Select It Sunday: Arkadiy Tashman

This week’s selection is by B.: Arkadiy Tashman, a Russian immigrant skater boy who vanished under very mysterious circumstances ten years ago in January. He left behind a very distressing note: “Sorry about this. No wake, no funeral.” But if Arkadiy took his own life, where’s the body?

What’s, in a way, even more distressing than that note, is something noted in his casefile: “His parents notified police immediately [after finding the note], but for unknown reasons authorities did not begin an official search for Arkadiy for six days.”


Note nevertheless, his family doesn’t believe he committed suicide. I hope not. In situations like this families are often the last people to know when a person is in that kind of condition.

Comparison between Golden Gate Bridge suicides and other jumpers on Charley

Out of curiosity, I checked out the jumpers on this week’s list and compared them to the Golden Gate Bridge jumpers I have listed. I chose to include only those where either the cops specifically said they were sure the person had jumped, or there was a witness or the person’s stuff was found in the water. I left out those who merely left their car parked near the bridge, though I’m sure many of those also died there.

There were 21 names and as far as ages are concerned, they just about corresponded with the other list: most of them young, seven in their twenties, four in their teens (two of them only fifteen, sigh). However, in the previous list, there were almost as many females as males. Not so with the GGB list: eighteen males and only three females.

According to John Bateson’s wonderful book on the subject of Golden Gate Bridge suicides, three-quarters of the jumpers are male. 3 of 21 is only fourteen percent, though. But I suppose the additional difference might be explained by the fact that that male bodies, being heavier, might sink deeper and be less likely to be found than female ones, which is why they would appear on Charley. Just a hypothesis, mind.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: put up a barrier already. People are dying while you complain about it ruining your precious view.

Mariam Makhniashvili’s funeral

The funeral for Mariam Makhniashvili has taken place — a public ceremony on Friday, and a private one yesterday. Although she wasn’t a Charley Project case because she disappeared in Canada, I did follow it to a certain extent and blogged about her in my March 11 entry “Final Leaps.”

Mariam’s disappearance (now presumed to be a suicide, although not officially ruled as such) tore her family apart. Literally. Some months after she vanished, her father, Vakhtang, snapped under the pressure of it all and stabbed a guy whom he accused of being involved in Mariam’s disappearance. A sympathetic couple, strangers to the Makhniashvili family, bailed Vakhtang out of jail. He later stabbed one of them too. Of course this violent behavior lead to speculation that Vakhtang had also harmed his daughter. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to six years in prison. He isn’t dead, of course, but at least until he gets out of prison the family has to all intents been reduced by half: now it’s just Mariam’s younger brother, George Makhniashvili, and their mother, Lela Tabidze.

Vakhtang has reportedly behaved well in prison, but he was not allowed leave from prison to attend his daughter’s funeral. The decision was “partially based on Mr. Makhniashvili’s court-ordered psychiatric assessment.” He has a “delusional disorder” and I guess they think he’s (still) dangerous.

I can understand the authorities not wanting to take a risk with Vakhtang, but it’s still a shame that he couldn’t attend. The Makhniashvilis are immigrants from the Republic of Georgia and I don’t think they have any relatives in Ontario. They had been living in Canada for only three months. Mariam was shy, had no friends, spoke no English, and had attended school for all of four days by the time of her disappearance. Of course some of the teachers and students from her school showed up at the funeral and said nice things — the principal called Mariam “a wonderful student, a person who was highly introspective and highly sensitive and very intuitive” — but let’s face it, they didn’t know her.

In a sense, every grieving person is alone in their sorrow, but Lela Tabidze and George Makhniashvili must feel especially alone, surrounded by all these kind well-wishers, but no one who actually knew Mariam and could share memories of her childhood, her personality, all that she was.

Probable and possible suicides

I’m still thinking about the people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and realized I’d never come up with a list of all the probable suicides listed on Charley. I thought I’d attempt it now:

