis’s former property in Monterey Township, Michigan. I’m not sure if Dennis led them to it, or if the police just decided that the concrete slab was a good place to start digging. It could take weeks to identify the skeletal remains, and I’m not resolving Aundria’s case quite yet.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Miriam Guillen

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 Miriam Daniela Guillen, who disappeared from Arleta, California on September 3, 2014, at the age of sixteen. She’s classified as a runaway.

Miriam’s hair was dyed blonde and cut in a mohawk at the time of her disappearance, and she has facial piercings, gauged ears and numerous tattoos. Her age-progression on her NCMEC poster shows what two of the tattoos are meant to look like: the spiderweb on her shoulder, and “HORROR” in large black letters on her upper chest. A pretty distinctive appearance.

Miriam is probably still alive, though she doesn’t seem to have surfaced on the radar in the past five years. She would be 21 today.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Meredith Medina

(I had pre-written cases for September 30 and October 1, using the app on my phone. I didn’t realize until very late on October 1 that neither of them went up, and in fact they seem to have vanished. I need to stop using that app to try to write entries; it never seems to work well. I am trying to reconstruct the entries from memory.)

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 Meredith Ann Medina, a sixteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Midwest City, Oklahoma on February 14, 1989. She may go by the nickname Mere or her middle name, Ann.

She’s classified as a runaway, and I don’t know anything else about her disappearance. However, it’s worth noting that Meredith’s stepmother, Nancy Jean Medina, also disappeared without a trace in the 1980s, four and a half years before Meredith did.

It could be just a coincidence that there are two women missing from the same family. Certainly I’ve seen numerous cases of multiple people in a family disappearing in completely unrelated instances. It is odd, though.

If still alive, Meredith is now 46 years old, 47 late this month.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Tymayrra Ayala

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 Tymayrra Patricia Marie Ayala, who disappeared from Phoenix, Arizona on August 28, 2017, at the age of fifteen.

She is classified as a runaway. Her Facebook page was active until at least February 2018, several months after her disappearance, though I can only see the profile photos. It looks like she has an arrest record, as several of the available pics of her appear to be mug shots.

Tymayrra is 18 now. I hope she gets in touch with her family, or at least the authorities, soon.

Maggie Cruz found alive and well

Yesterday I wrote about how the police were looking into the possibility that “Beth Doe”, a young pregnant woman who was murdered, dismembered and dumped in a Pennsylvania river in 1976, might be runaway foster child Maggie Cruz.

Well, that possibility has been ruled out, as Madeline “Maggie” Cruz has been found alive and well¬†and has spoken to the police.

I’m glad she’s all right, but that leaves the cops back to square one where Beth Doe is concerned. I wonder if she was killed by her husband — murder of pregnant women by the father of the baby is heartbreakingly common — and that’s why she was never reported missing.