Homicide or Suicide- Which is it? 

The Tallahatchie Bridge

The Tallahatchie Bridge

Real Life  and then there was Billie Joe MacAllister

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of cases of homicides that initially are “tagged by the toe” and otherwise categorized as suicides.  Why does this occur?  Among the many reasons could be lack of proper experience in crime scene investigation, “politics at the highest levels,” perhaps, a law enforcement officer is the accused and therefore the true manner of death is “buried”, a crime scene is contaminated, lack of resources, expediency to “get things wrapped up” or plain old indifference about the victim for she was “that kind of girl.”

It is difficult to put a number on this, for research data never catches up with real time, so many cases go unreported and are misclassified. In addition, the homicide-suicide can be both when the perpetrator chooses to end it all AND turn the gun on himself!

As a few examples we need only to look at a few Susan Murphy-Milano Journal reports:

Homicide and suicide can be inextricably intertwined in the minds of the law enforcement and the general public at first glance until it gets sorted out with solid proof by experienced professionals.  Often a picture of depression, anxiety, lack of ability to cope is painted,” taking an abuser’s word, without really delving into the behaviors of the deceased prior to the murder.  However, what was our introduction of suicide in the year’s prior to social media and instantaneous news?

Suicide “Ode to Billie Joe” Fact or Folklore

It was a single debut song that “caused a ruckus” in the workplace and record stores everywhere in August 1967. “Ode to Billie Joe” was set against the backdrop of Lyndon Johnson sending 45,000 more troops to Vietnam, “Black Power Advocate” Stokely Carmichael calling for violent revolution in the streets and the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein dying from an overdose of sleeping pill. But, what did Billie Joe McAllister and his girlfriend throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge and what did it say about suicide?

Bobby Gentry crossing the Tallahatchie Bridge

Bobby Gentry crossing the Tallahatchie Bridge

According to writer Bill DE Main, “The finished version of “Ode” was over seven minutes long. Capitol edited it down to a more manageable four minutes and stuck it on the flip side of “Mississippi Delta.” But those were the days when DJs still had minds of their own, and as in the stories of so many classic hits, the B-side became the A-side.

Bobbie Gentry stated, “The song is sort of a study in unconscious cruelty. But everybody seems more concerned with what was thrown off the bridge than they are with the thoughtlessness of the people expressed in the song. What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important.

Everybody has a different guess about what was thrown off the bridge—flowers, a ring, even a baby. Anyone who hears the song can think what they want, but the real message of the song, if there must be a message, revolves around the nonchalant way the family talks about the suicide. They sit there eating their peas and apple pie and talking, without even realizing that Billie Joe’s girlfriend is sitting at the table, a member of the family.

In its first week of release, “Ode” sold 750,000 copies, knocking “All You Need Is Love” out of the top spot on the Billboard chart. Indeed, all you need is love in this society! As a performer, Bobbie Gentry has seemingly stayed out of the spotlight for over 35 years.

A Fictionalized “Presentation to the Jury”

Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are about to present the facts of what happened in and around the vicinity of Choctaw Ridge, Mississippi, on the day of April 22nd, 1960. These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.

We’re just kidding, of course. To this day, there is not a shred of evidence to back up the events of the story told by Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 smash hit “Ode to Billie Joe.” To the amateur sleuths and wanna-be Agatha Christies out there: we’re sincerely sorry to bust your bubble. But that’s the point of Southern Gothic, to make you wonder.

Oh, sure, even though Bobbie Gentry is not her real name (Roberta Lee Streeter holds that honor), really did grow up in Mississippi, and Choctaw Ridge, Carroll County, Tupelo, and the Tallahatchie River are all real places in Mississippi. There are, in fact, seven bridges spanning the Tallahatchie River, at least two of which are within reasonable distance of Choctaw Ridge. It would seem that all you have to do is go dredge the river for the body.

But, see, there isn’t any real body. And, if you insist on taking every word of the song for the Gospel truth, then you also have to allow for the fact that the whole town is talking about the suicide of Billie Joe MacAllister, including the whole family buzzing about it around the dinner table. Presumably, nearly-identical conversations are going on all over town at every family’s dinner table. The preacher, Brother Taylor, knows about it. This is not a cover-up. Everybody was seen in public, and the river would have already been dredged for the body, the body buried, and anything else that was thrown in the river would have been found, too.

