What is it with California and torso’s being found floating in the water? ???
Eerily similar case languishes in obscurity
Torso of missing pregnant mom was found in S.F. Bay last year
– Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, April 21, 2003
A vibrant young woman — pregnant in her third trimester with a baby boy — vanishes. Police suspect foul play. Doubts swirl around the man she loves, whom police neither name nor rule out as a suspect.
Finally, the grim discovery: A woman’s remains are pulled from San Francisco Bay.
The saga of Laci Peterson captivated America’s attention. The 27-year-old Modesto mother-to-be was reported missing on Christmas Eve and became the subject of daily news reports capped by the arrest Friday of her husband, Scott Peterson.
But it is also the story of 24-year-old Evelyn Hernandez of San Francisco, who vanished last May 1 with her 5-year-old son, a week before she was to deliver a baby boy. Her torso was found in the bay three months later and identified, while her son remains missing. No arrests have been made.
Hernandez’s case barely registered in the community and in Bay Area television news shows and newspapers, while the eyes of the nation seemed to be fixed on the search for Laci Peterson.
There are many, sometimes subtle, reasons why some cases become major news stories — while the vast majority languish in obscurity, according to law enforcement officials, relatives of the missing, journalists and citizens.
Peterson seemed to be the all-American girl next door, the most innocent of victims. She also has a vocal family advocating on her behalf, and the financial and public relations help of a well-connected crime victims group in Modesto, the Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation, formed during the search for the Yosemite murder victims in 1999.
“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?
“The first time I heard Laci’s case, I got flashbacks from Evelyn, because it is the same case,” Damy said. “That’s very hard to see, why one gets more attention than the other.”
VALUE OF PUBLICITY
Families of crime victims say the media spotlight keeps pressure on police to work quickly to solve the case, while police say publicity helps them enlist the help of citizens whose tips might lead to the recovery of a body, an arrest, or the safe return of a missing person. “Our greatest hope would have been for someone to say, yes, I saw her here, with this person,” said San Francisco police inspector Holly Pera, who took on Hernandez’s case when it became a suspected homicide.
Police at first thought Hernandez may have gone away to have her baby on her own, and didn’t hold their first news conference until more than a month after she vanished, when the homicide unit took over the case. “It’s hard to turn back the clock and get what we could have gotten if we had major publicity from the get-go,” Pera said.
It is rare for a pregnant woman to vanish. But Peterson’s case likely received extra media attention from the start because she was from the same town as another well-known missing person and homicide victim — Chandra Levy, the Washington, D.C., intern who had an affair with then-Rep. Gary Condit.
Adding intrigue as the Laci Peterson story unfolded were revelations about Scott Peterson that seemed to come almost weekly — from his admission to an extramarital affair, to revelations that he had purchased a life insurance policy on his wife, to his selling her car and attempting to sell the house, to his hesitancy to speak to the media.
In Modesto, regular folks say that what has made Laci’s story tug on their heartstrings is Laci herself — a beautiful, warm and likable young woman who seemed to have it all. “She was a happy-go-lucky lady. In a way, I feel like I wish I would have known her,” said Lee Benites, a genial grandfather who cuts hair at his downtown salon, the Razor’s Edge. “And a lot of it is because it was Christmas time, and she was going to have a baby.” “It’s heart-wrenching to think that somebody could do something like that to a woman who is expecting a baby, especially if it was (Scott Peterson),” said Mary Lou Hambrick of Louisville, Ky., as she played with her grandchildren at a park while visiting family in Modesto.
Hambrick said she was riveted by Laci Peterson’s case from the start. And that’s not just because her 29-year-old daughter, Erin, lives in Modesto and looks a bit like Laci, she said.
“She just looks like a warm, beautiful daughter,” Hambrick said. “You see nothing but a big smile.”
But advocates for other missing adults say that while they don’t begrudge the attention Laci Peterson has received, they are devastated by the disparity.
About 200,000 adults are reported missing in the United States each year. The state attorney general’s office reports that 35,142 adults were reported missing in California in 2001, some 4,346 of them under suspicious or unknown circumstances. Most have received scant attention. While Evelyn Hernandez’s story eerily mirrors Peterson’s case, the disparity in media coverage also has been striking.
