Trafficked – The Christina Whitaker Disappearance

Photos used with family permission

Stumbling along through the night, suffering a panic attack, the 21-year-old redhead couldn’t find a ride home. She eventually found one, but the driver had evil intentions. Christina Whitaker wouldn’t be seen by her family again.

November 13, 2009, Christina goes out to a local bar in Hannibal, Missouri, to celebrate with friends. It was the first time she’d been out since giving birth six months earlier. The night took a turn for the worse when Christina has one too many drinks and starts causing a ruckus at the bar.

Christina Whitaker suffered from bipolar disorder, anxiety attacks, and fibromyalgia for years. She had been on medication for three years, trying to get her life back together. Unfortunately, those medications didn’t mix well with alcohol. It is unclear what happened at the party, but Christina was asked to leave. Her friend refused to leave the party and give her a ride home. Now, this left her alone on the street just before midnight. The new mother was at the mercy of the night, and unfortunately, a predator lurked in the shadows.

Christina was very childlike and naive, making her the perfect target for someone to exploit her. Reports say she wandered about trying to find someone to give her a ride home. She asked all of her acquaintances and a few strangers. Everyone refused to provide the troubled woman a ride.

The next morning, Christina’s live-in boyfriend calls Christina’s mother, Cindy. Christina never returned home. Cindy filed a missing person report.

Timeline:

11:45 pm – Christina is asked to leave Rookie’s Bar

Shortly after – Christina enters the Sportsman’s Bar asking for help. She was seen running out of the back entrance in tears.

Her phone was found in the 200th block of 7th St. near 7th and Church St. This is a few yards away from the Sportsman’s bar where she was last seen.

Trafficked:

Within two weeks of her disappearance, an informant gave the Hannibal police a lead. Christina was taken by a group of guys who dealt in drugs and prostitution. The witness claims she was taken two hours away to Peoria, Illinois, and sold into the sex trade.

Several possible sightings have come out of Peoria, leading the authorities to step up their investigation. A waitress claimed to have seen Christina when she went into the Raedene’s Country Cafe, asking for help. The waitress tried to ask what was wrong, but Christina left quickly before the lady could get help.

Another sighting was by a local police officer. He claimed to have seen her and tried to approach her. He said she seemed terrified and fled before he could talk to her.

At one point, a witness comes forward with valuable information. This woman was a patient in the local mental hospital when a woman fitting Christina checked herself in for treatment. She told the witness that she had been kidnapped and was being forced to work as a prostitute. She had gotten pregnant and was beaten so severely that she miscarried. She also claimed they were forcing her to take drugs. The witness went straight to the police, but by the time they arrived, Christina had vanished once again.

What happened to this poor, mentally disabled woman? Who is taking advantage of her? What terror have they struck in her heart to where she’s afraid to run? If you have any information on the disappearance of Christina Whitaker disappearance, please contact the Hannibal Police Department 573-221-0987


ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Further Reading:

Christina’s Facebook Pg

Lostandmissing.org


Recommended Reading: 

Read more about Christina’s case in this book. Steffen Hou interviewed her mother for the chapter about Christina.


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

2ndDIYpackage-templates

SIGN UP HERE


If you’d like to check out Synova’s true crime books follow this link to her Amazon Author Page.

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


Shattered: behind every story is a shattered life

Every year Synova compiles the most popular blog post from the previous year into a case files book. In 2018, Synova Ink was filled with serial killer cases, cold cases, famous cases, and many obscure unsolved missing persons’ cases. Don’t miss this one. 

Order your copy of Synova’s New Casefiles book HERE!


Synova’s Swag Store is now open check out her new merchandise by clicking on the Shop! link at the top of this page!

Come Quick!

“I Was Stolen As A Baby” – The Infamous Baby Snatcher Georgia Tann

tannbaby copy.jpg The only photo of Barbara Jean Haggerty as a child with her adoptive mother Alveretta (Riley) Childs – Photo of Barbara Jean Haggerty as a baby: used with permission

Barbara Jean Haggerty doesn’t know when to celebrate her birthday. She has no idea how many candles should be placed on her cake. Only one baby photograph of her exists. There are no momentoes, such as hospital records or newborn photographs. Barbara Jean was one of the thousands of children stolen and sold through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, a black-market baby business operating from the 1920s to 1950 by Memphis murderer, child molester, and baby thief Georgia Tann.

georgia-tann

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia: Georgia Tann

Memphis, Tennessee, is famous for the music, the food, and the crime. In the last few years, FBI data has consistently placed Memphis in the top 20% in United States cities with the highest crime rates. Along with good barbeque, tours of Graceland, and Beale Street, murder, robbery, and gang activity have become a natural part of the scrappy city’s landscape, its history. In the late 1940s, crooked politicians and questionable law enforcement tactics greased the city’s financial wheels. It was a setting that welcomed someone like Georgia Tann. And Georgia Tann loved Memphis.