People seem to have a hard time accepting the fiction of this song. In a world where novelists routinely fabricate hundreds of pages of made-up characters and events, why is it so hard to accept that a five-verse song is fiction? But then, Southern Gothic is like that sometimes. It’s meant to be compelling and intriguing.

Ode to Billie Joe

“It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty, delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door, “Y’all remember to wipe your feet”
Then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas
“Well, Billie Joe never had a lick o’ sense, pass the biscuits, please
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow”
And Mama said it was a shame about Billie Joe anyhow
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billie Joe McAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night
I’ll have another piece of apple pie, you know, it don’t seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now you tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Mama said to me, “Child what’s happened to your appetite?
I been cookin’ all mornin’ and you haven’t touched single bite
That nice young preacher Brother Taylor dropped by today
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billie Joe was throwin’ somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

A year has come and gone since I heard the news ’bout Billie Joe
Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus goin’ round, papa caught it and he died last spring
And now Mama doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything
And me I spend a lot of time picking flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Ladyjustice Commentary:

If this song was our “first brush with the realization of suicide” was it a precursor to what we have today in so many crimes?   What was the pattern of conduct of Billie Joe and his girlfriend?  What was the significance of throwing something off the bridge?   Had this been a real case I know we would have gotten to the bottom of it.

Fictionalized or real- In 2014, we can NEVER afford to be complacent about homicide or suicide. Never say, “Pass the biscuits please”

 

The Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv33eaygVDQ

Additional Resources: http://www.ovc.gov/help/tollfree.html;

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://performingsongwriter.com/bobbie-gentry-ode-billie-joe/

http://www.metrolyrics.com/ode-to-billie-joe-lyrics-bobbie-gentry.html

http://www.songplaces.com/Ode_to_Billie_Joe/Tallahatchie_Bridge_Choctaw_Ridge_Mississippi

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Confessions: Cleansing the Heart

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There are so many circumstances under which so many people confess….

This blog is not an attempt to chronicle all serial killers, or even one killer’s confessions, or a discussion of false accusations or wrongful convictions. To try to compile such information in one shot, this writer would just faint away in exhaustion. However, my point is to present a smattering of different kinds of confessions, as such emotions are intriguing to me and hopefully to other readers.

Homicide confessions

Tommy Lynn Sells, convicted serial killer . Says he does not want to “Come out here and say a bag of hoo-hoo” to quote his own words from a transcript of a 2004 “20/20 interview.” (He has claimed responsibility for over 70 murders across the United States!)   However, that’s what prolific serial killers do. They are so convoluted in their descriptions and mix up events that you never know what’s really going on.  Are they trying to be coy? Are they trying to fool interviewers? Or, do they really, just don’t remember the accumulated impact of their crimes?

Diane Fanning uncovered the truth and brought justice for  accused mother Julie Rea Harper and her son Joel. In the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1997, Julie Rea was sleeping in her home when she was awakened by a scream. Concerned about her son, Joel, she went to investigate and yelled his name, but his bed was empty. Julie said she then struggled with a masked intruder, chasing him through the house, bursting through two glass doors and into the backyard.  Then, she said, the intruder walked away, removing the mask under a street light before vanishing into the night.

Within minutes, police arrived. Julie had a bruise over her eye and a gash on her arm. Police immediately searched her home and found Joel dead, his T-shirt bloody from multiple stab wounds to his chest.

Why didn’t they believe her? Well, they were sloppy in their initial investigation and trial and there was a messy divorce, and perhaps “the intruder in the middle of the night” just seemed so unbelievable.

Then there was another victim in the ring of terror by Sells who survived. On December 31, 1999, 10-year-old Krystal Surles was staying at the house of a friend, 13-year-old Kaylene ‘Katy’ Harris, when she was attacked by a man in the bedroom where the two girls were sleeping. She had just witnessed Kaylene having her throat slashed, when the man grabbed her and cut her throat. Pretending to be dead, she stayed still until she could escape and get help from the next door neighbor.

She survived and was able to assist in the conviction of Sells.

The actual retrial began in summer 2006. The court ruled that serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells’ confession would be permitted as evidence in her new trial, despite questions about its credibility. Meanwhile, the court ruled that some of the damaging testimony from Rea Harper’s ex-husband would not be allowed.

The Defense attorney, Ron Safer, maintained that Rea Harper’s first lawyer had been in over his head and that despite evidence to the contrary, police had unjustly focused on her as their prime suspect from the very beginning.

