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missing persons
April 21, 2003 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Evelyn Hernandez: the forgotten Laci Peterson. SF Chronicle story on a nearly identical case of a missing pregnant woman...both sad stories, but one received almost no media attention. Laci was from the same town as Chadra Levy: was that the hook that created a ghoulish media darling? More inside...
posted by serafinapekkala (14 comments total)

 
"This girl (Laci), she's white, they have money, and there is a family behind her," said Twiggy Damy, a friend of Hernandez, a single mother who moved to San Francisco from El Salvador when she was 14. "Who cares about Evelyn?"

What more needs to be said, really? I get so tired of the "white woman down" alarm...
posted by FormlessOne at 10:22 AM on April 21, 2003


Ditto to FormlessOne. "Hernandez" is Spanish for "yeah, like that'll make the evening news."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2003


I'm with you, Formless. It's the same thing with missing kids.
posted by drinkcoffee at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2003


There have been several high-profile disappearance cases in the media of late, and along with them some discussion of why some cases are covered more heavily by the media (including here on MeFi, yes, I know). As someone who checks several newspapers online in other parts of the country every day, I'm interested in the issue of why some cases make the leap from regional to national news. Stories like Elizabeth Smart and of course JonBenet Ramsey become national headlines, but other cases are big news only locally -- interestingly, Laci Peterson's family got help publicizing her case from a foundation funded by the family of Carole Sund, murdered after vacationing at Yellowstone Park. America's Most Wanted is actually credited by law enforcement for helping solve cases by (rather luridly, of course) disseminating information to a national audience...but again, should money or media savvy be the determining factors as to which families can rally the public and the police to look for their missing person? media technology can help crack a case, but it seems that the same old obstacles keep most cases out of the limelight.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:29 AM on April 21, 2003


Laci appears to me to have been Hispanic (her maiden name was Rocha). Take two seconds and look at her pictures on her website.

Also, you're going to be hearing a lot more about Evelyn Hernandez in the coming weeks. The Peterson family is already pointing to her death as evidence that there's a serial killer in the Bay area and the police have bungled the investigation.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2003


Well, the article pretty clearly states that the police in the Hernandez case steered clear of media attention at the beginning. They said themselves, had they gone about it differently, there might have been a media push. A single mother, about to become a mother again, who disappears is interesting news no matter what her ethnic background is.

And Laci did have family rallying to get her story out there--it's neither Laci's fault that her family mobilized, nor Evelyn's fault that she didn't have the same resources behind her.

I mean, people kill their parents all the time too, and yet the (hispanic) Menendez brothers made the papers. Why? Money was involved. Money is interesting, and money buys press.
posted by padraigin at 10:34 AM on April 21, 2003


Incidentally, just because something isn't terribly publicized doesn't mean the police aren't working on it: Evelyn Hernandez was found, after all. Just because there weren't complete strangers holding candlelight vigils doesn't mean that investigators aren't doing their jobs. Does it somehow cheapen their work, if KRON-4 isn't there with a camera and a roving reporter?
posted by padraigin at 10:39 AM on April 21, 2003


A lot of crime news gets national attention and Metafilter posts. I find it interesting that the only ones that get skeptical barbs and inquiries as to why similar stories aren't being covered are rape and domestic violence murder cases. Okay, and child kidnappings.
posted by transona5 at 10:42 AM on April 21, 2003


SF Chronicle story on a nearly identical case of a missing pregnant woman...both sad stories, but one received almost no media attention

They both disappeared on Christmas Eve? A time when most folks are off work on a week day.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2003


What more needs to be said, really? I get so tired of the "white woman down" alarm...

You're right. I wish they'd dissapear the way they are supposed to, damnit.

Nice thinking, guys.

Isn't there something odd about a newspaper making news about the fact that they didn't make news about an issue when they should have?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:13 AM on April 21, 2003


Evelyn Hernandez was found, after all.

padraigin, i like your point about unsung police work...but Evelyn Hernandez was "found" because her body washed up on the Embarcadero, surely not a hard-won break in the case...not that the police were not searching at the time, but still.

the only ones that get skeptical barbs and inquiries as to why similar stories aren't being covered

actually, one of the reasons i'm interested in this topic is the similar disparity in media coverage here in Boston of homicide victims -- so far this year, all but one of the homicide victims in the city were under 21 and black or latino, and all were killed with handguns. where's the coverage, let alone the outrage? nowhere -- the cases in the news are the shooting of a doctor at Mass General Hospital by a coworker, and the stabbing death of a young latino man by a drunken Harvard grad student in Cambridge. it seems when a "compelling" victim -- innocent, rich, young, not from a "bad neighborhood" etc -- is in the news, people start to care about violence, but not otherwise, even if the facts of the case do not confirm sterotypical views of the victim. it just frustrates me that the very medium that can generate interest and a response to a situation is also run as a popularity/ratings contest and so can be very biased in deciding what to cover and how to cover it. according to the local nightly news, the biggest issues facing Bostonians are house fires, the weather, consumer fraud and SARS...not too likely.
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:42 AM on April 21, 2003


is in the news, people start to care about violence, but not otherwise, even if the facts of the case do not confirm sterotypical views of the victim. it just frustrates me that the very medium that can generate interest and a response to a situation is also run as a popularity/ratings contest and so can be very biased in deciding what to cover and how to cover it.

Grew up in Southern California. Some news is just bad press for the business. Take gangs violence, most never makes it to print. The people in the neighborhoods know it exits. The statistics that the police keep on it is closely correct. But for print way too much to read on a daily basis, plus it would keep the tourists away from Disneyland and other attractions. So tell me about Boston and its news as if I were to say, I was coming to visit? Hope to hear good things...besides the juicy gossip.

Hope that may point you in the info you're seeking serafinapekkala.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:15 PM on April 21, 2003


A lot of the media attraction to this story came the husband.

- he was all over the TV, largely on his own prerogative.
- he was having an affair at the time of the disappearace
- he had taken an insurance policy out on her (or so the reports go)
- he acted very strangely for a guy whose wife disappeared

He provided a perfect center for the drama. And she disappeared Christmas eve.

If the couple had been black, I'll bet a lot of mefites would be saying they were trying to railroad a black man.
posted by shoos at 2:19 PM on April 21, 2003


It's like Jon Benet. Yes, her case is sad, but no more sad that the children that get killed playing in their front yard by stray bullets. They make page 3 news while Jon Benet has continued to get front page news for years...

The American media seems bent on keeping the Homer Simpsons of our society entertained...
posted by drstrangelove at 9:28 PM on April 21, 2003


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