Postal carrier, Kierra Coles, still missing after 2 years

Postal carrier, Kierra Coles, still missing after 2 years

Right after his daughter, Kierra Coles, Joseph Coles began living out of his car, keeping vigil in front of the building where she leaved, waiting for her to come home. But in the two years since her disappearance, Coles says that investigators have recently hit a brick wall in the search for Kierra, a then-26 year-old postal worker who was pregnant.

Kierra Coles was last seen leaving her apartment on the morning of October 2, 2018. She lived alone in the apartment on 81st street, and had just moved to the area less than four months ago, according to her mother, Karen Phillips. Kierra was in regular contact with her family, especially her mother. When she didn’t hear from Kierra all day on October 3rd, her mother felt something was wrong, but did not react immediately. After two days of radio silence, Karen Phillips called the Chicago police to conduct a welfare check on her daughter. “I went over to her house to call the police for them to do a well-being check because I had seen her car. So I said, okay she’s probably just in there, maybe she’s asleep or – I don’t know, I just didn’t feel right,” Phillips told the Pittsburg Courier.

The key piece of evidence so far in the case is surveillance footage recovered from a neighbor’s camera, which captured a person believed to be Kierra leaving the building, dressed for work in her postal carrier’s uniform. This has puzzled investigators a great deal, as Kierra called in sick to her job that morning, but still left the apartment dressed for work. The CCTV footage captured Kierra walking up and down the street in front of her building, past her car, before walking out of frame for the last time. Law enforcement and family members have been hoping to find similar CCTV footage that would illuminate more of Kierra’s movements, but no such leads have emerged. When the car was found, her cell phone and purse were inside, along with her lunch bag.

Although they now suspect foul play in the young woman’s disappearance, in the first few weeks of the search, police were not ready to deem Kierra’s disappearance suspicious. Because of Kierra’s age, there are not as many resources in place to locate her—not to mention that adults in the United States, for all intents and purposes, do have the right to go missing if they wish. However, Kierra’s family does not think that she vanished over her own accord, especially given that she was pregnant with her first child.

According to the National Institutes of Health, intimate partner violence affects roughly 300,000 pregnant women every year in the United States. Even more staggering, it knows no sociological boundaries. It affects pregnant women of all ages, colors, education, and religions. Heightened emotions and changes in body chemistry can already be triggers for depression, anxiety, and maladaptive behaviors such as smoking, drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy. It can also trigger intimate partner violence, or what’s more commonly known as domestic violence. The National Institutes of Health also report that homicide is the second-leading cause of injury-related death for pregnant women, superseded only by car accidents. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that between 1990 and 2004, more than 1300 pregnant women were murdered in the United States, most commonly by gunshot, stabbing, or strangling. More than two-thirds of these women were killed in their first trimester.

Kierra’s family has noted that they have received few updates from police since she was reported missing, but that USPS had been regularly in touch. Karen told 107.5 WGCI, “The postal inspector, he has been calling and checking in saying, ‘We are doing all we can. There’s things that we can’t tell you right now, but we’re doing all we can.’ I’m just guessing they just want to have facts together, they don’t want to give me bits and pieces.” The USPS has offered a $25,000 reward for anyone providing information that leads to Kierra’s safe return, and has been assisting in the investigation since it opened. As Kierra’s case continues to garner national attention, non-profits such as Black and Missing have placed Kierra’s name, picture, and case information on their website in hopes of spreading her story throughout the country.

Anyone with information on Coles’ whereabouts should call Area South detectives at (312) 747-8274.

Little Boy Lost: Search for Gannon Stauch Expands

Little Boy Lost: Search for Gannon Stauch Expands


(Gannon Stauch vanished from his home on January 27, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)

Gannon Stauch, 11, went missing from his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Janury 27, 2020. More than two weeks after his disappearance the search has expanded to northern El Paso County and neighboring southern part of Douglas County. 

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not provide an explantion for the expanding the search so far north, which was originally focused over an hour away around the young boy’s neighborhood on the southeastern edge of Colorado Springs. 

