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.)
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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.

Thinking aloud in today’s updates

Yeah, I went a bit nuts this night.

  • Regarding Angelica Gandara:
    It would appear from the neighbor’s account that someone was stalking Angelica prior to her abduction. I’m not sure what to make of the account by the witness in San Antonio, though.
    It’s certainly plausible but I don’t know if it was ever verified — I could find only one article about it. Nowadays it would be pretty easy to verify since I’m assuming all convenience stores have security cameras, but I don’t think that was the case in 1985.
    If that girl WAS Angelica, though, it would seem to indicate she was kept alive for an extended period after her disappearance, which makes me wonder if human trafficking was involved. Perhaps she might even still be alive today.
    The fact that the little girl didn’t ask for help doesn’t mean this witness’s account is discredited — Shasta Groene didn’t ask for help either, although she did keep walking up to people and staring at them in right the face.
  • Regarding Carol Woolsoncroft:
    I tried to find out what Eugene LaFaye is doing nowadays but came up with nothing I could verify. I couldn’t find anyone by that name listed in the sex offender registry. I couldn’t find him listed in the Florida Department of Corrections database.
    I did find mention of a Eugene LaFaye in the Fort Myers area in 1979 and I’m pretty sure this guy was Carol’s boyfriend’s father, since (a) the 1979 Eugene was 65 is and Carol’s Eugene would have been in 19 at the time and (b) I know Carol’s Eugene is a junior, so his father would have had the same name.
    I did find mention of an “incapacitated person” named Eugene LaFaye in the Fort Myers area in 2001. I’m not sure which Eugene this is. Eugene Sr. would have been 87 by then.
    At any rate this is a very sad but all-too-common kind of disappearance — domestic violence. It’s like super-obvious what happened, they just can’t prove it.
  • Also… I found photos of Ivan Gutierrez and Charles Gibson! They’re not even really awful photos, either! I mean, they’re not the greatest, but they’re about as good as you can expect from newspaper archives, and I could finally add the cases to Charley!
    Though why Gibson is in FDLE and Gutierrez isn’t, I don’t know; one of the articles said Gutierrez was officially reported missing by his father. Shrug.

Flashback Friday: Joyce Brewer

Gah, I have been neglecting my weekly features as of late and haven’t done a FF case since March. This one is Joyce Creola Brewer, a fifteen-year-old girl who disappeared from Grand Prairie, Texas on September 6, 1970.

The circumstances of Joyce’s disappearance — last seen stomping out of the house after a fight with her parents — might indicate she ran away. If so she’s been gone for a VERY long time, obviously — 46 years, almost 47 — but it’s by no means impossible that she’s still alive.

If she is not, or for that matter if she is, a good way to identify her would be the extensive burn scars on her torso and left arm.

If she’s still alive, Joyce would be 62 today, and maybe a grandmother or something.