FindCarrie - AGH - Missing & Murdered Person Blog

Information on missing and murdered people and the issues surrounding their cases. ***No material on this site is to be redistributed or rewritten - Copyright Find Carrie Culberson***

Monday, July 24, 2006

Midwestern Coalition For the Missing & Murdered

Just a few weeks ago, Patti Bishop had mentioned to me a meeting that was going to be held in Indiana where several mothers were going to support another family of a missing woman, Niqui McCown who vanished on July 22, 2001. With Carrie’s 10 year anniversary date approaching, I just didn’t know if I felt up to going, but Patti’s encouragement changed my mind there at the last minute. (Pictured left back left - Spartanburg Police Detectives, Front Left, psychic detective "Kelly" and mother of missing daughter Becky Marzo - Karren Kraemer)

I met Patti Bishop several years back on Court TV just as I’ve met others who have missing loved ones. Patti’s step daughter, Karen Jo Smith vanished under the same circumstances as Carrie. They just as the Culberson’s were able to get a conviction without the body. They just like us are not satisfied because that last piece of the puzzle is missing and they’ve been cheated of the grieving process due to the lack of the remains.

Total strangers, but only speaking on the telephone a few times, I met Patti Bishop and we all rode back to the hotel where all the others were gathering. Most of us had never met before, but what is so odd, is how we all can just pick up and start talking to one another with no problem at all. We all have a common goal and some of us have a deeper connection – that being the loss of a child. (Pictured left - detectives, family members, advocates, and others gather before dinner @ Niqui McCown's rememberance dinner)

I was amazed at the gracious law enforcement officials who traveled all the way from South Carolina to support one family who has a son who was murdered with three others in a motorcycle shop. Coming out of their own realm to sit down and talk to us and work with us on our issues and concerns. They were not the only ones, others in attendance were a District Attorney, the Mayor in the town where Karen Jo Smith’s killer was convicted, and so many others who have decided that this is unacceptable, and we have to put a stop to violence and by showing up to an event like this is a step in the direction to helping stop these things.

Some of the others occupants of the hotel I observed were watching our group either in thinking we were weirdoes or they were genuinely interested in what we were doing. This all goes back to the conversation that a very dear friend and mentor of mine told me one time when I was upset about a comment someone had made to me about my work with the missing. He says, “Jill, you know something…. Our group is not the same as the average Joe and why should we be? People are either going to get it, or they won’t. With this, there’ll be no grey area”. And that is so very true. So, when one of the families of the missing or murdered say to me, my friends I used to have won’t talk to me anymore, they don’t know how to handle me. I say to them, how can they understand? They’ll either try or they won’t. (pictured top left - Debra Culberson, Me "FindCarrie" and Patti Bishop - stepmom of Missing - Karen Jo Smith)

We never know what can happen in life and what will come our way. As the minister told us in his prayer as he closed the service for Niqui. He said that just like with boxing, we may have been knocked down, but that does not mean we are out for good. We have an army and that army is so strong with positive reinforcement that I have no doubts with our hard work and the grace of God we will find these missing people and we will solve these murders. We are stronger than ever. Love to all my dear friends who came to Indiana this weekend, and that includes the four legged angels who walk beside us in search of those missing and lost loved ones. Not all of God’s angels are in heaven. (This is me with Jersey Joe, a blood hound with Advanced K9 who works in conjunction with Missing & Exploited Children who attended the special event for Niqui McCown Saturday night)

Additional Links

See All Photos From this Event HERE
Help Find Karen Jo Smith
Missing & Exploited Children
5 years later: Still hoping, praying Daughter of Niqui finds joy in celebration

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Louise Poe Has Been Found

Just today I opened my inbox and there was an email from Louise Poe's daughter Sheran that I've worked with for nearly six months now. She told me that her mom Louise Poe had been found. Another one of my cases had been closed. Another one solved and able to have some sort of understanding and closure.

Louise disappeared on Dec. 28, 2005 from her personal care home in Woodstock, GA. She was 79 years old and suffering from severe dementia. Louise Poe's case would take me back to Woodstock and working once again with the same police department who at the time was handling Sueann Ray's case. It seemed that there was an even more urgency to help find Louise Poe due the circumstances surrounding her condition. I knew time was not on our side. My group had been dispatched immediately with Sgt. Dan King with the Woodstock Police Dept. who was the lead investigator handling Sueann Ray's case, who at the time was still missing. Sgt. King has a special spot in his heart for those who are missing and has worked countless hours to locate them, although the last two did not have positive outcomes.

