National Hispanic Heritage Month: Henrietta Cruz Avila

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 Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila, a seventeen-year-old missing from Santa Ana, California. This is a very old case, from 1960. 58 years ago.

Henrietta married a few months before her disappearance; it wasn’t at all unusual at that time for teenagers to marry. She had only known her husband, Merle Avila, for a month or so, and he was 24.

The circumstances of her disappearance are unclear, but I think it’s quite likely that Henrietta met with foul play around the time of her disappearance or shortly thereafter, and that her killer or someone acting on the killer’s behalf made attempts to make her family believe she was alive and well.

I cannot imagine why a girl who had run away would come back and leave some of her clothes — and underclothes at that — sitting in her parents’ driveway. But I can well imagine that a killer, trying to confuse the investigation, would do so. In fact, I know of a documented case where something similar happened: a woman whose daughter was supposedly abducted got mailed one of the little girl’s mittens. Nothing else was in the envelope. It turned out the mother had killed her daughter and mailed the mitten to herself.

Sadly, after so many years I doubt Henrietta’s disappearance can be solved. I wonder if the police have talked to Merle Avila at all over the years, or know where he is now or if he’s still alive.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Usbaldo Hernandez

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 Usbaldo Arvizu Hernandez, who disappeared from El Dorado County, California all the way back on July 1, 1969, at the age of 44.

Usbaldo, aka Waldo, wandered quite a bit: a military man and then a migrant farm worker, he often rode trains (not the passenger kind) between Arizona and California. I don’t know if he was just a free spirit or if he had to take what he could get; my boyfriend’s grandfather, who was the same age and was also Hispanic, had done the same sort of thing back in the day.

I don’t know anything about the actual circumstances of Usbaldo’s disappearance, and as he’d be 94 today, chances are that whatever did happen to him, he’s no longer alive.

A long-ago disappearance and a repressed memory

I wrote up the case of Maxine Beatrice Green last night. The details, if true, are pretty horrifying. According to Maxine’s daughter Norma, her ex-husband, Hobart, raped Maxine and beat and strangled her to death and buried her body in a river bottom.

The problem with Norma’s story is that she says she repressed the memory and it only came back to her 25 years after the fact, and she has exactly zero hard evidence to support it.

That Norma herself believes the murder happened is evident in the fact that, after the police wouldn’t listen to her, she used her own money to have the alleged burial site excavated. That Hobart murdered his wife I can also well believe; he was a demonstrably violent man who later beat his baby son to death and buried the body on his farm.

But nothing turned up at Norma’s excavation site except a few buttons and some animal bones. They should have found at least Maxine’s purse, or part of it, or some of the contents of it, as Norma remembers the purse being buried with her mother.

It’s possible, I suppose, that every part of Norma’s story is correct EXCEPT the burial site. But I have some other questions:

  1. What about Norma’s sister, who was also alleged to be present at the murder and burial? What is she saying? How old was she at the time; was she old enough to remember any of this?
  2. What about Hobart’s girlfriend, who was also said to have been there? She is unnamed in the news articles. Does Norma know her identity, and was she ever interviewed?
  3. Maxine and Hobart had four other children. Where were they on the night in question, and do they remember anything?

I think Hobart must be dead by now. I can find no record of his death, but he’d be nearly 90 today and I can’t find him listed as an inmate in the Missouri Department of Corrections database.

Given how old the case is, and how Hobart was already in prison for life, I can understand that the police were reluctant to invest a lot of resources in this. But six children grew up with their mother, and it would be nice to know why, and where she is now.

Black History Month: Joseph Edwards

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Joseph “JoeEd” Edwards, who disappeared from Vidalia, Louisiana on July 12, 1964, at the age of 25. (In the circumstances section of his NamUs page it says he was 21, but all other sources I can find list his age as 25.)

After his disappearance, they found his car abandoned behind a bowling alley, with bloodstains inside and a necktie, tied in the shape of a noose, draped over the steering wheel.

Because of the noose thing, and because JoeEd had dated white women, the prevailing theory is that he was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. The FBI have gotten tips to that end; some stories say he was covered in concrete and thrown in the Mississippi, others that he was skinned alive.

In any case, over 50 years after JoeEd’s disappearance, it’s likely that anyone who was involved in his case is dead now.

MP of the week: Anna Leatherwood

This week’s featured MP is Anna Francis Leatherwood, one of my older cases. She’s been missing for over 50 years. Anna disappeared from Sevierville in eastern Tennessee on May 20, 1966, at the age of 45. For reasons that should be obvious from the casefile, her husband is the prime suspect in her disappearance and presumed murder.

Ruth Egnoski ponderings

Ruth Egnoski is one of those cases where I have VERY little info, and now it seems what little I had is being thrown into doubt. NamUs’s profile for her, recently added, says she disappeared sometime in the fall of 1964. I’ve got the date as sometime in 1966.

I had a look at Newspapers.com and what I find there hasn’t helped at all. The archived issues of the Janesville Daily Gazette have ten mentions of a Ruth Egnoski between 1955 and 1964. Janesville, Wisconsin is just twenty miles from Delavan, Wisconsin, the town Ruth disappeared from; it’s quite likely this is the same Ruth. (Unless it’s her mother.)

The newspaper’s August 21, 1964 issue has her name on the list of hospital admittances and calls her “Mrs. Ruth Egnoski.” Ruth would have been sixteen at the time, but in the 1960s it was common for girls that age to be married. Per the newspaper, on August 28, Ruth was released from the hospital. This is the last time she was mentioned in that newspaper. At least, it’s the last time she was mentioned in Newspapers.com’s archived issues of that newspaper, which isn’t exactly the same thing, yeah?

I know the people who write NamUs profiles utilize the same resources I do, and I have to wonder if the Newspapers.com mentions are the reason they list Ruth’s date of disappearance as sometime in the autumn of 1964. Yet this 2002 article gives the date of disappearance as 1966, and that’s what I had until now.

It’s possible nobody really remembers when she disappeared. It didn’t really attract any notice at the time — it was reported but the police didn’t investigate. Records get lost. People die. Memories fade.

I’ll update her casefile to reflect the uncertainty regarding the year. And I’ll add her middle name — Muriel. That’s all I was able to get from NamUs.

Flashback Friday: Patricia Chesher

This week’s Flashback Friday case is Patricia Joan Chesher, aka Patty, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared while selling raffle tickets door-to-door in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 17, 1969.

There’s a lot to unpack here. The NCMEC classifies her as a runaway, but given her age and the passage of time, foul play seems more likely. There are a few persons of interest: a neighbor who bought one of the raffle tickets, her older sister’s boyfriend who had mental problems, a creepy uncle.

In any case, after 47 years I doubt this case can be solved.