Friday, May 15, 2020

List Series: Victims Found by Chance

When a person vanishes, local communities often organize and execute widespread searches for the missing person. If the missing person is a young child, or if there is evidence of a crime/foul play surrounding a disappearance, detectives will often utilize some of their strongest resources such as cadaver dogs, helicopters, sonar scans, etc. Unfortunately, a number of these searches end unsuccessfully, and the missing persons' case grows cold. In fact, some cases do not become active again until the person is found completely by chance--whether it is by a random hunter, worker, or simply a person walking down the street. Below is a list of ten such cases, where a missing person/murder victim was found completely by chance.

10. Heather Lacey
Body of a Florida woman missing for five years is found inside a ...

Heather Lacey vanished at the age of 29 on November 21st, 2013. The young woman lived in Deerfield Beach, Florida at the time of her disappearance. Heather's family members last spoke with her on the day of her disappearance and was never seen or heard from again. 

Years passed without any sign of Heather. Nearly six years later, in February 2019, residents of an apartment building in Hollywood, Florida reported smelling a foul odor coming from the apartment of 36 year-old Jonathan Escarzaga. Police entered Jonathan's apartment and found his body inside. He had reportedly been dead for days before his body was discovered. Coroners were unable to determine his cause of death. 

The landlord of Jonathan's building hired a company from Margate to remove and dispose of the appliances in Jonathan's apartment. The company came to remove the appliances, which included an upright freezer. The company's owner did not get around to opening the appliances until about a month later. At which point, the company's owner opened the freezer and found a mummified body on the inside. That body was later identified as that of Heather Lacey. She was identified by her fingerprints on the freezer. Police are unsure how long Heather's body was in the freezer or if Jonathan is involved in her death. It's possible that Heather's body would have never been found if Jonathan had not been found dead inside his apartment. 

Heather's case remains unsolved today. [read more]

9. Lorie Storie

On February 21, 2020, a group of fishermen were out on a boat in the Tappan Lake Dam when they spotted the body of a woman floating face down. The men called authorities in Harrison County, Ohio, and the body was later identified as 37 year-old Lorie Storie of Zanesville. Her cause of death was determined to be a homicide--she had been brutal beaten to death and then dumped into Tappan Lake Dam. 

At the time Lorie's body was found, she was actually not listed as a missing person. However, her family members told authorities that they had been trying to get in contact with her for about a week before her body was found. If her body had not been found by the fishermen on February 21st, there's a chance she might not have ever been located. 

A little over a month after Lorie's body was found, police arrested 63 year-old Larry Smith and charged him with murder and tampering with evidence. He remains behind bars as his case is pending. [read more]

8. Latasha Nevitt
Nevitt, Latasha | JJ Slate

Latasha Nevitt vanished from her family's home in Chicago, Illinois on October 10th, 2011. The 30 year-old woman was reportedly last seen by her husband, Isaac Nevitt. Isaac told police that Latasha left the home that day to go to a nearby liquor and grocery store. She never returned home and was never seen or heard from again. 

Latasha's family members were incredibly concerned about her disappearance, as she was a dedicated mother and she was looking forward to starting a new career as a dental hygienist. Additionally, Latasha's bank and social media accounts had not been active since the day of her disappearance. Latasha's family members and several volunteers searched the area where Latasha was last seen, but unfortunately the search came up empty. Latasha's case quickly went cold.

Nearly three years later, in March 2014, the case finally had a break. A city water worker found a body in a drain pipe at Morgan Park, located close to Latasha’s home. The body had been found in a heavy-duty plastic bag and appeared to have been stuffed into the space it was found. Two days later, the remains were confirmed to be that of Latasha Nevitt. According to the statement from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Latasha’s body was found “frozen, in the fetal position, and wrapped in garbage bags. A scarf was wrapped around her eyes like a blindfold. Her legs were bound with a cell phone charging cord.” The coroner classified Latasha’s death as a homicide by unspecified means.

Latasha's body was found in a place that would not have been accessible to volunteer searchers. There's a chance that Latasha's fate would still be unknown if it had not been for the city worker. Unfortunately, Latasha's murder remains unsolved today and no suspects or persons of interest have been publicly announced. The case is still being investigated. [read more]

7. Chairo Garibay

Chairo Garibay vanished from her family's home in Olivehurst, California on December 11th, 2005. That morning, the 20 year-old planned to meet her family at St. Joseph's church in Marysville, but never showed up as planned. Chairo's parents initially thought that she was still sleeping, but when they returned home around 9:30am, they noticed that both Chairo and the family car were missing. 

Unbeknownst to the Garibays, their family car had actually been discovered by police just a half an hour earlier. It was partly submerged in the Bear River. Chairo was not inside the car, nor was any sign of her found on the scene. Once police were able to speak to the Garibays about the vehicle, Chairo was reported missing. When police searched the Garibay home, they noticed that one of the windows in the back of the house was ajar and the screen was on the ground. Chairo's parents stated that they did not believe the window was in that condition prior to the morning of December 11th. From that point forward, police began investigating a potential kidnapping in Chairo's case.

