MP of the week: Mercedes Lodge

This week’s featured missing person is Mercedes Lodge, a 39-year-old woman who disappeared from Castro Valley, California on December 14, 1974 — close to fifty years ago. She’s described as white, with brown hair and brown eyes, and short, at 4’11 tall and 140 pounds. She may have been last seen wearing a black sweater, a green corduroy jacket, black pants and white sneakers. One notable characteristic for people attempting to make matches with Jane Does: Mercedes’s left leg is shorter than her right one.

Unfortunately I don’t know very much about the case, and don’t even have a particularly good photo of her (though I’ve seen worse). She’s considered missing under suspicious circumstances. The only other info available is that she was in Alcoholics Anonymous and attended meetings in Hayward, California.

MP of the week: Andria Bailey

So this week’s featured missing person is Andria Ann Bailey, missing from Spanaway, Washington. Exactly WHEN she went missing isn’t clear; it was sometime in either 1978 or 1979. She would have been anywhere between 15 and 17 at the time.

At the time of her disappearance, Andria was living with her grandma and her parents were living in Germany. She wasn’t reported missing until October 29, 1989, which is nine or ten years after she was last seen.

(I want to add here that her family’s failure to report her missing is not necessarily an indication that they didn’t care about her. Back in the 1970s, law enforcement routinely refused to accept missing persons reports for teenagers, who were automatically presumed to be runaways. It’s entirely possible her family tried to file a report back then and couldn’t, or they did file one and it was misplaced or destroyed by the police and they had to file another. Or perhaps her family also thought she had run away and would return home on her own.)

Very little information is available in Andria’s case, if you couldn’t tell already. Given that she was in King County, I have to wonder about the Green River Killer, Gary Leon Ridgway. I’m not sure he was operating that early but I’m convinced he had more victims than he admits to.

Andria was born on September 27, 1963. If she’s still alive she’d be 58 today. She was about 5’5 and 110 pounds at the time of her disappearance, with brown hair, brown eyes and a two-inch brown birthmark in the middle of her back.

As for me… I’m here. Still struggling to get out of bed, dealing with some pretty awful fatigue. This is actually the first day in what seems like ages that I woke up 1) before noon and 2) not completely exhausted. I don’t know what’s going on, maybe it’s the change of seasons or something. I am trying my best.

Two long-missing people turn up alive and well

Just another one of those “never give up hope” reminders: Nicole Denise Jackson, a Birmingham, Alabama woman who dropped out of sight in 2018, and Sajid Thungal, a man from Kottyam in the state of Kerala in India who was last heard from in 1974, have both resurfaced alive.

Neither of these people were ever listed on the Charley Project: Sajid because he didn’t disappear on American soil, and I’m not sure Nicole was ever officially listed as missing. They also have something else in common, in that both of them vanished after leaving their home countries.

Nicole stopped contacting her family after moving to Germany to be with a guy she met online. Her family finally hired a private investigator who was able to locate and speak to Nicole’s employer and landlord, and as a result Nicole went to the authorities with her ID and verified that she’s ok. She hasn’t gotten in touch with her family though. I don’t know if there were prior family problems, if she’s in a bad situation, if she’s embarrassed or what. But I’m glad to hear she’s alive and has a job and a place to live, anyway.

Sajid left home to make his fortune in the United Arab Emirates, taking a job managing a group of entertainers who were also Indian nationals. At some point in the ensuing few years he lost touch with his family. Then a plane with the entertainers he’d been managing crashed in Mumbai with the loss of all onboard. His family thought, given the circumstances, that Sajid might have died in the crash as well. However, that wasn’t the case.

The truth was that Sajid hadn’t made his fortune after all and was embarrassed by his poverty, and didn’t want to return home with his tail between his legs. And I suppose the more time passed without him writing his family, the more difficult it became to get started, and he just never did it. Until now. His father had passed away in the intervening years but his mom, wife and brothers are still alive.

When a person vanishes voluntarily like that, and then reappears after years have passed, re-integration into the family unit is often difficult. This Washington Post article from 2019 (which I’m quoted in) talks about several real-life cases of a missing person resurfacing and encountering bumps along the way.

The family members, though delighted that their loved one is back in their lives, may also be very angry at the them for causing them so much pain by not picking up the phone. Often, whatever problems that led the no-longer-missing person to go missing in the first place (be it mental illness, family issues, etc.) are still there when they return, and the person might have picked up some new problems along the way while they were missing. Furthermore, they may have built another life for themselves in the meantime, a life which didn’t include their family, and now they have to find a way to fit their family into that life.

It’s a big adjustment and I recommend individual and family therapy in such cases.

MP of the week: Carola Davenport

This week’s featured missing person is Carola Yvonne Davenport, a 22-year-old woman last seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 1, 1975. She left all her clothing and her car behind and, most notably, her twin children, who were less than a year old at the time. I don’t know anything about Carola’s situation, but it’s highly unusual for the mother of a tiny baby or babies to just up and leave. Especially without the aforementioned clothes and car.

