Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Soon Hwang

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Soon Chon Hwang, a 44-year-old businessman who disappeared from Memphis, Tennessee on September 5, 2006. He owned a grocery store there.

Hwang was at a wholesale grocery shopping, presumably buying stuff to resell at his own store, when he got a call and left in a hurry, leaving his shopping behind. He was never seen again and his truck was found in West Memphis, Arkansas (just over the state border, about twelve minutes from Memphis) that same day.

I couldn’t find any news about this case; the only thing I could find was some court filing where Hwang was listed as a defendant in a lawsuit. The document notes that the sheriff couldn’t serve him because he’d been “missing F/2 yrs.” In fact, by then he’d been missing for three and a half years.

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Sweeeeeet….

I have stumbled across a new collection of MP cases, put together by the National Park Service. This list is by no means exhaustive, I’m sure, but it’s a start, and I see several names I don’t recognize, as well as nuggets of information I didn’t have for cases already on Charley.

For example, it turns out that Trenny Lynn Gibson‘s real name is Teresa. Who knew? Even the NCMEC lists her as Trenny.

Anyway: woo! I hope they keep it current.

Select It Sunday: Cayce Lynn McDaniel

Bridget B. asked me to profile Cayce Lynn McDaniel‘s case for Select It Sunday; the 21st anniversary of her disappearance was last month. She was fourteen when she disappeared from Milan, Tennessee on August 16, 1996. She attended a church party and then someone dropped her off at home, which was unoccupied at the time. Cayce’s mom arrived home in the early hours of the next morning and found her daughter gone. She had had time to change clothes, grab some milk and cookies and turn on the TV before she disappeared.

I did a search and found this 2017 article about the case, but it doesn’t say anything new. A 2010 article says the police believe Cayce is dead.

Strike that, reverse it: murder-without-a-body cases

It has been brought to my attention that Walter Shannon Stevenson, whose case I resolved yesterday, has not been found after all. This article, from which I got the original information, has issued a retraction. A suspect, Jeffrey May, has been charged with his murder, but Walter’s case is currently a no-body homicide.

I hope the body turns up soon. In the meantime, I’ll remove the resolved notice and put up Walter’s casefile again with the next update (probably today).

And speaking of murder-without-a-body cases, it looks like the only indicted suspect in Katherine and Sheila Lyon‘s 1975 disappearances is about to plead guilty. Some articles:

This isn’t the end of the story — there’s another suspect who is also believed to have been involved — but it might be the beginning of the end.

As of this writing, the Corpus Delicti section of Charley — my three lists of murder-without-a-body cases currently on the website — has approximately 615 names. (I saw “approximately” because a few names are on more than one list due to multiple defendants and multiple outcomes. I wish I could find the outcomes for more of those cases on List Three, which surely must have been resolved by now.)

For more details about murder-without-a-body cases, I highly recommend you check out Tad DiBiase’s website (particularly this PDF) and book.

MP of the week: Anna Leatherwood

This week’s featured MP is Anna Francis Leatherwood, one of my older cases. She’s been missing for over 50 years. Anna disappeared from Sevierville in eastern Tennessee on May 20, 1966, at the age of 45. For reasons that should be obvious from the casefile, her husband is the prime suspect in her disappearance and presumed murder.

Let’s talk about it: Zaylee Fryar

Zaylee Grace Fryar would have turned seven years old in January, assuming she’s still alive. She’s been missing from Millersville, Tennessee since the age of three and a half months.

Late in the evening May 1, 2011, Zaylee’s mom, Shauna Fryar, took her out, supposedly to go to the store, but probably to buy drugs. Shauna can’t have planned to stay out long, because she left everything behind, including Zaylee’s diaper bag — I’m given to understand that’s a kind of essential item when you’re dealing with an infant. In any case, mother and daughter never returned.

(I need to insert a word here about Shauna’s domestic situation: she was married and the mother of eight children, but most of them, including Zaylee, weren’t her husband’s. They both saw other people and were on more of a friendship basis with each other. Shauna’s husband was at the hospital when Zaylee was born, and invited them to crash at his place as they were homeless. Zaylee’s biological father was in jail at the time Shauna and Zaylee disappeared.)

Five days later, Shauna’s body was pulled out of the Cumberland River in Nashville, less than twenty miles south of Millersville. For a very long time the cops had nothing to say about her death, the cause, anything. It wasn’t until 2015 that they finally disclosed she’d been the victim of a homicide and they thought she’d been killed in Millersville and dumped in Nashville. They also said they had suspects. They haven’t said anything more since then.

So what happened to Zaylee? No one appears to know.

Usually, in circumstances like these, the women are killed FOR their babies. Andre Bryant‘s is a good example of that; two women lured his mom away with him, killed her and vanished with the baby. In homicides where the woman just happens to have her baby with her, the killers tend to either leave alive it at the crime scene or abandon it alive somewhere. (I’ve got a couple of cases where women have disappeared and their babies turned up abandoned: Norma Morales, Kimberly Palmer, etc. I tend to assume if that happens there’s a very good chance the woman is dead.) Rarely do they also kill the baby; I mean, it’s not like it would be able to testify against them in court.

Shauna’s drug habit and the circumstances of her disappearance would seem to indicate her murder was probably drug-related, but I have no idea whether there’s any actual evidence to support this because, like I said, the police haven’t said much. It’s possible Shauna was killed for an entirely different reason. But even if it was a drug-related homicide, that doesn’t mean Zaylee isn’t still out there, perhaps having been sold for drugs. I mean, she was adorable, and healthy infants do have some street value.

Sadly, I think it’s also possible she could have been put in the Cumberland River with her mother. Three-month-old girls tend to weigh only 12 to 14 pounds. A body that size would be easy to miss.

So what do you think happened to Zaylee? Is it likely that she’s still alive? Let’s talk about it.

Select It Sunday: Matthew Pendergrast

Chosen by commenter Alpha75, Matthew David Pendergrast disappeared from Memphis, Tennessee on December 1, 2000. He was 23 years old and within weeks of graduating from Rhodes College when he dropped off the map.

From writings Matthew left behind when he disappeared, it looks like he might have had a nervous breakdown of some kind. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder both usually develop in a person’s late teens or early twenties. However, the cops don’t seem to be buying into the mental illness theory and are focusing on possible foul play instead.

Disturbingly, Matthew’s journal said something about going into the water, and they found his vehicle and the clothes he’d been wearing near a swamp. Whatever happened to him, he was probably naked or nearly so.

I did find this long feature article about Matthew’s disappearance in Memphis Magazine.