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Still searching for David

David Joseph Miera who disappeared at 8 months old.
David Joseph Miera who disappeared at 8 months old.
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Eelia Miera was being born when her 2-year-old brother vanished.

Just like that, her mother told her. Gone. All his little clothes, his toys. Him.

David Joseph Miera was a hyper child, brown eyes, big for his age, a birthmark on his back and unusually wide feet, a family trait. He was born March 7, 1967, in Albuquerque to Genevieve “Genie” Miera, then 23. Father unknown.

Where is David?
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: Reference Case No. 1107558, www.missingkids.com or 800-843-5678.
New Mexico State Police: Reference Case No. SF23414, 505-827-9300 or 9066.

He disappeared in January 1970.

Eelia Miera doesn’t know much more about him, only that she promised her mother she would never stop looking for him. Her mother had never stopped looking until her dying day in April 1989.

“She always talked about him with a sparkle in her eye,” she said. “But I could see all the sadness.”

Several high-profile happy endings of long-lost children – Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck, Jaycee Dugard, for example – give Miera some hope, as does last week’s remarkable rescue of three young women from a Cleveland house of horrors a decade or more after each disappeared.

And so she thinks: maybe. Maybe.

David’s disappearance is not an easy one to figure out. Those who might know something are either dead now or were too stoned then to remember much of anything in those rainbow- and mud-hued summers of love in northern New Mexico.

Others know what they know.

G. MIERA: Never stopped looking for her son.

G. MIERA: Never stopped looking for her son.

“Nobody is concealing anything,” said Roger Chilton, 76, who from his house off N.M. 580 in Montecito can see the small adobe home where David lived with his mother and her boyfriend, Leon “LG” Zerfas. “Everybody thinks that boy is dead.”

Back then, Montecito and Dixon, two miles west, had drawn flower children and freaks looking to live off the land and off the grid in a utopian counterculture of peace, love and LSD. Storied communes such as the Hog Farm, New Buffalo, Tree Frog and Morning Star sprouted up like magic mushrooms in northern New Mexico. In July 1970, Rolling Stone featured an article about the hippie havens of northern New Mexico.

It’s unclear what, or who, brought Genie and Zerfas to the area and the small adobe house. Genie, Miera said, had been a young woman tossing about in those psychedelic days, practicing a spirituality called Subud, traveling to New York to drop acid with Timothy Leary and cutting her dark hair short just to be different from the other hippie women.

Zerfas, who is Miera’s father, was the estranged son of an Indiana physician who apparently chose a darker, wilder course. Those who knew Zerfas, who is now deceased, say he was a violent man who was cruel to children and cheated on and abused women, including Genie.

“My mom always said she was in love with him anyway,” Miera said. “She always told me I was a love child.”

While Genie was giving birth to Miera in what was then Embudo Presbyterian Hospital, Zerfas was left to care for David. When Genie returned home, David was gone.

“My dad told my mother that he had given David away to some family,” Miera said.

The story varies wildly from there: David was given to a childless couple of college graduates from back East; a blonde photographer; a family named Felps or Phillips; a family living in a hippie bus, someone in Mexico.

Others, including many of Miera’s family members, believe Zerfas killed the child.

ZERFAS: Claims he gave away toddler in 1970.

ZERFAS: Claims he gave away toddler in 1970.

“The guy was a nut and quite likely abusive,” neighbor Chilton said. “He spent a great deal of time hiking in the hills up here, building little dams and things like that. I don’t know what he was doing. I walked there several times a week, and I still see little piles of rocks. I sometimes think about digging them up. Maybe the kid is there.”

Genie did not report her son missing to police for more than a year. Miera said she thinks that’s because Zerfas forced her to keep quiet.

The couple eventually moved to California, where, after a final violent fight, Genie fled to New Mexico with her daughter and reported David’s disappearance.

And then she did everything she could to find David.

“The sad thing during this whole time is she just didn’t have the resources to find him,” Miera said. “Nobody helped.”

Genie gave birth to five more children and raised them on her own in Santa Cruz, Calif. But there was always that hole where David should have been.

“She talked about David all the time,” Miera said. “She was obsessed with finding him.”

In 1986, Genie and Eelia Miera, then a teenager, returned to the Dixon area to search for David. During that trip, Eelia Miera said she met Zerfas, her father, who maintained the story that he had given David away.

Zerfas died in 2005, taking whatever else he knew about David with him.

As the years have worn on, searches have been conducted around Dixon by State Police. Information about David is posted on every website involving missing persons. He is Case No. 1107558 through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

He would be 46, if he is alive.

Every January, Eelia Miera celebrates another birthday and thinks about the brother she never met and wonders whether he is just bones under stones or that next happy ending of a long-lost child.

Either way, she wants to know. She promised.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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