Let’s talk about it: Four patients in the same medical practice

Between 1996 and 1997 four people, all of them in roughly the same age group, disappeared from the Los Angeles area: Robert Vincent Black, 64, on March 12, 1996; Patricia Laxer, 63, on August 11, 1997; Goldie A. Swanger, 75, on August 29, 1997; Richard Dean Davison, 70, on October 29, 1997. Mysteriously, not only were all four of these individuals patients of the same doctor (I never found out anything about him), but they all supposedly disappeared while going either to or from appointments with him.

The first answer that strikes me is “serial killer connected with the medical practice,” but what little I knew about the cases didn’t seem to indicate foul play; in fact the police not only suggested they were alive, but that each “may be a patient in a hospital or nursing home.”

In 2004, I found out Goldie Swanger’s case had been resolved, but I did not learn her fate at the time, whether she’d been found dead, or what. I blogged about this in 2011, and in 2014 a commenter, claiming to be Swanger’s biological son, left a comment on that blog entry. I quote from it below. He, his daughter Andria and another of Goldie’s granddaughters traveled to Los Angeles in 2000 or 2001 and

did a little investigation, got medical records from a doctor that Goldie was seeing before she became missing. That doctor told me that she saw him about once a month and then just never showed up and that he wondered what became of her! We found out where she was last at, alive, during her being “missing”. I believe it was a nursing home or something to that effect. I believe the government department that we today call the SRS had something to hide as they threw roadblocks in our search of Goldie.

I’m not sure what he means by SRS. Google turned up “special retirement supplement” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, and “supported residential services” which does, but supported residential services isn’t an American government department, only a service provided by the state government in Victoria, AUSTRALIA. My guess is he meant something similar to supported residential services that the U.S. or California government provide, but got the acronym wrong. Anyway, on with what Goldie Swanger’s son said:

It seems strange that as soon as my wife and I determined that her last name was Swanger and informed the SRS we knew her last name, the “SRS” had one hissy fit, and we determined that Goldie was still alive! But when we got to California she had passed away! Now that is strange! We found out where she lived previous to this facility and saw the place (apartment) and met and talked with a person who knew Goldie (an apartment neighbor). The administrator of the facility she was last at clammed up when we started to question the circumstance as to why Goldie was at this facility. Andria talked with a person who worked in that facility and knew Goldie as a patient(?). Andria has the info on this place. Goldie’s biological family believe that what we discovered may possibly be something to do with medicare fraud. The other missing persons in that area may just have been admitted to that same facility. We don’t know. We couldn’t find out.

The plot thickens indeed. This is most peculiar. I’d love to learn more about this case — some questions that come to mind are who was this doctor, what was his speciality, is he still practicing, what the MPs were seeing him for, and what were their general states of physical/mental health at the time they went missing? The facility administrator may have “clammed up” because there was something sketchy going on, but it could have been for confidentiality reasons (HIPAA).

I suppose it’s possible the other three could be still alive, particularly if they’re in a reasonably good care facility. (Key words being “possible” and “reasonably good”.) By now Black would be 85, Davis would be 89, and Laxer would be 83. But I wonder if anyone is even looking for them by now. If I was looking to imprison some people in a care facility against their will for the purposes of committing medical assistance fraud, I’d be targeting people with no living relatives, or at least no close relatives, and few ties to their community — people who would be easily missed.

So what happened to these people? Let’s talk about it.

A stray thought

I was going over some old cases and NCMEC cases and stuff (and phoned in a tip to their hotline; I found a missing kid’s equally missing mother on Facebook) and noticed that on Amber Crum‘s casefile I’d written,

In 1986, investigators checked the fingerprints of a girl who was abandoned in California that same year. The girl matched Amber’s general physical description and was about the right age. Their fingerprints did not match, however.

I wonder, now, if that abandoned little girl was Denise Beaudin‘s child, Dawn/Lisa? Dawn was about the same age as Amber would have been, and she was abandoned in California in 1986.

I suppose I’ll probably never know. But it seems moderately likely.

Select It Sunday: Thomas James

Selected by Justin, this week’s SS case is Thomas James, a Universal Studios employee who disappeared from Los Angeles on June 18, 1998. I don’t have much about his disappearance but it doesn’t look like he left on his own. He left everything behind at his apartment, and his car turned up abandoned in Burbank, California.

If James is still alive he’d be 60 this year.

Flashback Friday: Diane Dye

This week’s FF case is Diane Genice Dye, a thirteen-year-old girl who ran away from her San Jose, California home on July 30, 1979. One of her friends, it is said, saw her in a shopping mall fifty miles away in December 1981, a year and a half after her initial disappearance. Diane spoke to her friend and said she didn’t want to go home and didn’t want anyone to know where she was. This was the last sign of her.

There’s a good chance Diane is still alive and still, perhaps, doesn’t want anyone to know where she is. Perhaps she doesn’t even know she’s still listed as missing. She would be 51 years old now.

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).

Let’s talk about it: the Garcia/Burhans family

On March 15, 1982, Carmen Maria Burhans Garcia, her husband Diego Garcia, and Carmen’s nine-year-old daughter Barbara Burhans departed their Los Angeles residence into the unknown.

The family lived in the same house as Carmen’s mother; Carmen’s mother lived in the upstairs apartment, and the others lived downstairs. That morning — which was a Monday, presumably a school day for Barbara — Carmen’s mother came downstairs to see them while they were eating breakfast and noticed her daughter was crying but didn’t ask why. She never saw any of them again. They left that afternoon, leaving everything behind, including their dog.

One month and ten days later, the family’s car turned up in a snowbank 500 feet down a gorge in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Big Pines, California. Google Maps says that by today’s routes, Big Pines is 80-ish miles from the Garcias’ home, about an hour and a half by car. There’s two interesting things worth noting here:

  1. In spite of the fact that the car had gone 500 feet into the gorge and the roof had been bashed in, there was no blood present, strongly suggesting no one was inside the car when it was pushed, accidentally or intentionally, into the gorge.
  2. The road it must have fallen off from had been closed since March 16, the day after the trio vanished.

There are a few colorful details here, including a rumor that Carmen, a newly minted Mormon, had gotten involved in a MUCH different religion prior to her disappearance, one involving chicken sacrifice. (Santeria maybe? For what it’s worth, Santeria has Caribbean origins, and Diego was born in Cuba.) Another rumor was that Diego had gotten into criminal activity and the whole family had up and left for Miami.

The whole thing makes me think of the Mary Celeste. It appears that SOMETHING seriously spooked the family that morning, enough to have Carmen crying, enough to keep Barbara from going to school, enough to have them pile into their car and leave everything behind. But what was it? And what happened next?

Let’s talk about it.

MP of the week: Hector Lopez-Ruiz

This week’s featured missing person is Hector Javier Lopez-Ruiz, a twenty-year-old who disappeared on October 15, 1997. He’s missing from Vista, California, a mid-sized city of just under 100,000 people in the San Diego metro area. Besides the date and place he went missing, and his basic physical description, I have absolutely no information on this young man or his disappearance.

If he’s still alive, Hector would be 40 this coming spring. I’d love it if anyone who knew him, or knows any details about his disappearance, would comment on this blog entry or email me. I’d love to be able to update his casefile — it hasn’t been updated even once in my 12 1/2 years of running the Charley Project.

(I know this is a day late. I’m sorry. I’ve kind of sucked lately at updating the database and the blog. Partly cause of the holidays and partly because my neurotransmitters still aren’t firing entirely correctly.)