Whoops… Flashback SATURDAY: Mary Jean McLaughlin

I had set this to go up automatically on Friday and apparently I put the date in wrong or something. Didn’t realize it till now. Sorry. Flashback Saturday then.

This week’s case is Mary Jean McLaughlin, a young mother of five who disappeared from Odessa, Michigan sometime in 1965. As there’s been no paper trail, the police think she may have died long ago, and she might have met with foul play. Her husband, according to their son, was violent. I Googled the man’s name and found what appears to be his obituary. He died in 2013.

Here’s to hoping Mary Jean didn’t die and that she just left her violent husband and started a new life elsewhere. This is by no means impossible, as was highlighted quite recently in another case.

If by chance Mary Jean is still alive, she could be 78 years old next month.

Longtime missing NZ man’s case closed; he was never found

Per the New Zealand Herald, 19-year-old baker Graeme Timlin has been declared legally dead after having been missing nearly fifty years. Circumstances:

The coronial inquest at the Hamilton District Court yesterday heard that Mr Timlin vanished from his bakery in the city on May 15, 1965.

An assistant baker, Carol Sanders, arrived at work that day to find the shop locked and Mr Timlin’s Bedford van gone, but an oven was still hot and baking sat on the bench as if Mr Timlin had “just popped out”. She reported him missing and police began a search the next day.

Five days later his van was found abandoned at Mt Maunganui with two flat tyres. Inside were three cigarette packets. Mr Timlin did not smoke.

Police searched ships at the Port of Tauranga but, despite being in dire financial straits with his business, Mr Timlin was not thought to have tried to flee to Australia.

The case was wound down until three weeks later when Mr Timlin’s mother, Ursula Purchase, read an article in the Herald about a body that had been found on Kawau Island. She went to Auckland but police had not been able to find the body so she found the fisherman who identified Mr Timlin as the body he saw.

Timlin was one of those MPs featured in Scott Bainbridge’s book Without Trace: On the Trail of New Zealand Missing Persons.

Sean Munger MP profiles I forgot to post earlier

A few weeks ago my friend Sean Munger profiled the disappearance of Madeline “Lynn” Babcock, missing for 45 years now. I forgot to mention this before. Sean, as many readers know, also ran Charley’s Twitter feed; or, at least he did until last month when he got sick and I was granted temporary guardianship. (Watch for two MPs a day, one male, one female, at a little after 1:00 a.m. EST. Thanks to TweetDeck, a really handy bit of software, I’ve got ’em pre-scheduled.)

Madeline looks quite beautiful in the only decent picture of her, which was taken when she was 15. (She was 35 at the time of her disappearance.) The other photos, while much more recent, are low quality and it’s hard to tell what she even looked like as an adult. But who knows, maybe more pictures, or better versions of the ones I already have, will show up on NamUs or somewhere someday.

Ten days ago Sean also posted an entry on the discovery of the McStay family’s remains.

This is titled “For Those Who Don’t Remember”

For no particular reason, tonight I remembered a poem I wrote seven years ago — and I haven’t written a poem since. It was about Ronald Cole, who disappeared in 1965. The single photo I have of him is of very poor quality, and at the time I wrote the poem I had nothing on his disappearance either; just what it said in the CA-DOJ casefile. Now I know a bit more.

Anyway, I wrote the poem not just for Ronald but for all those long-missing people for whom “few details are available.” And I’ve never shared it with you.

Till now.

Who are you? Who were you?
Surely, you were something more
Than that grainy, gray photograph
Height, weight, hair, eyes
Date of birth, distinguishing marks

A statistic, one of many
In a list of names and faces
A single, sterile sentence
From faded, fusty folder
That was thrown out long ago

You melted in the springtime
As the world bloomed around you
An epilogue, an afterthought
Amid all those green and growing things
And all those people who still exist

No six-column headlines or six o’clock news stories
Just “unknown circumstances”
And six-one, one-forty, brown hair and hazel eyes
And that scar on your cheek
All filed in a folder long since lost, like you

Out into nowhere, an ocean of emptiness
A black hole, a vacuum, a void
Gone, your essence dissipated
From this world of documented people
Whose existence remains a fact

Ronald Cole
Born September 21, 1945
Disappeared May 1, 1965

A sobering thought

Maggie Thompson, the murder victim in my Executed Today post from yesterday, reminds me so much of Kathleen Shea who was never found. The girls were almost the same age and both of them vanished without a trace, like “the sidewalk might have opened and swallowed” them. Both times it was during their school lunch break (Maggie was walking home to eat; Kathleen had finished her meal and was walking back to school). Both of them stopped to talk to neighbors while en route. Kathleen disappeared in Pennsylvania, Maggie in the bordering state of Ohio. And, though we may never know for certain, I think Kathleen’s fate was probably much the same as poor little Maggie’s.

Obviously, the two cases aren’t related: they occurred some 70 years apart, and Maggie’s killer was caught and suffered the supreme penalty. I’m just saying, these kinds of crimes are timeless. Homicide committed by juveniles (Maggie’s killer, Otto Lueth, was only sixteen) is not rare or new either. I get annoyed when people talk about how “the youth of today are out of control” (Aristotle said the same thing about the youth of 3rd century BC) and also “how bad crime these days” and how “in this day and age, you have to be extra careful.” The good old days were terrible.

Three more MP articles

There’s an article about Marlena Childress, a four-year-old girl who disappeared from Tennessee 25 years ago today. As far as I know her mother, Pamela Bailey, remains the prime suspect in her case. Bailey actually confessed to killing Marlena accidentally and was charged with murder, but the charge was dropped for lack of evidence. In 2002, she stabbed her twelve-year-old son. He survived and she was convicted of attempted murder. (According to this article, she’s out of prison now.) The article doesn’t really have much information, and nothing new, but the NCMEC just put out a new AP for Marlena.

At 4:30 today in Dallas, Texas, they’ll be screening a documentary called The Imposter, about the guy who passed himself off as Nicholas Barclay, a missing boy from Texas, for five months. (There’s also a film that tells a fictionalized account of the story, called The Chameleon.) The fact that Nicholas’s family believed this person is an indication of the power of wishful thinking: he was 23, had dark brown hair and brown eyes, and a French accent, and he refused to voluntarily give his fingerprints. The real Nicholas would have been 17 at the time, and had light brown hair and blue eyes. The FBI finally got a court order to take the individual’s fingerprints, which established his true identity: he was actually a French citizen named Frédéric Pierre Bourdin. He has a history of using aliases and pretending to be other people; in fact, Nicholas is one of three missing boys whose identity Bourdin assumed. Perhaps he’s mentally ill or just a person with a pathological need for attention. In any case, he presumably caused terrible anguish for the Barclay family. Nicholas is still missing after almost eighteen years. He would be 31 today.

There have been several articles lately about Elizabeth Ann Gill, most recently this one from yesterday. Missing from her Missouri home since 1965, when she was only two, she’s one of the Charley Project’s oldest cases. The theory they’re working on now is that she was abducted by “gypsies” who were in the area at the time, and possibly given or sold to someone who wanted to raise a child. There’s a good chance that she’s alive today, and given her age at the time, it’s highly unlikely she would remember anything of her former life.