As days would turn into months, hope would begin to fade, but our thoughts and ideas never stopped. We had a family searching for answers and needed to find Louise. Her face and name will be one that I'll never forget.

Apparently Louise Poe had wandered away from her personal care home on several occasions and was not the easiest person to care for. The last time she climbed out the window of her room and vanished forever. Later a nursing home employee was arrested for failure to check on the alarm that sounded once Louise opened the window and escaped. She was charged with a misdemeanor and fired from her job. It is unclear if Louise's family will sue the nursing home for negligence.

Search dogs and searchers on foot canvased the area, but to no avail, were unable to locate her. Once Louise was discovered on Monday, July 18, 2006 by land suveyors, it was almost unbelievable how she could have been missed but it happened. It proves that dogs and other search tactics are not always fool proof. Sometimes they fail.

Her daughter tells me that GBI identified Louise by dental records and once the body is released that her remains will be given a burial in her home town of Anniston Alabama. This will be a difficult time for her family. Our group had offered to do a six month vigil just weeks ago for Louise but her family declined saying it was just too difficult at this time and little did we know that less than two weeks later, her body would be discovered in some woods nearby.

Tonight I know that Louise is not out there in the elements waiting for us to find her. I know that she's resting peacefully and knows that her family can rest better knowing her fate, although this is painful. Now some sort of healing can begin for them. I will always remember Louise Poe. As each of these cases slowly start to come to a close, in the back of my mind, I wonder, when will it be Carrie's turn to be found? Friday afternoon I board a flight to Indiana to join th Midwestern Missing Person Coalition. As with all the trips and events that I attend, each of them are to to help educate others about missing people and keep Carrie's memory alive. We are nearing ten years, but we are not about to give up. With each of these cases being solved, it gives me hope deep inside that one day hopefully soon, we'll have her back. My heart will never rest until that happens. God bless each family and loved one out there tonight who continues to hurt and wonder where somebody they love is. May God have mercy on them and give you strength to make it until he's ready to reveal their whereabouts.

Previous Blog Entry
Prayer Vigil For Louise Poe

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Fate of Shannon Melendi Now Known

Shannon Melendi vanished from a soft-ball field in Dekalb County Georgia on March 26, 1994. The last person to have seen Shannon was Colvin "Butch" Hinton, a soft ball umpire at the ballfield where she worked part time. Hinton had a past that included sexual violence against several young women. This is something that Shannon Melendi had no knowledge of.
After Shannon's disappearance, massive searches followed, and authorities were interested in Hinton's information as well. He claimed he knew nothing of what happened to Shannon and only saw her working at the field that fateful day.
Mysteriously after Shannon vanished, Hinton's house would burn to the ground. This happened after FBI agents did a clean sweep of the residence with both agents and special trained dogs. To no avail, there was no sign of Shannon Melendi.
Colvin "Butch" Hinton was later sentenced to eight years for burning his house down for money and the disappearance of Shannon was begin to fade into a mystery only spoken about at various pubs in the Emory college town. Although the case seemed to have slowed down a lot in the community, Shannon's parents never forgot and the pain never died down.

Just as Hinton was released from his eight year stent, he was indicted for the murder of Shannon Melendi without her body, and the case began to heat back up all over again. Nearly ten years after Shannon's disappearance, an Atlanta jury found Colvin "Butch" Hinton GUILTY of kidnapping and murdering Shannon Melendi. Her body was still missing and he claimed he was INNOCENT.

Just today (July 17, 2006), Hinton told prison officials that he did indeed murder Shannon Melendi. He revealed that he kidnapped her at knifepoint from the ballfield that fateful day, took her to his home, where he raped her, then murdered her, from there he burned her body. At this time, authorities are about to begin a full scale search for her remains. There is no indication that Butch Hinton has ANY remorse for what he's done to Shannon Melendi. As our family sat here in shock as this news report came across the news tonight, we thought we'd have to be satisified alongside with Shannon's family with just a GUILTY verdict and no body. Because, Hinton, just like some others would force us to relive to hell each day by never revealing the body's location and that we'd always have to wonder. It's a sick sense of satisfaction that will be repaid by a greater entity whose wrath, I hear, is pretty bad. While I'm glad some parts of this have been revealed, I'm sad to think that the FBI and those dogs were not trained enough to find her because she was there.

