MP of the week: Miller Harlow

This week’s featured missing person (which I forgot to add yesterday, sorry) is Miller Smith Harlow, a 62-year-old man who disappeared from Gordonsville, Virginia on August 28, 1991. He was last seen standing in front of a funeral home in town, possibly on his way to a local restaurant where his cousin was supposed to pick him up.

He was retired, lived alone, had never driven a car and would get around on foot, on his bike or by getting rides from people. He had very regular habits and because of this the police thinks something bad happened to him.

If still alive he’d now be in his nineties.

MP of the week: Sarah Hill

This week’s featured missing person is Sarah Ashley Hill, a 33-year-old woman who disappeared from Stuart, Virginia on June 6, 2018. After her disappearance, her car was found abandoned in a store parking lot. She had some substance abuse issues and lived a somewhat transient life.

There was actually an article published about Sarah’s case the other day but it didn’t have much in the way of new info, just that they did another search in late July. If still alive she’d be 35 today.

I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly sheepish I feel right now

So forget everything I said a little bit ago. Turns out the “device for detecting DNA in soil” is a lot of hooey.

Had it NOT been a lot of hooey, it WOULD have been a game-changer, and I’m afraid I got so excited about the possibility that I didn’t actually bother to investigate what this thing consisted of.

This is me right now:

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Gina Hall’s sister clearly believes in it, and posted a comment (at the bottom of this page that I linked to before) defending Dr. Vass and saying he found Gina. But now I wonder if that scrap of bone that they found and said was Gina’s was ever actually scientifically confirmed to be hers. Based on what I’ve read about this device, it probably was not.

And I’d already resolved her case and everything.

I cannot emphasize how much of a game-changer this is

So, I found out today that Dr. Arpad Vass, a forensic archaeologist I’d heard of, has invented a nifty little widget that detects buried human DNA.

I have no idea how much it works, but it’s already proven its effectiveness: they found Gina Renee Hall‘s DNA in EIGHT PLACES along a river valley FORTY YEARS after her disappearance, as well as a piece of Gina’s bone (making her Charley Project case resolvable, which I have done), as well as DNA from someone else entirely: Angela Mae Rader, a girl who disappeared with her friend Tammy Lynn Akers in 1977. The girls (who were fourteen at the time) have been missing even longer than Gina.

Rather than thinking this means the guy who killed Gina (whose identity is known; he’s Stephen Epperly and he’s serving life in prison for her murder) must have also killed Angela, I think it’s more likely that both girls’ bodies coincidentally ended up somewhere in the same river valley and probably the same body of water. (DNA from Tammy was not found, but it seems likely that she’s somewhere in the same river valley.)

I haven’t resolved Angela’s case, since they only found DNA, not an actual body or even a piece of bone like with Gina. But I’m hopeful that her and Tammy’s cases can still be resolved, even after 43 years.

Dr. Vass’s invention could wind up leading to answers in a LOT of missing persons cases. This is really exciting.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Kianna and Gunnar Berg

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 actually two cases, the missing siblings Kianna Joanna Berg and Gunnar David Berg.

The children, who are half white, half Japanese, were abducted by their mother, Naoko Numakami, from their Fairfax, Virginia home and taken to her native Japan. They were eight and nine years old at the time.

Naoko told Kianna and Gunnar’s father that she was just taking the kids to Japan for a vacation, but once in that country she refused to return them. He hasn’t seen them since.

Unfortunately for the kids’ father, it’s probably going to stay that way. I don’t know if there are ANY cases where the Japanese government actually agreed to return an internationally abducted child. I don’t think family courts, as such, really exist there.

Both kids are now over eighteen and could choose to go back to the US on their own if they like, but my guess is that like many family abduction victims, they’ve been alienated against their left-behind father.

Melissa Brannen’s abductor to be released

See the article here: Melissa Brannen’s abductor, Caleb Hughes, will be freed from prison after 29 years.

Hughes was only convicted of abducting five-year-old Melissa Lee Brannen, not of killing her, though I’m sure he killed her as well. It’s just that they never found a body or other physical evidence of death, or any witness to a killing, or a confession.

