MP of the week: Reed Jeppson

This week’s featured missing person is Reed Taylor Jeppson, who disappeared from Salt Lake City, Utah on October 12, 1964, at the age of fifteen. After church, he went out to walk his dogs and never came back. Neither did the dogs.

Come October, it’ll have been 55 years since anyone saw this young man. I doubt his case can be solved at this late date and I have no idea what happened to him. It is strange and interesting that the dogs disappeared as well.

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.

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.

Witness

Michael and I were hanging out last night like we do. Because he’d come home right at the beginning of an episode of Say Yes to the Dress (my worst vice) and was forced to sit there watching silly girls try on overpriced wedding gowns for half an hour, I told him to pick whatever he wanted for the next show. He went on Netflix and selected something called Witness, because it “looks cool.”

Witness was FASCINATING and I highly recommend it to the type of crowd that reads the Charley Project and this blog. It’s a documentary where Bill Genovese, the younger brother of Kitty Genovese, who was the victim of an infamous murder in 1964, tries to figure out the truth behind his sister’s death and the story about how 38 people witnessed her murder and none of them lifted a finger, or a phone, to help save her.

I originally heard the murder story in a freshman psychology course at Ohio State. It’s become kind of part of American culture over the years. I think most people in the country have heard this story in one form or another. It got mentioned in the film Boondock Saints and served as part of the McManus brothers’ motivation to go on their vigilante spree.

(Spoiler alerts follow.)

The business about 38 apathetic witnesses is pretty much a myth. Their number probably did not equal 38, most of them did not realize that a murder was taking place, and some of them DID call the cops or otherwise tried to intervene. But the myth shredded Kitty’s family, lead to the early deaths of her parents, and cost Bill Genovese his legs.

I really had to admire Bill; he seems like a very tough person and also a very level-headed, good-hearted man. He tried to meet with Kitty’s killer Winston Moseley — who by any standard was a monster — and when Moseley refused to meet with him, he met with his son and stressed that he was trying to understand what had happened and hopefully find forgiveness in his heart. (Moseley died early this year, after the documentary came out. Good riddance.)

At the end of the film, Bill actually hired an actress to stand outside the same apartment building where Kitty died and sort of reenact the crime while he sat in his wheelchair nearby and listened in the dark. At the end of the scene the actress broke down sobbing; Bill was very calm and took her into his arms.

It was a very interesting and emotional film. Michael and I were still talking about it at lunch today.

Not-Paul Fronczak identified

This story actually ran on July 2, but I didn’t find out about it till now: “Paul Fronczak” has been identified. In a nutshell, for people who aren’t familiar with this case: a newborn named Paul Fronczak was abducted from a Chicago hospital in 1964. In 1965, a toddler who was about the age Paul would have been was found abandoned in New Jersey. The Fronczak family thought he was their missing son, but the identification could not be conclusively established due to unavailability of DNA testing, etc., at that time, so they had to go through adoption procedures. There the matter rested until 2012, when “Paul” had himself tested and found out he was not related to his presumed parents. This made national news and the baby Paul Fronczak was re-listed as missing at the time.

Well, according to the article I linked to above, not-Paul Fronczak has been identified by a “genetic genealogist” as a child named Jack, one of five kids in his family. His parents and one of his siblings are dead now; two are still alive. Jack has a twin sister named Jill (groan) and she’s missing. The twins disappeared shortly before their second birthdays, but their parents never told anyone; both sides of their family thought the children were living with the other side. The family’s last name has not been released as of yet, but relatives told not-Paul “dark tales” about the parents.

In other words, this seems like a Michelle Pulsifer type case. You gotta wonder how many times this sort of thing used to happen back in the days before computerized public records and what have you.

I wonder if Jill was also abandoned somewhere and is still out there, not knowing who she really is. It seems a lot more likely, though, that she died about fifty years ago.

Meanwhile, the real Paul Fronczak remains among the missing. What a bizarre case.

Flashback Friday: The Westerfield Boys

This week’s Flashback Friday case is actually two people who disappeared together: Alan Westerfield, seven, and his brother Terry, eleven, last seen at a movie theater in Fayetteville, North Carolina on September 12, 1964. That’s over fifty years ago.

The prime suspect in the brothers’ disappearances appears to be their stepfather, Carl Bock, but I’m not sure he’s even still alive anymore. If he is he’d be in his nineties. I tried Googling “Carl Bock Wisconsin” (the last state I know he was living in) and didn’t find any obituaries, but that doesn’t mean much. Alan and Terry’s biological father committed suicide in 1978, according to this article, in part because of his depression over his sons’ disappearances.

Sad story all around. But they all are.

Flashback Friday: Paul Fronczak

This week’s Flashback Friday is the infamous Paul Fronczak case out of Chicago. The baby was abducted from the hospital only one day after birth. In a twist worthy of a bad novel, Paul’s parents actually thought they’d found him in New Jersey a year and a half later. However, as “Paul” grew up it became obvious that he didn’t resemble other members of the Fronczak family. In 2012 he got his DNA tested and it turns out he’s not his parents’ biological child. So the investigation into the kidnapping began anew, but it started over thirty years late.

The woman who abducted Baby Paul has never been identified. I’m guessing she either raised him as her own or passed him on/sold him to a family who did. There’s every chance in the world that there’s a man out there, fifty years old, who has no idea who he is and no idea that he has no idea.