Valley Press Article by William Warford
Subhead: Not satisfied with official investigations, Ginger Gausman works to find her daughter and grandson.
Whatever happened to Denise and Danny?
This is the story of a 10-year-old mystery, a mystery that is still unsolved and a mystery that stays on the mind of Ginger Gausman all the time. Especially at this time of year.
It was 10 years ago - on March 1, 1989 - that Ginger's daughter and grandson vanished. Denise Fagot was 22 at the time, and little Daniel Spangle was 2. They disappeared from their apartment in Lancaster.
That's mysterious enough, but what was really strange was the way the apartment was left. All their clothes, except the night clothes they were wearing, were left behind. All the baby's things, including his car seat, were left behind. The door was unlocked. Denise's car was in its assigned parking spot.
``And Denise had just paid her utility bills,'' Ginger Gausman was saying when we got together for lunch in Palmdale the other day. As a Valley Press reporter 10 years ago, I wrote the original story about the missing pair and stayed in touched with the Gausmans for a couple of years after that.
I admired Ginger's determination and perseverance. A couple of weeks ago I was thinking it was the 10th anniversary of the disappearance, and I wondered where she was living and how she was doing. I remembered that she'd moved away, but I didn't know where she was. Then one day the phone rang and it was Ginger. Next thing you know, she's in town and we're talking about the case.
``If she were planning to take off, why would she pay her utility bills the day before?'' Ginger wanted to know.
Why, indeed? There are so many questions. The cops seemed to think at first that this was just one more case of a flaky girl taking off with her kid. They didn't take fingerprints. They didn't make much of the muddy footprint on top of the air-conditioning unit by the sliding glass patio door. That door, by the way, was left open a few inches on that cold March morning.
The trail grew cold, but Ginger Gausman never gave up her search. In 10 years she has placed literally thousands of phone calls, distributed fliers, appeared on national television, worked with missing persons organizations, hired a private detective, and even consulted several psychics.
``The psychics were split, 50-50,'' she said. ``Half of them said Denise was alive and half of them said she was dead. Well, we knew that; she's got to be either alive or dead.''
And most of the psychics wanted big fees for their services. The private investigator wasn't much help, and the missing persons groups and the Montel Williams TV show all came up empty. Nothing. No word for 10 years.
After that much time, hope gets harder to hold on to with each passing week. ``I truly believe Denise is dead,'' said Ginger, who now lives in Los Alamitos with her husband Wayne. ``I hope Danny isn't.''
Ginger has boxes full of records and logs of phone calls she's made. This helps the detectives of 1999 try to solve the case from 1989. She has theories about what might have happened and she's discussed them with the cops.
The last investigator assigned to the case has retired, and Investigator Judy Gibson of the Homicide Bureau's Missing Persons Detail has just taken it over. She's studying the files this week at a seminar and hopes to hit the ground running when she gets back next week.
For Ginger and her family, it's been a long 10 years. ``It's my belief the case was mishandled from the beginning. We were honest with them, we told them everything about Denise that we thought could help find her. She wasn't perfect; we told them she had done drugs. Maybe we told them too much and they made up their minds about her right at the beginning.''
While they wait for some sort of resolution, Ginger and Wayne go on with their lives. They've gone into business for themselves, designing Web pages. They enjoy their kids and their grandchildren. ``We have 16 wonderful grandchildren,'' Ginger said.
That includes little Danny.
William P. Warford's column appears every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. You can write to him at P.O. Box 4050, Palmdale, CA 93590-4050, call him at 267-4166, or e-mail William P. Warford's column is posted on our site courtesy of Antelope Valley Press.
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