Emerson “Red” Carbaugh - Strange disappearances in U.S. forests

Emerson Edward "Red" Carbaugh, disappeared November 11, 1985, Robertsdale, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania

Emerson "Red Carbaugh disappeared

64-year-old Emerson Edward "Red" Carbaugh, of St Thomas, PA and his brother-in-law, Ralph Issett of Saxton, PA went turkey hunting in the mountains of Robertsdale, Pennsylvania.  They headed to a field off an old logging road on Broad Top Mountain on the afternoon of November 11th, 1985.

Broad Top is a plateau located in south-central Pennsylvania. It extends into Huntingdon County to the north, Fulton County to the southeast, and Bedford County to the southwest. It is bounded to the west by Saxton Mountain and Terrace Mountain, and to the east by Sideling Hill. In Bedford County, Harbor Mountain forms the southern boundary. Trough Creek Valley lies between the mountains.

The men split up at around 2 pm, each taking a different path through the woods on a drizzly afternoon and planned to meet back at Carbaugh’s truck at a specified time.

In the late afternoon, Ralph came out from the woods alone. He waited for a while but, with darkness coming and thinking that perhaps Red had lost his way, Ralph fired 1/2 dozen rounds from his gun into the air hoping Red would hear the gunfire and follow it. Still nothing. He then walked to get help. Ralph Issett's hunting partner was never seen again.

It was too dark already to search that evening, but a search party was formed the next day at a nearby volunteer fire company. For almost two weeks, more than 1,800 people would search 12 square miles of woods for Carbaugh. Volunteers walked arm and arm through the tough, isolated terrain. Two different types of search dogs were brought in as well as scuba divers and a helicopter with heat-sensing FLIR technology. Despite this large search no evidence of his whereabouts was ever found - No hat. No gun. No body.

In 2004, Red's wife, Ida Carbaugh-Stevens, was contacted by someone claiming to have information about his fate. According to this source, Red had been killed and buried on a farm in the Robertsdale area. The person also claimed to have dug up a bone on the farm which was turned over to the State Police at Huntingdon, along with the information the person possessed. The State Police turned the bone over to the Pennsylvania DNA lab in Greensburg, but because the bone was only a small fragment and degraded, it was impossible to extract any DNA from it.

Ida said there were other hunters in the area that afternoon, that her husband had seen five men loading turkeys into the back of a truck near where the two men were planning to hunt. However, no one could ever prove that there was a connection or that the men had been identified. She also said the events of that day ended her brother-in-law’s days as a sportsman.

Red Carbaugh was declared legally dead in 1992. His case remains unsolved and another case of a missing hunter mysteriously vanished in the wilderness, leaving no trace of a gun or clothing.  If he was murdered, why?

For other Hunter's stories see:





Michael Jose Malinowski - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Michael Jose Malinowski, disappeared October 24, 1996, Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania Grand Canyon West Rim.

Michael Jose Malinowski disappearance

Michael Malinowski, 37, left his home in Yardley, Bucks County, PA on Thursday, October 24, 1996. It would be the last time he would ever see his home again.

The bearded mental health counsellor, a divorced father with one child, worked at Greater Trenton Community Mental Health Center. He attended a psychology seminar that morning in Chester County, then drove about 200 miles north to spend a couple of days hiking and taking pictures in Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

Pine Creek Gorge, sometimes called "The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania", is a 47-mile (76 km) gorge carved into the Allegheny Plateau by Pine Creek in north-central Pennsylvania. It sits in about 160,000 acres (650 km2) of the Tioga State Forest. The canyon begins south of Ansonia, near Wellsboro, along U.S. Route 6 and continues south. Its deepest point is 1,450 feet (440 m) at Waterville, near the southern end. At Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, it is more than 800 feet (240 m) deep and the distance rim-to-rim is about 4,000 feet (1,200 m).

