BURLEY — May 16 marked two years since Tiffani Streling’s family last saw her.
Tiffani’s absence isn’t the result of a joyous mission for a church, trek to college or a move across the country to start her own family.
Instead, her family suspects foul play — but so far, their questions remain unanswered.
The vibrant 22-year-old stood 5’4” tall, weighed 130 pounds and had chunky blond highlights in her chin-length-brown hair. She loved the color pink and talking on the phone.
For those who loved her, she just ceased to exist.
The family held vigils, sold shirts, posted fliers and billboards searching for someone with clues. They even hired a private detective to find out what happened to their daughter.
“It drives you nuts. It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” Tiffani’s father, William Streling, said about getting up every day to face another round of the same unanswered questions. “It’s a good thing that we tend to have our roller coaster days on separate days.”
May 16, 2015
The last family members to see Tiffani were her father and stepmother, Stephanie Albert. Tiffani was living with them and went to their home to get her belongings so she could move in with her new boyfriend, James McLaws.
As a young woman, Tiffani struggled to find her place in life. She’d had some minor scrapes with the law but she was holding down a job, despite suffering from bouts of anxiety and depression.
The depression had set in after the death of her 1-month-old daughter, Saphire, in November 2013.
Tiffani and her baby’s father, Jordan Defilippis, had broken up but remained emotionally close. That day as she gathered her things at her father’s home, Tiffani found Defilippis hiding in her closet where she kept Saphire’s belongings.
“It was odd that he was in the closet,” Albert said about Defilippis, who had dated Tiffani for several years and was well-known by the family. “But, we’d never known him to have a temper, and there was never any physical fighting between the two.”
Neither McLaws nor Defilippis could be reached for comment by the Times-News.
McLaws asked William Streling if he wanted him to “handle” Defilippis that day.
But Defilippis left peacefully, walking away from the home.
When Tiffani and McLaws left the house at 3:30 p.m. she told Streling and Albert that she and McLaws would be back at 5:30 p.m. for dinner.
“No one could get a hold of her after that,” Albert said.
At 10:30 p.m. McLaws came back to their house upset and said Tiffani was missing.
He said Defilippis had followed him and Tiffani to his house and Defilippis confronted him. He said Tiffani told the two men to work it out, and she went to take a shower. McLaws said he and Defilippis drove to a boat dock on Bedke Boulevard where they talked about Tiffani’s relationship with Defilippis. McLaws said he then dropped Defilippis off at Storybook Park.
At the Streling’s home that night, McLaws told them “I didn’t mean to hurt her,” Albert said, and that Tiffani had left his home to walk a few blocks to her best friend’s house.
“If she really walked a couple blocks to Ashley’s house, how come nobody saw her?” Albert said.
Streling and Albert went to the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office the next day to report Tiffani missing but were told that McLaws had already reported her missing within hours after her disappearance.
“There were a lot of holes in the story and the times were messed up,” Tiffani’s mother, Melissa Belt, said.
Afterward, Belt and Tiffani’s stepfather, Don Belt, asked McLaws to their home for dinner so they could question him about their daughter’s disappearance.
We were scared of him, Don Belt said, and they kept a gun close by when McLaws came to their home.
“He over-explained himself,” Melissa Belt said about McLaws’s rendition of events that occurred during his drive with Defilippis to the boat docks.
“He told us the exact route they drove including the street names,” Belt said.
Defilippis told the Belts that during the drive McLaws kept asking him questions, like whether he was sleeping with Tiffani.
“Every time James would ask a question, he would turn the stereo up like he didn’t want to hear Jordan’s answer,” Belt said.
At one point, McLaws’s former attorney Dave Haley said McLaws was considered “a person of interest,” in Tiffani’s disappearance, but George Warrell, Cassia County undersheriff, said no suspects can be named at this point in the investigation.
“We are actively working this case,” Warrell said. “We realize this is somebody’s daughter and without a doubt we are following up every lead.”
Warrell said investigators “have worked every day on this case,” since her disappearance.
Often, he said, it’s frustrating for officers not to be able to tell family members everything they know about a case.
“Hopefully, it will pay off down the road,” he said.
Warrell said the case was investigated “for the worst possible scenario,” and pieces of evidence that were collected will be used when an arrest is made.
In cases where an adult is reported missing, it can sometimes be difficult for investigators to determine whether a crime has occurred, he said. But Tiffani’s disappearance prompted immediate action from the office and was investigated from the beginning as foul play.
Bring Tiffani home
Tiffani and her cousin Miranda Thomas were close growing up.
“She loved music and hanging out with her friends. She was funny and she was always looking for the latest fashions,” Thomas said.
Tiffani also enjoyed being outdoors.
“She was family-oriented,” Thomas said. “Her family meant a lot to her. We miss her dearly.”
Tiffani’s sister, Christina Tolman, said it is hard some days to force a smile to her lips and face the world.
For Tiffani’s father, the memories and sadness also visit daily.
His eyes reflect a moment of despair when his thoughts turn to a small stuffed Peanuts “Snoopy” dog — pink, her favorite color — that sits on his headboard. Tiffani chose the stuffed animal as the final resting place for her small daughter’s cremains after her death.
