By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
The family of a Moorcroft man who has been missing for more than two years is waiting for the results of DNA testing to determine whether or not human remains found in western Nebraska Monday belong to their son.
Speculations in the media earlier this week that an arm bone and shirt found near Melbeta, Nebraska, belonged to Chance Englebert prompted the family to publicly respond.
In a statement posted on the Help Find Chance Englebert Facebook page, Englebert’s mother Dawn told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday morning that family members have been in contact with the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s department and are waiting for the results of a DNA test, which could take a couple of weeks to process.
“The sheriff was very kind and said until DNA is back it’s just hard to say,” she said.
Chance Englebert, then 25, disappeared July 6, 2019, during a weekend trip with his wife and young son to visit her family in Gering, Nebraska.
It’s unclear what transpired that day, but Englebert had been golfing with his father-in-law and other members of his wife’s family and reportedly got into an argument over the new job that he’d recently accepted after being laid off from a coal mine.
Englebert called his wife to come get him and told her he wanted to return home to Wyoming. When his wife refused to leave, he called a friend to come get him, but the friend was not able to make the drive, so Englebert allegedly started walking toward Torrington.
He was last spotted on surveillance footage walking in downtown Gering on the 700 block of O Street, wearing Wrangler jeans, plaid shirt and a trucker’s cap.
The last text message from his phone was sent just after 9 p.m. that day and contained an incomprehensible jumble of numbers and emojis, according to his Dawn, who questions whether someone else had his phone, because he never used the symbols in his messages.
Despite a massive search involving 17 law enforcement agencies, drones, divers, cadaver dogs and hundreds of volunteers on foot, horseback and ATVs – as well as several searches led by friends over the past two years between Gering and Torrington – Englebert remains missing.
Dawn also announced that a planned dive in Terry’s Lake with Jared Leisek and his dive team from the YouTube channel Adventure with Purpose Dive has been postponed his dive pending the DNA results.
Leisek, who often teams up with law enforcement agencies for searches had been planning to dive the 7-acre Terry’s Lake and other surrounding ponds in Terrytown, Nebraska, which is one of the last places that Englebert was seen on grainy surveillance footage walking past an apartment complex.
There is no boating or swimming allowed at the Terry’s Lake, according to a post on the Visit Nebraska page.
Leisek and Dawn have been correspoding by email for about a year, she said, and she asked him if he would consider looking for Chance should he ever be driving through Nebraska close to Scottsbluff. To her surprise, Leisek contacted her last week to say he’d be passing through yesterday and would be willing to dive. However, his plans changed when he learned about the recently recovered remains and the pending DNA results, she said.
“Jared and his crew are truly amazing” Dawn said, noting that the diver did say it might likely be a long shot. “He was very patient with us and explained the different cycles of water and how and what it does to a body. He feels that if Chance was in these ponds, he would have surfaced.”
Regardless, if the DNA is not a match, Leisek told Dawn he would be back to search on his next trip through Nebraska.
The lead detective on Englebert’s case, Brian Eads of the Gering Police Department in Nebraska, had contacted Dawn and her husband Everett earlier in the month to let them know that remains had been found but that given the high-profile nature of this case, they were not planning to make the information public until there was a DNA match.
Eads has not yet returned Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.
The reward money for information leading to solving this crime has since been raised to $17,000.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Gering Police Department at (308) 436-5088 or private investigator Amanda Waldron at (307) 797-0363 or the We Help the Missing tip line at (866) 660-4025. Tips can remain anonymous.