At least four people reported missing since the September hurricanes have not been found, and police are just now publicly releasing three of those names six months after the tragic storms hit the territory.
One of the four, Hannah Upp, 33, has been missing since Sept. 14. 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 — the Daily News asked police spokespeople Sakeeda Freeman and Glen Dratte in a text message on Sept. 18 if the V.I. Police Department had any other open missing person investigations.
Despite repeated inquiries by The Daily News, and eventually an order from V.I. Police Commissioner Delroy Richards Sr. that Freeman and Dratte produce lists of people reported missing in the territory, the department’s spokespeople did not release a list of missing persons on St. Croix until Feb. 21, and only produced a list of persons missing on St. Thomas on Thursday.
One of those individuals, Sokotto Clendinen, apparently went missing before Upp’s disappearance, but police have never issued a public notice asking the community to report any sightings of the young man.
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 Sept. 19 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 lists provided by V.I. Police contain the names of 35 individuals who were reported missing in the territory and have never been found. The oldest case listed is that of Thomas Kostua, who was last seen on St. Croix on April 17, 1999.
Dratte said at one point he would include photographs of the missing persons, but did not.
The lists are incomplete, contain errors, and have precious little information that might help members of the public identify and locate those who have been reported missing. None of the names are accompanied by a physical description or any information about the circumstances surrounding their disappearance. The St. Croix list includes individuals’ dates of birth, the St. Thomas list does not.
Freeman said repeatedly that she would work on obtaining a list of names, but in an e-mail on March 8, she pleaded ignorance of the department’s records system.
“Glen made a call to NCIC the manual route I took was not effective. Now that we know there Is an easier way to pull the data, I’m on it,” Freeman wrote.
When asked why the police department’s communications arm never publicized certain missing persons cases, including Clendinen’s, Dratte said nobody told him that people were missing.
Richards said Thursday he was disappointed that Dratte and Freeman did not produce the lists sooner, and said missing persons cases are a high priority for the department.
The cases can be frustrating for police, particularly when a person seemingly vanishes into thin air.
One missing person in particular “always comes to mind,” Richards said, Leonard “Sonny” Frederick, 83, who 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 added. “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.
While Dratte did issue a press release on August 8 about Frederick’s disappearance — albeit without mentioning that he is more commonly known as “Sonny” – other missing persons cases have gone unreported by police.
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.
Police have never alerted the public to Clendinen’s disappearance or issued a physical description of him.
He wasn’t even included on a list of persons reported missing in St. Thomas that was provided by police, and Dratte amended the list in a text message that misspelled his name and provided no additional details.
“There’s one additional name Sokto Clendenien,” Dratte wrote in the text message sent Thursday.
V.I. Police provided the following list of people reported missing from St. Thomas:
• Brian Adamitz: Male, missing since Nov. 4, 2015
• Richard Michael Kolstad: Male, missing since Nov. 2, 2016
• Gerrard Nicholas: Male, missing since May 2, 2008
• Penny Louise January: Female, missing since May 2, 2008
• Joseph Brookes: Male, missing since April 3, 2014
• Saitenos Saintilus: Male, missing since March, 2016
• Hannah Upp: Female, missing since Sept. 14, 2017
• Akilah Charleswell: Female, missing since August 8, 2009
• Sokotto Clendinen: Male, missing since Sept. 6, 2017
V.I. Police provided the following list of people reported missing from St. Croix. Their age at the time they were reported missing is included, based on dates of birth provided by police:
• Jose Belardo: Male, age 12, missing since July 7, 2012
• Lorraine Bryan: Female, age 21, missing since Sept. 20, 2004
• Jose Burgos: Male, age 67, missing since April 13, 2017
• Shawn David Ferris: Male, age 28, missing since July 5, 2013
• Leonard Frederick: Male, age 83, missing since August 5, 2016
• Nicholas Garcia-Felix: Male, age 85, missing since March 19, 2010
• Antonio Garnett: Male, age 21, missing since Feb. 20, 2003
• Alva Hodge: Female, age 40, missing since July 15, 2015
• Uroy Alphonso James: Male, age 25, missing since Dec. 14, 2004
• Frisline Jean: Female, age 17, missing since July 25, 2015 (the list includes a notation of “stateside” next to Jean’s name, but does not indicate where she was reported missing)
• Akil Joseph: Male, age 26, missing since Nov. 1, 2011
• Thomas Kostua: Male, age 35, missing since April 17, 1999
• Johan Nunes: Male, age 86, missing since August 2, 2002
• Patricia Rivera: Female, age 49, missing since May 15, 2016
• Wanda Rivas: Female, age 47, missing since May 18, 2015
• Isaac Robin: Male, age 20, missing since Jan. 29, 2010
• Gregory Ruiz: Male, age 23, missing since June 13, 2010
• Musa Raji Shromouj: Male, age 19, missing since April 6, 2011
• Susanne Spencer: Female, age 43, missing since April 3, 2011
• Angel Joel Ventura: Male, age 19, missing since Dec. 30, 2013
• Wendell Williams: Male, age 47, missing since June 10, 2001
• Najeem Newton: Male, age 16, missing since Sept. 5, 2016 (the list includes the notation “(stateside) MINOR” but does not indicate where Newton was reported missing)
• Emmanuel Fraticelli-Davis: Male, age 21, missing since April 9, 2016
• Zhenghua Wang: Male, age 45, missing since May 3, 2017
• Scott Hansen: Male, age 62, missing since Sept. 19, 2017
• Jennifer Stephens Robinson: Female, age 54, missing since Sept. 19, 2017