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Mother Of Missing Sheridan Man Still Hopeful After Four Years

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Recently, a California girl who had been missing for 13 years was located in Mexico.

Even though Sheridan resident Heather Vanderhoef doesn’t know whether the girl returned home, she finds solace in such stories. It gives her hope that one day maybe her son Kyle Ellis will return home.

However, four years after Kyle disappeared after being dropped off at a gas station in Greybull, the outlook is bleak.

Kyle was last seen at the gas station after being dropped off there by a woman who had given him a ride from the Bighorn Mountains outside of Sheridan and $20 for a meal. 

Unfortunately, there’s no surveillance footage from the gas station or any other location around town to track where he might have gone after being dropped off. Nor did he have with him a cell phone, computer, debit card or even a driver’s license to help track him down.

The woman who dropped him off has been interviewed by police and Kyle’s father, and they and Vanderhoef are convinced was just genuinely trying to help him out by giving him a ride on a frosty January evening.

That night on Jan. 8, 2018, Kyle had walked up to the Bear Lodge Resort in the Bighorn National Forest.  There, the resort’s owner called police out of concern for Kyle’s safety because he had been sitting outside in the cold. The police contacted Kyle’s dad who asked speak to him and offered to come pick him up.

Kyle didn’t want that, Vanderhoef said, and instead opted for the ride with the stranger who recalled that he didn’t talk much during the two-hour drive. Why Greybull? His mom has no idea. And though Kyle had mentioned wanting to go there for some unknown reason, Vanderhoef is pretty convinced he likely didn’t stay long.

Where he might have gone is anyone’s guess, though Vanderhoef hopes that he might have made it to the San Juan Islands off of the Washington Coast, where the family had frequently gone on vacation. It was Kyle’s favorite place. Though there’s a pretty active homeless population on the islands, a friend of hers periodically looks for him and thus far hasn’t seen Kyle yet.

So far, there have been no credible tips, sightings, arrests or remains traced to his DNA. “It’s like he’s just vanished,” Vanderhoef said. “One minute he was just gone.

”Though technically he did leave on his own, Vanderhoef said, the situation is complicated because he was was suffering from mental illness, which for the past decade has derailed his life and world. Up until his late teens, he’d been an honor student and multi-letter athlete who gone to University of Las Vegas.

It was there the first indications of his mental illness surfaced, showing up as excessive partying and self-medicating. Eventually, he dropped out of school.

This was followed by drug and alcohol abuse, arrests and a session of rehab in Rock Springs, where Kyle was unofficially diagnosed as bipolar, although his mom thinks it is more likely he suffers from borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia. However, Kyle didn’t care for medication or treatment.

He’d also left home a handful of times in the past – going as far as Spokane, Washington, Colorado and Texas – before ultimately contacting his mother on Facebook messenger to say he wanted to come home. Until 2018, the longest he’d been gone was 10 days and he’d always been in touch with his family regardless.

He’d warned his mother that one day he would leave and never come home. He was on a mission for God, who had plans for him, he’d said. Kyle had increasingly adopted strange and zealous religious beliefs, according to his mom, which she attributed to his mental illness. 

When he told her to prepare for his eventual departure, she gave him 10 stamped envelopes with various family addresses and names and asked him to promise that if he did leave for good, he’d let one of them know. Those envelopes, along with his social security card and driver’s license, were found in his room.

Prior to his departure, Kyle had returned home to Sheridan and seemed to be doing well, Vanderhoef said. He was living with his dad, from whom Vanderhoef is divorced, helping him around the house while he healed from foot surgery. 

“He was sober and doing well,” Vanderhoef said, “but then something happened, and he was just gone.”

She thinks it was a personal matter that put him over the edge, but she can’t be certain. Kyle told her he he was tired and wanted to be gone, though in the past he’d never harmed himself or given his family any substantial reason to admit him to a mental health facility. He is very smart, she said, and equally charming with a big heart.

He’s not street smart, however, so there’s a chance he might have gotten into the wrong car but at this point, it’s all conjecture.

“The only thing I know is that he hasn’t been found or arrested,” she said. “Those are the only two certainties I have.”

Ellis’ disappearance is one of the nearly 50 “missing person” cases involving men to have been opened since 1974 that are listed on the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation’s (DCI) missing person database.  The men range in age from under 1 year to 72 years.

