Hello, everyone!!! How was September? Good for you? Bad for you? Somewhere in between? Mine? It went so fast. Since the last time you got one of these, I was in Orlando where I played horribly in the first round of a disc golf tournament there. So, I dropped out. But before you call me a quitter, there were extenuating circumstances—Hurricane Dorian. I had to drive to Pennsylvania and the hurricane was going to be in my way if I played all 4 rounds in Orlando. So, I dropped out, drove back to Clearwater, packed up all my stuff, and got out of town. I made it to South Carolina before I pulled over to sleep. Meaning, I got out in front of the hurricane.
Why did I go to PA? Well, I went there so I could go to Canada with my dad, my best friend Doug, and his son. We were at Rice Lake from Sept. 7th to Sept. 13th. We had a great time. However, the fishing was horrible. Really bad. But we made the best of it.
Then, we came back. I drove back to FL on Sept. 15th. Then on Sept. 27th, one of my closest friends—someone who is very special to me—came to town. She and I had a great time. Some seafood. Miniature golf. We watched the last Mission Impossible movie. We shot some guns. Went to the beach. Real good time. And she left on Sept. 30th.
And now, everything is kind of back to normal–me by myself getting Unfound work done.
Speaking of work, let’s get right to it.
Oct. 11th: Joel Akridge
Others in the works: Robert Helphrey, Bradley Allen, Jake Latiolais, Jael Hamblen, Lucero Sarabia, and Elijah Diaz.
EVERYTHING TOM BROWN
I would be hard pressed to find the last time we had a newsletter without Tom Brown news. There are things constantly going on in this case. And if it’s not involving the actual investigation, then the news concerns those people who have been involved since day 1 that Tom disappeared.
First, the recording. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll run it down very quickly. In August, Penny and her family were called to a meeting where the decision was made to not actively continue the investigation into Tom’s death (many would say, “murder”). The reason? All leads have been pursued and nothing the investigators discovered leads them to believe Tom was murdered. In fact, law enforcement attempted to make the argument that Tom committed suicide, even though there is no proof of that.
Well, if that all wasn’t bad enough, approximately a week later, word got out that someone recorded the meeting—audio, no video. And that audio got into the hands of the editor of The Canadian Record. Next, she transcribed the recording and wrote a story on it, not revealing who gave her the recording.
(As of the writing of this newsletter, Oct. 3, 2019, the person who recorded the meeting has not been identified.)
As you would expect, many people were outraged. And others, well, they weren’t so outraged. I even wrote a post in the Unfound Podcast Discussion Group detailing why I wouldn’t have had anything to do with the recording if someone brought it to me. You can read the reasoning in the Group.
The story in the Record started off fireworks that are still going off. And the editor of the Record has still not made the recording available to the public, DESPITE her writing a story about the recording. Why? Well, I believe she won’t release the recording because she doesn’t want its owner revealed. For the record (excuse the pun), the editor of The Record DID NOT make the recording. She was not there and neither were any of her reporters.
Of course, there are many rumors as to who made the recording. Sheriff Lewis—because he was there. Phil Klein—because he was there. Penny herself—because she was there. Whatever the case, the public doesn’t know who made the recording.
If that wasn’t enough, and this is part two, Sheriff Lewis announced in mid-September that he will not seek re-election. I gotta admit: I was very surprised. My read into what has gone on in Hemphill County led me to believe he could easily get re-elected despite the Tom Brown case. Yet, approximately two weeks ago, Lewis said he won’t be running again. However, he will continue to be Sheriff until his term runs out next year. One of his deputies seems to be in prime position to take Lewis’ spot.
Sheriff Lewis wrote a post for The Record in which he explained his decision to step down. If you haven’t read it, it’s about what you’d expect. However, for those of us “in the know”, we knew there was an issue he couldn’t talk about in his public statement. And that takes us to part 3.
A week ago, the story finally broke into the public. This is something I’ve known for a while but could not speak about publicly because it was told to me in confidence. What is it? The allegation is that back in November 2018, Sheriff Lewis threatened a juvenile probation officer with a gun. Yes, really. Once again . . . ALLEGATION, everything is still being investigated. Why it’s taken this long? I don’t know.
