Gilbert Mark Gilman - Strange disappearances from U.S. national parks

Gilbert Mark Gilman, disappeared June 24, 2006, Olympic National Park, Washington State

gilbert gilman olympic park

Gilbert Mark Gilman, 47,  went on a visit the Olympic National Park in Washington on June 24, 2006. He was spotted by a Park Ranger, Sanny Lustig,  carrying a camera but not a backpack and was wearing a bright green Hawaiian style floral shirt and khaki shorts with flip flops. Lustig had asked him to turn down his music playing in his convertible car. Given his attire that day, it seemed he was going for more of a stroll and opportunity to take photos in the park rather than a serious hike - you don't wear flip flops on a multi mile hike.  He was described as healthy and athletic, but he was nearly blind without his glasses. This was last time anyone saw him alive.

staircase, olympic national park

Gilman was a tough guy. He was a U.S. Army paratrooper and had served military duty in Panama, East Africa and Israel. He had combat experience with the 82nd Airborne and received two Bronze Stars. He also had degrees from the London School of Economics, Union College in New York and Solvay Business School in Brussels so he had brains as well as brawn. He also worked as a civilian contractor for a year in Iraq and was an interrogator fluent in Arabic, Russian and Chinese.

Gilbert worked for the United Nations before he came to Washington state to manage the 2004 congressional campaign for Sandy Matheson, director of the state Department of Retirement Systems. He worked under Matheson as deputy director of the retirement systems department since April 2005, advising her on national and local pension issues.

He was supposed to accompany Sandy to a meeting in Spokane, Washington on Sunday, June 25, 2006, the day after he set out for his visit to the Park. When he failed to show up as originally planned, people started getting worried.  Gilman was reported missing that day.

Staircase trail, olympic national park

Gilman’s vehicle, a 2005 Ford Thunderbird Convertible, was found at the Staircase Ranger Station. Searchers spent 10 days looking for any clue of Gilbert in the Staircase area and examined nearby trails and ridges in the area, which includes steep, rocky hills, dense forest and the North Fork Skokomish River, and found no trace of him.They used tracking dogs, helicopter and a plane equipped with heat seeking equipment along with 62 searchers on the ground.  After 10 days of fruitless searching, he was declared lost by the U.S. Forest Service.

What happened to Gilbert Gilman that day as he took photos in the Olympic National Park Staircase loop trail?

Some theories emerged about him in a couple of TV shots shown over the following years. In 2008, KIRO-TV showed that Gilman had previously worked on top-secret military intelligence assignments and “led a mysterious life.”

Israel Keyes

Israel Keyes

A 2014 episode of “Dark Minds” by Investigation Discovery and hosted by author and investigative reporter M. William Phelps suggested that Gilman was a possible a victim of Alaska serial killer Israel Keyes. Keyes who committed suicide in custody in Anchorage in 2012, was an avid hiker who lived in Neah Bay in Washington from 2001 and was issued “a few overnight backcountry permits” that allowed him access to the Olympic National Park during that time. According to author Molly Koneski, Keyes was competing in a marathon in Port Angeles around the same time that Gilman went missing (he came 90th in the race). Keyes said he killed a couple and two individuals in Washington, dumping them in lakes including Lake Crescent near Port Angeles, 650 feet at its deepest, never to be found. 

Keyes was linked to the murders of 11 people from Vermont to Washington state between 2001 and 2012, five of whom were killed while he lived in Neah Bay. The FBI said Keyes, a carpenter, was arrested at age 34 after admitting he murdered an 18-year-old Anchorage girl, sought many of his victims while hiking and camping and in remote locations. He travelled all over the USA on trips to the wilderness and it seems that on these trips he sought out murders victims and disposed of them very discretely in an effort to avoid detection.

But in March 2014, Anchorage-based FBI Special Agent Kevin Donovan said that Keyes was unlikely to be involved in Gilman's disappearance, based on evidence and reviews of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases. However, Koneski's theory about Keyes involvement is quite compelling.

Since Gilman was an ex-paratrooper it seems unlikely he just wandered off trail and got lost especially on the well marked Staircase loop trail. A very disturbing case indeed.