FL Pinellas County Possibly Linked Missing Women 1970s-1980s

Discussion in 'Missing but not forgotten Discussion' started by EmilyHTX, Jun 27, 2019.

  1. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    Margaret Dash - 1106DFFL - went missing 6/14/1974 from Clearwater, Pinellas County, FL. She was having an affair with a man named "Cleveland Hill" who threatened to kill Margaret if she didn't leave her husband and run away with him. Her vehicle was located in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, FL two months after her disappearance.
    The Doe Network: Case File 1106DFFL

    Retha L. Hiers - 512DFFL - went missing 12/29/1982 from Largo, Pinellas County, FL. Doe Network says that her disappearance is possibly linked to the other two women because they all disappeared after trying to end relationships with the same man. Her vehicle was located in Clearwater, Pinellas County, FL four months after her disappearance.
    The Doe Network: Case File 512DFFL

    Donyelle C. Johnson- 1737DFFL - went missing 4/4/1989 from Largo, Pinellas County, FL. Her vehicle was left behind a Hardees restaurant in Largo, and a man who said his name was "Johnny Bailey" called a towing company claiming that he had car trouble and needed the car towed. Again, Doe Network says that they're all possibly linked by this "Cleveland Hill" whom they had been in a relationship with.
    The Doe Network: Case File 1737DFFL

    15 years, 3 women and one mysterious man that hasn't been identified or located. I've found a Cleveland Hill that's lived in Pinellas County his entire life, and has had his fair share of run-ins with LE. There's also a John Bailey that's lived in the county his entire life. How have 3 women vanished without a trace, all supposedly linked by one man (possibly 2 linked to 1 man, and one linked to another man entirely), and nothing has been uncovered after all this time?

    Thoughts? Opinions? Theories? I'm currently going through FL missing women from 1970-1990 to see if any others vanished from Pinellas County in that timeframe.
     

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  2. Owutatangledweb

    Owutatangledweb Well-Known Member

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    Why is it the police can't wrap this up? They need to revisit evidence for DNA.
     
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  3. JudgeJoe

    JudgeJoe Well-Known Member

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    Pretty ladies. So sorry to hear so little effort to investigate.
    I used to live in PC and had a home break-in at one point. Family heirloom jewelry was found at multiple pawn shops all around the county- and I had to track it all down myself. The population dense county is full of pocket municipalities- all with separate PDs that don’t communicate with each other. So with a perp in one city, victim in another & car in another, which PD is handling the case? And how many times was the ball dropped? I’m glad I don’t live there anymore... It was beyond frustrating with theft. I can’t imagine losing a loved one to murder there.
     
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  4. PayrollNerd

    PayrollNerd Well-Known Member

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    They need to go follow Cleveland Hill and pick up his coffee cup! Do DNA on all 3 ladies and on this dude. Gee Whiz, how much evidence do you need?!
     
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  5. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    Something about the whole thing just bothers me to no end. I don’t know if it’s the “possibly linked” but no real explanation as to how they knew him, what he looked like, etc. Margaret’s husband even saw the man! He knew who he was and what he looked like. This could have been dealt with right after she disappeared and her car was located. But no. 2 more women disappeared and he’s lived his life free to do as he pleases. Beyond frustrating!
     
  6. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    FWIW, both CH and CH Jr. could have been the "mystery" man. It just depends on how old the man was at the time. Jr. would have been 27 when Margaret disappeared. His yearbook photos were easy enough to find, but I have no descriptions or sketches to compare them to :grumble: I still don't understand how LE "couldn't identify or locate" him in 1974 and stop him from "disappearing" 2 more women.
     
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  7. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    Silly me...I didn’t even check Charley Project for the 3 women :facepalm: CH Jr. is the “mystery” boyfriend. But they’ve never been able to definitively link him to their disappearances. He was working as contractor doing asphalt and paving work back in the 80’s, which makes my mind go to all kinds of Derrick Todd Lee places
     
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  8. PayrollNerd

    PayrollNerd Well-Known Member

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    Well that profession is kinda noteworthy since he had the access and skill to literally cover his crimes.
     
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  9. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    I mapped out each one from his home address, to where they were last seen, to where their vehicles were abandoned, back to his home and the travel time is 28 minutes, 45 minutes, and 1 hour. He could have easily pulled it off.

