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. Her 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.
This Select It Sunday post, chosen by Elisabeth D., is Star Michelle Palumbo, a young woman missing from Reno, Nevada since April 26, 2000. I have a fair amount of info on her case but I haven’t updated the casefile in almost a decade.
Star was an attractive young woman and 25 when she vanished. Unfortunately she’d gotten involved with meth and, with it, prostitution. Around the time she disappeared she’d gotten very paranoid, probably as a result of her meth use: she believed she was being stalked, that her phone was tapped and the federal government was trying to kill her.
The last person to see her was, apparently, a police officer who found her wandering around the airport tarmac and took her to a hotel. She never checked in.
I have been unable to find any updates on her case. Someone has set up a Facebook page but there’s not much on it.
Although foul play might not necessarily have been involved in her disappearance, I think it’s very unlikely Star is still alive today. But if she is, she’d be 42 now.
I thought I’d do a run-down in the latest news in murder-without-a-body cases:
- Per everybody, Antolin Garcia-Torres has been found guilty of the murder of Sierra Mae Lamar, a fifteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Morgan Hill, California five years ago. Her abduction and killing is of the most terrifying kind: she was just snatched off the street in a random act of violence.
- In Iowa, Tait Purk has been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Cora Ann Okonski, who disappeared from the town of Tama on April 16, 2000. Unlike in Sierra Lamar’s murder, there wasn’t anything in the way of physical evidence here. However, Purk supposedly confessed to at least two other people that he had killed Cora and buried her body.
- No charges have been filed as of yet, but Dale LaFleur‘s grand-nephew, Philip, has confessed to murdering him and the police are looking for the body. Philip is currently in jail for the 2015 murder of another man. He’s only 23 now, and Dale disappeared in 2011, so chances are Philip was a minor when he (allegedly) killed his great-uncle. (Not that it’ll matter.) He says he put Dale’s body inside his (Dale’s) car and dumped it in the Atchafalaya River. Police have said they’ve found an “object” in the river that might be the car. Fingers crossed.
- And as for Peter Kema, alas, I don’t know anything more than I did three weeks ago: namely that Peter Sr. has led police to the alleged disposal spot. I seem to recall some article that claimed the remains were cremated and dumped at sea. If that is so, they’re almost certainly unrecoverable. But I don’t know if that information is correct. There’s a big difference between outright cremating a body and merely setting it on fire. I think if the cops had found something, they would have said so by now, but who knows?
I’m at home. Internet is not shut off yet, so I took the opportunity to update my missing person of the week. This time it’s 18-year-old Jason Lee Armstrong, missing from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unfortunately I know very little about his case, not even the exact date of disappearance — just that his family last heard from him sometime in August 2000. He wasn’t reported missing till 2004.
On June 9, 2000, Francheska Martinez disappeared from Paterson, New Jersey. She was twelve years old; it was the day before her thirteenth birthday. A few days later, the miniskirt and pink top Francheska had been wearing the day she disappeared were found inside a plastic supermarket bag in the driveway outside her mom’s house.
Francheska had a twin sister, Misheila. One month and twelve days after Francheska went missing, Misheila also disappeared. It’s been sixteen and a half years since then and nobody has heard from either of the girls.
Although the NCMEC classifies both sisters as runaways, the phrase “human trafficking” comes to mind. According to her friends, Francheska had a secret “boyfriend” who was 22 years old. I can well understand why he would want to keep such a relationship a secret because, pretty much by definition, there was something very wrong going on there. According to this legal website, if Francheska was having sex with that “boyfriend” he could have faced a very long prison term.
But even if human trafficking was involved here, it’s VERY unusual for these girls to have been gone as long as they have, without a word to anyone or any indication as to what became of them. What do you suppose happened? Let’s talk about it.
Yeah, so tonight I’m taking off for my dad’s place, and early on Monday morning we’re leaving and driving to Philadelphia to visit the Mütter Museum. It’s an anatomical museum with exhibits such as a piece of Einstein’s brain and this skull collection. Anyway, I don’t anticipate being back until Wednesday, so I thought I’d post my MP of the week early.
This week it’s Violet Watzulik, an elderly woman who disappeared from Sarasota, Florida on June 10, 2000. Violet’s son Carl claims she just up and left on an extended cruise and never came back, but the authorities have their doubts. You can see an article copied and pasted on this CrimeWatchers thread, to the effect that Violet’s daughter believes she is dead, and Carl is the self-described “number one suspect” in her case. He still lives in Sarasota and, from what I can tell, has no serious criminal record. I found one arrest in 2011, on a minor drug charge.
Violet was declared legally dead in 2006. She would be 100 years old now, if she was still alive, which I’m quite sure she isn’t.
Chosen by commenter Alpha75, Matthew David Pendergrast disappeared from Memphis, Tennessee on December 1, 2000. He was 23 years old and within weeks of graduating from Rhodes College when he dropped off the map.
From writings Matthew left behind when he disappeared, it looks like he might have had a nervous breakdown of some kind. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder both usually develop in a person’s late teens or early twenties. However, the cops don’t seem to be buying into the mental illness theory and are focusing on possible foul play instead.
Disturbingly, Matthew’s journal said something about going into the water, and they found his vehicle and the clothes he’d been wearing near a swamp. Whatever happened to him, he was probably naked or nearly so.
I did find this long feature article about Matthew’s disappearance in Memphis Magazine.