Also listed are the missing person cases of 30 women.

Wyoming, according to a 2019 Vivint Source Survey, is ranked seventh for missing people, with 7.8 missing people for every 100,000 residents.

Cases like Kyle’s prompted Casper resident Desirée Tonico to start the Missing People of Wyoming Facebook page to provide a resource to share reports of missing people as well as case updates. Two years after its start, it has more than 16,000 subscribers. 

Wyoming is currently one of only a handful of states to not have a statewide database that stretches across law enforcement agencies other than the DCI, but Tinoco is leading an effort to create one and is currently in talks with DCI and local and state leaders to make it happen.  

Though Tinoco has personally never had a loved one go missing, she was prompted to establish some kind of resource after seeing a couple of missing people posters around Casper of local men who had disappeared.

Tinoco wanted to provide a resource after noticing that the missing person cases that seemed to garner media attention largely involved children and young girls and women, but less attention was paid to indigenous people and middle-aged men, particularly those with spotty pasts and criminal records.

She has been surprised at the response on her Facebook page from the public and from state agencies and leaders who are universally in support of a statewide database that provides up-to-date information across law enforcement agencies and DCI to provide a uniform and cohesive resource.

Kyle’s case in particular had always stood out to her as “such a handsome young man with so much potential.

“So many of these cases are heartbreaking,” she said. 

Kyle is currently 33 years old, 6-feet tall and weighing roughly 190 pounds with brown hair and distinct green/hazel eyes. He wears glasses and a black beanie at all times of the year and has tattoos of a pin up girl on both his right and left shoulders, “sex drugs and rock n roll” on his abdomen and a sleeve tattoo on his left forearm.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office at (307) 672-3455 or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) toll-free hotline at (833) 872-5176 or namus@usdoj.gov.

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Family Waits For DNA To See If Remains From Nebraska Are Of Missing Moorcroft Man

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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.

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Woman Won’t Give Up Seeking Justice in Torrington’s Only Unsolved Missing Person Case

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Jess Oaks briefly knew Renee Yeargain before she disappeared more than 17 years ago. 

The two had worked together at the Little Moon Supper Club in Henry, Nebraska, in spring 2003. Oaks had been charged with training Yeargain to be a fry cook. Both young 20-something mothers at the time, the two bonded over discussions about their kids and parenting.

Sometimes they’d get together outside of work but not that often. Oaks remembered Yeargain talking about her boyfriend, Josh Minter, and once showing up to work in his green Mustang. 

After Little Moon shut down that fall, the two drifted apart. Then Oaks learned that the house where Yeargain was living with Minter and her four children had burned down just after Christmas. 

Oaks had heard about the fire on the radio and reached out to Yeargain to see if they needed anything since the kids had lost all their Christmas presents. Later, Yaergain and Minter met Oaks and her mom at their storage unit and took what they needed. 

A few months later, Oaks randomly ran into Yeargain on the street in downtown Torrington. Both had been running errands, but they stopped to talk. Yeargain said things were going really well and she was getting married in August and was also following her dream of becoming a tattoo artist. Oaks, meanwhile, had taken a job as a reporter at the Torrington Telegram. 

Yeargain told her former co-worker she was excited to see where her life would take her, Oaks said. Words that ultimately haunted Oaks when not long after she saw her friend’s face on the front page of the newspaper on Aug. 10, 2004.

Disappeared Without A Trace

According to news reports, the then-24-year-old woman had disappeared without a trace, leaving her boyfriend of three years and four children, 12 days prior to her planned wedding to Minter. 



When questioned, Minter told police that Yeargain left the borrowed car she was driving at a rest stop in Meriden, midway between Torrington and Cheyenne. 

In the car were her purse, keys, cell phone, wallet, checkbook and other items. Minter further told investigators that Yeargain had walked out of the home they shared with a grocery sack full of clothing and refused to say where she was going.

At the time, her mother, Diane Van Horn, said that her daughter would never have voluntarily left for this long without contacting her children.

Yes, Yeargain had struggled with her mental health and drugs in the past, Van Horn told the Scottsbluff (Nebraska) Star-Herald in a 2009 interview, but she’d since cleaned up her life and was looking forward to marrying and had just gotten her tattoo license and planned to open up a shop in their home.

