Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Sunday, December 5, 2010

WV Church Refuses To Assist In Missing Woman's Investigation

Why Did Church Pastor Refuse To Cooperate In Missing Raleigh County Woman’s Investigation?? by Jack Swint- Publisher (Story First Published November 12, 2008)
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“When I enter Heaven I’ll know exactly what happened to her” believes Thomas Gwinn, father of missing Bolt WV native Angela Gwinn Stephens. Mr. Gwinn passed away March 5th, 2008. Most people said he died from grieving over not knowing what happened to his daughter.
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As you turn onto Breckenridge road in Bolt WV and begin driving along the blacktop road, you quickly see 8 X 11 sheets of paper containing a picture of a young woman and the words “Missing” at the top and “Murdered” along the bottom. Tacked to every phone pole and tree for miles, these posters are a constant reminder of another missing and or murdered young woman in this small community.

Angela "Cherice" Gwinn Stephens was born on June 27, 1970. She has been missing from her home since October 1, 1993. The official report says that 23 year old “Cherice” was last seen dropping her husband, Norman Stephens at work and then drove away in their car. Mr. Stephens says his wife “just left” that day and has never returned. He refused to take a polygraph exam to rule him out as a person of interest. Stephens’s family members say she just up and left leaving everything behind. No one has seen, heard from or knows the whereabouts of this young woman who supposedly decided one day to leave everyone she loved and drop off the radar forever.

One month after Cherice allegedly disappeared, her husband filed for divorce.

According to a private investigator hired by Cherice’s father, she may not have dropped her husband at work that day. Local area residents and surrounding communities also tell a different story. The investigator, hired by Tom Gwinn, reportedly discovered evidence that casts doubt that her husband even worked on the day of the disappearance and that the car in question had actually been sold to a man in Charleston. Close family members said that Cherice was very much a “daddy’s girl” and would never, ever, just up and leave.

They were just too close for her to leave town without talking to him first, especially for 15 years.

The most disturbing part of this case…

Church officials at the Breckenridge Missionary Baptist Church refused to allow authorities onto the property and dig up a section of a newly blacktopped part of the property and or pump out the churches new septic tank that was supposedly open during this time. Tom Gwinn Jr, Cherice’s brother, offered to pay to excavate and replace the property himself but he was denied access. "The church said if we wanted to dig, get a warrant." Without probable cause, they cant move forward.

According to several area residents and Gwinn family members say preacher Dewey Lowe would not allow anyone to dig up the property. There was a closed door meeting between the preacher and head trustee Tom Harmon (who is related to the husband, & former Trap Hill Middle School Principle) about letting the property be searched. When they emerged, preacher Lowe said “no.” Questions quickly spread throughout the area as to why the church refused to allow the small portion of property to be dug up. Lifetime resident Eddy Lester, who lived next door to the church at the time, allowed authorities to pump out his septic tank. When asked what he thought about the churches refusal he said, “Sure looks suspicious to me.”

Freddy Trump agreed with his friend Eddy. Trump also reflected back to at least two other deaths close by the church. In or about 1957, a young teenager named Leon Stephens was found dead in a small pond of water behind the church property. His school books were found at the pond beside his neatly folded clothes. Authorities speculated the young boy decided to go swimming after school and somehow must have experienced severe cramps and drowned. The water was approx. 5 feet deep. Ironically, Leon was the grandson of deacon Jake Stephens.

Also, just as mysterious as Cherice disappearing, another woman, Joann Honaker disappeared from the area sometime in 1971. Search parties were formed and the entire area was extensively searched on a Friday and Saturday for the woman, but to no avail.

According to Mr. Trump, her husband, Dennis Dvorak told people that she had run off towards Cleveland Ohio. Dvorak allegedly went to Ohio a few days later after his wife but came home on a Friday and told friends he didn’t find her. The next morning her body was found propped up beside a tree near the cemetery and the Breckenridge church. Search parties had just combed that exact area the day before, they say her body was not there then. That case has also gone unsolved.

Years of speculation, hundreds of posters and the Gwinns determination have kept the story of Cherice alive. The posters are being kept up to date by her brother. But, witnesses say Stephens’s family members are tearing them down. One story being told is how Cherice was actually last seen with church leader Tom Harmon. Neighbors near Harmon Lane allege that they saw him and Cherice together the day of her disappearance and that he was escorting her with his hand on her arm.

