Filed under: missing persons
The Forsberg Mystery presents the kind of intrigue journalists often find irresistible. Rick and Marcia Forsberg might understand such curiosity. They met nearly 4 decades ago as student journalists. This is from the Oxnard (CA) Press-Courier, Oct. 26, 1975, an article about Ventura College’s student newspaper, the Pirate Press:
Now no one has seen 61-year-old cancer survivor Marcia Forsberg for months. Her husband is missing too. It’s probably not a big surprise that he’s also a person-of-interest in Marcia’s disappearance.The last time Orange County Sheriff’s detectives saw Richard Forsberg, age 61, was Tuesday, August 24. That’s when detectives with the Sheriff’s Dept. interviewed him about his wife’s vanishing act. After all, he’d never filed a missing persons’ report, even though friends had not seen Marcia since February. The couples’ friends found it odd when Marcia blinked out of sight a few months ago. Richard’s behavior didn’t help. From the Orange County Register:
Cops asked Richard about not filing a report and he told them the Arizona story. Richard said he’d last seen her on March 13.Marcia’s Arizona friend said Marcia wasn’t there. Cops tried to follow up with Richard but couldn’t find him. Cops have searched the Forsberg’s residence in Rancho Santa Margarita and most recently gone door-to-door searching for the Forsbergs. Richard hasn’t shown up to his job with the Costa Mesa Coast Community College District. There hasn’t been any activity on either his or his wife’s cell phones. As recently as October, 2009, the Forsbergs seemed like a healthy, happy couple. They were featured in an article in the Ojai Valley News. The article was about Nordhoff High School’s 100th anniversary celebratory festival and something called “Dance For the Generations.” Rick and Marcia Forsberg smile at the reader from a blurry photo accompanying the piece. The article tells how the Forsbergs met “on the first day at Ventura College” in journalism class. The Forsbergs went to Nordhoff High reunions on an almost yearly basis so Marcia could see old friends. The article continued:
Police believe that if Richard Forsberg is still alive, he is in his wife’s silver VW Bug, CA license # 4TIM403.
Some people are so obsessed with missing girls they videotape reports on their own TVs
Amy Vargas, age 16, has vanished from a resort in Cancun, Mexico. Vargas, who is half Costa Rican, was visiting the Great Parnassus Resort when she disappeared last Thursday after playing baseball on the beach.
Now her mother, D’an Simmons, is getting ready to plead for a passport that will permit her travel to Mexico, where she will help search for her daughter.
The Dakota High School sophomore was with her grandmother and great-grandmother at the resort. According to the Detroit News, she was no stranger to traveling overseas, having been to both St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands last summer. Vargas is also fluent in Spanish, so was perhaps was better prepared than many teens to travel to Mexico.
Reports as to what Vargas was actually doing prior to her disappearance vary. One said she was playing baseball with others on the beach. Another, earlier report (linked below) stated that the teen was at the pool. Vargas headed to the restroom and never came back. The same report from WDIV in Detroit stated that investigators wanted to speak with a Grand Parnassus employee whom “they believe left the property with the girl and two other men.”
In the WDIV interview, D’an Simmons made it clear that she was sure her daughter did not leave the area willingly.
Ominously, Vargas’s cell phone was apparently turned off after she vanished.
If an American girl missing in a tropical paradise sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Natalee Holloway. Her disappearance from the island of Aruba on May 31, 2005 marked the beginning of one of the most complex and confounding missing persons cases in recent history. Holloway’s disappearance also became a bizarre kind of Internet phenomenon and is probably the case most closely associated with “missing white woman syndrome,” which Wikipedia describes thusly:
Amy Vargas, a cute latina teen with a long-term interest in soccer, doesn’t fit the Anglo, often blond stereotype associated with Holloway, but the circumstances surrounding her disappearance are similar, at least on the surface. A quick glance at the website for the Grand Parnassus Resort makes it clear she was in an idyllic place – the sort of resort where your expectations of danger flutter away on the breeze. It would be easy to lose yourself there.