The holidays came and went without any sign of Chairo. Then, in January 2006, local residents were walking around in an open field less than a mile away from the Garibay home when they spotted a suspicious black tarp. Police were called, and it was soon revealed that there was a body inside the tarp. That body was later identified as that of Chairo Garibay. Her death was classified as a homicide--with blunt force trauma being the cause.

Investigators have reportedly interviewed anybody who might have spoken to Chairo in the days leading up to her disappearance. Those closest to her, including her boyfriend and parents, have all been cleared of suspicion. Since then, leads in Chairo's case have been far and few in between. Her case remains unsolved today. [read more]

6. Crystal Morrison
Remains confirmed as woman missing since 2012 in Concord ...

  Crystal Morrison vanished at the age of 31 on August 23rd, 2012. The young woman was last seen at her workplace, Connextions Recruiting, in Concord, North Carolina. Crystal had only been at work for about an hour before she told a co-worker she was not feeling well around 10:30am. She walked about of the building at that time, and called a friend and asked to be picked up. However, by time her friend showed up, Crystal was gone. She was never seen or heard from again.

All searches for Crystal came up empty. Investigators reportedly found no clues pointing to her whereabouts while searching the areas near where she was last seen. Her loved ones were very concerned for her safety, especially since her cell phone and bank account activity ceased the day she vanished. Unfortunately, Crystal's case went cold fairly quick.

Years later, in December 2019,  a survey crew working in a wooded area near the intersection of NC Highway 73 and Winecoff School Road spotted human remains and alerted police. Those remains were later identified as that of Crystal Morrison. Oddly enough, investigators had searched the area where Crystal was found before. Many have questioned how thorough those searches were, since she was not found until 2019--and she was stumbled upon by chance.

Crystal's cause of death has never been publicly confirmed, however a private investigator hired by Crystal's family has stated that she died of natural causes. [read more]

5. Jeanette 'Jenny' Herum

29 year-old Jeanette “Jenny” Herum gave birth to a baby boy at the Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center in Santa Cruz, California on November 22nd, 2012. Just a few hours after the birth, Jenny walked out of the hospital without her newborn baby and never returned. There is no known explanation as to why Jenny left the hospital, and she was never heard from again after that.

Jenny's family members were used to going long stretches of time without hearing from her, so it took a long time for anyone to notice that she was missing. She was finally reported missing in 2014, two years after her disappearance. Still, there was very little media coverage about Jenny's disappearance and it's unclear if the investigation turned up any clues. Jenny was classified as voluntarily missing by police.

In early 2016, a couple taking a walk spotted human remains and notified the Santa Cruz sheriff’s office. In March 2017, the remains were identified as those of Jeanette Herum. Authorities are calling Jenny’s death suspicious, and it is still being investigated. It does not appear that a cause of death was ever determined. It also is unclear if there were any widespread searches for Jenny once she was reported missing. If it were not for the couple who spotted her remains, Jenny's fate may still be unknown today. [read more]

4. Jabez Spann

Jabez Spann was only 14 years-old when he vanished during the early morning hours of September 4th, 2017. He was last seen around 1am with two other boys around his age. Jabez and the two boys were seen on a road called MLK Way in Newtown, Florida, where Labor Day festivities were being held. He was reported missing the following day after he did not show up at school.

A man named Reginald Parker later came forward and told police that Jabez witnessed the shooting death of Travis Combs just days before his disappearance. The suspects in Travis's case fled the scene immediately after the shooting, but according to Reginald, they knew that Jabez had witnessed the event. Still, this knowledge did not lead investigators any closer to Jabez's whereabouts. The suspects in Travis's death have never been identified.

Nearly a year and a half later, on February 16th, 2019, a man fixing a fence in a rural area off of Interstate 75 spotted human remains. Three days later, those remains were confirmed to be that of Jabez Spann. Investigators have not yet disclosed where exactly the remains were found, but they did say the area was not a place that Jabez frequented and it is not believed they he went there voluntarily. This is likely why the area was never searched for him, as he was not expected to ever be in said area. Details about the investigation have been very little ever since, and Jabez's murder still remains unsolved today. [read more]

3. Christina Morris
Remains found in wooded area identified as Christina Morris ...

Christina Morris vanished at the age of 23 during the early morning hours of August 30th, 2014. She spent the evening of the 29th with friends at a bar in Plano, Texas. Afterwards, Christina and her group of friends went to Paulina Petrosky’s apartment to continue hanging out. Around 3:30am, Christina and 24 year-old Enrique Arochi left Paulina’s apartment at the same time to head to their respective cars that were parked in a nearby garage. The two were caught by surveillance camera walking together towards the parking garage. A couple minutes later, surveillance cameras captured Enrique’s car exiting the garage, but Christina’s remained inside. Christina never made it home after that and has not been seen or heard from since. She was reported missing by her father a few days later on September 2nd, 2014.

