Filed under: missing child

The Lost Girl, by Larkin Vonalt

(True Crime Weblog contributor Larkin Vonalt is a writer living in Ohio.)

The woman is screaming into the television camera. There are words coming out of her mouth, but all you really hear is rage. Rage, and despair. The pain is writ so large upon her face that even at a distance one cannot help turning away out of respect. The camera pans from the shattered woman back to a twenty-something television reporter. The reporter smiles, embarrassed, and with a tilt of her head, brightly offers her reprise to the night’s top story.

Hours before, Tammy Walker trod the hallways of the city morgue, her own green mile, to identify the body of her daughter. Seventy-seven days earlier she and her husband filed a missing person report for Heather Nicole Walker, age 18. The police, by their own admission, never looked for her. Heather’s family and friends ran off flyers of the missing girl, posting them everywhere they could think of. Now it was all for nothing. When they’d turned out the lights the night before, there had still been hope, dangling on a string. There was still a chance that Heather would come banging through the door of the house on Gummer Street. Today, with the rising of the sun, that string snapped.

This evening Tammy Walker has returned to the alley where her daughter was found in a trashcan. Surely screaming can be the only reasonable response.

Dayton, Ohio is a city of 157,000 people. The crime rate falls somewhere between that of Baton Rouge and Rochester, though violent crime in Dayton is significantly less than both those cities. Last year the Chief of Police was pleased to tell the media that Dayton had enjoyed its second straight year of diminishing crime.

In the days following the discovery of Heather Walker’s body, the police defended their lack of action.

“Many adults go missing throughout the year,” Sgt. Chris Williams told the Dayton Daily News. He added that “very few” turn out to be victims of foul play. They offer this information without apology. They are just cogs in a slowly grinding machine, one with no capacity to look for the needle in a haystack that is a girl lost in the streets.

Heather wasn’t the high school valedictorian. She wasn’t an accomplished coed at a prestigious university. When the media speaks of her they don’t use words like “gifted” or “promising” or “popular.” As if death wasn’t insult enough, they drop labels on her like stones: Troubled. Habitual. Runaway.

Heather’s parents had reported her missing six times before. This time Robert and Tammy Walker were emphatic with the police: she had not taken her cell phone, or her wallet. In the past she had always called to let them know she was okay. Not this time. It didn’t matter that Heather’s absence was more sinister this February than on past occasions. She had passed that magic age, 18 — you can’t buy a beer, but you can be tried as an adult, serve your country and be liable for your own debts.

And the police won’t look for you anymore.

Mary McCarty, a Dayton Daily News columnist, chastised the police in a May 1 editorial for arbitrarily dismissing reports for missing individuals over 18, citing her own son, a 19-year old High School senior, as evidence of how childlike we still can be at that tender age, suggesting that the “cutoff” might be a little later. McCarty quoted Kettering, Ohio Police Sgt. Craig Moore as he deftly sidestepped the issue: “That’s a societal thing; we’re simply following state law as it is written,” Moore said. “That would be a change for the state of Ohio to make.”

Early on, the Walkers’ coltish daughter had seized the privileges usually reserved for adults, and did not bridle easily to the very adult responsibilities of raising her young son. She began running away when she was pregnant. After Devin was born, this problem reached epic proportions . The sixth time the police brought Heather home, just over a year ago, she left again ten minutes later. There would not be a seventh time.

Though suburbanites fear the predominantly black west side of Dayton, these blocks — east of Keowee, north of US 35 — these are really Dayton’s mean streets. But like the natives of South Boston and the Bronx, the residents of East Dayton take pride in their gritty neighborhood, wearing survival like a badge of honor.

The largely white area is plagued with vandalism, theft, prostitution, homelessness, drug abuse and murder. Kids there ape black culture, posing on their MySpace pages and in YouTube videos with rolls of cash, guns, and bottles of Jagermeister. They imitate the speech, the dress, the swagger of the ‘hood. It would be funny if it wasn’t so deadly. They’ve got the rims, the grills, they throw the signs, pose for photos at the gravesites of their friends.

It isn’t just Heather they mourn. Andy Rush died Easter Sunday last year, accidentally shot in the head by his best friend, Tommy. His “Moms” died just a few days before that, of cancer. Younger brother Mikey eulogizes all of them on his My Space profile. A few days ago there was a reference there to Heather, he called her his “future wife;” but to look at the profile now you’d never know they were friends. A guy’s got pressures, you know.

