This week’s Flashback Friday case is David Robert Sampson, a 21-year-old student at the University of Washington who disappeared from Seattle on March 1, 1977. I don’t know his major, but he was interested in “botany, hiking and environmental issues,” so perhaps it was something like biology.
Indications are Sampson left of his own accord; he took several possessions, including survival gear, a Bible and other religious materials, but no ID or cash. He may have joined some kind of cult; his case reminds me a bit of Robert Spurlock‘s. (I ought to do a Make-a-List Monday of cases where the MP is thought to have joined a cult.) It’s worth noting that Sampson disappeared at the tail end of the hippie era, and it sounds like he might have found that lifestyle agreeable.
But if he did join a cult, where has he been since 1977? Canada maybe? But if he left the country, how’d he cross the border without any identification?
I was able to get Sampson’s date of birth today from the Washington State Missing Person Search database. The anonymous author of the excellent Whereabouts Still Unknown blog has an entry for him as well. I couldn’t find anything about his disappearance in the newspaper archives, though, which isn’t surprising giving it was 1977 and he was a college student and a man at that. That profile of missing person is rarely covered in the news even today.
If he is still alive, and he may very well be, David Sampson would be 62 today. There’s a good chance his parents would be dead by now, but perhaps he has siblings or cousins who are still hoping for resolution in his case.
Dan S., a Florida journalist and Friend Of My Youth, found Juanita Bardin the other day. If the link to her casefile is broken (I’m planning on taking it down later today), Juanita disappeared from Vidor, Texas on May 17, 1993, at the age of 49.
Dan simply entered Juanita’s name into Google and poof, found her: a person with the same name and date of birth died in King County, Washington in 2012 and was buried in a common grave for the indigent.
He asked me to call it in for him, so I did. Confirmation came yesterday afternoon: it’s her. I talked to the Vidor police chief and he said he’d verified it by the tattoos.
Juanita has no family to grieve the loss/celebrate the finding. The closest relative the police chief could find was her ex-husband. She had one child, the daughter mentioned in the casefile, but her daughter died years ago — before Juanita did, and apparently without issue — so there’s no one left.
But at least she wasn’t murdered by Tommy Lynn Sells or anyone else, and at least the cops can stop looking for her.
Go Dan! *claps*
Per Charley Project Irregular Jennifer C., Raymond Lee Matlock, who disappeared during an elk hunting trip in Washington in November in 1998, was identified last December. His remains were actually found less than a month after he disappeared; it appears he drowned in the Bone River, which feeds into the Pacific, and his body drifted some 125 miles up the Washington coast to Vancouver Island.
Such a long journey is unusual for drifting bodies, and that’s a big part of the reason Matlock remained unidentified for 18 years. But I think this case is also a good example of why detailed clothing descriptions are important wherever possible. The body was found wearing a distinctive t-shirt with a drawing of a truck, surfboards and the words “Jimmy Z” — something the police at the time might help identify him, except that if anyone knew what Matlock was wearing when he disappeared, they never bothered to say.
The management of the Washington cemetery where he was buried combined forces with a local crematory to exhume his remains, cremate them and ship them to his mom in Texas at no cost to her. That was nice of them.
This week’s Flashback Friday case is Loralee Sue Lhotka — another one of those cases where I have precious little information and doubts about what I do have.
NamUs gives Loralee’s date of disappearance as January 1, 1975, but they also say she disappeared en route to a doctor’s appointment. Nobody makes medical appointments on New Year’s Day, although hospitals and perhaps a few urgent care clinics would be open. I think it’s more likely that the actual date of disappearance isn’t known and whoever entered the case into NamUs put down January 1 to encompass the entire year of 1975. I put in the Charley Project casefile that she disappeared on some unknown date that year. She would have been 19 or 20 at the time; she was born in June.
NamUs also gives Loralee’s race as “unsure.” The Washington State Missing Persons database entry for her lists her as white. She looks like she could have some Native American blood, but it’s very hard to judge by the photograph. For what it’s worth, the name Lhotka is of Czech origin. It is said that Loralee may use the last name Spamola, a VERY rare surname that’s almost unknown in the United States.
As for what caused her disappearance… I would have to guess foul play. Loralee may have decided to hitchhike to her doctor’s appointment and it’s possible she picked the wrong ride. Her wallet turned up in the Wenatchee National Forest in 1978. I wish I knew where exactly; the forest covers 2,700+ square miles over three counties.
