Flashback Friday: Belinda VanLith

This week’s Flashback Friday case is Belinda VanLith, a 17-year-old girl who disappeared from the Little Eagle Lake area of Wright County, Minnesota on June 15, 1974. (I wrote an Executed Today entry set in Wright County.) She disappeared from a neighbor’s residence where she was house-sitting.

I looked up the name of the suspect, Timothy Joseph Crosby, in Newspapers.com and found several articles that mentioned him. He was very young when Belinda disappeared, only seventeen or eighteen, but according to court documents he’d already started abducting and sexually assaulting young women. This article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about Belinda’s disappearance. As of 2013, anyway, Crosby was off the streets as a civilly committed “violent sexual recidivist.”

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There’s been a social media storm these last 24 hours

For those who haven’t heard, there’s a woman who claims she is Jennifer Klein who disappeared in 1974. This story has been floating around the internet for about a month, but yesterday there was a YouTube video published where the woman claimed she had DNA testing done and it proved her identity.

This woman also claims her abductors were members of a Satanic cult and that they kidnapped Kurt Newton and Etan Patz (who both disappeared in the 1970s, across the country from Jennifer) as well. She says she was brainwashed and didn’t start remembering what happened until after she was injured in a car accident.

As for what I think, well, I didn’t write this editorial but it pretty much sums up my own position on the matter.

Hopefully the truth will come out over the next few days or so. Until then, that’s all I’ve got to say.

43 years ago

Per this article, the authorities have finally identified Rudy Redd Victor, a 20-year-old Native American man from New Mexico, 43 years after his disappearance. (The article gives his date of disappearance as June 15, 1974; the Charley Project has it as July 21. Shrug. Perhaps July 21 is the date he was reported missing.) Anyway:

A decade after he fled the car during a fight with his girlfriend, who Victor was traveling with on their way back to his family’s home in Colorado, a skull was turned into the Lewis and Clark County coroner.

The skull was actually first found two years prior in the same canyon by a brand inspector, who kept the skull as a souvenir of sorts after locating it while wrangling cattle on the steep hillside in 1982.

Investigators visited the hillside and found more remains, including the lower jaw. They also found a cross with a turquoise center and remnants of a red T-shirt next to a pine tree.

[…]

Air Force investigators traveled to Wolf Creek to see the hillside where Victor’s remains were found. They, alongside the county coroner, a detective in the original case and others, climbed the steep terrain to the tree where it is believed Victor died. During the initial investigation into the case, officials found a wire noose hanging from the tree. Suicide is suspected… 

The official death certificate lists the cause of death as undetermined.

All I can say is…never say never.

Strike that, reverse it

Remember my happy announcement that Linda Pagnano was identified with help from Carl Koppelman’s forensic art and Websleuther Ice190’s research? Well, erm, it turns out the announcement was a bit premature. Carl got the news from Linda’s family that dental records proved it was her, but it seems the medical examiner wants to wait for DNA results to make it official.

Sorry about that, y’all.

That said, I’d be VERY surprised if this body turned out to be someone other than Linda. See for yourself at the above link; all the stats match and she very closely resembles Carl’s drawing of the UID.

Linda Pagano identified

Per Carl Koppelman, Linda Marie Pagano has been identified. (That link’s not gonna work much longer; I intend to remove her today.) The seventeen-year-old had been missing from Akron, Ohio since September 1, 1974, but I think she wasn’t added to NamUs till last year, and I just added her case last month. She was beautiful, doe-eyed. Her body was found in Strongsville, Ohio, less than an hour from Akron, in February 1975, only a few months after Linda disappeared, but no one made the connection until now. In fact the UID wasn’t even listed on NamUs until June of last year. Carl says,

An online sleuth discovered this forgotten case while researching cemeteries for graves of John and Jane Doe’s. Websleuths member Ice190 [whom I know, she’s a Facebook friend] obtained the casefile via a FOIA request.