Pine Creek Gorge

Pine Creek Gorge

Mike checked in at the Pine Tree Lodge in Gaines near the Canyon at around 4.30pm. The Lodge was built in the early 1930's by President Roosevelts' Grand Army of the Republic and has beautiful valley views over-looking Pine Creek. Each cabin has its own covered porch and cooking facilities and are surrounded by woodland and wilderness. 

He checked in at the lodge for a stay of two nights and that evening he made a phone call to his roommate, Greg Rossi, indicating that all was well. That was the last time anyone heard from Mike.

Pine Tree Lodge Gaines

Pine Tree Lodge Gaines

On October 27, a Forestry Bureau worker found Malinowski's rented 1995 Nissan Sentra in the parking area at the Barbour Rock access, on the west rim of the Gorge. In the car, police found an unzipped day pack on the front seat with a cellphone inside, Malinowski's jacket on the passenger's seat, a nearly two-thirds empty water jug, some apples, a box of low-fat Cheez-its crackers, and an empty camera case on the dashboard. A pair of tan, rubber-soled boots were also found. A cassette was on the car's tape player.

The manager at the Pine Tree Lodge reported Mike missing on Monday, October 28th. The bed in his cabin appeared to have been slept in. He obviously was very meticulous. All his things were put away very neatly. There was enough clothing for a two-day stay. His coat was draped over a chair, and his shoes were carefully stowed beneath the bed. 

Steve Farrell, superintendent of Colton Point State Park, where the canyon is located, said that, despite one of the most extensive searches ever conducted in that rugged, mountainous area, no trace of Malinowski was found. Farrell said that up to 125 firefighters and other volunteers, dogs trained to find people dead or alive, nine rappelling teams, and three helicopters spent five days from dawn to dusk searching the canyon's walls and came up with no sign or evidence at all. "You go home at night, and you can't sleep, wondering where he is. Is he hurt? What have I overlooked?" said Farrell. "We still don't know what happened. All we know is he is not accounted for." Gaines Township Police Chief Mark Resue, who first investigated Malinowski's disappearance, said he was equally frustrated. "It's one of those puzzles you try to fit the pieces together, and none of them seem to work. I'm thoroughly satisfied with the job the searchers did. I've never seen such an extensive search, and yet nothing was found."

The Pennsylvania State Police, said there was no evidence of foul play and no indication that Malinowski would have ended his own life. 

Chief Resue said it looked as if Mike parked the car, perhaps filled a couple of bottles with water, grabbed his camera, and took off for a hike over trails he knew well. A photo album supplied to police showed that he had been at that spot on the western rim several times before, taking pictures during different seasons.

Police and park officials say they had several theories, including that Malinowski had a fatal or incapacitating accident and died in the woods; that he committed suicide after walking far from where he parked his car; that he arranged his own disappearance; that he was killed by a stranger or someone who knew him, either at the canyon or near his cabin; and finally that Malinowski was accidentally killed by a hunter who panicked and fled with the body.

But each theory, they say, had holes. Mark Resue said that he could find no reason for Malinowski to want to disappear, that he was looking forward to moving west within a year to be near his son, who lived with his former wife, and that none of his bank accounts had been touched since his disappearance. There was no evidence of a struggle in the cabin or in and around the car, and there was no indication that Mike was depressed or suicidal. Regarding the hunter theory, it was squirrel and grouse season at the time, and deer hunting was not allowed. Malinowski and his former wife separated three years before his disappearance and were divorced a year before taking their 10 year old son with her. Police said she knew nothing about her former husband's disappearance and had moved to Seattle.

According to friends and family Malinowski had no reason to disappear, and was not suicidal. He was not in debt, nor depressed. He was a vegetarian, didn't use drugs and rarely drank. He wasn't in a romantic relationship at the time. His credit cards show no activity since 1996.

But the thorough searches of the area in and around the The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania failed to find any trace of him and more than two decades on Mike Malinowski remains missing.



