Monday, April 17, 2006

4/17/06 (PMP) Holding Hope in Their Hands

Rebkah Howard, aunt of Tamika Huston, is today’s guest writer.

“My niece, Tamika Antonette Huston, disappeared on May 27, 2004. We learned on August 12, 2005 that she had been callously murdered and buried in the remote woods of upstate South Carolina on the very day she disappeared by a new acquaintance named Christopher Lamont Hampton. We searched for Tamika far and wide for those 13 1/2 months. Our hearts were broken and we considered no means too silly or too unproven in order to try and bring our beloved Tamika back home to us. Internet postings, mass distribution of emails, flyer postings, canine searches, canvassing neighborhoods, local and national media outreach and yes, even psychics.

We did not search out our first encounter with a self-proclaimed psychic. Within weeks of Tamika's disappearance, I appeared on a local radio show that aired in New York City in order to discuss the case and the disproportionate amount of media coverage given to cases involving missing minorities. Within a day or two, I was contacted by a well-meaning woman who wanted to put me in touch with her friend, a man named Jerome Carter. She said Jerome had worked on numerous missing person cases and she was hopeful he could help us find Tamika.

Before I go further, let me first divulge that I am not skeptical by nature of those claiming to have some sort of psychic ability or highly developed "sixth sense". Tamika herself often astounded me, our family and friends with her ability to know certain things about a person she had no reason to know. She had these abilities even as a child but didn't think much about was just her. She didn't try to profit from it as she got older or exploit was just another personality trait that frankly, may have even scared her a little as she got older. I'm told by her best friend that Tamika even predicted her own untimely death years and months before - and even the very week of - her disappearance. She knew she was going to die young. I wish she had told me too.

So, with that background, I picked up the phone in desperation and called Mr. Carter. We spoke for a few minutes and he said he had a strong sense Tamika was still alive. Of course, my heart was overjoyed. I called family - including my sister and Tamika's distraught mother - and told them we must take what Carter is saying with a grain of salt but that I would continue to speak with him in the hopes of determining Tamika's location. Carter told me he would work with us for the bargain basement price of $500 if I could wire him the money via Western Union. I left my office, withdrew the money from an ATM, and headed over to the closest Western Union location I could find. I was also to fax him a photograph of Tamika to the luxury hotel where he was staying at the time. Upon receipt of money and photo, Carter was to call me that night and conduct a "session".

Over the course of about one week, I spoke with Carter three or four times. Each time, his descriptions of Tamika's location and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance became more specific. She had voluntarily attended a party in a town near where she lived but now was being held against her will. She was being drugged. She would appear unrecognizable to us when we finally found her because she had lost so much weight. She was allowed to leave the house once a day with one of her captors. The house had a bird...maybe on the mailbox. A burgundy car in the driveway. Carter named street locations and the town. Worst of all, he promised this whole nightmare would wrap up in about a week with the safe return home of our Tamika.

I sent Tamika's father on wild goose chases for two or three nights to the locations Carter described. I even enlisted the sympathetic investigator working on Tamika's case to follow up on these unconventional clues. I later would express my frustration to Carter who eventually offered to fly to South Carolina and look for Tamika himself - provided I could Western Union him another $500 right away and purchase him a plane ticket. He seemed way too persistent and certainly too anxious. I withdrew and quickly realized I was probably being taken advantage of. I couldn't confirm Carter's claims that he had determined the location of Chandra Levy's remains as he had said. Further, I was warned by a friend who was a producer of a nationally syndicated radio program that Carter had appeared on their program many times. This friend said Carter had led a distraught mother to believe for months that her missing daughter was alive when in fact, she had been dead for some time. That was it for me. I cut off communications with Carter and kept pursuing other means in order to find Tamika.

It would be months later before the issue of psychics came up again. My sister, Tamika's mother, was at her breaking point. Actually, she had probably been broken for months. She asked me if we could look into finding and utilizing a "more reputable" psychic. I told her I would conduct extensive research and try to find the right person. My research led me to Noreen Renier. I was impressed with her resume and the fact that she apparently had lectured at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. At this point, we were willing to try anything - again. Renier prefers to work with law enforcement only which I felt increased her credibility. Surprisingly, the open-minded police investigators working on Tamika's case didn't laugh at my suggestion. Instead, they set up an appointment with Renier (at our family's expense) and drove from South Carolina to the hills of rural Virginia to meet with her. These officers would later describe this experience as probably one of the strangest they've encountered in all their years of law enforcement but I was grateful for their efforts.

Renier described a much different scene than Carter had. Tamika was deceased. She had been killed by a blunt object at the hands of someone she knew. She had been wrapped up and driven around in a vehicle before being disposed of in a remote area, down a dirt and gravel road, near water, near an embankment. Renier said it wasn't far from where Tamika had lived. Unfortunately, these clues were like looking for a needle in a haystack. The police followed up on these clues along with others provided by Renier to no avail. It wasn't until weeks later when they arrested their prime suspect, Hampton, that he led them to Tamika's shallow grave in the woods.

In the end, Renier's clues did little more than to provide us and law enforcement with moments of surprise - after the fact. Unfortunately, what she saw was not specific enough to lead police to the location of Tamika's body. The killer had to do that himself. If I had to do it again, I probably wouldn't enlist her services or the services of another psychic. Good old police work is what solves crimes.”

For more information about Tamika Huston’s story, please see:

Various sources for additional information about Noreen Renier:

A case study done by Dr. Gary Posner:

A webpage with numerous articles about Renier:

We understand that many people believe that psychics are effective in solving crimes and finding missing people. Please keep in mind that the goal of this series is to help families understand techniques used by persons making these claims and make better decisions about the use of psychics.

Project Jason and its volunteers cannot act as a clearinghouse for persons claiming success in using paranormal means to locate missing persons. We will be unable to respond to emails or other correspondence sent to us from persons making these claims or persons offering information about or referrals to psychics.

We instead invite those persons to present their evidence to the members of the James Randi Education Foundation. They have a forum available for you to discuss your claims.

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