Beulah Georgia Tann (1891-1950) a matronly, smiling woman, created the unlicensed, Memphis-based Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Behind its facade, the Society was nothing more than a black-market baby operation. One of the babies who came through that door was Barbara Jean Haggerty. Like so many others, Tann stole the child when she was about two days old. Haggerty considers herself “a lucky baby” because she was sold quickly. Babies who did not sell were murdered.

The local newspapers were filled with adoption advertisements. People ordered children as if they were ordering furniture, and Tann gladly supplied the demands, charging astronomical figures.

“(We have) the merchandise in hand and in stock to deliver to you” a 1944 Tennessee Children’s Home Society letter read to a prospective client. “We can never tell when we can fill an order,” another letter explained to parents waiting to purchase a child.

Tann employed “spotters” to scout for children to steal and parents to scam. A Tann spotter walked into an elementary school, playground, or low socioeconomic neighborhood and would leave with a child, both never to be seen again. A Tann spotter, disguised as hospital staff or a visitor, would casually stroll into a maternity ward, scoop up a newborn, and disappear out a door. The spotter might visit an unwed mother to make a deal.

“We’ll take care of your baby for you, save you the expense and shame… and pay you.” In desperation, the women would allow the exchange. Barbara Jean Haggerty believes the latter scenario may have been her case.

Georgia Tann hired a crew for the children’s home, eschewing background checks, and any personnel paperwork. Molesters, parolees, and abusers were employed at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Tann also sexually abused her charges; behind that matronly appearance laid an evil mind that was abusive and cold. Barbara Jean is thankful she did not stay at the children’s home for long.

TN_Child_Society The building that housed the Tennessee Children’s Home Society still stands today – onlyinyourstate.com

Tann sold or exchanged babies, as well as monetary gifts, between law enforcement, media, judges, movie and music stars, and elected officials for political favors and legal protection. Her political connections, including the Mayor of Memphis, assisted in skirting adoption laws or creating legal loopholes from which to operate. Tann’s lover, Judge Camille Kelly, was a high-ranking official of the Shelby County Family Court in Tennessee. Kelly looked like anyone’s kindly grandmother. Both Georgia Tann and Judge Kelly were well known in the Memphis area. Tann was a national figure. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt publically praised her. Tann sold children to mobsters, child molesters, abusers, and for hard labor (one child toiled in a field at 18 hour days, eventually running away from the adoptive family). The repercussions of her work have caused a ripple effect lasting decades.

Besides high ranking officials and the wealthy, Georgia Tann assisted private clientele who wanted children, married couples desperate to adopt who scraped together the funds to do so. One of those families was Alveretta (Riley) and Jesse Aubrey Childs, both in their late twenties and living in Shelby County, Tennessee. Barbara Jean (Haggerty) was sold to the Childs family.

Alveretta and Jesse owned a popular diner called “Mamma Child’s.” This restaurant was one of the favorites of Judge Kelly; “I can remember, as a little girl, seeing Judge Kelly at the restaurant, laughing and talking and visiting with my mother,” Barbara Jean recalls. Even at that age, she has no doubt who Judge Kelly was; everyone knew.

Barbara Jean believes Alveretta confided in Judge Kelly; unable to conceive, and she longed to be a parent. Arrangements were made. The $5,000 Tann charged Alveretta and Jesse to “adopt” Barbara is a low sum, considering her client list included Joan Crawford, Pearl Buck, and Lana Turner.

As in all the adoption cases, Judge Kelly forged legal paperwork for Barbara Jean’s transfer. Kelly also assisted by destroying legal documents and creating a new history for Barbara Jean. Barbara Jean now had a new birth certificate bearing Judge Kelly’s signature. (Some years ago, a private investigator “borrowed” the document for research and never returned it.)

camille-kelly.jpg Judge Camille Kelly: painting, Memphis TN courthouse

Alveretta and Jesse then adopted Barbara Jean. With the falsified birth certificate in hand, they strolled out cuddling their newly “adopted” child.

“I was a ‘bestseller’ because of my blonde hair and blue eyes. And (the Home Society) only dealt in white children.”

In her later years, Alveretta would admit to her family, “I purchased Barbara Jean for $5,000 off the black market.” In Barbara Jean’s early years, Alveretta would amend or outright lie about everything else in Barbara Jean’s past. “She didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so sometimes she lied, or changed the story a bit,” Barbara Jean explains. She is not angry with her parents, nor does she hold grudges against them for the lies and deception. Barbara knew she was loved.

