A strange coincidence

I was looking at NamUs’s newly added cases and saw one for a guy named Eddie Vanneiter. I knew I had an Edward Vannater on Charley and so I pulled him up, thinking they must be the same guy, just with slightly different names. But clearly they aren’t.

Edward vanished from Ohio in 2003; Eddie disappeared from Florida in 2000. Edward was 32; Eddie was 26. Etc. Edward is white; Eddie is black and, from what the details of disappearance says, probably a resident of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. (If he was, he’d be the first Curaçaoan on Charley.)

It reminds me of back in the MPCCN days when the site featured two people named Carlina Francher. If I recall correctly, only did they share the same first and last names, they were also African-American teenage girls missing from New York City.

I’ll add Eddie…well…whenever. I can’t really promise to add anyone at any particular time because I’ve got so many cases in the inbox it’s ridiculous.

Hunter Nelson found safe

According to this article, family abduction victim Hunter Nelson has been returned to his father’s custody in Montana. Hunter’s mom, Chelsea, and dad, Byron, had gone on a vacation to the Bahamas in July 2009 and when it was over, Chelsea refused to go back to the US or let Byron take Hunter. He had to go home without his son and apply for his return under the Hague Treaty. Well, late last month, after over a year, Hunter has once more been reunited with this father.

In the pictures, Hunter (who is now almost two) looks very happy and absolutely adorable. Byron has taken time off from work to catch up on father-son time. I wish the best for both of them.

Darice Knowles found deceased

Acting on a tip from a prison informant, the police spent several days this past week looking for Darice Knowles. She was a 22-year-old Bahamian girl who was visiting Florida when she disappeared in June 2006. The authorities’ efforts were rewarded with a foot bone which they are confident is from Darice. Her family in the Bahamas has been notified. I think it’s amazing that anything was found at all. They were looking in a heavily wooded area the size of a football field and the foot bone could not have been more than a few inches in size.

I might add that some of the comments on the Florida Today article linked below are horrifying. Some person is saying the cops shouldn’t have bothered to look for Darice’s body because she was a foreign national. I really hope this person is just a troll trying to annoy people and doesn’t really believe that. I do not understand such cruelty and lack of compassion and basic human decency.

Central Florida News 13
Florida Today

A rare Puerto Rican case

Tomorrow I shall be posting the November 2000 disappearance of Yamaira Montes-Gonzalez. I don’t have too many Puerto Rican cases on Charley, in large part because I can’t read Spanish so most of the LE sources there are lost to me.

I am curious as to why Interpol is investigating Yamaira’s disappearance. The only thing I can think of is a suspected international kidnapping — perhaps human trafficking. She was a very pretty teenager, maybe even beautiful. I looked up Yabucoa and Wikipedia says it’s a coastal town. (They call it a “small town” but the population is close to 40,000. Speaking as someone from a town with a population of 600, give or take, Wikipedia doesn’t know what it’s talking about.)

I hope Yamaira just ran away or something and hasn’t been trafficked.

Natalee Holloway Missing Persons Center to open in Washington

The Washington Post says a missing persons center named for Natalee Holloway will open in Washington D.C. next month. It will be based, appropriately enough, at the Museum of Crime and Punishment and will be a nonprofit that assists families of the missing and promotes safety.

When I was in D.C. last June, I actually visited that museum with my friend Jeff. We went on the weekend, a day or two before I left for home. I don’t remember seeing Natalee mentioned there, but it’s been awhile. It was a pretty cool museum, at any rate.

Possible Holloway lead fizzles

Earlier I wrote that some tourist thinks they photographed a skeleton (Natalee Holloway’s?) off the coast of Aruba. Well, that lead is going nowhere fast: a forensic pathologist says the “skeleton” is just some rocks.

Of course, maybe it isn’t rocks, but even if it’s a skeleton, they’d have to find it again, and prove whose bones it was.

Possible break in Natalee Holloway case?

I have never written before about the 2005 disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, a high school senior who was on spring break in Aruba when she vanished after a night of hard partying. I decided not to put her on Charley, because (A) she disappeared overseas and (B) I am swamped with cases as is, and hers would take forever to write. It’s not as if her disappearance is lacking in publicity. If Natalee’s parents had written to me requesting a profile, I suppose I wouldn’t have had the heart to say no. But as it was, I made the judgement call and stuck to it.

