Sunday, August 14, 2005

A mystery solved, a family keeps an eye toward justice

Tamika Huston disappeared some time in late May/early June 2004. On June 14, when none of her friends had seen her for 2 weeks, her friends began to worry; Spartanburg, SC police entered her home to find her dog alone and malnourished and noted her car was gone. Early leads turned cold and Tamika's family sought out national attention in an effort to find her. Despite the many cases of missing white females that inundated national audiences shortly after Tamika's aunt, Rebkah Howard - a PR professional, contacted national media outlets requesting assistance, it took almost a year for people outside of South Carolina to hear anything about the case. Luckily, her disappearance was widely covered by local media and taken seriously by Spartanburg police and the FBI.

Tamika's disappearance started to generate a little more discussion recently due to stories noting extensive coverage of 32-year old runaway Jennifer Wilbanks and the disappearance of 18-year old Natalee Holloway during a post-graduation vacation to Aruba, both of whom are white women from affluent families and the lack of coverage of similar cases when the missing person is not white.

America's Most Wanted aired a story on Tamika last March that generated a critical tip in Tamika's disappearance. On August 12, the Spartanburg police announced they had additional forensic evidence that enabled the police to file murder charges against 25-year old Christopher Hampton for Tamika's death. The Huston family issued a statement on Friday that read, in part:
Our family would first like to thank the Spartanburg Public Safety Department for their commitment to investigating the disappearance of our beloved daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, and cousin, Tamika Antonette Huston. The Department has spent tireless hours on her case over the course of the past year and for that, we are most grateful.

For our family, this day brings us both tremendous sadness and some sense of relief. While trying to come to terms with the fact that our Tamika will not return to us, we find comfort in knowing the person responsible for this most personal tragedy is being brought to justice.
Today, Hampton lead the police to skeletal remains believed to be those of Huston. They hope to have a definitive ID within the week. Unfortunately, this story has a very sad outcome but at least her family knows what has happened to her and will soon be able to put her to rest with the love and respect she deserves.

While Tamika's death is tragic, her family's struggle to reach a wider audience was not in vain. Due to the discussion generated regarding disproportionate coverage of Huston, followed by the recent disappearance of Latoyia Figeuroa, a bunch of Philly bloggers have decided to jump in the fray and finally do something in an effort to provide families & friends of missing persons with another outlet to get their stories out to a wider audience. In addition, Tazzy & Piggy - a couple of bloggers in the UK that were inspired by the Philly blogosphere (more accurately, by Pax Romano) have initiated a Meme called Missing Monday.

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