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(The search for Gannon Stauch originally centered around his neighborhood in Colorado Springs but has expanded to the northern part of El Paso County and southernmost Douglas County. Photo of El Paso County line.)

“We are running this investigation, the search piece of the investigation, and the investigative piece are running parallel with each other” said El Paso County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jackie Kirby. “So, as we get tips and leads and information through our investigation that determines our search areas.” 

Over 130 people including members of search and rescue teams and canines searched for Gannon on Wednesday, February 12. The search Thursday also included dogs and more than 80 people. 

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(Mounted patrol and 80 other members of the El Paso and Douglas County sheriff’s offices search for Gannon Stauch in southern Douglas county in Colorado.)


“It’s 35 acres, very different terrain. There are some treed areas, there’s very rough terrain. There’s terrain that goes down into deep ravines that would have to be gotten down to by rope,” said Kirby. “So again, very various terrain that they’re navigating here yesterday, today and we’ll see how long into the weekend this search out here will go.”

The sheriff’s office has received over 500 leads in the case. 

The Disappearance 

Gannon was reported missing January 27, by his stepmother, Letecia “Tecia” Stauch, who said Gannon left to go to a friend’s house in the afternoon. Gannon had stayed home from Grand Mountain School that day. When he didn’t come home, Tecia said she called the sheriff and reported him as a runaway. In fact, when authorities first requested the public’s help to find him, they referred to him as a runaway instead of an endangered missing child.

Gannon’s father Albert Stauch is an active-duty Army National Guardsman and had been in training. He flew home from Oklahoma the same day.

Gannon’s biological mother Linden Hiott lives in South Carolina and also arrived in Colorado Springs to help search for her son.

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(Letecia Stauch, stepmother of Gannon Stauch, has conducts interview but doesn’t want her face shown publicly.)

Stepmother’s Statement to Media

On February 11, 2020, Gannon’s stepmother put out a public statement implying the boy had been abducted. In the statement she also reaffirmed that she last saw Gannon between 3:15 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on January 27, heading to a friend’s home in their neighborhood. 

“I encourage you to think of any suspicious cars that may have been in the area watching a few days prior and keep praying for G,” Letecia said in the statement.  

Letecia also included a plea to Gannon to return home.

“To Gannon, please come home soon because your daddy is waiting to watch the new Sonic movie that comes out this week and the cool shirt I got you to wear to the theatre is in your closet, Letecia’s statement said. 

Letecia also addressed the blast of social media the case has received. “Social Media has been devastating from the harsh comments, speculations, threats, cyberbullying, etc. It has been a challenge when people are trying to run you off the road, waiting outside your hotel, threatening to kill you, etc.,” the statement said.

Letecia also offered a timeline of activities she did with Gannon, beginning January 25, and went on to say she has shared the timeline and cell phone photographs with police as well. 

“Saturday night, G was helping me unload in the garage and cut his foot because there are a lot of tools because Albert does woodworking,” the statement said. “He sat on the edge of the car and we bandaged it up. He was good to go.” 

Letecia went on to say that afterwards she noticed Gannon kept going to the side of the house to see if the gate was locked as he had the only key. 

Letecia claims she and Gannon hiked on January 26, and shopped together on January 27, the day he vanished. 

With mounting pressure from media and police, Letecia claims she hired an attorney because the questions detectives were asking her were making her feel uncomfortable and she felt her constitutional rights were being violated. 

“I took care of Gannon for the last two years, in our home, because his mother didn’t want to do it, and I would never, never, ever hurt this child,” Letecia told CBS 11. 

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(Surveillance video of the red truck Letecia Stauch was driving the day Gannon Stauch disappeared.) 

Neighbor’s Statement

Roderrick Drayton, a neighbor of the stepmom, said his surveillance video showed a female relative and Gannon get into a truck that Monday morning. When the woman returned about four hours later, only she got out of the truck and went inside, Drayton told the Denver Post. 

Letecia has contested Grayton’s statements, claiming Gannon did come home with her that day and states she has proof. 

