Let’s Talk About It: William and Margaret Patterson

Middle-aged married couple William Durrell Patterson, 52, and Margaret M. Patterson, 42, vanished from El Paso, Texas on March 5, 1957. They were last seen by a neighbor who dropped by with some Girl Scout cookies. Margaret looked upset at the time and William didn’t seem to want company. That night there was unspecified “unusual activity” observed at the Patterson home. The next day they were gone, and it looked like they had left in a hurry.

William in particular seems to have been involved in some kind of sketchy things. His own father said he “made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks” and he had always expected the Pattersons to disappear eventually.

There are some indications that they left of their own accord, the appearance of the house nonwithstanding. Let’s break it down:

  • On March 15, the Pattersons’ accountant got a telegram with instructions on how to manage their business in their absence. HOWEVER, the telegram was signed “W.H. Patterson” and not “W.D. Patterson.” The obvious explanations I can think of are (1) William did not really send that telegram or (2) William did send the telegram but messed up his initials on purpose as a duress signal.
  • William’s mistress, who lived in Juarez, said she saw him in the early morning hours of March 6 (the day after he and Margaret were seen in El Paso) and he told her he had important things to tell her and “when they come for me, I’ll have to go in a hurry.” HOWEVER, she later recanted this statement. What I’m wondering is: if William had important things to tell her, why not just tell her right then, since they were together and all?
  • The couple’s business associates went around telling everyone they were on an extended vacation. No word as to where they were getting this information, but as a result they weren’t reported missing for five months.
  • The Pattersons’ lawyer eventually got a letter, supposedly from William, postmarked May 29. It said they were getting out of dodge and would not be returning, and instructing that their property should be divided up. HOWEVER, the selection of heirs was…curious, to say the least, and handwriting experts were not sure that William had actually signed the letter, and for several legal reasons (starting with the fact that Margaret co-owned the couple’s photography business), it had no actual value as a will.

In 1984, a witness went to the police and said he had been hired to clean the Pattersons’ home after they disappeared and he saw blood in the garage, a piece of human scalp stuck to William’s boat propeller, and someone carrying away bloodstained sheets. The witness was an illegal immigrant and he said he didn’t go to the police at the time because he was afraid he’d be deported. I’ve got no idea if there’s any evidence to back up his statement. I’ve watched Forensic Files; I know they have all sorts of gizmos and experts in all kinds of obscure fields of crime scene analysis and it seems like if the house had still been there, they might have found something.

For what it’s worth, Margaret was completely estranged from her family. They hadn’t heard from her in 20 years and they assumed she was dead, which is an odd assumption if you ask me. She was a young healthy woman and she doesn’t appear to have vanished out of their lives into thin air; she became estranged from them because they disapproved of her marriage to William. So why would they assume she was dead?

Now, it’s been 60 years, and both of the Pattersons would be over 100 years old by now, so it’s a safe bet to assume they’re not alive anymore. What I would like to know is: do y’all think they were alive after 1957?

Let’s talk about it.

Advertisements

Joan Risch disappeared 55 years ago today

I got an email from a reporter today about Joan Risch, asking if he could use one of my photos with attribution. It was only then that I realized this was the anniversary of her disappearance. I sort of forgot about it quickly, but I was just on Wikipedia and she’s on the front page today, in the “did you know” section:

joanrisch

(I realize these last few days I’ve posted a lot of images on my blog entries. I think this is just an anomaly and not the start of a trend though.)

It’s a most mysterious case, one that will probably never be solved.

Oooooh, this is frustrating…

I’ve spent much of today combing through Newspapers.com looking up stuff on specific old MP cases when I came across a column in the March 27, 1983 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, written by someone named Elinor Klein. It was about how her brother disappeared when he was 17 years old, and the devastation it caused in her family.

I’m pretty sure I have never heard of this case. But I’m not 100% sure because Elinor Klein never said what his name was, or the town he disappeared from. Just that he was 17, a freshman at an unspecified, possibly Ivy League college, and that he was born on February 22, 1937 and disappeared on November 8, 1954. She even includes his picture with the column. But not his name!

I checked NamUs; there’s only two 1954 disappearances in there, and both are of females. I would love to be able to put this young man on Charley if I can. If he was still missing in 1983 — nearly thirty years after he was last seen — he’s probably still missing now.

I looked up more information about Elinor Klein hoping that would lead me to her brother’s identity. Turns out Elinor was still alive as of 2008 and her maiden name was Friedman. I also learned she had a son named Willy at age 40; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch column says, “When my child was born a few years ago… I named my son after my brother and my father.”

Still not enough to go on. Darn it.

See the below images screenshot from Newspapers.com’s PDFs, the column about the missing boy (Willy Friedman?):

elinorklein1

elinorklein2

elinorklein3

On the bright side, Ms. Klein’s column did yield at least one nugget of information that’s of use to me: there were pictures of random missing children scattered across the bottoms of the first two pages, including one of Holly Hughes that’d I’d never seen before. It even shows her teeth! I added it.