Police looked at Christina's cell phone records for potential clues. They noticed her phone was shut off shortly after she was last seen, and the phone's final ping was from a tower near Anna, Texas. A search of the nearby area ensued, but it unfortunately ended unsuccessfully. Police also questioned Enrique--the last known person to have seen Christina. He told police that he and Christina walked into separate garages after leaving Paulina’s apartment. However, the surveillance footage proved that was not true. Additionally, Enrique's coworkers told police that Enrique arrived at work late on the morning of August 30th---and he was covered in bruises and looked like he had gotten into a fight. Enrique continued to deny involvement in Christina's disappearance, but investigators remained suspicious of him and eventually seized his car for forensic testing.  On December 9th, 2014, the test results on his car came back, and it was determined that a significant amount of Christina’s DNA was present on the edge of the vehicle’s trunk opening. Enrique was subsequently arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping.Enrique went to trial in September 2016, almost two years after his arrest. He was ultimately found guilty of aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison. However, Enrique still maintained his innocence and Christina remained missing. 

That all changed in March 2018. Police announced on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 that remains were found in a field in Anna, Texas–an area close to Christina’s final cell phone ping. Days later, those remains were identified as Christina’s. The area had been the focus of previous unsuccessful searches for her over the years; yet she was finally found by workers who stumbled upon her remains while they were clearing the area. It is unclear at this time if Enrique Arochi will be charged with Christina's murder, however he continues to serve his life sentence for kidnapping. [read more]

2. Kara Kopetsky & Jessica Runions

Kara Kopetsky (pictured left) vanished at the age of 17 on May 4th, 2007. The teen was last seen at her high school in Belton, Missouri. Kara left school early that day and was never seen or heard from again. Her ex-boyfriend Kylr Yust was immediately labeled as a person of interest in the case--as Kara had recently ended their relationship and had taken out a restraining order against him just days before her disappearance. Kylr denied involvement in Kara's disappearance and unfortunately investigators were unable to find any concrete evidence that he knew anything about her whereabouts.

Over the following years, Kylr was in-and-out of jail for unrelated crimes ranging from domestic violence to animal abuse.  After being recently released from prison, on September 8th, 2016, Kylr went to a party in Grandview, Missouri. Multiple partygoers witnessed Kylr leaving the party with 21 year-old Jessica Runions (pictured right). Jessica, however, never made it home after leaving that party and was reported missing on the evening of September 9th. At 2am the following morning, Jessica’s car was found burning on 95th and Blue River Road. Kylr was later arrested and charged for knowingly burning a vehicle.

Meanwhile, both Jessica and Kara remained missing and Kylr continued to deny knowledge of their whereabouts. Finally, on April 3rd, 2017, a mushroom hunter found a set of remains in a rural area of Cass County, Missouri. When authorities arrived and conducted a more thorough search of the area, they found a second set of remains. It only took a few days to confirm that the first set of remains belonged to Jessica. While everyone else already knew the second set belonged to Kara, that was not officially confirmed until August 17th, 2017. If the mushroom hunter had not spotted Jessica's remains back in April of 2017, there's a chance that both Jessica and Kara would still be missing today.

Two months later, Kylr was charged with murdering both Kara and Jessica. He remains behind bars as he awaits trial. [read more]

1. Lindsey Baum
Lindsey Baum Disappearance Anniversary: "Day of Hope" to be Held ...

Lindsey Baum was only 10 years-old when she vanished on June 26th, 2009. The young girl disappeared while walking home from a friend's house in their hometown of McCleary, Washington. Lindsey had walked back and forth from her house and this friend's house many times before, and the walk usually took her approximately 15 minutes. She was expected home by 9:30pm on the evening of her disappearance, but unfortunately she never made it home. Lindsey's mother reported her missing later that night.

An immediate search for Lindsey throughout McCleary and other surrounding areas yielded no clues. Lindsey's disappearance garnered national attention, and many leads were followed--yet Lindsey remained missing. Her case eventually went cold. Over the years, many sex offenders and other potential persons of interest were investigated, but no arrests were ever made.

During September 2017, a hunter found human remains in a remote area of Eastern Washington. News about these remains were not spread in the media. At that time, it is unclear if investigators even pondered the idea that the remains belonged to Lindsey, due to the fact that they were found an approximate 3-hour drive away from Lindsey’s home in McCleary. The remains were sent to Quantico, Virginia for forensic testing. Months later, on May 10th, 2018, investigators announced that the remains had been positively identified as Lindsey Baum.

Lindsey's death has been classified as a homicide. Investigators are still searching for her killer. [read more]

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