Filed under: missing persons

Reginald Potts Charged With Murder of Nailah Franklin

Nailah Franklin’s ex-boyfriend, Reginald Potts, has been charged with her murder.

Potts, who had a history of violent behavior, seemed the best suspect all along. There were huge discussions on blog entries posted at CrimeBlog.US about the question of Potts’s guilt or innocence, complete with people who purported to be Potts’s friends posting e-mails from him.

At the time I removed those e-mail texts from the comments.

They will be returned, if they are still on the servers holding data from that blog.

Nailah Franklin, age 28, disappeared on September 19. She was found just over a week later in Calumet City. Police had to use dental records to identify Nailah’s remains.

Blogging and writing in general have been slow this week due to illness, but I’m improving and will update this entry throughout the weekend.

Calling All Families of UK Missing Persons

(The following is a guest post from TrueCrimeBlogUK. To contact this blogger, go here and click the “email” link.)

Having someone you love go missing from your life must be one of the most difficult things a person can ever face. In a way, it’s worse than bereavement, as there’s no sense of closure. In its place instead are constant waiting, wondering, and a rollercoaster ride of raised hopes and deepest fears — a torment that for some people goes on for years.

And at the end of it there’s often just the prospect of finally being able to grieve. When a second body was unearthed at the former home of Peter Tobin last month, the father of Dinah McNicol was quoted as saying he would be “absolutely elated” if the remains were those of his daughter. Perhaps only the relative of a missing person could truly appreciate what’s behind that seemingly incongruous sense of absolute elation. The torment of having someone go missing is such that an answer — any answer — becomes preferable to the interminable not knowing.

Having adequate services in place to support people as they go through the ordeal of a missing family member is essential. At the moment, UK missing persons cases are dealt with by police at a local level, while the only national charity, Missing People, is overstretched and underfunded, receiving less than a third of its income from Government funding.

Recently I was contacted by Valerie Nettles, who lives in Texas and whose missing son I wrote about in the post 11 Years On: Damien Nettles. (Check out the post for a video showing Damien in a chip shop on the night he disappeared surrounded by men, some of whom still haven’t been identified.) Valerie’s letter below, which has been edited by me for purposes of clarity, is self-explanatory:

Missing people are not a new issue.

Parents and families of missing people from the UK are coming together to form “voices in unison” regarding the phenomenon of missing people. Whatever the circumstances a person goes missing in, it is a living nightmare for those left behind. For the thousands of families with a loved one who’s gone missing, we are asking the British Government for recognition, help and support.

Currently, there are limited resources to help families of the missing, especially when it comes to long-term cases. It can no longer be left to families and local authorities to try and cope in these instances. We would like the Government to address the problem by passing a bill for the ‘Missing’, and by making funds available to support, counsel and advise families left behind — specifically, to found a specialist service helping people put their lives and families back together as best they can.

With these issues in mind, Valerie Nettles and Nicki Durbin, mothers of Damien Nettles, missing since November 1996, and Luke Durbin, missing since May 2006, are teaming up with other families of missing people for a peaceful march in London in March 2008. Enough families joining together with pictures of their missing loved ones will demonstrate to the Government the enormity of the problem and the huge number of lives it affects. United, maybe we can all make a difference.

If you have a missing family member, and would like to join us in lobbying the Government for more resources for those left behind, please email us at:

themissing@hotmail.co.uk

Luke Durbin is another missing person I first wrote about in the post Where Is Luke Durbin? (If anyone out there is an expert in image resolution, please check out the image of a car caught on CCTV at around the time Luke disappeared on this post. British police have tried to determine the vehicle registration of this car, but have been unable to. The full-size image can be found here. Modern, non-custom British licence plates have a format as per this example: BD51 SMR.)

Although the main aim of the march is for the families of missing people to take part, friends of the missing and anyone with an interest in the issue are also invited to participate. The provisional date for the march is Wednesday 12th March 2008.

Please send an email to the above address if a member of your family is missing, or if the issue of missing people affects you, or pass the message on if you know someone to whom it does.

Damien Nettles website
Find Luke Durbin

Sources: BBC News

Monday Morning Quickies

There’s some more “Fresh Intelligence” up at RADAR Online. It’s about an Anchor, a Madam, and a Captain.

**UPDATE TO THE ABOVE** John Cook at RADAR completely disposes of the rumor about the Madam and the Anchor here: “Donaldson’s Digits: Wrong Number.

It’s not mentioned by RADAR, but blogger Joseph Cannon has something to say about the source for the Sam Donaldson/DC Madam story here. Worth noting.