“All you have to do is examine the physical evidence and the circumstantial evidence for a concentrated couple of days,” he said, “and you can reach no other conclusion but Julie was 100 percent innocent.-    115_TTWnewcover

Enter true crime writer and researcher Diane Fanning, who saw Rea Harper’s story on “20/20″ and found herself moved by her proclamation of innocence.

Diane was finishing a book on the brutal history of Tommy Lynn Sells, who was a death row serial killer with a history of drug addiction. She corresponded with Sells, and mentioned her doubts about Rea Harper’s conviction. (Through the Window)

Diane said, “I didn’t tell him who she was, I didn’t tell him where it happened, I didn’t tell him when it happened, nothing,” And he popped back with a letter and said, ‘Was that murder you were talking about one that happened two days before the one I did in Springfield, Mo.? Say maybe on the 13th?'”

What was it about a timeline that didn’t make sense? Joel was killed Oct. 13th- two days before police say Sells had raped and murdered 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in nearby Springfield, Missouri.

A Second Look and a Second Chance at Justice 

The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University and the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin decided to represent her in her appeal pro bono and would spend in time and money- The equivalent of $1 million on her defense.

“A taste” of what one of Tommy Lynn’s Sells Confession was like:

For the entire transcript with 20/20 See link- http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=784420&page=1&singlePage=true

INTERVIEWER

Did you commit the murder of the boy in Lawrenceville?

TOMMY

I committed a murder two days before, the Springfield murder. I know this. Is it this murder you’re talking about? I’m assuming, got a good shot at it. You know. But, but to be-

INTERVIEWER

Can you tell me, Tommy, what you remember about that murder?

TOMMY

Next to nothing. And, and I tried talking to Bob [NAME UNCLEAR] about this, and uh, y’all, y’all come here in forty-five minutes and you want me to disclose a murder investigation that, I’ve sat through many, and it takes hours. And, and y’all just want me to try to say that I’ve done something that I’m not a hundred percent sure; I’m not even forty percent sure. I know I committed a murder two days before Springfield…

INTERVIEWER

Can you tell me what you do remember about that?

TOMMY

I remember getting in a fight with a woman. Well, not a fight, but a struggle.

INTERVIEWER

Where was that? At a diner? At a restaurant-

TOMMY

No, no, during the murder.

INTERVIEWER

During the murder?

TOMMY

Right. OK. And I thought it was her that I killed. But apparently it wasn’t. Now, y’all saying it’s a boy, and, and you know, it wasn’t like I asked for a name and, and, you know, I just went in to a dark room and started cutting. Or stabbing.

INTERVIEWER

Do you remember why you went to that particular house?

TOMMY

Well, see, I wouldn’t say I had the right house, but I’m not even sure if I went to the right house. Uh.

INTERVIEWER

Were you looking for someone or something?

TOMMY

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

What were you looking for?

TOMMY

I was looking for a woman, uh, that, that I had got into an argument with at a little convenience store earlier that day. And I had followed her, and thinking this is where she lives. No, go figure that. You know, it’s, it sounds awful coincidental, and the finger sure points to that one. You know. But, but before I say, yeah, I did something; I want to know I did it. I just don’t want to come out here and say, uh, a bag of hoo-hoo, and say this is what you want to hear, this is what I want to tell you. I’m, I’m, and you understand what I’m saying?

And…on and on….

Through Diane’s unrelenting pursuits and meticulous research, in 2011 Diane Fanning received the prestigious Defenders of the Innocents Award.

Status of Tommy Lynn Sells:  Sells was executed in Texas on April 3, 2014, at 6:27 p.m. CST by lethal injection. He declined to make a final statement.

Intimate Partner Violence

In 1991, after years of domestic violence, Geraldine Kelly shot and killed her husband and stored his body in a freezer at their home in Ventura, California. She told her young children that their father died in a car accident. Seven years later moving back to Somerville Massachusetts, she had the body driven across country stored in a local storage facility in Somerville. In 2004, 13 years after the murder Kelly was gravely ill with breast cancer and confessed to her daughter that she had killed her father claiming he abused her for years and told her where to find his body. The body was mummified but identified as John Kelly based on distinctive tattoos he was known to have including a panther, a Kewpie doll and a skull. The cause of death was a gunshot to the back of the head.

Lock Ness Monster Photo

In 1934 a doctor named Robert Kenneth Wilson offered a picture to the Daily Mail newspaper. Wilson told the newspaper he noticed something moving in Loch Ness, stopped his car to take the photo. Wilson refused to have his name associated with it so the photo became known simply as “The Surgeon’s Photo.” For decades this photo was considered to be the best evidence of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. In 1994 at the age of 93 and near death Christian Spurling confessed that the surgeon’s photo taken 60 years ago was a hoax and the mastermind behind it was his Stepfather Marmaduke Wetherell.

