Door Knob Snowmobile Park

Jerry Lee McKoen - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Jerry Lee McKoen, disappeared 21 September 2002, Malin, Oregon.

Jerry Lee McKoen disappearance

Jerry McKoen, 48, was last seen at approximately 4.30am - 5:30 a.m. on September 21, 2002 at his home near the 24200 block of Old Malin Highway in Malin, Oregon, halfway between Merrill and Malin.

He drove away from the house in his brown and white 1986 GMC pickup truck which had a distinctive camper shell that runs the length of the bed, with a Honda 185XL motorcycle beside the canopy. He used the motorbike to explore wilderness areas.

McKoen, was no novice to the outdoors and was renowned in the area as an avid outdoorsman. He grew potatoes, alfalfa and grain on his family's farm, and lived with his parents, Clifford and Bertha McKoen. Jerry was single, very independent, and while he lived at home on the family farm, he would come and go as he pleased.

Jerry was planning a hunt with his usual a bow and arrows, preferring this method to firearms. But he never returned home and has never been heard from again.

Medicine lake, Siskiyou County

His truck was found two weeks later on October 8,  west of Medicine Lake Road in a heavily wooded area south of Door Knob Snowmobile Park in Siskiyou County, California, 40 miles south of Klamath Falls.  The area is in the shadow of Mount Shasta.

Some hunters had bought a box of potatoes from a packing shed in the valley, and it had a poster on the wall relating to Jerry's disappearance and a picture of the pickup. When they saw the pickup they knew immediately it belonged to McKoen.

Jerry's friends and family went to the place his truck was found. It didn't take them long to realise something was not right. The radio was off and the heater was on high. There was no sign of him at the scene with no evidence of foul play. 

Jerry's mother, Bertha McKoen, said  "It looked pretty much just like you'd think he'd leave it." Saying his disappearance was "hard to believe. We're doing all right. As good as can be expected, but there's a real puzzlement to it." 

Nearly 100 volunteers combed a portion of the Modoc National Forest with the Sherrif's office saying "No trace of the missing man, no clues whatsoever, were found". The search included dog teams, an air search by the California Highway Patrol helicopter. Searchers used global positioning system devices to make sure no areas were missed with eight to 10 square miles covered in the vicinity.

Bertha said she knew her son was in trouble as soon as she learned he was missing."He's a homebody, Plus, his dad's birthday was on Wednesday, and he definitely wouldn't have missed that." She believed something happened to her son, "I think he met up with foul play. We don't think he drove his pickup there." He would usually leave a note, and that day, he didn’t.

The family put up 2,500 posters across the area, including information about a $20,000 reward within the first week of their son’s disappearance.

McKoen's friends believed he went hunting either at the Klamath Marsh, 50 miles north of Klamath Fall, at the Gearhart or Christmas Valley areas or in the Beatty or Fort Klamath Seven-mile areas.

Friend Terry Guthrie who knew Jerry since he was six years old said, "I hunted with him 18 years and every time he left the pickup he never locked it and this time it was locked. It's just certain things like that that started making me believe there was a possibility foul play was involved." Bertha McKoen said, "It wasn't him that drove that pick up, that's why we think it was foul play."

Guthrie said, "We don't know whether Jerry went down there for a purpose, or that Jerry didn't even go down there, or someone was forcing him to go down there. There's no explanation for it."

Strange that no sign of Jerry was found in the area where his vehicle was discovered, with no evidence of his bow and arrows in an area of low timber and relatively accessible. To date, 15 years on, nothing has been found.