Long story short, as far as I know, Sam Donaldson’s clean.

I’m no longer a contributor to Corey Mitchell’s In Cold Blog. But it’s a cool situation, not a frosty one. I’ve simply got too much to do now, and Corey understood that. I wanted to be able to give ICB original content, exclusives, but I couldn’t.

African Americans vanish. Latinos disappear. The blogosphere screams in specious indignation when a “missing white woman” story like Stacy Peterson’s makes and then dominates the news. But I think that along with people of color, missing men in general, even missing white men, also get short shrift in news coverage. A little boy vanishing is usually a major news story, and should be. Teen males who disappear cause concern. But it sometimes seems to me (admittedly, being a man, I may have a bias here) that men 18 and older disappear and very few news outlets outside of local TV want to cover the story.

I’ve actually discussed this issue with a producer from a major TV news magazine. My guess was — and still is — that there is a subconscious perception on the publics’ part that males are often the authors of their fates. That through misadventure or bullheaded choice, men are more likely to have vanished of their own accord. The producer agreed with me.

I think there are logical reasons for this perception. Men sometimes do just say “to hell with it” and walk away from everything. Men (of all colors and creeds) still don’t know how to deal with mental illness, with depression or bipolar disorder.

But that doesn’t make it right. Every missing person matters, regardless of their color, regardless of their gender.

That’s why I have to point out that local (to me) boy Justin Gaines, age 18, is still missing.

Justin vanished after leaving one of his favorite Gwinnett County GA haunts late on November 1, 2007. Friends and family have searched, cell phone pings have been attempted — still, no sign of Justin.

There are message board discussions about Justin’s disappearance, other blogs with a more local focus are covering the mystery, and Justin’s family has put together a website as well:

http://www.justingaines.com/

It seems like the guy just dropped off the face of the earth.

That just doesn’t happen. Someone knows where Justin Gaines is, what happened to him. They need to speak up. It’s obvious both from the response to my previous entry about the young man and from other discussions on the Web that Justin was well-loved, had many friends, and was incredibly important to a number of people.

If you are here in the North Georgia area and following Justin’s case, keep an eye on his site, as it seems to be updated pretty regularly. Again: JustinGaines.com.

Missing in Georgia: Justin Gaines

Justin Gaines, an 18-year-old college student from the North Atlanta suburbs, has been missing for 5 days.

The muscular, blue-eyed college freshman came home from school in Athens last Thursday, November 1, and decided to go out to one of his favorite bars, Wild Bill’s.

When Justin called a friend to come pick him up later in the night, the friend couldn’t oblige.

By Sunday, Justin’s mom, Erika Wilson, was worried. She got in touch with his friends and tried local medical facilities but found no trace of her son.

Police are now trying to track Justin’s cell phone signal and look over any relevant video surveillance from the night Justin disappeared.

Justin Gaines had several online profiles, even a blog.

His MySpace, http://www.myspace.com/gaines54, is locked. The profile photo shows a well-built young man with short brown hair smiling for the camera.

When he was still playing fullback for the Brookwood High School Broncos, Justin created a Geocities website, where he listed some of his favorite hangouts and a few of his likes and dislikes. He wrote at the top of the page:

Hey. I’m Justin. I like to meet girls, hang with friends, play football, party, listen to music, watch movies, go to the beach, run, and go on my boat. I love to have fun and I’m up for trying anything.

Until 2005 Justin kept a Xanga: http://www.xanga.com/Gaines54. He wrote about typical high school stuff in the journal, including a beach trip with a friend and other visits to Wild Bill’s:

Me and Kevin went to New Smyrna Beach. Chilled and it was awsome One night went to Club Paris and went to some Disney world Water Park and Unerversals and Island Of Adventure. Over all it was pretty pimp. When me and Kevin were at the beach we also got our ear pierced cause we were bored it pretty cool i guess…

[. . .]

We got back and i just been chillen and Hanging out with my baby and stuff. went to wild bills like a week ago with her. yesturday she came over and today Im going over to her house.She just the greatest gal ever.On Sunday me and a bunch of my boys are all going up to Six Flags. On monday school starts up it gunna suck. Im gunna miss the summer but i guess it will be alright.

Justin reportedly has two fake IDs. The names: Brad Shewe and Brad Allen. He has diamond studs in both ears and the last time he was seen, Justin was wearing a long-sleeved gray with “Abercrombie” stamped on the chest. He attends Gainesville State College in Oconee, GA and is normally good about checking in with his family.

