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An Open Letter to New York State Senator Nozzolio and Representative Oaks regarding Judith A. Geurin

Senator Nozzolio and Representative Oaks,

I am writing to you on behalf of Judith A. Geurin. She is a missing person who has been missing from your representative district since 1991.

Geurin

Missing people are some of the most vulnerable of our citizens. When a person goes missing they lose their voice and all their rights as a human being. Everything is ripped from their lives as well as their family’s lives.  If they have a loving, caring, intelligent and financially well-off family, then they will have people who will speak for them and make sure law enforcement does the right thing. If they don’t, well, they are subject to the luck of the draw and are often are forgotten. Does that sound right to you?  It doesn’t to me.

Let me tell you Judith Geurin’s story.  Judith was a housewife and mother then, without warning, her life went terribly wrong. Her husband died in 1988. She had trouble dealing with the overwhelming grief. She turned to alcohol for solace. That is when she met Curtis Pucci, an abusive and manipulating man who took advantage of Judith’s fragile state. (He also “took care” of the life insurance she received from her husband’s death.) He convinced her to move to Sodus Point, New York, leaving behind her four children. It was a mess. It was a huge mess. Times got hard for Pucci and Guerin. They ran out of money. Judith was arrested for passing a bad check. But Judith’s daughter, Amy, never gave up on her mom. Actually, during their last conversation, Amy suggested that her mother come home and they all start over again. But Judith never got the chance. She simply disappeared.

In late January 1991, Amy realized something was amiss. As bad as things got, she always heard from her mom. She was unable to reach her and finally took a drive to Sodus Point. Her mother was gone and no one knew where she was. Amy went to the police. They refused to take a missing person’s report. They told Amy her mom probably just “took off” and she’d hear from her soon. Soon never came.

Amy tried to report her mother missing again. And again. And again. Incredibly, the police refused to take a report and investigate until 2006. Yes, you read that right; 2006. Fifteen years after Judith Geurin went missing the police begrudgingly opened an investigation. The injustice done in this case is just staggering.

I’d like to tell you this is a very isolated case but it’s not. Every day people go missing and every day they hear that their loved one is just somewhere blowing off steam or has lost track of time. It is time that New York became a leader in the search, investigation and recovery of the missing.

New York State needs:

1)  a standard protocol for every single missing person investigation. It shouldn’t matter where you disappear from or who you are, a thorough investigation should be standard.

2)  a state funded missing persons investigative unit that is highly trained and on call to begin investigations immediately when it is determined a person is missing

3) training for every single police agency in the state on how to handle missing person cases.

4) a centralized, searchable data base where every single missing person is entered into a system where that information can be cross referenced against unidentified human remains.

5) a law requiring every single missing person and unidentified human remains be reported to the FBI and entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

We can’t prevent the great travesty of justice that has happened to Judith Geurin and her family. However, we can prevent it from happening again. As her representative, it is your job to look into the injustice that Judith Geurin and her family have suffered for twenty-two years. But it is also time to look into how missing persons investigations are handled in New York State.

Thank you so much for your time. I am sure you will do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Marianna Boncek

 

Any response received from the Senator or Representative will be added here. 

Grateful Doe, Caledonia Jane: Ask the Question

I woke up at three o’clock this morning unable to sleep. Like most people, after tossing and turning I decided to surf the internet hoping something would put me back to sleep. As usual, I found myself looking at the case files of missing people. I find myself fixated on “Caledonia Jane”. Now added to the fixation mix is “Grateful Doe.” Both of these children have gone unidentified for a long time.

CaliJaneCally

Caledonia Jane

I previously wrote a blog post about “Caledonia Jane,” She was the young, teenage girl whose body was found off Route 20 in Caledonia, New York on November 9, 1979. She has never been identified. “Grateful Doe” is a young man, estimated to be somewhere between the ages of 16 and 21. His body was found in a car crash on June 26, 1995 in Emporia, Virginia. He has also never been identified. His story is perplexing.

