MP of the week: Catherine Chiang

This week’s featured missing person is Catherine Chiang, a Taiwanese-American nurse who disappeared from the Bronx in 1997. Foul play is suspected in her case, but little information is available. I could find only one press item about her disappearance, a short article published six weeks after she vanished. This is one of those “I wish I knew more” cases.

Man missing six years reunited with family

He wasn’t on Charley but I thought I’d write about him anyway: one Euripides Cruz, who suffers from schizophrenia and was reported missing from Connecticut in 2008, has turned up in New York City the village of Quogue, New York.

It looks like he’s been living rough in the Long Island area these past six years. His family knew he was probably in that area cause they kept getting bills from a particular hospital in Brooklyn. But then the bills stopped coming and they thought perhaps he had died. But he hadn’t.

A police officer saw Euripides and had a thought, and did a web search and discovered Euripides was listed as missing. He has since been reunited with his brother, niece and sister-in-law in Connecticut.

Flashback Friday: Jeremiah George Huger

FF this week: Jeremiah George Huger, a four-year-old boy who was abducted by a non-family member from outside his family’s home on LaFontaine Avenue in the Bronx. It was June 25, 1985. He was playing with other children when the abductor called him by name and then grabbed him when he got close enough.

I really wish I had more info on this case, like the names of suspects. Mom thinks a former boyfriend of hers was involved; the police theorize Jeremiah was sold. It seems likely that the abductor knew him, at least in passing, but it’s also possible to find out a what child’s is name without ever meeting them.

Given that this kidnapping was witnessed, I wonder if it could have been resolved quickly if they’d had Amber Alerts and the like back then. We’ll never know.

Assuming he’s still alive, Jeremiah would be 33 years old today.

Eight cold cases that still haunt the NYPD

This is a bit late, but I thought I’d throw out this New York Magazine article from October about eight cold cases in New York City. It includes the disappearances of Patrick Kennedy Alford as well as Michael Sullivan and Camden Sylvia, and the kidnap and murder of adorable Chinese immigrant girl Quin Rong Wu.

Select It Sunday: Vincent Lamouris

This week I’m featuring eighteen-year-old Vincent Lamouris, who’s been missing for more than a decade now. Unlike with a lot of Select It Sunday cases so far, foul play isn’t indicated in Vincent’s case; in fact, he definitely ran away back in 2002 and there’s no reason to believe he’s dead now.

Vincent is from the city of Ghent in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium. He had some trouble in the past: at age sixteen, upset over his parents’ divorce, he attempted suicide by jumping off a building. He had to have some serious physical rehabilitation as well as psychiatric care, and he has surgical scars on his legs and feet and metal plates in his right leg and foot as a result of his injuries. But by the time Vincent disappeared two years later, he seemed to have recovered completely, both physically and mentally. He planned to enroll in the University of Ghent to get a degree in mathematics.

But for reasons unknown, instead of going off to the university to study, Vincent Lamouris secretly got a passport, purchased tickets to New York City, erased his computer hard drive and took off. It was January 25, 2002.

We know he arrived safely in New York and somehow managed to make it upstate — 400 miles — to Niagara Falls, where he apparently crossed over to the Canadian side and then stayed for a few days before returning to the U.S. Several days later his backpack turned up in a park in Niagara Falls. Vincent had bought a return ticket to Belgium (immigration laws required him to do before he could enter the United States) but never used it; in fact, the ticket and his passport were in his bag when it was found. There’s been no trace of him since then.

What happened to Vincent Lamouris, then?

Did his old depression raise its ugly head? Did he take his own life because of it? Well, if he did, he didn’t do it by jumping over Niagara Falls. The bodies of people who go over the falls always turn up. In fact, due to the water currents, the police know exactly when and where to expect them. (I know because I went to Niagara Falls and asked one of the people there.)

And if he planned to commit suicide, why go to New York City to do it? I have heard of people traveling thousands of miles in order to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, but the Niagara Falls (though it’s had its fair share of jumpers) is not a super-famous suicide hotspot like the GGB, and if he had jumped there his body would have been found. Even with GGB, people who travel any significant distance to jump there are quite rare; most of their suicides are locals.

Did he simply plan to take a short vacation and then return home to Belgium, but something kept him from doing so? That seems unlikely to me. All the planning involved in his trip, all the secrecy, erasing his computer hard drive, seems quite unnecessary if he only intended to be gone a few weeks.

It’s possible that he did experience a recurrence of his depression and that’s why he ran away. A lot of people who leave like that suffer from mental health issues, and I’ve said before that I find those kinds of disappearances — just walking out of life with nary a word — to be like a symbolic form of suicide.

The fact that he erased his hard drive makes me wonder if he met someone on the internet and flew to the United States to meet up with that person. If so, finding that person might be the key to finding Vincent.

Vincent, if you’re out there, call home. If you like your life now, you’re an adult and you don’t have to come back if you don’t want to. Leave an anonymous message if you want. Just let your family know you’re okay.

Flashback Friday: Cesilia Pena

It’s Flashback Friday again and today I’m going to talk about Cesilia Pena, who disappeared from New York City on October 6, 1976. (This is the day after my birthday, but I wasn’t born for another nine years.) Cesilia was fourteen years old when she went missing but in the photos she looks much younger. She was tiny, only four feet nine inches tall and a little over 100 pounds. She disappeared while taking the subway from her parochial high school in Manhattan to her family’s apartment in the Bronx.

What makes Cesilia’s disappearance a little unusual is that someone might have actually seen her abduction in progress. A witness reported seeing Cesilia looking frightened, with a man holding her by the arm. The witness identified the man as Anthony “Rudy” Flores. Although he maintains his innocence (of course), Flores is considered a person of interest in Cesilia’s case and in the disappearance of another young Hispanic girl from Boston who also went missing in 1976. He was later convicted of the rape and murder of a mother and daughter and sentenced to life in prison.

If Rudy Flores was truly involved in Cesilia’s disappearance, she’s probably dead. I’ve tried to find more information about him, but drew a blank. I don’t know the names of the murder victims, and his own name is too common. There are probably at least a dozen men named Anthony Flores in the New York prison system and I’m not even sure this one is still alive.

Flashback Friday: William Christopher Delk

This week’s Flashback Friday is William Christopher Delk, a young man who disappeared from the Bronx in New York City. He had recently turned eighteen and went by the nickname Chris. He had plans for the future and had enrolled in a Job Corps program.

The last time Chris’s mom heard from him was on July 23, 1982, when he called her and asked her to come pick him up from the South Bronx Job Corps Center. Chris’s mother lived in the town of Huntington on Long Island. By the time she arrived at the Job Corps office, he was gone and he’d left his street clothes behind. No one saw him leave.

July 23 is given as the date of Chris’s disappearance, but he may have actually vanished some time after that. Chris’s mom was apparently unconcerned by his absence at first. He was eighteen, after all. She went on vacation out of state and called home several times while she was gone, hoping to reach her son. No one ever picked up the phone, but once the line was busy and she assumed Chris had returned home. When Chris’s mother returned from her vacation she found evidence that he’d done just that: the couch looked like it had been slept on, and Chris’s wallet and favorite hat, which he’d had when he vanished, had reappeared in the house. But there was no sign of him. His mother never saw him again.

There were no confirmed sightings of Chris Delk after July 23, and his Social Security number hasn’t been used in the three decades from that day to this. His NamUs profile says the police have dental records but no DNA sample, which makes me wonder if he has any family still alive and looking for him. The police believe he’s deceased.

What happened to William Christopher Delk in the summer of 1982?

Another Tuesday…

I was able to get all my Charley updates for today done and ready to be posted before today even started. I did the last bit at 11:57 p.m., March 25. Woo.

This week’s spotlighted missing person is Ian Burnett, a curly-haired Virginia college student who disappeared during a vacation to New York City over the Christmas holidays in 2011.

Ian’s case kind of reminds me of the disappearance of Matthew Wilson, who vanished from Rice University in Texas in 2007. I think he also disappeared while his school was on Christmas break. Both Matthew and Ian are/were very intelligent, motivated young men attending college on scholarships.

Matthew turned up alive after eight months; it turned out he’d been very unhappy and decided to unplug and try a new life elsewhere. I hope Ian did the same thing. But he’s been gone a lot longer than Matthew ever was.

Sylvia Cuttitta identified after three years

Sylvia Cuttitta vanished without a trace from Staten Island, New York in January 2010, at the age of 50. In August that year, people on a fishing boat in Ocean City, Maryland found her skull in the ocean. Her tibia turned up off the coast of New Jersey in 2011. They weren’t identified until now, though.

It’s kind of amazing she turned up at all. It’s been my observation that if a person disappears in the ocean (well, Sylvia was last seen on dry land, but obviously she wound up in the ocean somehow) and you don’t find them after a few days or a few weeks, they’re gone forever. Her family is lucky in this respect. Now at least they know what happened to her.

What they’ll probably never know is when she died, or how.

(And on a side note: what is the correct term these days for people whose occupation is fishing? I wrote “fishermen” at first but that seems sexist. Then again, I think the fishing industry is still pretty male dominated. I settled for “people on a fishing boat” but that’s pretty cumbersome…anyway. Not that important. Carry on.)