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John L. Smith: The Solving Of A 33-Year-Old Missing Child Case


(Palm Beach County Detention Center/Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office via AP)

This undated photo provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office shows Amy Elizabeth Fleming, 60, of Dania, Fla. Fleming, who moved to Florida from the Las Vegas area a year after her 3-year-old mysteriously vanished more than 30 years ago, has been arrested on a warrant charging her with killing the boy, authorities said Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.

Francillon Pierre's disappearance from the Broad Acres Swap Meet in 1986 has eaten away at homicide detectives in North Las Vegas for years.

The 3-year-old was with his mother, Amy Luster, and her fiancee. They told North Las Vegas police he got lost somehow in the crowd.

Bones were found of a similarly aged person, but they weren't a match for "Yo-Yo," the little boy's nickname.

Now, police say, they have enough evidence to charge the mother, Amy Elizabeth Fleming, with murder.

It's a case John L. Smith wrote about many times over the years, and he was just as frustrated as the police trying to solve the case.

“It did bother quite a few homicide detectives who looked at it over the years,” he said.

There was no body and no confession, which left police with very little to go on.

“The biological father was accused of stealing the boy at one point when Amy and Lee Luster couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer for how they allowed their son to wander away at a swap meet,” Smith said.

But Smith said there were clear signs of child abuse and the child's parents were about to go to court to face child abuse charges when the boy disappeared.

Now, after the cold case was re-opened in 2017, police have evidence to charge Fleming and have her extradited from Florida. 

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“You’ve got that issue finally coming to fruition after an awful long time and an awful lot of work,” Smith said.

Corridor of Hope Courtyard for Homeless

“I tend to think after watching this for so many years that consolidating services and bringing services into the area of need is a smart thing. Doesn’t come without challenges and problems but it is clearly the best way,” Smith said.

Under the plan, the city will create a courtyard where services ranging from medical help to job searches will be available in one spot. It will also be a place for the homeless to get out of the summer heat and sleep at night in the hopes of being safer.

“This is a step by the city to follow up on some things that have been pretty scattershot over the years and now they’re trying to consolidate,” he said.

The plan is for the courtyard to be fully operational in 2020.

There are critics of the plan. Homeless advocates say it is a way for the city to move the homeless out of the public eye without addressing the root causes of homelessness.

“I don’t think there is any question that there is an element of that,
Smith said, "And if the city council members are being candid, they’ll have to admit that they’re trying to prettify, beautify an area that is blighted”


That blight, Smith noted, is the human misery that is on display every night on the streets.

Some advocates would like to see the approach used in Salt Lake City, Utah available here. That city has adopted a homes-first approach, where homeless are given small, clean, safe apartments first with wrap-around social services to follow.

Smith said that solving homelessness entirely is not realistic.

“You’re going to have people who fall out of society for a lot of different reasons and a lot of very understandable reasons,” he said.

But he believes, as a society, we must try to help.

“it is incumbent upon a society that is civilized to outstretch your hand and say, ‘Hey, can we help you? Do you want help? And can we help?’”


John L. Smith, contributor

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