Natalee Holloway’s name was, at least for a time, a household word in Aruba and in the US. I believe it was a combination of factors: (A) The fairly scandalous nature of the whole thing (B) Her youth and beauty and girl-next-door persona (C) The wealth and prominence of both the Holloway family and the family of suspect Joran van der Sloot and (D) Natalee’s mom really knew how to work the press. I only wish other disappearances could get as much attention as hers did — though I suppose if that were the case, the media would cover nothing else. This case is an example also of how publicity alone cannot solve a disappearance. Look at Natalee, or at Madeleine McCann. Both of them have been missing for years with no end in sight. They share some common denominators: both of them attractive girls who disappeared while on vacation, both with respectable well-to-do parents, etc.

Anyway, it’s possible that a scuba-diving tourist from Pennsylvania photographed Natalee’s skeleton — or, at least, A skeleton — during their vacation in Aruba. The article does show the picture in question but otherwise has a paucity of info. Namely, exactly where and when was the photo taken, and why did the tourist not come forward until now?

I suppose the picture could be of a skeleton. Or it could be of an oddly shaped rock or coral formation. Unless the tourist can provide a reasonably precise location, the picture isn’t going to be of much help — though I’d agree that Natalee’s body (assuming she is dead, which is likely) was disposed of at sea.

Child trafficking fears in Haiti

All sorts of nasty things have been occurring in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake earlier this month, as I’m sure everyone knows. Tens of thousands of bodies have been buried in mass graves. Many people remain missing. The true death toll may never be known, as the Haitian government couldn’t even keep track of their living citizenry before the quake. As if this most unfortunate of nations hasn’t suffered enough! My psychiatrist is from Haiti and went on the local TV with his wife (also Haitian) appealing for aid for his country. Fortunately, he told me, he knows his family survived.

And top of everything else, child traffickers may be swooping down trying to take advantage of the tragedy and chaos. I’m not sure how big the problem really is — so far it looks like there’s only 15 confirmed cases of children being removed from the country illegally — but it has the potential to be huge if not checked immediately.

There are a lot of well-meaning people out there who want to help out by adopting a Haitian earthquake orphan or two. Haiti also had a small international adoption program before the disaster. But international aid organizations and the U. S. State Department are advising the would-be adopters to hold their horses. Many of those “orphans” may actually have parents or other relatives alive and able to care for them, and time is needed to sort out the genuinely orphaned from the merely displaced. I am reminded of an incident during the Vietnam war when a few hundred Vietnamese children were airlifted out of the country and sent to the US. The people who took them in were under the impression that they were adopting orphaned children, but those children actually had living parents who were under the impression that their children were merely being fostered until conditions were better, and then they would be returned home. It was a terrible situation for everyone involved.

But non-orphaned children taken abroad to loving adoptive families may be the lucky ones. Haiti had a pretty big child trafficking problem of another kind before the quake — child sex trafficking and slavery in general. As the London Times points out, the situation in Port Au Prince is such that child traffickers now have their pick of victims. All these kids are running around the streets with nowhere to turn — fish in a barrel. And those who disappear will probably be assumed to be simply buried under the rubble.

What can I say? It’s a nightmare over there. It wasn’t exactly a bed of roses before the earthquake flattened Port-au-Prince. But we can help make things better. Or at least not make them worse.

Missing children a problem for Jamaica’s poor

This blog is pretty US-centric, but this article from Jamaica caught my eye. Basically, it says that missing children are a terrible social problem among the poor and working classes in Jamaica, but are virtually unknown among the rich. Apparently a lot of kids run away or are lured away from home due to poverty-related circumstances. Of the 1,200 children reported missing since September, only a little over half of them have returned home by now, and three of them have been found dead.

A related article says hardly anybody has subscribed to Jamaica’s Ananda Alert system, which seems to be some kind of Amber Alert type thing for cell phones. So not only are poor Jamaican kids vanishing left and right, but nobody seems to care.

