STT Family Redoubles Efforts to Find Missing Teen

Sokotto Clendinen, in a photo from his sister's Facebook page.
Sokotto Clendinen, in a photo from his sister’s Facebook page.

The family of a St. Thomas teen reported missing after Hurricane Irma says they will post a new round of public notices for information they hope will lead to locating Sokotto Clendinen. Clendinen was 19 when he was last seen the afternoon of Sept. 7, 2017. That was the day Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, hit the Virgin Islands. Since then Clendinen’s sister, Nicky, and other relatives have sought his whereabouts.

Renewed interest in a new search, 16 months after the initial disappearance, came when Nicky said she saw someone who looked like her brother walking along a road in Bovoni, near the entrance to the landfill.

On Dec. 12 the sister posted an appeal on social media for anyone with information to contact her. At the time of the apparent sighting, Nicky Clendinen said she was traveling in the back seat of a vehicle driven by a friend.

“His face, they way he dressed and he was carrying a big backpack, like he was carrying a whole bunch of clothes,” she said. “Everyone knows him, in that area. I pass by the area every day.”

At the time of the disappearance, the teen was spotted in the area of West Caret Bay, near the home of his grandmother. Sokoto’s father and other relatives searched the area, Nicky said, and her aunt filed a missing person’s report.

One of the first handmade posters, with a picture of a slim, close cropped, youth with a medium complexion and a white T-shirt, appeared in the cashier’s window at the Schneider Regional Medical Center. The family put signs with photos, “most everywhere,” the sister said.

An unexpected twist developed in the search when Nicky said the family got word that Sokotto was taken to the U.S. mainland as a medical evacuee.

A follow-up produced no results, she said. According to Iffat Walker, director of Community Action Now, the incident was vaguely familiar.

Walker’s group helped provide support services to those taken off island for continuing medical care. When officials check the flight manifests they found the names of some passengers did not match, she said.

The false lead left the Clendinen family wondering where to look next. Hopes of help from the community, by then, had faded away.

“No one called and I’ll have to put them up again because they’re down,” Nicky said.

Clendinen is among a number of V.I. residents reported missing in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit the islands two weeks later, on Sept. 19-20. The best known among the missing is Hannah Upp, a teacher at Montessori School, who’s disappearance appeared in national publications.

Police spokesperson Glen Dratte released a missing persons list in March that showed four names added to the list after the storms.

Police Commissioner Delroy Richards was asked about the Clendinen case at the end of a Dec. 19 hearing in U.S. District Court. Richards said he was asked a similar question a few days earlier and contacted the V.I. Police Department unit familiar with a national database where the missing are logged.

“There are records. We do keep a record of missing people,” Richards said.

The commissioner said he’d look into whether Sokotto Clendinen was included on the list. But late last week a statement from Government House, Gov. Kenneth Mapp announced Richards had resigned ahead of the transition into a new administration.