It is hard to believe that someone in Justin’s circle of friends doesn’t know where he is. He’d obviously been hanging out at Wild Bill’s for years. Though it’s a big place, a frequent visitor like Justin may have had friends on the staff and plenty of other friends and acquaintances who would typically show up any given weeknight, just as he seemed to do.

Missing men simply don’t receive the same news coverage as missing women. This may be because there is a (often mistaken) impression that men somehow bring about their own circumstances when they vanish — that, or they meant to disappear and don’t want to be found. Justin’s youth and the known circumstances of his disappearance don’t match well with an intentional disappearance.

Did Justin find a ride after all on November 1, 2007? The wrong ride?

If you think you’ve seen Justin Gaines or know where he is, you should call the Gwinnett County PD at (770) 513-5300.

Source:

MyFoxAtlanta.com;
The Atlanta Journal Constitution
.

Tips!

The True Crime Weblog wants your tips.

I don’t meant donations this time (though those are always welcome), I mean information. On any story blogged about here, or related to crime stories you’d like me to cover.

I can’t guarantee that I will cover every story sent my way, but I can guarantee that I’ll take each message I receive seriously and may respond in depth if needed.

If you have a tip for something covered by RADAR Magazine, they do have their own address to use, but I’ll welcome a tip you might think RADAR-worthy as well, and pass it on, if needed. Sometimes writing for the Crime Library was hard because I couldn’t decide whether to pitch a story to my editor there or blog about it. RADAR’s crime/scandal coverage is pretty specific, so I don’t worry about any conflicts in content between this blog and paid work for them.

This post is to reiterate something I’ve told tipsters via e-mail in the past, but rarely touched on in the blog: In addition to referencing traditional media stories, this blog also contains original research and reporting.

That may explain to you to some degree why I’ve also been fortunate enough to do professional true crime writing since I began this endeavor in late 2004. The True Crime Weblog isn’t about regurgitating news you can get from Reuters or the AP, unlike many other news-related weblogs. Here, I seek always to add to what those sources have already told you. I don’t hesitate to use traditional media sources to check my work, to validate it, and I don’t mind using mainstream media reports as starting points. But I don’t see any point in crime blogging most of the time unless I have something new to add to the story.

All tips and story ideas are welcome, but I really prize original information. If it is already being reported on your local TV stations or in the newspapers, it is more akin to background on a story, or perhaps an idea for a story. If you send me something you think may not be public knowledge save to you, that is a tip. And those are pretty damned important.

When we’re dealing with original reporting, information sent from a reader that may first see light of day on this weblog, I need to know these things as well: Whether or not you want me to use your name or screen name; Your source for the information, preferably with a URL if you have one; Why you think it’s a worthwhile tidbit.

If these things aren’t included, I need a real e-mail address to which I can respond. I may have to write you and ask where you found your information, and I will ask if it’s already been published.

It occurred to me to make this post after I received several requests and suggestions in relation to the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, in the Chicago area. The 23-year-old woman vanished last Sunday and national media quickly picked up on the story, mainly because her much-older cop husband Drew had several previous marriages and his wife before Stacy died under mysterious circumstances.

The cable news nets or major papers picking up on a story like that will not always stay my hand from doing an entry — I’ve proven to myself that I can take on big stories and still break news in the past. You just have to watch MyCase.com Wednesday night at 10:30 ET on Court TV to see one big example of what I’m talking about.

So far, though, I can’t add anything to the unfolding story of Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. At the moment, anything I post here about Stacy or her husband would be information already published or broadcast elsewhere. Most of the time, I just don’t work that way. I’ve made some exceptions — the open threads for readers interested in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are the most recent ones that come to mind. But those exceptions are few and far between.

Hopefully I’ve illustrated why I don’t always write about what seem like crime stories ripe for true crime blogging, and I’ve clarified what it is I’m doing here.

Any questions, just like tips, can be sent via my contact form.

(Unrelated note: I made it into my hometown newspaper today! Along with Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, and the Smashing Pumpkins, to name a few. Yes, I’m originally from Nashville, and the last time I recall being in the Tennessean was more than twenty years ago, in a review of some theater thing I did.)

The Disappearance of Trevor McGinty and Wendy Dusza *UPDATED*

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Wendy Dusza, 34, and her 30-year-old boyfriend Trevor McGinty have been missing for more than a week.

There is now a major search for the pair going on in Tampa, Florida, including dives into Old Tampa Bay.

Wendy and Trevor were reported missing on November 2 by Wendy’s relatives. Their families believe neither Trevor nor Wendy would leave without contacting loved ones.

