Twelve-year-old missing for four months is classified as a runaway, and other stories

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. Mine was pretty good. Very quiet of course, cause of covid.

In California: the body of Barbara Thomas, a 69-year-old woman who disappeared hiking in the Mojave Desert in 2019, has been found in the desert near Essex.

In Louisiana: they’re still looking for David Claude Yeager, a seventeen-year-old boy who disappeared from Shreveport in 1971, and there’s little indication as to what happened to him. His cousin has created a Facebook page for him.

In Missouri: they’re still looking for Cheryl Anne Scherer, a 19-year-old girl who disappeared from Scott City in 1979. The article doesn’t have a lot in terms of information, just focuses on her family’s pain and grief.

In New York: they’re still looking for Jaylen Griffin, a 12-year-old boy who disappeared under unclear circumstances from Buffalo in August. The police have this preteen listed as a runaway.

In Ohio: they’re still looking for Mary Jane Vangilder, a 33-year-old woman who disappeared from Willard in 1945. They’re going to check some Jane Does and see if any of them are her.

In Pennsylvania: Justo Smoker, who had previously been charged with Linda Stoltzfoos’s kidnapping, has been charged with her murder as well. Linda, an 18-year-old Amish girl, disappeared while walking home from church in Lancaster County back in June. She has never been found. Smoker was arrested on the kidnapping charges in July.

In Texas: they’re still looking for Patty Inez Brightwell Vaughan, a 32-year-old woman who disappeared from La Vernia on Christmas Day, 1996. She went missing after an argument with her estranged husband, who is the prime suspect in her case, but he has never been charged.

In Virginia: they’re still looking for two people missing from the Richmond area: Stephanie Collette Wallace, a 45-year-old woman who went missing from Richmond in 2005, and Robert Lee Hourihan, a 33-year-old man who disappeared from Palmyra in 2011. They also are hoping to identify a white or Hispanic man whose skeletal remains were found near a vacant apartment in Highland Springs in 2014.

In Australia: they’re still looking for Russell Hill and Carol Clay, who disappeared while on a camping trip in the Wonnangatta Valley in eastern Victoria back in May. They are believed to have been murdered.

In Canada: they’re still looking for Melanie Ethier, a 15-year-old girl who disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in her small Ontario town in 1996. Melanie’s birthday is on Christmas Day.

The missing persons articles I would’ve shared on Facebook if I could have

Yeah, for the uninitiated, Facebook is mainly where I share missing persons related news. But as I addressed in my previous entry, that’s not an option right now. So I’m sharing them here:

From Joliet, Illinois: 17 Missing In Will County: One Joliet Case Dates To 1957. Includes a photo of Sarah Elizabeth Avon which I hadn’t previously seen; I have added it.

From Rice County, Kansas: Five years after she disappeared, the search for Megan continues. The Megan here is Megan Renee Foglesong.

From Tarboro, North Carolina: Cold case investigators offer $15K reward in case of missing Edgecombe County man. The missing man, Stephen Frederick MacGray, has been missing for nearly a year — not quite long enough to be eligible for listing on the Charley Project.

From San Luis Obispo, California: This coach last saw his mother in Woodland in 1979; his DNA helped find her body. About the Dolores Wulff case; she disappeared in 1979 and was identified recently.

From Texas: Congressmen introduce bipartisan missing persons bill.

From Valdosta, Georgia: Valdosta police still seek missing mother, son. This is the disappearance of three-year-old Brandon Lee Wade and his mom, Paula, eighteen years ago.

From Mobile, Alabama: Cold Case Mystery: Mobile mother missing for 20 years. That’s Lisa Ann Pierce, who went missing in 2000.

From Battle Creek, Michigan: Amber Griffin remains missing after months of failed searches around Battle Creek. She’s been missing since June.

From Montana: Officials discuss missing persons cases in Montana national parks.

From San Luis Obispo, California: Can new info help solve the case of missing college student Kristin Smart? Also: Was the beeping in a backyard coming from Kristin Smart’s watch? Kristin disappeared in 1996; it’s one of those cases where it’s pretty obvious what must have happened but the cops are having a hard time proving it.

From the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana: BIA, FBI Seeking Missing Child Mildred Old Crow. I added her the other day.

From Sonora, Mexico: Sonora mayor’s gift to mothers of missing persons: shovels and buckets.

Sorry for the recent silence

Yeah, I haven’t updated in a bit and I’m sorry. The last week has been super busy, mainly with wedding stuff. Michael and I are getting married Saturday.

I picked up my dress at the alterations place yesterday and it fits me perfectly. In my completely unbiased opinion I’m going to be the most beautiful bride in the world. There’s not going to be any honeymoon because of Covid. Michael will go back to work on Monday and so will I.