Heather wasn’t much of a diarist; she started four or five MySpace pages, but was never a regular presence there. Even so, the media noted that those pages were “laced with obscenities.” On both the pages that she got off the ground, she fusses about Devin’s father, Justin James Holbrook. “And for those bitches who want my baby daddy, go ahead and have him. He may look good to you and everything, but the thing is he has nothing to offer you, he don’t even have anything to offer his own son.”

On one of Heather’s abandoned profiles, Justin commented “hey if u ever get on here n check ur shit delete me from ur friends cause i dont want u to know nething bout wat i do so do me a favor n delete me k.” Their son, Devin, was about three months old then, and Heather was out the door as often as not.

The pictures on Heather’s profile finally provide a real glimpse of the girl behind the pose. Heather, laughing. Heather scowling, and yes, Heather (and a friend) stacking gang signs. Heather vibrant, her arms bare and smooth, a curtain of shiny hair, a wide, wide grin, goofing for the camera. Heather alive.

As a juvenile, Heather Walker had brushes with the law; shoplifting a pair of shoes, joyriding in a stolen car. The details were carefully spelled out in the local newspaper days after her body was discovered. There is no record for her as an adult. She dropped out of Belmont High, but four out of every ten students there don’t make it to graduation. On “academic watch,” the Dayton public high school features a “computer technology theme,” but has no school website. Ninety-three percent of its students are considered “economically disadvantaged.”

On Wednesday, February 6, Heather is thought to have been on her way to a birthday party for her older brother, Rob. She is seen about 7:30 in the parking lot of Sam’s Market, a down-at-the-heels corner grocery on East Third Street, two miles from home, three blocks from where her body will be found. By Saturday morning, she has still not come home and her parents turn to the police. The police follow procedure as for any missing adult, other than those considered “endangered.” They issue a 72-hour alert, and when it expires, they forget about her.

Eleven weeks later, on a warm April morning, three passersby wend their way down an alley half a block off East Third. One of them spots a pair of shoes hanging out of a city-issued trash bin. Deciding to take the shoes, they cross thirty feet from the alley to the edge of the abandoned building where the green plastic can rests. Reaching for the shoes, they make a horrible discovery. The shoes are still on Heather’s feet.

Heather’s friends bring balloons to the site. Balloons, and stuffed toys. Letters, poems, photographs of their lost friend. It is raining, the notes run, the photos smear, the candles flicker. In the rain, in an alley in a gin-soaked neighborhood, her friends weep, stunned with grief. A photograph of Devin visiting Heather’s shrine shows a beautiful and bewildered little boy.

Heather’s father has mapped his grief upon his chest, an image of Heather; peaceful, contemplative, is newly tattooed there. Two dozen of his Mixed Martial Arts students file past, their heads bowed. Bushi Combat, where he teaches, honors Heather on their website. All that combat training, and no one to save her. Robert Walker does not rage into the television camera as his wife does, but it is clear that the death of his baby girl has broken him.

The coroner issues a statement that Heather Nicole Walker had been dead “for a while,” yet her parents identify her in the hours immediately following her discovery. While her father concedes there was decomposition, he ventures that “her head hadn’t been bashed in or anything.” It’s unlikely Heather spent eleven weeks in the trash can, as the mild Ohio spring would have rendered her to state that no one would ask a parent to contemplate.

On the box that houses her ashes, the date of death is March 1, 2008; an estimate arrived at with the help of the medical examiner.

Where was Heather for the 23 nights between February 6 and March 1? Was she captive? Was she frightened? Was she cold?

No cause or manner of death has been established. There were no signs of trauma on her body. She was not stabbed or shot or strangled. There was no blunt force trauma. Determining asphyxiation after a certain point of decomposition is very difficult. Life isn’t like CSI: lab tests take weeks, sometimes longer, to complete. Sometimes the answers never come.

As if rushing to pre-empt the media’s speculation, Robert Walker muses to a Dayton Daily News reporter that his daughter might have died of a drug overdose. Without the toxicology reports, the Montgomery County Coroner is not willing to make that leap yet.

The Coroner’s office director Ken Betz told the paper that he “cannot support that, because pathologists have not officially determined when and how Heather Walker died.”

If the cause of death is revealed in the toxicology report, it may well put an end to any homicide investigation. Without evidence of having been dosed against her will, the best the D.A. can offer her parents in that circumstance is the possible charge of “abuse of a corpse.” That is, if they ever find anyone to charge.