The couple probably worked from home much of the time, as Wendy and Trevor were both self-employed.

There was no sign of ‘forced entry’ into Wendy’s and Trevor’s apartment in Bayside Village. Their pets — a dog and cat — had been alone for a week, since October 27 or 28. They reportedly would never leave their beloved pets alone for a week or more.

McGinty has a criminal history in Hernando County, FL. As recently as early 2007, he was charged with “repeat violence” [link 1, link 2]. In the past he’d also been charged with DUI and resisting an officer [link], discharging a firearm in public, under the influence [link], and misdemeanor domestic battery [link].

McGinty and Wendy Dusza were both named in this Hernando County Probate case. It was a foreclosure sought by LaSalle Bank. A default judgment was entered against Trevor and Wendy and 3 other defendants on October 19.

A search of MySpace.com for Trevor McGinty yielded this page:

http://www.myspace.com/tmac1377.

As of 11 p.m. ET on November 3, the last login date on the profile was October 22, 2007. The photographs, or “pics” attached to the profile (accessible only if you have your own MySpace account) showed several shots of a pretty, thirty-something woman whom “TMac1377” referred to as “Wendy” in photo captions.

Other than the photos there wasn’t much to see on the profile.

But a Google search for the screen name “TMac1377” yields a handful of results from the Tampa Craig’s List.

Some of the Craig’s List ads are in line with Ms. Dusza’s and Mr. McGinty’s reported business interests, such as this ad from October 14 for a rental property.

This ad, however, is different. A person using the e-mail address TMac1377@yahoo.com posted ad #459595739 on October 25, 2007. They embedded two photos of a dog with a blue bandanna around it’s neck and wrote the following text:

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MOVING TO CHICAGO CANT [sic] TAKE OUR WONDERFUL DOG WITH US. SHE NEEDS TO HAVE A FENCED YARD AND NEEDS TO BE THE ONLY DOG. GREAT WITH KIDS AND CATS. NEEDS HOME IMMIEDIATLY [sic]!!

Emphasis was added.

A phone number was included with several of the Craigslist.org rental/real estate listings from TMac1377 — 727-967-5855. Searching that number yielded results like this. On October 6 someone with the same number as TMac1377 put bedroom furniture for sale on Craig’s List. The seller wrote:

YEP I KNOW YOU ASK WHAT 2 MONTHS OLD I HEAR YAH. MOVING BACK TO CHICAGO AND SELLING EVERYTHING UNFORTUNATLY [sic]. SET INCLUDES 2 NIGHTSTANDS QUEEN SIZE FRAME HEADBOARD AND FOOTBOARD SLIEGH [sic] STYLE PLUS MATTRESSES. ALSO INCLUDEDS 2 PIECE ARMOIRE WE PUT OUR 37 INCH WIDESCREEN TV IN. OH YEAH CINDY CRAWFORD ADDITION FROM ROOMS TO GO WHICH IS THERE MORE EXPENSIVE FURNITURE. 727-967-5955 OR 727-967-5855

The same number was used in a couple of ads posted on TampaBay.com on October 21 — one ad was for $1350 worth of living room furniture.

Searching for the e-mail address TMac1377@yahoo.com on MySpace yields only one profile — the same TMac1377 profile found when searching for Trevor McGinty.

So — are Wendy Dusza and her boyfriend Trevor McGinty truly missing, possibly from foul play, or are they simply “in Chicago?”

Seems like a question some folks with the traditional media sources reporting this story should have asked by now.

This entry will be revised and updated as needed.

UPDATE, 1:44 p.m. ET, 11/04/07

If Wendy Dusza and Trevor McGinty are in Illinois, then some of Trevor’s relatives don’t seem to know anything about it. From the Tampa Tribune:

[Neighbors] told detectives that Dusza and McGinty, both mortgage brokers, were talking about moving to the Chicago area, but that hadn’t been confirmed.

McGinty’s stepmother, Barbara McGinty, who lives in Illinois, said a sheriff’s detective called her Friday with the news. “We’re shocked,” she said. “We’re just waiting to hear more.”

Wendy or Trevor would have called someone by now. It’s hard to think of a logical scenario at this point for them being gone and so out-of-touch with family, as well.

UPDATE 2, 7:33 a.m. ET, 11/5/07

Trevor McGinty committed suicide in Gainesville over the weekend.

From ABC Action News:

Gainesville police say before responding to the hotel, Hillsborough deputies told them McGinty had fled a murder scene in Tampa. His vehicle was spotted at the Holiday Inn in Gainesville, which led authorities to McGinty.