    He and MD only lived a few minutes walk from each other. She said she was going to get medicine for a sick relative and never came back. What if she stopped by his house to try to finally end things and he "disappeared" her?

    RH was going to buy laundry detergent one morning and, living close by CH Jr., could have stopped by while she was out running the errand, or he could have seen her out and about and took the opportunity to "disappear" her.

    DJ's theoretical round-trip disappearing act, courtesy of CH Jr., is the most believable. He likely knew her college class schedule and could have intercepted her on her way to class, or waited for her in the parking lot of SPJC. He could have threatened her to get her to write the letter to her father about going away to Orlando to "straighten out her life" (proven to be her handwriting by an expert), then "disappeared" her.

    If they had tried to get prints from their vehicles at the time they were found, all of this would be over and done with. His prints were already in the system from the "assault with intent to commit murder in the first degree" against his ex-wife and her mother in 1968. If you can't tell, I've been sleuthing him way too hard and could probably write a book about this whole ordeal. If only I knew what projects he was working on at the time of their disappearances, I'd have a much better idea of where their remains may be if he was the Derrick Todd Lee type :sigh:
     
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  10. JudgeJoe

    JudgeJoe Well-Known Member

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    His contracting company would be registered with the state I think. And paving could be connected to other permitted jobs- parking lots for malls, movie theaters, homes... If he ever got government jobs (paving in parks, botanical gardens, police stations, beach lots) there’d be a record of contractor bids & assignments. Downside is you’d have to check a whole lot of city building permit departments- plus Pinellas County itself for pocket unincorporated areas.
     
  11. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    I have all of the information on his businesses/corporations and property investments over the years, now I'm just trying to track down affidavits, notices of commencement, etc. I don't think he was actually licensed or registered, so that part is tricky. I'm trying to figure it out, though. I came across a charge from Pinellas County for operating as a contractor without a contractor's license or something along those lines. I don't know if it was a situation in which he had been licensed, it lapsed, he got in trouble, then renewed his license or if he never had one at all.

    Investigators actually had a few of his properties dug up in 1993 to look for remains, but didn't find anything. I'd bet that he's not dumb enough to have buried them on his own property. I've only found one official record for a project (Burger King parking lot in 1982 - Contracted by First Florida), but it didn't take place in the timeframe of disappearances. Going to throw out some emails tomorrow and see if anything can be gleaned from permit department officials, considering how long ago it was.


     
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  12. JudgeJoe

    JudgeJoe Well-Known Member

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    You are dedicated! Did you know one of these ladies? I know a concrete specialty contractor based in Pinellas Park. I’ll run this case by him & see if he has any new tracking ideas. Gimme a coupla days on it & see if I learn anything that could help.
     
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  13. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    I didn't know them (I wasn't even alive when they disappeared), but something about their cases and the connection to him both astounded me and angered me. I'm spending a lot of my sleuthing time trying to get new things done for Princess Blue, but this case is a close second for time spent. Thinking about the possibility of him dying, never having faced what he did to them, and their families not being able to bring them home definitely lit a fire under my butt. Bringing a little Texas heat to these cold cases, as I like to say (my kids call it my catch phrase lol)
     
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  14. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    That would be much appreciated! Any information is helpful at this point.

     
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  15. PayrollNerd

    PayrollNerd Well-Known Member

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    Missing - Please Find Us Facebook post on 1/9/2018
    Missing - Please Find Us

    MARGARET DASH MISSING FROM FLORIDA SINCE 1974

    Dash was last seen on June 14, 1974, when she left her residence in the 1100 block of Wildwood Street in Clearwater, Florida to buy groceries. She has never been heard from again. Her vehicle was found abandoned in St. Petersburg, Florida two months after she was last seen.
    Authorities believe Dash's case may be related to the disappearances of Donyelle Johnson from Pinellas County, Florida and Retha Hiers from Largo, Florida. All three women had been romantically involved with Cleveland Hill Jr., a married asphalt contractor, and all three of them were apparently trying to end their relationships with him when they disappeared. Hill served a prison sentence for shooting his wife and mother-in-law in 1968, and in 1992 he was convicted of drug trafficking. He has never been charged in connection with any of the missing women's cases.