Mexican police, the security team at Grand Parnassus and now the FBI are looking into Amy Vargas’s disappearance.
So are a number of amateurs on the Internet. Missing and white or not, something about missing people promotes obsession, whether you know the vanished or not. It’s the confounding idea that it can happen at all, perhaps, in this day and age. We live in a time when it is easy to feel your every move is being tracked. How, then, can someone suddenly one day just not be there, anymore?
If you think about it, it makes less sense now than ever before.
The soldier currently missing from Fort Bragg has been identified as 2nd Lieutentant Holley Lynn Wimunc, age 24. Holley Wimunc was part of Charlie Company and assigned to Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Hospital. Wimunc vanished Thursday morning. Her apartment was burned; authorities have determined that the fire was set. Wimunc’s car was still in the complex parking lot.She was known to be going through a divorce. Early Friday, Raleigh’s WRAL-TV reported that Wimunc had once filed papers with the court to protect her from her estranged husband, John Wimunc. On her Facebook account, accessible only to her friends, Wimunc had begun calling herself Holley James (presumably her maiden name). Wimunc claimed that her Marine Corporal husband “held loaded 9mm to my head; choked me. Threw me around living room…” While her allegations certainly make her husband a good suspect, the Fayetteville Observer published an article that stated, in part:
The Observer also reported that Holley Lynn Wimunc was educated in Iowa, at St. Ambrose University. She was in the Army Nurse Corps and had been at Fort Bragg for nearly a year.There are some elements in this missing persons case that make it difficult to ignore any possible connection with the June, 2008 murder of Spc. Megan Lynn Touma:
The map embedded below illustrates another interesting detail of the Wimunc disappearance — Google indicates just 1.4 miles between Cross Creek Mall and Wimunc’s apartment complex at 142 Wayah Creek Drive in Fayetteville.
John Wimunc, based on the claims made by Holley when she filed for court-sanctioned protection, might be an excellent suspect in his wife’s disappearance. But he’s not in custody right now, simply under observation. That could show a lack of convincing, hard evidence pointing towards a domestic answer to the riddle of Holley Wimunc’s disappearance. Does Fayetteville, North Carolina have a serial killer, after all? If there is a calculating serial at work, targeting women of a certain age, appearance, and profession, did he send the mysterious, Zodiac-like letter to the Observer? If he did, I expect another letter soon. The Touma murder and Wimunc disappearance may only be connected by the singular motivation of men who think murder is the best way out of a relationship. A single serial killer would be easier to deal with, in a way — all the possibilities are focused in one phantom psycho. Take him off the street, and that particular deadly path is at an end. Domestic homicide, however, is a much larger problem, one as old as human relations. We can’t put it away and remove its power to wipe loved ones from the face of the Earth. A serial killer is, at the very least, a concrete answer to the huge question of why such things happen. Violence between two people who once pledged their love to one another is far more widespread, and ultimately, a problem that seems to elude any easy answers. Links: Holley’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/hollister024. Not much there anymore, if there ever was. Her “About Me”: “Hey, i’m your all american girl. funny bitchy and crazy. I’m 24, in the army…and hoping to get deployed soon :)” This post will be updated and revised as needed.
