5 Missing Persons Who Suddenly Turned Up Years Later
Around a half a million people go missing every year in the U.S. That number has been dropping steadily every year for the past three decades, and most missing persons reports are swiftly canceled. That means the missing person quickly turned up, either alive or dead. Only a third of a percent of cases stay open after a year — and if the person is still missing after that long, you might as well assume they’re dead.
But maybe they’re not dead. Maybe they were like the following people, who slipped away into the very large world and found totally new lives.
A Missing Woman Appeared After 52 Years
In 1965, Canadian man Marvin Johnson went to the police and said his wife Lucy was missing. All right, the police said, going through the usual drill. When was the last time you saw her? Johnson, probably looking very uncomfortable, revealed that he hadn’t seen Lucy in four years. As for why he hadn’t done anything about it, well, he didn’t have an answer for that.
The police had one likely answer: He’d killed her. That’s an easy answer anytime a wife goes missing, and it was especially likely now. They interviewed neighbors and learned that some years before, he’d done some sort of crazy digging in his yard. Johnson claimed he’d built a drainfield for his septic tank, but just in case, the police went and dug up the field in search of wife bones. They found no bones, only the usual septic sludge.
Johnson remarried. A half century passed. Then their kid Linda, who’d been seven when Lucy vanished, finally thought, “Hey, how about I place an ad near Alaska, where everyone says mom grew up?” This ad, with Lucy’s photo, caught the attention of someone in the Yukon, who said, “Oh, that looks a lot like my mom.”
Yeah, after living in the same province as before for 15 years, Lucy had moved west and had a whole new family. She’d left Johnson, had been unable to take the kids and just never checked in on them for 52 years. “I’m not missing, I’m here,” said the now 77-year-old Lucy. She also said, “I was never hiding.” Both daughters seemed totally happy with the revelations, and as for Johnson, he had no questions, as he’d been dead for 20 years.
A Missing WWII Soldier Turned Up in Ukraine
When World War II ended, the Soviet Union held on to almost a million Japanese soldiers. These were either prisoners of war or internees, depending on how you define the terms, and the Soviets put them to work in labor camps. By the end of the 1940s, the USSR had released most of them back to Japan. Many others had died in the camps. Japan has noted the names of 46,000 of them, but the number’s got to be higher than that. If a soldier was in a Soviet labor camp and never came back, you’d probably be sure they died there.
Japan estimates that 400 unaccounted-for veterans wound up living in the Soviet Union. By the time the 21st century rolled around, you could probably assume even these guys were dead, if not from forced labor then just by the passage of time. As such, in 2000, the family of one soldier, Ishinosuke Uwano, finally had him declared dead legally.
But he wasn’t dead. He was living in Ukraine and had a new family. In 2005, he asked some friends if they could check in with the Japanese government and maybe arrange a trip over there for him. Japan sent a crew over to Kiev to interview him and found that, yep, it was Ishinosuke Uwano all right. They brought him back to Japan to reunite him with his two sisters for the first time since 1943. It was also the first time he’d spoken Japanese in 60 years. “First of all,” he said, “I would like to say konnichiwa.”
A Guy Discovered He’d Been Kidnapped 30 Years Earlier
Multiple people have discovered they were kidnapping victims, and we have a case of one such discovery leading to a second.
The first was a disappearance we’ve talked about before. Nejdra Nance late in life asked her mother for a birth certificate, and her mother was suddenly very vague about how or when she’d been born. Nance’s research took her to a database of kidnappees hosted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and she discovered that she’d been born Carlina White and had been grabbed out of this hospital as a baby.
You might have all kinds of emotional reactions to hearing that story. If you’re Pennsylvania man Steve Carter, your reaction would be something to the tune of, “Hey, my parents found me in an orphanage. What if I, too, was actually kidnapped as a baby?” Which doesn’t sound very likely, but Carter then combed through that same database Nance had, and he found a photo that looked a lot like himself. It wasn’t an actual photo of a kid who’d been kidnapped from Hawaii 30 years earlier, but it was an aged-up photo, guessing what the kid would look like once he was 28.
And so Carter got back in touch with his biological father and half-sister, who’d lost him decades earlier. As for his biological mother, her name was Charlotte Moriarty, and she'd left the father all those years before, taking Steve with her. She’d vanished one day with the kid, and shortly afterward, police picked up some unidentified woman with that unidentifiable baby, removing them from someone else's home. They sent the woman (who was most likely Charlotte) into psychiatric custody, and no records state what happened to her after she left that hospital. The kid, police put him in protective custody, then an orphanage, which was where Steve's adoptive parents found him.
It’s now been over a decade since Steve found out the truth, which means Charlotte Moriarty's now been missing for 40 years. As we’ve learned today, that in no way means she’s dead, and she could well turn up any minute now.
A Runaway Kid Was Charging People to Watch Her Play Games
If a kid runs away at 14, there’s not a whole lot they can do to earn money. If they’re gone for 10 years, there’s no way their story ends well. And while the story of Xiao Yun, who went missing from Zhejiang in China, isn’t exactly a happy one, it does end a lot happier than it could have.
When Xiao turned up in 2015, now 24 years old, she revealed that she’d been living in internet cafes and bath houses for the past decade. Xiao had made money by playing the Korean game Crossfire. Not by any kind of paid streaming deal but by charging people in the café itself to watch her play.
She was finally “found” not because some fan of hers saw her and made the connection. Instead, police finally caught her using a fake ID. She gave up her parents’ names during the interview, and the police phoned them. They’d loyally maintained the same phone number all this time just in case their daughter ever decided to give them a call.
Two Castaways Landed on an Island and Found Their Missing Uncle
Things went bad for two fishermen from Kiribati in 2011. Their navigation system broke down, and they got lost. Instead of a quick trip back to shore after a night of fishing, Uein Buranibwe and Temaei Tontaake found themselves in the open ocean.
They spent the next 33 days this way. They were able to fish for food (fishing was the whole reason they were out here), but we guess they weren’t that good at fishing since they still had to go without food for days at a time. Water was a bigger issue. Sometimes, it rained, but when it didn’t, they drank saltwater, which is usually a good way to die. The U.S. Coast Guard searched for them from the air for three days, then gave up.
They finally washed up on an island called Namdrik, part of the Marshall Islands. They had originally sailed 30 miles from shore but had drifted 10 times that distance to this small island with a population of just 600 people. No one on Namdrik spoke Gilbertese, the language Uein and Temaei spoke. No one except one person, who’d learned it from her grandfather. This grandfather had also washed up on Namdrik, 60 years earlier.
That earlier castaway, the fishermen learned after a very strange conversation, was Temaei’s uncle Bairo. He’d gone missing in the 1950s, and everyone assumed he’d died, but he’d landed on this island, got married and started a family. He probably could have figured out some way of returning home eventually. But why bother? Some people dream of retiring on a tropical island. It seemed this island had the power to draw people to it, so why fight destiny?