    The missing women did not know each other and authorities have found no connection between them other than their association with Hill. Foul play is suspected in the disappearances of Hiers, Dash and Johnson. Their cases remain unsolved.

    Elaine Wade still remembers what her mother was wearing the morning of June 14, 1974: a black checkered top, black slacks and white sandals.

    Wade's sister, Sharon Jones, remembers waiting for Margaret Dash to honk the horn as soon as she returned home from getting medicine for a sick cousin.

    "I was supposed to run out and get the medicine when she returned from the store," said Jones, now 51.

    Youngest daughter Ladwayna Gilghrest stood at the front door of their home at 1142 Wildwood St. and cried. She wanted to go with her mother to the store. The then-9-year-old's pleas were denied.

    "I just remember waiting for her," said Gilghrest, now 43. "I'm still waiting for her. She's not dead. We can feel it."

    It was the last time they saw their mother.

    When Margaret Dash vanished at age 38, it sent her husband, Leon, and their four children on a 34-year voyage of despair, loneliness and hope. Her disappearance has never been solved.

    But after having found ways to cope with the disappointment of not having their mother at their baby showers or Sunday family dinners, their carefully controlled grief was unleashed again in August.

    Leon Dash Jr., 48, was beaten to death trying to break up a fight while working as a security guard for a party at the Atrium Martini Bar in downtown Clearwater. Police have yet to find his killer.

    "We are still searching for Margaret," said Leon Dash Sr., who now lives in Homosassa. "And now for this to happen to Junior, it's a bit overwhelming."

    Clearwater police said the Margaret Dash case is still open, although they haven't received any information recently. As for Leon Dash Jr.'s death, police say they are still searching for his killer.

    "It's still under investigation, and detectives are asking anyone with information concerning the incident to call," said Elizabeth Daly-Watts, Clearwater police spokeswoman.

    When Wade, Jones and Gilghrest received word that their brother had been injured in the early morning of July 30, they drove to the scene. They were directed to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and could hear the helicopter ferrying their brother to the hospital.

    "It was like at the same time we said, 'Not again,' " said Wade, 52. "Leon's death brought back a lot of pain. It's so hard on the family. We had to grow up fast (after the disappearance). We didn't even know how to separate clothes all that well. We had to grow up and be women really fast."

    After Margaret Dash didn't return home, Leon made a report to Clearwater police the next day. The next week, police gave him a polygraph test. A month later, Margaret's car was found in a St. Petersburg parking lot.

    "It was devastating for me," said Leon Dash Sr., 74. "We had spent our life together. I was 17 and she was 15 when we met. We had been to together 20 years."

    Shortly after her mother's disappearance, Jones joined the Air Force and needed a security clearance. The process stalled once they learned that her mother had not been found. The Air Force tried to locate Margaret Dash but there was no trace of her. Jones was given the clearance.

    "That wasn't a good feeling at all," Jones said. "I was shocked. I just knew they would find her. I remember going back to the barracks and I cried all night."

    Pinellas County sheriff's investigators linked Dash's disappearance to the disappearance of two other county women. Retha Hiers, 43, and Donyelle C. Johnson, 21, both of Largo, vanished in 1982 and 1989, respectively.

    All three women had come in contact with Cleveland Hill Jr., an asphalt contractor who at one time was a minister at the church the Dashes attended, investigators said.

    Hill was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison in 1992 for drug trafficking. He was released last month. Hill has denied any involvement in the women's disappearances. Police have never charged him.

    The Dashes have never stopped looking for their family matriarch and over the years have hired private detectives to help. After rumors swirled that a woman was buried at 1201 Baskins Crossing, an unincorporated area near Largo, Leon Dash Sr. demanded that Clearwater police excavate the site. The April 1993 dig failed to reveal any clues about Margaret Dash's whereabouts.

    Leon Dash Jr. was his usual cheery self on July 29. He spent part of the day sitting on the balcony of his sister's home, drawing.

    He took pride in his physique. He was in impeccable physical condition.

    "I still see him coming down the stairs like a 19-year-old instead of a 48-year-old," said Wade, who was allowing her brother to live with her in Palm Harbor at the time.

    Later in the afternoon, Wade dropped Leon Jr. off at Gilghrest's home.