The Philadelphia Inquirer,Tuesday, December 24, 1996 https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/179225131/

Laura Bradbury - Strange disappearances in U.S. National Parks

Laura Bradbury, disappeared October 18, 1984, Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, California.


Laura Bradley, Joshua Tree National Park disappearance

On October 18, 1984, three-and-a-half-year-old Laura Bradbury was on a camping trip with her family at the  Indian Cove Campground in the Joshua Tree National Park, California. They were a family of five, cramped in a two-bedroom condominium, so Joshua Tree offered a break, they were regular visitors with parents Patty and Michael.

Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree

She went with her 8-year-old brother, Travis, to the portable restrooms near the campground and left Laura outside while he used the facilities. When he came out, Laura had vanished. 

Over 250 people along with horses, dogs and helicopters searched for Laura in the Joshua Tree National Park. A dog followed her scent for about two miles before losing it. After only three days, the official search was called off.

The Bradbury family mobilised their own massive effort, distributing millions of flyers and T-shirts with Laura's likeness on them. They also appeared on radio and television talk shows and the disappearance was reenacted twice on national television. A hot line was established to gather tips and field inquiries.The search for her became a national story and Laura was one of the first missing children to be featured on milk cartons.

Patty and Mike Bradbury, November 1984

Patty and Mike Bradbury, November 1984

Witnesses claimed to have seen a man in his fifties with a metallic blue van at Indian Cove Campground just before Laura disappeared and a  similar-looking man was seen near Burns Canyon a few hours later. The sheriff’s department even brought in a hypnotist to try to coax out more details from campers who had seen the bearded, pot-bellied man and his van.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department had investigated Laura's disappearance. But Mike had lost faith in the deputies and he'd mounted his own search. Mike grew increasingly contemptuous of sheriff's deputies for not doing enough about the many tips that flowed into the Laura Center. They were incompetent or lazy or both, he told reporters. He even speculated that someone inside the department knew that a kidnapper was involved and was covering it up. 

Mike heard the story of Clifford Leville and Toby Santangelo who were said to have told deputies they had solid information about a man they believed kidnapped Laura. But investigators checked it out and found it not credible. Not long afterward, Leville and Santangelo were found shot to death. 

Along with a private investigator, he combed the isolated communities near Joshua Tree, known for attracting drug dealers and oddballs. His hunt, too, came to nothing.

 In 1986, a skull believed to be that of Laura Bradbury was found by hikers near the parks west entrance, only two miles from the family's campsite (some reports say 5 miles). However, DNA tests were unable to conclusively prove that the skull was Laura's, not even blood type or gender, and the only certainty was that it was a child.

A sheriff's captain publicly speculated it was Laura's and had a theory. Maybe, he said, she meandered away from the toilet, stumbled and was somehow buried by collapsing sand. Only recently, he continued, coyotes or a mountain lion had dug up all that was left. 

In 1990, new DNA tests were said to prove the skull was Laura's with 99% likelihood of a match.

Laura's mother Patty died in 2001 and her father Michael wrote a book about his daughter's disappearance called "Laura Ann Bradbury: A Father's Search" in 2010. 

Michael Bradbury has been trying to have the skull transferred from the coroner’s facility to a mortuary since October 2009, but because the San Bernardino County coroner’s office has not issued a death certificate, he has been unable to claim his daughter’s remains.

In a 2010 interview he said he was  shown about 40 colour 35 mm slides of the skull, and was astonished to find out it is a full-sized skull, about seven inches by five inches, missing the teeth and lower jaw. He claimed that investigators showed him a much different skull shortly after hikers discovered the remains. “My wife and I were shown a smaller, three-inch skullcap in or around 1986-’87 that the sheriff’s claimed was Laura’s skull,” he said. “The two skulls are totally dissimilar; they looked nothing like each other. I wonder now, what or whose skull they showed me then. And why?”

