Black History Month: Marcus Daniel

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Marcus J. Daniel, a University of Missouri student who disappeared from Columbia on December 6, 2002. I don’t know what he was studying or whether he was last seen on campus or what. He was 25 years old and would be 40 today.

Marcus apparently left of his own accord; he wrote a goodbye note to his dad, and a few days after his disappearance he sent his mom a letter postmarked Chicago. Perhaps as a result, he wasn’t reported missing until 2005.

He may believe he has good reasons for staying under the radar these past 15 years. In which case I recommend he contact the police and verify his identity and well-being. That way they can close his case and his family will know he is safe, but whatever new life he’s carved out for himself does not have to be disrupted.

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What about this headline?

Eight years ago I wrote a blog entry about potentially problematic headlines for articles about missing persons and crime victims. That is, headlines that point out info about the MP or suspect that might be seen as shaming them. I was reminded of this entry cause I just found another such headline:

Police seek missing cross-dresser from Jennings

I’m inclined to let this headline go. The fact that Eddie Johnson was a cross-dresser was news to me until I saw the article. And he was, apparently, wearing a woman’s kind of wig when he disappeared, though I can’t tell from the clothing description whether they were women’s clothes or not. The inevitable possibility is that he was the victim of a hate crime and that’s why he’s missing.

That’s all.

Select It Sunday: Robin Kerry

Chosen by Anka, this week’s Select It Sunday case is Robin Ann Kerry, who disappeared with her sister Julie from St. Louis, Missouri on April 5, 1991. Unlike with many of my cases, it’s perfectly obvious what happened to Robin: she and her sister were gang-raped and thrown off the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. Julie’s body turned up several weeks later but Robin was never found.

I wrote about this case in 2009. It was a horrific crime, made all the more so by the fact that the four perpetrators were complete strangers who just had a random encounter with Robin and Julie and their cousin Tom Cummins that night, and the fact that Tom Cummins was wrongfully arrested and charged with his cousins’ murders before the situation got sorted and the cops caught the real killers.

I will quote part of my earlier entry:

There are still some people online who think Cummins killed his cousins and framed the four suspects, but the evidence against the defendants is pretty strong. One of them had Cummins’s wallet either on his person or in his house (I forget which) when he was arrested. All four suspects confessed at one point or another, although three of them later retracted their statements. One defendant pleaded guilty and testified against the others. Cummins’s sister Jeanine wrote a wonderful book about the case called A Rip in Heaven. Many news accounts say Cummins confessed to the crime. According to his sister’s book, after the police told him their theory about him being the killer he said something like, “If that’s what you said, then that’s what I did.” That’s hardly a confession.

I Googled the case again for today’s entry and discovered that Reginald Clemons, who spent over twenty years on death row for the Kerry sisters’ murders, had his conviction overturned and is awaiting a second trial. I don’t think he has much of a chance, though, even though it appears his confession has been ruled coerced and cast out of evidence. This article says they’ve got “a match consistent with Clemons’ DNA to a degree of one in 16,690 individuals in the African-American population,” something they didn’t have in 1991. I’ll have to update Robin’s casefile, I guess.

One of the four defendants, Daniel Winfrey, was released from prison in 2007. He was the only one who didn’t take part in the rapes, and he only fifteen years at the time of the crime, too young for the death penalty, and he took a plea deal: thirty years in exchange for testifying against the others.

Flashback Friday: Kimberly Carter

This week’s Flashback Friday is for Kimberly Carter, who disappeared from Kansas City, Missouri on July 5, 1984. I’ve seen her middle name given as both “Lawanda” and “LaWanda.” Unless there’s strong evidence to the contrary, I spell such names with a capital letter after the “La” or “Le” or “De” etc.

Anyway, Kimberly, although only nineteen years old, had three kids. The oldest was four; the youngest was only two months. On the day of her disappearance, Kimberly had a friend babysit them all while she went to work. It’s not clear whether she ever arrived at her job, but she did leave a cryptic phone call to a friend — I’m not sure if this whether this was the same friend who was babysitting — saying she was in trouble and asking to be picked up. The line went dead before she could say where she was.

The plot thickens: another friend claims to have heard from Kimberly on July 7, three days after she went missing. Kimberly supposedly said, “One of the men said he would take me home.” But no one did take her home. She’s been missing now for 32 years.

Kimberly had a lot of criminal associates at the time of her disappearance and her family, understandably, believes she met with foul play. Human trafficking comes to mind here, and, although drugs were not specifically mentioned, I wonder if Kimberly might have had some kind of run-in with drug trafficker(s). or suffered an accidental overdose.

(I must emphasize I’m not trying to make Kimberly sound like a bad mother or a bad person, or make it sound like she deserved whatever her fate was. It’s just that SOMETHING happened to her, and whatever it was, it was probably bad.)

I have no idea what happened to Kimberly’s kids, who would all be in their thirties now. I hope they found good people to take care of them. I hope they’ve become happy, productive adults.

And I hope their mother will be found.

Cynthia Day identified

I’ve still got her on Charley but not for much longer: Cynthia Louise Day, a 37-year-old mother of two who disappeared from National City, Illinois on August 10, 1990, has finally been identified.

Her remains were actually recovered in Pike County, Missouri (about an hour and a half away from National City), just sixteen days after she disappeared. Due to some error, an official missing persons report wasn’t filed for Cynthia for 14 years, which certainly didn’t help when it came to finding her.

All that was left of Cynthia was “a box of bones”, they were able to get one usable fingerprint and that was enough. It’s a good thing they were able to get that print, because lab technicians had BOILED the bones and that ruined chance of recovering DNA evidence. Apparently this boiling thing was common practice before DNA technology came onto the scene.

(Reading about that kind of thing reminds me of a historical TV medical drama I saw once, set in 1905, where the hospital was showing off their brand new X-ray machine, the latest thing in medical technology. The TV characters were like, “You have to hold your hand in front of the machine for about ninety seconds, and then you can see all the bones inside it. Isn’t it neat? Want to try it again?” And I was wincing and thinking “Nooooo! Don’t do it!” By the end of the show, the X-ray technician had died of radiation poisoning.)

Anyway… now begins the murder investigation. Cynthia was allegedly involved with prostitution and drugs, and she had a rocky relationship with her boyfriend, who disappeared shortly after she did and later ended up in prison. That’s a lot to be getting on with.

But at least Cynthia’s daughters can bury her.

Select It Sunday: Brian Neil Hooks

Two people — named Andi and Andy, oddly enough — have asked me to do Brian Neil Hooks for Select It Sunday. The 21-year-old has been missing from Florence, South Carolina since September 24, 1988 — nearly 28 years ago. He may go by his middle name.

Andi thinks Brian may be a John Doe whose skeletal remains were found in in St. Louis, Missouri in 1992. The decedent, who is estimated to have died sometime between 1989 and 1992, had been stabbed to death. About that suggestion, I have no comment. Matching MPs with UIDs has never been my thing.

Someone, a relative I think, set up a Facebook page for Brian. The most recent post as of this writing, dated June 24, would resonate with anyone who has a missing loved one:

I would do anything to talk and hug you one last time! You cross my mind more than I see your face, I pray for you more than you may hear my voice, I miss you more than you think and I love you more than you know sometimes you just have to be strong ..to keep yourself from breaking You will never know how much you miss hearing a voice until that voice is silenced forever…the worst thing in this world is not knowing where you are we miss you an love you so much the pain of you not being here is unreal at times it’s been to long for us not to know what happen to you […] The worst goodbyes are the ones that are never said, And never explained…

Brian was either gay or bisexual, and had a boyfriend at the time of his disappearance. The boyfriend claims he simply “ran off” without saying where he was going, and never came back. That’s a story I’ve heard many times before. Another source I found claims Brian’s boyfriend gave three different stories to explain Brian’s disappearance, and also says the man had been convicted of murder.

That certainly doesn’t look good. Almost 30 years of complete silence looks even worse.

MP of the week: Yinzhou Zheng

This week’s featured missing person is Yinzhou Zheng, missing from Columbia, Missouri since September 2000. Curiously, Zheng’s wife, Xiang Sun, has also disappeared — but not at the same time as him. She went missing several days later. They were supposed to go visit their daughter in Iowa but never showed up.

The Missouri Highway Patrol site now has a poster for the couple; I’ll have to update their pages.

I wish I knew more about these two MPs — it’s one of those “just enough details to drive you nuts” cases. Were it not for the different dates, I would think maybe they got into some kind of car accident.