A young mother’s cold case murder leads to changes in Texas’ 911 system, but her killer remains at large.

Imagine being pocket-dialed by a family member, you answer the phone, and you hear them hysterically pleading for their life as someone attacks them. “Stop, stop!” they scream as their attacker tells them to “shut up”. The call then ends.

Frantic, you dial 911, however, the police do not seem concerned about the situation at all, and refuse to help. Two days go by, and your loved one fails to answer your calls or texts. You decide to file a missing person’s report. The police finally assist, but it’s too late. Later that week, your loved one’s body is found…

A viral video led many, including members of her family, to believe the teen was being held against her will–but was it a hoax?

The video is shocking. A young man sits in front of the camera, boasting about his new girlfriend. His eyes bulge in excitement, his fists clench in glee. “I know she hates cameras…but I’m gonna show you her anyway!” the man boasts as he skips over to a locked door and pushes it open.

What was behind the door captured the nation’s attention: a young girl, chained to the floor, crying out in pain. Her long brown hair masks half of her face as she writhes in agony.

“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!” she cries as the man slams the…

After disappearing for 17 months, Daphne Westbrook, now 18, took to Facebook to express her frustration.

A missing child–it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Studies have shown that a lack of knowledge regarding a family member’s fate, especially those of kin, is among the worst emotional pain known to humankind. Whether that child was a runaway, abducted, or simply got lost, the pain is all the same. However, what would you do if you were hit with good news–your child being found alive–without any warning? For a select few families, prayers were answered when their children were found alive.

However, not all miracles produce happy endings and Daphne Westbrook is a prime example.

Daphne Westbrook was the…

“All I have is a big hole in my life now and it will never be the same.”

Debbie Sexton has nightmares about her son, Israel Ray Smith. He comes to her in the form of his childhood self, pleading for her to save him. All Debbie can do is wait to wake up, hoping the real world will be of some comfort. Unfortunately, for the past thirteen years, her reality has been far worse because Israel was only 28 years old when he vanished without a trace in 2008. Unlike in her nightmares, she has no idea what happened to him, or if he called out for help that fateful March day.

The first few years without…

After 13 agonizing years, those close to the Demakia Phinizee could finally get answers.

Demakia Ann Phinizee juggled quite a busy life. At 21, she enlisted in the U.S. Army and served for five years before returning to Tupelo, Mississippi. Upon arriving home from service, Demakia began to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice. To fund her education and support her three children, she started a security guard position at a local alternative school.

To those around her, Demakia was the definition of a renaissance woman. There was nothing she couldn’t do; everything life threw at her was handled with grace and poise. However, those close to her knew about her turbulent home life…

Today is Katie Sorenson's arraignment. She faces up to six months in prison for falsely accusing Eddie and Sadie Martinez of attempted child abduction. I'll update this story with the results once it is over.

UPDATE: Because of the lack of news articles/updates, I'm assuming it was either pushed back or the results were sealed from the public.

“This is probably the worst thing I could imagine being accused of,” said the woman targeted by the allegations.

On December 7th, 2020, Katie Sorenson went to a Michael’s craft store in Petaluma, California with her two children. After they finished shopping, she posted two videos to her Instagram account, @motherhoodessentials. In the videos, she spoke of an alleged incident in the store that left her “paralyzed” by fear.

“My children were the targets of attempted kidnap,” Sorensen said in one of the videos. “I want to share that story with you in an effort to raise awareness.” Sorenson, who usually posts beauty and parenting tips, also reported the alleged incident to the police. The two videos detailing the…

Black Americans are overrepresented among the crowd of missing people; but only one-fifth of them receive media attention

TW// missing people/homicide

During the evening of December 28th, 2008, 16-year-old Shemika Cosey was watching movies with her cousins. The following morning, the teenager had vanished. The family quickly contacted authorities, who dismissed Shemika as a runaway. Their reasoning? The front door was unlocked. Police chose not to initiate a search for her. 13 years later, Shemika is still missing. Paula Cosey Hill, Shemika’s mother, expressed her frustration with the investigation in an ABC News interview.

“They [the police] not doing anything, because they think she had gone on her own,” Hill said as she fought back tears. “I just…

“Until somebody shows me something different, I don’t think I’m ever going to give up on him.”

TW // sexual violence

The wilderness was a second home for eight-year-old Derrick James Engebretson. As an infant, his mother would put him in a pack and take him on bear hunts. As he grew, so did his love of the outdoors.

“Bear Boy” was Derrick’s nickname; he knew his way around the wilderness. Robert, his father, said his son was accustomed to mountain terrain and had once walked 20 miles along the Oregon countryside.

Derrick always carried his trusty hatchet with him, making tiny marks on every passing tree. However, the outdoors was not his sole interest. He also…

Kristin Smart may not be the only mystery we get answers for this year.

The arrest of Paul Flores, the prime suspect in the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, attracted nationwide attention. Before the arrest, her disappearance had received renewed interest, thanks to Los Angeles native Chris Lambert’s “In Your Own Backyard” podcast.

The recent developments involving Kristin attracted newfound attention for other infamous cold cases. Many are already looking into the future. Whose cold case will be solved next? As of now, we’re only a quarter of the way through 2021. It is extremely likely that Kristin Smart will not be the only mystery to get answered this year.


Corey Sobell

Creative Writing & Criminal Justice Student | 21 | Elon University Class of 2022 | @savedbythesobel on Twitter

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