Select It Sunday: Brittanee Drexel

Preston Winfrey, my new web guru, was given the honor of selecting my Sunday case this week, and he chose Brittanee Marie Drexel. Her case has been relatively high profile and bears similarities to Natalee Holloway’s: a beautiful high school student with everything going for her goes off to a resort town and is never seen again. She was seventeen and a junior when she disappeared from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on April 25, 2009. She was from New York and had gone to Myrtle Beach (without parental permission) for spring break.

In 2016, investigators announced they thought they knew what happened to her. The theory is that she was abducted, held against her will and gang-raped for several days. Her abductors planned to sell her into prostitution, but because her disappearance received such widespread publicity, they decided to kill her instead.

This theory is short on evidence, though, and although suspects have been named in the alleged kidnapping, rape and murder, no one has been charged and Brittanee has never been found.

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Strike that, reverse it: murder-without-a-body cases

It has been brought to my attention that Walter Shannon Stevenson, whose case I resolved yesterday, has not been found after all. This article, from which I got the original information, has issued a retraction. A suspect, Jeffrey May, has been charged with his murder, but Walter’s case is currently a no-body homicide.

I hope the body turns up soon. In the meantime, I’ll remove the resolved notice and put up Walter’s casefile again with the next update (probably today).

And speaking of murder-without-a-body cases, it looks like the only indicted suspect in Katherine and Sheila Lyon‘s 1975 disappearances is about to plead guilty. Some articles:

This isn’t the end of the story — there’s another suspect who is also believed to have been involved — but it might be the beginning of the end.

As of this writing, the Corpus Delicti section of Charley — my three lists of murder-without-a-body cases currently on the website — has approximately 615 names. (I saw “approximately” because a few names are on more than one list due to multiple defendants and multiple outcomes. I wish I could find the outcomes for more of those cases on List Three, which surely must have been resolved by now.)

For more details about murder-without-a-body cases, I highly recommend you check out Tad DiBiase’s website (particularly this PDF) and book.

Select It Sunday: Carla Vicentini

Vivi D., a woman from Brazil, asked me to profile fellow Brazilian Carla Vicentini. I was going to make her my MP of the week but decided to do a Select It Sunday case for her instead.

Carla was 22 and living in Newark, New Jersey on a cultural exchange program when she disappeared on February 9, 2006. Vivi D., when asking for me to give the case some publicity, said, “There was not a lot of publicity in her case since she was a student in Brazil, she was there only a month when it happened.” Carla’s Charley Project casefile notes that her case “has been well-covered in the media in Brazil and in Portuguese-language newspapers in New Jersey, but the mainstream American press has given it little attention.”

I haven’t updated Carla’s case since 2009, but I ought to. I found this 2010 article and this 2015 article, both from the Star-Ledger newspaper, with additional details about her case.

She was a very attractive young woman, didn’t speak much English, and was perhaps a bit naive — she grew up in a small farming community in Brazil, and Newark is a pretty rough city. She was last seen leaving a bar with a strange man; my guess is he was either a trafficker or, more likely, a garden-variety predator who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and that he knows what happened to her. The problem is that he has yet to be identified.

Missing Person of the Week: Uma Sewpersaud

Yeah, I was going to do a Make-a-List Monday yesterday of people who disappeared on the fourth of July, but life intervened: I got more and more manic over the weekend and as a result I was awake for two and a half days in spite of lying quietly in bed most of the time. I developed an ear infection and due to the holiday weekend, no outpatient clinics were open, so I had to go to the hospital for treatment. I was bouncing off the walls by this point and they outright asked if I was on drugs. (I was not. Except the ones I’m supposed to be taking.) Then on Monday I finally crashed and slept. all. day.

Anyway. Today’s missing person of the week is Uma Davi Sewpersaud, a thirteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Orlando, Florida on January 28, 2002. Uma is either from Guyana or at least of Guyanese parentage. Guyana is in South America but culturally, it’s Caribbean, and almost half the population is of Indian (that is, Asian) descent, including Uma.

Anyway, the cops think Uma ran away. I hope she really did and hasn’t met with foul play. I mean, it’s been 15 years now. But if she went to Guyana, as the police believe she might have, maybe that’s why she’s fallen off the map.

Oh, and I would like to note (for people who want to identify bodies) that she was tiny, even for her age, when she disappeared. Less than four and a half feet tall and just 70 pounds. (At the same age I was 5’1 or 5’2 and around 90 or 100 pounds.) Maybe if she died shortly after her disappearance and her body was found, they might have thought it was of a younger girl.

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.  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.

Select It Sunday: Star Palumbo

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.

Let’s talk about it: Bryan Hayes and Mark Degner

I find the disappearance of best friends Mark Anthony Degner and Bryan Andrew Hayes puzzling and troubling. They’ve been missing from Jacksonville, Florida since February 1, 2005 — twelve years, nearly twelve and a half.

At first the circumstances of the boys’ cases look pedestrian enough: they were living in a group home, told friends they were going to run away, and apparently did just that. They were even sighted in Holly Hill, a small town south of Jacksonville on the Florida coast, two months later.

And yet.

The boys, at just twelve (Mark) and thirteen (Bryan), were extremely young to have been gone this long. Bryan had run away before, but never for longer than a day, and Mark had no history of running away. Furthermore, they were developmentally delayed, functioning on the level of seven- to ten-year-old children, and both suffered from bipolar disorder.

How could they have remained off the map this long? Did the boys meet with foul play? If they’re still alive, why haven’t they resurfaced and who’s helping them stay hidden? Were relatives investigated? Were some member or members of the boys’ families unhappy that they were living in a group home? Or is it possible they fell victim to sex trafficking? Due to their disabilities. I should think they would have been extremely vulnerable to any kind of exploitation — even more so than most runaways.

The case reminds me of Clayton Lynn McCarter and Rodney Michael Scott, who ran away from a Bowling Green, Kentucky children’s home three and a half years ago and still haven’t been found. They were almost the same age: fifteen and thirteen. Clayton was developmentally delayed and had psychiatric issues, just like Mark and Bryan, and there’s a good chance Rodney had similar problems though I don’t know that for sure. I’m not suggesting McCarter/Scott disappearances are related to Mark and Bryan’s, though, given the distance in both time and space.

So what do you think happened to Mark Degner and Bryan Hayes? Let’s talk about it.