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?

Isabel Celis found dead

Isabel Mercedes Celis, who disappeared five years ago next month, has been found deceased in the remote Arizona desert. Somehow I missed this earlier today when I was checking out the latest MP news. Someone just messaged me about it now.

A few articles:

MP of the week: Mary Alexie

This week’s featured missing person is Mary Anne Alexie, an Alaskan Native woman who disappeared from Anchorage on October 10, 2012. Mary had left her home in Fairbanks and traveled to Anchorage to enroll in college, but missed the first day’s classes. In the early morning hours she called her friends and she was in a VERY vulnerable position at the time: drunk, disoriented, and lost in a dangerous city. And that was the last sign of her, from that day to this.

It’s a safe bet that something terrible happened to her.

Missing persons news

I’ll cover the recovery of the Yates girls in their own entry, but here’s some other missing persons news:

  • This accountant’s hobby? Identifying missing people through his drawings
    My friend and Irregular Carl Koppelman has been featured in the Orange County Register. He does wonderful sketches of UIDs and was instrumental in identifying Cali Doe as Tammy Alexander. Congratulations, Carl!
  • Trial date in 20-year-old cold case pushed back to October
    A year and a quarter ago ago, more or less, Kirsten Renee Hatfield‘s two-doors-down neighbor was charged with her murder. The headline of this article is pretty self-explanatory, and the news story explains why: the suspect has new lawyers now who need time to review the evidence.
    Kirsten’s case, for whatever reason, fascinated me back when I was a child and first started getting interested in missing persons. I had a website when I was twelve or so, with some poems and stories I wrote, and one of them was a poem called “Missing, Presumed Dead” and it was based on Kirsten’s disappearance, as I explained on the site. Kirsten’s mom found it and emailed me, saying she was touched that a little girl in Ohio was thinking of her and her lost daughter, but she didn’t believe Kirsten was dead.
  • Judge orders suspect in cold case homicide to trial in district court
    Apparently the motive for Cari Lea Farver‘s homicide was a love triangle; both she and the suspect, Shanna Goylar, were seeing the same man. According to prosecutors, after Goylar killed Cari, she burned the body and then went on Cari’s social media accounts and tried to make it look like she was still alive.
  • Missing Oklahoma woman found more than 20 years after disappearance
    This case isn’t one of mine. It’s a really awesome story, though, how hard Shelly Jennings’s daughters looked for her, and how she was found largely through their efforts. Twenty-three years after she walked away from her family in Oklahoma, she turns up at a bus station in Modesto, California. I hope they can reconcile, although given Shelly’s mental illness, this may not be possible.
  • For families of missing persons, not knowing is excruciating
    This is about the disappearance of Cody Henry Turner, who went missing from Washington in 2015.
  • Missing Minnesotans: Susan Swedell
    Obviously, an article about Susan Anne Swedell (for whom I recently posted an updated AP).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Some MP news highlights while I was gone:

  • Mark Duane Woodard has been found. Or rather, he was found in 1977, 23 months after his disappearance, but not identified till now. The aforementioned news link uses his Charley Project pic, and asked me permission first. (Thanks!) This link has another photo of him, a much better quality one, as well as more details about his disappearance. He was murdered, shot to death. His sister is the only surviving member of the immediate family.
  • In the state of Thuringia in central Germany they have found a missing girl, Peggy No-Last-Name-Released [edit: per a UK article supplied by a commenter, it’s Knobloch], who disappeared mysteriously fifteen years ago, at the age of nine. A mushroom picker found her bones in the forest nine miles from Peggy’s hometown of Lichtenberg. According to this article and one other I found about the case, this had been a murder-without-a-body (MWAB) case: In 2004, a mentally disabled man was convicted of Peggy’s murder. He was later acquitted in a retrial due to lack of evidence after a key witness retracted his statement.
  • Corry Ehlers, a guy who disappeared while hiking in Utah in 2012, has also been found deceased. His skeletal remains, found “in a steep, rocky spot near Alta Ski Resort” last summer, were identified in late June. They think Corry fell off a cliff.
  • Three days ago it was fifteen years since sisters Diamond and Tionda Bradley vanished mysteriously from Chicago. The Chicago Tribune has done an anniversary article about it, with quotes from Diamond and Tionda’s two other sisters, Rita and Victoria: The girls disappeared just a day before Victoria Bradley’s ninth birthday. Until recent years, Bradley, who turns 24 on Thursday, said she was unable to celebrate her birthday because of her depression over the anniversary of their disappearance. I have not updated the girls’ casefiles in over a decade, and last time was just to add some more pics. I will give a look and see if I can find any developments that have taken place in the intervening years.
  • Two more recent anniversaries: eleven years since Stacy Ann Aragon and her boyfriend Steven Bishop disappeared from Arizona (see article; Stacy has been reported missing but it appears Steven has not been), and ten years since Roxanne Paltauf disappeared (article) from Texas.
  • The NCMEC reports that two of my oldest family abduction cases have been resolved, with the children located alive. One was Jacquelina Ann Gomez, who was abducted from Illinois by her father in 1992 at the age of 3. She would be 27 now, 28 in September.
  • The other case involves two brothers who disappeared with their mother and stepfather from Blairsville, Georgia in 1996, when the boys were 2 and 3. A day or so before I left for Minneapolis I got contacted by a very excited reporter who ran a story on Rick Tyler, a man who’s running for Congress under the odious slogan “Make America White Again.” She said after she ran the story she was deluged with emails from people who believed Rick Tyler was probably the same Rick Tyler who was listed as the missing Blairsville kids’ stepfather. She also said the police were now claiming that the boys’ mom DID have custody of them when they disappeared, after all. Well, then the day I left Minneapolis I got an NCMEC notice saying the boys were recovered. I’m not going to say their names on here or put them on the resolved page because I’m not sure about the custody issue, but it should be easy enough to determine who they are from the info I just provided.
  • The state of Arkansas has a brand shiny new MP database with 510 people on it, many whose names I don’t recognize. I am very happy about this. I believe every state should have their own publicly searchable online database, as large and comprehensive as possible. Many of the people listed in this new database have no pics though. I hope this situation improves.
  • Morgan Keyanna Martin, a pregnant teenager who disappeared in 2012, is now considered a MWAB case. Jacobee Flowers, the father of the unborn child, has been charged with her murder. Homicide is the most common non-natural cause of death for pregnant women in the US and from what I have read, all around the world, the murder of pregnant women — usually by their baby’s father — is a universal problem.
  • HuffPo has published a photo essay about the 1998 disappearance of SUNY-Albany student Suzanne Lyall. It’s a mysterious case; no obvious suspects, no answers. 19 years old, promising future, and then gone.
  • Kidnap survivor Jaycee Dugard has been in the news again, going on TV and talking about how her life’s going and how she’s raising the two daughters she had with her kidnapper Philip Garrido. The link I just gave provides lots of news articles to read, more than I can summarize here. But here’s one quote from this article to show what a resilient woman and amazing mother Jaycee was and still is: As she and her daughters grew older, Dugard said she planted a flower in front of the shed and set up a little school to teach them as much as she could with only her fifth-grade education. “They’re so resilient, and they’re beautiful and loving, and I’m really lucky,” she said. Dugard has protected her daughters’ privacy and said some of their friends don’t even know of their past. She said the three of them are able to talk about what happened with each other.

Another “I hate it when this happens” entry

Still writing updates for tomorrow and now I have a conundrum.

NamUs says Brian Shookman has “Beaver” tattooed on his left arm. They also say Shookman’s nickname is Beaver. At first, because of the nickname, I assumed Shookman had the WORD “Beaver” as his tattoo. But the Shoshone News-Press says he “had a beaver tattoo on his left arm.” So now I’m not sure.

One of the NamUs pictures shows Brian without a shirt on, and you can see the tattoo in question, but the angle is wrong and the tattoo is so small and blurry that I can’t tell if it’s letters or the animal.

Now I’m really not sure what to do here. This could really go either way.

The Wisconsin Missing Persons event

Okay, finally I’m writing about this. I had an awesome time and I’m so glad I went even if no one could come with me this year.

Driving up was pretty uneventful, though like I said the hotel was super sketchy. Not “hourly rates” sketchy but more along the lines of “this looks super sketchy, I bet I can afford to stay in it then.” The room was surprisingly clean and didn’t have used condoms in the trash or anything, but the heat was not very good and the refrigerator was noisy and woke me up. Supposedly there was WiFi, but they didn’t give me the password for it and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the room so I was forced to use my phone’s data package. After my arrival I looked up the hotel’s rating on Yelp; it is 1.5 stars.

Checkout time was 11:00, but the event didn’t start till 1:00 p.m. and I was super tired so I took the opportunity to sleep in. I had literally just stepped out of the shower when the manager hammered on the door and shouted “Checkout time!”

“I’m gonna be late,” I called through the door. “I’ll pay the late check-out fee.”

“Pay me now!” he demanded. “I have to go.”

I had assumed they would charge it to my card, and I had pre-paid so they had the information, but I guess not. I muttergrumbled, threw a robe on, opened the door and handed him a $20 bill. He shoved it in his pocket and walked away WITHOUT A WORD. I knew the late check-out fee was $10 and I thought: “Wait…did I just get robbed? Did this jerk just steal $10 from me?” But when I actually did check out at the desk, they gave me my $10 back so it was all good. Also, I accidentally left my cell phone charger behind in my room and didn’t realize it till after the event was over. I called the hotel and they had the charger at the front desk and the staff had not stolen it so that was also good. No sign of bedbugs or fleas infesting me or my clothes either so that’s good too.