Confessed to: the Murder of William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor was an actor and a top US film director of silent films in the early days of Hollywood. He was to death in 1922 it became one of Hollywood’s most famous mysteries

In 1964, 42 years after the murder a reclusive old woman living in the Hollywood Hills was suffering from a heart attack and summoned her neighbor. she asked for a priest to confess but when no Priest was available she began to make her confession to her neighbor. As she was dying on her kitchen floor she said she was a silent film actress by the name of Margaret Gibson and that she shot and killed a man named William Desmond Taylor. She is alleged to have been involved romantically with Taylor but a motive as to why she killed him was never mentioned.

The Violin Story: In 1936 Polish virtuoso Hall Huberman was performing at Carnegie Hall and decided to switch the Stradivarius he was playing in the first half of his performance to his newly acquired Guarnerius violin. After the intermission the Stradivarius was stolen out of his dressing room by 20-year-old Julian Altman who was a New York nightclub musician.

Altman went on to become a violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. and performed for Presidents and politicians with the stolen Stradivarius for many years. In 1985, 49 years after the theft, Julian Altman who was in prison for child molestation and gravely ill confessed to his wife that he had stolen the violin. He then instructed his wife where to find the Stradivarius at the couple’s home. Along with the Stradivarius, she found newspaper clippings recounting the theft. In 1987 his wife returned the Stradivarius to Lloyds of London in exchange for a $263,000 finder’s fee.

Romantic Confessions of Love…  Okay- Proposals: “That One Thing”

This says it all! 8 minutes of bliss!  http://www.wimp.com/romanticproposal/

 

 

 

References: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2931404&page=1&singlePage=true

http://crime.about.com/od/serial/fl/Tommy-Lynn-Sells.htm

http://www.dianefanning.com/truecrimebooks/throughthewindow.html

http://listverse.com/2009/09/29/top-10-fascinating-deathbed-confessions/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathbed_confession

http://www.wimp.com/romanticproposal/

 

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Spontaneous Combustion at Its Best: The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute

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“If law enforcement hasn’t thought of it, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.”

(Sheryl McCollum)

When you pair Sheryl “Mac” McCollum with inquisitive, interested students of every academic discipline and personal background, combined with excellent colleagues and a state of the art facility, it’s spontaneous combustion of the best kind, the learning kind!

It all takes place at the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute  based in Atlanta.   As CCIRI Founder Sheryl McCollum says, “We’re in the business of tryin’ and we put fresh eyes on every case.”  After a long career in criminal justice, McCollum started the institute in 2005. Students receive no class credit and no grades for their work with the institute. Participation is strictly volunteer, yet there has never been a shortage of students eager to be a part.

Sheryl McCollum, Cold Case Investigative Research Institute,Shattered Lives Radio

Sheryl McCollum

The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute is a one of a kind non-profit born out of “an accidental teaching method” giving the opportunity for students to sink their teeth into a real case, and the rest is history with an impressive lineup of 30 colleges with professionals from which to draw ten years later!

Over their 10 year history students have worked on several high-profile cases, such as Chandra Levy, Tupac Shakur, and the Boston Strangler, as well as many  cases the public may not be as familiar. They are affiliated with colleges all over the country where each case is assigned to that college’s area of expertise, working independently, and combining information from each to add to the solvability of the case.

 

                         click to listen button1

 

 Highlights from the podcast:

  • “Civilians solve crime all the time”- Expertise you can’t pay for from the school of hard knocks;
  • “The Institute is Like a Church” All are welcome, no requirements needed.  Students come with many things to offer such as real life expertise , common sense
  • The Timeline for new cases, action plans, experts and expected outcomes. 1 year minimum time spent on each case, but many go on much longer.
  • The Miracle of Argocy College: A new home and unlimited potential. Example: videoconference with over 200 students for the benefit of one family’s case  equaling 400 man hours;
  • Duane Thompson, PhD –  “an all around top cop”
  • Donations: Send to-  The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute, 235 10th Street, Atlanta, Georgia  30318
  • Cases Discussions- Whodunit Versus Unproven:   Natalee Holloway; Amber Hagerman
  • The Comic Book about the Amber Hagerman case, one of a kind story
  •  Coldest Case ever worked,  “bullets don’t disintegrate!”
  • Update on the Mary Shotwell Little Case;
  • The Bizarre Case of Vi Ripken (mother of in the Baseball Star Cal Ripken, Jr.)
  • FUGITIVE APPREHENSION PLAN- for the future- endorsed by the Army, Secret Service, Marshall, Service, FBI etc… Stay tuned for more!
  • The “nuts and bolts” of figuring out a case – Example: Chandra Levy Case
  • Ladyjustice   describes the Institute as a “Think out of the Box” Institute
  • No sadness… and “a little pool of money.”
  • Traditional academics versus the fulfillment that is received from this “non-traditional learning experience”
  • Advantages for the students – National training from experts on all aspects of criminal justice and working real high-profile cases!
  • Parting Messages for the Audience – the benefits of DNA and encouraging you to help others wherever it’s needed.