“Please don’t think for a minute that there isn’t enough technology to determine shadows and movement around the truck. There was also proof from my phone that we had taken a selfie in the truck in our driveway that was time-stamped.,” Letecia wrote. 

Police have asked Letecia to keep quiet about other details of the case. 

No Abduction

In response to Letecia’s recent statement, Colorado police say they currently have no reason to believe the boy was abducted. 

“Right now, there is no threat to the community as far as this case goes,” El Paso County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Deborah Mynatt told People Magazine. “We don’t have those specifics to put out there [yet], and we haven’t done so. There’s reasons for that and we just can’t go into those details.” 

In response to concerns from the public, police have been very closed mouthed about the case. 

“We really want to stay on track and stay focused,” Sgt. Deborah Mynatt went on to say. “And I can understand the community’s concern with the lack of information being provided, but we hope that the community can trust that we’re doing that because we’re trying to ensure there’s no … potential of it being jeopardized.”

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(Albert Stauch and ex-wife Linden Hiott making one of several public pleas for the safe return of their missing son Gannon Stauch.)

A Mother’s Plea

Linden Hiott, who has been staying at the home of Albert Stauch has made several public pleas for her son’s safe return and remains active in the public eye. Linden, Albert and Gannon’s little sister made a heartbreaking plea that was posted on the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office YouTube page. 

“How would I describe my Gannon, my “G Man,” my hero. I love him so much,” Linden said in the video. “He’s full of life, he’s happy, he’s energetic, he loves sports, he loves Sonic, he loves going outside and playing with his friends, his sister, his neighbor, especially Braydon.”

Linden and Albert have been working cooperatively with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and says she is moved by the support she has received from the community. 

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(Linden Hiott, Albert Stauch and Laina Stauch make emotional plea for Gannon’s safe return posted on the sheriff’s YouTube page.)

“I don’t have answers for my feelings, other than I’m afraid,” Linden said. “I’m afraid that I’ll never hear his voice, that I’ll never hear him run and say, Mommy!”

At the end of the emotional four-minute video, Gannon’s little sister Laina said, “I love you brother.”

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Gannon Stauch, please call the El Paso Sheriff’s Office at 719-520-6666 or 719-390-5555. 

Into the Breeze: The Disappearance of Tiffany Daniels

Into the Breeze: The Disappearance of Tiffany Daniels

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(Tiffany Daniels disappeared August 12, 2013 from Pensacola, Florida.)

Tiffany Daniels, 25, mysteriously vanished on August 12, 2013, from Pensacola, Florida. She was last seen leaving Pensacola State College where she worked as a theater technician.

Pensacola is the westernmost city on the Florida Panhandle in Escambia County. From the pristine beaches and Bay area attractions to day trips and nightlife, Pensacola is a popular tourist destination. 

On August 11, Tiffany started her day with a goodbye breakfast with her boyfriend, who had just been accepted into the robotics program at the University of Texas in Austin. Though he encouraged her to come with him, she objected. She said she wanted to continue the relationship and was making plans to visit him in Austin, but she expressed she wasn’t ready to leave Pensacola yet.

After the breakfast, her roommate Gary Nichols recalls Tiffany was a little depressed, but it was mitigated with enthusiasm for a later visit to Austin, a place her friends thought she would easily adjust to if she did decide to move there. 

Gary Nichols, 54, was the father of one of Tiffany’s friends who was separating from his wife and wanted to live closer to his job. Tiffany had placed an ad on Craigslist looking for a roommate and Nichols thought it would help both and he agreed to rent the room. Though Tiffany’s parents were not particularly happy with her sharing her place with a man twice her age, they were happy she was with someone safe. They both shared similar interests such as bicycling and eating healthy and got along great according to Gary. 

The theater department had Tiffany scheduled to start working on set for an upcoming musical comedy called Spamalot. That evening Tiffany and Gary decided to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a film on which the musical she was working on was based. They both went to their bedrooms after the movie because they were both scheduled to work early the following morning. 

Between 3:00 – 5:00 a.m., Gary heard the front door open and close several times and peeked out but did not see Tiffany. Assuming Tiffany had just gone to work early, Gary went back to sleep.  

