During a pandemic, it may be hard to think about anything else besides spread of infection, and the death and misfortune laid at the feed of many. The family of Julia Mann is facing an added layer of horror in these troubling times—the frightening nebulous of “what if” in the case of a missing child.
You may have never heard Julia Mann’s name before this moment, and you can thank that in part to the coverage of the world’s current global pandemic and the spread of COVID-19. Crucial coverage of the pandemic has created an unexpected challenge in media campaigns for missing persons. The key in any missing person investigation is to keep their face in the media and the public eye, and with coronavirus coverage already taking up a great deal of airtime, exposure is limited. Julia’s mother Terrie told Dateline, “I’m worried she’ll be forgotten. We’ve been living in this nightmare since February and now with coronavirus, everything has stalled. And it’s just a scary time out there right now, and I’m even more worried.”
It has now been 11 weeks since 17-year-old Julia Mann disappeared from her grandparent’s home in Watkinsville, Georgia. She was last seen by her grandfather around 10:00 on the night of February 20, 2020, just before the family settled down for the night. When her grandparents woke the next morning, Julia was gone. The only other principle details that have been released to the public is that both Julia’s cell phone and laptop went missing as well, but neither have been used since she went missing. Law enforcement appears certain that Julia left the house on her own, but because her phone and social media accounts have gone dark since her disappearance, police concerns for her safety are heightened.
With authorities claiming Julia left her grandparents’ house of her own accord, the remaining question is why? Julia’s family insists that there is no reason their daughter would have run away, and even if it were possible, she took so little with her—just the cell phone and the laptop. If this was a teenager running away from home, surely she would take more belongings with her. One very sentimental item Julia left behind was a keychain that had been a gift from her little sister, with whom she is very close.
The fact that Julia took her laptop with her when she left the house has lead authorities to consider the possibility that she was lured from the house by a predator. Julia was reportedly involved in online role-playing games. It is shockingly common for predators to use online gaming platforms to groom and lure children from their homes. Among other theories, this is just one that leads authorities to believe that Julia has very likely been met with harm.
Julia Mann is 5’3” tall, weighing around 100 lbs, has blonde hair and several ear piercings. The sheriff’s office did not release a description of what clothing Juliawas wearing at the last time she was seen, but her mother believes she was wearing a lightweight puffer jacket and blue two-toned Vans, which are the only shoes missing from her room. Her mother Terrie has said she fears her daughter is being held against her will and abused by her captor.
Anyone with information on Julia’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office at 706-769-3945.
An arrest has been made in the disappearance of Colorado missing boy Gannon Stauch.
Letecia “Tecia” Stauch has been arrested on first-degree murder charges in the disappearance of her stepson Gannon Stauch. It has been nearly five weeks since Gannon was reported missing.
According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at a press conference, the arrest occurred on the morning of March 2, 2020, in Horry County, South Carolina. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office detectives, FBI agents, and members of the El Paso County 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office made the arrest of Letecia Stauch without incident.
Letecia will be held without bail in the Horry County Jail on the charges of Murder in the First Degree of a Child Under Twelve, Child Abuse Resulting in Death, a charge of Tampering with a Deceased Body, and Tampering with Physical Evidence. She is currently awaiting extradition back to El Paso County, Colorado.
Gannon, 11, was reported missing by Letecia Stauch on January 27, 2020, claiming Gannon had gone to a friend’s home in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood and failed to come home.
Initially, authorities called Gannon a runaway when they first asked the public to help find the little boy. But the sheriff’s office announced January 30 that Gannon was considered a missing endangered child because of his age, the time he had been gone, and his reliance on medication.
The search that was supposed to take place last Friday in the area of Highway 105 and Highway 83 was postponed and authorities announced a major development in the investigation that would be released during the press conference held at noon.
During the press conference, investigators said they believe Gannon is no longer alive and they have yet to locate him. They reiterated search efforts to locate Gannon’s remains would continue.
“Today I got the worst news and the best news,” said Gannon’s biological mother Landen Hiott had been holding out hope her son was still alive. “Obviously we know what the worst news is. The best news is that justice will be served. And I’ll make sure that justice is served because my boy did not deserve any of this that happened.”
Authorities said the affidavit has been sealed and remains tight-lipped on the evidence that led them to arrest Letecia.
