The Ellington Case as a Voluntary Disappearance

Before I get to today's post, I want to thank blogging friend and Simon and Schuster author Stephanie Faris for nominating me for an award.

She picks creative and relevant topics to discuss and it is worth making her blog a regular stop

Also, Stephanie's second book, 25 Roses will be released in 2015. You can read about her works on Amazon by going here

Ok, here is more on the Vickie Ellington missing person case--this is Part IV.

Case Summary
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there.

Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.

Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.
In the last two posts, I described how investigators would explore the possibility that Vickie Ellington committed suicide. And, based on the published information, this did not appear to be a conclusion that authorities were favoring.

Another possible explanation for the woman's disappearance is: she vanished voluntarily.

What information might support the idea that Ms. Ellington chose to walk away from her life in Attala County, Mississippi?

Let's take a look.

Investigating Voluntary Disappearance as a Theory
Of the three theories I mentioned in this case (suicide, crime victim, or voluntary walk-away), the most common explanation for a missing person is the latter: he or she left voluntarily.

And that is what family members and all involved hope for.

The stress of the days/week/years had been building, and a person just needs to get away.

More often than not they do return.

And sooner rather than later.

Depending on the situation, it is often not even a criminal matter to take a break from your life. As long as the individual does not do specific things to try and convince others that he/she was the victim of a crime, it is viewed by law enforcement as "no harm, no foul."

This is the case with Ray Gricar, the missing district attorney from Pennsylvania. If he left voluntarily and is located tomorrow, despite the thousands of hours and unfathomable cost invested by authorities, it does not seem that Mr. Gricar would charged criminally with anything.

Even when a missing person does intentionally mislead police, the charges and sentence are usually minor.

For instance, Jennifer Wilbanks, called "The Runaway Bride" by the media after staging her disappearance in 2005, only pled guilty to filing a false police report after her actions were discovered. Once she met the conditions of the plea (probation, paying the fine, etc.), the charge was expunged from her record--in terms of the courts,  considered not to have existed.

So, in exploring "voluntary disappearance," investigators would examine the same characteristics discussed in my post on a suicide theory--evaluating aspects like that her spouse had died, she was raising a young grandchild, and that she had gone through a career transition.

Several factors remain unclear.

Was Ms. Ellington having relationship problems (family, professional, or romantic)?

How were her finances?

Did she indicate mounting personal and/or professional stressors to others?

But from the information released, it does seem like Ms. Ellington wanted to disappear.

Fortunately, most of the time when individuals choose to vanish, they leave some trail.

Detectives find evidence of planning like: withdrawals of money, indications of travel intentions, map searches on computers, etc.

Investigators can then explore the logistics of a disappearance.

Did the individual have help?

Did he or she obtain fraudulent identification?

What vehicle could have been used?

What other modes of transportation are available in the area?

Finally, canvassing areas where transportation could have been obtained hoping to find leads amounts to good old fashioned investigation and sometimes to the closure of cases.

In other words, diligence and a little luck reward authorities with an explanation.

Assuming that investigators covered these bases and the case is still open, we have to assume that nothing much supporting a voluntary walk-off theory was uncovered either.

But are there any cases similar to Ms. Ellington's where initially indications left everyone confused, but investigators eventually learned the missing person had chosen to start a new life elsewhere?

Oh yes, and I'll discuss the background and motive in one example disappearance next time.
For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.


Pat Hatt said...

Yeah if no money was taken out, be pretty hard to start over. Unless she planned it for a long time and slowly took a little out here and there or didn't even deposit some.

lisa said...

We've all probably joked about running away from our lives when things get really tough…but it's really unfathomable to me how people can really do it when they have a family. It seems very selfish to cause so much worry and grief to others. I'd feel differently if she had clued them in that she needed a break, but to just disappear seems really odd to me.

Pearl said...

Love your site, and I've added you to my blog roll.


messymimi said...