Yet, you should know. According to my reliable source, the gun was not real—it was a fake. However, in the eyes of the law, that doesn’t matter—a threat of force is a threat of force.
The big question: Did it happen? Well, I guess that depends on where you fall on the “Tom Brown Spectrum”. People who believe Lewis is involved in his disappearance, think Lewis threatened the officer. People who believe Lewis is the best cop ever, think Lewis didn’t do it and the female probation officer is just cooking up something to make Lewis look bad.
What do I believe? Well, I think all of you know where I fall on that spectrum. However, I don’t base my belief on the Tom Brown case. My faith in the allegation relies on what I have had police officers who know Lewis tell me about him. Based on that, I do believe Lewis threatened the probation officer.
The question: Why? Once again, according to my source who has been very reliable, the issue had to do with some high school boys who got caught with nude pics of female students on their phones—teenagers, by the way. Well, some of these boys were on the football team and got suspended. Lewis didn’t like it because he thought the football team would suffer for the transgression of a select few. And he tried to convince the probation officer to not pursue the case anymore—that the boys, at least, should be allowed to play in Canadian’s next playoff game.
In the end, the players were suspended and did not play.
That’s all I’m going to say at this point regarding it. I could continue but what I would have to say next would be too provocative for this newsletter. I’ll leave you to ponder all this for yourselves. What you need to understand, though, is I believe the allegations. However, I have no proof they are true.
A few weeks ago, remains were found on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. News quickly got out that the bones found could be those of Austin Pevo, a missing young man Unfound covered this past summer. The articles written about this state the remains were found in a remote area of the reservation. The DNA is now being tested as I write this newsletter.
I’ve had a chance to talk to Susan, Austin’s mother, about all of this and she is keeping me updated. This is a very difficult time for her, as I’m sure you can imagine. She hopes she is going to get the answers she deserves. However, at the same time, Susan hopes the remains aren’t Austin’s. So tough.
What do I make of this?
My thought go directly back to the people who gave problems to Austin the day before he disappeared. The guy who pulled the knife on him. The other guy who was an accomplice. And the woman who allegedly broke the confrontation up.
That Austin’s remains were found on Indian territory tells me we only have two choices: 1. He committed suicide. 2. Somebody on the reservation killed him.
I lean toward murder at this time. Yet, we could get into a situation like Tom Brown’s—remains found but no cause of death can be determined. I hope that’s not the case—that would be the worst of all outcomes.
Please keep your eyes on the Unfound Podcast Discussion Group and Unfound Podcast Page for the latest developments.
THE 3rd ANNIVERSARY EPISODE
It aired the first Friday of September, the day before I went to Canada. Nobody is more surprised Unfound made it to through three years than I am. NOBODY.
Why? Well, I wouldn’t exactly say Unfound burst out of the gate in September 2016. The program got some terrible reviews early on. Really bad. Especially on iTunes—they may still be there.
I had audio issues. I had problems finding guests. I wasn’t getting a lot of good feedback on what I needed to do to improve. I felt like I was just podcasting “into the abyss”, as it were.
But, if there has ever been program that can be a good lesson on perseverance, Unfound is it. I kinda just ground it out for like the first year. I’m serious—a year of not knowing if I would make it to the next Friday.
Yet, lots of positive stuff started happening. The Discussion Group. The downloads started going up. The reviews got better. Emily, my assistant, came on board. More guests started coming to the program, instead of us having to look for them. Got a new logo.
And before I knew it, I thought, “Hey, I might be doing this for a while.” Still . . .3 years . . . I didn’t think we’d make it this far. But the time has gone quickly.
What are my recommendations to others who would like to start a podcast that makes it to three years old? Hmmmmm.
–You must do a program that is representative of YOU. Don’t produce one that goes with fads or anything else.
–You must do a GOOD program. What does that mean? When people listen, they must feel they are listening to a professional who takes the topic seriously.
–You must possess solid ideals on morality, ethics, and legality. And never do anything for sensationalism.
Also, as a part of that episode, I re-aired my interview with Mary Lyall and that gave me the chance to write a Patreon blog on Suzy’s disappearance. I came to the conclusion, for the most part, that there are still no better persons of interest than her boyfriend and his father. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be someone else involved. What it means is there is still nothing in the facts that could lead in any other direction.