“Just hold on to questions until we know that this person, this stepmom that I even trusted, that she will pay 100 percent for this heinous thing she done,” said Landen. “And I know that’s what will be done.”
Al Stauch, Gannon’s father did not speak at the press conference, but a sheriff’s department spokesperson held back tears as her voice cracked while reading Al’s statement.
“The person who committed this heinous horrible crime is the one that I gave more to than anyone else on this planet and that is a burden that I will carry with me for a very long time,” Al said.
He writes that his heart stopped on the day that Gannon was born on September 29, 2008, coming way too early and weighing only one pound six ounces–and again on March 2, 2020, when he learned his little boy would never be coming home.
“I’d been looking forward to his teenage years, and the fun we had ahead of us as he became a young man,” Al said. “My little boy is not coming home. We will never play Nintendo again. No more Taco Tuesdays. No more smooth looking haircuts. No more “Big Bubba” for my Lana. And no more G Man for the world.”
“While we have not yet found Gannon, information has been developed that is helping us narrow our search, said Lieutenant Mitch Mihalko of the sheriff’s office.
Since Gannon vanished, crews have been scouring dozens of acres of southern Douglas County, in search of the missing boy’s body.
“As you can see from the arrest sadly, we do not believe Gannon is alive. Our work is just beginning, and you will continue to see many law enforcement officials in El Paso County over the coming weeks and possibly months as we continue our relentless pursuit of justice for Gannon and his family.”
Prior to the arrest, Letecia had been obsessively posting on various social media sites, professing her innocence and offering explanations as to what happened to Gannon, even developing a timeline she posted on Facebook.
Letecia claimed she was harassed online and should be offered an apology from everyone who suspected she could have ever hurt her stepson.
However, Gannon’s family has continuously urged the public to call in with any information to contact law enforcement so that they may be able to give Gannon a proper burial.
“I know where my son’s at without a shadow of a doubt, said Landen. “I want to leave this earth knowing justice was served for my boy.”
Prosecutors and the sheriff’s office are still asking for information from the public to help bring their promise for justice to fruition.
“One, we still want to bring Gannon home so that he can have a proper burial and his family can get the closure they need,” said Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen. “But we also want to hold the person we are charging, Letecia Stauch accountable for what she did.”
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Gannon Stauch, please call the El Paso County Sheriff at 719-520-6666 or email email@example.com
The search continues for missing Iowa teen Abdi Sharif, who
went missing on January 17, 2020. A second organized search party is set to
commence this week after a search of Des Moines’ north side last week turned up
no clues to Abdi’s whereabouts. There is currently a $5,000 reward for any
persons who come forward with information on Abdi’s disappearance.
Abdi Sharif, 18, went missing from a Target in Merle Hay where he worked. He was last seen on CCTV camera after leaving his shift. Details emerged in local media that before he went missing, Abdi posted on his Snapchat, “I got bad news…bad bad news.” Police have advised they are not ruling out foul play in Abdi’s disappearance.
In regards to the Snapchat with the cryptic message, his family and friends say they have no idea what he could have meant by that. Abdi’s mother, an immigrant from Somalia, went to the Target that night to pick him up after his shift, but she says he never appeared. She has been calling his cell phone nonstop since his disappearance, but the cell phone remains off. With Abdi’s cousin Ahmed Hashi translating for her on KCCI in Iowa, Abdi’s mother claims that whatever circumstances befell her son that night, she believes he left the store voluntarily. “He’s not in trouble. His mom loves him. She just wants to see him home.”
Abdi Sharif’s disappearance has sparked a great deal of
activism in his community, particularly his high school. According to the
principal, Kevin Biggs, it is very uncharacteristic for him to disappear
without warning, “This is a young man that was not involved, as far as we knew,
in any type of gangs, drugs, alcohol. He was never caught in trouble doing
anything. He was just a kid who went to school and did the best he can.” The
school held a coffee fundraiser for Abdi to help fund the missing persons
search. In addition, volunteers also passed out ribbons for Abdi during an
annual game that raises awareness for children with special needs. The
community is also hopeful that the posted reward of $5,000 will be an incentive
for people to come forward with information that will lead to Abdi’s safe
The nation has been feverishly following the dramatic events that surround the disappearance of two Idaho children, whose mother and stepfather fled the state following a request for a wellness check by a family member. Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were last seen last fall, around the time their mother, Lori Vallow pulled J.J. from public school, citing a new job that would require the family to move out of state.