GratefulDoe

Grateful “Jason” Doe

On the night between June 25 and June 26, 1995, Michael Eric Hager, 21, was driving from Fairfax, Virginia to his mother’s house in Inman, South Carolina. He had spent the previous days with his fiancé who lived in Fairfax. Before arriving in Fairfax, he had his fiancé had spent a few days in New York. After leaving Fairfax, Hager made a brief stop at his father’s house in Glouster, Virginia. His father was not at home and he called his father to let him know he was on his way to his mother’s house in Iman. He did not mention having anyone with him at the time. However, somewhere in his travels, Hager picked up a passenger. When and where Hager picked up him up is not known, though a neighbor claimed that he saw Hager with someone when he stopped at his father’s house.

In the early morning hours of June 26, 1995, Hager’s van veered off the road and hit a tree. Neither young man was wearing a seatbelt. They were both ejected from the vehicle and died. Hager was quickly identified. The passenger has never been identified.

Neither of Hager’s parents recognized the young man. Depending on the reports you read, the unidentified victim is anywhere from 16 to 25 years old. He was about 5’8” tall and about 170 pounds. He had light hair—probably dark blonde or light brown—dyed red. He is often reported as having “natural red hair” and in his morgue picture he has red hair. However, his real hair is not red. His left ear was pierced, though he had no earring in it at the time and he had a small, homemade, five point star tattoo on his left arm.

star tat

Small star tattoo on Grateful Doe’s left arm

He was wearing a red, tie-dyed t-shirt from the Grateful Dead 1995 Summer Concert Tour. Dressed like most Deadheads, he had on light blue 505 Levi jeans, blue Fila Athletic shoes and two necklaces: one macramé and one beaded.

In his pocket were two ticket stubs to the June 24 and 25, 1995 Grateful Dead concert at the RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The police traced the origin of those tickets and it shows that our unidentified concert goer bought them from a scalper at the concert. The scalper did not remember Grateful Doe. Also in his pocket were four quarters and a yellow disposable lighter. The only possible identifier found on the boy’s body was a note that read, “Jason, Sorry we had to go, see ya around, call me at #914-XXXX . Caroline T. + Caroline O.” From the number is an arrow to Caroline T’s name. A caricature of Jerry Garcia is on the bottom of the note. As far as I know, Caroline T. and Caroline O. have never been identified. Also, the police have released no information on the phone number, except for the 914 exchange.

GratefulDoeNote

The note found in Grateful “Jason” Doe’s pocket.

So, we know that Grateful Doe (probably the Jason of the note) went to the 2-day Grateful Dead concert. He dyed his hair red. He most likely bought two necklaces and a t-shirt at the concert. He was broke. He was not planning on attending the next Dead concert because he was headed in the wrong direction. Somewhere between the concert and the crash site, Michael Hager picked him up. Whether he knew Hager or was a hitchhiker is unknown, though it seems likely that he was a hitchhiker because no one has been able to identify him. Then in the early hour mornings of June 26, 1995, Michael Eric Hager drifted off to sleep while driving.

JasonMorgue

Grateful “Jason” with his red hair and Grateful Dead t-shirt.

Here is what I can’t wrap my puny little brain around; why has no one missed Grateful Doe? Hasn’t anyone asked, “Hey, have you seen Jason?” “Where’s Jason been?” “Why hasn’t Jason been around to pick up his stuff?”

Neither Grateful Doe nor Caledonia Jane had a backpack, a wallet or any personal items. They must have left them somewhere. Even if they were both true drifters, they were young. Someone had to know who they were and missed them. Did someone you go to school with disappear? Have you ever wondered what happened to so-and-so?

I’m going to ask you to look at their pictures. Do they look like someone you used to know?  Could you please tell one other person about them? And maybe there is someone in your life, maybe a long time ago, that just seemed to “disappear.” Maybe you could ask where he or she is. Maybe he just moved out of state. Maybe she bounced around from foster home to foster home. Maybe he is a drifter. Maybe she hated her childhood and doesn’t want to hear from anyone who remotely reminds her of those times. Maybe she is a meth addict living under a bridge. But maybe, and I know it’s a long shot, there is someone waiting for a loved one to return home and hoping you will ask, “Hey, whatever happened to Jason?”