McGinty and his girlfriend, Wendy Dusza, 34, had been reported missing on Friday. Family members say they hadn’t heard from the couple in a week.

[. . .]

Investigators are still trying to determine what happened to Dusza…

It seems like the chances are better than 99% that Wendy Dusza is dead.

Was Trevor McGinty planning this weeks ago? The Craig’s List ads beg the question. It seems like debts and past bad behaviors were piling up on the man. He already had a history of violence.

Some folks claiming to know McGinty and Dusza have left comments on this post. One person who said they’d lived next to the couple noted both that the pair may have had drug problems and that Wendy had a daughter. Another commentator then posted as “dad” and stated that the daughter was OK. She was in her father’s custody and that custody had been won in part because of Trevor McGinty’s violence in the past.

It has been reported by local Tampa media that the dog and cat found in the apartment shared by Trevor and Wendy were in good shape and at an animal shelter in Tampa.

UPDATE 3, 8:57 a.m. ET

MyFox Tampa Bay has published a report online indicating that police were trying to serve Trevor McGinty with a warrant for murder when he committed suicide.

Sheriff’s deputies from Hillsborough County said Wendy was murdered sometime this weekend.

In a comment left on this post, “Ex-Employee” added some new layers to this story and more detail as to what may have happened to Wendy Dusza:

As former employee of Trevor, I find it interesting that no one has mentioned his past in the restaurant business. Trevor was the general manager at a popular St. Petersburg restaurant for quite some time, and was actually the person who fired me (so he could re-hire his cocaine dealer!!).

Trevor was known for his erratic, violent behaviour, and I’m very glad his girlfriend at the time left him, because she could have ended up like Wendy.

UPDATE: Trevor comitted suicide after a standoff with Gainesville Police, and Wendy’s body was found in the storage shed of their Tampa apartment.

This story is so, so tragic. My heart goes out to their families.

So, if “Ex-Employee” is correct, Wendy is no longer missing.

Murder-suicides are crime stories with well-defined lives. They typically end shortly after the acts. But questions remain, here. Were Wendy and Trevor actually planning to move? Or was it all a ruse on Trevor’s part? Did he think he could kill Wendy and go to ground, only to find he couldn’t? It might explain his belated suicide — Trevor thought he could get away, but when cornered he took the controlling psycho’s way out. Not a suicide born of remorse, but a final act of control.

Sources:

AMBER ALERT in North Carolina: Harmony Jade Creech *UPDATED*

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(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:

Missing from Virginia: Samantha Bittler

UPDATE(S) AT BOTTOM OF ENTRY.

The last login for her MySpace page was October 4, 2007, but Samantha Bittler has been missing since September 30. The login was likely from investigators in Virginia attempting to find some online trace of Samantha. From www.myspace.com/sjbittler:

Hey! My name is Samantha Jeane Bittler, I’m 18 years old, and i live in the smallest town EVER. I graduated from Liberty High School in 2006…thank god. and i have NO desire to go back! lol . Hopefully i’ll be able to make it out there, without my dad doing and paying for everything…lol. My dad is like my best friend EVER, and has been there for me through it ALL. No matter how many times ive screwed up and pissed him off, he still tells me he loves me every morning, and every night! he’s the greatest dad anyone could EVER have, and i’m so thankful that he’s MY DADDY! I’m in the Army National Guard, and i love what i do…I have the greatest friends ever and would do anything for them…I don’t know what i would do without them! They are always there for me no matter what. I can always count on them and trust them for anything. I love them so much, and i am so lucky to have them!My dad, my friends, and a little self determination, are the only reasons i’ve made it as far as i have…They complete me! =)

Samantha was last seen on a Sunday night at a relative’s home in Botetourt County, VA, about 25 miles from her “smallest town EVER,” Bedford, VA.

Samantha’s boss called the woman’s family when Samantha didn’t show for her shift that Monday. The young woman had never gone AWOL from the Valley View Applebee’s before.

Her mother Cathy Bittler spoke to Lynchburg ABC affiliate WSET-TV the following Thursday. She said, “[Samantha is] a very gentle person, she’s a very gentle soul, she’s very easy to get along with. If anybody knows anything or has any contact with her, just let her know that she needs to call home. She’s got everybody worried!”

Bittler said she’d gone “a couple of days” without talking to Samantha in the past, but her daughter had “never, never gone and not spoke” to friends or family for four or five days.

