10 missing person stories that still haunt us

Millions of people have gone missing without a trace, but some missing persons cases are so alluring that they still attract attention decades on.

When a person goes missing, it can be a devastating and traumatic experience for their loved ones. The search for answers and closure can be a long and painful journey, and in some cases, the mystery surrounding their disappearance remains unsolved forever.

These missing person stories have captured the attention of the public and continue to haunt us to this day. Despite extensive investigations and countless efforts to uncover the truth, the fate of these individuals remains unknown.

John Brisker

You would think that 6 feet 5 inches of muscle doesn’t just go quietly into the night without a trace. But that is exactly what happened to John Brisker, the former ABA and NBA star who has been called the LeBron James of the 1970s.

After Brisker was cut from the Seattle SuperSonics for knocking out another player’s teeth, he decided to head out to Uganda on an invitation from the then-Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, a bloodthirsty mass murderer who enjoyed torture. Brisker hasn’t been heard from since, and his former SuperSonics teammates have speculated that he was killed while fighting as a mercenary or shot in an argument with Ugandan royalty.

He was declared legally dead in 1985, 7 years after his Uganda disappearance.

“D.B. Cooper”

Over 1,000 suspects have been investigated since “D.B. Cooper” pulled off the only unsolved skyjacking in history.

After boarding a 727 and threatening to blow it up, Cooper received $200,000 in ransom money, along with four parachutes and a truck to refuel the airplane in Seattle. After the second takeoff, Cooper made a daring getaway through the airplane’s opened aft door while it was 10,000 feet in the air.

Although some money from the heist was discovered near a creek, no other leads have ever panned out. The mystery has captured generations of TV and internet content writers, and the DB Cooper artist’s sketch has imprinted itself upon our culture.

Oscar Zeta Acosta (aka Fear and Loathing‘s Dr. Gonzo)

Anyone who was a friend of Hunter S. Thompson lived every day on the edge. The Mexican-American lawyer and novelist on which Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘ Dr. Gonzo character was based disappeared while traveling in Mexico in 1974.

Acosta’s son believes he got wrapped up with the wrong type of people, especially considering that his last words to him in his final phone call were: “about to board a boat full of white snow.”

Guma Aguiar

The eccentric Brazilian millionaire hailing from Fort Lauderdale took out his frustration from a fight he had had with his wife earlier in the day by taking his 31-foot fishing boat out to sea. Later that night, the boat washed up ashore, its engine running, with no sign of Aguiar.

He left behind a wife, four children, and a $100 million fortune. Given Aguiar’s bipolar disorder, his lawyer believes the unbalanced millionaire might have staged his disappearance to get away from it all.

Aguiar was declared legally dead in January 2015.

Michael Rockefeller

For Michael Rockefeller, son of then New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, it was no biggie to shell out a mound of cash to travel to Dutch New Guinea and immerse himself in Asmat tribal culture.

But when his 40-foot canoe was swamped on November 17, 1961, his native guides swam ashore for help, leaving Rockefeller alone with his travel partner, RenĂ© Wassing. Fearing that the guides had drowned, Rockefeller decided to swim for shore. If sharks or saltwater crocodiles didn’t get him, many posit that he might have been the victim of headhunters or cannibals.

Natalee Holloway

Although Joran van der Sloot has reiterated that he was not involved in Natalee Holloway’s disappearance, he is still the prime suspect. (Allegedly trying to extort $25,000 from Holloway’s mother to reveal where Natalie’s body can be found certainly doesn’t help his case.)

After five days of heavy drinking and partying in Aruba, Holloway, an Alabama native, was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot. Today, van der Sloot is serving a 28-year sentence in Peru for an unrelated murder.

Madeleine McCann

A family’s worst fear is to lose track of a child and never see her again. Such a tragedy struck the McCann family, when their three-year-old, Madeleine, was apparently abducted from their Portugal hotel while the parents were having dinner. The Daily Telegraph described the disappearance as “the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history”

The McCanns were heavily criticized for leaving their daughter, as well as Madeleine’s twin siblings, alone, while they dined at a nearby restaurant. They also received a lot of hate as the lack of evidence led people to assume the parents must be the killers.

Despite a joint investigation by British and Portuguese law enforcement agencies, no clues were found.

