Black History Month: Emmanuel Kalief Birts

February is Black History Month. I got the idea to use the month to showcase some of the African-American MPs on the Charley Project. I thought maybe I should focus on the cases that didn’t get a lot of media attention, but that would be practically all of them — black missing people, and black crime victims in general, really tend to get ignored by the mainstream media.

Anyway, this blog is going to profile one missing black person per day for the entire month of February. The first is little Emmanuel Kalief Birts, who was abducted from his mother’s Dallas, Texas home on September 14, 1989, at the age of just five weeks.

The woman who took him claimed to be a social worker named Debra Manning and she was nothing if not brazen: she actually visited Emmanuel’s house and spoke with his family a total of FOUR TIMES.

The first time was on September 12, when she told them Emmanuel needed to be tested for HIV. “Manning” returned on September 13 with a letter, supposedly from the Child Welfare Department, that authorized her to take the baby away for testing. His mom, Kisha, wanted to go along, so “Manning” made an excuse and said she’d be back the next day. The next day she showed up, but didn’t have a car seat, so she said she’d go and get one. She came back with the car seat, whisked Emmanuel away and never returned.

The case made the local papers in Dallas, but quickly dropped out of the public eye, and I haven’t found anything in the news since 1990. He did eventually get added to NamUs, but only in 2014, and he wasn’t put on the NCMEC until sometime after that.

Both of Emmanuel’s parents have since tested negative for HIV. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t still alive out there, perhaps even still in Dallas, living his life with no idea he’s a missing person. He would now be 28 years old.

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I forgot to say

Awhile back, Megan Elizabeth Garner‘s mom contacted me on Facebook. As I had practically nothing on Megan’s disappearance, I was happy to hear from her.

Sadly, Megan’s mom didn’t have much to tell me. She said the police have dutifully followed leads in Megan’s disappearance for the past couple of decades, but never developed a suspect or a theory of the crime or anything.

Megan’s parents were separated when she disappeared, I guess, and Megan lived with her mom. The family was so poor they didn’t even have a phone when Megan went missing.

It’s a sad story. No telling what might have happened if there had been more publicity in this case at the time.

As for working on the site, I finished W today and I’m working on E. I anticipate finishing E today. So I’ve got cases A-D and U-Z finished, and quite a lot of others besides.

A cluster of resolves

Sometimes it seems like I don’t get a resolved case for a month and then suddenly get hit with a dozen at once. This next update will have five. So far. I’m linking to their casefiles but they won’t be up for much longer.

  • Runaway Sualee Jeseenia Gonzalez Castro has been found alive, per NCMEC. She had been missing for two years and almost two months and is now 19 years old.
  • Runaway Alondra Hernandez-Trujillo has also been found alive, per NCMEC. She had been missing for almost three years. She is now 18.
  • Convicted murderer Thomas Riffenburg has confessed to the killings of his girlfriend, Jennifer Anne Walsh, and their son, Alexander Mitchell Riffenburg, who had been missing from Palmdale, California since January 9, 2009. Jennifer was 23 and Alexander was only a year old. This article provides a lot of background info about their cases, more than I have on Charley. Thomas provided hand-drawn maps to where he’d buried their bodies, and the cops found remains and are awaiting DNA confirmation of their identities. I think I’ll resolve their cases now; it’s highly unlikely they’re anyone but Jennifer and Alexander.
  • A skull found in the woods 2001 has been identified as Ella Mae Williams, an 80-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s Disease who wandered from her Gainesville, Florida home on March 25, 1990. (The article incorrectly gives her age as 78.)

MP of the week: Dorien Thomas

This week’s featured missing person is Dorien Deon Thomas, a nine-year-old boy who disappeared from Amarillo, a city in the Texas panhandle, on October 26, 1998. He was (probably) going for a bike ride around the neighborhood when he vanished, and, unusually, the bike disappeared with him and was never found.

Dorien will have been missing for twenty years next year. He’d be 28 now, if he is still alive. I suppose there is no hard evidence that he isn’t; Jaycee Dugard turned up alive after quite a long time. The most recent news article I found on his case was from last fall.

Congratulations to my friend Dan S. for solving a cold case

Dan S., a Florida journalist and Friend Of My Youth, found Juanita Bardin the other day. If the link to her casefile is broken (I’m planning on taking it down later today), Juanita disappeared from Vidor, Texas on May 17, 1993, at the age of 49.

Dan simply entered Juanita’s name into Google and poof, found her: a person with the same name and date of birth died in King County, Washington in 2012 and was buried in a common grave for the indigent.

He asked me to call it in for him, so I did. Confirmation came yesterday afternoon: it’s her. I talked to the Vidor police chief and he said he’d verified it by the tattoos.

Juanita has no family to grieve the loss/celebrate the finding. The closest relative the police chief could find was her ex-husband. She had one child, the daughter mentioned in the casefile, but her daughter died years ago — before Juanita did, and apparently without issue — so there’s no one left.

But at least she wasn’t murdered by Tommy Lynn Sells or anyone else, and at least the cops can stop looking for her.

Go Dan! *claps*

MP of the week: Kelson Roby

This week’s featured missing person is Kelson Ryanell “Ryan” Roby, who disappeared on June 15, 1990 at the age of 31. The Texas Department of Public Safety page for him is a bit unclear: it says he’s missing from New York, but that he was last seen in Irving, Dallas County, Texas.

The Newspapers.com archive yielded no articles about Roby’s disappearance, but I did found some articles from 1979 that mentioned a Kelson Roby who matches the details of the missing man. The Kelson Roby in the articles transferred to the University of Northern Iowa from Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minnesota and played on the UNI football team. The articles describe the UNI player as a college junior and 6’1 tall. The Kelson Roby on the Charley Project would have been 20 years old in 1979 (that is, about the age to be a junior in college) and his listed height is 6’2, well within the margin of error.

I don’t know for sure but I think it’s entirely likely that they’re the same person in spite of the distance. Kelson Roby isn’t the world’s most common name, after all.

I wish I knew more about Roby’s case. Foul play is suspected but I don’t know why. I do think it’s worth noting that he was wearing a pricey Rolex — gold and platinum with a diamond bezel — as well as a diamond ring. I’m assuming those things have serial numbers or something and are traceable.

Let’s Talk About It: William and Margaret Patterson

Middle-aged married couple William Durrell Patterson, 52, and Margaret M. Patterson, 42, vanished from El Paso, Texas on March 5, 1957. They were last seen by a neighbor who dropped by with some Girl Scout cookies. Margaret looked upset at the time and William didn’t seem to want company. That night there was unspecified “unusual activity” observed at the Patterson home. The next day they were gone, and it looked like they had left in a hurry.

William in particular seems to have been involved in some kind of sketchy things. His own father said he “made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks” and he had always expected the Pattersons to disappear eventually.

There are some indications that they left of their own accord, the appearance of the house nonwithstanding. Let’s break it down:

  • On March 15, the Pattersons’ accountant got a telegram with instructions on how to manage their business in their absence. HOWEVER, the telegram was signed “W.H. Patterson” and not “W.D. Patterson.” The obvious explanations I can think of are (1) William did not really send that telegram or (2) William did send the telegram but messed up his initials on purpose as a duress signal.
  • William’s mistress, who lived in Juarez, said she saw him in the early morning hours of March 6 (the day after he and Margaret were seen in El Paso) and he told her he had important things to tell her and “when they come for me, I’ll have to go in a hurry.” HOWEVER, she later recanted this statement. What I’m wondering is: if William had important things to tell her, why not just tell her right then, since they were together and all?
  • The couple’s business associates went around telling everyone they were on an extended vacation. No word as to where they were getting this information, but as a result they weren’t reported missing for five months.
  • The Pattersons’ lawyer eventually got a letter, supposedly from William, postmarked May 29. It said they were getting out of dodge and would not be returning, and instructing that their property should be divided up. HOWEVER, the selection of heirs was…curious, to say the least, and handwriting experts were not sure that William had actually signed the letter, and for several legal reasons (starting with the fact that Margaret co-owned the couple’s photography business), it had no actual value as a will.

In 1984, a witness went to the police and said he had been hired to clean the Pattersons’ home after they disappeared and he saw blood in the garage, a piece of human scalp stuck to William’s boat propeller, and someone carrying away bloodstained sheets. The witness was an illegal immigrant and he said he didn’t go to the police at the time because he was afraid he’d be deported. I’ve got no idea if there’s any evidence to back up his statement. I’ve watched Forensic Files; I know they have all sorts of gizmos and experts in all kinds of obscure fields of crime scene analysis and it seems like if the house had still been there, they might have found something.

For what it’s worth, Margaret was completely estranged from her family. They hadn’t heard from her in 20 years and they assumed she was dead, which is an odd assumption if you ask me. She was a young healthy woman and she doesn’t appear to have vanished out of their lives into thin air; she became estranged from them because they disapproved of her marriage to William. So why would they assume she was dead?

Now, it’s been 60 years, and both of the Pattersons would be over 100 years old by now, so it’s a safe bet to assume they’re not alive anymore. What I would like to know is: do y’all think they were alive after 1957?

Let’s talk about it.