He also had a report on tests that provided inconclusive results on whether the cranium was his daughter’s. According to the report, only one of four DNA tests performed on the skull matched DNA samples from Laura’s mother’s blood. Even hair taken from Laura’s hairbrush did not match DNA with the skull, he said. The two partial skull bones are the only remains Michael was aware of that are believed to be from his daughter. “I am very anxious to put closure to this terrible period of my life,” Bradbury said. “All I want is justice for my daughter. That’s all I care about.”

No arrests have ever been made and the case remains unsolved.







Glen and Bessie Hyde - Strange disappearances in U.S. National Parks

Glen and Bessie Hyde, Nov. 17, 1928.

Glen and Bessie Hyde, Nov. 17, 1928.

Glen and Bessie Hyde, last seen, November 18th, 1928, (Last Diary Entry November 30th, 1928),Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Bessie Hyde and her husband, Glen, set off on a honeymoon trip on the Green and Colorado Rivers in October 1928. In those days, the Grand Canyon had no commercial river trips and the rapids were for seasoned explorers and professional expeditions only. They had no life jackets or specialist wet weather gear. Certainly not a trip for a pair of honeymooners in a homemade scow called Rain in the Face. Confirming the dangers, early in the trip, Glen fell out of the boat on a rapid.

The Hydes met on a passenger ship travelling to Los Angeles in 1927. They were married on April 12, 1928. 

Glen was an expert boat builder who built the 20-foot-long wooden sweep scow and had rafting experience on the Salmon and Snake rivers in Idaho a couple years earlier. In contrast, Bessie was a novice to rivers and rapids. Glen was determined to set a new speed record for travelling through the Grand Canyon, and he wanted Bessie to make history as the first documented woman to run the canyon.

Bessie Hyde, 22, was an aspiring poet, artist and bohemian. According to the late Otis "Dock" Marston's library,  the Hyde's plan was that they would run the canyon, then go on the lecture circuit and make money retelling their adventure. 

The couple were last seen on November. 18th, 1928 and their scow was found in early December, around three weeks later. It was found floating upright around River Mile 237, and filled with belongings and the supplies were fully strapped in. But Glen and Bessie were nowhere to be seen. There is evidence they made it as far as River Mile 225 where they may have made camp. A huge search turned up no trace of the couple.

Glen and Bessie Hyde scow

Starting on October 20th, 1928, the Hydes started their adventure in the city of Green River in Utah and made a successful run through many major rapids of the Green and Colorado rivers. They estimated it would take them no more than a month and a half to complete their journey. Almost a month into the trip, they spent a few days restocking at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim on November 16th. At this time they talked with a reporter from the Denver Post assuming that their final destination, Needles, in California was just a few weeks away.

They hiked along the Bright Angel Trail, where they met brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, famous photographers who ran a cliffside studio. Glen and Bessie went to the studio and introduced themselves to the Kolbs, explaining that they were honeymooners who had been rafting on the river for 26 days. The Kolb brothers said that the couple asked to have their photo taken on the canyon rim, and they would return to retrieve it after the trip was completed.

Emery Kolb

Emery Kolb

According to Emery Kolb, Glen said that they did not have life preservers, a comment that evoked a warning from Kolb that Glen responded to with a laugh. Kolb offered the couple life preservers but they refused, saying they could swim anything. Bessie, Emery Kolb said, looked nervous about the remaining journey ahead. As Glen and Bessie prepared to depart and walk down the trail to their boat, Emery Kolb’s daughter Emily appeared, nicely dressed. Bessie remarked, “I wonder if I shall ever wear pretty shoes again.” People who encountered the couple during their layover would later claim that Bessie seemed to want to leave the trip. 

Glen and Bessie Hyde

It is said that a man named Adolph G. Sutro accompanied the couple back into the canyon, taking photographs and even riding a short distance with them in the boat. If this is true, Sutro was likely the last person to see them alive.