Something strange and disturbing may be afoot in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Either a killer who harkens back to Northern California and the late 60s is truly at work, or a number of men have decided now is the prime time to rid themselves of troublesome women. Both possibilities are pretty damned spooky, in their ways. WRAL in Raleigh is reporting today that a Fort Bragg-based female soldier is missing and her apartment was burned. Spc. Megan Touma, the pregnant soldier found murdered in a Fayetteville motel on June 21, was associated with a medical specialty. The newly-missing soldier’s name and rank have not been released, but according to WRAL, “she was believed to be assigned to Womack Army Medical Center.” The missing soldier didn’t show up for work on Wednesday, and members of her unit went to check on her. They discovered a burned-out apartment. The fire was determined to be arson. In fact, cops were already processing the scene when the apartment building was evacuated for fear a new fire might break out, perhaps from accelerants still on the scene. This missing soldier was going through a divorce, and authorities are seeking her husband for questioning. The immediate question that may come to mind if you’ve read about the Zodiac Killer-like letter that accompanied the murder of Megan Touma is whether or not this is perhaps a second salvo in a serial killer’s war on the public in general and young military women, in particular. Logically, though, another possibility presents itself: another psychopathic male has been following events in the Touma case and found himself “inspired” to take a novel and homicidal approach to his own problems with a woman in his life, perhaps hoping that the drama surrounding the Touma investigation might serve to help cover his tracks. At the moment, my money’s on the latter explanation for this new Fort Bragg female soldier in peril. If another letter arrives in the mailroom at the Fayetteville Observer, I may change my mind. I’ll update and revise this post as needed. [Hat-tip to Mysteriew at Websleuths.com.]
(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 Profilehttp://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/
Lauren A. Burk, an 18-year-old freshman at Auburn University, was murdered last night in Auburn, Alabama. Lauren, a 2007 graduate of Walton High School, came from Marietta, Georgia — just down the road from where I live. Burk’s death has been all over the news in Atlanta today. Lauren was wounded when she was found on Alabama Highway 147 Tuesday night. She passed away later in the evening at an Auburn-area hospital. Nearly a half-hour after Lauren was found, a vehicle was discovered in flames on the Auburn Campus. The burning car was Lauren A. Burk’s Honda Civic. No arrests have been made, and the AP has reported an increased police presence on the University campus. Auburn University grad Lori Ann Slesinksi was last seen in Auburn, Alabama on June 10, 2006. After Lori’s mom hadn’t heard from Lori for several days, she visited her daughter’s residence at the Ridgewood Village Trailer Park. Her trip to Lori’s home convinced her something was wrong, and she contacted local police. Early in the morning on June 14, a blue Mazda was found burning beside DeKalb Street in Auburn. It was Lori’s car. Lori Slesinski was unhappy with her job when she vanished, but she was close to her family and friends. Still, no one has heard from Lori in nearly 2 years. I’m not the only person wondering if there is some connection between Lori and Lauren. Read an interesting quote left by a reader on an article about Lauren Burk’s murder at OANow.com, a website dedicated to covering news in the Opelika-Auburn area:
Part of another comment left earlier in that thread is worth noting:
There are differences between the known details of each case — the ages and appearances of the victims, for example. Lori Slesinski was a 24-year-old blonde, Lauren Burk an 18-year-old brunette. And of course, Lori Slesinski has never been found.OANow reader PamelaD may be premature in bringing up the idea of a serial killer at work in Auburn. Plenty of criminals try to cover up their crimes by burning vehicles, and young women alone, sadly, make prime targets for lots of criminals, not just sexual predators. That said, two young women either missing or killed in two years at the same university, their vehicles burned — can we just ignore the possibility that there’s a relationship between these tragic events? I don’t think we can. Your words are welcome in the comments below. Please be respectful of the families of the victims and of each other, and please keep the discussion on the topic at hand. Additional link: Lori Slesinski’s MySpace page (thanks, tellurstorywalkin).