Comments left by friends on Samantha’s MySpace page beginning October 2nd seemed to confirm Cathy Bittler’s statements. On October 4th a friend with the screen name “Lil E” wrote, “[Babe] please come back we havent talked since you left and we need to catch up please come home or at least call and say you’re okay! love you lil bit.”

Samantha’s mother told the Lynchburg station that the family has done their best to get in touch with everyone they could think of, everyone with whom Samantha might have associated, to no avail. Cathy Bittler said, “It’s just a mystery [. . .] a very, very strange thing. And strange behavior for her!”

Some things she’d written on her MySpace profile did indicate that certain friends and family meant the world to Samantha. She addressed a cousin on that page, writing:

You are the best cousin that anyone could ever ask for. You have always been there for me no matter what. You are the one person that i can turn to for ANYTHING, and the one person that i can tell ANYTHING and know that nobody else will find out. You have kept my deepest secrets to yourself for years now, and i love you so much.I am so glad that i am able to tell you things, and i can trust you to NEVER tell anyone else.

Some people concerned about Samantha Bittler’s safety have taken the case to the Web. The response from other surfers was rude in one instance found on a MySpace message board, but there was additional information about Samantha to be gleaned from the posts left by the concerned person.

Using the screen name “Mama Wendi,” she said that Samantha was her next door neighbor, and Samantha’s family was “frantic.” “Mama Wendi” also wrote that Samantha’s cell phone was “her life,” and Samantha would never leave it off, not answer, not respond to calls. “Mama Wendi” also stated that police in “six counties” were on the lookout for Samantha Bittler.

The rude replies to her posts were sadly typical, the kind of obtuse nonsense found on millions of message boards all over the Internet. “Mama Wendi” was admittedly ignoring a well-known web convention and using all caps in every post she made. This is typically considered “shouting” online. Still, no one answering the woman’s messages cared much about a missing adult from Virginia. Many replies to “Mama Wendi” went something like this: “To MAMA WENDI: Turn off the Caps Lock and understand….he’s not trying to be a dumbass or an idiot, but the General Discussion forum probably isn’t the best place to post something like this, as it breaks the forum rules and will most likely be deleted before long anyways and all your angst will be wasted. I hope that you find her, and I hope that all turns out for the best.”

“Mama Bear,” the author of that response, was probably unaware of how hollow her final sentence sounded after admonishing “Mama Wendi” about the caps lock.

Unless a message board is specifically devoted to crime discussion or even missing people, it is best to not bother. And even with those boards, you’re rolling the dice.

Botetourt County Sheriff’s Investigators believe that Samantha Bittler’s cell phone has been turned off. There has been no activity on her bank account.

Samantha’s 1999 Chevy Cavalier is also missing. It bears a Virginia license plate, #KAB-1747. The black Cavalier has some distinctive stickers on it, such as a “support our troops” yellow ribbon.

Anyone who may information related to the whereabouts of Samantha Bittler should call the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 473-7930.

Extra link: A Google Maps route traveling between the three locations mentioned in the entry.

Source: WSET.com.

Updates may be posted below.

UPDATE, 10/09/07

An unconfirmed report indicates that Samantha Bittler may have been in a car wreck. The report received by TrueCrimeWeblog.com stated that Samantha may have veered off Rt. 460 in Thaxton, VA, gone down an embankment, and remained there, undiscovered, since her disappearance.

Further info will be posted as an update when it becomes available.

Body found in search for Nailah Franklin (Cross-post from CrimeBlog.US)

(CHECK FOR UPDATES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ENTRY.)

Authorities have not said that human remains found in Calumet City, Illinois are Nailah O. Franklin’s, but her family has come to the area where the unidentified body was found on Thursday.

The nude body was found in the Wentworth Woods Forest Preserve, very close to Hammond, Indiana. Nailah’s Chevy Impala was found parked at a vacant house in Hammond after the 28-year-old pharmaceutical rep’s disappearance on or about September 18, 2007. Some of Nailah’s personal effects had also been found in Calumet City after she vanished.

A reader commented on the first entry about Nailah’s disappearance that the website set up to help further the search for the missing woman was no longer accessible as of Thursday morning.

The possibility that the dead body in the Wentworth Woods Preserve is Nailah Franklin unfortunately seems pretty solid. Google Maps seems to indicate that the preserve is less than one mile from 6311 Blaine Ave. in Hammond, where Nailah’s car was discovered.

CrimeBlog.US is seeking further information about Nailah’s disappearance and any potential suspects in the case. If you have any additional tips or information, please use this contact form.