Drug overdose or not, no one is buying that Heather climbed into a trashcan on her own. Why would someone go to such lengths to conceal an accidental death? Or was their means of disposing of the body some kind of cruel joke? Though the house near the site is empty, the grass is mowed. Heather’s father said he talked to the people who had cut the grass just a few weeks before his daughter’s body was found. “They said that trash can was not there when they mowed,” he told the Dayton paper. “Someone killed Heather. I am staying on this.”

Heather Walker: daughter, mother, sister, friend. Not just lost, but stolen.

*****

Heather’s June 2007 MySpace Profile

http://www.myspace.com/188737285

Heather’s October 2007 MySpace Profile

http://www.myspace.com/265791001

Heather’s Memorial MySpace Profile

http://www.myspace.com/374370762

Mikey Rush’s MySpace Profile

http://www.myspace.com/184211666

Justin Holbrook’s MySpace Profile

http://www.myspace.com/112129717

Bushi Combat Site

http://www.bushicombat.com/

The Search For Kaelin Rose Glazier Ends

(New True Crime Weblog contributor Tamar Silverman is a writer and sleuth residing in the Pacific Northwest. ~ Steve Huff)

Kaelin Rose Glazier vanished from tiny Ruch, Oregon on November 6th, 1996. The 15-year-old sophomore at South Medford High left a friend’s house that Wednesday to go to a church youth function. She was never seen alive again.

On Thursday, April 8th, 2008 Kaelin’s remains were discovered in an open field less than 100ft from the one time residence of her friend and the last person to see her alive, William (Billy) Frank Simmons.

Kaelin had stayed the previous night at a friend’s house and was expected to walk from there to a youth meeting at Applegate Christian Fellowship on Route 238. Simmons claims she dropped by and watched a video at his grandparents’ house instead. The movie they watched, Heat is a violent police thriller, which runs 159 minutes (two and half hours). Kaelin left after the movie and was last seen on Haven Road headed toward the church around 7:40 pm. Youth groups do not meet late on a school night, so it is likely she was only going to catch the end of the meeting. Kaelin’s mother was waiting for her at the church that night, but Kaelin never showed up.

Simmons, a former classmate of Kaelin’s, lived with his grandparents at the 100 block of Johnson Road. A high school drop out at 15 who was later arrested for identity theft and probation violation, Simmons led a troubled life. Police have always considered Simmons a suspect. In fact, he is the only suspect named in the investigation. It was reported, however, that another male friend left Simmons’s residence minutes before Kaelin. Could this friend have been lying in wait? Could the neighbor (on whose property Kaelin’s body was found) have kidnapped and killed her? The fact that she was found so close to the last place she was seen points to a killer who knew Kaelin, but why was Billy Simmons singled out?

When Jackson County Sheriff’s Department officially named him, “a person of interest” Simmons complained that he was being harassed by police who were, “just not smart enough to go anywhere else and find other leads.” Kaelin’s friends and neighbors have also accused the local authorities of bungling this case and questions linger regarding the 5 day delay in an organized search.

Kaelin’s disappearance has haunted the Jacksonville area for nearly 12 year now. Though statistics say the murder may not be solved or a perpetrator brought to justice, the discovery of Kaelin’s body has brought some closure to the community and to her long suffering family.

  • http://archive.mailtribune.com/archive/99/jan99/11999n1.htm
  • http://archive.mailtribune.com/archive/2000/december/122500n2.htm
  • http://www.ktvl.com/news/remains_1186117___article.html/glazier_ruch.html
  • AMBER ALERT in North Carolina: Harmony Jade Creech *UPDATED*

    (Edited on 10/22 to correct Harmony’s middle name. It was given out incorrectly by several sources over the last few days as “Jude.” Her middle name was “Jade.” My sources for basic information in this blog entry are listed at the bottom of the entry. Otherwise, sources are referenced in the body of the blog post. If you want something corrected, I need more than an allusion to what might be wrong. Also, you may want to employ a bit of middle-school reading comprehension skill and check and see where I may have gotten information before you go blaming this blog for anything. I make it a point to cite sources for a reason.)

    An Amber Alert has been issued in North Carolina for a missing 11-month-old baby girl named Harmony Jade Creech.

    Harmony’s father, Ronald Earl Creech II, has never met his baby. A soldier with the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg, Creech was in Iraq when his daughter was born. Ronald Creech came home to find that the child had vanished.

    Creech met his mom Friday morning and the pair went to the home where Harmony was living with her mom, 25-year-old Johni Michelle Heuser, and three other pre-school-age children.

    Harmony’s grandmother discovered that the child was gone.

    A screen was missing from the window to the baby’s room. Most of her clothes were gone as well.