If you have a missing loved one in your life and would like me to write about him or her, please feel free to email me. 

ADDENDUM: Both Caledonia Jane and Jason Doe have been identified.

Big Foot Didn’t Do it

Big Foot Didn’t Do It

I am not a debunker. I have spent many years investigating paranormal phenomenon. I’ve known and worked with many dedicated, hard-working and honest investigators. I have witnessed things that are hard to explain using conventional methods of investigating. I know several gifted psychics and have studied and practiced in the field of astrology for over 25 years. If there is absolutely one thing I have learned by being involved in paranormal investigation and studies is that true investigators and practitioners in the field, never, ever, ever attempt to take advantage of anyone, lie to make their claims seem more amazing or encourage someone to deviate from standard wisdom to go off on a wild goose chase.

I recently read a book where the author claims that many of our unsolved missing person cases, particularly those that take place in National Parks, have to do with…well…Big Foot. The conclusion we are supposed to draw from the book is that Big Foot is out there, snatching up people, and doing—what I’m not sure—because some of the missing people were eventually found alive. So, Big Foot can’t be snacking on all of them. So, what is Big Foot doing snatching up people from heavily wooded areas?

I did find the book interesting. The cases the author chose to highlight are very fascinating. I find myself reading case after case because they are so mysterious. But I am not convinced, by a long shot, that Big Foot is doing it. Let me add, I have attended conferences where seasoned researchers discussed the phenomenon of Big Foot. The information is fascinating. They are hard working, honest men, some who have been dedicating most of their spare time for decades. They present interesting evidence.  So, I’m not going to out and out say that there is no such thing as Big Foot, Sasquatch, Yeti or the like. But if you are going to present research that Big Foot is out snacking on our missing, your research better be flawless.

The first and foremost mistake in the book is that most of the “research” is done through newspaper accounts. Newspaper accounts, while a good place to start, are far from accurate. Once something is printed in the paper, it will appear in print over and over again and eventually just be thought of as “truth.” FOIL searches (Freedom of Information Legislation) are good, too. But a researcher has to interview every one and anyone who will cough up information. Every single person I interviewed for my book Gone Missing in New York gave me information that wasn’t printed anywhere. They also corrected any misinformation given out by the press. There wasn’t ONE case where the press was 100% accurate. Here is how writing research goes; you get a “fact”, then you confirm it. I chose not to write about some really fascinating information because I could not confirm it. If I wasn’t sure, I either chose not to print the information or made the reader know I couldn’t be 100% sure of the veracity of the information.

The author claims that many of the missing, particularly children, were found in a place previously searched. Seasoned searchers will tell you that you can walk within a foot of a missing person hidden in heavy brush or dense wood and not see the missing person. I will never forget the story a search dog handler told me. She came to search an area for a missing jogger. The foot searchers swore they had searched an area but the handler asked if the dog could take a quick run through. Lo and behold, the missing jogger was found unconscious deep under a bush, covered by dead and dry leaves. She had been hit by a car and rolled down a steep embankment where she was hidden even to searchers walking within feet of her.

The author also claims that many of the found people are disoriented. I think this one should be fairly obvious. Even if you had food and water, which most in the book do not, you’d be a little disoriented after being lost for any length of time. Dehydration can make a person disoriented within 48 hours. Panic can do all sorts of psychological damage to a missing person including causing sensory hallucinations. Hypothermia can actually cause freezing people to disrobe. Years ago, I heard a study done one lost scientists in the arctic. The single feature that distinguished those that survived from those that didn’t was panic. When a person is terrified to the point of panic, he will make some really poor decisions. Some of those decisions can drive a person deeper into dense woods, leave back packs and necessary items behind, become more and more disoriented. You’ve heard the term “scared to death” and while I don’t believe that people die of fear, I do believe that fear can lead people to make fateful decision which lead directly to their death.