Adrian Ferraras Almario, age 17, in 2006
Allison Taylor Bayliss, age 15, in 2011
Robert Ralph Beich, age 46, in 1990
Leonard Bernard Branzuela, age 32, in 1993
Casey Joanna Brooks, age 17, in 2008
Eric Dickson Cansler, age 40, in 2005
Ylenia Maria Sole Carrisi, age 23, in 1994
Atlanta Clark, age 73, in 1984
Lisa Ann Clark, age 39, in 1996
Jonathan Samuel Dorey, age 22, in 2010
Thomas Redd Evans, age 51, in 1994
Ronald Eugene Davis, age 34, in 1993
Andrew Cardoza Fluegelman, age 41, in 1985
Amador Garcia, age 27, in 1986
Brenton J. Garmire, age 43, in 1990
Patricia E. Gomez, age 23, in 1979
Gregory Dean Gothard, age 54, in 2006
Silvestre Reyes Hidalgo, age 38, in 1995
Jack Allen Hilton, age 25, in 1983
Robert F. Hughes, age 59, in 2008
Paresh Jain, age 25, in 2011
Danny Lee Kelley, age 35, in 1995
Jerry Wayne Lackey, age 36, in 1985
William Jeffers Lank, age 42, in 1992
Anthony P. Lee, age 24, in 1986
Maricel Tolentino Marcial, age 27, in 2002
William Thomas McKay, age 53, in 1993
Priscilla Giordano McKee, age 44, in 1991
Patricia Minassian, age 37, in 1996
Frank Oliva Sr., age 76, and his wife Mary Oliva, age 79, in 1973
Kristina Ashe Olsen, age 50, in 2008
John Pavlat, age 34, in 2002
Mark Wade Potts, age 45, in 2010
William Thomas Purcell III, age 38, in 2003
Robin Reed, age 15, in 1995
Andrew Brian Renton, age 46, in 2007
John Robert Scialabba, age 23, in 2001
Michael Joseph Scully, age 24, in 1986
Kristin Marie Snyder, age 35, in 2003
Hilary Harmon Stagg Jr., age 16, in 1970
Sandra Stricklin, age 24, in 1998
Matthew Vincent Sueper, age 22, in 2011
Kayoko Tomoikari, age 40, in 2003
Donna L. Urban, age 23, in 1983
Lewis Barrett Welch Jr., age 44, in 1971 (he was a minor character in one of Jack Kerouac’s books)
Matthew Chase Whitmer, age 20, in 2007
Charles White Whittlesley, age 37, in 1921 (a Medal of Honor winner)

They’re rather older than I expected — the average age is 38 years.

And some marginal cases, maybe-suicide-maybe-not:
David Scott Abramovitz, age 23, in 2001
Zachary A. Aylsworth, age 22, in 2006 (no disputing what he did, but rather his intent)
Robert Matthew Bockmann, age 26, in 2003
Charles Howard Bolter, age 69, in 1972
Tracee Jane Carter, age 40, in 2002
Merrian Lynn Carver, age 40, in 2004
Jennifer Rayleen Casper-Ross, age 30, in 2005
Steven Norman Chait, age 20, in 1972
Skip Conrad, age 57, in 2006
David Cortez Jr., age 27, in 2000 (a very odd case)
Lee Sterling Cutler, age 18, in 2007
Sandra Lee Davis, age 38, in 1974
George Wolfgang Dudding, age 45, in 1999
Kyle Andrew Carl Eppler, age 20, in 1999
Jonathan Lewis Ginsburg, age 32, in 1987
Roy Jacob Hagel, age 38, in 1989
Brian Eugene Helmuth, age 38, in 1999
Gregory Downes Howells, age 42, in 1997
Lonnett Myer Jackson, age 46, in 2006
Sandra Mary Jacobson, age 36, in 1996 (and her son John, see the list below)
Harry Weldon Kees, age 41, in 1955 (a Beat writer like Lew Welch mentioned above)
Dermot Faulkner Kelly, age 16, in 1972
Margaret M. Kilcoyne, age 50, in 1980
Bonita Louise Krummel, age 44, in 1991
Vincent Lamouris, age 18, in 2002
David J. Miller, age 27, in 2011
Ornaith Murphy, age 55, in 2001 (and her husband, see below)
Van T. Nguyen, age 26, in 2001 (and her children, see below)
Muni Bart Perzov, age 49, in 2009
Joseph David Wolfgang Pichler, age 18, in 2006
Brian Ross Ritchie, age 36, in 1999
Victorio Abueg Santiago, age 37, in 2002 (and his sons; see below)
Roger Schwerman II, age 19, in 1993
Bobby Nathan Simpson, age 32, in 2005
Shantina Marie Smiley, age 29, in 2010 (a very sad case)
Austin Sparks, age 15, in 2004 (like the Aylsworth case: we know what he did, but did he mean to harm himself?)
Michael Dean Stephenson, age 44, in 1996
Charles Southern Jr., age 39, in 1987
Arkadiy Tashman, age 17, in 2005
Joan Penderell Taylor, age 63, in 2003
Susan Walsh, age 36, in 1996
Robbie A. Wardwell, age 51, in 2008
Marvin Duane Witte, age 51, in 2005
George Robert Zelaya, age 61, in 2005