So, in lieu of Charley Project updates, here’s a sample of the more interesting recent missing and unidentified persons news:

  1. A woman whose body was found off Interstate 5 in Sacramento, California in 1981 has been identified as 26-year-old Lily Prendergast, who was last seen when she left her family’s Texas home in late 1980.
  2. John Michael Carroll disappeared from Victor, Idaho in 2005. His skeletal remains were found “in the general area” where he lived in 2013, and were identified this month.
  3. Hollis Willingham has been arrested in the murder of Jim Craig Martin, who disappeared from Normangee, Texas on August 6, 2007. It doesn’t look like Martin’s body has been found, however.
  4. Thomas Drew disappeared from Salisbury, Connecticut in 2007. He used to be on Charley but then his daughter asked me to remove the case. She didn’t like what I’d written, I guess. Anyway, he is still missing, and his daughter has recently published a memoir, Searching for My Missing Father: An American Noir. It sounds very interesting and I added it to my wishlist.
  5. Blackfeet Community College, in corroboration with Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force, has launched a website to help streamline missing persons reports of Native American people: “The website [linked here] allows families and friends to complete a Contact Information Form about the missing person online. In the past, missing persons’ loved ones have expressed reluctance to report missing individuals directly to law enforcement. The BCC reporting system will serve as the go-between for those reporting and all levels of law enforcement. Once the form is submitted on the website, an automatic notice will be sent to local tribal law enforcement.”
  6. A woman’s torso found washed ashore in the seaside community of Benicia, California in 1979 has been identified as Dolores Wulff, who disappeared from Woodland, California that year. Dolores’s husband Carl Wulff Sr. had actually been charged with her murder in 1985, but the charge was dismissed later that year and he died in 2005.
  7. A skull found on Mount Hood in Oregon in 1986 has been identified as that of Wanda Ann Herr, who had left a Gresham, Oregon group home a decade earlier at the age of nineteen. No missing persons report was filed at the time and the most recent photo available showed her at age twelve. The police are asking anyone who knew Wanda or has any info on her 1976 disappearance to contact them.
  8. The police have identified a new suspect in the 1973 disappearance of Barbara Jean Aleksivich from Bath, New York. The suspect, Richard W. Davis, is now dead, but he was recently identified through DNA as the killer of Siobhan McGuinness, a Missoula, Montana six-year-old who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 1974. Barbara, who was 24, was way out of Richard Davis’s preferred age range for victims, but he did live in Bath at the time Barbara disappeared. A previous suspect in her case, who still lived in the Bath area last I knew, has been cleared.
  9. The body of Ethan Bert Kazmerzak, who disappeared from Hampton, Iowa in 2013, has probably been found. At least they found his car submerged in a local pond, with human remains inside. The remains have been sent to the state medical examiner to be identified, but it’s highly unlikely it’s anyone but Ethan.

One murder trial ends while another begins

Brendt Christensen has been convicted of the murder of 26-year-old doctoral student Yingying Zhang, whose body has never been found.

Of course Yingying’s Charley Project casefile has the basics. I also recommend this Washington Post article, which links to a partial transcript of the trial. And there’s plenty of other news articles about this available.

There remains the punishment phase: LWOP, or the death penalty? (The state of Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but because Brendt was tried in federal court he can be executed.) The defense’s primary objective, as they said from the outset of the trial, is to save Brendt from the death penalty. I have a hard time imagining how they’re going to accomplish this.

Given the recorded confession and the blood found at Brendt’s apartment, the defense in this case is waging an uphill battle with a 50mph wind in their faces. But even so, their argument strikes me as pathetically weak: Brendt totally isn’t a vile human being and would-be (or, perhaps, actual) serial killer, not at all! He only kidnapped, raped, murdered and decapitated a complete stranger because he was depressed and flunking out of college and felt like a failure!

To which I say: SO WHAT? Lots of people are depressed. I’ve been depressed since I was in middle school. Lots of people flunk out of college. Most people feel like a failure at some point in their life. That isn’t an excuse to go out and murder some poor woman you don’t even know.

In other news, yesterday John Bayerl’s murder trial began in Wisconsin (which happens to be Brendt Christensen’s home state). John’s wife, DonaMae, disappeared in 1979 and was never seen again. Suspicion hovered over him for decades before he was finally arrested early this year.

I’m a bit surprised they’re going to trial so quickly; in most murder cases (as in Yingying’s) years pass between arrest and trial. But John is 79 and not getting any younger; I suppose he’s hoping they’ll acquit him and he can return to his retirement home in Florida and die on a beach instead of in jail.

John is another absolute turd and I firmly believe he killed his wife. I just hope the prosecution can prove it.

Murder-without-a-body cases galore!

So, someone found a photo of Eli Robert Sharclane on Facebook so I was able to add his case to the Charley Project. I’ve blogged about his case before; it’s kind of unusual. A guy threw him off a bridge fifty feet down to the freezing water and he was never seen again, but the suspect was only convicted of ATTEMPTED murder, because it was 1977 and no-body homicide convictions were not really a thing yet.

More information has been released about the 1991 disappearance of Sabrina Leigh Long. All we knew before was that a female suspect was arrested and charged with kidnapping, someone who’d attended Sabrina’s high school but wasn’t in her year, and the police said multiple people were involved.