I’ll cover the recovery of the Yates girls in their own entry, but here’s some other missing persons news:
- This accountant’s hobby? Identifying missing people through his drawings
My friend and Irregular Carl Koppelman has been featured in the Orange County Register. He does wonderful sketches of UIDs and was instrumental in identifying Cali Doe as Tammy Alexander. Congratulations, Carl!
- Trial date in 20-year-old cold case pushed back to October
A year and a quarter ago ago, more or less, Kirsten Renee Hatfield‘s two-doors-down neighbor was charged with her murder. The headline of this article is pretty self-explanatory, and the news story explains why: the suspect has new lawyers now who need time to review the evidence.
Kirsten’s case, for whatever reason, fascinated me back when I was a child and first started getting interested in missing persons. I had a website when I was twelve or so, with some poems and stories I wrote, and one of them was a poem called “Missing, Presumed Dead” and it was based on Kirsten’s disappearance, as I explained on the site. Kirsten’s mom found it and emailed me, saying she was touched that a little girl in Ohio was thinking of her and her lost daughter, but she didn’t believe Kirsten was dead.
- Judge orders suspect in cold case homicide to trial in district court
Apparently the motive for Cari Lea Farver‘s homicide was a love triangle; both she and the suspect, Shanna Goylar, were seeing the same man. According to prosecutors, after Goylar killed Cari, she burned the body and then went on Cari’s social media accounts and tried to make it look like she was still alive.
- Missing Oklahoma woman found more than 20 years after disappearance
This case isn’t one of mine. It’s a really awesome story, though, how hard Shelly Jennings’s daughters looked for her, and how she was found largely through their efforts. Twenty-three years after she walked away from her family in Oklahoma, she turns up at a bus station in Modesto, California. I hope they can reconcile, although given Shelly’s mental illness, this may not be possible.
- For families of missing persons, not knowing is excruciating
This is about the disappearance of Cody Henry Turner, who went missing from Washington in 2015.
- Missing Minnesotans: Susan Swedell
Obviously, an article about Susan Anne Swedell (for whom I recently posted an updated AP).
This week’s featured missing person is Heather Lynn Higgins, a 39-year-old woman last seen in Spokane, Washington on September 20, 2010.
She was dealing with some personal problems at the time of her disappearance: she had bipolar disorder and while she was in the psychiatric ward, someone broke into her home and stole money she’d been saving, and plus she was on probation for DUI and wasn’t allowed to drive.
Bipolar disorder can really work a number on a person — especially if, like Heather, you don’t take your medicine consistently. An article I found said Heather was hospitalized for fifteen days, which is a long time for a psychiatric hospitalization. I wonder just how stable she was when she was released.
She’s got a Facebook page set up to find her, but it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2015. I can’t find any articles about her case since 2014.
It’s hard to tell, from here, what happened. I hope she’s still alive.
I posted about this on the Charley Project’s Facebook page yesterday, and I thought I’d blog about it too, because frankly it really makes me mad.
In yesterday’s updates I added one Dennis Frank Svoboda, who disappeared in 1996. He’s presumed drowned in a fishing accident. While researching his case I found several articles about International K-9 Search and Rescue Services, which is apparently the only for-profit SAR service in the world. It charges $200 an hour.
It turns out this SAR service is pretty shady. A lot of legitimate SAR services and law enforcement agencies won’t have anything to do with it. In an interview, the founder said it’s because people are jealous of his success, something I find unlikely. He also said his SAR dogs have a 97% success rate and other SAR dogs have only a 20% success rate.
I found a mention of Svoboda on the “drownings” section of its website:
96-668-024(C) 01-25-96 Cowlitz Co. Drowning X (2). Dennis Svoboda and Larry Mansur. Two missing fisherman. Missing X 4 days. Searched their favorite fishing holes. Very cold outside. Snowing in hills. Winds from West 0-5 MPH. Air temp..35f. Water 42F. One found by Valorie in 40 feet of water and one found in 60 feet of water. Grief therapy 1 hour with family after debriefing. (Note) Bodies were moved from their location. One by the current the other by water boat traffic-tug boat towing a barge.
Uh, no. Larry Mansur’s body was missing for months, not four days, before it turned up. And Svoboda is still missing. He’s on NamUs and on the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Department MP page and now he’s on Charley too.
I posted a comment on the SAR service’s Facebook page, on a post they made boasting of their “successes” (Svoboda was on the list); I said Svoboda had never been found. My comment got deleted.
It’s pretty disturbing. Stay away from these folks.