Remains found in 1979 identified, and other stories

Today is National Missing Persons day. This article has some info about how the new Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act, which was signed into law on New Years’ Eve, will help communities along the Mexican border.

In Alabama: Skeletal remains have been found in Conecuh County, Alabama. Though they haven’t been identified yet, the police think they’re those of Brian Estrada, who disappeared last October. His ID was found near the bones.

In California: They’re still looking for Sydney West, a 19-year-old University of California, Berkeley student who disappeared from San Francisco on September 30. Her parents are offering a $10,000 reward for info leading to her return.

In Colorado: The murder trial of Donthe Lucas in the disappearance of his 21-year-old pregnant girlfriend Kelsie Jean Schelling from Pueblo has begun. Kelsie was last seen on February 5, 2013.

In Florida: They’re still looking for Lemuel Robert Hall, a 79-year-old man who disappeared from Escambia County in 2019. He was last seen in July, but wasn’t reported missing till September.

In Maine: They’re still looking for Jason D. Reil, a 33-year-old man who disappeared from Brunswick in January 2012. He had schizophrenia and was off his meds when he went missing.

In Mississippi: They’re still looking for William Brian McKenzie, a 21-year-old who disappeared in September 2019.

In Ohio: They’re still looking for Nylo Lattimore, a 3-year-old boy who disappeared from Cincinnati on December 4. His mother was allegedly stabbed to death in her home on December 5 and her body dumped, but it wasn’t found for a week. Desean Brown has been charged with Nylo’s mother’s murder, but Nylo has never been found and Brown hasn’t cooperated in the case.

In Pennsylvania: They’re still looking for Robert Scott Baron, who disappeared from his restaurant in Old Forge on January 25, 2017. It looks like he was probably killed in a robbery of the business; they found some blood in his car and a tooth in the restaurant’s sink.

In South Dakota: 9-year-old Serenity June Dennard disappeared from the Black Hills Children’s Home two years ago today. Though the case is still open, the police have suspended the search for now, for lack of any ideas where to look.

In Tennessee: They’re still looking for Shelley Lynn Mook, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from Shelbyville on February 28, 2011. Her husband Tyler is a person of interest in her case, but has never been charged.

In Texas: They’re still looking for Joshua Jayvaughn Davis Jr., a one-year-old boy who disappeared from New Braunfels on February 4, 2011 — ten years ago tomorrow. The police seem to think his parents were involved or at least know what happened. I’m not sure. I am a firm believer in the axiom that there’s usually no smoke without fire. But one thing I will observe: Joshua’s parents have talked to the media a fair bit about his disappearance and tried to publicize it as much as they can, which in my observation is inconsistent with people who were responsible for their child’s disappearance.

In Oregon: They have identified remains found at the bottom of Multnomah Falls in September 1979. His name is Freeman Asher Jr.

In Washington: They’re still looking for Sofia Lucerno Juarez, who disappeared from Kennewick on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. 18 years ago tomorrow.

In Australia: They’re still looking for Lisa Govan, a 28-year-old woman who disappeared from Kalfoorie, Western Australia in 1999. The police believe she was murdered.

Also in Australia: They’re still looking for Steven James Goldsmith, a 28-year-old arborist who disappeared from Toowoomba, Queensland in 2000. Authorities believe he was murdered. There’s a $250k reward out to help solve the case.

In Canada: They have identified a body that washed up on Gulf Island Beach in British Columbia in 1972. The name of the man, who was 41 when he disappeared from Coquitlam in 1967, has not been released.

Also in Canada: They’re still looking for Ben Tyner, a ranch manager who disappeared from Merritt, British Columbia in January 2019.

In Belgium: A car was found in a canal in Bruges; it turned out to belong to Ronny Lateste, a 39-year-old man who disappeared in 1990. His body was inside it.

Select It Sunday: Vincent Lamouris

This week I’m featuring eighteen-year-old Vincent Lamouris, who’s been missing for more than a decade now. Unlike with a lot of Select It Sunday cases so far, foul play isn’t indicated in Vincent’s case; in fact, he definitely ran away back in 2002 and there’s no reason to believe he’s dead now.