For whatever reason, she wasn’t reported missing until February 1976, by which time the case was four months’ cold. She’s black, about 5’5 and 125 pounds, with burn scars on her right hand and left arm. She also has a “fish-shaped” birthmark but the location is not noted.

Per NamUs, Carola’s son and her boyfriend at the time are both deceased now, but her daughter — only eleven months old when her mother went missing — is still alive and has submitted DNA. I wish there was more info available about this case.

46th anniversary of Wendy Eaton’s disappearance

As this article notes, 15-year-old Wendy Eaton disappeared from Media, Pennsylvania on May 17, 1975, 46 years ago today. She was walking away from her home, towards the downtown area, when she vanished. Dogs tracked her scent to an intersection, then lost the trail, suggesting a car picked her up.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of evidence as to what happened to her (though the article does provide a clothing description I hadn’t had previously). If she’s still alive, Wendy would be 61 today, turning 62 on the 26th. Sadly I think she’s still fifteen.

MP of the week: Benjamin Gray

This week’s featured missing person (sorry, I forgot to do it yesterday and earlier today) is Benjamin Franklin Gray, a 50-year-old man who disappeared from Montrose, Colorado on May 30, 1978. He was a rancher and he and a friend went out to lease some cattle that night. His friend said he dropped Gray off at a Montrose bar in the early hours of May 31. He has never been heard from again. After his disappearance, his checkbook was found on a mesa near his family’s ranch.

I find it strange that Gray’s friend lawyered up and wouldn’t cooperate with the investigation after the initial interview with police. But no one has been named as a suspect and authorities have found no hard evidence of foul play… and no evidence supporting any other theory either. Gray was just gone.

He’d be 93 years old today.

EastPark John Doe, missing persons events, and other stories

Colorado: There will be two events to honor the May 10, 2020 disappearance of Suzanne Morphew from Chaffee County. (I haven’t added her yet cause it hasn’t yet been a year.) The first will be held at the Poncha Springs Visitor Center at 7010 U.S. Highway 285 in Poncha Springs, Colorado at 7:00 p.m. on April 30. This day would be/have been Suzanne’s fiftieth birthday. The second event is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on May 2, at the Community Garden at 202 East Church Street in Alexandria, Indiana; Suzanne grew up there and many family and friends still live there. I might attend that event as it’s only an hour and ten minutes from where I live.

Kentucky: In EastPark, on the edge of Boyd County, last July, hunters found the badly decomposed remains of a murdered man partially buried. He had been dead for between approximately two weeks and a month. The man was wearing only boxer shorts and there were no personal effects. The man was between 20 and 40 years old and about 5’8 and 140 to 160 pounds, with brown hair between earlobe length and shoulder length. He had been shot, but also had drugs in his system when he died. The place where he was buried, although somewhat secluded, had easy access to the interstate; the dead man “literally could have come from anywhere.” The man has yet to be identified.

Also in Kentucky: Skeletal remains found in Hardyville in February 2020 have been identified as Jacob Lewis Tipton, a 24-year-old man who disappeared from Berea on April 23, 2016. Unfortunately there wasn’t much left of him and they couldn’t establish a cause of death.

Also in Kentucky: They’re still looking for Andrea Michelle Knabel, a 37-year-old woman who disappeared from Louisville on August 13, 2019. A retired homicide detective has taken an interest in the case and believes he’s found a three-hour discrepancy in the timeline of the night of Andrea’s disappearance.

Mississippi: They’re still trying to identify a Jane Doe who were found under a bridge over the Pearl River in Rankin County in 1978. She was nude and wrapped in an old blanket. She had died of multiple blows to the head and may have been killed by serial killer Samuel Little, who died late last year. They’re looking into the possibility that the Jane Doe may be Wendy Susan Byron, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from Glendora, California just two days before Jane Doe was found in Mississippi.

New York: They’re still looking for Flossie A. Wilbur, a 75-year-old woman who disappeared from Angelica on August 24, 1985. David Sherk, one of her then-neighbors, confessed to her murder in 2020 and told authorities he had buried her body near the Almond Dam, but the body has never been found. Doesn’t mean the man was lying; the dam has flooded multiple times since 1985. Sherk had terminal brain cancer when he made his confession and I’m not sure he’s still alive now, but he was never charged.

South Dakota: In Rapid City, groups and leaders both from town and from Native American reservations across the state united yesterday to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous people. Here are some photos of the event.

Virginia: It’s been ten years now since Robert Lee Hourihan disappeared, leaving behind a wife and six-year-old daughter her adored. Foul play is suspected in his case. His wife has never remarried and still hopes every day that he will be found.

