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VANISHED INTO THIN AIR! List Of Missing Persons Keeps Growing In The USVI

VANISHED INTO THIN AIR! List Of Missing Persons Keeps Growing In The USVI

CRUZ BAY — The number of people who have seemingly vanished without a trace from the territory is a list that just keeps growing.

When a British flight attendant disappeared after last being seen at a pub in St. John in March, it brought glaring international attention to a persistent problem in the U.S. Virgin Islands — missing persons.

Friends of Sarm Joan Lillian Heslop, 41, of announced this month that they are offering a $10.000 reward for information about the Southampton woman’s current location.

Heslop had transitioned to being a boat cook in St. John and has been missing for two months now. She was last seen at the bar 420 To Center in Cruz Bay on March 7. Her boyfriend Ryan Bane, captain of the 47-foot catamaran Siren Song, reported her missing the next day.

Another St. John visitor who has been noted because of her striking resemblance to Heslop, is Lucy Schuhmann, who disappeared from Coral Bay on September 20, 2019.

The 48-year-old Louisville, Kentucky native’s rental car was found in the Virgin Islands National Park near Trunk Bay — but no trace of Schuhmann was ever found — despite the fact that police cadaver dogs were used to try to find her body.

,MISSING PERSON: Lucy Schuhmann, 48, of Louisville, Kentucky,

People on social media in St. John have begun sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to the disappearances of Heslop and Schuhmann. One Facebook group that is most popular in Cruz Bay, “What’s Happening St. John.” is now immediately deleting posts about the British woman’s disappearance with no explanation as to why.

St. John is widely known as the most sleepy and crime-free of all the U.S. Virgin Islands, so administrators who created that social media page in particular and others are apparently “sick to the gills” when it comes to new updates about the British woman’s mysterious disappearance.

Meanwhile, the list of the dead or missing in the territory goes back at least three political administrations from John P. de Jongh Jr. (2007-2015) to Kenneth E. Mapp (2015-2019) to Albert A. Bryan, Jr. (2019-present) — and three police commissioners: Henry White, Jr., Delroy Richards, Sr. and Trevor A. Velinor.

36 Others ‘Disappeared’

Warren A. Thomas of St. Thomas is been officially reported missing and his brother Lief Thomas said he last saw him over a year ago in March 2020.

“It hurts,” said Lief, 77. “I’m holding up to the best of my abilities, you know, one day at a time.”

Lief said his younger brother Warren’s 76th birthday is in September, and he’s been searching for information about his whereabouts for over a year, but there’s been “nothing, as clear as the sky.”

Lief reached out to a local newspaper about his brother’s disappearance in March. After police were made aware of the situation, Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor followed up and obtained an official missing person report.

Lief said investigators had him go to the police station Tuesday to provide a DNA sample and additional information, and VIPD spokesman Toby Derima issued a press release about the missing person report Thursday.

For years, Warren Thomas has lived on the streets of St. Thomas by his own choice.

MISSING PERSON: Warren A. Thomas, 76, on St. Thomas.

While he accepted meals and conversation from friends, passerby, and Catholic Charities, he often refused the offer of additional services, including housing and mental health treatment.

An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Thomas lived in a bus shelter off Moravian Highway for more than a year, starting in the spring of 2017. He even stayed in the open-face bus stop through Hurricane Irma despite pleas from Patrick Farrell, state director of the Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs, for him to go to a government shelter for his own safety.

”He said to me, ‘I don’t need anything, you go home and take care of your family,’ ” Farrell said in 2018. When Hurricane Maria approached, “I tried to convince him again to leave, he gave me the same story: ‘Please leave me alone, I will be all right. I’ll be fine.’ ”

A small army of people, including the man’s own family and numerous officials from across a variety of local and federal agencies, tried unsuccessfully to convince Thomas to accept help. V.I. Police removed him from the bus stop and transported him to Schneider Hospital for a medical and psychiatric evaluation in May 2018.

Officials said an examining physician at Schneider Hospital declared Thomas mentally fit and legally capable of making his own decisions, and he was released from government custody.

Lief said Warren usually hung out around Emancipation Garden, and “if anybody wanted to look for him, they could go there, or Fort Christian, or the fire station. They would always see him in that general area and he would have conversation with certain people on a good day.”

Thomas was employed in public works after his time in the Army and “he would wear a coverall from where he used to work with the government,” and “occasionally a winter jacket,” Lief said.

His service in Vietnam left its mark on him, but Warren was gregarious and enjoyed telling stories and making conversation with friends who would bring him meals.

“He’s a loving guy,” said Lief, who said jokingly that if he could tell his little brother anything, it would be to “come home so I can swat you on your butt.”

In late April or early May 2020, Lief said he got a report that someone saw Warren walking in the Bolongo area, “and they asked him what he was doing and he was said he was just walking. And from then on, nobody heard or seen of him.”

Lief said he kept hoping that his brother would turn up. But as the months passed, he grew more and more concerned, and eventually filed a missing person report with police.

Someone has blacked out the part where it mentions that Sarm Heslop was last seen on the Siren Song yacht in St. John.

Search continues

Thomas is one of 38 missing people whose cases remain unresolved in the Virgin Islands, including Stanfield Dumas, 70, who was reported missing by family members nearly a year ago on May 16. Investigators believe Dumas may have fallen off a cliff while fishing on the West End of St. Thomas, and the U.S. Coast Guard searched for him unsuccessfully.

Michael Emmanuel, 80, has been missing on St. Croix since February 19, and there is a $3,200 cash reward for information about his disappearance.