THE UPDATE EPISODE
The Update Episodes have quickly become a very special part of the Unfound experience. I’m not sure there is another podcast out there that periodically fills its audience in on what’s happened in previous cases it’s covered. I gotta tell you: I’m not sure why more programs don’t do that. Because Unfound’s listeners love it, and these people surely listen to other podcasts that could do update episodes as well.
When I started Unfound, if the podcast went long enough, my plan was to do update episodes once in a while. But I’m not sure I could’ve ever anticipated how much the listeners would look forward to them. In fact, after every single one, including the most recent episode, listeners immediately ask: When will the next one come out? THAT is crazy.
Having said all that, and I realize the listeners love the actual updates, the part that seems to get the most comments is when I read off all the names. That was something I included almost as an afterthought in the first update episode which came out in the summer of 2018. Frankly, I felt bad that not every case Unfound covered was included in the episode. So, I came up with the idea to read every name as if we were doing a memorial, much like when names are read off on 9/11, something like that. And the response has been overwhelming.
I’m just happy everybody can be included every time, even if many cases don’t have updates. When is the next one? December.
KEEP THESE PEOPLE IN YOUR PRAYERS
Stormy Dorsey—sister of missing person, Brandon Williams, and former guest. She was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy in Utah.
Marianne Asher-Chapman—mother of missing person, Angie Yarnell, and former guest. Her husband has been put into hospice.
Kadie Lancaster—sister in law of missing person, Megan Lancaster, and former guest. Her son has been hospitalized with seizures.
Glorida Denton—mother of missing person, April Pitzer, and former guest. She recently lost her mother.
Janice Norwood—mother of missing child, Kimberly Norwood, and former guest. Her husband, Kimberly’s father, recently passed away.
If I am missing anyone else in the Unfound family who is hurting right now, please let me know.
I thought I would include this in this newsletter because I was recently asked during the YouTube Live Show about this seemingly perplexing case. I will not be going through all the details, so you’ll have to look them up for yourself. But I think this case is a great way to hone a person’s discerning eye when examining missing persons cases.
On the surface, at least at the time, Tara’s disappearance was not unique. She was riding her bike, as she often did. And she never returned. There was speculation that Tara got hit by a truck and the driver covered it up. There was the theory that some local young men attacked and killed her. But no proof of these or any other scenario. Tara disappeared in New Mexico, by the way.
Then, a picture popped up. A young woman taped and bound in the back of a van. With a boy, in a similar situation, beside her. Once again, please look up this case to see the particulars.
Well, the picture was found in a parking lot in Florida. NOT New Mexico, but Florida—roughly 2000 miles away. And many people, even to this day, believe the young woman in the picture is Tara. And the boy was believed to be Michael Henley, who also disappeared from NM around the same time as Tara.
Local law enforcement. State law enforcement. The FBI. They’ve all looked at the picture. And to this day, in 2019, no definitive conclusion has been reached. Is it Tara? Is it Michael? Or not?
My opinion? The young woman is not Tara. And the boy is not Michael Henley. Why?
Well first, it might help to know that Michael Henley’s remains were found in NM in 1990, roughly two years after he disappeared. Just a few miles from where his father had set up camp. Cause of death? Hypothermia. This is relevant because the film that the picture was taken on, came out AFTER May 1989. Why does that matter?
Well, to put it in a timeline, Michael disappears in 1988. Meaning, IF he was abducted, somebody kept him alive for many months—I guess in the back of the van, bought the film in June of 1989, took the picture, then murdered Michael and placed his remains back near the campsite in NM. This killer then drove to FL and left the picture where it was found. Or maybe the killer drove with Tara and Michael to FL, then killed Michael after.
Of course, there could be small variations in that scenario . . .
The whole thing seems overtly, overtly complicated, doesn’t it? And I reject those types of scenarios because what I think we know about disappearances is, when they are eventually solved, how and why they happened is fairly straight forward. Very rarely are we truly surprised at where the remains were found and who actually is responsible.
