So I wrote a blog entry on the WordPress app on my phone last night about latest missing persons news. But then the entry refused to upload, no matter how many times I tried to get it to. It wasn’t online at all, only on my phone, so I couldn’t even use my computer to upload it. Grr. Lot of time wasted. Now I will try my best to recreate it.
Some cold case missing persons have been resolved:
- Edward “Ashton” Stubbs disappeared from Dickinson, North Dakota on June 17, 2013, a few days before his sixteenth birthday. He was from Texas and had gone up to North Dakota to stay with a cousin and work a summer job. He disappeared from his job site. Ashton’s skull was found on private property in Dickinson in December. It has just been identified. His death is under investigation.
- Sheila Sherrell Franks, age 37, disappeared from Eureka, California on February 2, 2014. A woman of similar appearance, Danielle Bertolini, had disappeared a few days earlier, and people thought their cases might be connected. In 2015, Danielle’s skull was found in the Eel River. Now Sheila’s remains have been identified; her femur, or part of it, turned up in June, near the mouth of the Eel River. Unlike Danielle’s death, Sheila’s death has not (yet) been labeled a homicide, but it is considered “suspicious.”
- Jo Anne Dolly Burmer has been identified, forty-six years after the 25-year-old disappeared in 1973. A fragment of her skull was found in 1993, but it wasn’t until 2017 that it was entered into the DNA database, and it wasn’t until now that there was a match. As nothing else has been found or is likely to be, probably we will never know what caused her death, but I wonder about exposure. This article is very detailed and talks about Jo Anne’s background and her son, who was put in foster care after her disappearance and later adopted by another family.
Some other news:
- The police have a new lead on the possible identity of “Beth Doe”, a young pregnant woman who was raped and brutally murdered in 1976. Her body was dismembered, stuffed in three suitcases and thrown off a bridge into the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania. They think it’s possible that Beth Doe may be Madelyn “Maggie” Cruz, a sixteen-year-old foster child who ran away. They’re trying to find relatives of this Maggie Cruz to get DNA from them to test. I think it’s a long shot.
- Georgia “Nadine” Kirk‘s son Ted has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for stealing his mom’s Social Security benefits after her disappearance and presumed death. Nadine was 98 years old and in poor health in 2010, the last time anyone saw her. She was reported missing in 2015, and Ted was unable to explain her absence. It seems likely that she simply died of age-related natural causes and Ted, who hadn’t worked since 1980, disposed of her body and kept cashing her checks. Fifteen months in prison, and $30k restitution, seems light, given the circumstances, and the fact that $80k in total was taken from taxpayers. Nadine’s body has never been found.
- Bernard Brown, the ex-boyfriend of Moreira “Mo” Monsalve, has been charged with her murder. Moreira disappeared from Hawaii in 2014. Her body hasn’t been found and they haven’t said much about the case against Brown, but it seems likely it’ll be circumstantial and possibly include cell phone ping evidence. Murder-without-a-body cases aren’t that common in Hawaii (or anywhere) but other examples include Bongak “Jackie” Koja in 1997, Masumi Watanabe in 2007, and of course Peter Kema in 2017.
- Nancy Beaumont has died at age 92, 53 years after her children Jane, Arnna and Grant disappeared at the respective ages of nine, seven and four. The Beaumont children have never been found and their disappearance is one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in Australia’s history. Their father, Grant “Jim” Beaumont, is alive, but is also in his nineties and I think it’s unlikely he will find answers on this side of the mortal plane.
- The police have released a new sketch of one of Christine Eastin‘s abductors, based off of a recent witness description. I think that’s a reeaaaallly long shot. It’s a rough drawing, this witness’s memory is by now almost fifty years old, and at the time they apparently didn’t realize the significance of what they saw and so they probably took little notice of it. Christine disappeared in 1971 at the age of 19.
Remember my previous blog post about the missing lady whom I believed was Aboriginal Australian? Well, I’ve heard from her brother again. I asked him directly if she was Aboriginal and he says not: she is of Sri Lankan and Indian descent.
But he also said:
I rang up your place at [a Burbank, California phone number] on 30th may 17 and spoke to a lovely lady called Jeanette. She took down my details and said she would get in touch with social security and try to find out about [his sister] but I haven’t heard back from her. Would you be able to just remind jeanette about this please and see if she can follow it up ??. Appreciate your Help as days are approaching fast ( I will be in L.A in 10 days time) and it would be nice if I can meet her.
Um…what? Jeanette who?
I think I’ll have to call this number himself and see if I can find out who on earth he spoke to. I’ll have to wait awhile, though, because right now it’s 3:00 a.m. California time.
While I was in Poland I got an email from the brother of a missing woman. He explained that he lived in Australia, and he knew his sister had gone missing in California a number of years ago, and he was visiting California in June, and did I have any information about her disappearance?
I did not. But the information in his email provided an answer to something I’d wondered about in relation to her case.
The woman had an unusual appearance to me. She had very dark skin and sort of looked like she was black, but I didn’t think she actually was. She certainly didn’t look white. The California Department of Justice had her classified as “other Asian” but that didn’t mean much to me. I wondered if she might be a Pacific Islander, but CDOJ actually has a “Pacific Islander” classification and they hadn’t put her in it.
When the man said he was Australian, it suddenly hit me: this woman is almost certainly aboriginal — the very first on the Charley Project if I’m not mistaken. I checked out photos of aboriginal Australians and she looks very much like them.
So now what do I call her? Should I perhaps list her as “Pacific Islander” and explain she’s of aboriginal descent?
This particular detail could turn out to be very important if her body is found — there can’t be that many aboriginal Australian UIDs in North America.