Authorities tracked Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband,
Chad Daybell to the island of Kauai in Hawaii at the beginning of 2020.
Authorities told her that she had until January 30th to produce her
children to a state office to prove they were alive and well, but that date
came and went—still no sign of J.J. or Tylee.
Despite failure to produce her children, Lori Vallow Daybell
was not immediately arrested on a contempt of court charge, much to the
public’s bewilderment. However, there are legal experts who said that law
enforcement must build a strong case before taking a legal swing at Vallow
Daybell. Samuel Newton, an assistant law professor at the University of Idaho
said, “I’m willing to bet what everyone is trying to do is get enough evidence
to get an arrest and prove some sort of felony. What they don’t’ want to do is
file a charge and then have it get dismissed because there’s nothing to support
Lori Vallow Daybell was finally arrested last week on the island of Kauai where she fled with her husband. The couple had been seen “island-hopping” while law enforcement built a case against her. When she appeared in court on her bail hearing, the judge handed down a judgement of $5 million dollars. Vallow appeared in court again on Wednesday to have that bail reduced to $10,000. Her extradition from Hawaii is being reportedly expedited by Idaho governor, Brad Little, who told a local news station, “I hope there is justice, and I hope the children are found.”
As true crime continues to climb the cultural ladder into mainstream culture, there has been a wave of true crime documentaries, television shows, and podcasts that revive interest in cold cases. A recent example has been the true crime podcast Your Own Backyard, hosted by Chris Lambert, which focuses on the disappearance of Kristin Smart—a Cal Poly freshman who went missing after a friend’s birthday party in spring of 1996. The podcast has listeners questioning the involvement of one of Kristin Smart’s friends, Paul Flores, who escorted her back to her dormitory after the party and was allegedly the last person to see Kristin Smart alive.
Paul Flores was instead labeled a “person of interest,” by
authorities in 1997 and has remained so for over 20 years. The sheriff at the time,
Ed Williams, told the media that there were “no other suspects” in Kristin’s
disappearance. Law enforcement was only able to interview Flores once when Kristin
was first reported missing and since then he had remained uncooperative in the investigation.
During that interview, Flores gave conflicting accounts of how he had received a
black eye that investigators observed, first stating that he got the shiner
playing baseball and then later said he got it while working on his truck
moments before he shut the interview down.
Flores was subsequently sued by Kristin Smart’s family in 1996, stating that Flores was the man responsible for their daughter’s disappearance and murder. Cal Poly was subsequently added to the lawsuit, with the family citing that the university did not do enough to keep their daughter safe while living on their campus. In a 1997 deposition, he repeatedly cited his right against self-incrimination, according to periodical archives. The lawsuit remains unresolved, as documents that could prove any of the family’s allegations still remain sealed in interested of preserving the criminal investigation. The family’s attorney, Jim Murphy, said in 2016, “In civil law, it’s what’s reasonable based on a preponderance of the evidence, not within a reasonable doubt as in criminal cases. Here, I believe there’s enough circumstantial evidence to prove to a civil jury that Flores is responsible for Kristin’s death.”
The popularity of Your Own Backyard has coincided with a recent break in the cold case, with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s office announcing that they have issued warrants to retrieve potential evidence from Flores’s mother’s home, including two vehicles and electronic devices, with authorities commenting only that these were “items of interest.”
Kristin Smart was legally presumed dead in 2002, but the
community still holds out hope that law enforcement will find answers in her
disappearance. A new billboard has been erected in Murphy’s front yard, urging
anyone with information about her disappearance to contact the San Luis Obispo
Sheriff’s office at 805-781-4500.
Shortly after midnight on May 14, 2008, Brandon Swanson mysteriously vanished in Marshall, Minnesota. Brandon had been celebrating the end of the spring semester with friends from Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s Canby campus.
Between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m., Brandon left the celebration and drove to another friend’s home in Canby to say goodbye to a classmate that was also having a party. Friends say Brandon did not appear intoxicated when he left shortly after midnight to go home. Canby is approximately 45 minutes away from Marshall where Brandon lived with his parents.
