This week’s Select It Sunday case, chosen by Eileen R., is Justin Philip Harris. This thirteen-year-old boy was living at a group home for troubled children in Casper, Wyoming when he vanished during the night on February 15, 2004. It looks like he ran away, at least at first — he’d tried the old “stuff clothes under the blankets” trick to fool the staff into thinking he was in his room asleep. But what happened to him afterward is anyone’s guess.
The latest news I could find on Justin was this article from last year, the tenth anniversary of his disappearance. Oddly, his father claims he didn’t have any disabilities but the staff at the group home said he needed psych meds and functioned at the level of a first-grader.
Sadly, I believe that whatever did happen to Justin, it wasn’t good and he probably did not survive long after he left the group home.
Unlike with many of my Flashback Friday cases and Charley Project cases in general, it’s pretty obvious what happened to Sharon Baldeagle.
This twelve-year-old girl ran away from her home in South Dakota, accompanied by an older friend. They made it to Wyoming, where they were picked up by Royal Russell Long, a probable serial killer. He took them back to his house and attacked them. Sharon’s friend was able to escape and go for help, but by the time the police made it to Long’s residence, he and Sharon were long gone. Although Long got picked up several months later in New Mexico, Sharon wasn’t with him. He claimed he put her on a bus for Dallas. Likely story.
If anything good came out of the disappearance of Sharon Baldeagle and the rape of her teenage friend, at least it got Long off the streets for good. Convicted of two counts of kidnapping, he was sentenced to life behind bars and died in prison in 1993. He’s a suspect in no fewer than four other disappearances of teen girls from Oklahoma and Wyoming, and as a truck driver, he could have picked up victims from all over the country and possibly Canada too.
Sharon’s case is one of those where an Amber Alert, had they been in place back then, might have saved her life. Certainly it fits the criteria: she had been kidnapped, they knew who did it and they had a description of his truck.
Her disappearance was one I was fascinated by when I first got interested in missing people over fifteen years ago, although I knew little about it at the time. She doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of press; being Native American, a runaway and probably poor didn’t help. But her father is still alive and wants to find her.
That was fast — only a little over a month after his arrest, Gerald Uden has pleaded guilty to three murders and offered a detailed confession as to what went down. And it’s despicable. He outright executed an entire family.
And even after all this time, he STILL hasn’t apologized and he’s STILL blaming Virginia — one of his victims — for what happened. Just who are you calling “predator” Gerald, when you’re the one who shot a woman and two children in the back of the head? So this all started because of a dispute with Virginia over the divorce…then, what did the kids do? Why’d you have to kill them too?
And he’s 71 years old. Which means he won’t serve many years of his life sentence. Sigh.
Gerald Uden has agreed to plead guilty to the murders of his adopted sons Richard and Reagan and ex-wife Virginia over 30 years ago. He will get a life sentence instead of the death penalty — not that the sentence much matters, since Gerald is in his seventies. But he’s promised to reveal everything he knows, including, hopefully, the location of the bodies.
Meanwhile, authorities have identified the body of Patrick Donald Collins, a graduate student in physiology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville who disappeared in 1986. The identification creates more questions than it answers: Patrick’s body was found several years after he was last seen, in Port Henry, New York. That’s SIX HUNDRED MILES from Charlottesville.
We will probably never know how this promising young man died, or how he ended up so far from home.
…time for a new MP of the week.
I selected Roy George Vavra, who disappeared from Gillette, Wyoming seven and a half years ago. A man confessed to his murder, but it turned out he’d made up the story, and there are very few clues.
And in other news, my back hurts again.
My friend/Charley Project tweeter Sean Munger has written about the MP Michael “Bradyn” Fuksa on his blog. Bradyn was 22 when he disappeared in 2009. He was last seen in the town of Wheatland in rural Wyoming. (Okay, what part of Wyoming ISN’T rural? But I digress.) Sean thinks there’s a good chance Bradyn’s alive. For his and his family’s sake, I hope so.
Another Executed Today entry by me: George Parrott, a bandit and cop killer who was lynched in Rawlins, Wyoming a few days before his scheduled execution date in 1881.
He wouldn’t have been of much interest to me were it not for what happened AFTER his death: one of the doctors who performed the autopsy removed a piece of Parrott’s skin and had a cobbler make it into shoes. That same doctor was later elected governor of Wyoming and wore the shoes to his inaugural ball. They are now on display in a museum, along with Parrott’s skull. (The skullcap, btw, was given to the doctor’s assistant and had a long career as a doorstop and ashtray.)