 

“The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessary reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.”

Spontaneous Combustion at Its Best: The Cold Case Investigative Research Unit

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On the Road to Remember 2014 in Connecticut

I am a fine person in my own right with talents, and skills and hope for the future!

I am a person of every, race, creed, color, age, gender and ethnicity or circumstance.

I may have veered off the most direct or safest path…or someone else may have taken control such that my future is not what I wanted it to be.

However, I know that I am valued and loved and deserve the dignity of a rich and full life without judgment passed by others.

I am a missing person from this our state, or one of the 49 other states. 

I am someone’s child. 

Donna R. Gore “LadyJustice”

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I am happy to be embraced by the Cue Center for Missing Persons, for I know they will assist my family and law enforcement with every resource available.

Thank you for coming to hear my story.

There are many things that will be said about this year’s 2014 CUE Center for Missing Persons On the Road to Remember Tour. However, I tend to gravitate to special moments capturing humanity.

Why I was selected to be a potential tour stop, I do not know, I do remember the captivating description at the microphone offered by Monica about this tour and her heartache when particular locations have to be denied; among thousands of missing adults across this country, why families would have to clamor for attention is beyond all understanding.

Why media does not expand their definition of “breaking news” to include our ever-expanding list of “broken hearts for the missing” in Connecticut, even when there is no car crash, new murder, or other story of import to cover, I do not understand. (A New Haven Police photographer and a New Haven Register photographer were the exceptions- THANK YOU!)

Although the planning of this event began many months ago with many starts and  stops along the way, this  “perpetual plan ahead Coordinator” learned that an event could look like a choreographed ballet- complete with butterflies, ribbons, and balloons in a short time.

Life is about timing and in the end, the stately Connecticut State Police Museum and Education Center was the perfect venue and backdrop for our hosting. On May 29, 1903, Governor Abiram Chamberlain signed House Bill #247 which authorized the creation of the Connecticut State Police, the first of its kind in the country.

1901262_704453792973980_5124058894255109536_nAs I parked my car about 8:30 a.m. waiting for everyone else to arrive in the presence of the morning dew and brilliant sunshine, I wondered what this would turn out to be.  Would the families come? Would law enforcement come? Would the media come? Would we be ready when Monica and her staff arrived?  Not to worry! Not easy for a person who wants such things to be “near perfect.”

The detectives of the Connecticut State Police, particularly, Tonya Campagnone and her team, and Sergeant Elisa Tuozzoli and colleagues, Ann Mays and Jessica Agosto of the New Haven Missing Persons Unit, soon arrived to assist in unpacking my cram-filled car. A stress fracture did not keep this Coordinator down in the least! In fact, I couldn’t recall feeling pain-maybe because I was focusing on other people’s pain. What a great healing method!

Where to put things? Better here, or over there? Do we have enough tables?  Food and drink generously donated by New Haven restaurants and real bathroom facilities, were relative luxuries on this grueling journey.

NamUS posters told the story before the families arrived. Their photos haunted me. I wondered what was their back story of which few spoke.