“She had all these plans,” her mother said in the interview. “I believe something has happened here, and I have questions that I want answered.”

Unanswered Questions

Van Horn’s request for answers remains unmet. To date, Yeargain has not returned home nor has her body been found.

In between those facts lie a lot of questions and few unsubstantiated facts which Oaks has been meticulously tracking for nearly two decades in her 12-pages of detailed notes as Yeargin’s case passed through the hands of at least five different investigators at the Torrington Police Department.

Oaks personally knew Minter from high school and remembers him as a loner who frequently wore a dark trench coat and hung out with another student that her peers called “creepy.”    

Minter was artistic, Oaks said, recalling a troubling profile image of himself on his Facebook page that a detective alerted her to following Yeargain’s disappearance.

The illustration is of a brooding man in a black hoodie and dark-rimmed glasses surrounded by cryptic words and phrases in red ink including “sacrifice,” “involved,” “burden,” and most hauntingly, “I know the grave.”

The profile has since been taken down, but Oaks took a screenshot.



“It was really creepy,” she said.

Efforts by Cowboy State Daily to contact Minter via social media were not returned.

Troubled Past

Yeargain had a pretty troubled life in general, Oaks said, including mental issues and a past history of drug abuse.  She’d gotten pregnant with her first child at 15, and her fiancé had been killed in a motorcycle accident when the child was still a toddler.

His death had apparently haunted Yeargain, Oaks was told by friends, leading to Yeargain’s self-medicating to the point she might be gone for a couple of days. 

She was also estranged from her mother, according to what Oaks has learned, as well as her biological father, a reported sex offender who has since died.

Her troubled past, Oaks believes, might account for the way in which her case was investigated.

Questions Remain

Oaks, who is no longer a reporter but instead works in the graphics department at the Torrington Telegram, is frequently asked why she’s so invested in a case involving a person she barely knows. 

For her the answer is simple, if it can happen to Yeargain, it can happen to anyone. It could happen to her. She’s also a single mother and worries about what would happen to her children if she disappeared. 

Would there be justice? She’s not so sure. 

She doesn’t have much family left; it’s just her in Goshen County.

She can’t wrap her head around this happening in a community she’s always considered safe.

She also feels a complicated connection to her former co-worker given that she’d run into Yeargain just two weeks before she disappeared. She feels maybe that was meant to be and that it’s her responsibility to help find Yeargin. 

New Investigation

She recently brought in a new private detective from We Help the Missing to investigate, and for the first time in 17 years, a press release has been shared with both media and the community.

“It hasn’t been easy to continue,” Oaks admitted. “You run into one closed door after another.”  

Like Oaks, Yeargain’s youngest daughter, Angelina Schirmer, believes that her mother is likely dead but is still seeking closure and would like to have her mother’s body returned and someone prosecuted. 



Now 21, Schirmer is making a life for herself in Wolf Point, Montana, where she works as a cashier at a gas station. Things are going pretty well, she said. That wasn’t always the case. After her mom disappeared, Schirmer admitted, life was downright shitty. All of the kids were put into different foster care families and lost touch with one another over the years. 

Her older sister Mariah has since died somewhere in Alaska and her older brother Johnathon has no contact with the family. 

As far as helping law enforcement solve the crime, she doesn’t have much to tell them from that time. She remembers the house catching on fire and being in a car accident with her mother, but otherwise, memories are hazy. 

Just Theories

She has her theories, but they are just that, theories. Ultimately, she doesn’t blame Yeargain given that she was battling “a lot of mental illness at the time.”

At the time, Schirmer was pretty certain her mom would return home like the other times she’d briefly left them. 

She, too, has a lot of questions and feels like the case could have been handled better. 

“There’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ I had to grow up with,” she said. “And there’s nobody to ask.” 

She feels betrayed by the police who she thinks never gave her mom’s case much time.

“I could have had a whole other life,” she said, “and feel like the police failed me and my siblings, and it’s very heart breaking.”

It’s time for some real action and effort, she said.

Time For Justice

Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson agreed that it’s time Yeargain had justice. He’s relatively new to the position and department but said there’s a real effort on his part and the part of Detective Becci Morris. Assistant Chief Pat Connelly, who has also been working the case over the past few years, is eager to revive efforts to find Torrington’s only person missing under suspicious circumstances who has not been recovered.

