MP of the week: Bobby Joe Horn

This week’s featured MP is from the District of Columbia: radio personality Bobby Joe Horn, who vanished on August 31, 1977. He was possibly involved in some pretty sketchy stuff and after his disappearance he was indicted for nonpayment of income taxes.

Horn’s former business partner claimed he heard Horn had gone to the Netherlands, running from the law or from the sketchy people he’d been associating with or both, but the guy does not sound like a credible witness to me.

For what it’s worth, the police believe he was murdered.

Washington DC votes to close Relisha Rudd’s shelter

I just found out that the Washington D.C. city council has voted to close the D.C. General Hospital homeless shelter Relisha Rudd lived in when she disappeared. About fracking time.

In her casefile I describe the shelter in this way: it was “filthy, chaotic, crime-ridden, infested with vermin and had no playground.” Oh, and it had a creepy janitor named Kahlil Tatum who really liked little girls.

Certainly there are those who are more responsible for Relisha Rudd’s disappearance than others, but what happened to her seems to have been so much a result of the problems with society at large. I swear they invented whole new cracks in the system for Relisha to fall through.

I would like to say I think the closing of that Dickensian shelter might prevent more Relisha cases from happening in the future, but I don’t have that kind of optimism.

Shades of Relisha Rudd again

I was reading this article about the terrible conditions in New York City homeless shelters and I thought about the shelter Relisha Rudd lived in, and felt like crying. From the article:

Inspectors from the Department of Investigation were similarly dismayed after surveying 25 cluster site and city shelters last year. Conditions were “bluntly Dickensian,” declared DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters when the report came out in March. They found infestations of rats, mice and roaches. Among other delights investigators observed, “a dead rat in a cluster apartment where four children lived, the decaying smell of which permeated the hallways.”

In addition to varied species of vermin, investigators discovered locked exits and blocked passageways that could obstruct escape in emergencies. In one city-run shelter, a rusted-out staircase was unusable, giving 140 residents only one way out of the building; when DOI called on the FDNY to inspect the site, they deemed the situation so dangerous they wanted to evacuate the building. Instead they made do with posting fire guards to regulate traffic in case of a fire.

They also found exposed electrical wiring and nonworking fire alarms, water damage and mold. One woman told investigators her electricity was often shut off for days at a time.

Although infractions were also found in non-profit shelters, the worst offenders were cluster site shelters (though city run shelters also had dangerous and unsanitary conditions). For the public service of taking in homeless families with vermin-infested apartments, the city paid landlords an average of $2,451 per month, according to the report (some are paid over $3,000). The market rate for regular apartments in these neighborhoods range from $528 to $1,200 a month.

(Let me emphasize here that these are NYC shelters. But Relisha’s shelter in Washington DC was very much the same. I read about one couple there that was interviewed by the Washington Post, who stayed up all night working in shifts, to keep the roaches off their sleeping baby son. That detail has stuck in my head ever since.) If a family was living in their own home with vermin everywhere and exposed wires like as described in the article, chances their kids would get taken into foster care because of “unsafe living conditions.”

Getting back to Relisha: How many other little Relishas are running around out there? God only knows what that Mr. Tatum was doing to her when no one was watching. But he took her out of that horrible environment and to a place that was quiet and clean and not overcrowded. He bought her things, made her feel special, when quite possibly no one had ever made her feel special in her entire life. That’s often how it starts, sexual abuse I mean. Relisha might have been willing to do literally anything, just to maintain that sense that she was his special little girl. (Assuming he did abuse her, a theory of which I admit is without proof at this point, but is, let’s face it, more likely than not.)

I actually talked about this with friends. Now, Relisha’s mom was, at minimum, an idiot, who had a previous history with child protective services for neglecting her kids. She was, at least, partially responsible for whatever it was that happened to her daughter. But let’s take me instead. Suppose my children and I were living in conditions like the ones in Relisha’s shelter (which I describe in her casefile as “filthy, chaotic, crime-ridden, infested with vermin and had no playground” and frankly all of that doesn’t even begin to portray how awful it was there) and there was no way of getting out any time soon. My choices are:

  1. Keep Relisha in the shelter with me, even though the environment is terrible and bugs are everywhere etc. and the staff bribe and/or coerce sexual services out of the residents and I do not have the ability to provide a safe haven for her.
  2. Let the janitor guy take Relisha to his nice clean quiet house to stay over for awhile, where at least she won’t have to deal with rats or chaos and what have you, and might be able to play outside and do stuff children are supposed to be able to do. Take into account the fact that I know the janitor is creepy and odds are he’s a pedophile.

Either option is bad. Neither is good for Relisha; both leave her open to being mistreated by other adults. And no mother should have to choose between the creepy janitor and the fourth-world conditions under which they were living.

Look…I don’t know where I’m going there…it’s just that this kind of thing really makes me sad and angry. The more so because, there but for the grace of God go I. I’ve said it before: you guys don’t know me, not really. Online I sound a lot higher functioning than I really am. In real life I am significantly impacted by my autism and mental illness and need help on a regular basis. If I didn’t have a boyfriend and a family, one that was willing and able to support me, I could end up homeless too.

Capitalist, socialist, conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, whatever your beliefs social, economic and political, no one should want this happening to any family. Certainly not in the richest country in the world.

Okay, finished writing up Relisha Rudd

I had dreaded doing Relisha Rudd‘s case because I knew it would take a long time to do and it would be very depressing. It did take a long time to do — around four hours, all told — and it was one of the saddest stories I’ve had to write in a very long time. Not her disappearance but her entire life. I praise the Washington Post for their excellent series of articles on her disappearance and the circumstances around it; they were the main source for my writeup.

