I know someone is going to ask so I want to clear this up

In some of the photos on Lucinda Denise Farris‘s casefile, she has a very obvious chip in one of her front teeth. In other photos she does not. I’m sure someone will notice and ask if I’m 100% sure that all the photos are really of her, so I just want to say: yes, I am sure. It looks like Lucinda chipped her tooth just a couple of years prior to her disappearance. Some of the photos I found on social media are pre-chip, and some are post-chip. It’s also possible she had some kind of repair work done on it, a crown or something.

I found plenty of photos that showed her flower tattoo, but it was so indistinct, black ink on dark skin, that I didn’t think it was worth it to include an image of it. It was hard to tell there was anything there at all, and it wasn’t recognizable as anything.

MP of the week: Amanda DeGuio

This week’s featured missing person is Amanda Ann DeGuio, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania on June 3, 2014. She left her mom’s home without any belongings and never came back. About a week later, she (allegedly) picked up someone else’s OxyContin at the pharmacy and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Her family reported her missing on August 27, almost three months after they last saw her; Amanda had bipolar disorder and addiction issues and had been known to drop out of sight from time to time. Due to her lifestyle and the lack of contact it’s believed she met with foul play, but as far as I know there aren’t any suspects in her case.

Amanda has several tattoos and I’ve got photos of three of them. If still alive she’d be 31 today.

I hope everyone is safe and well. I have been doing well and have been reading a great deal lately.

MP of the week: David Bellah

This week’s featured missing person is David Wayne Bellah, a 38-year-old man who was last seen by his family when he came to visit them in Roseville, California for Easter in March 1991. I don’t have an exact date of his disappearance, and in such cases my policy is to select the earliest possible one—that is, March 1. However, I should note that Easter was March 31 that year.

Bellah didn’t see or contact his family often but would come to visit them for things like holidays. After Easter 1991, they never heard from him again. The most recent photo I have for him is from 1980.

Little information is available in Bellah’s disappearance, but he’s had a hair transplant, which might stand out if he’s a John Doe somewhere.

Adoption, unfortunately, isn’t a cure-all

The other day I added a case to the Charley Project, a 21-year-old woman who’s been missing for over a year. I won’t say her real name here, because there’s a good chance she will return home alive, and I don’t want this blog to come back to haunt her in terms of future employment prospects, etc. I’ll call her Beth. There don’t seem to be any indications of foul play in her case, but the police are concerned for her safety, since she has both mental health problems and substance abuse issues.

When I was researching the case for the write-up, I came across an article about Beth’s adoption from foster care. The article didn’t say when she’d been placed in care or why, but did note that her biological mother died when she was a toddler and her biological father wasn’t really a part of her life. She lived with relatives who “relinquished custody” to the foster care system at some point. She then had multiple foster placements, which is typical. When Beth was seventeen years old, her foster mother adopted her.

It’s very uncommon for an adolescent to get adopted; most prospective adoptive parents want babies and young children. Hence the article about this rare instance of an almost-adult being adopted. The judge who legally finalized the adoption paid for balloons and gift bags to celebrate the occasion. The article had photos of Beth and her mom hugging each other, and the reader can imagine them walking hand-in-hand into a happily-ever-after future.

Then, four years later, Beth disappeared. The photo on the poster appears to have been a mug shot. I really hope she’s okay and will get in touch with her mom.

I’ve seen quite a few cases on my site of people who were adopted out of foster care, grew up troubled and disappeared. The foster care system isn’t designed to actually raise children, it’s just designed to keep them alive and protect them from abuse and neglect. (And it’s not even very good at that.) I think any child who spent years in care, like Beth did, is going to have some emotional problems as a result, both from being bounced around in the system and from whatever led to them being placed in care to begin with.

Certainly love, and the permanency of adoption, does wonderful things for foster children. But love can’t fix everything.

A lost pet reminds me of some the issues that come up with missing persons

So last week Michael and I managed to misplace our elderly cat, Carmen, and we didn’t realize it for a few days. We felt horrible about this—both the fact that she was lost and the fact that we didn’t notice for some time.

It’s not that we don’t care about Carmen. We absolutely adore her. The main reason we didn’t notice she was missing was because she is a cat. The dog follows me from room to room, always. But like most cats, sometimes Carmen doesn’t want to hang out with anybody, and will go off and hide somewhere in the house out of sight.

Also, there was kind of a miscommunication between Michael and I. Each of us just sort of assumed the other had seen Carmen at some point. It wasn’t until late one evening when we were playing with our other cat, Aria, and one of us was like “Hey, I haven’t seen Carmen in awhile, when was the last time you saw her?” And both of us had to sit and think really hard to remember the last time. Then we got very worried very quickly.

We determined Carmen was definitely not in the house. Once we worked out the only time when she could have gotten out, we felt horribly guilty, as days had passed since then. We went outside with flashlights to look for her, but couldn’t find her in the vicinity. (The neighbors caught me crawling around trying to get under their porch; fortunately they didn’t shoot me.) There didn’t seem to be much point in searching further in the dark.

