Select It Sunday: Elizabeth Acton

Susan P. asked me to re-share Elizabeth Jean Acton‘s casefile on the Charley Project Facebook page. I thought I’d do one better and do a Select It Sunday about her.

Unfortunately I really don’t know anything about Elizabeth’s disappearance. The 41-year-old woman was last seen in Montross, Virginia on August 24, 1994. That’s all I know. Wikipedia says that Montross is the county seat of Westmoreland County, but it’s really tiny; the population was 315 people in the last census. It’s in northeastern Virginia, right near the coast.

If anyone can give me some more information about Elizabeth Acton’s case I’d be most grateful.

Muttergrumble, etc.

Yeah, so I was writing up the Runaway Of The Day and discovered that she is quite active on social media; her Facebook page, for example, says she was at a KFC in Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side) yesterday, and she was complaining about the wait there. So I called the NCMEC hotline to tell them this (they’re actually in my cell phone contacts), only to be told that the girl had been recovered ages ago.

Well, she’s still on their database, and I wasted some time writing up a casefile for a girl who’s not missing. At least I caught the error before POSTING said casefile.

And speaking of the NCMEC, what the heck’s up with Shimeaka Gibson? Her NCMEC poster mentions that she wears wigs but inexplicably fails to bring up the fact that she wears them because she’s completely bald, having lost her hair because of lupus. They don’t even have a “may be in need of medical attention” thing on her poster. I had to find out the baldness and lupus things from NamUs. But they’re awfully important details if you ask me. Baldness in a teenage girl is a major distinguishing characteristic, and lupus is a serious disease that can kill you.

Sigh.

Let’s talk about it: Yuan Xia Wang

This week’s “let’s talk about it” case is Yuan Xia Wang, a young Chinese girl who disappeared from Lincolnia, Virginia on October 21, 1998. I was just getting interested in missing persons at that time and I remember seeing her NCMEC poster right after she disappeared and wondering about it. Like most of their posters, it said very little, and it was years before I learned the details of her disappearance.

Yuan was smuggled into the country by a Thai man, using someone else’s genuine Thai passport. According to this Washington Post article, the immigration and customs people caught them after someone at the airport realized she didn’t speak Thai, and her smuggler was arrested.

Usually, Chinese immigrants who get smuggled into the U.S. are sent “to restaurants or brothels where they are held in virtual servitude to pay off huge smuggling fees.” Yuan’s case was somewhat unusual in that her passage was paid for in advance.

She said she was twelve, but the authorities doubted it and so do I. I was five feet even at that age, about middling height for the girls in my class at school, and I think Chinese people tend to be smaller than Americans. Yuan was five feet six. They thought she could have been as old as fifteen. I don’t know what reason she would have had to lie; perhaps she felt she would be better treated if they thought she was younger.

Yuan was sent to a foster home. Her foster family welcomed her as best they could, but they didn’t speak Mandarin, and she was the only Mandarin-speaking student at her new school. If I were her I’d have been desperately lonely. She vanished without a trace six weeks later — significantly, perhaps, on a day she had a doctor’s appointment.

They’re not sure what happened to her. The most obvious suggestions are that she either ran away or got picked up (voluntarily or otherwise) by someone, like a relative or someone involved in the smuggling, in order to avoid deportation. (The U.S. authorities hadn’t decided what to do with her yet; she could have been either deported or allowed to stay.) I suppose it’s possible she could have been abducted for reasons having nothing to do with her immigration status, as well.

Other than a lead placing her in Kansas City in 2008, there hasn’t been any sign of her in almost twenty years.

Let’s talk about it.

YOU HAD ONE JOB, VSP missing persons listing

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.

Thinking aloud, 9/5/2016

  • Carol Ann Smith: Well, that looks incredibly suspicious, does it not?
  • Eric Grady Smith: Normally, when someone disappears on a hunting trip, I think “hunting accident/got lost and died of exposure.” But this case really puzzles me. It’s not as if Smith disappeared while hunting in the remote wilderness in some huge national park; he was on his own property. Searchers had a very good idea about where to look, and it can’t have been that large an area, yet they found no trace of him.
    Everyone emphasized how careful Smith was at work (although, ironically, the reason he’s blind in one eye is due to a workplace accident). Mining is a very dangerous profession, and at one point the mine Smith was in charge of won some kind of recognition for going an entire year without a single accident. He carefully followed the safety regulations, and whenever new laws were passed he studied them and made sure to apply them correctly. It seems like someone who was so stringent about safety at work would be that way in his personal life too, which, it seems, would make a hunting accident less likely.
    Yet there is, as far as I can tell, no evidence of foul play and no motive. Rather like the Miller Harlow case.
  • Lee Gregory Snellings Jr.: I wish I knew which mental illness Snellings was suffering from. His mom said he could be talked into anything and not recognize danger. Amber Schulze was also said to be “highly suggestible” due to a mental disorder, but I don’t know what was wrong with her either. I wonder if Lee was in an ATV accident, like Gerald Randall Marion (scroll down to the middle of the page). I didn’t find anything about his ATV turning up.
  • Thomas Walter Sprinkle Jr.: He makes the second Charley Project case I’ve got of someone missing an ear. (This is the first one.) I wonder if this was a suicide. I mean, the poor man was 79 years old, he had cancer, he was missing an ear, and then he finds out he’s being evicted. And he had threatened suicide before. Whatever happened, I think if we find Sprinkle’s van, we’ll find him.
  • Harry Lee Womack: A case with contradictory information: one article I found specifically said he suffered from dementia and seizures, but another said he had no medical conditions that would cause mental confusion. Oh-kay…
  • Howard Kenneth Woolwine: I wrote about him yesterday. I am going to call some people tomorrow and see about that photo. I decided to put him up anyway, but I’ve got grave misgivings as to whether the person in that photo is really him. I would have called around today, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to talk to anyone due to the holiday. Anyway… I’m thinking Woolwine might have hitched a ride with somebody. That would explain why the searchers never found him in spite of the fact that he could barely walk.

