More tattoo muttergrumbling

NamUs has posted a new case which I already had on Charley, that of Latrice Belton. The NamUs casefile has more info, including another photo of Latrice and info about her tattoos. But as ever, the information about the tattoos is kind of ambiguous.

The tattoo section reads thusly:

tattoo right leg “Lebaron” and “Larry Ross”
tattoo right leg – heart

That doesn’t sound confusing, but then I saw this photo of one(?) of Latrice’s tattoos in the photo section. The photo would suggest that the “Lebaron” and the “heart” tattoos are not separate tattoos, but rather components of a single tattoo. You know, since the photo shows a heart with “LeBaron” on it.

Given the text info and the picture I can see as many as three possibilities:

  1. There are two tattoos, one of a heart with “LeBaron” on it and one reading “Larry Ross”
  2. There are two tattoos, one of the heart with “LeBaron” on it and one reading “LeBaron and Larry Ross”
  3. There are three tattoos, one of the heart with “LeBaron” on it, one reading “LeBaron”, and one reading “Larry Ross”

I hate having to do guesswork like this.

Flashback Friday: Beatrice Calderon

This week’s Flashback Friday case is Beatrice Susan Calderon, last seen in San Jose, California on August 17, 1971. She was 33 years old at the time of her disappearance and would be 79 today if she’s still alive.

Unfortunately, I know doodly squat about the circumstances of her case.

Let’s talk about it: Gary Mathias and his four friends

When I initially wrote up the 1978 disappearance of Gary Dale Mathias and the deaths of his four friends several years ago, the case seemed, although incredibly horrific and tragic, to be pretty self-explanatory:

Five mentally disabled guys get lost while driving around in a blizzard, get their car stuck in the snow in a wilderness area, try to hike to safety but instead wind up dying slowly and horribly of exposure and starvation. Only four bodies are found, but that’s no surprise, given the timeline and the wilderness surroundings.

Sad, but not all that mysterious.

Then a little over a week ago I stumbled across this Washington Post article about the disappearance of Mathias and the deaths of his friends (Jack Madruga, Jackie Huett, Theodore Weiher and William Sterling), and I realized the case was a LOT weirder than I had originally thought.

Let’s break down some of the weirdness here:

  1. At least two of the five men were higher-functioning than I had originally believed. Although they were all enrolled in a day program for mentally handicapped adults, Mathias wasn’t (contrary to what I’d heard) mentally handicapped but instead had schizophrenia. And he was apparently quite high-functioning when he was on his meds. Madruga was considered “slow” but hadn’t been diagnosed as mentally disabled. Both Mathias and Madruga had served in the Army and had driver’s licenses.
  2. The group’s car, although it was stopped in the snow on a mountain road, was NOT truly stuck. The engine worked, the car had gas, it was still on the road, and if the men had tried they could have gotten it going again.
  3. There’s evidence to suggest that whoever was driving that car at the time it was abandoned was not lost and knew what they were doing. All the maps were in the glove compartment — you’d think that if they had been lost they’d have consulted the maps. Furthermore, the article notes, This heavy American car, with a low-hanging muffler and presumably with five full-grown men inside, had wound up a stretch of tortuously bumpy mountain road – apparently in total darkness – without a gouge or dent or thick mudstain to show for it. The driver had either used astonishing care and precision, the investigators figured, or else he knew the road well enough to anticipate every rut. Except this definitely doesn’t apply to Madruga, Mathias or any of the five.
  4. They found Weiher’s body in a forest service trailer nearly twenty miles from where the car was abandoned. He’d died of starvation and exposure. Yet inside or near to the trailer were matches, propane, items that could be used for fuel (books etc.), and enough food to last a year.
  5. Next to Weiher’s body in the trailer was a watch that didn’t belong to any of the five men.
  6. Perhaps strangest of all, there was a witness who may have seen the men on the mountain road the night they disappeared. A guy named Joseph Shones drove up the road at 5:30 p.m. and his car got stuck in the snow, just 50 meters from where Madruga’s car was later found. While he was digging himself out, he keeled over from what turned out to be a mild heart attack. He got inside his car and waited there for several hours, with the lights on and the engine running, and at some point he heard “whistling” noises and saw what he thought were a group of men and a woman with a baby, walking in the light of another vehicle’s headlights. Shones called for help and the lights turned off and the whistling sounds stopped. A few hours later he saw flashlight beams outside his car and called out for help again, but immediately the lights went out. Shones stayed in his car until it ran out of gas, then walked eight miles down to get help, passing Madruga’s car on the way. He didn’t think much about what he’d seen until he heard about the disappearances.