Updates will be posted below as needed.

UPDATE 1, 12:01 p.m. ET

MSNBC has reported that Nailah Franklin’s family has confirmed that the body found in the Wentworth Woods Forest Preserve was Nailah’s. Their source for this information was apparently a Chicago-area TV station. Reporters there say they received the confirmation from Nailah’s uncle, who has been acting as a spokesperson for the Franklin family.

Additional source(s):

  • MSNBC
  • Missing Person from Chicago: Nailah Franklin (CROSS-POST FROM CRIMEBLOG.US)

    Media_httpbp3bloggerc_cvdxb

    (NOTE: For a number of reasons I have changed my mind about the use of this weblog. It will remain in use for the time being. The entries will be cross-posts from CrimeBlog.US. This weblog will hold the most popular posts from that site, since my host for CrimeBlog.US will charge a substantial amount of money per year for additional bandwidth — more than I can currently afford. ~ Steve Huff)

    (BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES.)

    Media_httpbp3bloggerc_xxgzr

    Nailah [Nigh-EE-luh] Franklin has been missing since Tuesday. Franklin’s family fears the attractive 28-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep may have met with foul play. They may have reason to worry. Before she disappeared, Nailah Franklin allegedly received threats from a male acquaintance.

    No one has seen Nailah since Sunday. Her boyfriend in Milwaukee received a text message from Nailah around 8:15 on Tuesday, Sept. 18. She said at the time that she was having dinner and would call him when she was done.

    Nailah had a meeting scheduled for Wednesday the 19th. She didn’t show, so her employer began calling Nailah’s family. A relative then called police.

    Nailah’s sister Lehia Franklin Adcox said the following to Chicago’s ABC 7: “I do believe she’s in distress. She’s not the kind of person who would just leave without a trace.”

    Dana McClellan, a good friend of Nailah’s, also spoke to the ABC affiliate — “It defies explanation. That sounds dramatic, but she’s not the type of person who just leaves.”

    McClellan heard at least one of the threats left for her friend. CBS 2 in Chicago reported her statement about that chilling message: “Basically [the message said] ‘I could do harm to you. You haven’t seen that side, of me but I do have a bad side and I could do harm to you’.”

    Lehia Adcox also spoke to CBS 2. She said, “This is someone who just had everything to live for; she was at the top of her game professionally; she bought two condos on her own as a single woman; she dotes on her niece, my daughter; she’s just a person who is very connected with the people she cares about [. . .] This is so out of character.”

    Nailah Franklin is 5′2″ and weighs about 115 lbs. Her vehicle is missing as well. It is a 2005 gray [NOTE: an e-mail from Nailah’s sister to family and friends indicated the Impala might be black, rather than gray. The message was posted on a Facebook group dedicated to finding Nailah] Chevrolet Impala, license plate #1957855.

    Nailah’s MySpace page is locked, and it shows a login date of September 20. This could have been from investigators looking into her e-mail messages. However, there were at least 2 computers missing from Nailah’s condo in the 1500 block of S. Sangamon.

    A search engine cached Nailah’s profile on or about September 7th, so it had only recently been made private. Some statements made on the page revealed sass and wit. About herself, Nailah wrote:

    I would say I am extremely passionate with people and with anything I do. Very ambitious and hard working but definitely enjoy a good time! I “work to live” rather then “live to work”. Traveling, spending quality time with family and friends are most important to me. My friends might call me a busy body, can never really sit still, always trying to figure out what I should be doing better with my life. Sort of a hopeless romantic, I tend to find the romance and beauty in people and the world around me. Everyone has a story, there’s always a lesson to be learned, and I just try to remain open to receiving it. Happiness and laughing are contagious we should all spread it.

    Nailah loved the ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, and she said on her profile that she watched Oprah every day. Her interests were in traveling, but she was also a bit of a “tech geek.” From her ‘General Interests’: “I love gadgets (love my Treo 650)…they entertain me.”

    She was a music-lover as well:

    My favorite genres are jazz, R&;B (the good kind), neo soul,house music, hip hop and alternative. Favorite artist just to name a few are: Prince, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, George Michael,Common, Chaka Khan, Rachael Yamagata, Janet and Beyonce. What’s on heavy rotation right now?? John Legend “Once Again”-my love story. Justin Timberlake “Future Sex Love Sounds”- makes me feel sexy. Kelis “Kelis Was Here” -makes me want to be bad. Miles Davis- “Kind of Blue”, this is a classic do I need to say why?…

    Nailah’s hero? According to her MySpace profile, her grandmother: “… I don’t think I know a stronger woman.”

