Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
NewsOne has partnered with the Black and Missing Foundation and TV One to focus on the crisis of missing African Americans.
To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile a missing person weekly and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing, while TV One‘s newest show, “Find Our Missing,” hosted by award-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson, tells these stories in visual form.
Willie Charles Standberry Sr.
Case Type: Endangered
Date of Birth: October 28, 1934
Missing Date: December 8, 2006
Age Now: 79
Missing City: East Cleveland
Missing State: Ohio
Hair Color: Black
Hair Length: Short
Eye Color: Brown
Wear Glasses or Contacts: No
Location Last Seen: Willie “Chuck” Standberry was last seen on Thursday, December 7, 2006, leaving a friend’s house at 7:15 p.m. near E. 89th and Grant. He was later believed to have been at the Shell Gas Station at E. 123rd and St. Clair. He was driving a 2001 Ford Focus, Hunter Green in color (pictured below) with Ohio Temporary tag M 123587 or License Plate EAU-8688.
Circumstances of Disappearance: Next month, it’ll be 7 years since his father disappeared. His son and namesake knows the odds of his dad, who would now be 79 years old, being found alive are slim but he refuses to give up.
“The man in me believes he’s gone. The kid in me always has hope,” Willie Charles Stanberry Jr., 54, a crane operator who lives in Pennsylvania and spells his last name without the “d,” told NewsOne in an interview.
On the anniversary of the day his dad went missing, Stanberry Jr. will hold a ceremony. His father hasn’t been declared dead so he’s refusing to call it a memorial service.
“I’m calling it the celebration of life for Willie Standberry Sr.,” said the son. “To me it’s a celebration. Until I get closure, I can’t call it a memorial.”
Standberry Sr. was a bass guitar player who played gospel music. Despite rough patches in their relationship when he was a younger man, Stanberry Jr. said he wanted to emulate his dad and he, too, took up the bass guitar. Stanberry Jr. would brag to his father that he had traveled and played with the Tempations for several years but his dad had a boast that would always top that: playing twice at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem.
“As a role model he showed me everything. Between him and my mom, I had the best parents ever,” Stanberry Jr. said of his mother who died a couple of years before his father went missing.
That’s why Stanberry Jr. has engaged a private investigator who has pursued the case for the last several years but the trail is ice cold.
“I just want to find him,” said Stanberry Jr.
When his family got the call from Standberry Sr.’s girlfriend that he hadn’t arrived at her house as planned one evening, Stanberry Jr. knew something was wrong. His girlfriend’s house was 15 minutes from the friend’s house his father was leaving and no highway driving was involved. It’s a route Standberry Sr. had driven a hundred times before.
The family went to police and Stanberry Jr. said there was speculation that his dad just decided to leave.
“The police said, ‘Maybe he just drove away.’ I never believed he just walked away,” said Stanberry Jr. “I do think something happened to him. What, I don’t know what. He took no clothing, the bank accounts haven’t been touched, and there’s no activity on the cell phone.”
Standberry Sr. had much to live for. His father was planning to marry his girlfriend. He was in good health and had begun to clear up issues with some of the properties he owned. He still played with a band. And then there were the near-daily conversations with his grandson, son, and brother. His dad was the happiest he had been since his mom died, said Stanberry Jr.
“I talked to him the night before. He was saying I’m going to be all right tomorrow. He was in good spirits,” said Stanberry Jr.
And then there are all the events Stanberry Jr. knows his dad would have never missed.
“If he was around, he would have come to his sister’s and brother’s funeral. His grandson was murdered, and he would have gone to that funeral. I had reconstructive spine surgery, and I know he would have come to the hospital,” said Stanberry Jr.
Stanberry Jr. said he’ll never stop looking for his dad. Even if he is gone, he wants to be able to lay him to rest properly.
“I love my father, so I’m doing what any son who cares about his father would do,” said Stanberry Jr. “I would want my sons to do that for me.”
Last Seen Wearing: A baseball cap, beige jogging suit, and suede jacket.
Identifying Marks or Characteristics: Balding. He walks with a limp in his right leg.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Willie “Chuck” Standberry should call East Cleveland Police Department at (216) 451-1234 or contact the Black and Missing Foundation’s confidential Tip Line.