People’s judgmental attitude in internet comments sometimes drives me mad

I often interact with the people who comment on stuff I post on the Charley Project’s Facebook page; I consider it my duty, as the admin of that page, to do so, and also I usually enjoy discussing things with them. We are, after all, talking about items of mutual interest. But sometimes people just… argh.

I put up an article recently written about the Bianca Noel Piper case (the article was of the “we’re still looking for” variety, nothing new), and immediately a bunch of commenters started saying awful things about her mother for making her go on that walk back to their house so she could chill out and deal with her anger. One of them even accused the mother of “abandoning” Bianca.

Well, here are the facts:

  1. The walk was about a mile. That’s not very far. It may seem like a long way since everyone is accustomed to driving these days, but a person Bianca’s size and age can walk a mile in ten or fifteen minutes.
  2. It was a rural area, not a big city.
  3. Bianca’s mother cooperated fully with the investigation and is not a suspect in her case.
  4. Bianca’s mother, by making her go for a walk, was following the advice of Bianca’s therapist, and they had tried the walking treatment before and it had been helpful. Loads of people go for a walk alone to cool down when they’re angry, and it’s a commonly recommended method of anger management.

I’m sure Bianca’s mother has regretted what she did every day of her life in the past sixteen years. But I do not think she did anything wrong here. She was following medical advice and the advice given sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I think Bianca was just very unlucky. And certainly casting judgment on her mom at this late date is not going to help at all.

Bianca was tall for her age, and heavy. I think that in the evening light, from a distance, she would have looked more like a woman than a child. My guess is some predator driving by saw her walking alone and grabbed her. Wrong place, wrong time.

I also grew up in a rural area and in the late nineties, as a young girl Bianca’s age, or younger, would often wander around by myself on foot or bicycle, sometimes traveling up to fifteen miles from home. It did me no harm and in fact I benefited from it. I got exercise and fresh air and learned how to amuse myself. It bothers me a lot that so much judgment is heaped on parents these days that it seems like they are expected to swaddle their youngsters in cottonwool until they graduate high school — and then people wonder why young college-age adults have no idea how to take care of themselves.

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.

MP of the week: Edward Bryant

This week’s featured missing persons case is Edward Dylan Bryant, an boy who was about eight when he was last seen sometime in 2001. He and his biological brother, Austin Eugene Bryant, had been adopted out of foster care by Edward Eugene Bryant and Linda Kay Bryant in 2000. The couple adopted nine children in all, including Austin and Edward’s younger brother. They lived in Monument, Colorado.

Austin disappeared sometime between 2003 and 2005, but his disappearance was not discovered until 2011. Only after then did the authorities realize Edward was missing also. Neither of them has ever been found.

It’s an extremely sad story and it’s likely both children met with foul play at the hands of their “parents.” The Bryant parents have never been charged in either child’s disappearance, but they were each sentenced to decades in prison for theft, since they accepted public assistance payments for Edward and Austin after the boys had disappeared.

I haven’t seen any updates on the case since 2012, when Linda was sentenced to 42 years in prison. (Her husband got 30 years.) I hope the police haven’t given up on finding out what happened to those poor boys.

Native American Heritage Month: David George

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 David Post George, age 21. I don’t have any tribal info for him.

He was last seen in Juneau, Alaska on March 7, 2005, but for some reason he wasn’t reported missing till 2007. I have no other information.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Nina Herron

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 Nina Brenda Herron, who disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 14, 2005. She was 21 years old.

Nina is one of MANY women missing from Albuquerque. Eleven victims between the ages of fifteen and thirty-two (and one fetus) were found in a mass grave in the desert on the West Mesa; those murders remain unsolved. Many of other women remain missing, however, and it’s unclear whether their disappearances are tied to the West Mesa murders.

If still alive, Nina would now be 35.

MP of the week: Edd Lope

This week’s featured missing person is Edd Dominic “Eddie” Lope, a 28-year-old Native American man who disappeared from Washington, Utah on June 21, 2005. He was last seen at his home in Washington during the early morning hours. His truck was later found abandoned on a dirt road just across the Arizona border.

I don’t have a lot of information on this case. Lope’s right thumb doesn’t bend for some reason; there’s probably something wrong with the bone that might be an important identifying characteristic.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Diana Gonzalez

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 Diana Isabel Gonzalez, a fifteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Raeford, North Carolina on October 15, 2005.

Her case is classified as a non-family abduction; she left, apparently voluntarily, with a 29-year-old man, Jose Barrera-Pacheco, who was a friend of her family. Barrera-Pacheco called her parents to say he was in love with her and they would never see her again. Barrera-Pacheco has a warrant out for kidnapping. They may be in Mexico or California.

If still alive, Diana would be 28 years old by now. She’s probably got a couple of kids. It’s strange that in all these years she’s NEVER reached out to her family. I think social media may be a good way to solve this case; Diana may have social media profiles, even if they’re not under her real name.

MP of the week: Charles Rutherford Jr.

This week’s featured missing person is Charles “Chuck” Rutherford Jr., a 34-year-old attorney who disappeared with his girlfriend, Lana Stempien, while they were boating on Lake Huron on August 11, 2005.

Rutherford and Stempien at the Presque Isle Marina in Presque Isle, Michigan, and planned to go to Mackinac Island, but never arrived. Their boat was found idling in the lake, ten miles off Mackinac Island, the next day. Two weeks later, Stempien’s body washed ashore. There was elevated carbon monoxide in her blood, but the cause of death was drowning.

In spite of some mutterings about foul play and things being “mysterious”, it looks to me like Rutherford was probably also the victim of an accidental drowning; there’s a theory that they went swimming and became overcome with fumes from the boat motor.

Black History Month: Jestin Grier

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Jestin Lamar Grier, a 21-year-old who disappeared from Canton, Ohio on March 16, 2005.

Jestin was last seen in a high-risk situation: he was on his way to sell cocaine to a customer. A friend dropped him off at the customer’s apartment building, but he was never actually seen inside the building and his customer said he never showed up for the deal.

In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that Jestin hasn’t collected any of his disability benefits or been arrested since his disappearance, the police were saying they thought he walked out of his life.

If he did so, he did so very thoroughly. I find it hard to believe that Jestin, who had psychological issues and an anger management problem and several prior arrests, is alive and well and has just been able to completely avoid contact with law enforcement for the past fourteen years.

But if he is still alive, he would be 35 today.

Pride Month: Edmond Tillman

In honor of Pride Month I’m featuring a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer missing person every day for the month of June. Today’s case is Edmond Tillman, a fourteen-year-old boy who went missing from Manhattan on August 10, 2005. He is gay and had recently come out to his mother. He was supposedly dating someone older, and his case is classified as a runaway.

At this point, a full thirteen years later, I have to wonder if Edmond really did run away, or if did but he came to harm afterwards — perhaps trafficking. I also wonder if his coming-out to his mom was really as smooth as she says. A lot of LGBTQ teens run away because feel were rejected by their families.

I hope he turns up alive and well and happy, wherever he is.