Based on some of the stories, I do think maybe a few of the children were dragged off by a bear, a wolf, a large dog or maybe even a really bad person. If it was superhuman Big Foot, I think there would be evidence; foot prints, fur or smell. It seems dogs can’t manage to track a mangy human-like creature through the woods. If Big Foot were taking these people as a food sources, the found corpses would have bite marks on the bone and the flesh would look like it had been eaten. If Big Foot is not abducting people as a food source (because some of the victims are found alive) what is he doing with them? Do the Big Foots need a fourth hand in poker?

I have intimate knowledge of one of the cases highlighted in the book. I found three glaring errors. That is three errors in just ONE of the many stories in the book.  Many of the stories are very old, long before modern search and rescue methods were available making anything about the case absolutely “hearsay.”

Books on paranormal phenomenon can be a fun read. They can also stimulate thought. Remember Chariot of the God?  We all read that book in the late 60s. However, missing people are not something fun and interesting to make bizarre hypotheses about without hard proof. Not one of the people recovered said, “It was Big Foot.” Neither does the author present hard evidence such as foot prints, hair, blood, etc. The only evidence presented is that some missing persons cases seem to fit a “pattern.” Missing people’s family are suffering. It is some of the worst suffering I have ever witnessed. I can’t imagine that a book that concludes that Big Foot did it eases their suffering one iota. Sorry, Sasquatch, you’ll have to do better.

We’re Not Doing Good Enough- Pat Viola: Eleven Years Later

A few nights ago I had a terrifying nightmare. In my dream, my two daughters were young again. In the dream they were abducted. I was frantic to find them. I woke up in tears. The dream was so disturbing I could not fall back to sleep for three hours. The terror I felt in the dream was real and totally draining. Even after I woke up and knew my daughters were grown and in their own homes, safe and sound, the feeling stayed with me a long time. I cannot imagine what it feels like to live with this feeling every single moment of someone’s life. I am lucky; I can wake up from a nightmare. The families of the missing can’t.

On February 13, 2001, Patricia Viola disappeared from her Bogota, New Jersey home. Literally, she was gone without a trace. She had volunteered at her son’s school that morning, came home, returned a call from her mother and then vanished. Her husband, Jim, arrived home at 4:30 in the afternoon to find the house alarm set, his wife’s purse, cell phone and necessary medications on the counter but no sign of his wife. That story is bad enough. Jim has spent eleven years tirelessly looking for his wife. He put up fliers, hired a private investigator, maintained a website and was featured on TV shows. He spent every single moment of those eleven years living a nightmare, a nightmare that those of us who don’t know what it is like to have a missing spouse can’t even begin to imagine. He raised his two young children by himself. He also found time to become an advocate for all the missing. He was responsible for New Jersey’s “Patricia’s Law” which requires the collection of DNA from any missing person reported missing longer than 30 days.

But what Jim didn’t know, as he was hoping, praying, living that nightmare, that seventeen months after his wife went missing, a dog walker discovered his wife’s shoe, with a bit of bone fragment, on a Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York. It took THREE YEARS for the medical examiner’s office in New York City to extract a DNA sample. The remains were then buried in Potter’s Field on Hart Island in Long Island Sound.

Ok, I get it, after 9/11/01, the office was flooded with bone fragments that needed DNA samples taken. But it took FOUR MORE YEARS for that sample to be sent for testing.

Can you imagine, while you are out searching, your loved one’s remains are sitting in the medical examiner’s storage locker and later buried anonymously in Potter’s Field? I don’t want to blame anyone. I do believe that each individual does the best he/she can. But it’s not good enough. The system of identifying remains is not good enough. Families cannot wait three, four five years, a decade to get answers or in a worst case scenario, never, to get answers.  What good is technology if we aren’t using it?