In late 1962, a Melbourne, Australia woman named Janina Wojcik told her husband she was going away on an extended vacation. She was in her forties at the time. A few months later, she still hadn’t sent word or returned home, so her family reported her missing. The investigation went nowhere, the case went cold and Janina’s husband eventually died without ever finding out what happened to her.
Well, the police just confirmed that they’ve located Janina and she died in Canberra, Australia (something like six and a half hours’ drive from Melbourne) of natural causes in 2010, at the age of 87.
Janina was used to moving around: she became a displaced person in Europe in World War II, then emigrated to Australia. It appears she left with another man, whom she married in 1977, and they lived together until his death in 1994. There is no mention of any children from her first marriage, and by the time of her second I would think she’d have been too old.
As longtime readers of this blog well know, I think walking out on your family without even leaving a goodbye note saying it’s not foul play is an awful thing to do. But I am trying to cut Janina some slack here: she was a victim of war, apparently traumatized; one of the articles quoted a niece saying she “suffered from paranoia.” I’m glad, anyway, that from all appearances she went to a better life and wasn’t murdered.
This reminds me of similar cases where adults left of their own accord and turned up many decades later, and they’re either alive and well or they lived out their lives and died at a ripe old age years before: the Rains-Kracman/Uphoff case, the Gavin case, the Johnson case, etc.
A few articles:
Woman who vanished from her Melbourne home 54 years is found dead aged 87 in Canberra
Police say missing Altona woman died in Canberra six years ago
Mysterious Altona woman disappeared and created a new life for herself interstate
Back when the girls in Cleveland were located, I got contacted by a whole bunch of different media people wanting to interview me. One of those was from Australia. I spoke to the reporter on the phone but never heard back from him as to what had been published, so I figured he hadn’t used my material. (That happens sometimes: not everyone who gets interviewed by a news source gets published. It’s like how if you’re researching a paper or a book you’re writing, you’re not going to use every source you come across.)
Well, I stumbled across quotes my Australian interview while looking for something else. It appears they used it after all, and just forgot to tell me about it. Here it is: The World Today: Finding missing women alive a rare occurrence.
I’m pleased that my quotes are included in the same article as Elizabeth Smart’s. I admire her very much.
This makes four continents I’ve been in the news at: North America of course, and Europe (I got interviewed by a TV station in Paris after the Cleveland girls story broke), and South America (in May 2012 I got interviewed by a TV station in Colombia) and now Australia. There remains Asia and Africa. And, I suppose, Antarctica, but what are the chances of that ever happening?
This Executed Today entry is actually a few days old; I’d forgotten to post about it before: Eddie Leonski, an American serviceman who became known as the Brownout Strangler. He was an American serviceman serving in Australia during World War II, who strangled three women and attacked several others over the course of just a few weeks in the spring of 1942.
Fun fact, not mentioned in the entry: Ivan Chapman, who wrote a book about Leonski, speculated he had leptomeningitis, like Arnold Sodeman, another serial killer in Australia whom I wrote about on ET. Leptomeningitis, a degenerative disease of the brain, goes a long way to explaining Sodeman’s crimes and would fit Leonski’s pattern of behavior as well. But unlike Sodeman, Leonski wasn’t autopsied after his execution, so we’ll never know one way or the other.
An obscure Australian serial killer was hanged seventy-seven years ago today, and I’ve profiled his life and crimes on Executed Today.
Arnold Sodeman’s murders were pretty ordinary and his crime spree not all that impressive — four victims in five years — but what I found interesting is the issue of diminished capacity. Sodeman was an alcoholic with a history of mental instability both in his family and in himself, and he had previously suffered a serious closed-head injury. The autopsy turned up evidence of fairly extensive brain damage. It turned out he also had leptomeningitis. When a person with leptomeningitis drinks — and Sodeman was drunk at the time of all four murders — their brain becomes inflamed and the resulting symptoms include irrational behavior and poor impulse control. In other words, was he responsible for his actions? One Australian forensic psychologist doesn’t think so.
I told my boyfriend about the case and asked his opinion re: leptomeningitis. Sodeman didn’t know he had the condition and they didn’t discover it till autopsy. Michael thought about it for awhile and said he didn’t think leptomeningitis was a good enough reason to cut the guy a break. He reckoned this: maybe Sodeman didn’t realize he had a degenerative brain disorder, but he knew he was a mean drunk. He knew the kind of person he turned into when he had a couple in him. And he continued to drink, consequences be damned. I had to concede that Michael had a point.
From The Age: Australia has joined other countries around the world to celebrate International Missing Children’s today on May 25.
The article talks about several missing girls and women from Down Under.
Executed today in 1862: Margaret Coghlan, the last woman hanged in the Australian state of Tasmania. Margaret had brutally murdered her husband in a drunken argument.
Another Australian MP case: Helen Karapadis, who was ten when she vanished from the town of Marrickville in 1988, has been declared dead.
There was some speculation that Helen might have run away due to her home life:
Anne Martin, a teacher who formed a “close relationship” with Helen’s older sister Maria after the disappearance, told the inquest she heard disturbing allegations of abuse.
“(Maria) told me their father was fiercely violent at times towards them … they were both very afraid of (him),” she said.
Maria, who was 12 at the time her sister vanished, and who committed suicide when aged 18, claimed Helen was “preparing to run away and had wrapped her Christmas presents early”, Ms Martin said.
Not only did Helen have problems at home, she reportedly also had to deal with predators in the local neighborhood, according to this article:
Maria had also told [Ms. Martin] that two boys in the complex, one named Johnny, had raped Helen.
But Maria had also said Helen was preparing to run away and had disappeared at the same time Johnny left the housing estate.
Ms Martin said she had failed to convince Maria to make a formal statement about her allegations.
But if Helen did run away, I have a hard time believing she could have remained out of sight for very long, never mind 24 years. She was only ten after all.