National Murder Victims Remembrance Day takes place on September 25. We mourn for all. And they know it.
Somehow from beyond the victims give us the motivation and determination to keep searching. We keep reading articles about their cases and we check the comments.
Who said what? Why? How do others respond to that? We scan these comments for clues, compare notes, search on social media, and complete timelines until a minute detail is unveiled.
Details like justice, have a tendency to hide. It is our job to be determined enough to find them. Missing pieces of information do show themselves even after many decades. No matter how well they hide we find them eventually. And when we do, we know that Lady Justice has determined that finally it is our turn to present our case.
I want to introduce you to four victims and their cases this National Murder Victims Remembrance Day. One is a missing woman. The other three are murder victims. Three of these cases are from the 80s and one is from 2006. All four are heartbreaking. Each case has unique issues. Each case has its challenges. What these four cases have in common is that after all these years, the surviving families still wait for answers.
We start in 1980 with a missing person case from Midland, Texas. Her name: Kristy Lynne Booth (Dec 26, 1960 – Feb 2, 1980)
On Feb 2, 1980, Kristy (19) was last seen inside the Dimensions Nightclub in Midland where she was spending the evening with friends.
According to police, Ron Ferrengburg (now deceased) gave Kristy and one of her girlfriends a ride to the club. I have not been able to find out exactly where he picked up the girls, whether they were picked up together, and how he is related to them both. From various websites, we do learn that he passed a polygraph test.
Here is what confuses me: did Ferrengburg drive the girls in Kristy’s car to the club or in his own? The Charley Project states that he dropped them off at the club, took Kristy’s car, and told the girls that he would be back around 11pm to drive them home. This implies that they arrived in his car. Ferrengburg told police that he did return to the club but that he could not find the girls. I cannot find anywhere whether Kristy’s girlfriend also disappeared. The girls arrived together and at the agreed upon pick up time, Ferrengburg could not find either one of them. Below you will find why it is likely that he drove Kristy’s car (mileage) but as he passed the polygraph, I am not certain he drove her car.
The Doe Network says that “Booth walked outside around 11 o’clock that night.” How do we know that this is true? Where was the other girl? Was Kristy wearing shoes at that time or not? Kristy’s shoes and coat were found inside the club. Because of the cold and icy weather that night, it isn’t likely that she would be outside for a long period without them.
More likely is that she took off her shoes to continue dancing after her feet started to hurt. According to the website Cold Case Investigations the shoes were found underneath the table where she was sitting with friends. Her coat was also found inside but it isn’t reported anywhere if her coat was found in the club’s wardrobe or, near the table with the shoes or, anywhere else. These details are crucial as it was freezing cold. Going outside without a coat or shoes does not make sense unless you only intend to quickly tiptoe out and then quickly go back inside such as to tell someone you do not need a ride.
Another curious aspect concerns her car mileage which I mentioned above. Kristy’s 1977 maroon and white AMC Pacer was found abandoned approx. 2 miles south of HI-20 on South Highway 349 (Rankin Highway). According to various websites, police found out that Kristy had brought in her car in for service the morning that she disappeared. The garage noted her mileage. At the time that the car was found there was a difference of 268 miles. This is a radius of to and from Midland in a 134 mile range. Did Ferrengburg drive this distance or did someone else do this?
Kristy was working as a cocktail waitress after she had finished high school. All available articles about Kristy mention that she was active in high school clubs. She still lived at home with her parents and siblings. There were no reports to point to a troubled family.
The authorities have Kristy’s dental records on file. Every time that a Jane Doe is found who resembles Kristy in age, they compare records. In 2009, Kristy’s case was uploaded in NamUs. The head shot there reflects her hair best according to readers. At the time it was short and whispy. There are sadly no updates in her case.
From Midland, Texas, we cross over to Minocqua, Wisconsin. On April 28, 1982, around 430pm, Barbara Mendez (32) was found dead inside the Park City Credit Union (Hwy. 51, Minocqua). There were 17 blows to her head. There is very little information online about Barbara’s case. The case only pops up as a mention when other cold cases from the Minocqua area are discussed.
For example, Barbara got a mention in 2008 when Oneida County detectives were investigating four cold cases. Barbara’s was listed as well. And if you check the case from Lori Eckert Schmidt who was murdered by her husband, you will find references to Barbara’s unsolved case. Lori’s was the first murder in Minocqua after Barbara’s.
Barbara’s case has never been solved and she has no web presence outside of some mentions.
UPDATE 2018: Husband, Robin D. Mendez, was arrested in 2018 and charged with first-degree murder. Robin Mendez pleaded not guilty to his wife’s murder in April and said he has an alibi. He waived his jury trial this week and will receive a trial by judge. More details as they become available in the database.
From Minocqua, Wisconsin, we travel to Darlove, Mississippi. On June 18, 1988, Demisha Armbruster (23) was abducted and murdered. According to police, her throat was cut. The cause of death was exsanguination. This means that someone allowed Demisha to bleed to death. She was not robbed of any possessions nor was she sexually molested.
Very little is known about Demisha. At least we know that Kristy Lynn Booth loved to take part in school clubs but we do not even have such a detail about Demisha. And unlike Barbara, Demisha isn’t even mentioned in news articles except in this one: her father’s obituary.
James Barton Hyer passed away on August 11, 2008. Mr. Hyer owned and operated Hyer Transport. He was a turkey farmer. He died never knowing why his child was taken from him. Knowing that father and daughter are together again in heaven is bitter sweet. Yet, it provides no clarity.
In these three cold cases, we lack a substantial amount of information. In Kristy’s case, we have vague and incomplete information. Maybe there was more reported in local newspaper articles at the time that she disappeared however, not every news agency has all their editions scanned in and online in archives. Not everything is available on microfiche in public libraries either. That is a major setback for us cold case bloggers.
Despite more available information, we cannot solve this case. On January 20, 2006, Juan “June” M. Cuevas, the owner of G.I. June Auto Parts, was murdered in Washington Township by four people who invaded his home. His wife of twenty years was not home (she was at work) but his three teenagers were. Their hands and feet were bound together. They were placed in an upstairs bathroom where they were held hostage for several hours while the invaders waited for their father to come home.
When June came home that evening he was beaten to death in his own bedroom. The four invaders fled. But that is not what I wish to highlight from this case.
June’s teenage children were home that day. The oldest was sixteen. Teenagers. Old enough to understand what was happening. Old enough to understand the meaning of sounds. Old enough to understand the consequences for their further lives. These sounds will never leave these children’s memories and souls. June’s murder is horrific but what was done to his children is equally haunting.
If we ever wish to find answers in the cases of Kristy, Barbara, Demisha, and Juan then we must make sure that they all have a solid web presence. More articles were online about Juan’s case but they have been taken down.
The Internet is the place of choice where people go for research and information gathering. If you see a description of a cold case online, please take a moment and read it. And, if you have information please contact the listed authorities or go to your local law enforcement agency.
But even if you have no information at all to share with police you can still help these victims. By sharing their stories on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, Pinterest or LinkedIn, you can help to expand the victims’ digital footprints. Sharing their stories means that the cases end up in new news feeds and streams, reaching completely different networks and people. It just might finally reach the right person who can help.
Sometimes the last piece of information we need comes from people who moved away and they didn’t realize that a case was never solved. Other times people can help the authorities with old high school yearbooks, maps of now renovated areas, or other information that allow us to experience the case from a different angle. And just that one other angle might be exactly what we need.
Thank you for remembering Kristy, Barbara, Demisha, and Juan with me. Please share their cases on National Murder Victims Remembrance Day.