Missing persons news that happened while my computer was broken

Yeah, so this has been in the news:

  • They’re going to try to identify two bodies, victims of a terrible fire at a Connecticut circus in 1944. 168 people were killed and of those, five are still unidentified. Per the article: “State Chief Medical Examiner James Gill wants to compare the unknown victims’ DNA to that of Sandra Sumrow, the granddaughter of 47-year-old Grace Fifield, a Newport, Vermont woman who was at the circus the day of the fire but was never seen again.”
  • Hazel Rose Hess‘s daughter has gone on the news asking for information that could solve her mother’s 25-year-old disappearance. There isn’t much in the way of anything new in the article, however. I just found a few new pictures.
  • There’s been some news about the 1985 disappearances of Janet Shuglie and her ten-year-old daughter Marisa. It turns out someone found her class ring. They found it over 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that they realized the ring belonged to a missing person and turned it over to the police.
    The police seem to think the find is significant, and they have not disclosed where the ring was found. There were several articles about this: here, here, here and here. There is a picture of the ring (is it just me or is the stone missing?) but alas, no photos of Marisa. I don’t have a photo of her either, so only Janet has a casefile on Charley.
  • They’ve found the bodies of Danielle Marie Steiner and her five-year-old son, Aubrey Hall, who disappeared from Lansing, Michigan a year ago. The bodies were discovered by a clean-up crew in a vacant house in the 800 block of Loa Street. The article notes that “At various times, Steiner and Aubrey had lived in the 700 and 800 block of Loa Street.”
    No other details have been released, except that the deaths are being treated as homicides. I’m sure their families are devastated.
  • This month is the 13th anniversary of the disappearance of Melanie Metheny from Belle, West Virginia. She went missing on July 19, 2006. There’s this article about it.
  • Doreen Jane Vincent‘s 1988 disappearance has been covered in the second season of the podcast “Faded Out.” I grabbed a bunch of photos off this article, and the podcast sounds absolutely fascinating, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to listen to it. There’s 21 episodes in the season so far, ranging in length from 27 minutes to an hour and 17 minutes, during which time I’d have to be paying very close attention, stopping the play to take notes, etc. All for one case. I wish I had the time for this kind of thing; it would benefit the Charley Project greatly. But I just don’t.
  • A suspect, Bryan Lee O’Daniels, has been charged with murder in the 1995 disappearance of Timothy Jason Smart. Apparently there were many witnesses who knew the truth, but none of them spoke up out of fear of O’Daniels. The case broke after the police got an anonymous tip last year that led to a motherlode of information.

40-year-old disappearance finally resolved

Margret Dodd disappeared from Beckley, West Virginia on September 7, 1977 — nearly forty years ago (I won’t quibble over two months). She was 27 years old and was witnessed being dragged, screaming, into someone’s car. James Hendree subsequently demanding a $10k ransom for her safe return. An FBI agent posed as Margret’s dad to meet Hendree for the handoff, and wound up shooting him after an altercation.

Margret’s body was found on Bolt Mountain in 1993, but it wasn’t identified until now. According to this article, her family recognized the clothes and jewelry found with the body, and mitochondrial DNA confirmed the match.

I’m happy for her family. The police are still investigating the case and there might be prosecutions in the future, as it seems unlikely that Hendree acted alone.

Select It Sunday: Brenda Lambert

This case was chosen by ChristynShawn K.: her sister, Brenda Gail Lambert, has been missing from Bluefield, a small town in southern West Virginia, since July 26, 1992, and ChristynShawn had asked me to highlight Brenda’s Facebook page. I can do one better.

Brenda left all her belongings behind at home, including her car and the clothes she was wearing when she was last seen. She had filed a domestic violence complaint against someone, not sure who, before she disappeared. She was 23 years old and would be 47 today.

Five months later, in January 1993, Brenda’s boyfriend, 24-year-old Mark Anthony Cook, also disappeared without a trace, and he hasn’t turned up either. Either the cases are related or it’s a heck of a coincidence. Foul play is suspected in both disappearances.

Arrest in Aliayah Lunsford’s disappearance

Breaking news today: the mother of little Aliayah Paige Lunsford (whose name is pronounced ah-LEE-ah, btw), who disappeared in 2011 at the age of three, has been charged with child abuse causing death in her daughter’s disappearance. Lena Lunsford was arrested in Florida and will not fight extradition back to West Virginia.

That this has turned into a murder-without-a-body case is not surprising; Lena had been the prime suspect in Aliayah’s disappearance all along and the police had said they didn’t believe she had been abducted. Lena was pregnant with twins at the time of Aliayah’s disappearance and had four other children; she permanently lost custody of all six kids in the aftermath of Aliayah’s disappearance.

If you look at the photos of Aliayah — I’ve got six of them — she always looks unhappy. One of them, in some versions, had been Photoshopped to remove the large bruise on her cheek; I posted the original.

I can only hope that Aliayah’s siblings are leading happy lives now and that the family will get some answers out of Lena at last.

Articles:

 

Select It Sunday: Earnest Francis

Chosen by Sarah, this Select It Sunday case is Earnest Edward Francis, a West Virginia construction worker who disappeared from Sistersville on May 4, 2011. He was 32 at the time, and studying criminal justice at Colorado Tech University (online, I presume). After his disappearance they found the car he was driving parked at a dam with all his stuff inside.

For unclear reasons, Earnest’s family thinks he was diabetic or pre-diabetic. This could be significant: not only can diabetes be fatal if not treated, but problems with blood sugar can lead to people become confused and wandering off. I’m not diabetic but I do occasionally have problems with hypoglycemia (caused in part by genetics and in part by my crappy diet). There was one incident where I realized I was having an episode and needed to eat ASAP, and tried to heat up some food in the microwave, but I completely forgot how to make the microwave work and the buttons made no sense to me at all.

It’s possible an episode like that could explain Earnest’s disappearance, but it wouldn’t really explain how he’s stayed missing this long. There hasn’t been a lot of press on this case. When it comes to missing persons, especially adult ones, males tend to get far less coverage than females.

His family has a Facebook page for him.

Missing Person of the Week: Robert Leroy Kovack

On request, Robert Leroy Kovack is the missing person of the week. (I’ve finally changed it.) To all intents and purposes things were going marvelously for him in September 1998. He was about to finish graduate school and had already gotten a job in his field. He had some credit card debt, but that’s normal.

Then he was gone. And no one seems to know why.

I would think it was one of those “MP in car in water somewhere” cases except for the fact that his car turned up abandoned and out of gas.

Maybe Kovack had secrets in his life that no one knew about, even now. Maybe something happened to him while he was walking down the road to get gas. I really can’t speculate any more on this one. His case reminds me of Jason Jolkowski‘s in that they were both healthy, happy young men who vanished seemingly without rhyme or reason.