Johnson said he can’t comment on any of the details of the case – past nor present – nor could he discuss whether or not they were investigating any persons of interest. All he could say is that evidence suggests she did not leave her home willingly, and that the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigations is also helping. 

“There’s clear indications of felonious intent,” he said, “and finding justice for this young woman is something we care about.”

He’s hopeful that some new detail will emerge through technology that wasn’t available 17 years ago. All they can do is pick up from the clues they have, he said, 

“We’re optimistic that there will be a breakthrough,” he said, and encouraged anyone with information to present it to the Torrington Police Department. “We will talk to anyone and will follow up on all leads, and I hope those efforts are ultimately going to lead to the truth.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Torrington Police Department at (307) 532-7001 or WHTM private investigator Amanda Waldron at (307) 797-0363 or the WHTM tip line at (866) 660-4025. Tips can remain anonymous. 

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Missing Irishman’s Mother Prepared For Recovery, Continues Call For Info

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mother of an Irish man who disappeared while hiking in Grand Teton National Park has traveled to Wyoming to attempt a recovery of her son.

Grainne McLaughlin spoke with Irish news outlet RTE News this week while in the park and pleaded for people who were in the area around June 8 and might have seen her son, Cian McLaughlin, to come forward.

“Cian was a very outgoing guy, loved being outdoors,” the mother said. “If you met Cian, he’d stop and have a chat. He was living here for two years, he had dual citizenship.”

Grainne McLaughlin explained that Cian would work as a snowboard instructor in the winter and would work in the Jackson-area bars during the summer. She added her son was popular and had many friends both in Ireland and the United States.

Cian McLaughlin, 27, was last seen at around 2:30 p.m. June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead in the park. His vehicle was found days later.

“Despite the rangers’ massive search, I think they’ve put about 5,000 hours into it, we’ve still had no luck in finding anything,” his mother said. “He was well-versed in the mountains. He grew up hiking with me, his dad, my brother. He’s well-versed with equipment, gear, so we’re sure he was out on a day hike.”

McLaughlin was wearing a white t-shirt, a pair of shorts, a red Apple Watch, wire-rimmed sunglasses and a silver necklace at the time of his disappearance. 

Grainne McLaughlin suggested that although it was June when her son disappeared, the snow runoff in the area he was hiking could have been a factor.

“All of the waterfalls were gushing, there would have been [snow]melt underneath ice, so it’s tricky, it’s a tricky time of year,” she said.

McLaughlin is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes. He has an Irish accent and would be considered thin or fit.

McLaughlin is the only person who disappeared in the park this summer who has not yet been found. Gabby Petito was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest, not far from the park, in mid-September and her death has been ruled a homicide.

Robert Lowery also was last seen in Grand Teton in August, and his body was found in September, as well. His death was ruled a suicide.

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Remains Found In Florida Confirmed To Be Brian Laundrie’s

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The FBI confirmed Thursday that the partial human remains found in a Florida park on Wednesday were in fact those of Brian Laundrie, former fiancee of the murdered Gabby Petito.

The FBI said in a statement that dental records were used to confirm the remains as Laundrie’s. Family attorney Steve Bertolino told CNN on Wednesday that the remains were like Laundrie’s.

“It’s quite sad, you can imagine as a parent, finding your son’s belongings alongside some remains. That’s got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken,” Bertolino said Wednesday night.

The cause of death was not immediately reported.

CNN reported this week that after a brief search Wednesday of a trail Laundrie frequented, the Laundrie family and law enforcement found “some articles” belonging to him.

According to the FBI, which gave a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, the items found were a notebook and a backpack belonging to Laundrie. During the news conference, officials said they could not confirm if the remains found were Laundrie’s.

The notebook and backpack were first signs of Laundrie since he disappeared in mid-September after Petito was reported missing. Laundrie was never been named a suspect in Petito’s death, but was considered a person of interest.

Petito’s body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie had been traveling the country in a van.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.

A warrant was issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant did not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the cause of Petito’s death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.

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Attorney Believes Human Remains Found In Florida Are Brian Laundrie’s

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The attorney for the family of Brian Laundrie believes that the partial human remains found in a Florida park this week are likely those of the former fiance of murder victim Gabby Petito.