Seeing Ida Mae Lee living…maybe

I’ve decided to add a bunch of super-old cases to Charley today, beginning with Ida Mae Lee, who disappeared in 1956. She was working at a hotel at Grand Canyon National Park at the time.

Anyway, I went to Newspapers.com and searched for the phrase “Ida Mae Lee” Arizona and found some interesting results:

The Arizona Republic, December 1, 1953:

idaleenewspaper2

(There were several other mentions of Ida Mae Lee attending Arizona State; an October 1953 article says she lived in Nutrioso, which has a current population of 26. There’s also articles from January and March name Ida Mae Lee among the honor roll students at Round Valley High School, which is in Eager, Arizona, a 21-minute drive from Nutrioso. And in 1952, Ida Mae Lee and some of her fellow Round Valley HS students staged a fashion show.)

And then there’s this, from the Arizona Republic, September 21, 1955:

idaleenewspaper

I’m pretty sure the Ida Mae Lee who married Mr. Jones is the same one that attended Round Valley High School and Arizona State; note the reference to Nutrioso in the marriage announcement. And I think that photo looks an awful lot like NamUs’s picture of the Ida Mae Lee who vanished in 1956 — though I’m not prepared to swear to that, I am not good at all at identifying faces.

So, the 64k question then, assuming all these Ida Lees are in fact the same person: what happened to Mr. Jones during the 14 months before Ida vanished? The fact that she’s listed as missing under her maiden name suggests they were separated or divorced by then.

I did find this obit for a Niles Lee Jones who died in Mesa, Arizona in 2011, age 76. No mention of any survivors, but a search of addresses for Mr. Jones mentions Nutrioso, Arizona as well as other cities.

 

MP of the week: Thomas O’Daniel

This week’s featured missing person (a day late, sorry) is 29-year-old Thomas Clyde O’Daniel and he went missing a very long time ago: May 15, 1958. It’s been nearly sixty years.

Thomas called his family from Phoenix and said he was going to hitchhike to Yuma, Arizona. Google Maps says Yuma is about a three-hour drive from Phoenix, but back in 1958 it may have taken longer. He never got in touch with his family again and I don’t know whether he arrived in Yuma. In fact, I don’t really know anything.

This case is pretty much a complete blank. The only thing I could find online was a post on Ancestry from what is probably his daughter. Other than that I’ve got nothing.

Anything could have happened to this guy. It’s even possible, though only just, that he’s still alive somewhere, perhaps chilling in a nursing home — he’d be in his late eighties by now.

Forgot about this entry

On April 2nd I had another Executed Today entry run that I forgot to post: Henry Frank Decaillet. He was a middle-aged married father of five who fell in love with, and had a sexual relationship with, a girl named Phoebe who was either 12 or 13 at the time. (Ew.) After a year or so she got tired of him and wanted to date boys her own age and he shot her because she was “living an immoral life” and he wanted to stop her from “becoming a prostitute.” He never attempted to hide what he’d done and was gassed in California in 1954.

False leads

As I’ve stated so many times before, I view the Charley Project as a place to share the story of a person’s disappearance: before, during, and after. That includes talking about the false leads that inevitably crop up during an investigation.

The Beverly Potts casefile, for example, details a number of leads that went nowhere, including a woman who wrote a letter that said she’d caught her husband disposing of Beverly’s body and left it in her house. It turned out, as I recall, that her husband was horribly abusive and she thought he would kill her, so she left the letter as a kind of attempt to frame him for child-murder from beyond the grave, assuming he actually did kill her.

As many of you know, there have been exciting new developments in the Jacob Wetterling case, and I dutifully updated his casefile. The details of disappearance includes an aside that Jacob’s father is an adherent of the Baha’i religion, a faith which not many Americans are familiar with, and there were rumors among the locals that Jacob’s dad’s religion had something to do with his son’s abduction.

A person posted a message on the Charley Project’s Facebook account saying they’d never read about Baha’i in relation to Jacob anywhere, and suggesting it be removed.

Well, the thing was, I hadn’t read about it either. The information about Jacob’s father’s religion and the subsequent rumor mill had been added to the casefile by Jennifer Marra back when she was running the MPCCN. So I checked with Newslibrary, a major source of old news articles, and found a St. Paul Pioneer Press article that referenced it. So at least I could confirm the accuracy of the information. (Not that I ever doubted it in the first place; Jenni cared as much about accuracy as I do.)

My question to you guys, though, is: where do we draw the line? At what point does a false lead or ruled-out potential suspect or local rumor become irrelevant, and perhaps even detrimental to the story?

Honestly, although I haven’t removed the info, I’m not sure I would have put the Baha’i thing into Jacob’s casefile if I myself had written it from scratch. There’s been news lately about Roger Day, an interview with his sister who mentions a “pedophile” who lived nearby and whose home was searched. They found bones that turned out to be not human. Yesterday I updated his case with more info, but didn’t include the bit about the neighborhood pedophile since there seemed to be no evidence, beyond his sister’s speculation, that Roger had any particular interaction with the man.

Where do we draw the line?