    By noon on Friday the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office was involved. They searched the home and the surrounding neighborhood with no success.

    The 3 other kids in the house were unharmed. They are not related to Harmony’s father.

    In-home abductions of very small children like Harmony Jade Creech by strangers are rare. While there are sexual predators who might target infants, there aren’t that many. An insane female who wants to take another woman’s child for her own is probably rarer still.

    The outlines of this mystery seem familiar and sickening, at the moment.

    According to WRAL-TV, Johni Heuser was still being questioned Friday night.

    The FBI is assisting local authorities with this investigation.

    Harmony Jade Creech was last seen around 11 p.m. on Thursday night at 1680 Ray Road, near Spring Lake, North Carolina. She was clad in pink footie pajamas. “Daddy’s Girl” was written on one arm of the jammies. Harmony reportedly has small dark birthmark on the back of her head.

    If you think you have info about the disappearance of Harmony Jade Creech, call the Harnett County Sheriff at (910) 893-9111.

    *UPDATE*

    Harmony Jude Creech has been found deceased in the attic of the home on Ray Road.

    According to WRAL TV, Harmony’s mother told police that she’d found the baby dead in her crib weeks ago and decided to hide the body. Johni Heuser said she made her decision out of fear.

    Heuser put on an interesting act, if she is telling the truth. Some early reports about the baby’s disappearance stated that Ron Creech’s mother discovered the baby was missing, but others, like this article in the News & Observer, said that Johni Heuser was entering the baby’s room to introduce her to her father when she found her baby missing. Heuser may have been the one who called the police.

    Her description of the child wearing a jumper with “Daddy’s Girl” on one sleeve is unsettling as well. She knew the baby was dead in the attic, yet she carefully geared the story to play upon Ron Creech’s emotions, by the sound of it.

    A user posting in this thread about Harmony Creech’s disappearance at Websleuths.com, “dimples37398,” found Johni Michelle Heuser’s MySpace account:

    http://www.myspace.com/chellbell1982.

    There may be much to discuss in that profile, or not. Under this photo, apparently of Harmony, Heuser had posted the caption, “Mama’s lil girl.” Ron Creech left a comment on that photo in June. He wrote, ” i’ll take credit for that lil one.”

    Charges haven’t been filed against Johni Michelle Heuser yet.

    Any parent trying to conceive of sleeping under an attic for weeks with your dead infant locked away above you will wonder how that can be. How one could sleep at all.

    If Harmony Creech died a natural death, what caused Heuser’s fear? And how could that fear override grief?

    In her MySpace photo gallery, Johni Heuser had two albums. One was 10 photos of Heuser, her children, and friends. The other was 25 screenshots of characters from the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), Final Fantasy XI. Heuser’s character was named “Chellbell.”

    Which was more important to Heuser, the 10 photos of family and friends, or the 25 pictures taken from a game? And is there a connection between “Chellbell’s” investment in an online fantasy world and the death of her child?

    There may be more than one “Chellbell” playing Final Fantasy. If that community, however large, is like most other online communities, it probably doesn’t allow exact duplication of user names. So it is potentially interesting to note that a “Chellbell” was bidding online for Final Fantasy game play items as recently as October 18.

    **UPDATE 2**

    Johni Michelle Heuser has been charged with her daughter’s murder. She is being held in the Harnett County Jail without bail.

    News 14 Carolina (linked above) reports that neighbors were suspicious Heuser’s story:

    “Initially, I felt there was foul play involved but I felt also that it was someone they knew,” said Stacie Siebert. “I felt it was an inside job from the beginning.”

    Authorities think Harmony lay decomposing in the attic for at least two weeks.

    Neighbors had noted a terrible odor for weeks. The smell faded as temperatures dropped. The odor was surely strongest inside the home Johni “Chellbell” Heuser shared with her other 3 kids. Yet did she continue playing Final Fantasy? Did she keep talking with friends on the phone, e-mailing?

    It’s hard to imagine.

    For the record, anyone with a lick of sense should understand that Heuser playing a MMORPG had no connection with this other than how she used it — to distract herself from an otherwise lonely and mundane life. It gets tiresome, how the media sometimes approaches such a thing, and how the online communities react. Final Fantasy as an entity had nothing to do with this child’s death. Its only connection was in how Harmony Creech’s mother may have used the game as her “drug of choice.”

    Anyone truly concerned about this case should be concerned for Johni Heuser’s other children and for Ronald Earl Creech II. He thought he was coming home from the War to greet his baby daughter. Instead he came home to unimaginable sadness and tragedy.

    Sources: