UPDATE: Nina has been found safe.
Today, December 13, 2017, is the 21st birthday of Seleana ‘Nina’ Davis.
Nina has been missing since December 6, 2017 when she was last seen in the South Side. Her family has tried repeatedly to file a missing persons report, but apparently there is some little known legal issue wherein having an active bench warrant means you can’t be considered a missing person.
I don’t understand that. My partner who is a lawyer does not understand it. The numerous folks I’ve spoken with from the DA’s office to experienced journalists to community advocates – none of them could explain it. But asking the question seems to have worked at least a little bit.
Today the police filed a missing person report. That should hopefully pave the way for Crimestoppers to step in and perhaps the victims advocates. And more. Nina’s legal status has shifted to reflect her reality rather than the narrow trope imposed upon her by this ridiculous policy.
But here’s the thing. Nina disappeared 7 days ago. Almost everyone I reached out to had to check with a supervisor or said the would get back to me. And that makes me really angry. How is this not urgent enough to walk down the hall to your supervisor’s office and say “We need to discuss this?” Even the missing persons groups said the family had to contact them (they could not reach out) as her family was struggling to get the report filed. Come on, people. I get that you need official family approval, but you can’t call them? Maybe if they had a victims advocate …
No media outlets have picked up this story. Just this blog and the newsletter ‘Eat That, Read This’ citing this blog. It was just November 21, 2017 when the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that empathy was lacking in regard to how law enforcement engaged the families of two young missing persons, both of whom happened to be white cisgender men. They wrote:
“A victims’ advocate can help bridge that divide, making sure police hear a family’s needs while also helping the family understand the limits of what the authorities can do. Advocates are professionals with a well-established role in the justice system, so they have the respect of police and prosecutors. At the same time, they are independent of the police, something that should give families confidence. As go-betweens, they may be able to help both parties.”
The Post-Gazette invested a lot of money investigating the deaths of these two young men, even creating a multi-part podcast helmed by some of their best, most seasoned journalists. The Post-Gazette send this crew to Maryland and Central PA to record some segments. That’s a genuine investment.
But they can’t send a reporter to East Pittsburgh to ask the Police Chief about the missing person report for a now-21 year old gay black woman.
This summer, three young black mothers were killed in separate incidents. A fourth woman, who is white and gay, was killed in Westmoreland County. Just a year ago, a 23-year-old black lesbian was shot in cold blood in Knoxville; her murdered pled to 3rd degree murder for shooting her in the head at point-blank range and then robbing her body. Over a year ago, a woman of color was murdered by her husband in their home in Canonsburg. No podcasts, no follow up, no nothing.
The PG and our District Attorney had this to say as well
If a victim’s family feels slighted or neglected, Mr. Zappala said, “We’ve all failed. The criminal justice system has failed.”
I think it is safe to say that the criminal justice system, including Mr. Zappala, as well as the media have systemically failed Nina Wyley and her family.
The difference is that this can still turn this around. The Center for Victims can mobilize, the DA can mobilize, the flyers can be made, the video footage from the South Side can be reviewed, the PG can put someone on a bus to East Pittsburgh, Duquesne, and everywhere else Nina had reason to be.
They can find Nina Wyley and bring her home. And then they can have some conversations about the disproportionate impact of systemic racism embedded in the notion that you can’t both have a warrant out for you and be a victim of a crime.
NPR’s Code Switch has an interesting piece about what journalist Gwen Ifill termed ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ that touches on some of my concerns.
Please continue sharing these posts. Keep Nina’s name and image circulating. It has had this much impact and we have to push on. You might also start calling the media and asking them why they aren’t covering this story. Or ask them nicely to cover it. Now.
Our young LGBTQ people need to know that we will come looking for them when they are lost or missing.
Happy Birthday, Nina. I hope you are safe and find your way home soon.