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(Tiffany Daniels took off work for several days prior to her disappearing on August 12, 2013.) 

The Disappearance

On August 12, Tiffany went to work at the beginning of her shift and began painting the sets. Later, she asked her supervisor if she could leave work early and take off a couple of days following not citing a reason just saying she had a couple things to do. The supervisor approved the time off and she clocked out at 4:43 p.m. as she left the theater. 

She returned home briefly after she left work. Her roommate was home but was distracted on the phone with his out-of-state girlfriend, and says he did not see her come in. 

That night, Gary became concerned and tried to call Tiffany when she had not returned by 10:00 p.m. Again, he tried to call her the following morning when she had not returned. That evening, he returned the house and found the electricity had been shut off. He assumed Tiffany had forgotten to pay the bill so he called his daughter Noel and asked her if she would contact Tiffany’s mother Cindy Daniels. 

Cindy and Noel began to contact every friend of Tiffany’s they could think of. None had seen her. By the end of the week, when Tiffany had not yet shown back up, they decided to call the police.

First, Cindy went to Escambia County Sheriff’s Office where they referred her to the Pensacola Police Department inside the jurisdiction of where Tiffany lives. Detective Daniel Harnett met Cindy at Tiffany’s home and searched it. He found no signs of foul play. Her family thought maybe she went camping but the police found her tent inside her room.

Hartnett investigated both Tiffany’s boyfriend and Gary Daniels and found they were not deceptive. 

“As law enforcement, we are going to investigate missing person cases as if they are a crime, said Detective Harnett. “The way we work this case it’s as if it’s a worst-case and we hope for the best.” 

Theories regarding Tiffany’s disappearance include foul play to accidental drowning. However, based on an anonymous tip and several possible sightings, the family believes she may have been a victim of human trafficking and may still be alive.

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(Tiffany Daniel’s was driving a Toyota 4 Runner (similar), that was found on August 20, 2013 at Park West in Pensacola.)

Car Is Found Abandoned

The case had been on the local news and family and friends distributed and posted fliers throughout Pensacola.

On August 20, a biker, who was a friend of the Daniels family, recognized Tiffany’s silver Toyota 4 Runner during her morning ride. It was parked at Park West in Pensacola Beach, near Fort Pickens, which is at the western end of Santa Rosa Island. 

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(Fort Pickens in Pensacola Florida where Tiffany Daniels vehicle was found abandoned.)

Tiffany had often hiked the sweeping dunes of Gulf Islands National Seashore, even though her mother warned her not to go hiking alone. 

Inside her vehicle, police found her bicycle, purse, cell phone, wallet, clothing, paintings, a jar of peanut butter and a jug of water. 

Police impounded the vehicle and towed it to the police garage for further examination and found two fingerprints, one on the door handle and the other on the steering wheel. These prints could not be matched to Tiffany.

A resident at a nearby condo said the vehicle had not been parked there until two days earlier, meaning it had parked there on August 18, six days after Tiffany’s disappearance. This lead could not be confirmed but two other residents told investigators they had seen a man getting out of the car earlier in the day on August 20.

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(Detectives investigating Tiffany Daniels disappearance review surveillance footage of Bob Sikes Bridge in Pensacola, Florida.) 

To try to determine a timeline of when the car was driven there, Detective Harnett examined security footage from the toll booths at the Bob Sikes Bridge, the only road connecting Pensacola and the island. The footage showed Tiffany’s car passed through at 7:51 p.m. on August 12, the evening she vanished. However, it could not be determined if she was the one driving the vehicle. 

Police also found sand on the bicycle tires, suggesting Tiffany may have gone for a bike ride that evening as the Perseid Meteor Shower was happening at the time. 

Hoping someone saw something, family and friends canvassed the area and surrounding residential complexes, but law enforcement received no new leads. KlaasKids,  a volunteer organization organized a search party and conducted a search of much of the island with canines finding some clothing and jewelry, but none was determined to be Tiffany’s. 

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(One of the most solid sightings came in from a waitress in Metairie, Louisiana.) 