For Streling, it reminds him morning and night of a daughter he misses and what could have been.
In Melissa Belt’s quiet moments watching television, the wall of family photos is out of her direct view — and that’s a good thing, because the photos remind her that her family is incomplete.
Tiffani’s old bedroom, painted a pale pink, is now a playroom where grandchildren romp, the sights and sounds offering a momentary relief.
Belt does not keep in touch with family or friends on social media sites and was shocked when she Googled her daughter’s name, and all kinds of information popped up.
Everyone has a theory, she said. Tiffani just walked away or that she was murdered and by whom.
Her daughter, Belt said, would not have simply walked away, never contacting family members or friends again.
Tiffani had hopes and dreams for the future. She was learning to bake and would get recipes on her phone and take pictures of food.
Belt chuckled at the memory of one photo she saw of Tiffani’s efforts at baking cookies, which had melted together.
Just as quickly as the happy memory flows a darker thought replaces it. The thoughts about what may have happened to her daughter never leave her alone, Belt said.
“They’re always there,” she said. “There is no peace.”
TWIN FALLS — A felon wanted in connection to a break-in and theft last year led law enforcement on a short pursuit Monday morning through Twin Falls that ended when sheriff’s deputies crashed into the back of his Volkswagen to stop the vehicle.
The pursuit began about 7:30 a.m. when Twin Falls County Sheriff’s deputies spotted Robert James Troglia, 45, of Twin Falls driving a 2003 Volkswagen at Washington Street North and Addison Avenue East, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Lori Stewart said in statement.
The deputies attempted to stop Troglia, who was wanted on two warrants for burglary and grand theft and a warrant from the parole commission, Stewart said. Idaho Department of Correction records show Troglia was a fugitive from parole for burglary convictions out of Twin Falls and Ada counties.
When the deputies tried stopping Troglia Monday morning, he fled and the deputies gave chase, ending the pursuit at Third Avenue West and Gooding Street when they intentionally crashed into the vehicle to stop it using a precision immobilization technique, known as a PIT maneuver.
Troglia and his passenger, 29-year-old Vicki Guzman of Buhl were arrested at the scene. Guzman was taken into custody on suspicion of harboring a wanted felon and possession of a controlled substance, marijuana and paraphernalia.
Troglia was arrested on the outstanding warrants, and the sheriff’s office planned to request additional charges for eluding, grand theft, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and trafficking in methamphetamine.
Court records show the burglary and grand theft warrants were issued Sept. 28, about a month after police say Troglia kicked down a door and stole more than $1,100 worth of electronics and furniture from a Twin Falls home.
That burglary occurred about 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 21 at a home in the 300 block of Jefferson Street, court documents said. The homeowner called police and told officers his home-surveillance system showed him a burglary was in progress.
When officers arrived, they found the back door of the house was kicked in and discovered the thief had taken a 50-inch flat screen television, a coffee table, a drill, the home-surveillance camera and other electronics totaling $1,190. But the surveillance system had captured images of the suspect, and police believed Troglia was the thief.
Both Troglia and Guzman are expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Twin Falls County Magistrate Court.
TWIN FALLS — Alex Jones, the founder of the far-right conspiracy website InfoWars, has retracted accusations he made linking Chobani to a Twin Falls sexual assault and a rise in crime and disease in the city connected to hiring refugees.
The statement essentially acts as a settlement between Jones and the Greek-yogurt giant after Chobani filed a defamation suit against Jones and two of his companies last month.
"During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the InfoWars Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani, LLC, that I now understand to be wrong,” Jones said. “The tweets and video have now been retracted, and will not be reposted. On behalf of InfoWars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did."
The statement is a far cry from Jones’ initial public response to the lawsuit, when he doubled-down by calling Chobani CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya an Islamist who “infiltrated” the United States “with the clear backing of Turkey.”
In that 17-minute anti-Islamic rant, Jones said he would fight the suit. In another video posted that week, he vowed to come to Idaho to expose Ulukaya’s “Islamacist” agenda.
“You want a fight?” Jones asked during the second response video. “You better believe, baby, you’ve got one.”
But instead of fighting, Jones has rolled over. He and his companies had 21 days to fight the suit from the time he received a summons. It’s unclear exactly when he received his summons, but Monday had marked 21 days since the lawsuit was filed.
The video statement has been added to the "corrections" section on the InfoWars website.
According to Chobani, the case has been resolved. Court records show no motions for dismissal were filed Wednesday.
The statement and the retraction of the stories amount to exactly what Chobani had asked for before filing its lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the company’s lawyers said Jones and InfoWars “have declined to remove the defamatory statements or publish a retraction despite multiple written demands.”
Under the threat of the lawsuit though, Jones has removed the statements and published his retraction.
The video that sparked the controversy was published April 11 and reported a direct connection between Chobani and the assault at the Fawnbrook Apartments, in which three refugee boys pleaded guilty to assaulting a 5-year-old girl. County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said there’s no connection between the yogurt factory, which employs some refugees, and the assault.
