The latest MWAB news

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?

MP of the week: Jason Armstrong

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.

Let’s talk about it: Francheska and Misheila Martinez

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.

MP of the week, a bit early

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.

Select It Sunday: Matthew Pendergrast

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.

MP of the week: Yinzhou Zheng

This week’s featured missing person is Yinzhou Zheng, missing from Columbia, Missouri since September 2000. Curiously, Zheng’s wife, Xiang Sun, has also disappeared — but not at the same time as him. She went missing several days later. They were supposed to go visit their daughter in Iowa but never showed up.

The Missouri Highway Patrol site now has a poster for the couple; I’ll have to update their pages.

I wish I knew more about these two MPs — it’s one of those “just enough details to drive you nuts” cases. Were it not for the different dates, I would think maybe they got into some kind of car accident.

A strange coincidence

I was looking at NamUs’s newly added cases and saw one for a guy named Eddie Vanneiter. I knew I had an Edward Vannater on Charley and so I pulled him up, thinking they must be the same guy, just with slightly different names. But clearly they aren’t.

Edward vanished from Ohio in 2003; Eddie disappeared from Florida in 2000. Edward was 32; Eddie was 26. Etc. Edward is white; Eddie is black and, from what the details of disappearance says, probably a resident of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. (If he was, he’d be the first Curaçaoan on Charley.)

It reminds me of back in the MPCCN days when the site featured two people named Carlina Francher. If I recall correctly, only did they share the same first and last names, they were also African-American teenage girls missing from New York City.

I’ll add Eddie…well…whenever. I can’t really promise to add anyone at any particular time because I’ve got so many cases in the inbox it’s ridiculous.