Sightings

Rodney and Cindy Daniels, Tiffany’s parents, set up a Facebook Page “Help Find Tiffany” that has over 21,000 Likes. The site has generated numerous leads over the years and has been a source of constant support for her parents. 

One such sighting occurred in 2014, leading Tiffany’s family to Louisiana and down the winding road of human trafficking.  

A woman who worked at a restaurant as a waitress in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans, reported she had seen a woman that matched Tiffany’s description come inside the restaurant. She entered with two women who were possibly Latina, one older than the other. Each was nicely dressed. The waitress told investigators, the younger women had both acted oddly and would not look her in the eye, while the older woman did all the talking. Despite the warm weather, both young women had been wearing long-sleeved shirts, with the cuffs of the shirts pulled over their hands. When the waitress told the women that the Caucasian woman looked very similar to the missing woman that had been on the news, the older Latino asked for “to go” bags and the three left. 

When investigators talked to the waitress, she was adamant that the Caucasian woman looked just like Tiffany. Sadly, the surveillance from that day had been recorded over so the sighting could not be confirmed.

For two reasons, Tiffany’s family believe it was her that day. First, Tiffany would always put her sleeves over her hands when she was cold. Second, the waitress said she asked whether one of the soups on the menu used chicken or fish broth. Cindy recalled a time she was at a restaurant with Tiffany and she asked the same question, as Tiffany was pescatarian and avoided chicken products. 

This sighting prompted Tiffany’s parents to begin researching the horrors of human trafficking. They found traffickers prefer women in their late teens and fear Tiffany’s very trusting nature would have allowed her to fall for whatever ploy traffickers would have used to lure her. In addition, Interstate 10 which is a major trafficking corridor runs from Pensacola through Louisiana. 

Though Detective Harnett has found no evidence to substantiate this theory, he is not entirely ruling it out either. 

Another promising lead came in during 2018 and steered Rodney and Cindy into the world of the homeless. A mother and daughter in California contacted them and claimed they had watched an episode of Investigation Discovery and saw a woman who looked like Cindy living within a homeless community in California. 

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(Tiffany Daniels has tattoos of a seed growth progression from seedling to bloom on both her feet.) 

“I was in the area and assisted them with some of the searching and the person that they found was not Tiffany because she didn’t have the tattoos on her feet,” said Rodney. “However, it led me to have a firsthand look at homeless people and how they attempt to survive, and it really grabbed us by the heart. It absolutely did.” 

Though the family has not yet received the lead they need to find Tiffany, the Daniels did disclose that another witness had come forward regarding the day Tiffany vanished. They said they saw a man in his thirties wearing red shorts and no shirt opening the tailgate of Tiffany’s truck. A witness sighting that corroborated the other two witnesses that came forward early in the case. The man said he remembered this incident because the car had been parked facing oncoming traffic, in an area that was strictly reserved for wildlife. 

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(Friends of Tiffany Daniels describe her a bubbly and always making people laugh.)

Early Life

Tiffany was born March 11, 1988, in Dallas, Texas. Early in her life, her parents Cindy and Rodney moved to Pensacola where Tiffany would grow up, along with her two sisters.

Tiffany went to high school and took many extracurricular classes and would receive multiple scholarship offers. Tiffany attended both Pensacola State College and the University of West Florida. 

Tiffany became an exceptional artist and a skilled painter. She loved to dance and often held dance parties at her home. According to friends of Tiffany’s friends, she is fun-loving and free-spirited and would light up a room when she walked in.

Always wanting to adventure, Tiffany was drawn to picturesque places and people who shared her love for art. 

“Everybody loved Tiffany. Tiffany is a light and that the best way I can describe her,” Said her sister Candice. “When you are around her you just feel light, everything gets brighter, more colorful, more beautiful.” 

When she was not working Tiffany could be found biking, surfing, hiking or camping. Tiffany’s father described his daughter as a “butterfly girl” saying, “She would be talking or doing something and if a butterfly would come by, she would take off and follow it.”

Tiffany’s spontaneous nature would often lead to long bike rides or hiking just to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Often a loner, Tiffany loved to commune with nature, it was her way. 