    Nailah Franklin’s sense of humor was apparent when she answered the standard MySpace profile question about who she would “like to meet”:

    The person that stole my brand new leather jacket out of my locker in 10th grade…just joking (but I do still wonder who that was:) Seriously anyone who can make me laugh and has something interesting to say.I am extremely opinionated so always enjoy a healthy debate. My sister Marina in like 3 years (or sooner)….she is about to make it big and I am so proud of her. My two neices in like two years..right now they are so cute. But I know in a few years I will really have fun wiht them:) Also Oprah, Janet and Hillary Clinton!!! I think all of these women are smart, sexy and admire them.

    She was a popular young woman, with 175 friends as of Sept. 7 and nearly 200 comments from those friends.

    In addition to her MySpace profile, Nailah also had a little-used Friendster account.

    During her time as a student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Nailah apparently wrote some articles for the student paper, the Daily Illini. One of her articles, written in April of 1998, was about men against sexual assault. From the article:

    While activism against sexual violence is often associated with women, some men are also taking responsibility for the issue.

    In order to raise awareness about sexual assault, a male panel held a discussion this Wednesday in the Illini Union’s Courtyard Cafe.

    The purpose of the panel discussion was to raise awareness about sexual violence and encourage men to get involved in the fight against it.

    Members of the Men’s Activity Committee said why they think it is important for men to get involved.

    “Many people think that sexual assault is a woman issue, but it is a people issue,” said Ross Wantland, junior in LAS. “Both men and women have had their lives touched by sexual violence and men need to try to stop it as much as women do.”

    Wantland said one in four females is sexually assaulted by the age of 18, and one in six assaulters [sic] will be male.

    The article didn’t touch on the related issue of males who stalk women after the breakup of a relationship.

    Anyone with information relating to Nailah Franklin’s disappearance needs to call (312) 746-9259.

    This entry will be updated below.

    UPDATE 1, 12:51 p.m. ET

    I have received a response from a producer at America’s Most Wanted after e-mailing the link to this blog entry to several news outlets, so they are aware of Nailah’s story so far. MSNBC has already mentioned Nailah as part of their regular late-morning early-afternoon news coverage.

    One of Nailah’s sisters, Marina Franklin, is a stand-up comedian. The link takes you to her MySpace page, where she has changed her profile photo and headline. The profile pic is an image of Nailah, and Marina’s headline now reads, “This is my sister’s Photo. Have you seen Nailah? She has been missing since 9/19/07.”

    Marina Franklin has appeared on Chappelle’s Show, Showtime at the Apollo, several other shows on Comedy Central, and NBC’s Last Comic Standing Season II.

    In one of Marina’s Comedy Central appearances she mentioned Nailah:

    My sister’s got a great African name, her name is Nailah, which means ‘one who succeeds.’ My name is Marina, it means ‘a place where you dock boats.’

    Also — Nailah Franklin’s MySpace, www.myspace.com/missnailah, was locked when this blog entry was first posted. The login date has not changed from 9/20/07, but the MySpace was open again as of 1:00 p.m. ET on Sept. 21.

    UPDATE 2, 5:09 p.m. ET

    At one time, Nailah Franklin had an online profile mapping some of her favorite routes to run through downtown Chicago. She had not entered a new route since August of 2006, but if her residence was the same, such a profile would have been a stalker’s virtual roadmap of places Nailah knew and frequented in that part of downtown.

    UPDATE 3, 10:42 p.m. ET

    In the comments left on the original version of this entry at CrimeBlog.US, “Fara” noted this thread at CafePharma.com. In a thread begun in the anonymous Eli Lilly rep forum on August 29, 2007, a nameless poster asked: “I heard Lilly has GPS tracking devices in company cars and laptops. Is this true?”

    The final post (so far) in the thread was made on 9/18/2007, the same day Nailah Franklin apparently disappeared. That person wrote:

    If this was true I would have been fired already! YIKES

    I make LOTS of Pharmacy calls at Target and Costco…

    Fara seemed to think the thread was begun on the 18th. If that had been the case, this series of anonymous posts on a message board for the company employing Nailah Franklin at the time of her disappearance would have seemed very suspicious. Nailah’s car and at least two of her computers are missing, after all.

    It is a strange enough question that I’d probably want to know the IP address of the poster, but since it was actually asked over two weeks before Nailah vanished, it may have no connection to the sales rep’s disappearance.

    Related link: http://blackandmissing.blogspot.com/.

    Additional source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/.