Of course the Charley Project database is meant to be written in a journalistic style without passing judgement one way or another, but I hope the reader will be able to feel the outrage that I felt, reading what that poor girl went through.

Now I’ve got to find a few other cases to write up so I can reach my minimum number of five cases for the day’s update. I think I’ll pick easy ones. “Few details are available.”

God, I’m tired.

[ADDENDUM: I give up. Today’s updates will number only three.]

Hmmm….

I was going through the NCMEC runaway listings when I came across the cases of Travis Henneghan (who is listed on Charley) and Timothy Henneghan (who is not, but probably soon will be). The boys are not noticeably alike in appearance, other than that they are both black and tall for their ages. But I wonder if they could be related. They have the same not-very-common surname and lived within fifteen miles of each other. They both may be in Washington D.C. While investigating this hunch I found an obituary for another guy named Henneghan who died in D.C. and it’s mentioned he is survived by nephews named Travis and Timothy.

I suppose I’ll probably never know.

Finally did an update

After a whole week of idleness (on Charley anyway) I finally added five cases and updated ten. I was prompted to do this because today is Tuesday and I was supposed to change my MP of the week. Among other things I finally added April Nicole “Niki” Williams, the kidnapped baby from 1983, who’s been waiting in my bookmarks folder since April. I was able to find a little about her in NewspaperArchive. (And I also found out that NewspaperArchive is free at the library. D’oh! I’ve been paying subscription fees for it for years!)

Anyway. Carry on.

Latisha Frazier’s mom wants police to find her body

Eighteen-year-old Latisha Frazier disappeared in August of last year. Five people have been charged with her murder; they beat and tortured her to death because she’s supposedly stolen money from one of them. It looks like it could be one of those mob mentality things. One of the defendants (the one Latisha had allegedly stolen from) said he never intended her to die and things just got out of hand. On the other hand, it’s hardly in his interest to admit to premeditated murder.

Unless the suspects lied about where they disposed of the body, Latisha’s body is in a landfill outside of Richmond, Virginia. The police have refused to search for it, saying it would be too difficult and dangerous and even if they did find the body, it wouldn’t help the case much.

According to this article, Latisha’s mother is really upset about this and wants a body to bury. I feel deeply for the woman and her grief and uncertainty. She is rather desperately poor and is raising Latisha’s daughter, who was three when Latisha disappeared.

That said, I think I’m siding with the police on this one. From the article:

Authorities say the container most likely would have been emptied into a landfill in Chesterfield County, Va. But if [the suspect] Gaither is lying about his involvement, or incorrectly recalling the date of Frazier’s death or the trash bin where the body was placed, then the corpse might be in a different location altogether. […]

The Frazier decision followed the recommendation of experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has assisted in other landfill excavations but in this case said the risk of chemical poisoning coupled with the sheer enormity of the Shoosmith Landfill in Chester, Va. — about 800 acres in surface area and roughly 100 feet deep — made the undertaking all but impossible.

The article talks about how the search for 9-11 victims in New York City was very dangerous and cost untold millions. The implication being, perhaps, that the police care less about Latisha because she was poor, black and an unwed teenage mother. But I think their reasons for not searching are very sensible and pragmatic.

Yolanda Baker’s boyfriend convicted

Earlier I wrote that the boyfriend of Yolanda Baker, who disappeared in 1999, was on trial for her murder. Well, after three days of deliberation, Terrance Barnett has been found guilty of second-degree murder. He was charged with first-degree murder, but without the body and stuff, the jury couldn’t determine premeditation. No word on what the sentencing guidelines are, but presumably Barnett will be facing some serious time.

The two of them had twins together. I feel so sorry for the children. I can’t imagine what it would be like, growing up knowing my father killed my mother.

In other murder without a body news

Two suspects have been convicted of killing Darryl Miller, who’s been missing from Spartanburg, South Carolina since 2005. Miller had a troubled past; he shot a man to death when he was a teenager and served ten years in prison. But after he got out he kept his nose clean and didn’t get in trouble again. He was apparently killed during a robbery attempt. The murderers will both serve 30 years in prison with no chance at parole.

Last I knew, a suspect in the Yolanda Baker disappearance — her boyfriend, the father of her children — is currently on trial. However that article is over ten days old. I don’t know whether he’s still being tried, or if there’s been a verdict or what. Anyone who does know, please pass it along my way so I can update her case. From my reading, the case against the guy looks flimsy — not only no body, but no weapon, no witnesses, only a few drops of blood. But you can get a conviction on that. The Reiser case in California comes to mind.

Earlier I posted that, per Project Jason, Katesia Weathers had been found dead. Not so, apparently; it’s just that her family now considers her deceased and her case done with. What has happened is that her killer (yes, the boyfriend again) pleaded no contest to murder earlier this month. He got twenty-five years, this on top of twenty-two years he got for attacking Katesia earlier. I don’t know about the assault sentence, but the murder sentence is without parole, so chances are he’s never going to see the light of day again. He could have faced the death penalty if it had gone to trial. No contest pleas are, excuse my French, chickenshit — basically, they’re a way to plead guilty to get reduced time and all that without actually admitting you did anything wrong. A guilty plea usually requires adjudication, meaning you have to stand up in court and say yes, you did what they said you did.

Tad DiBiase, a prosecutor who’s done no-body cases before, has put up a tip list of how to successfully prosecute such cases.