There was some blood on tissues in Hughes’s car that was possibly Melissa’s, but forensic testing at the time could only narrow the source down to 40% of the population. The fiber evidence, as detailed in the casefile, was solid, but all it proved was that Melissa had been in Hughes’s car. If they had tried to get him for murder, he most likely would have been acquitted.

So he was sentenced to 50 years for the kidnapping, but barring some unforeseen event in the next four months, he will be set free after just 29 years.

And before you start railing against stupid parole boards, this is not the parole board’s fault. The parole board has tried their best to keep him behind bars; they denied him twice. What is going to happen with Hughes is mandatory release, not parole. Per WaPo:

Under Virginia law before the abolition of parole, there are four classes of “good conduct allowances.” For particularly exemplary prisoners, 30 days of credit is given for every 30 days served, meaning a prisoner could cut their sentence in half…

Hughes has been in custody since January 1990, meaning he will have served 29 years and seven months if he is released in August 2019. That is about 54 percent of his total 54-year sentence, meaning Hughes must have been classified as an exemplary prisoner for much of his term.

: he’s been an exemplary prisoner and accumulated enough “good time” credits that they have to let him go. The law says so.

And before you start shouting about how we have to change this stupid law: it’s already been changed. But the change can’t be applied retroactively.

So Hughes is getting out and there’s no help for it. He will, I hope, get registered as a sex offender anyway, though the article has not said so.

Where’s Melissa, Caleb? He has no incentive to tell us, because they could still get him for murder if her body is ever found.

Black History Month: Mary Harrison

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Mary Everette Harrison, a 31-year-old mother of four who disappeared from Hampton, Virginia on October 6, 1982. She vanished from her home during the night, while her children were asleep, leaving all her belongings behind.

It looks like she ever left with the intention of returning shortly, or left with the intentions of never coming back. Harrison was a single mom, had a drug problem and sometimes dropped out of sight for days at a time. Her sister thinks she might have just walked out because of the stresses in her life, but her daughters think she’s dead. Those two theories are not, of course, mutually exclusive.

I think she’s probably deceased, as there’s been no paper trail since 1982. If she is a Jane Doe somewhere, one distinctive thing about her is how tiny she is — well under five feet tall.

Black History Month: Kawan Pryor

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Kawan K. Pryor, a 15-year-old boy who disappeared from Norfolk, Virginia on September 9, 1997.

He is listed as a runaway, but unfortunately I don’t have much on him. He’s been missing for 21 years now, considerably longer than he was alive before his disappearance, and would now be 37 years old.

MP of the week: Darren Hillis

This week’s featured missing person is Darren Bruce Hills, a 14-year-old boy who disappeared while walking to school in Norfolk, Virginia in 1973.  If still alive, he’d be 59 today.

I don’t know anything much about the case, unfortunately. He has a Facebook page but it doesn’t really say much. This article suggests he was a victim of the serial killer Dean Corll, but I don’t know if anything came of that suggestion.

Pride Month: Dashad “Sage” Smith

In honor of Pride Month I’m featuring a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer missing person every day for the month of June. Today’s case is Dashad Laquinn Smith, who not long before her disappearance had started using a new name, Sage. Sage was last seen in Charlottesville, Virginia on November 20, 2012, just weeks before her twentieth birthday.

It took me awhile to figure out Sage’s identity. The original articles about her said she sometimes dressed as a woman but specifically said she wasn’t trans. However, this feature article explains that Sage, who had previously identified as a gay man, had started identifying as a transgender woman. So here we are.

Sage’s life wasn’t easy.  It isn’t easy for most trans people, particularly trans women of color. She spent time in foster care in childhood after her mom was deemed unfit. Her apartment was paid for by the state because of the foster care thing, but she was working minimum wage jobs and barely getting by. She was studying cosmetology and dreamed of better things.

Not that much is known about Sage’s disappearance, because the person of interest in her case, Erik McFadden, the last person known to have seen her, went on a runner and hasn’t popped back up yet in five and a half years. Hmm…

It doesn’t look good. McFadden isn’t the only person of interest — some of Sage’s other acquaintances seem sketchy — but you have to wonder what is compelling him to stay out of sight for this long. And meanwhile, Sage has a loving family who misses her very much.