Brandon’s parents received a call from Brandon at approximately 1:54 a.m. telling them he had gotten stuck in a ditch on a back road that ran north of Highway 68, the main road he would normally take to get home. He told them he was not injured but needed help to get home.
Why Brandon chose to turn off Highway 68 and take gravel back roads home is but one of the mysteries in this story.
Unsure of his exact location, Brian told his parents he thought he was near Lynd, a small town in Lyon County with a population of only 445 people.
Brandon’s parents, Brian and Annette Swanson, decided to go get him and went to the location but were unable to find him or his car.
The road was dark and the area remote. Annette called Brandon on his cell phone and they both agreed to flash their lights to let each other know they were in the area. On the phone, Annette could hear Brandon flashing his car lights and told him, “We are flashing our lights” We are flashing our lights!” Brandon replied. “Don’t you see me?” They never did see him.
Frustrated, Brandon hung up on his mother. She quickly called back, and they both apologized to each other for becoming annoyed.
Brandon said he would leave the car and walk toward Lynd and they agreed to meet him at the Lynd Tavern parking lot.
While talking to his father, Brandon described seeing lights in the distance and continued to walk down the gravel road. He described hearing rushing water and saw two fence lines, all the while continuing to talk to his dad.
The call lasted 47 minutes when suddenly Brian yelled, “Oh shit!” and the call disconnected. His parents tried to call him back numerous times, but the phone rang each time until the following day when calls went straight to voicemail.
The Search for Brian
At 6:30 a.m. the following day, Brian’s parents called the police to report him missing. To their dismay, the police told them to wait as it was not unlike a young man Brian’s age, to disappear for a bit.
Later that day, cell phone records showed Brandon was near Porter, Minnesota, not Lynd when he called them. Porter is between Canby and Marshall along Highway 68.
A search began and at approximately 12:30 p.m., Brandon’s Chevrolet Lumina was found about a mile and a half north of Taunton, right on the border between Yellow Medicine, Lincoln and Lyon Counties.
According to True Crime Files, the car was found with no physical damage and no evidence of physical injury.
“It was off the side of a field approach, and the vehicle was hung up,” Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky told CNN. “It’s sort of a sharp incline, nothing major but enough that the car would get hung up, so the wheels are too high off the ground to gain traction.”
In the months following Brandon’s disappearance, law enforcement, volunteers, and emergency personnel search the area by ground, horseback, and all-terrain vehicles to search all three counties in the vicinity of where Brandon disappeared and the Yellow Medicine River.
Authorities believed Brandon may have fallen into the river and drowned, but canines followed his scent to the river’s edge but did not signal and continued walking on. To the police, this suggested Brandon may have fallen into the water but managed to get out and continued walking. However, the temperature that evening was around 39 degrees, and he could have succumbed to hypothermia.
Cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human remains during several searches, in the area of Porter near Mud Creek, but a body was ever found.
Police do not have any evidence of foul play and believe Brandon’s body would be found within a 122 square-mile search area.
“It’s by far the biggest search I’ve ever been involved in terms of length of time, the number of missions and number of searchers involved said Jeff Hasse, founder of Midwest Technical Training Associates.
Porch Light is Still On
Brian and Annette turned on their porch light on May 14, 2008 – the night Brandon vanished.
The light remains on every night. “There’s no reason to turn it off now,” Brian said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to find him alive, but I still want to believe that we will find him. That’s probably a stretch, but I still want to believe that.”
One positive thing has come out of Brandon’s disappearance. Brian and Annette spearheaded legislation that was signed into law in 2009. Brandon’s Law requires police to make a report whenever a person of any age, is reported missing and investigation must ensue. It also clarifies jurisdiction.
The Swansons face a life of ambiguity, never really being able to move forward, no way to gain closure. “They call it ambiguous loss,” Annette said. “It’s that state in your life – in our case it’s the loss of our son – without knowing what happened. It’s extremely challenging. It’s really hard to grapple with and to come to terms with. I think for Brandon’s father and I, and for his sister, we’ve kind of figured out how to live in that gray area. But it’s really not someplace you want to live.”
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Brandon Swanson, please contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 507-537-7666.