One murder trial ends while another begins

Brendt Christensen has been convicted of the murder of 26-year-old doctoral student Yingying Zhang, whose body has never been found.

Of course Yingying’s Charley Project casefile has the basics. I also recommend this Washington Post article, which links to a partial transcript of the trial. And there’s plenty of other news articles about this available.

There remains the punishment phase: LWOP, or the death penalty? (The state of Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but because Brendt was tried in federal court he can be executed.) The defense’s primary objective, as they said from the outset of the trial, is to save Brendt from the death penalty. I have a hard time imagining how they’re going to accomplish this.

Given the recorded confession and the blood found at Brendt’s apartment, the defense in this case is waging an uphill battle with a 50mph wind in their faces. But even so, their argument strikes me as pathetically weak: Brendt totally isn’t a vile human being and would-be (or, perhaps, actual) serial killer, not at all! He only kidnapped, raped, murdered and decapitated a complete stranger because he was depressed and flunking out of college and felt like a failure!

To which I say: SO WHAT? Lots of people are depressed. I’ve been depressed since I was in middle school. Lots of people flunk out of college. Most people feel like a failure at some point in their life. That isn’t an excuse to go out and murder some poor woman you don’t even know.

In other news, yesterday John Bayerl’s murder trial began in Wisconsin (which happens to be Brendt Christensen’s home state). John’s wife, DonaMae, disappeared in 1979 and was never seen again. Suspicion hovered over him for decades before he was finally arrested early this year.

I’m a bit surprised they’re going to trial so quickly; in most murder cases (as in Yingying’s) years pass between arrest and trial. But John is 79 and not getting any younger; I suppose he’s hoping they’ll acquit him and he can return to his retirement home in Florida and die on a beach instead of in jail.

John is another absolute turd and I firmly believe he killed his wife. I just hope the prosecution can prove it.

MP of the week: Mia Patterson

This week’s featured missing person is Mia Lynn Patterson, a 26-year-old woman missing from Detroit, Michigan since May 30, 2017.

I don’t have much on her, but curiously, Mia’s cousin, Carlita Yvette Gentry Lohmeier, also disappeared from Detroit and was never found. The women disappeared years apart and as far as I know there’s no evidence to connect the two cases.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Ai Adams

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 Ai Adams, a 38-year-old Japanese-American woman who disappeared from Beaver, Alaska on May 20, 2017.

Her fate is known: she, her husband Clifford, and another person were on the Yukon River when their boat capsized. Ai and Clifford never made it to shore, but their friend was wearing a life jacket and she survived. Clifford’s body didn’t turn up for a month. Ai’s was never found.

I actually have a friend who has a friend who knew the Adamses. In addition, Ai was photographed and quoted for this New York Times article which came out just months before her death. She sounds like a very brave person, to have taken the enormous leap from the megalopolis of Tokyo to living off the land in northern Alaska.

“Life is just once,” she told the New York Times reporter.

Native American Heritage Month: Tom John

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 Tom John, a 59-year-old Yupik man who disappeared from his tiny Alaskan village, Newtok, on March 26, 2017.

When I was researching John’s case, I discovered that Newtok itself is disappearing. It’s right on the ocean, and due to climate change, water levels are rising, and the permafrost is no longer permanently frozen, which is causing the land to sink. Newtok is being reclaimed by the sea and will probably be gone entirely in the next decade or so. The entire village will have to evacuate or they will all drown.

This is a problem many Alaskan villages are facing, or will face in the near future. Al Jazeera actually did a half-hour documentary about Newtok and other villages with this issue, titled When the Water Took the Land. Unfortunately, the villagers are kind of screwed, because moving the village elsewhere is going to cost millions of dollars, which they don’t have, and there’s no government program set up to help climate refugees.

Tom John himself, as a village administrator, was interviewed for this documentary (in 2015, about a year and a half prior to his disappearance) and said he thought the new village the Newtok residents planned to build would probably take about twenty years to get fully operational. And they don’t have that kind of time.

In this documentary they talk about how, because the sea ice is melting, the ocean has become much rougher and more dangerous than it used to be. Waves are bigger and stronger. Storms are more intense and destructive.

It got me back to thinking about Tom John’s disappearance. He went out seal hunting and never came back. They found a seal carcass and his snow machine, but no sign of John or his kayak.

Obviously he met with some mishap at sea, and I had to wonder if it was because his task was made all that much more difficult by the rougher ocean and the lack of sea ice. (The fact that he was operating a new kayak he was unfamiliar with cannot have helped.) Tom John’s disappearance may have been indirectly caused by climate change.

Hmm… I wonder…

So Adolfo Orozco-Razo, age 16, disappeared from North Augusta, South Carolina on February 24, 2017. He’s classified as a runaway. Then two months later on April 27, and only about seventeen miles away in Aiken, thirteen-year-old Irma Orozco-Razo disappears; she’s also listed as a runaway.

It’s hard to tell from the photos, as Adolfo’s is not of the greatest quality, but I’m guessing these two are siblings.

And in other news, I found yet another person listed as missing on the NCMEC who was found quite awhile go. I’m not sure when she was located, but she was killed in a hit-and-run accident in March.

Sigh. They haven’t removed one of the previous ones I pointed out wasn’t missing anymore; I don’t see the point of calling this in.

I think I might have set a record for “smallest part of a person recovered”

I found out the other day that they discovered an itty bitty piece of Richard William Moss‘s body: a single vertebra (one of the sections of your spine) not far from where his car turned up a little over a year ago.

I think this is the smallest partial remains recovered where I resolved a case. I have a case up where they found a woman’s finger, but you can easily live without that.

Frankly I’m surprised they found even that much of Moss. He accidentally ran his car off a cliff in coastal California known as the Devil’s Slide in May 2017, but the accident wasn’t witnessed and no one realized what had happened until July. The rest of him has presumably been claimed by the ocean.

Moss isn’t the only person on Charley who met his end at the Devil’s Slide. In 1945, a 14-year-old girl named Thora Chamberlain was murdered and thrown off there. They never found her body, only her socks, wedged in the cliff face. Her murderer was identified, confessed and was executed.

Does anyone know when this woman disappeared?

So both NamUs and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office give Chelsey Coe’s disappearance as July 1, 2017. I found this article her mom reported her missing in July after last hearing from her in June, but then this article saying she was last seen in August and her mom last heard from her in “June or July.”

If Chelsey disappeared in June, I can post her now, and I’ll be able to post her either now or soon if she disappeared in July. But if she went missing in August this case will have to wait at least another month.

Since she was last known to be living with some man whom I gather is a suspect in her case (they did search his yard with ground-penetrating radar after all), perhaps no one knows precisely when she went missing.

Help?