Families represented at event:

  • Evelyn Frisco- Missing since June 2004; New Haven, Contact New Haven Police- 203-946-6316- 5’2” Family present at event;
  • Jose Ortiz, Missing since December 2005- New Haven; Contact New Haven Police  203-946-6316; Family present at event;
  • Jerry Dolphin- 20 years old; Missing since October 1994- New Haven; Contact New Haven Police; Family present at event;
  • William Paul Smolinski, Jr – Missing since August 2004-Waterbury; Contact New Haven CT FBI 203-777-6311, Case # 62D-NH-44785; NamUS MP # 43;
  • Lisa Calvo- 40 years old; Missing since October 2005;  Height-4’11” Contact New Haven Police; Family present at event;
  • Bernadine Paul – 38 years old; Hispanic; Missing since June 2000; Contact Waterbury Police -203-574-6941; Case # 00-45074;                            NamUS MP # 392; ;
  • Ande Fan- Asian Male 5’4” Missing since August 2004- New Haven; Contact New Haven Police;
  • Marquita Jones – Missing since Summer of 2011- Hill area of  New Haven;  Contact New Haven Police;   5’ 2” Nicknames – “Keighia,” “Kecia,” “Luv.” Quita Luv
  • Mary E. Badaracco- 53 years old,  Missing since August 1984; Sherman, CT; Contact your local law enforcement Case # A84277483; NamUS MP # 303; Family came after event; $50,000 Reward for more information;
  • Janice K. Pocket- 7 years old, Missing since July 1973- Tolland, CT ;  Contact CT State Police 860-779-4940; Case # 000000014; NamUS # 2555;
  • Debra Lee Speckler- Missing since July 1968-Vernon CT: Contact Vernon Police Department – 860-872-9126 ext. 289; Case # C-3710-68-J;                NamUS MP # 5426;
  • Lisa Joy White – Missing since November 1974-Vernon, CT; Contact Vernon Police Department – 860-872-9126 ext. 289; Case # 000000019; NamUS MP # 2559
  • Alyssiah Wiley-  20 years old;  Previously Missing—in Bridgeport  Remains located in Trumbull, CT in May 2013; Mother Corrinna Martin attended event.

New families were especially forthcoming while speaking both publically and one on one. Corrinna spoke of “establishing an intimate relationship of cooperation with their law enforcement”; hopes to locate daughter Evelyn Frisco, long missing, before her mother, Janet dies.

Others spoke of the evils of drugs, how Jerry Dolphin was on the threshold of new ventures and how this event tearfully opened wounds; the quest to find Billy Smolinski and the importance of NamUS legislation.

Retired State Police officer Jerry Longo was visibly moved and couldn’t take his eyes off of former 7-year-old Janice Pocket’s poster- missing while looking for butterflies. He stated soberly to me, “I remember her. I worked this case.”

A wonderful give and take was noted between families, law enforcement and Cue Members.  A  make shift “Memory wall” was set up along the ancient 1920 brick edifice behind the Museum, consisting of quilted swatches of missing persons around the country as well as the vivid CUE Road Tour color collage with all of the faces of the missing emblazoned on the poster just waiting for Monica and hope to arrive at their stop!

The visuals were quite powerful; a custom-made multicolored ribbon and butterfly tree, yellow butterfly badges for families to wear and yellow balloons that went careering into the heavens to join others.1925292_735282959875593_6019599327779758457_n

As a new Coordinator, I marveled at the way CUE Center Founder, Monica Caison, was able to instantly engage new families and provide comfort. I tried to keep my distance when I saw this happen.  I too was able to do the same with guests and as a veteran homicide survivor. It made me feel so good!

My one regret was that I was unable to get a photo with Monica. There was no time to talk or bond with a new Coordinator, unfortunately.  We did tour the Museum together for a few minutes in which she enthusiastically took photos and interacted with staff.

An honorable mention must be given for her dedicated staff of volunteers who helped navigate. They make it all come together with good humor considering their many duties, fatigue,“ and the road ahead.”  Elisa, David and Janeanne were gracious, as was Harlan Chavis who parted by saying, “See ya’ at the Conference.”

No story would be complete without a postscript or two:

As I was just about to depart, Beth Profeta, daughter of missing Mary Badaracco, rolled down her car window and announced, “She was here for the event.” I identified myself, (as I had not seen her in a few years). She was frazzled, mad and disappointed that she had “gone off course and gotten lost.”  We spent the next hour or so talking at the end of the Complex’s driveway, staged a few photos on her car hood and up against “a mighty oak tree” of dear mother, Mary Badaracco.

Cars were whizzing up the driveway to other buildings except for a distinguished looking gentleman approaching, proudly wearing a CT State Police cap and riding an adult three-wheeled tricycle.  He introduced himself, struck up a conversation with us, said he lived up the hill and this was part of his “stomping grounds.” I can’t recall his name, but he did proudly share with us that he was 99 years old and rode his bike on the grounds daily!

AMEN! The perfect ending to a perfect day!

On the Road to Remember 2014 in Connecticut

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