National Hispanic Heritage Month: Suzie Ruiz

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 Suzie Felan Ruiz, a 36-year-old woman who disappeared from San Antonio, Texas on December 16, 2006.

She told her family she was going out to a party, but the police think she was actually going out to buy drugs when she disappeared. Her car turned up abandoned in a field, with its plates removed, which doesn’t sound good at all.

Pride Month: Leonard Taku

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 Leonard Taku, a 44-year-old gay man who disappeared from Tampa, Florida on Christmas Day, 2006.

Taku was from New Zealand and is Maori descent; the Maori people are the indigenous people of New Zealand. He was teaching at a British school at the time of his disappearance, but had come to America for the holidays. He was reported missing when he didn’t return to work at the start of the new year, and in February, his car was found abandoned in the Ocala National Forest in Florida.

I haven’t found any news about Taku in a long time. I don’t know what happened to him but I don’t think it was any good; he sounds like he was a responsible and high-functioning individual who had no reason to just walk away.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Soon Hwang

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 Soon Chon Hwang, a 44-year-old businessman who disappeared from Memphis, Tennessee on September 5, 2006. He owned a grocery store there.

Hwang was at a wholesale grocery shopping, presumably buying stuff to resell at his own store, when he got a call and left in a hurry, leaving his shopping behind. He was never seen again and his truck was found in West Memphis, Arkansas (just over the state border, about twelve minutes from Memphis) that same day.

I couldn’t find any news about this case; the only thing I could find was some court filing where Hwang was listed as a defendant in a lawsuit. The document notes that the sheriff couldn’t serve him because he’d been “missing F/2 yrs.” In fact, by then he’d been missing for three and a half years.

Thinking aloud about some of yesterday’s cases

I will add cases of MPs who are also wanted for some crime or other on a case-by-case basis. Loutonia Alexander has a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear in court on a minor weed charge, and it seems unlikely he’s been hiding since 2006 just because of that.

Sometimes I am a bit leery. Pricella Williams is, for example, listed on the FDLE database as a missing person, so I added her. But I’m pretty sure she’s not so much “missing” as “on the run.” If you Google her name — and make sure to search for Pricella, not Priscilla — the results are, shall we say, interesting. And the cops were seeking to have her designated a habitual offender, meaning she was facing some serious prison time.

Nevertheless, she is listed as a missing person with FDLE, and so I put her up on Charley. It’s entirely on the cards that she hung out with some bad people and something bad happened to her.

I found this PDF of Indiana missing persons and wound up adding dates of birth to loads of cases yesterday. I didn’t note this on the updates page cause that was too insignificant an update in my opinion. I did discover, based off those DOBs, that several of the listed ages on these people’s NamUs page are wrong.

I Googled names from the PDF, trying to get photos of these people so I could add them to Charley. I added several from Fort Wayne, where I live. Ryan Baughman‘s case struck me as pretty sad. On his Facebook page you can see he has two young kids. In his final post, six weeks before his disappearance, he wrote:

baughman

I can certainly understand why Ryan’s family believes he may have ODed or may have met with foul play. The reference to Hells Angels is worrying, though I’m not sure if he literally meant he was involved with them.

I wish I could find a Facebook page for Derrell Sims. I looked but didn’t see one. I really would like some more photos of them because they were apparently taken before he got the face tattoo. Personal Facebook pages of people are great sources of photos, and also tattoos — they often post photos of them, like “Hey, new ink, check it out.”

Some recommended reading for you

I’ve just updated their cases so you can read about the sordid story of missing stepdad and stepdaughter Gary McCullough and Liehnia Chapin on Charley.

However, I highly recommend you check you the really wonderful two-part series on the case: After 10 years missing, is Lena Chapin still alive? and Cover-up, confession and what remains of Lena Chapin.

It is an absolutely awful and somewhat convoluted tale, and an excellent piece of investigative reporting on the part of the Salem News. Good job, guys!

Poor Lena. Poor Gary. I had kind of a deer-in-the-headlights feeling as I read what what down.

MP of the week: Merkedes Jordan

This week’s featured missing person is Merkedes Jordan, a 21-year-old mother of one who disappeared from Meridian, Mississippi on November 7, 2006 — eleven years ago this fall. Unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot on this case. She has a Facebook page set up for her but there’s hardly anything on it, and her NamUs profile has nothing much either.

If anyone out there who knew Merkedes stumbles across this blog post, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Kayannette Gabrielle found after 11 years

Kayannette Eleaya Gabrielle is one of my “few details are available” cases on Charley. That link won’t be working for much longer, though, because I just learned that Kayannette, who disappeared in 2006, has been found alive and was reunited with her children.

She was apparently suffering from severe memory loss and couldn’t recall her identity — mental illness maybe? — and ended up living on the streets of Santa Barbara, 100 or so miles north of where she was last seen. This article explains how she was found:

Around four years ago, Gabrielle ended up in Santa Barbara and often slept outside the main library. She was known in the community as Mary Roberts.

During a stay at the Rescue Mission, Gabrielle befriended Jill Wallerstedt, the director of homeless guest services.

Wallerstedt said Gabrielle suffered from severe memory loss, possibly from a head injury and couldn’t remember her name or Social Security number. Gabrielle often talked about three children, but never mentioned that they belonged to her.

[…]

Gabrielle was cited for sleeping in public and trespassing, but those tickets brought her to the attention of the Restorative Court Program, which also seeks to rehabilitate area homeless and get them off of the streets.

Mureen Brown is a restorative police court liason for the police department and works closely with Hove.

Gabrielle’s complex case was flagged again and the woman was routed through the restorative court system, and connected with a shelter and other services. Brown continued to work tirelessly to help Gabrielle recall her past and solve her identity.

“We work with a lot of vulnerable people out on the streets. Many of them have sad stories and sad situations. We know they all come from a mom, a dad, a brother,” Brown said. “They have somebody they were once tethered to.”

On March 4, 2016, Brown secured a bed for Gabrielle at the homeless shelter PATH Santa Barbara where she stayed and received services for a year.

Two weeks ago, Gabrielle told a staff member that she remembered her name and some personal information. Brown and Hove pulled up Gabrielle’s old drivers license on the computer and searched the missing person database.

“Sure enough, she showed up immediately,” Brown said. “In the six years I’ve been doing this, this is the highlight of my entire time working with the police department. “This is a story about an entire community keeping this woman safe, taking care of her, not giving up hope and at the end of it we have a miracle. It doesn’t happen that often.

This is awesome. And it goes to show that just because a person has been missing a long time, doesn’t mean they’re dead. As my friend Annie likes to say, if you look for a body you might miss a person.