Also Virginia: Human remains found in the woods on the campus of Hollins University back in February have been identified as Jessica Darling Dickson, a 30-year-old woman who disappeared from Roanoke on June 1, 2019. Jessica’s death is under investigation, but the police said there doesn’t seem to be any connection to the university and they don’t think the students (it’s a women’s college) are in danger.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: There’s an interesting article/podcast episode on the systemic failures of Toronto Police and missing persons cases.

New Waterford, Nova Scotia, Canada: They’re still looking for Debbie Hutchinson, 59-year-old woman who disappeared on April 15, 2017 and wasn’t reported missing for twelve days. Her niece found groceries lying on the floor of Debbie’s home, and her car later turned up abandoned and burned.

Former cult leader Anna Young, believed responsible for three Charley Project disappearances, dies

So Anna Young died a few days ago at the age of 79, having served just 33 days of a life sentence for second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Anna pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Emon Harper, aka Moses Young, a toddler who was beaten and starved to death in 1988 or 1989. His body was never found. The manslaughter conviction was for the death of Katonya Jackson, a two-year-old who died after being beaten, tortured and denied her epilepsy medication. (For some reason her death had initially been ruled as natural.)

Anna is also connected to two unsolved disappearances: that of two-year-old Marcos Antonio Cruz, whom she allegedly had abandoned at a church in Puerto Rico in 1992, and that of her six-year-old stepdaughter Catherine Barbara Davidson, who was last seen in 1973. Per one of Catherine’s siblings, she didn’t actually vanish while on a family outing to a state park in Michigan but had in fact been bound, gagged and placed in a closet where she died.

Pretty awful stuff.

I wonder if Marcos is still alive out there, or if he was ever abandoned in the first place and didn’t meet with the same awful death as Emon and Catherine and Katonya did.

We may never know.

I wanted to drop a recommendation for y’all

So this podcast series, “Through the Cracks: The Untold Story of Mbuyisa Makhubo” came out in 2016, but I didn’t discover it until a few days ago. I really wanted to tell everyone because it’s an awesome series, four episodes, great journalism, very thorough, telling a fascinating story about a missing person.

Mbuyisa Makhubo was a very ordinary teenage boy living in Soweto, South Africa in the 1970s when he became world-famous by accident. Basically, what happened was that a 1976 youth protest against the brutal apartheid regime got out of hand and the police opened fire on the crowd, killing a twelve-year-old boy named Hector Pieterson (and a lot of other people). Mbuyisa was the one who picked up Hector after he was shot and carried him to a nearby car — a photojournalist’s — to take him to the hospital. The journalist’s photos of Mbuyisa, running with a dying Hector in his arms and Hector’s screaming, hysterical sister running next to him, were displayed in newspapers across the world. You might have seen the images yourself; they’re still famous.

The result was that Mbuyisa (who hadn’t even been attending the protest, he just happened to live on that street) became a target of South African security forces. Afraid for his life, he had to flee the country. He got a scholarship to attend a school in Nigeria, but couldn’t adjust, began deteriorating physically and mentally, and ended up on drugs and living on the streets of Lagos. Sometime in 1978, he disappeared, and his family in South Africa never heard from him again.

Then he may have resurfaced, thirty years later, alive and well in a Canadian jail. Or maybe he didn’t.

From there the story just keeps getting stranger and stranger and more and more complicated. I don’t want to say anything more for fear of spoiling things, but I wound up listening to the whole podcast in one streak, ruminating on it for hours and puzzling it over with my friends afterwards.

So yeah, listen to it.

Tragic news in one child’s case, and justice for another two

Yesterday a child’s body was found in a camper near Garryowen on the Crow Reservation in Montana; it has been identified as Mildred Alexis “Millie” Old Crow, who disappeared sometime in 2019 or 2020. She was living with her guardians, her aunt Roseen Lincoln Old Crow and Roseen’s wife Veronica Dust, and was last seen with them in April 2019. No one’s exactly sure when she disappeared and nothing much has been released yet about her death. It seems likely she was murdered; little girls don’t just die for no reason.

Meanwhile in Florida, former cult leader Anna Young was sentenced to 30 years in prison for second-degree murder in the beating/starvation death of Emon David Harper, a toddler who disappeared sometime in 1988 and whose body was never found, and manslaughter in the death by neglect of Katonya Jackson, a two-year-old girl with epilepsy who died because Young withheld her medication. Both children and their families were members of Young’s cult.

This article talks about the plea deal and sentence Young accepted, but fails to mention that Young is tied to two other missing children: the 1973 (pre-cult) disappearance of Catherine Barbara Davidson, Young’s six-year-old stepdaughter, and the 1984 disappearance of two-year-old Marcos Antonio Cruz, another child whose family was involved in the cult. Marcos may have been abandoned in Puerto Rico by a cult member at Young’s orders. Catherine, however, was almost certainly murdered; one of Young’s other children reportedly saw her body in a closet before her disappearance was reported. It seems unlikely that Young will confess to her involvement in her stepdaughter’s case or help authorities recover the body; she’s got nothing to gain by it.