Sorry, can’t help you there

The father of Kianna and Gunnar Berg wrote to me today. He didn’t recognize one of Kianna’s photos and wanted to know its origin. He said he thought it might provide clues to her location. Unfortunately I had to disappoint him; the photo came from Kianna’s NCMEC poster.

Gunnar and Kianna were taken by their non-custodial mother to Japan 20 months ago. They haven’t had contact with their father since then and he doesn’t know where they’re at, though given the recent problems in Japan he must be worried sick. But I have heard that there’s the possibility that American citizens in Japan (including parental abduction victims) may be evacuated to the US in the light of all that’s been going on there. I told Mr. Berg that — in case he didn’t already know. I hope that happens, and a little good can come of all that tragedy.

Out of curiosity, I checked to see how many family abduction kids on Charley are thought to be in Japan. I believe there are about 20. A few have been gone for over ten years.

A thought, from today’s updates

If the fathers of Haydn Gomez and Gunnar and Kianna Berg haven’t gotten together for a beer yet, maybe they ought to. The two men have a lot in common. Both are Americans who married East Asian women and had adorable little kids by them, only to see their wives snatch the kids to their respective countries and refuse to give them back. And they live in the same town too: Fairfax, Virginia.

Alas, international child abduction can become a problem if an international marriage breaks up, as evidenced by another case I posted today, where the victim is thought to be in Zambia. International family abductions are even worse than the domestic kind, because finding the kid is almost never the end of the story. The two countries involved rarely agree as to what’s to be done with the child. Usually each nation will side with whichever parent is their citizen, which solves nothing, and so the custody issue is unresolved and the child usually stays with the abductor or at least in the abductor’s country, for years. I can’t think of a way to prevent this from happening. I mean, nobody marries thinking they’re going to get divorced, and no prenuptial agreement can prevent a selfish and/or vengeful parent from packing up the kid and heading off to the motherland, never to return.

I do hope Mr. Berg and Mr. Gomez will have their children returned to them, but I have to say the chances don’t look good for either of them. Japan in particular has a terrible record for returning abducted kids to the US. I’m not sure it has EVER done so.

One missing Japanese centenarian located

In the latest news on the Great Search For The Japanese Centenarians, an alert blog reader sent this in: one of them has been found inside her 64-year-old son’s backpack. He said she died in 2001 and he couldn’t afford a funeral, so he just kept her in there. Methinks it must have been either a very large backpack (like a frame one) or a very small woman. But Japanese people tend to be small, don’t they?

Surely Japan has some mechanism for burying poor people whose relatives can’t afford it? I’m just sayin’.

The drama of the missing Japanese centenarians continues

Earlier I wrote that Japan realized it had lost track of a lot of their oldest people and they had discovered that their “oldest living man” had in fact died 30 years ago and his family was keeping his body in the house and stealing his pension money. Well, Japan is still scrambling to find out the whereabouts and well-being of the 40,000 or so centenarians allegedly living within their borders. (For the uninitiated, “centenarian” means a person over 100 years old.)

The Times of India has a great quote about the problems inherent in Japanese record-keeping: “The pension system is founded on the premise that people are good, not that they kill family members at home, and bury them.” The Wall Street Journal is also covering the story.

In America, after an old person receiving Social Security reaches a certain age (not sure what age, probably 90 or so) they are required to personally present themselves to the Social Security Administration to prove they are still alive. This is what got Walter Dunson‘s son in trouble and forced him to report his long-dead father missing. Japan ought to adopt a similar system, as it seems like the only surefire method to prove these people are, in fact, living and receiving their benefits. And maybe include a fingerprint check or something too, so some random old person can’t impersonate the person the SSA wants to see.

Some missing persons news from other parts of the world

In faraway Krygyzstan, which I’m quite sure most Americans had never heard of until it made the news with some “civil unrest” lately, there is one story with a happy ending: an eight-year-old boy who vanished during the riots in June has been found alive. Little Kudaibergen Attokurov spent over a month hiding in abandoned buildings. He has since been reunited with his family. (And, writing this, I just learned from the Wikipedia page for Kyrgyzstan that for some reason over half of the people there are left-handed. Use that fact to impress your friends.)

Japan, amusingly, has lost track of its really really old people. Last week the authorities found the mummified body of what they thought was their nation’s oldest man. Whoops. He had been dead for thirty years and his family was stealing his pension money. Now they are looking for the oldest woman, age 113. She doesn’t live at her listed address, no one seems to know where she is and in fact the authorities haven’t been in contact with her in decades. Several other centenarians in the country cannot be accounted for.

Australian teenager Tamara Milograd will have been missing for forty years next month and her family hasn’t given up hope of finding her. Her father died in 1989 but her mom is still alive. The police think Tamara ran away and is probably living under a different name somewhere.

Whoa, I missed this

I just stumbled across the nearly year-old information that Kirk Lankford, the convicted killer of Masumi Watanabe, was sentenced to 150 years to life in prison. This was in April 2009, a year after he was convicted of second-degree murder. And the prosecution only asked for 120 years! Lankford will have to serve one-third of that time, or 50 years, before he can become eligible for parole.

I can’t say I blame the Hawaii Parole Board, which determines these things, for deciding on such a harsh sentence. Lankford didn’t even know Masumi, a tiny, painfully shy Japanese girl on an extended vacation in Hawaii. That he hit her with his car in dispute: the question is to why. Lankford waited until the eleventh hour to put forth the defense that he hit Masumi by accident and then panicked and tried to cover it up. Then when that defense was demolished, he just sat there and refused to disclose what really happened or where Masumi’s body is. He was offered a reduced sentencing if he would just say where he put her, but he turned it down. I think that’s because if we found Masumi’s body we would find proof that she was deliberately murdered.

On the surface he doesn’t seem to fit the profile for a violent random killer. He married young, was a devout Christian and had two little kids. He had a good job as a pest control technician. He had no criminal history as an adult. But the investigation showed he had been suspected of raping another small Japanese woman. She got his license plate number, but the case never went anywhere because she couldn’t ID him out of a lineup. The prosecution thinks he raped Masumi and beat her to death.

Given as Lankford is in his mid-twenties now, it’s extremely likely he will never see the light of day again. And good job of it, too.

Masumi’s family still hopes to recover her body. I feel very sorry for them. And for Lankford’s wife and kids — though they’re probably better off without him.

KITV Honolulu
Hawaii News Now
Hawaii Reporter
The Japan Times