Tiffany is an adventurous young woman who seemed to be achieving her dreams, but there was a dark side. Tiffany had financial troubles. 

In July 2013, her parents took notice. In the previous months, friends and roommates that Tiffany had found on Craigslist were moving in and out. Some had taken advantage of Tiffany’s kind nature and had not paid their shares of living expenses. “Most of the time she was too nice,” Cindy said. “Most of time she did want to ask for the rent, utilities when they were due. So, we found out she was paying for things upfront and later trying to collect money from the roommates later.” When she went missing, Tiffany was approximately two months behind on her utility bill.

Tiffany would often find herself broke which led to Gary, who was financially stable, moving in.

But things had changed before Tiffany’s disappearance; she was not her bubbly self and she had drifted away from friends. Police wondered if she might have left on her own or committed suicide because life had just become too much. However, her friends and family said suicide was not even a possibility that Tiffany would consider. 

Tiffany’s cell phone had been out of minutes for days prior to her disappearance, making her activities hard for police to track. 

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Cindy and Rodney Daniels continue their search for their missing daughter Tiffany Daniels.)

Moving Forward 

Police continue to search for Tiffany, and while the Daniels also continue to search for their daughter, they have also found themselves consumed with wanting to help others. When asked what’s next? “We do continue to work as advocates for families,” said Rodney. “When a search is going on, we stay with the family while the teams are out searching.” 

With a lifelong career in fire and emergency services, Rodney now speaks to law enforcement nationwide, educating them on the signs of human trafficking. 

As so many families of missing loved ones find themselves, they become experts in the field of missing persons. The Daniels have found that working with other families of missing children and adults gives them the strength to continue searching for their own child. To not only bring her home but to ward off the feeling of desperation and accompanying depression that can be all-consuming.

Tiffany’s parents face the ambiguity with courage and determination and have dedicated their lives to bring their Tiffany home no matter what the ending. “Every family with a missing person’s case needs closure because you fall into that gray area and you don’t know which is worse,” said Cindy. 

It is Cindy and Rodney’s hope that keeps them going while daily they wait for some word. “Until someone brings me a body or a piece of her body, I’m never going to give up that she’s alive and that she will come and show up at our door,” said Rodney. 

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Tiffany Daniels, please call the Pensacola Police Department at 850-435-1900. 

Summary: Tiffany Daniels, a free-spirited young woman, vanished from a beach in Pensacola, Florida. Tips would lead her parents into the underbelly of human trafficking. What happened to Tiffany Daniels?

Remains of 6-year-old Faye Swetlik found

Remains of 6-year-old Faye Swetlik found

Faye Swetlik disappeared on Monday from her parent’s front yard in Cayce, South Carolina. Her remains were found on Thursday, along with another unidentified male.

The search for a six-year-old girl from South Carolina is over after police identified the remains of missing Faye Swetlik, who disappeared while she played in her family’s front yard. After viewing the coroner’s report, authorities have announced that they are treating Faye’s death as a homicide—no arrests have yet been made.

The Cayce Department of Public Safety’s director, Byron Snellgrove, told the media, “As this community has been working hard to find Faye and bring her home safely, we wanted to let you know as soon as possible. Snellgrove went on to say, “We also need to inform you that during the course of our investigation, a deceased male was located in the Churchill Heights neighborhood. That investigation has just begun.” It is unclear at this point whether or not the aforementioned deceased male is in any way related to Faye Swetlik’s missing persons case.

The investigation only began 5 days ago, when Faye disappeared from her family’s front yard shortly after returning home from school. Faye’s mother was home at the time of the disappearance. Friends and family were shocked to hear of Faye’s disappearance, and Ruth Collins, her grandmother, told the local television station WTVD, “I want my baby back. We gotta find her.”

Police have released images of two cars who were in the area where Faye’s remains were found, denoting that the drivers may have pertinent information.