In 1993, Sheriff Lavender conducted an investigation with the facts that they had. Reports even surfaced that Norman Stephens grandmother knew what actually happened but refused to answer deputies questions with anything helpful. Lavenders men tried to gather enough evidence to get the church property searched, but there just was not enough. With the husband refusing to take a polygraph and no actual evidence of foul play, they hit a dead end.

Everyone this author spoke to feels the same about one thing. Why would a true, god fearing preacher hesitate at all on allowing the property from being examined? Especially when it had to do with the possibility of foul play. “It makes absolutely no sense at all unless they are hiding something.” It’s been 15 years now, maybe someone should re-visit the church and examine the property once and for all to finally put it to rest if something, or someone is buried there.

The only real facts anyone knows for sure is Angela “Cherice” Gwinn disappeared off the face of the earth on or about October 1, 1993. She left behind her entire world as she knew it and a father who began grieving himself to death from the minute she was gone. No one has seen, heard or understood would could be so terrible that could force a 23 year old small town girl to just walk away from her life. No one we spoke to holds out any hope that she is still alive. One person said that she has heard stories of people who just vanish forever, but those individuals were wanted by the police. “They had to run and hide.”

If anyone knows anything whatsoever about Cherice, or anyone who may be associated with her disappearance, you are asked to call WV State Police Trooper David Williams at 304-256-6700
Investigators ask not to discount any information you may have as being of no importance. Your help in this case could lead them to her whereabouts.

Date Of Birth: June 27, 1970
Age at Time of Disappearance: 23 years old
Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'1; 105 lbs.
Distinguishing Characteristics: White female. Blonde hair; blue eyes.
Marks, Scars: Scar on nose, double pierced ears.
Jewelry: She was wearing a one-karat diamond and gold band at the time of her disappearance.
AKA: Cherice

Since the writing of this story, Norman Stephens hired an attorney and has also disappeared from Bolt WV. He is believed to be living in the Smith Mountain Lake area of Virginia. He left WV after intense questioning by authorities and Tom Gwinn Jr.


Update... State Police have obtained a search warrant to investigate a vacant building in Crab Orchard belonging to the brother of Norman Stephens. There is a report some remains have been found but, poilice are not confirming the information.


End of story....
Jack Swint- Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail: WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Website: WVNewsonline.com
Twitter: @WVNewsonline
LinkedIn: Jack Swint