And, saddest of all, people who may have been victims of murder/suicides:
Carolyn Denise Brown, age 27, and her children Barry Michael Brown, age 6, Brandon Mitchell Brown, age 2, and Sheketah Michele Brown, age 10, in 1985
A.J. Campbell Jr., age 11 months, and his sister Myrisha Faye Campbell, age 3, in 1958
Rachel Lyn Conger, age 30, in 2008
Bekime Elshani, age 22, in 2008
John Henry Jacobson, age 5, in 1996
Kieran Murphy, age 58, in 2001
John Thai Nguyen, age 3, and his sister Kristina Thay Nguyen, age 4, in 2002
Isabella Pastrana, age 1, in 2003
Timmothy James Pitzen, age 6, in 2011
Daniel Borje Santiago, age 7, and his brother Noel Borje Santiago, age 11, in 2002
Reachelle Marie Smith, age 3, in 2006
Dennise Jeannette Sullivan, age 15, in 1961

Final leaps

I was in the library today and, as always, stopped to have a look at their display of new books. One caught my eye: The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge by John Bateson. Being a connoisseur of Incredibly Depressing Books, of course I had to check it out. I haven’t started it yet — I’m in the middle of two books right now — but it looks very interesting.

Charley has quite a few presumed Golden Gate Bridge suicides, as I recorded here. Less than a month ago I added Allison Bayliss, a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore who jumped last May. The prologue of Bateson’s book talks about Casey Joanna Brooks, a high school senior who jumped in 2008 (and is still classified as a “runaway juvenile” on the California Department of Justice missing persons database in spite of my calling them to tell them this was both inaccurate and insensitive).

Another reason for bridge jumpers to be on my mind: the tragic recovery of Mariam Makhniashvili from Toronto. A recent immigrant from the Republic of Georgia who didn’t speak English, she vanished without a trace in 2009. The cops suspected foul play and her father has since been imprisoned for stabbing a guy whom he accused of being involved in Mariam’s disappearance, then stabbing the couple who bailed him out of jail in the first incident.

Then someone stumbled across Mariam’s body under an overpass, just outside the search grid. She’d been missing for two and a half years. The cops think she took her own life, although it’s possible her death was an accident. We’ll never know for sure.

Det. Sergeant Dan Nealon, lead detective in Mariam’s case, said the teen’s family never indicated the girl was depressed or anxious — but “in retrospect,” she kept to herself in the months before her 2009 disappearance.

Investigators “could assume that it was a result of isolation or depression,” he said, adding that she also could have been struggling with cultural barriers.

Rest in peace, Mariam.

Golden Gate Bridge suicides

On the Charley Project I have many people who have probably jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and were never found. I found this article about Golden Gate Bridge suicides, which mentions Matthew Chase Whitmer, a young man with schizoaffective disorder who jumped off the bridge in 2007. His mother has a website about him and other Bridge suicides; she is lobbying for the authorities to put up an anti-suicide barrier.

The main arguments against the barrier which I have seen is that it would cost money, and it would be unsightly. This is absurd. A barrier probably save a dozen lives, at least, every year.

The argument that “they would just go kill themselves somewhere else” doesn’t really hold water. A lot of suicides are impulsive acts and if someone attempts, or is going to attempt, to kill themselves and gets prevented the first time, they often don’t try again anytime soon. In fact, Casey Joanna Brooks is known to have approached the bridge at night not long before her suicide, and was stopped because there was a pedestrian gate that was locked during the nighttime hours. Later (it was either days or weeks, I forget), she returned during the day and jumped.

Also, the Golden Gate Bridge is such a famous and beautiful place that it attracts suicides. There’s another bridge not too far away which would be just as lethal to jump from, but very few people do.

I suspect that the California Department of Justice MP database has more suspected Golden Gate Bridge suicides than I know of. I usually only find about about the probable suicide through reading a mention on the database, but the fact that the MP was probably a bridge jumper is not always mentioned in the file. Casey Brooks, for example, is listed as a “runaway juvenile” in spite of the fact that her jump was witnessed. (I found out the true cause of her disappearance from other sources.) I actually called the DOJ hotline number about that — I think Casey’s family would be really upset if they heard of her classification — but nothing was done.