Attorney Steve Bertolino told CNN late Wednesday that “the probability is strong that it is Brian’s remains.”

“It’s quite sad, you can imagine as a parent, finding your son’s belongings alongside some remains. That’s got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken,” Bertolino said Wednesday night.

CNN reported this week that after a brief search Wednesday of a trail Laundrie frequented, the Laundrie family and law enforcement found “some articles” belonging to him.

According to the FBI, which gave a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, the items found were a notebook and a backpack belonging to Laundrie. During the news conference, officials said they could not confirm if the remains found were Laundrie’s.

The notebook and backpack were first signs of Laundrie since he disappeared in mid-September after Petito was reported missing. Laundrie has never been named a suspect in Petito’s death, but is considered a person of interest.

Petito’s body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie had been traveling the country in a van.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.

A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the cause of Petito’s death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.

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Investigators Find Brian Laundrie’s Items In Florida Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Law enforcement officials discovered several items belonging to the man sought in the murder of Gabby Petito in a Florida park on Wednesday.

CNN reported that after a brief search Wednesday of a trail Brian Laundrie frequented, the Laundrie family and law enforcement found “some articles” belonging to him, family attorney Steve Bertolino said.

According to the FBI, which gave a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, the items found were a notebook and a backpack belonging to Laundrie.

Involved in Wednesday’s search were Laundrie’s parents, who have been described as uncooperative in the investigation into their son’s disappearance and the murder of Petito, his fiancee.

Bertolino would not give any further information on what or how many items were found, but did say law enforcement was conducting a more thorough search of the area.

A video obtained by Fox News showed the Laundries and law enforcement officers together. The officer appeared to tell the parents: “I think we might have found something.”

NBC news reported that partial human remains appear to have been found near a backpack in the Florida park. The FBI said they could not confirm if the remains were Laundrie’s.

The Sarasota County, Florida, medical examiner and a cadaver dog were also brought to the scene, according to media reports.

This is the first sign of Laundrie since he disappeared in mid-September following Petito being reported missing. Laundrie has never been named a suspect in Petito’s death, but is considered a person of interest.

Petito’s body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie had been traveling the country in a van.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.

A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the cause of Petito’s death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.

Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, called Laundrie a “coward” during an appearance on “60 Minutes Australia” over the weekend.

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Missing Lincoln County Woman & Suicide Of Former Boyfriend Investigation Still Active

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By Joy Ufford, Pinedale Roundup

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Four months ago, a convoy of investigators mounted a search over a trapper’s remote property near LaBarge looking for clues to the disappearance of his former girlfriend, reported missing in 2017.

The next day on June 20, Darrell L. “Pete” Petry, 66, left his isolated ranch on the Sublette-Lincoln county line apparently with no one noticing. It was the day after a county, state and federal team executed a search warrant for evidence of the whereabouts of Vanessa “Nessy” Sue Orren, with whom LaBarge residents and family members last saw in February 2016.

The first official press release about Orren’s “missing person” status, the search – and Petry’s death – came on June 30 from the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Travis Bingham wrote, “The (SCSO) has been actively investigating Ms. Orren’s disappearance since the missing person’s report was made (in January 2017). Ms. Orren was entered into National Crime Information Center and NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) as a missing person.”

Petry’s body was found on June 22, his death ruled as “self-inflicted,” Bingham said.

Since then, Bingham has declined on detectives’ behalf to release any more information about Petry, who was not detained during the search. How, when and where Petry died were left unanswered. Although Petry was not named as a suspect in Orren’s disappearance, the few details released led to numerous rumors.

SCSO detectives’ focus shifted to analyzing potential evidence for Orren’s fate, mainly by Detective Ian Allen who filed the 2017 missing person report.

On Oct. 12, Bingham said, “This case is still an active investigation with the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. Until the investigation concludes, we are not able to release any more information at this time. … They are still working the case and again when it’s complete we will have more details to release at that time.” 

Missing persons’

Investigators, perhaps acting on new information, undertook searching “for any evidence relating to the disappearance of Ms. Orren,” according to Bingham. Agencies including NecroSearch, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Wyoming Highway Patrol assisted the SCSO.

What they took away and what they discovered about Orren’s location are as yet unknown. She was described in 2016 as being 5 feet to 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 110 to 115 lbs. with reddish hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information can contact the SCSO Detectives’ Division at 307-267-4378.