By early December, Glen and Bessie had not been heard from. Emory Kolb initiated a search of the area that included a small plane that flew through the inner gorge of the canyon. The pilot saw the intact Hydes’ scow caught in the rocks on the river 15 miles south of Diamond Creek on December 20th, 1928. The assumption was that somewhere in the canyon they were on a ledge waiting to be found after 21 days.

When the rescue party reached the boat, they found food, clothing, books and Bessie’s journal as well as a camera which revealed the final photo to have been shot near river mile 165 on or about November 27. The last entry in Bessie's journal was on November 30th written near Diamond Creek.

Reith Hyde

Reith Hyde

Glen’s father, Reith Hyde, aged 70, hired a group of men to search the canyon within the area where Glen and Bessie likely travelled near Diamond Creek. He even enlisted Ellsworth and Emery Kolb to help. But after 41 days of searching, they had no success. Not a trace.

Since the couple's disappearance, there have been plenty of mysterious stories. What happened out there on the river? The obvious answer was that they both died in the rapids but why was the boat found intact and upright? Perhaps Glen Hyde was a bully who forced Bessie to continue the journey when she didn't want to, and perhaps even killed her in a fit of frustrated rage.  Alternatively perhaps Bessie killed Glen and disappeared.

Some friends of Georgie Clark, a woman who gained fame for her rafting adventures in the Grand Canyon, speculate that she was Bessie Hyde. A potential link between Georgie and Bessie started when friends were looking through her personal items following her death in 1992. People who had known her for decades had never been invited into her home. Upon looking at Clark’s personal effects, her friends learned that her birth certificate indicated that her real name was Bessie DeRoss, not Georgie. Clark or Georgie White (which was another surname she sometimes used). The latter two were the last names of husbands she had divorced.

Her friends’ curiosity was raised when they found the marriage license of Glen and Bessie Hyde at her home, and a pistol in her lingerie drawer. Colorado River historian Brad Dimock – whose book, “Sunk Without a Sound – The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde,” investigates the couple’s story and the subsequent theories examined the items from Clark’s home and concluded from photographs that Clark and Bessie Hyde were not the same person. The two women didn't even resemble each other and it's more likely the items were souvenirs.

Liz Cuttler

Liz Cuttler

On a 1971 commercial boat trip, an elderly woman called Liz Cuttler announced over the evening campfire that she was Bessie Hyde. "What did you do with Glen?" a boatman called George Billingsley asked, half-joking."I killed him," the woman answered without looking up. The honeymooners had a fight, she added; she stabbed Glen and hiked out to Peach Springs, Arizona then caught a bus back East to start a new life. Further investigations failed to prove a link between the woman and the disappearances and she was identified as a psychology professor from Ohio who liked to play mind games.

In 1976, a male skeleton was found on the property of Emery Kolb hidden in his garage and was believed to be Glen's, but analysis of the bones showed it was too young to have been him and it was determined it was a manual labourer due to the high muscle mass exhibited by the remains. The skull's features did not match Glen.

To this day, the disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde on the Colorado River remains a mystery but it is likely they were lost in the area of Mile 232, 45 miles from the end of the Grand Canyon.





Further Reading and viewing

"Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde" (Fretwater Press), by Brad Dimock

The Grand Canyon Mystery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdbxZNU6wrE

JR Shoemaker - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Victor Dwight Shoemaker Jr, " J.R.", disappeared May 1st 1994, kirkby, West Virginia

JR Shoemaker disappearance virginia

Victor Dwight (or Dewight) Shoemaker Jr, called J.R., was five years old when he went to visit his grandfather, Oscar Wolford. His mobile home, was located in Kirby (south of Augusta) near Short Mountain Wildlife area in west Virginia. He was playing with his two cousins, 8 and 9, just behind his grandfather's home on on May 1st, 1994, when he mysteriously vanished without a trace. 