Marsha Loritz, the wonderful person who is the primary organizer of the event, gave me a big hug when she saw me and thanked me so much for coming again and traveling all this way. She’d set up a lovely display table for me with information about the Charley Project and printouts of some Charley Project cases from Wisconsin. I set out business cards and explained to the people who stopped by my table what the Charley Project does, emphasizing the whole “publicity vehicle” aspect of it and how, when it comes to solving cases, Charley is kind of a link in a chain of people working together to come to the conclusion.

(My favorite example: a guy disappears from Texas, gets run over by a truck two days later in Arizona, is unidentified, the state of Arizona lists him as a John Doe, I list him on the Charley Project, and ten years later a woman in Ireland looks at the John Doe in Arizona and the Charley Project case in Texas and realizes this is the same man. This is the true glory of the internet, people! Masses of people around the world who don’t know each other connecting various separate bits of information and working together towards a common goal.)

I was between Amber Wilde‘s family’s table and the Polly Klaas Foundation‘s table. I know Marsha had deliberately put me next to Amber’s family because they wanted to talk to me, but mostly we wound up talking to each other about our respective pets.

Gene Cloud‘s family had been there last year but weren’t this year. I remember them particularly because they showed up dressed in traditional Native American clothing and jewelry. (Gene is a Ho-Chunk Indian.) However, DonaMae Bourgeois Bayerl‘s sister and daughter were there; I’m pretty sure they weren’t there last year. They didn’t know me or what the Charley Project was. I explained who I was, what I did and why, and DonaMae’s sister took hold of my hands and squeezed them and thanked me for my efforts. It was very touching.

The event was held at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office this year so there were lots of cops milling around. It turned out to be a good thing. As things were wrapping up, Amber Wilde’s grandma fell down. She was standing behind me and I don’t know why she fell, but she grabbed my arm on the way and almost pulled me down with her. She seemed fine but “80-something lady falls down on concrete floor” can be a serious matter. Fortunately there were many first responders present! Amber’s grandma ended up being hauled off to ER for a checkup. I hope she’s okay. She seemed to be, though; she got up after the fall and sat down on a chair until the ambulance arrived.

Also present were a few politicians, including the mayor of Green Bay and a Wisconsin state representative whose name I can’t remember. I talked to the state representative. I told him about my site and about Charley Ross’s story. Then we discussed the student loan crisis. He told me his niece was $100k in the hole at 8% interest and he was trying to do something about it.

There were some people from a search-and-rescue dog group there. They brought three dogs: two Dutch Shepherds and a Golden Retriever. The dogs all went around and hammed it up for petting and ear-fluffles and treats. I had met one of the of the Dutch Shepherds the previous year. Her name is Riken and this year I got my picture taken with her and her handler. Riken’s handler, incidentally, gave me her contact info. She says she lives like 50 miles away from Green Bay so it’s not practical to crash at her house, but if I come next year to let her know and she’ll help me find a better hotel to stay in.

There was a table for Project Jason, although the founder, the indomitable Kelly Murphy, was unable to be present. I sang Kelly Murphy and Project Jason’s praises to a few people and got my picture taken with their mascot, Miles Superbear, whilst giving Miles bunny ears with my fingers.

Several people gave speeches. The Polly Klaas Foundation lady talked about internet safety and the dangers of kids being online and meeting adult strangers and getting sex-trafficked and sex-torted and so on. Families of missing people spoke about their loss and Marsha gave them all yellow roses.

The weather outside was terrible: it was like 45 degrees, the sky was Tupperwear-gray and it was spitting rain. Fortunately, however, unlike last year, the wind cooperated during the balloon release. The balloons had missing people’s names and pictures on tags attached to the strings. I was randomly handed Marsha Loritz’s mom’s balloon to release and felt slightly honored to get it.

Finally it was time to hit the road, and I said goodbye to various people, packed my stuff and left.

Unfortunately, as I was at the event I realized both my back and my head hurt quite a lot. (Yeah, you know the Great Headache Crisis? Sometimes that headache comes back and kicks me around for a few days, then mysteriously vanishes again. Shrug.) I was able to distract myself talking to everyone and didn’t pay much attention to the pain while I was there, but once in the car it was pretty hard not to. Soon I realized my back hurt a lot worse than my head did. A long drive across multiple states did not help, and I did not have any medicine for it (I carry ibuprofen in my purse but that didn’t touch it) and by the time I got home I was in so much pain I was weeping.

I staggered inside, leaving my suitcase in the trunk, smeared multiple applications of Tiger Baum extra strength pain relieving ointment on my back, and went to sleep. Woke up 14 hours later feeling fine. I guess I just needed a rest.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Marsha! It was an honor to be there among all those wonderful people.