Well, this article has a LOT more stuff about the case. Basically, Sabrina said she was supposed to visit a neighbor on the day of her disappearance, but the neighbor said she wasn’t expected and he had no idea why she said she was going to see him. The neighbor, Keith Loyd, had an alibi and wasn’t a suspect in her case, but in 2017 he died by suicide and left a note implicating himself and Melinda McSwain (the woman now charged in Sabrina’s kidnapping) in Sabrina’s disappearance.

Loyd’s alibi for Sabrina’s disappearance had been that he was out with his girlfriend. I wonder if that girlfriend was McSwain. If both of them had kidnapped and killed Sabrina, it would be easy for them to alibi each other.

DonaMae Bourgeois Bayerl‘s husband John has been arrested at his retirement home in Florida and charged with murder. I’m so happy; he’s been a suspect for a very long time. I’ve met DonaMae’s family before; they attend the Wisconsin missing persons events.

Also, yesterday they held closing arguments in the trial of Liam McAtasney for the murder of 19-year-old Sarah L. Stern. She disappeared from Neptune, New Jersey in 2016. The second suspect, Preston Taylor, allegedly helped dispose of her body. He pleaded guilty and testified against McAtasney. The verdict is expected next week.

And Thomas Skeek is on trial for the murder of his wife, Linda Skeek, who disappeared in 2016. Per this article, case had been “shrouded in secrecy” and it wasn’t until the trial actually began that it became public knowledge that Linda’s body was never found. I haven’t heard of this case before. I’ll have to add her. [UPDATE: I did.]

Black History Month: Dwaun Cox

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 Dwaun Thomas Cox, a 23-year-old man who went missing from Columbus, Ohio on November 21, 1979.

His car turned up abandoned in Logan, Ohio, which is about fifty miles southeast of Columbus. I don’t know where in Logan it was found or when it was found, but usually when an MP’s vehicle is found abandoned that’s not a good sign.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Pinkie Davis-Herron

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 Pinkie Mae Davis-Herron, who is of Hispanic and African-American descent. She was 23 when she disappeared from Del Valle, Texas on or about September 3, 1979; the exact date of her disappearance isn’t entirely certain.

It sounds like Pinkie had a hard life. She was only fourteen when she married, which even by 1970 standards was very young. I wonder if she got married because she was pregnant. Five years and two children later, she and her husband had divorced. I’m not sure who was caring for the children. By the time of her disappearance, she was working at a motel and bar, the Tex Golden Nugget.

She is missing under unclear circumstances and it’s been almost 40 years. If still alive, she’d be 62 today.

Much ado about nothing?

So I wrote earlier about how they were digging up a suspected mass grave in Michigan, and thought as many as five missing girls might be there. I’ll list them again:

  1. Cynthia Coon, 13, missing from Washtenaw County since January 19, 1970
  2. Nadine Jean O’Dell, 16, missing from Inkster since August 16, 1974
  3. Kimberly Alice King, 12, missing from Warren since September 16, 1979
  4. Kim Marie Larrow, 13, missing from Canton since June 8, 1981
  5. Kellie Marie Brownlee, 17, missing from Novi since May 20, 1982

Well, after a solid week out there with shovels and relatives pitching in (!), the dig is finished and they found…nothing. No human remains.

Obviously this is a profound disappointment for everybody and I have to wonder if there’s anyone out there at all. The police haven’t given up, at least not officially; they stated they quit in part because of weather and in part because they were “evaluating today what our next step is.”

So they’re digging up a suspected mass grave in Michigan

For the past several days cops have been excavating a farm in Michigan outside of Detroit, where they think several longtime missing girls are buried. The property used to be owned by Arthur Nelson Ream, who is currently serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of Cynthia Jocelyn Zarzycki.

Cindy was 13 when she disappeared in 1986. Her boyfriend, Scott Ream, was Arthur Ream’s son. Arthur told Cindy he was going to have a surprise party for Scott’s birthday, and invited her to come. She brought a mixtape to give to Scott. But there was no party; it was all an excuse for Arthur to get her into his car.

In 2008, Arthur lead investigators to Cindy’s body, buried in a shallow grave along the Clinton River in Macomb Township, Michigan. Well, apparently after his imprisonment he started talking about some other murders he allegedly committed.

The other possible victims (all from Michigan) include:

  1. Cynthia Coon, 13, missing from Washtenaw County since January 19, 1970
  2. Nadine Jean O’Dell, 16, missing from Inkster since August 16, 1974
  3. Kimberly Alice King, 12, missing from Warren since September 16, 1979
  4. Kim Marie Larrow, 13, missing from Canton since June 8, 1981
  5. Kellie Marie Brownlee, 17, missing from Novi since May 20, 1982

And here’s some articles about it:

I have this to say

You know, I rarely openly criticize the police, because I am not a police officer and I do not know what they know, but I have to say the cops in David Morrison‘s case were a bunch of idiots.

I mean, you see a body floating in water just a few feet deep, practically within arm’s length of shore, and it’s windy and the lake is choppy and it’s LAKE MICHIGAN, it’s not a little pond or anything, and you don’t bother to fetch it? Just chill out on the shoreline and watch the lake take the body away?

Genius. And someone probably got away with murder because of it. Hard to prosecute without a body, particularly in 1979.

That is all.