J.R.'s father, Victor Sr., was a maintenance man at a Leesburg apartment building, and his mother, Nettie, worked on an assembly line at an electronics plant in Loudoun. They drove from Leesburg to the Wolford property on Saturday, April 30th.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, May 1st, J.R. and two of his cousins -- 8-year-old Lloyd Wolford and 9-year-old Tommy Martin, went outside to roam the woods. "They went a-huntin'," said Oscar Wolford, chuckling as he considered his grandsons' lively imaginations. "That was their hobby. They'd come back and say, 'Oh, I killed a big buck.'

The boys played for about thirty minutes until approximately 8:30 a.m., when J.R. got hungry and said he was returning to his grandfather's home for food alone. But when Tommy and Lloyd returned to the trailer there was no sign of J.R..

Search teams began looking within an hour, West Virginia State Police said. They have focused on a four-square-mile area around the trailer, believing that the boy lacks the endurance to get any further than that. 

The boys had wandered safely in the woods together many times before and it was one of the few places where Nettie Shoemaker, who had tried for years to have a baby before conceiving J.R., would let her son play out of her sight.

Short Mountain Wildlife Reserve

At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing red Bugs Bunny T-shirt, red shorts and white X-Men sneakers. J.R. was familiar with the mountainside and always knew his way back.

Although J.R. was said to be strong for his age and fond of the outdoors, the rugged mountainside terrain was no place for a 5-year-old on his own. The paths are steep and twisting; the forest is thick; houses are few and far between and a treacherously dense layer of leaves covers gullies and rocks.

Searchers using a helicopter equipped with infrared equipment to detect heat and dog teams searched the ground. Lisa K. Hannon, who helped coordinate an all-night search was killed Tuesday May 3rd, 1994, when her car ran off a road and struck a tree.

The search for J.R. lasted for five days in rainy weather with temperatures in the 30s before being called off on Thursday, May 5th, in the evening. Over the next five months, National Guard and Army Reserve units used weekend training time to search for signs of the boy. In addition, the FBI was called in, suggesting that the authorities believed that foul play might have been involved.

Victor Shoemaker Sr and wife Nettie Shoemaker 2014

Victor Shoemaker Sr and wife Nettie Shoemaker 2014

Investigators conducted several interviews of the cousins, who told police they lost track of J.R. Parents Victor Dwight Shoemaker Sr and Nettie Shoemaker stated that they believed the cousins acted strangely when the came out of the woods and they haven't talked to that family since. When Victor Shoemaker tried to talk to the other boys, 'they wouldn't say anything about it.' One cousin's family lived in a mobile home on the mountain, the other was from a small town in Pennsylvania.

Victor believes his son was abducted but there have been no arrests. No suspects have been identified, and police have found no indication of foul play or family involvement. The Shoemakers speculate that the son was brainwashed and is alive but living a different identity.

In 2014, 'At this time, all investigative leads have been exhausted,' said FBI supervisory special agent Greg Heeb in Pittsburgh. In 1997, the FBI said it was made aware of a report that a dark-coloured pickup truck had been spotted in the area the day J.R. vanished. But the tip never led to anything. Another unconfirmed theory: instead of keeping its nose to the ground, a police dog looking for scents of the boy held its nose in the air as it travelled across a grassy field, leading to speculation that someone had carried the boy from where he was last seen down to the road.

'You talk about a cold case. That is a cold case,' said former Sgt. B.L. Burner, a state police spokesman who retired in 2001. 'There was nothing concrete. Everybody there had their suspicions.'

What happened to J.R, out in those woods while playing with his cousins that day in May 1994? Was he injured by his cousins, got lost on his way back to his grandparent's property or abducted as his parents believe? The suspicious behaviour of the cousins could be guilt or perhaps Post Traumatic Stress from some incident which happened during J.R.'s disappearance. Twenty four years on, no sign of him or his remains has been found.








