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.

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Pride Month: Katelin Akens

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 Katelin Michelle Akens, a nineteen-year-old who disappeared from Springfield, Virginia on December 5, 2015.

She was supposed to take a plane to Arizona that day, where she would live with her girlfriend and go to cosmetology school, but she never made her flight and her luggage was found in a ditch.

The police seem to be focusing on Katelin’s stepfather as a suspect; her suitcase was found just a few miles from his home, and he was the person who supposedly gave her a ride that day.

Select It Sunday: Hazel Alice Klug

This week’s Select It Sunday (sorry it took so long) was chosen by Rosalie R.: Hazel Alice Klug, who is her cousin. Hazel (who went by her middle name) was 23 when she disappeared from her Richmond, Virginia apartment sometime during the night of May 20-21, 1986. She spoke to her boyfriend on the phone at 11:30 p.m. and all was normal then, but she didn’t show up for work the next day and when the police were called to her apartment, all her stuff — including the dog — was left behind but Hazel was gone.

Significantly, one of the few things that disappeared with her was a large suitcase.

I can’t find any articles about this case, either recent or in the news archives, which is unfortunate. Hazel has been missing for 31 years. Sadly this wasn’t the first tragedy to befall her family; Find a Grave mentions an older sister who was killed by a drunk driver in 1981. Both of Hazel’s parents are now deceased as well.

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.