A good idea

The author of the following letter sent this to me and I decided to post this on my blog because I think it’s an excellent idea:

To Whom it May Concern:

This is an idea I have for finding women and children who are believed to have been kidnapped and sold into the human trafficking / sex slave market of third world and other countries, including this one.

My name is Anna Maria. I am a 29-year-old woman. I am a born United States Citizen, and I currently live in Altamonte Springs, Florida. As a concerned US citizen, my heart goes out to the many families who have loved ones that have been kidnapped and are believed to have been sold into the human trafficking / sex slave markets, and I am writing out of a sincere desire to help.

I believe it may be possible to locate these victims by using the internet (particularly, search engine optimization) to specifically target potential, current, or past customers of the people holding these victims captive with information about each individual victim and each family’s individual search. This may be done by building separate websites providing full information on each victim individually, but optimizing the websites as if they were the same type of sex/adult friend finder/escort service/brothel/etc website that these customers would be searching for.

The websites would need to be optimized for any, and all, search terms that these customers would type into Google, or any search engine, in order to find the websites that provide these services in the locations they are looking for. The websites should be optimized and built in each of the likely languages that would be used when searching. For example: if it is possible that a victim may be held in a place where people may speak Spanish, English, as well as Portuguese, and if the potential customers would be persons who speak one or all of these languages, then that victim’s websites should be completely optimized in all three languages, for all of the differing search terms that someone would type in their own language.

In order to entice the potential customers to ‘click,’ the websites need to have URLs appropriate for what these customers would be looking for—example: http://www.best-brothels-in-south-america.com, or http://www.gorgeous-escorts-for-your-vacation.com, or http://www.exotic-girls-of-ecuador.net, etc.

The websites should also contain pictures of what the victim may look like now, with as many variations as possible in hair style and color, in facial expression, and in clothing, accessories, and makeup. Pictures or drawings of every single distinctive feature, such as tattoos, body piercings, and birth marks should appear as well. I believe that pictures speak louder, and faster, than words, and while full descriptions are important and should be provided, pictures and quick, easy-to-read bold statements must be prominent. This is especially important when considering that these customers would likely stumble onto these websites, and only remain for a matter of seconds or minutes.

I am a small business owner who has found search engine optimization to be key in targeting my own potential customers. I learned much of what I know about search engine optimization from another small business friend of mine, and from, believe it or not, Search Engine Optimization for Dummies by Peter Kent. It took me a year to finally digest the information and use it effectively, but once I learned to do this correctly, it has been very successful.

I know a lot about building websites, and search engine optimization, however, I am not a specialist. There are definitely people who are experts at web development and search engine optimization, however, not all web developers know how to optimize a website for search engines. If each individual family of these victims is able to employ a specialist in search engine optimization, I strongly encourage them to do so in order to best build, and optimize the sort of website I have mentioned in this letter. If they are not able to employ a specialist, and if they want to try to tackle this on their own, I encourage them to read Search Engine Optimization for Dummies, and any other search engine optimization book out on the market today for help and ideas.

This is a complicated process—especially for persons who are not used to thinking in terms of web development and optimizing pages for key words, but if the right people are targeted with the right keywords and phrases, the persons who actually have contact with the victims of kidnapping and human trafficking would very likely stumble onto these pages.

Usually, families of missing persons only build webpages that are targeted at the regular, law abiding, concerned US citizen—example: http://www.amybradley.net. This is a great site for providing information to people who know Amy Bradley, or for anyone who may have seen the Dr. Phil special which aired a few years ago and might be interested in reading up on her situation, but this website will in no way reach the people who could actually do anything about it! This site is not in any way optimized for reaching the would-be customers of various brothels in third world countries. Those customers are not going to type “Amy Bradley” or “Find Amy Bradley” into http://www.Google.com. They are going to type search phrases in their own languages that will help them to find the type of brothel or escort service they are looking for in their location, and whatever it is they type into Google, it will definitely NOT be “Find Amy Bradley.”

If possible, please forward this information to any families who have loved ones that have been kidnapped and lost to this industry.

Thank you very much, and best wishes to the grieving families of these victims.

Anna Maria

© Anna Maria 2009 | This letter is posted here with permission by the author. For permission to write about this idea, or to reproduce this letter in part, or in full, please write for permission to Anna Maria here.