This is what I default to in virtually all of Unfound’s cases. This is the reason my blogs I write on Patreon are what they are. This is also the reason, for example, in the Maura Murray disappearance that I continue to say she ran off into the woods and died.
Well, taking it back to Tara herself, if we then reject the idea that Michael is in the picture, then we must reject the idea that Tara is in the picture. Because if we surmise that it’s too complicated for a picture with Michael in it to be in a parking lot in FL, then it must be too complicated for a picture with Tara to be there too.
Some other points. And this is also how closely we must examine facts. There is no proof either the young woman or the boy are “bound” in the picture. Yes, their mouths are taped over. However, their hands cannot be seen. People are INFERRING the two are bound.
Also, just because a white Toyota van was in the parking spot previous to where the picture was found, doesn’t mean the driver was the one who left the picture there. The picture could’ve been there for hours. And Toyota vans were quite common, even in 1988.
The book in the picture? A lot has been made of how that was one of Tara’s favorite books. Well, how many were published? And if Tara liked that book, is it not reasonable that MANY teenage girls liked that book? And, to go even further, is it not possible that the scammer knew about Tara’s love of that book and put it in the picture for that very reason? I think that makes a lot of sense. And I can’t ignore how “perfectly” the book is set up in the picture—the photographer WANTED the public to see it. In fact, you could say, the person wanted the public to see it . . . a little too much.
I should say . . . when I answered this question this previous Wednesday, I pointed out how many of Unfound’s guests are targets of scammers. At least 75%. At least. Way more than the public realizes. And these scammers are so good, so realistic, so convincing.
So, couldn’t a scammer in 1989 have done this? Absolutely. Most probably.
But what also sticks out to me concerning the picture, and I don’t think this has been mentioned anywhere, are the skin tones of the boy and the young woman. They have tans. Would two people who were caged up for a year before that picture was taken have tans? Of course not.
Look at the girl’s right arm. Tanned. Look at how the skin color changes between her upper leg and her buttock region. Tan. Look at the boy’s face. Tanned.
And to complete this section, IF this is Tara and Michael, and IF they were bound up, what would’ve stopped them from working on each other’s hands and mouth while the van was going down the highway? They would lie back to back until they undid each other’s bindings. Then release the door as soon as the van stopped and ran for their lives.
So, what do I think this is then? I think a family was on a road trip. They knew about Tara and Michael’s disappearances from the news coverage back at the time. One of them got some distorted idea for a joke. They taped their children’s mouths shut, took the picture, and left it in the parking lot.
Horrible. Disgusting. Sad. But most likely true. But what all of you should remember is there are thousands of scammers out there and they arere very good at their “jobs”.
I’ve talked about this recently. Yes, I am thinking about getting my PI license. Why?
Well, yes, I suppose it’s true that getting the license may help me get my hands on more information than I currently can. Maybe. However, between myself and Emily, we have access to quite a bit. And only rarely have we failed to locate someone we were trying to find.
And I can’t say I’m looking to get into the “PI business”. I already have a career—and that’s being a missing persons reporter. That’s who I am. That’s what I do.
So then, why would I do it? Uh, for the simple fact that I believe the PI community needs more good people in it, even if those people aren’t active investigators who are working on cases all the time. As the public, I’m not sure you can appreciate how many stories I’ve been told about fraudulent private investigators. People who just take the money and don’t do anything. The Jonathan Estes case is one where a crooked PI was involved.
Furthermore, I’m going to quote what one of my law enforcement confidants has said about PI’s: They are media whores. Yes, really. What does that mean? That means that the most dangerous place on earth is the area between some PI’s and a microphone or camera. They love to get attention. They love to be seen as controlling the information. They love to get their props.
Whereas, my opinion? PI’s should be like children: seen but not heard, and only speak when spoken to.
I’ve been talking to my assistants about it. I’ve talked to some friends about it. I’ve talked to Caroline Lowe who now has her PI’s license in California—she is one of the few I respect. They are all very supportive of me going through the process.
What is the process? I have to admit: That’s part of the problem. It involves tests, internships, and classes—for FL anyway. And whatever those things are, I’m the opposite. I see those words and start to shrink away. My days of tests and classes and internships are over. I really meant that. Well, I think mean that.
Whatever happens, all of you will be the first to know.