The Virginia State Police’s missing persons list continues its growth spurt as cases old and new are added, and I’m trying to keep up. Using the VSP’s information, today I added eight cases and updated one. (And also added one and updated two that weren’t from the VSP.) There are a few on there also that will hit the one-year deadline in just a week or two. Fortunately I was able to do this work without throwing out my back like I did when I went on that VSP updates binge in August.
I was just writing the VSP cases one at a time as I was scrolling down the list — scroll down past names I’ve added already, see one that’s new, write it up, scroll through a few more cases I know already, see another one I haven’t added, write it up, etc. They’re in alphabetical order. Actually, I like the simple list format because it keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed by the volume of cases. I can only see like, three cases on the screen at any given time, all in a single row, which keeps me from panicking over the fact that there are like 50 or whatever cases altogether on that list.
One of the cases I added today was the case of one Charles Bruce Brantley, missing from Herndon since January 12, 2015. It’s one of those pathetic “Few details are available in his case” ones. I wrote it, scrolled down, wrote up some more cases, and then came across Mark Lemiuex. I noted that he was also listed as missing from Herndon, and on the exact same day as Mr. Brantley. My ears perked up a bit and I made a note in my drafts of both casefiles that these two men had disappeared from the same city on the same day However, the VSP provided no information on the circumstances of Lemiuex’s disappearance, and they hadn’t with Brantley either, so I had to note, “It’s unclear whether the two men disappeared together, or if their cases are related in any way. Few details are available in their cases”
Then as I continued copying Mr. Lemiuex’s information from the VSP list, I noticed something was amiss: not only did he disappear from the same city as Brantley on the same date, but both men were the same age, the same height and weight, with the same hair and eye color and identical clothing descriptions.
Clearly, VSP accidentally used the same information for two different cases. Now, this is something I admit I’ve been guilty of myself sometimes. I’m not perfect, I freely admit, and sometimes (okay, often) I make clerical errors of one kind or another. (Feel free to point them out to me via email or Facebook message or whatever.) But I never made that kind of mistake for an ENTIRE CASEFILE. *headdesk*
And I thought: “Okay, so which one has the correct information and which is the copy? What if I can’t find out?” It seemed like, in that case, there was nothing to do but omit both men from the Charley Project. After all, I couldn’t be certain of my information, and spreading misinformation on that scale would be more harmful than otherwise.
BUT! NamUs came to the rescue. I investigated further and discovered that, although Mr. Brantley is not on NamUs as of this writing, Mr. Lemiuex is. Except for the race and age, he had completely different information from Brantley. They disappeared from different cities five years apart, among other things. Not only that, but NamUs had more information about Lemieux than the VSP provided. Although case still has the “few details are available” phrase, I was able to add at least SOME information about the circumstances, what he looked like, what he wore, and a his medical condition he had. (And, of course, I removed that erroneous note I had planned to add to both Brantley and Lemiuex’s casefiles.)
This is why I’m glad there are so many different sources of missing persons information on the internet. I don’t believe that any MP website/database/whatever should be a total one-stop shop. To ensure accuracy, it’s much better to have two sources than one, and five sources rather than two, etc. I’ve learned the hard way that NO SOURCE is 100% accurate all of the time, not even law enforcement databases (see today’s example), and not even MPs’ relatives.