Thinking aloud writing today’s updates

Laurie Lynn Bradshaw: *Googles the name of the guy driving her car* Weird…no sign of him on the internet at all. The article saying they can’t find him is from August 1987. I wonder if he ever did turn up?

Joanne Long Fugett: The date of birth given on this obituary would match Joanne’s age; this is probably her. I’ve seen such notices for MPs who have been declared legally dead. But why would Joanne get declared legally dead just seven months after her disappearance?

Donna Kay Gibson: My God, if someone abducted this poor woman (which looks likely) when she had laryngitis… She wouldn’t even been able to scream for help.

Miller Smith Harlow: This is a strange case. It looks like it must have been foul play, but why? Who would want to kill this harmless, likable retiree?

Abdallah Ahmed Hassan and Barkad Ilyas Hassan: Weird, two guys with the same surname disappear from the same city just two weeks apart. Probably not related though. Hassan is a really common Muslim name. Abdallah was apparently Somali. I wonder if Barkad and his friend Hamza Okie were too? The photos all look like passport-type pics.

Francisco Arroya Hernandez: The Virginia State Police page mistakenly calls him “Franciso” and then refers to him as “Francisco” in the text of the document; I wonder if “Arroya” is also a mistake and it’s supposed to be “Arroyo.”

From the VSP page also, La-Teasha LaMone Brooks and Heather Dialian Hodges have one new photo each.

Select It Sunday: Isabella Miller-Jenkins

This week’s Select It Sunday case was chosen by Maddie C (she emailed, coincidentally, a few days before I received my most recent loony email): Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, a seven-year-old who was abducted by her mother, Lisa Ann Miller, from Bedford, Virginia back in 2010. Lisa took her south; I think they were last known to be in Nicaragua. Isabella would now be fourteen.

This is a very high-profile family abduction case, mostly because Isabella’s parents are both women and Lisa is an ex-gay, right-wing Christian whose cause other right-wing Christian people have embraced — to the extent that several of them faced charges for helping her.

Lisa and Isabella’s other mother, Janet Jenkins, had split up amicably and Isabella lived with Lisa and had visitation Janet, but after Lisa joined Jerry Falwell‘s church, she decided homosexuality was sinful and wouldn’t let Isabella see Janet anymore because she didn’t want to expose her to that way of life. Several years of legal wrangling later, a family court judge transferred custody to Janet because he thought this was the only way Isabella could maintain a relationship with both mothers. In response, Lisa took her.

I am very much an LGBT ally, but even if I wasn’t, this case is really no different than any other family abduction case. You’ve got one parent who refused to let their ex see the child, alienated the child against her ex, made false accusations of abuse by the ex, and decided she was above the law and didn’t have to obey court rulings. This started long before the abduction, when the judge tried to enforce the visitation schedule by fining Lisa $25 for every day she wouldn’t allow Isabella to see Janet. Lisa racked up thousands in fines.

And to top it off, when they left Virginia, Lisa left Isabella’s pet hamsters behind at home to die a slow, horrible death of dehydration and thirst. Because, you see, if she asked anyone to look after them, that might tip the authorities off that they were going on the run. So she’s an animal abuser as well as a child abuser. Parental abduction is demonstrably child abuse, and Lisa is using religion as a shield for her crimes.

Not cool, Lisa. Not cool at all.

And now Isabella is probably living in pretty miserable conditions. El Salvador, one country where she and Lisa might be living, is an incredibly violent place and is considered the murder capital of the world. Although Nicaragua is safer by comparison, that’s not saying much, and Nicaragua is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti. If Isabella is like most victims of family abduction — even those who aren’t living in third world countries — she is not receiving adequate education or health care. And of course she’s been completely cut off from the other side of her family, who love her. Lisa has, so far, stolen six and a half years of her life.

This is all pretty standard, alas, for family abductions. I cannot begin to explain how much parental kidnappers, and those that support them, disgust me.