(Muttergrumble. Just how many more of these forgotten UIDs are out there?)

Just to show what an amazing, talented forensic artist Carl is, I’m going to show his drawing of the UID. He calls it a “rough reconstruction” because he had only the side view to work with, and no lower jaw. Yet it looks amazingly like Linda. Here’s Carl’s drawing on the left, and a photo of Linda on the right (I cropped Carl’s drawing and made it smaller because I don’t have a bigger picture of Linda).

lindapaganopagano_linda

Linda had been shot in the head, and her hands and feet were deliberately removed. Her mandible was missing also, though I’m not sure whether this was done by the killer or by nature.

Since the killer made a considerable effort to make sure Linda wouldn’t be identified, my guess is he or she was someone Linda knew. Given how long ago she died, there’s a good chance her killer is also deceased. But at least her family will get the opportunity to bury her decently.

MP of the week: Alice Jefferson

This week’s featured missing person is Alice Fay Jefferson. Considering that we don’t know when she disappeared, not even the precise year, there’s a fair amount of info available: she was living on an Army base in Kentucky with her husband, a soldier, and her two children. She vanished mysteriously while the kids were at school; no one came to pick them up that day and eventually they walked home alone. Alice’s husband behaved oddly after her disappearance and with a few days he’d dumped the kids at their grandparents’ house.

Alice wasn’t reported missing until 2013. There are articles saying she disappeared “in the summer of 1975” and this article names July as the month. However, Alice is also featured on the NCMEC website, and they’re not supposed to have cases of missing adults 21 and over, and if Alice disappeared in the summer of 1975 she would have been 21. So I put down that it’s possible she disappeared in 1974.

As to the month… the kids say they were in school, which seems unlikely in July.

Select It Sunday: Sharon Baldeagle

This week’s Select It Sunday is Sharon Baldeagle (often named as Sharon Bald Eagle), chosen by Fluttergirl. She was twelve when she disappeared on September 18, 1984, and her case has for some reason fascinated me since I started getting interested in MPs, back when I was the same age that Sharon was when she was taken. I actually blogged about her once before, exactly three years and one week ago.

Sharon and a fifteen-year-old friend ran away from Eagle Butte, South Dakota, which is on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, the fourth-largest reservation in the U.S. Sharon was Native American, presumably Cheyenne River Sioux, and probably her friend was too. They were hitchhiking in Casper, Wyoming, almost a six-hour drive from home, when they got picked up by Royal Russell Long, a truck driver who took them to his house in Evansville. There he attacked them, raping the older girl and beating Sharon. Sharon’s friend escaped and went for help, but by the time the authorities arrived at the scene, Long and his other captive were gone.

Long wasn’t arrested until the following year; by then he’d gone to New Mexico. He claimed Sharon was alive and well the last time he saw her, but let’s face it, what are the chances of that? He was convicted of two counts of kidnapping — that of Sharon and her friend — and died in prison 25 years ago.

Long was probably serial killer; he’s also a suspect in the cases of Carlene Brown, Christy Gross, Deborah Rae Meyer, Jayleen Dawn Baker, Charlotte June Kinsey, and Cinda Leann Pallett, who ranged in age from ten to nineteen. Carlene and Christy disappeared together from a rodeo in Rawlins, Wyoming in July 1974, and Deborah and Jayleen disappeared, nineteen days apart, from the same area in August of that year. Cinda and Charlotte from a fair in Oklahoma in 1981 — Long was actually charged with their murders, but the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Only Christy and Jayleen’s bodies were ever found.

I think it’s pretty obvious what must have happened to Sharon; I only wish her family had answers. Her father was alive as 2013 and still hoping to find her — he looked all over the country for her. I’m not sure if he’s still living as he had cancer in 2013, but I can’t find an obituary for him.

I wonder if anyone’s ever written a book about Royal Russell Long. Serial killers are a popular topic in literature, after all. If someone has, I’d love to read it.