Almost a year and a half ago, in late April 2012, 19-year-old New York City resident Stevie Bates was returning home from a cross-country trip, traveling alone on a Greyhound bus. On the evening of April 27 the bus stopped for a layover in Pittsburgh, where Stevie phoned her mother, Vivian Jones, and spoke to her briefly. She said she planned to meet up with her ex-boyfriend in Brooklyn when she reached the New York area the next day. This phone call was the last known contact with Stevie Bates.
We know that she did reach New York. The next morning, April 28, she was caught on a security camera coming up the escalator from the Greyhound bus terminal. Evidently she walked down Eighth Avenue from 42nd Street. After that the trail is cold.
Stevie was an intelligent young woman, a graduate of Bronx High School and a National Achievement Scholar. She had recently attended CUNY Hunter College and was thinking about going to various other universities in the fall. The previous autumn, 2011, she had been heavily involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests and lived in a tent camp for three months. There had been some changes in her behavior around this time, especially after the recent deaths of two close friends, but nothing that would indicate she’d leave her life and abandon all contact with her family.
A satellite view of the block where Stevie Bates was last seen. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the rectangular building in the center. Click for larger/more detail..
Law enforcement was slow to get involved in this case. The various agencies who might have had jurisdiction–NYPD, the Port Authority police, the Arkansas police (she began her Greyhound trip in Arkansas)–all tried to pass off responsibility for the case to someone else, until finally the Yonkers, New York police–Yonkers is the residence of her mother–accepted a missing person’s report. It seems very strange that NYPD wouldn’t take it, as Stevie was a resident of New York and was last seen in Manhattan. During the bureaucratic run-around, valuable time was lost.
Stevie Bates has a distinctive appearance. She’s African-American, dyed her hair blonde and wears it in dreadlocks. She also has a pierced nose, tongue and navel. Stevie’s family is offering a cash reward for information leading to her discovery. There’s a website run by her family, findsteviebates.com. Here is the Facebook page for Stevie Bates, and her Charley Project file is here.
As you may have observed, I’m fascinated by the geography of missing persons cases, and I feel that geography can play a crucial role in solving them. From the security cameras we know exactly where Stevie Bates was–the Port Authority bus terminal at 41st and 8th Avenue–and exactly when, 8:51 AM on April 28, 2012. By way of coincidence, the spot where she vanished is three blocks from where Joseph Force Crater, perhaps the most famous missing person of the 20th century, disappeared on August 6, 1930, and six blocks from where Edward Dubbs went missing in 1981. But of course we’re talking about midtown Manhattan, where millions of people work, live, congregate, travel and come and go. While at the same time it seems impossible that not one of those millions saw Stevie Bates after 8:51 AM, the sheer numbers we’re dealing with make finding witnesses all the more difficult.
I hope there is soon a break in Stevie’s case and that she is found.