Friday, October 30, 2009

Serial

Sheriff James Bowen’s voice carried a hint of reluctance as he discussed the circumstances behind Jennifer Marie Hammond’s disappearance in August 2003. The doe-eyed 18-year-old from a suburban enclave near Denver was selling magazine subscriptions at the Creek and Pines trailer park in Milton when she vanished.

No one from her company had thought much of it. She had wandered off before, so here disappearance, while peculiar, wasn’t particularly unexpected. But when she didn’t gather her belongings from an Albany-area lodge and never used a bus ticket she had purchased to go back to Colorado, someone thought to report her missing –in November and more than three months after she had last been seen.

Jennifer’s name never made it to the media. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t the type of girl to carry news headline. She wasn’t from the area and didn’t have any forthcoming local connections. She was too old to create the fervor caused by a disappearing child, and she had many of the trademarks that would link her with the so-called counter culture; not the type of characteristics that resonate well with the white-bred 40-something demographic that tunes into the nightly newscast to get their fill of water cooler talking points.

Jennifer didn’t fit the bill, so deputies from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department turned her disappearance into a missing persons’ handout. They stapled a few copies around the hill towns of Saratoga County and did what sheriff’s deputies do best: They waited.

Sure enough, they got a lead. Granted, that lead came six years later and in the form of the woman’s skull and three teeth, but a lead nonetheless.

“Everyone wants to know where their loved one is that is missing, you always look every day for that person to contact you or turn up,” Bowen told a gaggle of reporters and cameramen gathered at the county courthouse Thursday. “If we can put a little closure even though it’s a sad closure, at least it’ll give closure to the family knowing where that person is.”

But closure wasn’t what was gnawing on Bowen’s conscience Thursday. In fact, closure was about the last thing on his mind. Instead, it was another case that came to the forefront –one that is anything but closed.

Christina White’s skeletal remains were found in March 2006, more than eight months after she vanished into the night. She had an argument with a family member on the eve of her disappearance and was last seen walking along Rock City Road, just a short distance from her home in the trailer park called Saratoga Village. Some say she left her home after having an argument with a family member. She vanished just five days before her 20th birthday.

“We’re following all the leads. It’s going slowly,” Bowen told the Times Union in 2006.

Slowly indeed. Nearly four years later, Bowen’s crack team of investigators doesn’t seem any closer to solving Christina’s murder than they did when a hunter stumbled upon her bones in Greenfield’s Daketown Forest.

Wait. Let’s stop there for a second. Is anyone noticing a few similarities between these cases? Some reporters certainly are. Christina disappeared from a trailer park in Milton and her skeletal remains were found in a remote area about six miles away from where she was last seen. Jennifer disappeared from a trailer park only a mile away from Saratoga Village and was found in a remote location about four miles away from where Christina’s remains were discovered.

Both girls were petite. Christina was 5-foot-3 and weighed about 98 pounds, while Jennifer was described as 5-foot-2 and weighing 110 pounds. Both had child-like features for their age –Jennifer’s bone structure was small enough that investigators initially believed her skull to be that of a 10- to 12-year-old child.

Christina and Jennifer were the type of girls who could disappear for spells without drawing alarm. Christina was described as bi-polar and someone who would frequently vanish into the woods on long walks; Jennifer, described as a sort of free-wheeling hippie who went by the moniker “moonbeam” and with peace symbol tattooed to her hip.

They vanished in the dead of summer and in the less-traveled areas in the county; places where you can stand on the road without seeing a car for long spells. Jennifer disappeared in August 2003. Christina disappeared 22 months later. Both missing persons reports were handled by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department and both women reappeared in bone form. Neither skeleton was complete.

These similarities may not sound identical, but they’re close enough to draw suspicion at the very least; maybe even alarm. Lightning seldom strikes the same spot twice. And when it does, there’s a good chance those two bolts were more than just a coincidence.

Bowen refused to say it Thursday, but it was certainly on the minds of more than one person: These cases could be serial by nature. New York’s longest tenured lawman ought to keep this in mind as he contemplates how long he can let this investigation drag on without answers, ’cause he’s gonna have a lot of nervous residents on his hands if he lets this case plug along like usual.