Related Article:

Hinton admits to Melendi murder
Emory University student raped, killed in 1994

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 07/17/06

Colvin C. "Butch" Hinton III confessed to the murder of Shannon Melendi on Monday, admitting he raped and strangled the 19-year-old Emory University student in 1994 and then burned her body.
"I hate what I done," Hinton said in a meeting with authorities at Rogers State Prison in Reidsville Monday. "I know I'll never, ever be forgiven by most people. And I accept that. But I am so sorry. I've hurt so many people with the lies I've told."

Hinton spoke with law enforcement authorities and prison officials for more than two hours Monday. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter was allowed to attend the meeting.
Melendi was last seen March 26, 1994, working a part-time job at a softball complex where Hinton was an umpire.
Hinton said Monday that he gave Melendi a ride to Burger King to have lunch. Then tricked her into driving his car by faking a leg cramp.
Once she was behind the wheel, Hinton said he pulled a knife and forced her to drive to his home in Clayton County. He raped her and held her there for about 12 hours. He then strangled her with a necktie, he said.
He said he burned Melendi's body in his yard and scattered the ashes.
Hinton had never admitted killing Melendi. He was convicted of the murder in a DeKalb County court last September, even though investigators never found Melendi's body and prosecutors could not say when or where she was killed.
Hinton said Monday he had wanted to confess since seeing Melendi's family at his trial. But he held out some hope of freedom until the Georgia Supreme Court upheld his conviction last month.
Hinton long was a prime suspect in Melendi's disappearance, because of past sex offenses, but he wasn't indicted for her murder until 2004.
Melendi's disappearance sparked a high-profile search for information by her Miami-based family and by friends in Atlanta. They distributed posters and fliers. Shannon's photo wound up on billboards and on TV programs such as "America's Most Wanted."
Former President Jimmy Carter helped get the FBI involved. Melendi had worked part time at the Carter Center.
Hinton went to federal prison in 1996 for arson, and inmates who served time with him helped build the case against him in his trial for Melendi's murder. They claimed he talked to them about disposing of a body. One said Hinton awoke screaming one night and said, "I didn't kill her. The demon inside of me killed her."
Shortly after his conviction was upheld, Hinton contacted his defense lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, and asked her to set up the meeting held Monday with representatives of the DeKalb district attorney's office, DeKalb County Police and state prison officials

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Judge Dismisses Jury in Lunsford Murder Case

A year after Jessica Lunsford was found after being buried alive by a scriveled up sex offender, John Evander Couey, jury selection has finally began - or so we thought. Just today, the same judge who tossed out Couey's confession and his past brushes with sex offenses decided to hault jury selection because he feels like there cannot be any suitable jury seated for Couey.
I'm just so disgusted with our judicial system. We have to worry ourselves to death with have we violated somebody's rights and were they mistreated as a child, so maybe we should give them a second chance once they are about to be held accountable for the crime they've committed. We look up down, around and all around, backwards, forwards, through a crystal ball and as many ways as possible to see if we can let them off, but our victims are never given a second chance.
They are tried, convicted, and sentenced all in one night. Usually for a crime they didn't commit. Within days their names and what happened to them is nothing but a memory and the world just needs to sit down and shut up about it. There's a man who's life is on the line now and he needs to be given ever opportunity for a chance to do better. - PUUUUUUULEEEZE people. Who was there as the victim was begging and pleading? It's wrong and it's inhumaine to execute somebody. No, where you are wrong is when these people who are being made to stand accountable for their actions raped, strangled, beat, tortured, or whatever the case may be, did to the victim. When you choose to take an action against another individual like that, no matter what you may feel they've done to you, it's wrong.
I believe that the outcome of Couey is that once a jury is finally seated is that he will be finally found GUILTY murdering this child and he'll be given the death penalty. From there he'll probably sit in jail for another 25 years reading tv and reading magazines probably mailed to him from some weak minded woman he's met through some prison fan club and then he'll be put down. Hopefully when he blinks out of this world, he'll be finally resting in hell where he belongs. I have no special thoughts for those who violate and murder children. For those who have not heard those transcripts of this schriveled up bastard admitting to murdering Jessie, then maybe you should see them and then you might can agree with my harsh words and thoughts of this piece of crap.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stacey Lannert - A Victim or Not?

