“Missing White Woman” syndrome impacts local missing cases in the Tacoma area.
Last year, millions tuned into social media to follow the missing person case of Gabby Petito. Petito, a van life vlogger, was last seen in the company of her fiance, Brian Laundrie. The two were traveling across the country in their van and documenting their journey on social media. When Laundrie returned home alone, Petito’s family became suspicious and filed a missing persons report. Petito’s remains were eventually recovered in Wyoming, and a notebook belonging to Laundrie found nearby contained his guilty confession her murder. Petito’s highly publicized case spawned thousands of social media posts, TikToks and YouTube videos. The masses speculated wildly, called in tips and sightings, and at times, interfered with the investigation. Considering the remoteness of where her body was found and the investigation spanning multiple states, it is unlikely this case would have been solved without the massive amount of media attention it received.
How is Gabby Petito’s case different from other missing person cases?
One aspect is “missing white woman syndrome.” An article published in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology titled “Missing White Woman Syndrome: An Empirical Analysis of Race and Gender Disparities in Online News Coverage of Missing Persons” defined this phenomena as how “missing persons with certain characteristics are more likely to garner media attention than others: namely, white women and girls” (Sommers, 2016).
This is not to say that missing white women and girls aren’t important, they just often overshadow or completely eclipse cases of women and girls of color who are missing. Missing white women and girls are more likely to receive media attention and more likely to have a larger police search response.
There are two local missing people that deserve more attention: Aidan Spear and Diana Davis.
Aidan Spear is a 21-year-old Native American woman who was reported missing on February 22, 2021. Growing up, Aidan was very close with her family and had a particularly strong friendship with her younger brother. In an interview with Q13Fox, Aidan’s mother Jessica Brown said that she was a hard worker in high school and a member of the school swim team. After high school, Aidan encountered some personal struggles but maintained contact with her family.
At the time of her disappearance, Aidan was unhoused and dealing with addiction issues. Aidan asked her mother for help and in January 2021, Aidan and her mother arranged for her to enter an addiction rehabilitation facility. On the day that they would depart, Aidan told her mother that she would be just a little late meeting up as there was someone she had to say goodbye to first. Aidan never arrived.
This was the last time that Jessica Brown heard from her daughter. Jessica filed a missing persons case a month later.
Aidan Spear is 5’6”, 120 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. Pierce County Police said she may frequent the Hosmer street area. Her missing person case is still active as of this issue’s printing and her family desperately wants answers to where their beloved daughter is. Any tips or information as to her whereabouts can be called into the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department at 253-798-7530.
The second case that needs more attention is the murder of Diana Davis. Diana, 50, disappeared in July of 2020 and her murder remains unsolved.
On July 27th, Diana called her son and told him she was headed to the Proctor Community Garden. Surveillance video and cellphone tracking data indicate that afterwards, she visited a hardware store and then drove to the Seattle area. Her last cell phone ping was at 7:35 p.m. near Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park.
On July 29, Diana’s car was found on fire in downtown Tacoma. On August 5, her body was found buried in a secluded area of Snoqualmie Pass. Investigators determined her cause of death was multiple blunt force traumas to her head. Although some DNA was recovered at the scene, it has not been matched to anyone. She had been known to use dating sites to meet people, so investigators consider it possible that she may have driven to meet the person who murdered her. In an interview with Q13Fox, Detective Jack Nasworthy was quoted as saying:
“This person went through a lot of effort to cover up this crime. Not only did they take her out in the woods, bury her in a place where they probably didn’t think she’d ever be located. But they also went through the effort to burn her car to hide evidence. And that’s not something you’re going to see usually in a random crime.”
Diana was a beloved mother and grandmother. She worked as a caretaker and her family described her as a “free spirit” and a “beautiful soul.” Any information related to her case can be called into CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. There is a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and charging of the person who murdered Diana Davis.
When reading about true crime cases, it is important to remember that there are real victims and real families in pain. While it is good that Gabby Petito’s family has some answers, as a community, we cannot leave the less sensationalized cases behind. Aidan, Diana and their families deserve justice.
For Further Reading:
https://www.q13fox.com/news/pierce-county-detectives-searching-for-missing-21-year-old-woman https://www.lauthmissingpersons.com/indigenous-woman-still-missing-following-plan-to-enter-treatment/ https://www.kiro7.com/news/south-sound-news/new-details-emerge-2020-murder-tacoma-woman-found-dead-near-mountain-pass/43T23WF5ZJH3ZGI5V6AUH2R74E/ https://www.kiro7.com/news/south-sound-news/new-details-emerge-2020-murder-tacoma-woman-found-dead-near-mountain-pass/43T23WF5ZJH3ZGI5V6AUH2R74E/ https://www.gofundme.com/f/raising-money-for-my-mother039s-funeral-cost?utm_source=customer-andr&%3Butm_campaign=p_cp%20share-sheet&%3Butm_medium=sms&%3Bfbclid=IwAR2eAPF4Kcnqw3g881-Pv_XELCDJ0HxX8aZtXlp54vLEldr2MiIlPkctjdk&fbclid=IwAR2w4t8rYW0nMaNBbgmqjEXKoQzrk9KzW7IIsll3tblhL0g5TmAn9SXJMQ8 https://www.q13fox.com/news/diana-davis-tacoma-detectives-investigate-theory-partial-evidence-male-suspect-unsolved-2020-murder Sommers, Zach (2016). "Missing White Woman Syndrome: An Empirical Analysis of Race and Gender Disparities in Online News Coverage of Missing Persons". Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. 106 (2): 275–314. https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7586&context=jclc