“My mother was a wonderful woman,” Barbara explains. As a teen, she had suffered a stroke. The specialists told her “mother” that Barbara would never be able to walk again. Alveretta refused to believe them and set about rehabilitating the girl. Against the odds, and with her mother’s love and patience, Barbara Jean did regain the use of her limbs.

Barbara Jean Haggerty is one of the thousands of children from Tennessee Children’s Home Society who were stolen and sold. At least 40-50 children died in less than four months while housed in the illegally operated home in 1945 alone. Children were starved, beaten, molested, mentally abused, and never received medical attention. Unwanted babies were left outside on the lawn in their cribs in the hot Tennessee summers to wither away slowly.

Barbara’s granddaughter is assisting her with trying to unearth her past, but the digging is slow. There are names and dates, but little more:

Alveretta Riley (1917-1997) was born in Arkansas to Thomas O’Riley and Willie Rogers. Alveretta married several times:
She divorced her first husband (name unknown) and moved to the Shelbyville, Tennessee area in 1940 at 23 years of age.
Jesse Aubrey Childs (05-20-09 to 12-28-75), an electrician, was her second husband. Alveretta’s third husband was Dalton Marshal.

Besides Mama Child’s, Alveretta and Jesse owned “Top Hat” (which later became Sonic Drive-in), a third restaurant, and three nightclubs. Records indicate Alveretta also worked as a “caseworker.”

Barbara’s real name may be Belinda Diane Bullard, born October 2 or in July around 1945; she is now approximately 68 years old. Barbara was adopted after Alveretta’s first two babies died. One baby picture exists of Barbara (see above photo). Barbara may have three siblings: a sister who died in a car wreck and two brothers who were lost in the Vietnam War. Barbara’s siblings include Winnie Lee, Sidney F., and Thomas R.

Tann was never prosecuted and died a very wealthy woman. A plaque commemorating Judge Camille Kelly hangs in the Memphis courthouse. Their legacy continues. There’s corruption in the Memphis Youth Courts, laws created to protect wrongdoings, and people who have no idea of their true heritage like Barbara Jean Haggerty.

grandmother0019)_09.14.16 copy.jpegPhoto of Barbara Jean Haggerty today: Judith a yates used by permission

“I’m not bitter or mad. I just want to know if I have brothers and sisters,” she says wistfully. “I want to know my real birthday and how old I am. I’d like to know about my blood relatives.” She shrugs. “I guess some people may think it’s silly, or too late. But I just want to know: who am I?”


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. Synova strives to cite all the sources used during her case study, but occasionally a source may be missed by mistake. It is not intentional and no copyright infringement is intended.

Further Reading:

All That’s Interesting

Unsolved Mysteries

NYPost

Youtube


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
69460161_2472196159734351_6622222276257382400_n.jpg

J. A. Yates  is an award-winning author and criminologist who has appeared as a guest speaker, lecturer, and instructor for organizations across the United States for almost 30 years, to include Dallas Area Paralegal Association, PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians & Gays), Texas Association of Licensed Investigators, Tennessee Correction Association, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and many more.
Her resume lists loss prevention, the Sheriff’s Department, the federal prison system (minimum to maximum, male & female),  investigations, and criminal justice professor/instructor. She is the only journalist who is continually investigating the disappearance of Tabitha Tuders, Nashville’s most baffling missing child case.
Not only is she an author, but she is also an investigator who carefully researches each book. A percentage of each book benefits nonprofit organizations and is made in the victim’s name.
Ms. Yates is Texas-born, Irish/Native American/Kentucky – bred; a left-handed Taurus. She volunteers in animal rescue and locating missing/murdered. Hobbies include horseback riding, perusing flea markets, and video gaming. She is addicted to bottled Coca-colas. She has a phobia of clowns, dental offices, and alligators (not in that particular order)

Check her out here: www.judithayates.com


This week’s Recommended Reading:


The Baby Thief: The True Story of the Woman Who Sold Over Five Thousand Neglected, Abused and Stolen Babies in the 1950s.


Books by Yates:

41cbpJ5Qp7L._AC_UY218_   61b4ciRpf+L._AC_UY218_   51SsDk8iMEL._AC_UY218_  91SbZIvC80L._AC_UY218_  41YufSSAHuL._AC_UY218_

Click on the pictures to read more about each title and order your copy!


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

2ndDIYpackage-templates

SIGN UP HERE


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online or can be verified by the guest blogger. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you’d like to check out Synova’s true crime books follow this link to her Amazon Author Page.

Synova’s Amazon Author Page

81XSqT-n3BL._AC_UL320_  41d90mk2i0L   wp-image-675446049 seriously-stupid-box-set.jpg  

Click on the pictures to read more about each title and order your copy!


Synova’s Swag Store is now open check out her new merchandise by clicking on the Shop! link at the top of this page!