The whole thing has me scratching my head — I don’t understand how these young men could have fallen so badly to pieces that they would have abandoned an operable vehicle in the middle of a blizzard, and then starved and froze for months in a building with food and fuel, then abandon said building when one of their number died. And the business with Joseph Shones’s account throws an even bigger monkey wrench into it.

I wonder if they saw something, or thought they saw something, that night that scared the bejesus out of them and made them behave this way. Perhaps some kind of group psychosis.

There’s no evidence of foul play here and no evidence that Gary Mathias somehow survived. I just wonder what caused all this to happen.

Let’s talk about it.

Flashback Friday: Lorraine Chance

Flashback Friday today is Lorraine Judith Chance, or Barrie-Chance according to this Facebook page someone set up for her. Her nickname was Lee. Lorraine’s been missing nearly seventy years: since 1948. On January 3 of that year, she left her only child at a babysitter’s and never came back to get it. This was in Santa Cruz, California.

Lorraine would be about 95 now so it’s very unlikely she’s still alive, but there’s also no evidence of foul play in her disappearance. They know she was alive nearly three months after she left her daughter at the babysitter’s, because on March 28 she applied for VA benefits; her deceased husband had been in the Navy. Her application got approved in August, but by then she was nowhere to be found.

There’s every chance in the world that Lorraine, a recently widowed single mother only 25 or 26 years old (I don’t know her exact date of birth, just the year), simply got overwhelmed and decided to walk away, only to resurface elsewhere and lead a long life. Maybe she remarried and had more kids, and her daughter has half-siblings out there.

I mean, it’s happened before many times. Think of Esther Gavin. Lucy Johnson.

Lorraine’s family would like to know her fate. I wonder if her daughter or any other relatives has tried submitting their DNA to Ancestry?

Follow-up on my previous post

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.

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?

Let’s talk about it: Mimi Boomhower

This time I’d like us all to discuss one of my oldest cases: Mimi Boomhower, who’s been missing for nearly 70 years. She disappeared from Los Angeles in 1949, at the age of 48, and was never seen again. Her case got a fair amount of attention at the time, probably because her deceased husband had been a wealthy businessman and Mimi herself was quite the socialite. Contemporary press articles often called her “the merry widow.”

Mimi was childless and her closest living relatives were siblings who lived on the East Coast, but she had plenty of friends, and they all swore that it was completely unlike her to just drop out of sight without telling anyone where she was going. Yet I found a seeming contradiction in the news accounts: when she DID drop out of sight, her friends assumed she’d just gone off on a short trip and would be back in her own sweet time, and so she wasn’t reported missing for the better part of a week. I have to wonder if her friends knew more than they disclosed.

The only trace of her they ever found was her purse, which got left in a phone booth with a note saying “We found this on the beach Thursday night.” The police never found out who left it there, but they noted the purse didn’t look like it had been exposed to sand or water. And anyone who’s been anywhere near a beach knows that sand gets into everything.

It’s worth noting that, although she kept up appearances, she was having financial problems and was pawning things and selling other things at a loss and taking out loans and so on. A judge found it necessary to declare her legally dead a whopping eleven days after she was last seen, just in order to allow her attorney access to her accounts so he could keep paying on her home equity loan and the bank wouldn’t foreclose on her house. (The judge subsequently reversed his decision and declared that Mimi was legally alive after all. Seven years later, she was declared dead a second time. Shrug.) Mimi’s furniture and her late husband’s big game trophies were sold off after she disappeared to cover her debts, and I learned that one of the buyers discovered his new elephant head had tusks made of plaster-of-paris rather than ivory — presumably Mimi had sold off the ivory earlier.

Nevertheless, she can’t have been TOO hard-up. She was wearing $25,000 worth of jewelry when she disappeared, after all. That’s $25,000 in 1949 dollars, too. Factor in inflation and that jewelry would be worth over $250,000 today.

Mimi’s friends and associates all said she was neither suicidal nor thinking of eloping. One of her closest friends was quoted as saying, “We’ve ruled out everything but foul play.” Yet they couldn’t think of anyone who had a reason to hurt her, either.

Offhand the only sensible explanation I can think of is this: Mimi had arranged to meet someone, possibly to talk about selling or pawning more of her jewelry or something. Maybe this person was of the sketchy variety and that’s why she didn’t tell her friends about it. And this person, rather than buying whatever Mimi was selling, simply killed her and took it for himself.

But in that case, where’s the body? And can there have really been NO SUSPECTS AT ALL over the years? ‘Tis a puzzlement.

Let’s talk about it.