While she may have wanted to run away, with all that was going on, i cannot see most loving grandmothers running off from their grandchildren, at least not this way. A short vacation, perhaps. Or even "disappearing" for a day or two. This just doesn't seem like the kind of person she would be, to leave a grandchild in the lurch that way.

ladyfi said...

The family must be so worried.

Gail Dixon said...

Based on what you've told us, I really don't think this was a voluntary walk away. I hope the family can find her...preferably alive.

Bijoux said...

That is interesting about not being charged for disappearing, even though you've caused a lot of public expense from an investigation. I've always thought people disappearing is a rarity.

Brian Miller said...

you would def think if they were walking off voluntarily that they would take a bit of money to them...but then again you could probably hide that with small amounts over time...its intriguing conceptually though...think i said on a previous post that i had written a short story years ago about a voluntary disappearance...

Mary Kirkland said...

Wow, it sounds really sketchy. To disappear and not be heard from again has to turn the family inside out when that happens.

Bossy Betty said...

Wow, this is the stuff of fantasy but also a reality. Fascinating to think about....

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I've been meaning to come over and say hi. Been a little busy...and thanks for the good wishes. Got my huge bandages off yesterday and can even get my fingers on the home things are looking up.

I appreciate you visiting via my visitation over at Carol's place. Look forward to following your threads. Love your " an American of questionable intelligence." Phunny.

Stephanie Faris said...

Yay! Thank you for mentioning me! What a pleasant surprise. I was actually just excited to read the next part in this story, so this was a bonus.

These cases are infinitely fascinating to me. Did you ever hear of Janet March? She lived here in Nashville...they finally put her husband away for her murder, although they never found her body. What about The McStay Family? I guess they've found them now, but there's no answer to who took them or why.

Miranda Hardy said...

It's interesting facts in the specific case that keeps people guessing. You never know what runs through the mind of someone. Honestly, I hoped she walked off on her own, too, but I don't think that's the case.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

It just seems so far out there. But I suppose anything is possible.

Donna K. Weaver said...

And that's the tough thing. Did she want to disappear or was she forced to? I still can't imagine, even if it was by choice, being one of the people left behind.

Gloria Baker said...

This is an amazing case!
An really interesting!
But reslly I think some peoples want to dissapear voluntary....

Slamdunk said...

I appreciate all the comments everyone.

@ Pearl: Thank you.

@ R. Mac: Glad you are feeling better.

@ Stephanie: Yes, the March case was a big one--certainly sad how it ended. Unfortunately, it was one of those missing person cases where it was fairly evident that a crime had occurred, but proving the case against the prime suspect took lots of time. And yes, the McStay family case is a head-scratcher. It makes me want to see what investigators have in their folder that is not being shared with the public.

Bob G. said...

Given all the technology we have to be able to FIND people, it sure makes it darn HARDER to voluntarily "walk away"...
There's always SOME camera watching you some place THESE days.
I'm not saying it's IMPOSSIBLE...just highly implausible.
I'm thinking this was not voluntary, at least not in the USUAL sense.

Good post and comments.

stay safe.

Momma Fargo said...

What is a mystery to me is why do these people suddenly fall off the face of the earth? I know some have mental illness or depression. But what about the ones that just want a new life? What goes on in their mind? said...

Was there any evidence that she was making preparations to leave?

Was there any way for her to have gotten out of the area? Bus? Train? said...

Was there any evidence that she was making preparations to leave?

Was there any way for her to have gotten out of the area? Bus? Train?

Slamdunk said...

@ JJ: No information has been released about her making any plans to leave her hometown. I'll have to check on the area trains, buses, etc.

Anonymous said...

Louisville is my hometown, and no offense but the sheriffs office probably isn't giving her case the real attention it deserves. I wish the family would hire a private investigator. Where she disappeared there's multiple gas stations, 4 restaurants, high traffic area for this little town. There's got to be something else on camera. I am still going with the theory that she met with foul play. I don't see her leaving her grand child and I don't see her committing suicide in this high traffic busy little area.