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WV Political Icon Recalls Decades Of Changes With Friends & Foe’s In Office
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In most political circles across this state you can mention one man’s name and everyone has a comment. And when you ask the soon to be 80 year old Mike Pozega about them, he has a comment as well.
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Now retired from politics, Pozega lives in Fairdale WV with his wife Nancy, they have been married 43 years. On any given day, at any given time, their home in Raleigh County is a “who’s - who” of men and women sitting at the kitchen table discussing politics, church or telling jokes. And the names of his friends who have stopped by over the years goes from Arch Moore to current local magistrates.
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In a life outside of the political arena, Mike recalls being in the army as a 19 year old MP in Yokohama Japan in 1945 during WWII. He tried volunteering to get into the military at the age of 16 but was refused. Finally at 18, he enlisted in Michigan while there working. Later in life he became a firefighter and EMT. Several old newspaper articles reflect how he was able to locate 6 dead bodies that authorities had not been able to find. “I have always had a sense that I can feel death when it is near me.”
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According to his longtime friend Tim Arrington, “Mike was a politician that could not be bought and wasn’t for sale.” Something Pozega says is hard not to caught up in. He believes all politicians start out honest and with good intent. Then the money, gifts and other gratuities begin and that changes everything.
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When asked which WV governor did the most for this state? He is quick and steadfast on “Arch Moore.” Pozega admits that Moore had his problems while in office, but, its just as important to remember the good things he also accomplished. Arch also went through this state on a campaign to turn one lane bridges into two. He brought water lines to many homes in counties where no one else would.
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Pozega reflects that Moore was also a good congressman and all around politician. He also says that not many people know that the former governor was shot in the face and left for dead while fighting overseas in the war. “They literally had to drag him off the battlefield.”
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When asked who he felt was the worst governor in the state he laughed first then said, “Most of the rest.”
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He recalled the day Jay Rockefeller came to Beckley while campaigning for governor. “The entire courthouse was cleared out and the employees all went outside. Rockefeller found himself alone in the courthouse but, I managed to get inside and walked up to him.” Pozega said the soon to be elect governor asked him “where is everyone?” and he replied, “you’re looking at ‘em.” Rockefeller stood there and listened how Pozega believed that WV strip mine and deep mine coal had to be mixed together to keep down ash content. But, evidently, Rockefeller and another political friend, Ken Hechler “took another route on that issue.”
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In fact, Ken Hechler offered Pozega use of his office as a “launch pad” for anything he desired.
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Others who have been influenced and walked down the introduction to his politics were Warren and Darrell McGraw when they were just getting started. Another favorite Pozega worked with was one time house speaker Robert Kiss. “he was great.” Backing up the clock, he told of helping Cecil Underwood get elected governor and how the Democrats crossed the isles and voted for the Republican candidate.
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Then there was Governor Hewlett Smith, “he was a good man but, he could not do a lot for the state because of the poor taxation at the time to generate revenue.” Coal taxes came later. He believes Smith would have been a great success if he had someone like CEO Don Blankenship of Massey coal paying all of those taxes and fines that they do today. “If Smith had someone like Blankenship, the coffer would have been filled up.”
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The most comical of the governor’s elections was Gaston Caperton. “We were at the glass house and here was this man that no one knew at all.” Pozega said he walked up to the former governor and asked him if he had any money? Caperton replied “Plenty of it.” So, he told him “well, you can be governor.” Knowing Arch was on his way out, Pozega said he walked up to a crowd of people and yelled out for their attention and said “I’d like to introduce you to our next governor, Gaston Caperton.” He said everyone just laughed. Next thing you know, Caperton was a WV governor.
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Mike Pozega also spent time in Washington DC protesting both the Vietnam war and living in the now infamous “resurrection city” that was a spinoff continuation of the Martin Luther King movement. There he met his longtime friend Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King and other black activists who became his friends for life. He was allowed to give a speech to the US senate about the Vietnam conflict that he reminds everyone was never declared a war, and, killed more WV military men then the other 5 nations combined that were there fighting alongside Americans.
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When talking about communism in his speech, Pozega stated that there were “65,000 commies alone in New York” and would they declare war on them too. Senator Robert Byrd was so moved by the entire speech that he told Pozega later how he sat there and cried. He believes Byrd has done more for WV than any other man alive. “Byrd has done more supporting the constitution then anyone. He carries a small pocket sized version with him.” In a direct quote, “Byrd is one of the greats.”
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Byrd and Pozega were the ones who first started the food stamp program in 1960. "McDowell county was first, and the rest of the state followed."
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US Congressman Nick J. Rahall ranks right up there as another one of the all time great politicians. “I like him; he does a good job for the people of this state.”
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Mike Pozega also formed a business to combat corruption in this state. He and others created “Taxpayers Research & Investigation Corporation.” On a trip to Washington DC and a meeting with the US Attorney about their findings, he was told “if we went after everyone on your list, there would be no one left there to run the government.”
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Today, he still spends his time helping people, preaching (for the past 60 years) and occasionally reminisces about his former life in politics. He also is currently operating an outreach food pantry next to his home. Other business ventures have included owning a coal mine and several grocery stores. Pozega helped form the Bolt VFW, and Coal River Volunteer Fire Dept.
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As he sums it up, I’ve done a lot and seen a lot in my life. He agrees that a man is mostly remembered by their deeds and actions here on earth.
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If anyone has actually done it all, Mike Pozega has……
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End of story.....


Jack Swint
WV News Publisher
westvirginianews@gmail.com

Also, read: Resurrecting Murder ....

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It appears Mr Gwinn is reaching up from the grave seeking the truth about his missing daugther Sherice.The family deserve justice.

Anonymous said...

Even after all this time, this family needs closure. What's wrong with these "Christians" anyway. Doesn't take an Einstein to read between the lines.

Anonymous said...

Church leaders need to search their own souls and do what is right.

Confessing the sin is the first start.

Anonymous said...

Wow...for whatever reason I was thinking about that body that was found on Bolt Mountain 10-15 years ago and I ran across this article...I know both Dewey Lowe and Tom Harmon - What are they hiding?! Isn't the fact that this young lady may have been seen with Tom Harmon probable cause? Has he been given a poly?

West Virginia News said...

Police have not admitted to even interviewing Harmon as a possible suspect.

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