Vincent is from the city of Ghent in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium. He had some trouble in the past: at age sixteen, upset over his parents’ divorce, he attempted suicide by jumping off a building. He had to have some serious physical rehabilitation as well as psychiatric care, and he has surgical scars on his legs and feet and metal plates in his right leg and foot as a result of his injuries. But by the time Vincent disappeared two years later, he seemed to have recovered completely, both physically and mentally. He planned to enroll in the University of Ghent to get a degree in mathematics.

But for reasons unknown, instead of going off to the university to study, Vincent Lamouris secretly got a passport, purchased tickets to New York City, erased his computer hard drive and took off. It was January 25, 2002.

We know he arrived safely in New York and somehow managed to make it upstate — 400 miles — to Niagara Falls, where he apparently crossed over to the Canadian side and then stayed for a few days before returning to the U.S. Several days later his backpack turned up in a park in Niagara Falls. Vincent had bought a return ticket to Belgium (immigration laws required him to do before he could enter the United States) but never used it; in fact, the ticket and his passport were in his bag when it was found. There’s been no trace of him since then.

What happened to Vincent Lamouris, then?

Did his old depression raise its ugly head? Did he take his own life because of it? Well, if he did, he didn’t do it by jumping over Niagara Falls. The bodies of people who go over the falls always turn up. In fact, due to the water currents, the police know exactly when and where to expect them. (I know because I went to Niagara Falls and asked one of the people there.)

And if he planned to commit suicide, why go to New York City to do it? I have heard of people traveling thousands of miles in order to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, but the Niagara Falls (though it’s had its fair share of jumpers) is not a super-famous suicide hotspot like the GGB, and if he had jumped there his body would have been found. Even with GGB, people who travel any significant distance to jump there are quite rare; most of their suicides are locals.

Did he simply plan to take a short vacation and then return home to Belgium, but something kept him from doing so? That seems unlikely to me. All the planning involved in his trip, all the secrecy, erasing his computer hard drive, seems quite unnecessary if he only intended to be gone a few weeks.

It’s possible that he did experience a recurrence of his depression and that’s why he ran away. A lot of people who leave like that suffer from mental health issues, and I’ve said before that I find those kinds of disappearances — just walking out of life with nary a word — to be like a symbolic form of suicide.

The fact that he erased his hard drive makes me wonder if he met someone on the internet and flew to the United States to meet up with that person. If so, finding that person might be the key to finding Vincent.

Vincent, if you’re out there, call home. If you like your life now, you’re an adult and you don’t have to come back if you don’t want to. Leave an anonymous message if you want. Just let your family know you’re okay.

3096 Days

Natascha Kampusch, an Austrian girl who was kidnapped by a stranger and held captive for eight years, has written a book, 3096 Days, about her experience. It comes out in Britain on September 9 and in the US on September 16. This article has more info:

Bizarrely, Miss Kampusch, who is now 22 and presents a talk show on Austrian television, marked her tormentor’s death by saying she was in mourning because in a macabre way he had become “part of my life”. […] Miss Kampusch is considered to have made a good recovery in the circumstances. However, the psychological scars of her ordeal are still very much in evidence: she has bought both his house and his car.

I’ve read Sabine Dardenne’s memoir of her kidnapping/captivity experience, I Choose to Live, and it was pretty good. (A candidate for Charley’s recommended books page? Anyone?) I’ll definitely read Natascha’s when I can get my hands on a copy.

Sabine was held for several months, if I recall, and she was twelve, four years older than Natascha was when she was kidnapped. In her book Sabine shows none of the ambiguous feelings towards her kidnapper that Natascha seems to have; in fact she hardly talks about him at all and calls him names like “beast” and “animal” instead of by his name. Her book aside, Sabine seems to have faded into relative obscurity since she testified at her captor’s trial; I heard that she had a normal life, a boyfriend and a job. Natascha on the other hand is on television. Another difference: Sabine had a normal happy family life, but Natascha’s mother was reportedly abusive to her.

Natascha, Sabine, Shawn Hornbeck, Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard should all get together and talk. I know Elizabeth and Jaycee have been in touch with each other.