Even before the dramatic arrest of Scott Peterson on Friday, The Chronicle had written 32 stories since Laci Peterson was reported missing Dec. 24 — four of them on the front page. It published four about Evelyn Hernandez, none on the front page.
Laci Peterson often topped the newscasts of national cable news channels during a four-month investigation, while Evelyn Hernandez received scant coverage from Bay Area television stations — even on the day her remains were found. Described by friends as a devoted mother to her son Alex, Hernandez was a legal immigrant who had worked as a vocational nurse and in jobs at Costco and the Clift Hotel. She was reported missing by her baby’s father, a 36-year-old married man named Herman Aguilera, Pera said.
Authorities had already suspected that Hernandez and her son Alex met with foul play when her wallet was found in South San Francisco, two blocks from where Aguilera worked at a limousine company, Pera said. Then, in late July, a portion of her torso — still clad in maternity clothes — washed up on the Embarcadero.
When her death was confirmed by DNA tests just after Labor Day, her small circle of friends and a sister who lives in the East Bay planned a memorial service in San Francisco that drew 100 people. It was the same small community that had circulated flyers when she disappeared. Aguilera’s attorney, Robert Tayac, said at the time that his client had done everything he could to cooperate with police and was “deeply saddened by the news of the death of his close friend.”
Damy said friends and family tried repeatedly to get Hernandez’s case featured on “America’s Most Wanted” but were rejected because no warrant had been issued for a suspect. But, Damy said, the show did a story on Laci Peterson although no suspects had been named in that case either. Hernandez’s friends and family are convinced that subtle factors — from Hernandez’s status as a Salvadoran immigrant to the fact that she was involved with a married man — figured in the news media giving little notice to her case.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Pera, the San Francisco police inspector. “We’ve pushed and asked for and received as much as we possibly could. But we don’t make the decision about what gets covered and what doesn’t.”
E-mail Kelly St. John at kstjohn [at] sfchronicle.com
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Evelyn Hernandez didn’t drive a Land Rover.
by more about Evelyn
Saturday Nov 13th, 2004 6:37 PM
2 missing, pregnant women: 1st ignored by media; 2nd invites frenzy
By WILLIAM BUNCH
bunchw [at] phillynews.com
Evelyn Hernandez didn’t drive a Land Rover.
In fact, she didn’t drive at all. A struggling, 24-year-old single mom who’d immigrated to San Francisco from war-torn El Salvador when she was 14, she took the No. 48 bus to her jobs as a drugstore clerk or restaurant server.
And so when Hernandez, eight months pregnant, was reported missing last May, reporters from CNN or Fox News didn’t camp in front of her small, rented home. And when her dead body washed ashore in San Francisco Bay last September, it took police four months to identify her.
The parallels between the disappearances and deaths of Hernandez and Laci Peterson – whose corpse was found in the same bay, just miles away – are striking. The difference in media coverage is even more striking.
On Google.com News yesterday, there were 3,080 stories about Peterson, who lived in an affluent suburban neighborhood and drove a Land Rover. There are four stories about Hernandez, the poverty-striken immigrant woman.
“A lot of people are frustrated with how they’ve handled the case,” said Berta Hernandez, no relation, who was Evelyn Hernandez’s drama teacher when she first came to San Francisco.
“They started looking immediately for Laci Peterson, because they said it wasn’t her normal character to disappear,” she said. “But they” – San Francisco police – “didn’t start looking for Evelyn right away. They said, ‘She might be running away, she might be hiding; it’s not out of her character.’ ”
In fact, Evelyn Hernandez was known as a devoted mom to her 6-year-old son, Alex, who stopped showing up for kindergarten the same time that his pregnant mother vanished in May 2002. Unlike his mother, Alex has never been found.
Hernandez’ 37-year-old married boyfriend, who reported her missing, has not been named as a suspect, although he has refused to cooperate with the police probe for months. And while Peterson’s family seeks justice against her husband, Scott, in a Modesto courtroom, Hernandez’s friends and family continue to wait for their turn.