After the detective reported Orren to NCIC as a missing person, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation also posted it.

Wyoming DCI completed a very recent update to its “Missing Persons” webpage, front and center, including Vanessa Orren’s information and photos – along with many other missing persons reported by Wyoming law enforcement since April 26, 1974.

DCI update

DCI’s already-planned upgrade took on new urgency with the recent, heavily publicized search last month for missing woman Gabby Petito centered on northwest Wyoming. Social media went wild with rumors about the missing woman and her now-missing fiancé, and many turned to official and volunteer “missing persons” sites for updates.

Desirée Tinico of Casper, who started her Facebook page “Missing Persons in Wyoming” two years ago, credited DCI director Forrest “Frosty” Williams with the push to highlight people reported missing in Wyoming.

Tinico said Williams contacted her a couple of months ago – “before Gabby’s case” – about her Facebook page, where people submit missing person information that might help find their loved ones passing through or living in Wyoming. Often families have their own Facebook pages where updates are posted and tips passed on.

“They really ramped up their end of things,” she said of DCI’s efforts to modernize the state’s webpage. “They have been great to work with and we’re just trying to figure all of this out.”

She noted, as have others, the disparity between almost worldwide attention for Gabby Petito and others whose disappearances slide under the radar. The attention is welcome – “before Gabby,” her Facebook page had about 130,000 hits every 60 days that grew to 170,000 and the public is reenergized about helping resolve them.

“When the Gabby case first happened, it was a horrible situation and everyone was trying to navigate through a third party,” Tinico said. “There are families that don’t get covered at all. There are no happy endings for cases like that.”

Very recently, Tinico met with state officials including Wyoming’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force “to brainstorm ideas for a unified database.”

DCI’s current funding shortfall might be eased with legislative action, she noted.

“The old page – the DCI’s technology grew up around it and it got left behind,” she said, adding Wyoming is one of 14 states without an organized database “when someone goes missing.”

Ideally, a system could track “runaways, tribes’ missing persons and others who fall through the cracks,” she said.

Wyoming DCI’s homepage now has a visible link to “Wyoming Missing Persons,” listed chronologically back to April 26, 1974. Go to https://wyomingdci.wyo.gov/dci-homepage/missing-persons.

Trapper’s death determined ‘self-inflicted’

How, when and where Darrell “Pete” Petry died while investigators searched his remote property for evidence of missing woman Vanessa “Nessy” Orren went unanswered for weeks.

Although Petry was not named as a suspect in Orren’s disappearance, the few details released about his untimely death led to numerous rumors and questions.

Sublette County Coroner Curt Covill confirmed details about Petry’ death this week – the first shared since Sublette County investigators searched Petry’s property near LaBarge from June 19-23.

SCSO’s Sgt. Travis Bingham has declined to provide information about the man except to say Petry’s death was “self-inflicted” with no signs of foul play, citing the active investigation.

Covill was called when Petry’s body was found on June 22 and he determined Petry died on June 20 – the day he left his home. He was not in custody or detained during the search, Bingham said earlier.

It isn’t known if anyone spoke with Petry or was at his home when he left.

Deputies apparently lost track of him for several days; on June 22 they read a note left on his door and looked for him at Deadline Ridge, just inside the Sublette County border with Lincoln County.

Petry did not shoot himself, no gun was found at the scene and his toxicology reports came back negative, Covill said.

Petry was found outside, seated against a tree with a cord tied to him and the tree; when he sat down, he asphyxiated, the coroner said. Petry’s dog was in Petry’s Jeep Cherokee parked nearby.

“There was nothing to indicate foul play,” Covill said of the scene and his later exam, determining it was “suicide by ligature, strangulation.”

Petry’s body was taken to Covill Funeral Home, where a visual postmortem exam showed “no other trauma” such as fresh injuries or abrasions. Covill saw “nothing suspicious” to indicate an autopsy was needed and contacted Petry’s son Ira, who identified his father from photos.

Petry’s remains were later cremated and the ashes sent to his family. Covill filed a death certificate with the state of Wyoming; his coroner’s report is not finalized while he waits for detectives to conclude their report.

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Family Of Missing Irishman Last Seen In Grand Teton Pleading For Info

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The family of an Irish man last seen in Grand Teton National Park has put out a plea for information from anyone who might have seen him earlier this summer before he disappeared.