An Amber Alert was never issued for Faye, because authorities had no reason to believe the girl had been kidnapped, as opposed to walking out of her yard of her own accord, or other circumstances. Investigators assigned to Faye’s missing person case have released photos of two vehicles who were in the area of the Churchill Heights neighborhood subdivision, denoting that the drivers may have crucial information about the case.

The case has garnered national media attention, with FBI officials going door to door to canvass the neighborhood in search of answers. On the day Faye’s remains were discovered in her neighborhood, Vice President Mike Pence was also in South Carolina, having stopped in the Midlands. When he addressed cadets at The Citadel in Charleston, he stated the following, “And as your Vice President, and as a father, let me say, we were deeply saddened to receive word this afternoon that the remains of Faye Swetlik, a six-year-old girl who went missing from her parents’ front yard, just three days ago, has been found.”  Pence went on to say that he’d spoken with the FBI’s Director, Christopher Wray, and the governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, to ensure them that the full arsenal of resources held by the federal government would be made available to investigators in pursuit of answers. “But I would just urge everyone in South Carolina, “ Pence said, “hug your kids today. And keep this little girl and her family and her community in your prayers.”

The case is not over for investigators and the Faye Swetlik hotline is still open for anyone with information that could be useful in the homicide investigation. Authorities are asking that anyone with information call (803) 205-4444.

Coronavirus: Citizen journalists disappearing following criticism of Chinese government

Coronavirus: Citizen journalists disappearing following criticism of Chinese government

Chen Qiushi is a Wuhan-based lawyer who has been regularly covering the coronavirus outbreak in China, regularly criticizing the governemtn for their handling of the pandemic. He is now missing.

The coronavirus has reportedly killed more than 1000 Chinese residents since the outbreak of a new coronavirus, restricting travel and forcing the quarantines. The Chinese government is under immense pressure to solve the crisis, and scientists are racing to find a way to contain the unnamed virus before it has global repercussions. In another disturbing, yet not altogether surprising, turn of events, persons who have been critical of the government’s handling of the virus outbreak are starting to disappear.

Many Chinese residents have taken to social media to document how the virus is effecting their communities and how those communities are effected by the government. Chen Qiushi is one of those citizens, a lawyer who has been at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan. He started posting about the virus on January 25 after the Chinese government locked the city down in order to contain the virus. Chen Qiushi’s remarks regarding the government and its handling of the outbreak have been—in a word—critical, citing lack of medical supplies, crowded hospitals, and accusing the Chinese government of incompetence and suppressing freedom of speech in discourse regarding the pandemic.

Chen Qiushi’s latest update was last Thursday, February 6, and no one has heard from him since. In a recent tweet, Chen’s friend Xu Xiaodong, stated that Chen has been “taken away to quarantine by force.” He went on to say that Chen has not had access to his personal cell phone. This is interesting, because Chen’s Twitter account still appears to be active despite his disappearance.  In a statement released by the Human Rights Watch, they stated that friends and family have applied for an audience to speak with Chen, but their queries have not been returned.

Another Chinese “citizen journalist” has also gone missing, just days after the disappearance of Chen Qiushi. Fang Bin, a Wuhan-based businessman, has also been documenting the devastation in his community via social media. He had reportedly dared the Chinese government to come seize him for his comments regarding their handling of the virus on the same day that he posted a 12-second video of a paper that read “resist all citizens, hand the power of the government back to the people.” Authorities used the fire brigade to break down his door and arrest him. 

In China, government focus appears to be split between containing the spread of the virus, and controlling the narrative surrounding the containment. Yaqui Wang, a Cinhese researcher for Human Rights Watch, commented on the government’s repeated pattern of censoring or controlling narratives that concern disasters or pandemics, “authorities are as equally, if not more, concerned with silencing criticism as with containing the spread of the coronavirus.”

American watchdog organizations and lawmakers have called for the Chinese government to account for Chen Qiushi’s and Fang Bin’s whereabouts. Steven Butler, the program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists stated, “Authorities in Wuhan must disclose whether they are holding journalist Chen Qiushi. If they are, then he should be released immediately. China does not seem to have learned the clear lesson that bottling up the truth about a spreading illness will only make matters worse.”