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.

Advertisements

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.

Latest MP news

(I know I’ve been a lazy-butt and not updated for like a week. I hit my head last Friday and my head was killing me for days afterwards in spite of the application of ice packs etc. On Saturday I went to ER because I thought I might have a concussion. They did tests, and said no, and prescribed some completely ineffective painkillers. I actually went back a few days later because my head was still hurting horribly and they did the same tests and said I was fine. Well, the headache finally stopped. Maybe it was the weather — we’ve had horrible storms and humidity all week, and things finally cleared up today.)

  • As various commenters and emailers have noted: Francine Frost (missing from Oklahoma, 1981) and Joseph Spears (missing from Mississippi, 1973) have both been identified.
  • Joseph was 17 when he escaped from a juvenile detention center. Less than a month later, he’d made it to Texas and was crossing a freeway when he was hit by a vehicle and killed. He was finally identified this month. Per this article:
    Mary Raskin, mother of missing teen Joseph “Joey” Norman Spears, ended up looking at pictures of her son’s body to positively identify him, Harrison County Sheriff’s Investigator Kristi Johnson said Monday.
    Officials with the Galveston medical examiner’s office were unable to get a proper DNA sample from Spears’ body to confirm the identity, Johnson said. Instead, they called on Harrison County cold case investigators to provide all the facts they had on the case for comparison to the evidence Texas officials had on hand.
    Mary Raskin, Spears’ mother, identified her son.
    “I have mixed emotions,” Johnson said after learning the news. “I am relieved the case is solved but I know it’s not the outcome Mrs. Raskin was hoping for. I’m sad for her but I’m glad she is getting the answers she was searching for for 43 years. The family has shared their appreciation for us working on this.”
  • As for Francine, her body was found in Muskogee County, Oklahoma two years after her disappearance. She was 43 years old. Per this article: a year ago Francine’s family heard about the Muskogee remains and got a court order to exhume and test for DNA:
    Vernon Martin, the superintendent of Green Hill Cemetery, helped make it happen.
    He said there are about 1,400 unidentified bodies buried there – many of them dating back before statehood.
    He took us back to the plot where Frost’s remains stayed for more than 30 years before they were finally identified.
    “This is actually greater than the pay that you receive in this job, the people that we come across on a daily basis and able to help them through their loss, whether it’s last week, or, in this case, 1981,” Martin said.
    Unlike with Joey Spears, this case is obviously still not over yet. Joey died in an accident; Francine appears to have been abducted and murdered. Her family has half the answer now — that is, they have her back and they can bury her — but I’m sure they’d also like to know who killed her.
    (An Oklahoma TV show actually wanted to interview me about Francine and in particular about identifying long-buried John and Jane Does, but I had spent the day in bed nursing that headache. I didn’t even check my email until 10:00 p.m. and thus missed the interview opportunity. Oh well.)
  • The case of long-missing Quebecois child Yohanna Cyr is back in the news, because a woman in the United States has come forward and thinks she’s Yohanna. Usually I don’t pay too close attention to claims like this, because it’s hardly ever the missing person. But this one has me wondering, because, as this article says, both Yohanna and the American woman have a Y-shaped birthmark on their index finger. I blogged about Yohanna twice, once in 2014 and once in 2011. In the 2011 entry, Yohanna’s mom posted a comment in French.
  • You guys may have heard about the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania twins who disappeared at some indeterminate time years ago — some articles say 10 years, some say 13-14 years. Mom claimed she sold them, but retracted her story after she was informed this was a crime. The first time authorities realized the kids were missing was when CPS sent the cops to the house to remove all the kids, and the cops duly removed the four they found, and CPS was like, “Um, she actually has six.”
    NamUs has profiles for the kids: Inisha Fowler and Ivon Fowler. The only picture that I’ve been able to find is a photo of them as babies, side by side, and I have no idea which twin is which. (See this article for that photo, and a pic of Mom, and of the twins’ not-missing brother as well.) I suppose I’ll post the case on Charley anyway. A baby photo is still a photo, and this is certainly an outrageous story that the world needs to know. Even if, by some miracle, Ivon and Inisha are still alive, the fact that no one noticed they were gone for so long is truly terrible. Heads should roll here — a lot of people dropped the ball.
  • The kidnapper of Zephany Nurse, a South African girl who was abducted as an infant and not found for seventeen years, has been sentenced to ten years in prison. (You might recall that Ann Pettway, Carlina White‘s abductor, got twelve.) Zephany grew up just a mile away from her real family’s home and attended the same school as her biological sister. The identity of the woman who kidnapped her has been withheld from the media to protect Zephany’s privacy.
    Outrageously, the kidnapper has refused to admit she did anything wrong. And sadly for the Nurse family, Zephany has chosen to remain with her kidnapper’s husband. I don’t blame her. I mean, for 17 years she thought this guy was her dad, and it’s a terrible situation she’s in. I just think it sucks for her real parents and I hope that Zephany does eventually choose to form a relationship with them.