By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
When Linda Kluender recently inherited money from her mother and uncle, it wasn’t a new house or car that she had her eye on. She wanted only one thing: Answers to what happened to her cherished grandson.
Chance Englebert was 25 when he disappeared July 6, 2019, during a weekend trip with his wife, Baylee, and infant son, Banks, to visit her family in Gering, Nebraska.
Nearly three and a half years of not knowing what happened to Englebert has been agony, Kluender said, and she hopes that upping the ante with a $200,000 contribution to his reward fund will encourage people to come forward.
“It just kills you,” she said. “There’s nothing you can do other than put up a reward and play on someone’s consciousness. I feel there’s somebody who knows something about it.”¬
The reward fund now sits at $220,000 thanks to Kluender and other private donations. Kluender said her $200,000 portion is only valid for a year until Chance’s 30th birthday on Dec. 2, 2023. The remaining $20,000 will stay in place until Banks is 18 or Chance is found, Kluender said.
What happened to Chance?
It’s unclear what transpired that day, but Englebert had been golfing with his father-in-law and other members of Baylee’s family and reportedly got into an argument over a new job that he’d recently accepted after being laid off from a Powder River Basin 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 mother Dawn, who questions whether someone else had his phone as he never used the symbols in his messages.
Despite a massive search involving 17 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.
Updates In The Case
Announcement about the increased reward money earlier this month has generated new tips, according to Brian Eads, lead investigator on the case for the Gering Police Department.
“It has generated some possible sighting tips that have all been cleared,” Eads wrote in an email to Cowboy State Daily. There are “no other updates at this time.”
Amanda Waldron, a private investigator with the national nonprofit We Help the Missing (WHTM), which is assisting the family, said that the increased reward is definitely generating new tips.
“It has increased tips coming in, but nothing that has been substantiated,” she said. “For example, four people in four different states – including a woman in Cheyenne and a lady in Iowa – claim they saw him recently.”
As she does when she receives any tips, Waldron notified Chance’s mom Dawn and encouraged the reporting parties to notify Gering law enforcement with their tips.
The Scottsbluff Sheriff Department also is still waiting for DNA evidence on a human arm bone found by hunters in October 2021 near the North Platte River in western Nebraska. Based on the location of where the bone was found, authorities have identified two potential missing persons – Englebert and 72-year-old Walter “Gene” Patterson-Black, according to Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman.
The bone has been sent to a Florida university lab for testing with results still pending.
“No answers yet,” Overman told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “We have a commitment that we are on the schedule for analysis, but I don’t know when and neither do my investigators.”
Though the increased reward money gives Kluender some solace knowing she’s taking action to help bring her grandson home, the Christmas holiday is especially hard on her and the family.
Every Christmas Eve, Kluender had Chance and his two brothers over to her home in Edgemont, South Dakota, where she and Chance’s parents live and where he’s from.
“Christmas was a special time,” she said. “I had the boys for Christmas Eve for 23 years.”
Englebert has not been able to attend the last two years prior to his disappearance because he was working, so Kluender had his prime rib and shrimp meal delivered to him.
Meanwhile, she’s struggling to decorate her tree this year. She put up a small one, but said she still needs to put on the trimmings.
“It just seems harder the longer it goes,” she said. “It’s hard to explain how hard it’s been. It’s a feeling like none other. It’s just a nightmare not knowing where he is and what’s happened to him.”
A Consuming Quest
Kluender wakes up thinking about it every morning, throughout the day and right before she goes to bed, she said. For this reason, when she learned about her inheritance, she told her husband Jim that the only thing she wanted to do with it was help her grandson.
“It’s all in God’s timing, but I was just hoping that maybe I can assist a little bit,” she said. “There’s so little that you can do, really, other than keep his name out there. I don’t know if it’s going to bring us what we want, but at least I feel like I’m being proactive.”
Mom Still Has hope
Dawn is cautiously optimistic that her mother’s contribution to the reward offer will help get answers.
“I’m afraid that money may not be important to whoever hurt our boy,” she said. “But we pray, and honestly are begging, that it brings us the answers we need. The nightmare, the drama, the nastiness and pure evil just needs to end!”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Gering Police Department at 308-436-5088, private investigator Amanda Waldron at 307-797-0363 or the We Help the Missing tip line at 866-660-4025. Tips can remain anonymous.