The video was published on InfoWars and The Alex Jones Channel on YouTube and shared by Jones on Twitter. It “purports to describe Chobani’s practice of hiring refugees and an assault unrelated to Chobani,” the lawsuit said.
In the video, two InfoWars personalities discuss the Fawnbrook case, with one of them saying, “It was pulled into the political argument, of course, because of that refugee program. Chobani, whose factory employs many refugees, was another target of this anti-refugee anger.”
As the presenters discuss the Fawnbrook assault and continually reference its connection to Chobani, B-roll video plays behind them showing Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya.
“The background of the video repeatedly depicts, and in doing so misrepresents, Chobani’s owner and Chobani’s products,” the lawsuit said. Jones and InfoWars “knowingly misrepresented the facts” and made the false and misleading statements to harm Chobani’s business and reputation.
“The defendants’ conduct in this matter was extreme, outrageous, and warrants punitive damages,” the lawsuit said. “The defendants publicly communicated the defamatory statements to a wide audience of subscribers and other online viewers causing significant damages to (Chobani). As a result of the conduct of the Defendants, (Chobani) has suffered and continues to suffer substantial damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”
The many conspiracies of Alex Jones
The native Texan is no stranger to controversy. He specializes in provocative conspiracy theories, calling himself the “founding father” of 9/11 conspiracies, saying the terrorist attacks were an inside job by the U.S. government.
Jones has also claimed the December 2012 shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., was “completely faked” and “manufactured.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center described Mr. Jones as “almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America,” according to the lawsuit.
Jones was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump’s campaign, and during an appearance on Jones’ show, then-candidate Trump told Jones, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”
Though Jones is rarely apologetic, he did make a correction earlier this year similar to the Chobani retraction. In that instance, Jones offered a correction and quasi-apology for InfoWars’ coverage of “PizzaGate,” a far-right conspiracy that accused Democratic officials of running a child sex-slave ring out of Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. InfoWars removed several “PizzaGate” stories from its website.
TWIN FALLS — A former accountant at Rob Green Auto Group has been charged with stealing more than $1,000 from the car dealership.
Ashlee Ryanne Thompson, 24, of Monteview was charged Thursday in Twin Falls County Magistrate Court with a felony count of grand theft.
Prosecutors say Thompson stole $1,090 from Rob Green Auto Group in January that she used to pay back rent to her landlord.
Thompson told police she had prepared a deposit for $1,090 and locked it away in the safe, but then her landlord called asking that she pay November and December rent, court documents said. When Thompson couldn’t contact her ex-roommate to help her pay, she decided to take the cash from the safe.
Thompson paid her landlord $1,050 for back rent and used the rest of the money to buy gas, court documents said. Because she was cooperative with police, she wasn’t immediately arrested and appeared in court on a summons.
Thompson was booked and released from the county jail Thursday and is set for a preliminary hearing May 19.
Amanda Williams’ youngest daughter, Charlie Marie, was born in 2010 with a severe sensitivity to soaps, detergents, lotions and sunlight.
“She had to stay in the hospital a little longer because she was allergic to everything,” Williams recalled of her newborn.
So the Twin Falls mother got inventive, concocting her own soaps that wouldn’t irritate her daughter’s skin.
Almost seven years later, Charlie Marie has overcome many of her allergies, and Williams is sharing her solutions with the rest of the world. On May 5, she opened Golden Bee Luxury Soap Co. at 202 Shoshone St. S. — right next to the tattoo shop where she works.
The line of 500 products is designed for people whose skin is sensitive to chemicals. And each bottle is proudly labeled “Made by Humans;” no robots were involved.
“I’m a little old fashioned,” Williams said, “even though I’m covered in tattoos from head to toe.”
She now regrets some of those tattoos — decisions she made as an insecure young adult. Williams tries to help her tattoo clients avoid the same mistakes, discussing whether it’s what they really want and not an emotion-based decision.
But now that she’s comfortable in her own skin, she hopes to help those who have sensitive skin feel comfortable in theirs.
The soaps are made using many local ingredients, including some of the plants and herbs grown right in the shop. A row of labeled, potted plants sit up against tall windows facing Second Avenue West.
Local raspberries show up in jars of sugary scrubs that are washed off in the shower.
“It’s almost like a raspberry jelly, but it’s for your skin,” employee Emily “Paige” Demaray said.
Williams wants to buy a farm to grow many of her own ingredients, but some items — shea butter, tea tree oil, powdered goats’ milk — have to be brought in from elsewhere.
“Everything is made in small batches, to make sure it’s pure,” Wiliams said.
Inside the brightly lit room, previously a furniture shop, you’ll find an assortment of bath bombs, body oils, bath salts, body scrubs, face primers, soaps, detergents and lotions. Some of the clear bottles feature a sprig of mint or a slice of lemon inside.
A 2.5-pound loaf of soap can be cut to whatever size you’d like — at $1.69 per ounce. Bath bombs cost $7.50 each and come in fun scents such as “Petal Faster” — with rose petals and glitter — or “Galaxy” — with charcoal.
Golden Bee Luxury Soap is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Williams plans to host a princess-themed “Mommy and Me” celebration about June 25, in honor of Charlie Marie’s birthday.