MP of the week: Richard Bendele

This week’s featured missing person is Richard Willis “Rick” Bendele, a 29-year-old man who was last seen hunting pheasants in Blaine County, Idaho, in the Laidlaw Park area, on November 17, 1996. He called his mom at six o’clock to say his pickup had stalled on a remote road and he thought someone had tampered with it, and this is the last time anyone saw or heard from him.

His mom and girlfriend tried to find him, but weren’t able to and reported him missing in the early morning hours the next day. The next day a search party found the truck, abandoned and apparently vandalized. No sign of Bendele.

I’m not sure what happened to him, but the fact that his coat was found in the truck and searchers later found one (and only one) of his shoes is not a good sign. I think he probably died the same day he disappeared or maybe a day or so later, but it’s not clear whether foul play was involved. The police are open to that possibility.

Info released in Kristin Smart case

Paul Flores was charged with the murder of Kristin Smart back in April. Last week a judge unsealed court documents about the case and the information contained therein is pretty horrifying.

It looks like Paul may have been a serial rapist since as far back as the late 90s. (Kristin disappeared in 1996.) TWENTY-NINE women have accused him of “sexual misconduct” and general creepy behavior. Four of those women have said he drugged and raped them. One of them said she told Paul he was hurting her, but he wouldn’t stop and forced a ball gag into her mouth. When the police searched his home they found rape-themed pornography and homemade videos of Paul having sex with different women who appeared to be drifting in and out of consciousness.

Paul’s father, Ruben Flores, is believed to have buried Kristin’s remains under his deck, then later moved them. Police found a patch of disturbed soil there with traces of blood, though they couldn’t get DNA. A man who rented a room from Ruben said Ruben had spoken about the case and referred to Kristin as a “dirty slut.” I guess we know where Paul gets his attitude from.

Yeah, the circumstances are all starting to add up.

And I keep thinking that if the police hadn’t dropped the ball in 1996, perhaps all those women would not have been victimized by Paul Flores in his later years.

They finally made an arrest in the Kristin Smart case

Well, it’s about time: Paul Flores has been charged with murder in the 1996 disappearance of Kristen Denise Smart. They were both students at Cal Poly when she went missing and she was last seen in his company on campus. He’s been a suspect pretty much ever since. Paul’s father, Ruben, has been charged with being an accessory to the murder.

It’s been a quarter-century. I had thought this would never happen, unless they found Kristen’s body. As far as I know, they haven’t. I don’t know whether they just decided there was some time, or if some other evidence came up, or what.

I would think the Smart family would have mixed feelings about this day — justice will be done, but their daughter isn’t coming back and it’s official now.

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.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Ann Lombard

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 Ann Lombard, aka Ana Lombard or Auriana Taylor, who disappeared from Placitas, New Mexico on April 29, 1996. She was 31.

It sounds likely that Ann was murdered by her live-in boyfriend, James Taylor, who claims she just left him. I’ll let the casefile tell more:

He and Lombard had a troubled relationship. In 1990, Lombard accused Taylor of holding her down and burning her on a stove. In 1992, one of Lombard’s children claimed he saw Taylor rape his mother and spray chemicals in her face.

Taylor was seen digging a large hole in his front yard the day after Lombard vanished. He asked a neighbor for digging equipment to repair a leaky septic tank. Police searched the yard when they learned about this, but the search turned up no evidence.

In 2002, Taylor allegedly choked his wife and threatened to “kill her like he did Ann.” In 2010, he was arrested at his Des Moines, Iowa home after a five-hour police standoff; he’d called 911 to say he was armed, poured gasoline all over his house and threatened to set it on fire. He has never been charged in Lombard’s case due to a lack of evidence.

Sounds like a real great guy, Taylor. I hope he gets what’s coming to him.

Ann Lombard left behind seven children. If still alive today, she’d be 56.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Rachel Mellon

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Rachel Marie Mellon, also known as Rachel Mellon Skemp, a thirteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Bolingbrook, Illinois on January 31, 1996. She is listed as Asian, but I think she may have some Caucasian ancestry as well.

Rachel had stayed home sick from school on the day of her disappearance. Her stepfather, Vince Mellon, said she was lying on the couch when he went to take the dog for a walk, and when he came back, she was gone.

Vince himself has been a suspect in Rachel’s case for years, though. Rachel had written in her diary that he kissed her and touched her inappropriately, and he had scratches on him after her disappearance. There just isn’t enough evidence at present to charge anyone, however.

Articles about other kids in the wake of Jayme’s recovery

As often happens when a high-profile missing child is found, especially when they’re found safe, news agencies are dusting off their local missing kid cases and being all like, “Hey, you know how Jayme Closs was found? Here’s some kids missing in YOUR area and their parents hope they’ll get found too.” So far we’ve got:

I highly doubt Adji or Diana is alive. Adji is a special needs child and if he was abducted, I don’t think the abductor could have kept him long without attracting some attention. As for Diana, a suspect has been charged with her murder.

Native American Heritage Month: Anthony Sam

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is Anthony Kitsap Sam, who disappeared from Auburn, Washington on April 17, 1996, at the age of 29.

I’m not 100% sure of Sam’s tribal info, but if this man is his father, that would make him Tulalip (pronounced tuh-lay-lip). Unfortunately I can’t find anything about his disappearance.

Native American Heritage Month: Betty Claw

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I’m featuring a Native American missing person for every day in the month of November. Today’s missing person is Betty Ann Claw, a 49-year-old woman who disappeared from Farmington, New Mexico in 1996. November 28, Thanksgiving Day, was the last day anyone in her family saw her. I don’t know her tribal information.

For some reason, Betty Claw is not listed on the New Mexico state missing persons database. Her case got some media attention early this year when local outlets published articles appealing for information, but there isn’t a whole lot out there.

If still alive, Betty Claw would be in her seventies now.