12 Comments:

Blogger Bologna Bob said...

the christina white case is concerning. once the murder was reported, i dont think i ever heard anything about that case again until yesterday.

isnt it pretty obvious that the sheriff's arent competent enough to handle a murder investigation? they just let this murder fade away and hoped everybody would just forget.

i believe its time for bowen to go. the man has been in his post for too long. his employees have been in the headlines for everything besides good police work. the first thing i thought when i heard this story on the news was that we have a serial killer on our hands. well, here we are, and i cant say im all that comfortable knowing we have a sheriffs office full of baffoons trying to solve this.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Even as a life long Republican, I cannot pull the lever for him for Sheriff. Just as hearing that Kim will appoint Peter Tulin as his deputy mayor has me now voting for Johnson

11:14 AM  
Blogger Ben lives on said...

Thank you Ho for writing this. Sometimes in the petty world of small town politics we forgot about the real struggle for life that goes on 24/7 all around use but that no one ever wants to see.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bowen refused to say it Thursday"

He didn't refuse, he just didn't think of it.

It would require add 1+1. Well above this hack's intellegence range.

Please get off your butts and vote to retire this moron already.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many others in the area have vanished, and just labeled as a missing person?

There seems to be quite a few unsolved disappearances and murders of women in this area in the last decade or so...

3:02 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

1:00,

I've been saying that for years. I'm not a big fan of the sheriff's department he's built, and kind of wish the state troopers handled their detail.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it isn't a DWI arrest the sheriff's department has no interest in it. My shop has been robbed twice and you are lucky to get the deputy to get out of the car when taking the report. Solving a homicide??? Unlikely unless the killer gets pulled over with a body in the front seat during a DWI checkpoint.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous PlanetAlbany said...

Where is the FBI? Or at least the state BCI? I've seen a mailing from Bowen, but don't even know who's running against him. You voting, Horatio? Guide your people, willya.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Bologna Bob,

I've waged a virtual campaign to find Christina's killer for nearly three years now. I used to post on the anniversary of the day she was found, but the posts weren't really having the effect that I thought they would and I started to feel like I was preaching to the choir. This recent discovery has reinvigorated my effort. I won't stop this time.

On a side note, I find it incredible how certain missing persons cases (no names mentioned, but I'm sure you can figure them out)get front-and-center attention in the news, yet girls like Jennifer and Christina get shuffled aside after the initial discovery. The one exception is the Times Union, which has remained somewhat devoted to keeping Christina's memory alive. They also had a great article today, more or less laying out what I have in this post. Only their paper reaches 80,000 people a day, to my 400 or so. Kudos is deserved.

8:44,

So true. The sheriff's department is only as good as it's road patrol, which are uber-cops that will fill up a ticket book for you if you give them half a chance. I'm amazed these keystone cops aren't relegated to what they're good at, which is watching the jail and transporting prisoners. If I were leading the county, I'd tell Bowen or any sheriff for that matter, that they're getting de-funded unless they solve one or both of these murders.

Planet,

I'm hoping the state police will head up this investigation, but it's really the sheriff's case. That is, unless the FBI decides to get involved. I doubt they would unless the case is linked to others that are out of state, so it's all on Bowen's shoulders.

I can tell you one thing, I never have and never will vote for that man. I don't like his cops, I don't like the fact that he grows the department like a cancer on the face of Saratoga County and I don't like the fact that he NEVER talks publicly unless he absolutely must(as was the case Thursday).

I haven't decided whether I'll pull the lever for Jason Longton. I kind of like his story. But I certainly won't get anywhere near a lever that would put Bowen back in office for another four years. And I'd advise any other voters the same.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rick worth for sheriff

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HO
Too bad you started another posting after this one. Traditionally, only the top posting gets responses.

But I agree TOTALLY with you. The similarities in these two cases cannot be underestimated.

Mark your calendar for a post-election re-visit to this story.

Great job.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Watching this town stepping into the abyss said...

Erin Dreyer for Sheriff

12:52 PM  

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