Come Quick!


tannbaby copy.jpg

Groomed & Trafficked – The Ashley Higgins Disappearance

ashley_standish_higgins_1Photo courtesy of The Charley Project

It’s the oldest unsolved missing person case in Orange County California. Two girls take a bus from Costa Mesa to Vegas and only one returns. What happened to Ashley Higgins and who was this mysterious older boyfriend she was going to see? Was he the man Ashley’s mother seen in the paper, the man arrested for running a prostitution ring?


Ashley Standish Higgins, 19 had recently graduated from the Newport Harbor High School and gotten an apartment in Costa Mesa, California. She shared the place with an older African American male named Lee Pippin. His name will come up later in this strange tale.

November 5, 1982, Ashley and her friend Melissa took a bus from Costa Mesa California to Las Vegas. Ashley was going out to meet her boyfriend and Melissa went along for the ride. When the two girls arrived at the Tam O Shantar hotel and met the boyfriend, Melissa got a terribly uneasy feeling. The boyfriend was a much older man and he gave Melissa the creeps. Everything about the situation worried her and she tried to convince Ashley to leave with her. Ashley refused. The last time anyone saw her she was heading down to the lobby to see a ring her boyfriend wanted to show her.

Melissa left the hotel and promised to meet up with Ashley at the bus stop on Sunday to head back to Costa Mesa together. Unfortunately, Ashley never arrived at the bus stop. Thinking she just missed her friend, Melissa headed home. Melissa was arrested immediately upon her return. While Ashley was an adult, Melissa was a 17-year-old minor on probation. She wasn’t allowed to leave the state. She would go on to get into drugs and it would be a long time before she even realized her friend was a missing person.

While Ashley was away, her roommate, Lee Pippins made several calls to Vegas. He called hotels, police, and hospitals. Why would he make so many strange calls to Vegas while his roommate was away? Strangely he also called a few select cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico. When law enforcement checked Ashley’s credit card it appeared Pippins had been using it.

What happened to Ashley Higgins? Who was this older African American man she met in Vegas? Why was her roommate making so many strange phone calls? Why was he using her credit card?

At first, law enforcement wondered if the woman wanted to disappear. It wasn’t uncommon for a 19-year-old to run away. The family refused to believe this. Why would she run away when she knew she was to inherit a large sum of money soon? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay, collect the inheritance, and then leave?

Shortly after Ashley’s disappearance, her mother notices a newspaper article about the arrest of a man named Richard Leon Johnson. She immediately recognized him claiming she had seen him at her daughter’s apartment. Johnson was arrested for pimping and pandering. Could Johnson be Ashley’s boyfriend?

In 1978, Richard Johnson had been indicted by the El Paso County Grand Jury on pimping and pandering charges. His house and four vehicles were seized and eventually repossessed, but he somehow remained free and received probation. Disturbingly, Johnson was already on probation for pimping charges, but instead of being incarcerated he received another probation. If that isn’t disturbing to you then read on my friend. The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph reported on April 18, 1978, that the prostitutes that were set to witness against Johnson couldn’t be located. What happened to these witnesses? Did they ever turn up? Were they murdered?

Later investigations revealed Johnson’s prostitution ring closely aligned with the cities Ashley’s roommate, Lee Pippins was calling on the weekend of November 7, 1982. Also, nearly a month after the pretty blond-headed girl went missing, her credit card was used to rent a car in Las Vegas. We all remember who had it that fateful weekend, right?

Were Pippins and Johnson grooming an innocent girl for their human trafficking ring, or were they, innocent bystanders? I hardly think they were innocent, but how could they not be tied to this case?

Everyone hoped Ashley had run away and she would appear when it was time to inherit her money, but she never came.  It was pretty obvious by this point that Ashley Higgins met with some sort of foul play.

Ashley’s brother, Andrew is a retired police officer and he’s spent nearly forty years looking for answers. He truly believes his sister has been found somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and is currently classed as a Jane Doe. If you have any information on this case, please contact the Costa Mesa Police Department at 714-754-5157.

higgins_ashley4

Distinguishing Characteristics:

  • Height: 5’2″
  • Weight: 120lbs
  • Hair: Blond
  • Eyes: Brown
  • A c-shaped scar on one knee
  • A surgical scar on chin
  • previously fractured hip from a childhood car accident
  • Front two top teeth are false

THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.
Further Reading:

Crimewatchers

Facebook

Websleuths


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

IMG_20190316_075643_170.jpg

SIGN UP HERE


This week’s Recommending Reading:


Human Trafficking (In the News)

41GXB4oyWzL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets

51qJyPkFlEL

TrafficKing: Jeffrey Epstein human trafficking case


ashley_standish_higgins_1