By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
As investigators continue their examination into the disappearance of a Moorcroft man in 2019, a growing number of amateur sleuths and private investigators are turning their attention to the case of Chance Englebert.
Englebert disappeared after beginning what was to be a walk from Gering, Nebraska, to Torrington following an argument with his in-laws.
Although investigators continue to receive tips on the case, none have panned out.
In the absence of answers, dozens of national and local true crime podcasts have done their own investigations into Englebert’s case.
Those incude “Lyn Seeks,” a YouTube channel run by Lyndi DiSanto a former South Dakota legislator who now lives in Montana.
DiSanto, who now lives in Montana and also goes by the name Lyndi Meyer, has been following Chance’s case along with those of other missing persons, including a 9-year-old South Dakota girl who walked out of a residential youth treatment facility in February 2019.
As a South Dakota state senator, DiSanto said she was studying cases involving murdered and missing indigenous women in Rapid City when she first heard of Englebert’s case. She said it was the image of watching his mother Dawn Englebert “sobbing for her missing son” on television that prompted her to get involved.
Like Dawn, DiSanto also has three sons, and Chance’s disappearance hit her hard, she said. The more she learned about Englebert, the more compelled she felt to help Dawn bring her son home.
“People really care about this case because he’s a small-town boy who is well loved and well regarded by everyone, and people can’t believe he just disappeared,” she told Cowboy State Daily.
DiSanto’s style, however, has gotten her in hot water.
In February 2021, DiSanto was slapped with a protective order following an uninvited visit to Chance’s former home in Moorcroft, where his wife Baylee was living after his disappearance.
DiSanto knocked on Baylee’s door and filmed outside the home while Baylee called the police, claiming DiSanto was endangering her young son.
She was cited for breach of peace and a Crook County judge later granted Baylee a protective order against DiSanto. DiSanto said the protective order was dropped the following year during a renewal hearing with a different judge.
DiSanto said Baylee once did agree to be interviewed, but later canceled their appointment. Baylee, who has only participated in a handful of interviews, told a South Dakota reporter that she refuses to talk to the press because she and her family get death threats.
For her part, DiSanto acknowledges that her style can be off-putting to some.
“I’m not afraid to ruffle feathers,” she said. “People have cursed me out and I’ve gotten called a lot of names.”
This is because she’s a “bulldog,” she said, and refuses to back down when it comes to following leads and questioning people.
DiSanto has visited Gering to retrace Englebert’s steps that night and said she’s working with a group of residents who are well acquainted with the case and the many rumors that continue to circulate. She believes that people in Gering know a lot more than they are telling police based on the rumors she’s heard from people while there, and she encourages them to share what they know with law enforcement.
“People in the community need to take what they’ve heard to the proper authorities,” she said. “I don’t think they realize that there might be truth in what they’re hearing and could be a clue that police need to break the case.”
She also thinks there are other factors – namely tensions and strained relationships in his marriage and family – that might have accounted for Englebert’s disappearance.
If DiSanto had to speculate at this point, she said based on the evidence she has seen and hard, she believes Englebert probably got into a car with someone during his walk.
Disappeared After Argument
Englebert, then 25, was visiting Baylee’s family in Gering, Nebraska, over the Fourth of July weekend with their son.
During a golf outing with his father-in-law and other members of his wife’s family, Englebert had reportedly gotten into an argument over a new job he’d recently accepted after being laid off from a coal mine in Gillette.
There are varying accounts about the nature of the argument or how much the group had been drinking, but in the end, Englebert was upset and called Baylee to come get him. He told her he wanted to return to Wyoming.
While at Baylee’s grandparent’s house, the couple allegedly got into an argument about him wanting to leave, causing Chance to walk off and ask a friend in Pine Haven to ask for a ride to Moorcroft. That friend was hours away from Gering and was not able to get there, so Englebert then started walking toward Torrington, about 35 miles away.
While walking, Englebert called his friend and Baylee to inform them of his plan. He was last spotted on surveillance footage walking in downtown Gering.
The last communication with Chance was around 9 p.m., when he sent a text message with incomprehensible jumble of numbers and emojis to his aunt, a red flag for his mother Dawn, who said that her son never used emojis.
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 – Chance remains missing.
Rumors & Speculation
Rumors about Englebert’s disappearance has led to a split between the two families given speculation on social media about the role that both families might have played in Chance’s disappearance.
Hundreds of additional tips have revealed nothing substantive, including a rumor that one of Baylee’s family friends might have been involved after it was reported the friend had just poured fresh concrete.
That was quickly debunked by Gering Police Department Investigator Brian Eads who is in charge of the case. Eads said the concrete speculation comes up again and again and that it has been thoroughly looked into.
Another rumor he said he hears often is that Baylee “lawyered up” early after her husband’s disappearance.
“Baylee hired an attorney to protect herself but never invoked her 5th Amendment rights (or) refused to answer questions,” he said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. “She has been interviewed multiple times at length and very willingly. There have been a lot of rumors and accusations on social media towards all members of the family, but I can only speak to the ones that involve law enforcement as I can’t speak for them.”
Dawn refutes this was a rumor and said she was told about the lawyer by the former investigator on the case, Cpt. Jason Rogers, who called Dawn to ask her if her family was being represented by the same lawyer, which is how she found out that Baylee had hired legal counsel.
Eads also said that he has administered polygraphs on persons who were reported to have involvement in the case as well as people who were falsely reporting on others’ involvement in the case, but he can’t share who was tested or results of those tests.
He confirmed that tips continue to come in and are investigated and it remains an active case.
Currently, friends and family have raised $17,500 in reward money for any information leading to answers in this case.
DNA Results Of Found Arm Bone
Meanwhile, a preliminary investigation of an arm bone discovered last October by a hunter along the North Platte River between Minatare and Melbeta in Nebraska has indicated the bone does not belong to Englebert.
The bone had initially been sent to the University of Nebraska crime lab for a DNA analysis, but due to the age and condition of the waterlogged bone, the lab was unable to complete testing, Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman told Cowboy State Daily in January. The bone has since been sent to a lab in Florida and results from tests there are pending.
Overman said his department identified two men the bone might belong to – Englebert or another missing man, Walter “Gene” Patterson-Black. He added it is likely the arm belongs to Patterson-Black given the location of the bone and the fact a piece of clothing found near it was reportedly a close match to the shirt Patterson-Black was last seen wearing.
Eads also believes the bone likely does not belong to Englebert, but said investigators are waiting for conclusive DNA confirmation before ruling it out.
Spate Of Missing Men
Chance is not the only man to disappear around the same time in the Gering-Scottsbluff region.
Amanda Waldron, a private investigator with the national nonprofit organization “We Help the Missing” who is working with Englebert’s family, has compiled a list of men who have gone missing in Nebraska during 2019 and 2020.
On that list are the names of more than 25 men who have been reported missing from various cities throughout Nebraska, with most missing from the Omaha area.
A handful of men also disappeared in the same region as Englebert during the same time frame, Waldron said.
Among those are 28-year-old Christopher Loupin, who also vanished under mysterious circumstances in mid-November 2019 from 4 Seasons Campground north of the Elm Creek interchange near Kearney. He, too, disappeared without a trace after last being seen at the campground in shorts and a T-shirt.
Earlier that year, in February, a Colorado man also vanished after crashing his pickup into a guardrail on U.S. Highway 285 in Indian Hills outside Denver. Jacob Paddock-Weeks was seen running from the accident after leaving both his cell phone and wallet in the car.
The lack of information about any of the cases is distressing for Waldron who continues searching for clues as to what might have happened to Englebert and whether there’s any connection between his case and the others.
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.