I also get that DNA and other types of testing is expensive. However, the first step we have to take is to accept that the number of missing in this country is epidemic. By recognizing the sheer number of missing and declaring it an epidemic, federal agencies could be formed and federal funds used to end this epidemic. This epidemic is not a state problem. In every corner of our country people are missing, remains are languishing in medical examiners offices or buried in unmarked graves. Every missing person deserves a thorough investigation. Every unidentified person needs to be identified. We need laws that require thorough investigations. We need laws that concern the testing of unidentified remains. It’s not good enough, yet.

An Open Letter to Marc Butler-Representative for Kellisue Achernecht.

Honorable Marc Butler,

 

I am writing to with my concerns about Kellisue Ackernecht who has been missing from Johnstown, New York since September 30, 2008. Kellisue Ackernecht disappeared on her way home from work. Her car was found engulfed in flames less than a quarter of a mile from her home. The car fire was declared arson. However, since that evening, Kellisue has never been seen or heard from again.

            This case was close to be forgotten and swept under the rug until a brave and courageous woman, Kalley Lee, stepped forward to become an advocate for the missing woman. She has spent countless hours—and personal funds—to keep the search for Kellisue alive. But she, as well as Kellisue’s brother, and all of us who advocate for the missing, are coming to wits end and hope you will step forward and help us in the search for justice for Kellisue.

            I have no intention of maligning the Johnstown Police Department. They work tirelessly for the citizens of Johnstown. However, they were not equipped to handle this case from the beginning and persist in their refusal to ask for help from other agencies such as the New York State Police. Do you know that parts of Kellisue’s car are still littered on the side of the road since 2008? I was horrified to find that a scene of a crime was handled so carelessly.

            Kellisue’s disappearance is New York State’s chance to set a protocol in the search for missing persons. Do you know, depending on what jurisdiction a person goes missing from, the search can be “hit or miss”? There is no protocol for looking for a missing person. Neither is registration in the FBI’s data base for missing person or in the National Missing and Unidentified Person System required at this time. I have been an advocate for the missing for almost five years and I am saddened to tell you that often times many of our missing do not get the thorough handling their case deserves. New York State has the chance to become a leader in setting protocols and requiring all missing person’s case be handled immediately and thoroughly. We owe our missing citizens nothing less.

            I am urging you to become involved in the case of Kellisue Ackernecht. Your voice, your concern, could be the tip in the balance to bringing Kellisue home.

 

Sincerely,

Marianna Boncek

            

Doing the Right Thing: The Joe Helt Story

Doing the Right Thing: The Joe Helt Story

Joe Helt did what most young people like to do on a wintry Saturday night; get together and have fun with friends. Don’t you remember, as a teenager, having that favorite spot where everyone gathered with no adult supervision? For Joe and his friends it was the closed and abandoned Mt. Cathalia Ski Lodge in Cragsmore, New York.  January 16, 1987 was a typically cold, clear night up on top of the mountain. The friends built a fire and were enjoying themselves. Sometime during the evening, an argument broke out involving Joe and three young men attending the party: John LaForge, 21, Wade Marks, 18 and Kelly Diaz, 16. Other attendees at the party said the argument got so heated they were afraid the men were about to fight, but it didn’t happen. Joe asked another friend for a ride home, but the driver said his car was already filled and left without Joe. Things seemed to cool down and Joe stayed at the party, even accepting a ride with the three men he argued with earlier.

The four young men went for a joy ride around Sam’s Points. For those of us old enough to remember, you used to be able to drive the 3 mile loop that now is only used for hiking. Somewhere on Sam’s Point road, reportedly about a mile from the gatehouse, the car slid into the ditch. The men were unable to free the car. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. The temperature was about 22 degrees. Joe was dressed lightly, in a light camouflage jacket, a sweatshirt, jeans and high top sneakers. He did not have gloves or a hat. According to the story, Joe told his friends he was walking home, a trek of more than five miles. The friends claim the last time they saw Joe he was walking away from the stranded car.

No one realized Joe was missing until the next day. He had told his mother that he was going to be staying with friends and would go directly to work on Saturday evening. When Joe didn’t show up for work his boss called his home looking for him. His mother realizing something was amiss called the police.