No one has seen Camden, Arkansas resident Keaton Renee Byrd, age 23, since February 28, 2008. The last time anyone spoke with Keaton was around 1:30 a.m. that morning, and she sounded fine. The last person to speak with Keaton told police that Keaton said she had to drop someone off before heading home that night. Keaton never said who her passenger was. She never made it home. Keaton didn’t show for work the next day, and she didn’t call in sick. Sources close to Keaton and her family have told The True Crime Weblog that Keaton had “been hanging around some pretty ‘unsavory’ characters” who were allegedly into drugs. One of those “characters” was a 32-year-old “convicted sex offender” who may have been supplying Keaton Byrd with “Ecstasy and other drugs.” Keaton Renee Byrd is 5’3″ and weighs 100 lbs. She has brown hair and brown eyes and piercings in her nose, ears, and belly. She was last known to be wearing gray pajama bottoms, a black shirt, and a pink hooded sweatshirt. Keaton drives a white, four-door 2008 Nissan Maxima, Arkansas license number 159-MNZ. If you think you know something about the disappearance of Keaton Byrd on February 28, 2008, you can call the Camden, Arkansas Police Department at 870-836-5755, or the Ouachita County Sheriff’s Department at 870-837-2200. No news sources are linked because this information is exclusive to The True Crime Weblog. This entry will be expanded, updated, and revised. UPDATE, 3/03/08 (CORRECTED) Keaton Renee Byrd’s vehicle was found today in Camden, Arkansas, in the general area where Keaton was supposed to let her passenger off last Thursday night. No further details are available, at the moment. This update has been corrected from the previous version, which reported that Keaton herself had been found. She has not. This information was received from the source who provided much of the info for the original post above, and that source has been reliable and accurate up till now. The comment made below (in bold) still stands — anonymous comments without any e-mail addresses will be deleted or “Anonymous” changed to “Anonymous Coward.” If you’re going to make a public correction, own it. Either that, or contact the blog owner. UPDATE 2, 9:51 p.m. ET Keaton Byrd was found this evening in Two Bayou Creek. At this time police don’t think she met with foul play, but her remains will be sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for autopsy.
SEE UPDATES AT BOTTOM OF POST. University City, Missouri resident Dora Magrath, age 22, hasn’t been seen since Thursday, February 21. Dora’s mother, Linda Holtzman, told reporters in St. Louis that her daughter was headed to a coffee shop around 12:30 Thursday afternoon when she disappeared. Ms. Holtzman also said she and Dora had dinner plans for that night, and that they often spoke throughout the day. Dora Magrath apparently had a history of depression. University City police say she may be despondent. If that is true, Dora’s disappearance may not involve a crime, and technically, her vanishing might not be appropriate for a post in a “true crime” weblog. Put it down, then, to a bias on the part of this blogger. I have a lot of trouble ignoring the plight of a possibly clinically-depressed musician. Dora Magrath had her own musician’s profile on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/doramagrath. This is what she wrote on that page:
Dora Magrath released a cd in January of this year. The following blurb from “Florian” at “GreenClothesMusic.com” was used to promote Dora’s cd on the Web:
Dora’s performances, as preserved on her profile, demonstrate a voice that is both threadbare and beautiful. One singer Dora lists on her music profile as an influence is Billie Holiday, and it shows. Like Billie, Dora’s voice always seems on the verge of fading into a world-weary sigh.A video of Dora Magrath singing “Amazing Grace” is embedded at the beginning of this blog entry. She posted it on MySpace in 2007. It’s just a young woman with a ukulele, of all things, singing a hymn, but it would be eerie and compelling even if Dora wasn’t among the missing. But Dora Magrath vanished last Thursday, and watching her sing on a video she made on a lark a year ago is unbearably haunting. Dora, a 5’6″, 120 lb brunette, was last seen wearing an aqua-colored sweater, brown shoes, and a black coat. She was said to be driving a 2007 Chrysler Sebring. The vehicle is also missing. UPDATE, 2/25/08 MyFox St. Louis updates the story of Dora’s disappearance here. An interesting quote from the article:
Dora could have been in an accident. A point was made in the comments below — when a vehicle and its supposed occupant both disappear, it may be time to check out any nearby body of water deep enough to hold that vehicle. Remote roadways bounded by wooded dropoffs have more than once yielded wrecked vehicles missed by passers-by.There still isn’t a compelling reason to assume Dora Magrath met with foul play. However, by acknowledging Dora’s problems with depression in the past but indicating that they didn’t think that could be a factor now, Dora’s family is saying they’re worried that something unpredictable, unexpected has happened. UPDATE 2, 2:05 PM Dora Magrath was found dead near the car she was driving on Sunday night. STLToday.com didn’t report the cause of her death, but did indicate that foul play was not suspected. Selected links: