Let’s Talk About It: Tiffany Papesh

This week’s “Let’s Talk About It” is Tiffany Jennifer Papesh, an eight-year-old girl who disappeared from Maple Heights, Ohio, in the Cleveland metro area, on June 13, 1980. She’d be 46 today if she is still alive, which is unlikely.

Tiffany’s case is one of the few murder-without-a-body cases where I believe the suspect, Brandon Flagner, may very well be innocent. He was convicted of murder but I really can’t see why. The only thing I can think of is his defense must have been very inadequate.

Flagner confessed to Tiffany’s kidnapping and murder something like 30 times, and he is definitely a serial child molester who had a history of threatening his victims — all young girls — with violence if they didn’t do what he said. Those confessions and his criminal history were, as far as I can tell, pretty much the entire case against him.

However…

Flagner also had an excellent alibi for the time of Tiffany’s abduction: he claims he was at work up until half an hour before Tiffany disappeared. Tiffany’s Charley Project casefile says Flagner’s workplace was 40 miles from where she disappeared; this source says 58 miles. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other: at either distance he wouldn’t have had the time to race over to Maple Heights and abduct the little girl.

Now, it’s true that by the time the police got around to asking, no one specifically remembered seeing Flagner at work that day. But his time card WAS stamped, and furthermore, he worked in a factory production line that needed a certain number of people — him included — to function properly. Since the factory was functioning just fine that day, that seems like a pretty strong indication that Flagner was exactly where he said he was.

The police investigating Tiffany’s disappearance, as well as Tiffany’s own family, think the way that I do, that Flagner is innocent (of this crime anyway) and someone else abducted her. The case is still open. You can see a lot of articles and stuff about Tiffany’s disappearance and Flagner’s conviction here. He made headlines again about ten years ago when he claimed the Ohio Department of Corrections violated his religious rights by forcibly cutting off his beard (he had converted to Orthodox Judaism while in prison).

Flagner comes up for parole in 2019. Given his background as a serial child molester and his insistence that he’s innocent of Tiffany’s murder, I highly doubt he’ll get released then.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the man himself. I think he’s a danger to the community and belongs behind bars, but not for this reason. And as long as he sits in prison convicted of abducting and killing Tiffany Papesh, that means whoever DID abduct Tiffany is still out there.

So what happened here? Does anyone think Flagner is guilty? How did he get convicted in the first place, and how can this problem be fixed? If Flagner didn’t do this, who did? Let’s talk about it.

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Flashback Friday: Wayne Hickman

This week’s Flashback Friday case is Wayne W. Hickman, who disappeared from Missoula, Montana on October 1, 1985. He was 27 years old. Hickman was going to hitchhike to the town of Superior, which Google Maps says is about an hour from Missoula, to have a look at a pickup truck that was for sale. I don’t know if he ever arrived there.

I have to wonder about possible foul play here, especially if Hickman was carrying a large amount of cash to buy the truck with. Perhaps he got picked up by the wrong person. But I don’t have much on the case.

Flashback Friday: Lilli Dunn

Flashback Friday’s case (first time in awhile, I know) is Lilli Marlene Dunn, a 29-year-old Southgate, Michigan woman who was abducted from her own garage in the early morning hours of July 31, 1980. Two witnesses saw a man dragging Lilli, kicking and screaming, into his car, but they thought it was just a domestic quarrel and didn’t intervene.

It’s possible Lilli was a victim of the serial killer Coral Eugene Watts, but he was never charged in her case and he died in 2007.

Yay, NCMEC added an old runaway case!

NamUs has the case of Tebble Anita Garrett, with a reasonable amount of detail — tattoo description, several aliases, was pregnant — but there was (and is, as of this writing) no photo on the casefile. In January I was able to get a photo of her from Newspapers.com and so I added her to Charley, but the photo was a few years out of date — Tebble, it seems, had been a chronic runaway, and the photo I had was from an article about one of her disappearances two or three years prior to 1988.

But yay, the NCMEC has just put up a poster for her! With another photo, presumably more recent!

(And the poster, I note, has a different listed date and place of Tebble’s disappearance than NamUs does. Sometimes NamUs gives the date a person was reported missing as the date of disappearance — they’re hardly the only source that does that either. Given Tebble’s status as a chronic runaway, it’s possible her family didn’t report her missing for six weeks because they expected her to return on her own. Or it’s possible they didn’t report her missing at first, then couldn’t quite remember when she was last seen. Or it’s possible she disappeared from Easley, South Carolina on September 7, then was sighted in Pickens, South Carolina on October 18. The cities are only seven to ten miles apart, after all.)

Anyway. I’m so happy they added her. Tebble’s been missing for almost thirty years now and I really LOVE IT when the NCMEC adds new-old cases. It makes my day, actually. Especially new-old cases I haven’t heard of before. Recently they did Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila, and I was able to get some additional info from the Newspapers.com archive (I LOVE THAT ARCHIVE, thanks for paying for the subscription, you-know-who-you-are) about her case. It reminds me a bit of Beverly Sharpman‘s.

Anyway. Thanks, NCMEC.

Flashback Friday: Randall Dean Leach

This week’s Flashback Friday case is Randall Dean Leach, a twenty-year-old who disappeared from Idaho Falls, Idaho on November 6, 1980. He was planning to hitchhike from Sheboygan, Wisconsin to Bend, Oregon, his first-ever really long hitchhike odyssey. He stopped at a farm in Idaho Falls, stayed for a couple of days and did some work there, then left. He apparently never arrived in Bend.

It’s possible he changed his mind and decided not to go to Bend — Leach’s family described him as a bit of a wanderer and a free-thinker — but I highly doubt that he’s still alive. It seems like if he was able to contact his family, he would have at some point in the past 36 and a half years.

Given the hitchhiking element, he could be anywhere in the country. I wonder if he’s a John Doe somewhere.

Thinking aloud in today’s updates

Yeah, I went a bit nuts this night.

  • Regarding Angelica Gandara:
    It would appear from the neighbor’s account that someone was stalking Angelica prior to her abduction. I’m not sure what to make of the account by the witness in San Antonio, though.
    It’s certainly plausible but I don’t know if it was ever verified — I could find only one article about it. Nowadays it would be pretty easy to verify since I’m assuming all convenience stores have security cameras, but I don’t think that was the case in 1985.
    If that girl WAS Angelica, though, it would seem to indicate she was kept alive for an extended period after her disappearance, which makes me wonder if human trafficking was involved. Perhaps she might even still be alive today.
    The fact that the little girl didn’t ask for help doesn’t mean this witness’s account is discredited — Shasta Groene didn’t ask for help either, although she did keep walking up to people and staring at them in right the face.
  • Regarding Carol Woolsoncroft:
    I tried to find out what Eugene LaFaye is doing nowadays but came up with nothing I could verify. I couldn’t find anyone by that name listed in the sex offender registry. I couldn’t find him listed in the Florida Department of Corrections database.
    I did find mention of a Eugene LaFaye in the Fort Myers area in 1979 and I’m pretty sure this guy was Carol’s boyfriend’s father, since (a) the 1979 Eugene was 65 is and Carol’s Eugene would have been in 19 at the time and (b) I know Carol’s Eugene is a junior, so his father would have had the same name.
    I did find mention of an “incapacitated person” named Eugene LaFaye in the Fort Myers area in 2001. I’m not sure which Eugene this is. Eugene Sr. would have been 87 by then.
    At any rate this is a very sad but all-too-common kind of disappearance — domestic violence. It’s like super-obvious what happened, they just can’t prove it.
  • Also… I found photos of Ivan Gutierrez and Charles Gibson! They’re not even really awful photos, either! I mean, they’re not the greatest, but they’re about as good as you can expect from newspaper archives, and I could finally add the cases to Charley!
    Though why Gibson is in FDLE and Gutierrez isn’t, I don’t know; one of the articles said Gutierrez was officially reported missing by his father. Shrug.

Select It Sunday: Diana Leone

A friend of Diana L. Leone‘s sister asked me to run her case for Select It Sunday. Diana was 35 years old when she disappeared from Las Vegas in February 2000. ┬áHer longtime boyfriend, David Morgan, said she’d run off with another man, leaving all her stuff behind. She wasn’t reported missing until October.

Morgan had a history of brutal domestic violence against Diana — he’d once been charged with attempted murder in connection with his abuse of her — and police believe he’s a serial killer. His second wife, Marie Morgan, and her lover, Gabriel Vincent, disappeared under suspicious circumstances in 1979 and were never found. A business associate of Morgan’s, David Cowan, disappeared in 1982 and was also never found. (Cowan and Morgan aren’t on Charley cause I have no photos or physical information for them.)

Morgan was actually charged with Vincent’s murder in 2007, but five years later, before he was tried, the charges were dropped for lack of evidence because one of the key witnesses had died. Police are pretty sure Morgan killed Diana as well, but he has never been charged. I’m not sure he’s even still alive.