In a major step forward, the territory’s first Silver Alert went out on February 25 as part of the search for Emmanuel. The alert came nearly five years after lawmakers mandated use of a Silver Alert system to send out emergency notifications when an elderly or vulnerable person disappears.

Emmanuel, who was last seen on the morning of February19, has also been added to the missing persons list on the Virgin Islands Police Department’s website.

Emmanuel, who was last seen on the morning of February 19, has also been added to the missing persons list on the VIPD’s website.

A resource for people who have lost track of loved ones in the territory is “NamUs,” the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

A free nationwide missing person database administered by the U.S. Justice Department, NamUs serves as a searchable online repository for missing and unidentified persons records that includes case data and circumstances, agency information, dental records, fingerprint classifications and DNA testing status. There are 17 missing persons listed for the Virgin Islands on the NamUs database, and 22 names listed on the V.I. Police Department website. Of those 22, only four are listed on NamUs.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

One of the 22 names is a 19-year-old who was found safe in 2020, but he was still listed as “missing” on the police website.

Police spokesman Toby Derima said during a press conference on February 26 that he did not know why the list has not been kept updated, or why Emmanuel’s name had not been added to it at that point.

“I can tell you that we have been feverishly searching, putting out information in the community using the media and social media. Admittedly, we haven’t gotten to the information on the website, however, the more up-to-date information is being put out almost daily on Facebook and Twitter,” Derima said.

Another man, Augustus Marshall, 51, is still on the police missing person list but his status is “pending positive ID.”

It’s unclear if that means Marshall’s body was found after he was reported missing on Oct. 4, 2018, and “I would need to look into that,” Derima said.

Thirteen of the names on the NamUs database are not on the VIPD website. Cross referencing the lists yields a total of 34 names — plus Emmanuel.

The 17 names on the NamUs list include a diverse range of people, including seven women and 10 men between the ages of 14 and 85, who were reported missing between 1974 and 2019.

Emmanuel’s daughter, Enna Auguste, tearfully thanked the community for their assistance during a recent press conference, and begged additional searchers to volunteer.

“Come out. It could be your dad. It could be your husband, it could be your grandfather, your cousin. We never know who’s next in line,” Auguste said. “You never know when it will be your turn for help.”

Acting Deputy St. Croix Police Chief Sean Santos said anyone who sees Emmanuel should “keep eyes on him” and immediately call 911, “so that we can bring Mr. Emmanuel back home to his family and loved ones.”

Emmanuel, 80, who also goes by the name “Dodor” is 5 feet 5 inches tall, slim built and weighs about 150 pounds. He has brown eyes and has a dark brown complexion. He was wearing brown pajama pants that were either striped or plaid and a white sleeveless undershirt. He was not wearing any shoes. He may have also have had a blue T-shirt in hand.

There is a $3,200 cash reward for information. The police department initially offered $1,000 and Reef Broadcasting Corporation was able to raise an additional $2,200.

Hurricane Irma ‘Vanished’ People

At least four people were reported missing after Hurricane Irma in September 2017 have never been heard from since.

One of the four, Hannah Upp, 33, has been missing since September 14. 2017. Given the publicity surrounding her disappearance, which was generated by Upp’s friends and family — police did not notify the public of her disappearance at the time.

Sokotto Clendinen,19, apparently went missing before Upp’s disappearance, but police didn’t issue a public notice asking the community to report any sightings of the young man at the time of his disappearance.

Police have also never notified the public of the disappearance of Scott Paul Hansen and Jennifer Stephens Robinson, who left St. Croix on their sailboat Briseis headed for Maho Bay on St. John on September 19, 2017 in an effort to avoid the approach of Hurricane Maria.

Friends and family members posting on the Facebook page “Finding Jenn and Scott” said the boat was recovered near Puerto Rico without a dinghy attached, and there have been no reported sightings of the couple.

In total, the VIPD list contains the names of 38 individuals who were reported missing in the territory and have never been found. The oldest case listed is that of then active-duty German soldier Thomas Kostka, who was last seen on shore leave near Cane Bay in St. Croix on April 17, 1999. Kostka, 36, of Hamburg was a sergeant on the German frigate Mecklenburg Vorpommern which was docked at the Frederiksted pier that weekend. The VIPD’s chief investigator in Kostka’s disappearance was former St. Croix Police Chief Novelle Francis, Jr.

One missing person in particular whom former Police Commissioner Delroy Richards, Sr. cited as missing is Leonard “Sonny” Frederick. Frederick, 83, was reported missing on August 5, 2016.

Frederick suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and apparently “just walked away” one day, Richards said. “We had the dogs out, we had everything out looking for Sonny,” he remembered. “We can’t find Sonny.”

Richards said police are notified of missing persons throughout the territory, because of the relative ease of travel between islands. Some families even send their mentally ill or indigent loved ones to another island as a last resort, given the territory’s woefully inadequate resources for mental health treatment.

“They put them on a plane and send them to some other jurisdiction where they won’t be bothered,” Richards said.

Friends and family members of a 19-year-old St. Thomas man named Sokotto “Baba” Clendinen have been spreading the word on social media since his disappearance around the time of the hurricanes in December. Online postings about Clendinen, who was 18 at the time of his disappearance, say he panicked during Hurricane Irma and ran away from home in the area of the North Side of St. Thomas. He was last seen on Sept. 6, the day Irma hit the island.

Missing From The USVI

St. Thomas

St. John

St. Croix

To help police call 911, 340-778-2211, or the Crime Tip line at 340-778-4950.

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