The weather on the day after Joe’s disappearance dipped to 12 degrees. It was flurrying, the start of a major snow storm that would blanket the area with over two feet of snow. Joe was already missing a day and a half before the full scale search of the mountain began. Hundreds of police, rangers, firefighters and volunteers scoured the mountain. A helicopter and search dog aided in the search but the weather was uncooperative. After six days and grueling winter temperatures, it was concluded that if Joe was on the mountain, he would not have been able to survive in such conditions. The search was called off in the hopes that a spring thaw would reveal the truth in Joe’s disappearance. But that did not happen. No one trace of Joe has ever been found.

The problem with Joe’s story is not all the pieces fit in the puzzle. According to published reports, Wade Marks and Kelly Diaz left 20 minutes after Joe to walk to Marks’ house, which was 2 miles away. Marks’ house was less than ¼ of a mile from where the friends had been partying. Marks and Diaz never caught up with Joe on their walk back. Ten minutes after Marks and Diaz left, John LaForge abandoned the car and walked back to his own house, also 2 miles away. According to police, the place where the car got stuck in the ditch showed no indication that a car had been stuck there. There have been rumors—and I do admit that right now they are nothing more—that something more sinister happened to Joe that evening.

Do I think that Joe took a short cut through the woods, fell into a crevice and his body never recovered? Absolutely not. There was no moon that evening. It is incredibly dark up there on the mountain. Joe did not have a flashlight. Neither did he have the foot gear to strike off into the woods. I believe something happened to Joe up there on that mountain and I believe someone knows the truth.

Joe’s parents died of cancer in 2007. I have absolutely no doubt that Joe’s disappearance contributed to his parents’ illness and death. The disappearance of a loved one causes some of the worse suffering I have ever witnessed in my life. I think the ultimate evil in the world is to witness unwarranted suffering and do nothing to alleviate it. The family and friends of Joe Helt are suffering and have been suffering for over twenty-five years. I believe someone holds the key to alleviate their suffering and bring answers to the Helts.  It’s time to come forward. I would hope the person who can help solve this puzzle has the moral fortitude to come forward. However, if you are that person and you have pieces to Joe’s disappearance you do not have it in you to “turn yourself in”. But it is time to do the right thing. You can help his family find Joe and give them the final peace they are looking for.  You can send an anonymous letter to the police. Please make sure you are specific as possible. You can make an anonymous call to a TIPS line. Yes, they really are anonymous. I suggest you write down all the information you have before you call the line so you don’t forget anything. You can hire a lawyer. All communications between a lawyer and his/her client are confidential. The lawyer cannot reveal your identity or “turn you in”. The lawyer can relay information to the police. In this way, if the police have questions they can contact the lawyer.  You can also visit a minister, rabbi, priest or therapist to discuss ways to give the truth to Joe’s family. Just remember conversations between a minister or therapist and their client may not be confidential. Ask before you reveal and information you want to remain private. All I ask is that you do something. Please don’t delay any longer.

Anonymous tip line: 1-800-490-2267

Ellenville police at 845-647-4422.

Ellenville Police Department

81 North Main Street

Ellenville, NY 12428

AMBER ALERT

From the Times Herald Record, July 2, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Police have issued an Amber Alert for a 5-
year-old boy in New York’s Westchester County.
Police say the boy, Ranaldo Brown, was last seen on West
3rd Street in Mount Vernon on Sunday around 7:30 a.m.
They say the child is 3-feet, 6-inches tall, weighs 50 pounds and has brown eyes and black hair. He
was wearing blue denim shorts, white cutoff shirt and red-and-black sneakers.
Police identified the suspect as 49-year-old Thomas Whaley. They say he is not related to the child
and is the former boyfriend of the boy’s mother. He was last seen on foot, possibly heading for New
York City.
Police say the suspect has an extensive criminal record.
They ask anyone with information to call 911 or Mount Vernon police at 866-NYS-Amber.

 

And YES, don’t you wish they’d send a picture!!