July 4, 1990, 18 year old Stacey Lannert shot her father, Tom Lannert to death as he slept on the couch. She claimed that she killed him because she'd had enough of the repeated sexual abuse that had began when she was only eight years old.
Stacey claimed that her mother, Deborah knew that the abuse was going on but was unable to stop it. A victim herself, Deborah Lannert, would later claim, she had no idea her daughter was being abused by Tom. Leaving many people to wonder how someone who was a victim of the same thing could not see the crime being committed on their own child? Perhaps the crime wasn't able to be seen because it was not happening?

Later Stacey's parents Tom and Deborah would divorce but Stacey remained with her father Tom who was supposidly abusing her time and time again. She'd remain with him until she turned 18 and killed him.

As someone who has great sympathy for those who have been victimized by sexual predators, I know that my personal thoughts on this case may not be welcomed by everyone and that's fine. I have some serious doubts about the truth of Stacey's case because of these facts below. While I recognize I've never been sexually assaulted by a family member and I do not know how I'd react, I do question this behavior and wonder why only after a life sentence was handed down did this dispute come into play.

  1. We know that Stacey Lannert went to at least one stranger previously and told them she was being sexually assaulted by her father as a youth. She'd later claim after her conviction that she never brought up the motive to kill her dad was because he'd raped her time and time again. She went on to say that she never brought this up because she did not trust any family member NOR stranger to talk to them about it before or during the trial - WHICH may have swayed the jury to lessen the sentence. If she'd gone to a stranger previously, couldn't she speak to the DA's office, attorney representing her, or other individual unrelated to the case about whey she murdered her dad as some sort of self defense? Or was it only after she was staring at a life sentence did she see this as a way to possibly get a good appeal?
  2. If you are being sexually abused by someone, and you are legally able to move from the household, why would you continue living there, putting yourself in harms way? Stacey was 18 years old not 13 or 14 when the crime occured.

I do not believe Stacey Lannert's story of being a victim. I have some trouble with the money that was taken from Tom Lannert's account that it's known Stacey took. If I had been sexually assaulted, the last thing I'd wanna do is anger the man who'd come after me even more. This story does not pass the smell test with me. I'm sorry if I have offended someone but in my opinion, this woman needs to remain behind bars because she is a cold blooded killer. If there was a rape occuring over and over again, it was time to move out, go to the police, have him arrested, make him pay, and stand up and help others. You can make a right decision out of something bad. I'm sorry but I have no sympathy for Stacey Lannert or her dad.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Missing Groom Mystery - One Year Later

It was one year ago today that George Smith IV fell overboard a cruise liner and was never seen nor heard from again. He was just a few days into his honeymoon. It was supposed to be a wonderful and happy time, but it ended up being far from what.
It's now a year later, and there seems to be more and more unanswered questions than the week following this tradegy.

Shortly after Smith's disappearance, the media began to speculate that his wife Jennifer may know more than she was revealing to authorities and to George's family. She'd obviously been traumatized by what happened on aboard the ship, but then came the interview on Oprah that raised even more eyebrows. While nobody believed Jennifer Hagel-Smith planned George's death, they believed there was obviously something she was just wasn't telling, and furthermore, why was Hagel-Smith estranged from the Smith family from early on in the investigation?

Late last week news reports were circulating that Jennifer Hagel-Smith had reportly settled with the cruise liner for an undisclosed amount of money regarding the disappearance of her husband, George. Hours later, in an interview on Nancy Grace, George's family fired back saying that they'd never been made aware of any settlement and were not settling with anyone and were not stopping until they found out what happened to George that fateful night. It all now seems as if George's wife is saddened by what happened, but now wants to cash in on the benefits of this mishap.
I have always wondered how anyone could be so intoxicated that they could not remember a single thing from the night before but yet pick themself up and head to the massage parlor the next morning, never noticing that their husband was MISSING? I also wondered if maybe there was maybe something that happened that was very embarassing that perhaps maybe should not be made known, and if it were made known it might possibly uncover what reallly happened to George Smith that night? Or is it another part of selfishness and the thought of what's done is done so I'll live with my mistake and this too shall pass? These are things that some of us may never know the answer to.

One has to wonder why she'd set up several things that take up funds and even a website that is in honor of her "beloved" husband but the title is "Hagel-Smith". I believe his name was George Smith and he is missing. I am beginning to wonder where the priorities of this person are right about now, and I think maybe the comments made by George's family on Nancy Grace were probably right on target about George's "beloved" wife.

I do hope justice is found George Smith because in my heart of hearts I doubt his body will ever be recovered for burial.

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