    "He always had this thing about telling me about my driving," Wade said. "He said, 'You're speeding.' That was the last time I saw him."

    At Gilghrest's home, Dash ate dinner and lifted weights before leaving for work at the Atrium.

    Tashyra Dash, 24, Leon Dash Jr.'s daughter, never got to meet her grandmother. And her father never got a chance to meet his first granddaughter.

    She couldn't even attend her father's funeral because she gave birth to Stori Murph, now 8 months, the day before.

    Leon Jr. was excited about seeing his first granddaughter and planned to be at the hospital, much like his father had done for his sisters when they were giving birth.

    "To know that this man had a family and didn't do anything to hurt people, it's hurtful," said Tashyra Dash, who lives in St. Petersburg. "Help us get some peace. Help us get closure."

    Leon Dash Sr. remarried, but he says he still will never stop looking for Margaret.

    "I look for her every day," he said. "Just the other day I saw a lady who walked like Margaret, so I turned back around to see her face. It wasn't her.

    "I don't think I'll accept the fact that she's dead."
     
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  16. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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  17. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    I have found 2 properties, so far, that had asphalt/paving work done in April-July 1974 and have no contractors listed on notice of commencement filings. I’m assuming that they just hired someone once they’d gotten the ball rolling. Sending off emails tomorrow to see if they remember who did the work :fingers crossed: And still digging through permits and records hoping that something useful comes of it.
     
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  18. Hank36

    Hank36 Member

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    I just discovered these three cases via the PSCO website, and am glad to see somebody doing the heavy lifting with the public records searches.

    One thing to add, however: PSCO's entry for Donyelle Johnson (one must clock on a drop-down tab) states that "Cleveland Hill died in 2018 and denied any knowledge or involvement until his death."

    No date or location of death noted.

    Missing Persons -
     
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  19. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    I know that he died in Virginia, as investigators flew up there when they heard that he was dying. They gave him the chance to at least tell them where the women's remains were, and he refused. I spoke with one detective at Clearwater PD who is in charge of Margaret Dash's case, and he didn't seem to have any doubt about CH Jr being involved in the three disappearances. He was very nice and I hope I get to find something useful for him. I also spoke with the detective at PCSO that worked on all three cases, and is now in charge of Retha & Donyelle's cases. He wasn't as nice as the Clearwater PD detective, but I can understand the mindset and attitude toward "random" people calling about the cases. In so many words, he insinuated that he had very little hope for anyone, better yet me, being able to find anything useful.

    My theory is that Donyelle was, in fact, in a relationship with CH Jr (her father attested to that), and that she may have been coerced to participate in the drug trafficking side business that CH Jr was involved in. He had already threatened her, and was known to be abusive. Either she told him that she wanted out of the relationship, or that she wanted out of the drug aspect of his life. Either way, he wasn't letting her go. She knew too much and he wasn't going to let her rat him out. Maybe he threatened to kill her, she told him that she wouldn't talk and that she'd just leave town. So he got her to write the letter that her father received. Then he killed her and mailed the letter to cover his tracks.

    He owned property in Largo that he and his wife built a home on. In the 80's (I can't remember what year), they bought the two lots that backed up to their already-owned lots and put a pool, garage, etc. in to make a 4 lot property. He also owned a commercial property where he ran a grocery store of sorts called Cleve's Grocery in the 70's. It had a couple of separate rooms that, I'm assuming, were kind of like motel rooms, attached, as well as an outbuilding. They put in a new parking/driveway area at some point, and someone in the community is quoted in the Vanished article from the Tampa Bay Times in 1993 saying that they saw a puddle of blood in one area of the grocery store but never said anything about it to authorities. All this to say, he checks all of the boxes for means, motive & opportunity. Whether he threatened people, paid them off, seemed like such a pillar of the community that people justified what they saw/heard or dismissed things as unfounded rumors, or was generally intimidating enough to keep people quiet...I don't know.

     
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  20. EmilyHTX

    EmilyHTX Active Member

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    For anyone who may want to read it, Newspapers.com (the archive website) had the 3 page article about the women, their disappearances, CH Jr, and other details. I found it to be quite interesting, and am glad that they revisited the cases and brought them all back to public focus for a while.
     

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