Jimmy Hoffa

Hoffa is the Holy Grail of famous disappearances. He was a controversial figure, leading the Teamsters and serving a stint in prison for jury-tampering and other crimes. Hoffa vanished on July 30, 1975, from a restaurant parking lot. The mob has long been suspected in his disappearance, but rumors that he is buried at Giants Stadium were dispelled after it was demolished and no body was found.

Richey Edwards

Edwards, the lyricist and guitarist for the Manic Street Preachers, always had a penchant for the extreme. So, at first, it wasn’t completely strange to find that he had gone missing before the start of a music tour.

But after his car was found abandoned near Severn Bridge, a spot known to be frequented by suicides, his family told the band to continue on without Richey. Fan sightings over the years have sparked rumors that he might still be alive, but Edwards was officially declared dead in 2008.

His band mates still believe he might be alive and set up a trust fund to collect his earnings.

Amelia Earhar and Fred Noonan

Some 75 years after Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set off to circumnavigate the globe, her disappearance continues to baffle. Theories about the disappearance has gone as far as aliens, and Star Trek: Voyager depicted her as being Han Solo-style frozen and transported to another planet to be rediscovered by Katharine Janeway in the distant future.

Amazingly, the great aviator’s body may be found any day now. While no trace of her crashed aircraft was ever conclusively found, man-made debris off the island of Nikumaroro may eventually point to her final resting place.

The Alcatraz escapees

As a fortified island, many believed Alcatraz to be inescapable. But prisoner Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin were able to do the impossible: escape from Alcatraz. Despite an ambitious manhunt, the escapees were never found. Many think they drowned in the frigid, shark-infested waters surrounding the island. But given the ingenious plotting that enabled them to fly the coop in the first place, it’s possible that the three lived happily ever after in some far corner of America.

Gavin Smith

Smith has a successful career as a movie executive for 20th Century Fox — he distributed Avatar and the Star Wars trilogy — and is a married man and a father of three. But the 57-year-old has been missing since May 1, 2012.

Even after America’s Most Wanted aired an episode on Smith, no trace of the exec has surfaced. While police searched in vain at the residence of a couple who knew Smith, they are not even sure foul play is involved. Smith has vanished without a trace.

UPDATE: The Gavin Smith case has now been solved.

On October 26, 2014, Smith’s body was found in Palmdale, California.[38] A hiker’s dog found a shallow grave containing a skull, some bones, and clothing in a rural area between Palmdale and Acton just outside the Angeles National Forest. Authorities announced the body’s discovery 11 days later, after it had been positively identified as Smith.[39]

The cause of his death was not initially known, as the county coroner’s office was working to establish it. Investigators said it might take some time to do so, if indeed they could. “It could be months, if ever, worst-case scenario,” said a spokesman for the coroner. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times quoted anonymous sources as saying that investigators believe that Smith was killed at the direction of one person, by others with experience in violent crime.[40]

At a press conference held the day the body’s discovery was announced, investigators shared more information. Their theory was that Smith was killed in his car shortly after he disappeared. Based on that evidence, they had “confidently labeled Smith’s death a homicide” after finding the car in 2013. They believed the death would prove to be the result of blunt force trauma; although they could not yet rule out gunshot wounds they did not believe that there would be any.[1]

In January 2015, a little over three months after Smith’s body was discovered, Creech, two years into an eight-year sentence, was rearrested and charged with his murder.[6] The arraignment was postponed for a month. Creech’s attorney called Smith’s death a “tragic accident”, saying his client was innocent of the murder charge. “There may have been a fight, but I can tell you there was no criminal intent,” said Alex Kessel.[7]

In May of that year, the prosecution released transcripts of testimony before the grand jury that indicted Creech on murder charges. According to witnesses, on the night of May 1 he borrowed a van and went to where Smith had parked his Mercedes with Chandrika Creech. Surprising them there, he beat Smith severely while Chandrika, who believed she would be next, escaped and screamed for help. Later Creech, who did not initially believe Smith had been fatally injured, drove Smith’s car to Stan McQuay’s home in Porter Ranch. He and McQuay then extracted Smith’s body and disposed of it, wrapped in a bloodied sheet, and buried it in a shallow grave east of Acton in the Antelope Valley off Angeles Forest Highway. McQuay temporarily stored Smith’s missing vehicle in his garage one week from the night of Smith’s murder, affording Creech time sufficient to make clandestine arrangements for its long term concealment; it was then parked in a car-sized room at a public storage facility just west of McQuay’s Porter Ranch residence, in Simi Valley.[41]