Antelope Valley Press Article by William Warford
Subject: William P. Warford's column from the Antelope Valley Press April 25, 2003.
Headline: This missing persons case never became a cable darling
Subhead: While Laci and Conner capture the nation's attention, Denise and Danny remain unknown.
Maybe Denise and Danny just went missing a dozen or so years too early. Maybe if it had happened in 2002 or 2003, maybe their disappearance would have been anointed The Story by the cable news networks.
Maybe then the whole country would have known them by their first names, just like Laci and Conner.
Maybe it would have been all Denise all the time, with panels of legal experts putting a million-watt spotlight of suspicion on a possible culprit, analyzing his every move, his every utterance. Maybe the cops would have moved the case to the very top of the priority list and taken advantage of a flood of tips from concerned citizens who heard about the story on the news. Maybe the case could have been solved in a matter of days or weeks, or months at the very longest.
Instead, 22-year-old Denise Fagot and her 18-month-old son, Daniel Spangle, went missing from their Lancaster apartment on March 1, 1989, and that was it. They've been missing for 14 years, 1 month and 25 days. They're not household names and they are mostly forgotten to all but those who loved them.
"I watch all of this coverage on TV and it's frustrating," said Ginger Gausman, Denise's mom. "I am so envious of the attention and the way things are handled now. I think, Why didn't our case get that kind of attention and that kind of priority?"
Gausman believes that the cops didn't take the case seriously in the crucial initial hours, that they figured Denise was a flake who just took off. The detectives have denied this through the years, but the mom asks: "If you're going to run off, do you pay your bills the day before?"
No. Nor do you leave all your clothes, your baby's clothes and your car. And, Gausman points out, there were signs of forced entry and a possible struggle within the apartment. "We gave them so many leads and they just told me that I watch too many detective shows."
And beyond a handful of stories in the Valley Press, the case never attracted the attention of the media. There was no Greta Van Susteren show on Fox back then. In fact, there was no Fox cable network back then. The case of Denise and Danny never became a national soap opera, the subject of water cooler conversation.
The cops interviewed the baby's father, who lived in Orange County, but no arrest was ever made. "He failed a lie detector test 10 years later," Gausman said, but there was no physical evidence to tie him or anyone else to the crime. There were no bodies, either. And so, Denise's family has remained in limbo ever since.
"I agree with Laci's mother (Sharon Rocha) 100%," Gausman said. "She said it exactly right and I feel the same way about our case: 'I want the person who did this, the person responsible, to pay.'Ê"
Sharon Rocha is anguished, wondering about her daughter's final moments, but at least she knows now that Laci and Conner are dead. When a body is still not found, there's always that wild notion that, despite all that logic tells you, maybe she was abducted and hit her head and suffered amnesia and maybe É After all, everybody thought Elizabeth Smart was dead and she showed up after nine months.
The not knowing must be unbearable.
Ginger Gausman and her husband Wayne moved years ago from Lancaster to Cypress, where they design Web pages and enjoy spending time with their other grandchildren. "It still hurts, there isn't a day that goes by. But when people ask how I get by I just tell them it's through the grace of God," she said. "You know, I wish I would have had somebody like that sheriff in Orange County that handled the Samantha Runnion case last year (Mike Corona). That man, he was wonderful. He stood there and he said, 'You will not get away with this.' That's what we needed on our case. Somebody like him."
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
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