Article about MPs from Alaska: and, my take on each of them

I found this three-page article about missing persons in Alaska. It talks about MPs in general, and in particular Scott and Amy Fandel, Megan Emerick and John Wipert. There are presently 78 missing persons profiled on Alaska’s Department of Safety website. Most of those are on Charley too. The woman from Alaska who was in the I-Match program with me, I asked her about Alaskan disappearances and she said people there vanish all the time. Not only are the climate and terrain rather rough (to say the least), but there are high rates of crime, alcohol and depression.

The Fandel children are probably the most famous missing persons case in Alaskan history. There’s been speculation that Amy’s biological father, Roger, had something to do with it. Roger wasn’t Scott’s father, but he had raised him since Scott was two years old. He and the children’s mother were in the process of a divorce, I guess; Roger had left Margaret in January 1978 and moved to Arizona. He was considered a suspect for years, but the police don’t seem to think he was involved anymore. I’m not sure if he is still alive.

My own theory is that the children were victims of a random or semi-random predator. Perhaps a pedophile saw Amy at the restaurant that evening and decided he wanted to hurt her. He could have followed the family back to their house, then lay in wait until the children were alone. Scott might have gotten in the way and been injured or killed in the abduction attempt, or perhaps he was the abductor’s target instead of Amy. From the photo, and his size — less than five feet tall — it seems like he would have looked younger than his age. It’s just a hypothesis, but it seems to make as much sense as anything else.

Megan Emerick is a bit of a tough call. The police think she could have been a victim of Robert Hansen, a serial killer who murdered at least 17 young women and was sentenced to 461 years in prison for his crimes. But, although he confessed to the 17 homicides, he said he didn’t have anything to do with Megan’s disappearance. Also, I don’t know if the cops have any actual evidence against him for Megan, other than the fact that she fits the profile. I’m a bit leery of just assuming a missing person was killed by a serial killer just because the MP fit the profile and the killer was operating in that area at the time. As was pointed out in my comments section, for decades the police thought Katherine Merry Devine had been killed by Ted Bundy, although he always denied it. DNA testing eventually proved she was murdered by William E. Cosden.

Megan COULD have been one of Robert Hansen’s victims. She could also have run away, although that doesn’t make much sense; not only did she leave all her stuff behind, but she was already living away from home by the time of her disappearance, living in student housing at a tech school. So it’s not like she would have had to run away to escape curfews or some other form of parental oppression. It also seems unlikely that Alaska ate her, as it tends to do with hikers, mountain climbers etc. on a regular basis. Seward, the town she disappeared from, is in southern Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula, and it’s relatively settled. Hardly a tropical paradise, but it’s not some teeny fishing village about the Arctic Circle, a hundred miles north of anywhere. And for what it’s worth, Megan also disappeared in midsummer. So…I am out of ideas.

As for John Wipert, the cause of his disappearance is pretty obvious: he was taking care of someone else’s lodge all by himself in the summer of 2009, and at some point in June he left, taking two horses and leaving a note saying he was going to “check the cabin” and be back “tomorrow night.” Problem was, there wasn’t any cabin, or much of anything, within a day’s ride of the lodge. Wipert left all his clothes behind, and left the lodge unattended. The remaining horse had nearly died of starvation and dehydration by the time the owner showed up in July. There was rotting food on the counter and in the sink, and some odd vandalism. The usual extensive search turned up no sign of man or beasts. The authorities had a very cold trail; Wipert had been missing for about three weeks or maybe longer before his disappearance was even noticed.

Authorities don’t seem to think Wipert stole the horses and made off somewhere, at least not deliberately. One theory is that he kind of went crazy from the isolation (living for months in that kind of isolation will try anyone’s soul) and left the lodge for reasons only he could understand. There were some indications that he didn’t plan on being gone long. Possibly he was trying to get to Canada; the border was about 35 miles away. Since he didn’t have his clothes, wasn’t familiar with the area and probably didn’t have any survival skills or equipment, chances are he didn’t last long.

Megan Emerick and Sheryl Tillinghast

Megan Emerick and Sheryl Tillinghast had a lot in common. Both were rather pretty brunettes, and their photos both resonate with a 1970s aura. Both seem to have had a strong streak of independence. Megan was attending a boarding school some 450 miles from her hometown; Sheryl was working at a reform institution 250 miles from home. They were both about the same size. They both disappeared in 1973, at the age of seventeen.

I’m not suggesting the two cases are connected; the girls disappeared over 4,500 miles apart. But looking at them, I can’t help but be struck by how much alike they seem. Why Sheryl isn’t registered with the NCMEC I don’t know. And for Megan, I wonder how the NCMEC managed to take a very attractive young woman and age-progress her into frumpy-looking middle age.

Both girls are probably dead. Authorities have a strong suspect in Megan’s case, a confessed serial killer, but he hasn’t admitted to her disappearance. Details in Sheryl’s disappearance are few and murky. Perhaps one of the inmates or former inmates at the school harmed her. Perhaps she ran away. But in that case, why did she leave behind her paychecks? Why did she never contact her family again? And why would she need to run away, since she was already living outside the family home and supporting herself?

Thirty-five years they’ve been gone. At this point we’d be very lucky to find their bodies, never mind their killers. Nevertheless, I can’t stop hoping that their families will get answers and justice.