Cian McLaughlin, 27, was last seen at around 2:30 p.m. June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead in the park. His vehicle was found days later.

“The weather is changing rapidly and we have a small window to bring home this incredibly adored young man,” a new missing poster with the hashtag #FindCian said. “We desperately need your help to find him and get closure for his loved ones who have been frantically searching over four long months to locate Cian.” 

The poster said that McLaughlin was wearing a white t-shirt, a pair of shorts, a red Apple Watch, wire-rimmed sunglasses and a silver necklace at the time of his disappearance. 

Rangers received a report not long after of someone seeing a man fitting McLaughlin’s description around 3:45 p.m. on June 8 hiking up the Garnet Canyon trail, so search teams began to look in that area.

McLaughlin is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes. He has an Irish accent and would be considered thin or fit.

According to an article by the Irish Times, McLaughlin is a Dublin native who works as a snowboard instructor in Jackson. The newspaper also noted his Facebook page said he started working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort last December and that he previously lived in the French ski resort of Chamonix.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched to support McLaughlin’s family, including their travel to the United States to help search for him. It has raised more than $50,000 in U.S. currency as of Thursday.

McLaughlin is the only person who disappeared in the park this summer to not yet be found. Gabby Petito was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest, not far from the park, in mid-September and her death has been ruled a homicide.

Robert Lowery also was last seen in Grand Teton in August, and his body was found in September, as well. His death was ruled a suicide.

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26 Years Later, Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy Solves Missing Person Case

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

When Kris Martin heard that his younger brother Kyle went missing during a kayak trip down the Hoback River outside of Jackson, his immediate thought was that he would fly out from Pennsylvania to go find him. Even today, more than 26 years later, Kris still remembers the phone call from his father Paul and mom Linn and the fear and grief in Paul’s voice when he delivered the news to Kris.

“Kyle’s missing,” his dad said. He still hears that in his mind like it was yesterday.

He’d fallen to the floor as he tried to make sense of it. In his mind, Kris thought that Kyle was likely just lost in the woods and fantasized that he would be the one to find him, at which point, Kris would hand him a beer and the two would laugh about it later.

That fantasy never came to pass.



Instead, four days later, Kris had been on an airplane en route to Wyoming while his older brother Kevin, his father, Kyle’s long-time girlfriend Michelle and other family members stood on the river bank and briefly watched Kyle’s body bob to the surface before plunging under the water.

His body was then carried downstream after the kayak was momentarily freed from a snarl of trees in the river in what was, by all accounts, a harrowing rescue attempt by a helicopter pilot and Teton County Search and Rescue.

It was May 30, 1995. Kyle, then 24, had gone kayaking with a buddy. He’d just moved out to Wyoming in fall 1994 with a couple friends from college, who like him, had moved West to live in the mountains for a year. Kyle worked at the Wort Hotel, and according to Kris, had discovered a love of cooking that he’d plan to pursue once he returned home.  

Lost In The River

He never made it. Instead, his body was now lost in the river.

Kris never imagined he’d see his brother’s body ever again but was at peace knowing he died doing something he loved in a beautiful location.

“He was buried in the river and I liked that he was one with nature,” Kris told Cowboy State Daily on Sunday.

Then Kris got a phone call this spring from a dogged deputy sheriff in Jackson who told Kris that they might have found Kyle after a skull and other bone fragments were discovered by a hiker in September 2002 in the Palisades Reservoir.

The bones, including a sacrum and other fragments, were found between Big Elk and Blowout Canyon by detectives from the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho. The detectives sent the bones to an anthropologist at Idaho State University, according to a release from the sheriff’s office, who theorized that they belonged to a male between 25 to 45 years old and of no determined race.

The sheriff’s office thought they might be belong to one of the two adult men who, along with two children, drowned in a boating accident in 1980 but were eventually able to rule them out.

This March, the bones were sent to a biotechnology lab in Texas who were able to extract DNA from the bones to determine a genealogical profile for the unknown male they had since began referring to as “Palisades Pete,” a nickname created by a National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) employee in 2014.

The Idaho sheriff’s office chipped in $1000 to pay for the process while the lab kicked in the rest from donations.

Now, they had a profile for the body and just needed a genetic match.