We tried to figure out what to do from there. Michael was absolutely devastated and basically broken. He just sort of sat there staring off into space with tears running silently down his cheeks, saying Carmen had to be dead, a coyote had surely gotten her by now. He pretty much couldn’t do anything.

I was upset but pretty calm about it. I Googled “how to find a lost cat” and started doing everything Google said to do. What the internet said indicated there was hope: it said most indoor cats who accidentally escape are probably fine, just freaked out and hiding nearby, even if several days have passed. I put some kibble and treats on the steps, like Google suggested, and left messages on online groups for the local area (Nextdoor, etc), then couldn’t figure out what else to do until daytime, so we went to bed. And somehow we were able to sleep. It was like 3:00 a.m. by then and we were super tired.

When I woke up, the food I’d left out was gone. I still couldn’t see any sign of Carmen but I started poking around again, looking under our porch and the next-door neighbor’s porch again, rattling the cat treat jar and calling for her. Then I turned around and suddenly there she was, sitting in front of our door, uninjured but complaining bitterly and looking extremely sorry for herself. She was none the worse for wear, just hungry.

Carmen says the outdoors sucks: it’s cold and scary and lonely and there’s no food and no litter box. 0 out of 5 stars. If she could type she’d leave it a really bad Yelp review.

I realize that a missing human child or spouse or other human family member is a whole order of magnitude different than a cat. But all of this kind of reminds me of the things I’ve read about how families deal with missing persons.

A lot of times the family doesn’t realize a person, even if they’re a child, is missing for awhile. It doesn’t necessarily mean the family doesn’t care. Each parent thinks the toddler is with the other parent, it’s assumed the teenager spent the night with friends, the adult was occasionally out of touch for weeks at a time and always resurfaced alive and well, etc. And each person in the family handles the situation differently, just the way Michael and I handled the issue of Carmen differently.

Stay safe, everyone. And keep an eye on your pets.

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.

MP of the week: Kimberly Blackburn

This week’s featured missing person case is Kimberly Marie Blackburn, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from in 1983. The last time anyone actually saw her was when she left her parents’ Indianapolis, Indiana home on May 29. On July 17 she called a friend and said she was at a truck stop in Arkansas and was coming home to Indiana. No one ever saw her or heard from her again.

Her life was very high risk, a wreck frankly: drug and alcohol abuse, and a lot of arrests for substance related offenses, prostitution, theft and disorderly conduct. She would often drop out of sight for extended time periods and travel with truckers, but she did keep in at least occasional touch with her family. She had warned her parents that if they hadn’t heard from her by her father’s birthday in October 1983, something was probably wrong.

I don’t think it’s likely she lived long after her disappearance, but it seems like wherever she is, it could be virtually anywhere in the US, or maybe even outside the US. There are some distinguishing characteristics: a coloboma in her right eye, a rose tattoo on her hip and chemical burn scars on her buttocks.

In the unlikely event that Kimberly is still alive, she’d be 62 today.

MP of the week: Hassani Campbell

My host has unblocked me and whitelisted my IP so I’m able to access the Charley Project again. My host is a good company, run by a friend with my dad’s, and I have to say the customer service I’ve had over the years is excellent.

So I’ve updated the missing person of the week and this time it’s Hassani Jamil Campbell, a five-year-old boy who disappeared from Oakland, California on August 10, 2009. At the time of his disappearance he was living with his aunt, Jennifer Campbell, and her husband, Louis Ross, and his younger sister. Campbell and Ross were Hassani’s legal foster parents; he’d been removed from his biological mother late the previous year. They were reportedly planning to adopt him.

It’s worth noting that Hassani has mild cerebral palsy. He could walk at the time of his disappearance, but couldn’t run or jump, and had to wear braces on his feet.

Ross was taking care of Hassani when Hassani disappeared, and the police were publicly skeptical of his version of events that day. Eighteen days later, both Campbell and Ross were arrested on suspicion of Hassani’s murder, but they were both released without charge within a couple of days, as there was insufficient evidence. Later that year the couple broke up and moved away.

Last I heard, Hassani’s foster parents were still the prime suspects in his case, but the case seems to have gone cold.

If still alive, he’d be 17 years old today.

More technical problems, albeit of a different variety

Suddenly I find myself unable to access charleyproject.org on my desktop computer (good old Orville). I can access the site on my phone, but ONLY if my phone is using the cell phone data package for internet rather than my WiFi connection. If I try to access the site when my phone is on WiFi, no dice, the connection times out.

No desktop computer access to my site = no updates. Sorry, folks. This is very frustrating to me as there’s a lot of stuff I wanted to put up today.

I am uncertain what the problem is but have shot my host an email to ask if they somehow accidentally blocked my IP address or something. Beyond that I have no clue and will just have to wait until Michael gets home, see if he has any ideas. (I can’t access the site from his home office computer either.)

This really makes me nervous because a long time ago, probably 20 years ago in fact, I had a personal website and developed the same problem: I suddenly could not access it from my home PC, only from school computers. I never was able to fix it, and wound up having to abandon the website entirely.