Enter Dave Hodges

Dave Hodges with the Teton County Sheriff’s Office was involved in Kyle’s rescue attempt in 1995.

He was leafing through a forensics magazine in March when he read about the discovery.

Immediately, Hodges wondered if that might be Kyle.

Hodges recalled that attempted rescue on the Hoback River 26 years ago. It was his first year with the sheriff’s office though he’d been a Teton Search and Rescue volunteer for a few years.

He remembered that day. It’d stuck with him for a couple reasons. First, the rescue mission itself had been nothing short of heroic, he said.

Kyle’s submerged kayak had been lodged between several thick trees that had fallen in the river. The helicopter pilot had been able to dislodge a couple of the branches in a maneuver that was both death-defying and heroic, Hodges said.

It was also the first and only body never recovered by the search and rescue team.

“I did not expect Kyle to submerge almost as quickly as he emerged,” Hodges said. “He was on the surface for just a few moments and then he was just gone.”

Hodges had been waiting down river in a boat to grab the body after it was released and was within a boat length of Kyle when his body sunk.  He’d jumped into the murky, fast-moving water in a wetsuit with his hook.

“We tried to do our best,” he said. “The water was chocolate brown and discolored. We were planning to reach over and grab the body, but he went under and disappeared.”

It was a haunting moment that stuck with the young deputy.

DNA Sample Positive

Over the years, Hodges had thought of Kyle every time he passed that particular spot along the river which is distinct and viewable from the road.

When he’d read about the DNA profile and where the bones had been found, he’d immediately thought of the 24-year-old man from Pennsylvania.

Hodges then contacted the Bonneville sheriff’s office and ran the profile through the missing person’s database where no match was made. Hodges then coordinated with local police in Pennsylvania who were able to track down Kyle’s mother to get a DNA sample.

His father has since passed, Kris said, but his mother had called him about receiving a call from the Wyoming deputy and was more than eager to participate. The day police contacted her, she’d just been moved into an assisted living facility in Lancaster. The call bolstered her spirits, her son said. Like the rest of the family, she resigned herself to the fact that she’d never see her son’s body again.

Turns out it was a perfect match.

He saw the results for himself, Hodges said, and was able to call Kris with the good news.

“It was an emotional call for us both,” Hodges said.

Too Overwhelmed

Kris couldn’t put into words how important Hodges had been in this discovery; he was just too overwhelmed.

“We’d long given up hope of having his remains returned,” Kris said, adding that once they do get the bones they plan to cremate Kyle and sprinkle around the tree that his friends planted for him in their hometown to which the family members frequently visit.

The discovery brings a sense of closure, Kris said. It’s bittersweet. One on hand, his brother has been returned to the family but on the other, the loss is still raw. He likes that Kyle was able to go West and seemed to be finding himself, but he regrets not seeing the man that his brother would have become.

Kyle had even grown the obligatory beard, Kris laughed, stereotypical of mountain men which coincidentally is in their blood.

Their great, great-grandfather, Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones had been friends with Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill and was the first game warden at Yellowstone National Park, hired by Theodore Roosevelt.



Their Buffalo Jones had been an ardent conservationist and instrumental in helping to preserve the bison herds throughout the park. He’d been a mythical character to them as kids, Kris said.

He likes that Kyle had been able to experience a little of that history, and once he arrived in Jackson, he understood what had drawn his brother in the first place and why he loved living there.

“He had been coming into his own,” Kris said, noting that he was just a couple months away from returning home to Pennsylvania.

Coming Home

His father commissioned a sculptor to create a tribute to his son on a rock in the rugged terrain close to the river. Kris and Kevin found it on a trip to Jackson four years ago.



Kris, too, lauded the bravery and skill of the search and rescue team, particularly the pilot, who even his uncle, a pilot and Vietnam veteran, said defied anything he’d ever seen in his flying experience. One errant log might have pulled the helicopter down and the man who ultimately help bring his brother home.

“Dave had felt a lot of guilt that he hadn’t been able to capture the body,” Kris said, “but we have nothing but gratitude for him.”

He also appreciated the nickname given to his brother and the fact that people called him Pete and thought about him. He, too, thinks about his brother every day, despite his worry that one day he might forget about him and just move on. Not a chance, he said.

Now, his brother is finally coming home.

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