The disturbing story of David Shearing and the Wells Gray Park camping murders in Canada

david shearing Wells Gray murders

In August 1982, Bob Johnson, 44, and Jackie Johnson, 41, and their daughters Janet, 13, and Karen went on a two-week camping trip with Jackie's parents, George Bentley, 66, and Edith Bentley, 59. Sadly it was the last family vacation they were ever to go on, cut short by a sadistic, brutal killer obsessed with young girls. A sad and depressing story of outdoor adventure gone wrong, bad luck and a mission by two Royal Canadian Mounted Police detectives to find the perpetrator of these awful crimes.

Wells Gray murder victims

The group travelled to the remote Wells Gray Provincial Park. a wilderness park located in east-central British Columbia, Canada, around 300 miles (478 km) to the northeast of Vancouver. It covers 5,250 square kilometres  (1.3 million acres) and is British Columbia's fourth largest park, after Tatshenshini, Spatsizi and Tweedsmuir. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Wells Gray area was a valued hunting ground to the Secwepemc (Shuswap), Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) and Canim Lake aboriginal groups.

They pitched camp at a secluded area near the old Bear Creek prison site with the Bentleys arriving with a truck and camper van with a boat on top.

Wells Gray Provincial Park

On August 16, Bob failed to return to work at Gorman Brothers Lumber in Westbank which was very unusual for the 25-year employee. The group was reported missing on August 23, 1982.

On September 13th, a mushroom picker reported finding a burned-out car near Battle Mountain Road in a clearing off a mountainside logging road with the driver's side door open, thirteen aerial miles from Bear Creek and north of the town of Clearwater.  On September 13, that was similar to the car that the Johnsons were driving. 

Police found a pile of burnt bones on the back seat which were later identified as that of four adults and in the trunk were the remains of two girls. The charred remains were that of the Bentley's and Johnson's. Because of the location of the vehicle, it was quickly assumed that a local was responsible for the murders. 

Johnson Car Wells Gray murders
Johnson car Wells Gray murders

Forensic investigation of the bone fragments found that they had been shot with a .22 calibre gun. Locals had seen the family camped at Bear Creek and a search of the area found six spent .22 calibre ammunition shells. The Bentley’s 1981 Ford truck and camper and their camping gear, boat and motor and other possessions were missing. Some beer caps of the brand known to be drunk by Bob Johnson were also found as well as full bottles cooling in a nearby stream. Two sticks with sharp ends, probably used by the two girls to roast marshmallows were also at the site. 

Replica of the Bentleys’ 1981 Ford camper truck

Replica of the Bentleys’ 1981 Ford camper truck

wells gray victims
wells gray victims

A Canadian wide manhunt was launched with some leads throwing investigators seriously off the scent. For example, two scruffy French-Canadian men were seen driving in a scamper van east towards Quebec but it turned out this was an unrelated vehicle. Many hours were wasted on these "wild goose" chases as the public phoned in thousands of sitings which all needed to be investigated.

But then on October 18, 1983, fourteen months after the murders with the trail running cold for the perpetrator,  the Bentley's camper truck was finally located by two forestry workers, near Bear Creek, on an old logging road near Trophy Mountain. The spot was only 15 miles from the murder site and 20 miles from where the Johnsons' car was located. It had been burned using an accelerant and was well hidden on the side of different mountain from where the car and bodies were found. It looked like there had been an attempt to drive it into a gorge but logs had blocked its path. The location confirmed a local was most likely involved as outsiders would have been unlikely to find the isolated spot.

David William Shearing who lived locally was identified by someone who told police that, over a year earlier, Shearing had enquired about how to re-register a Ford pickup and repair a hole in its door. Shearing lived three miles from the site of the murders and the police had never released the information about the bullet hole.

The RCMP found Shearing in Tumbler Ridge, north of Kamloops, where he was to appear in court in a few days on a possession of stolen property charge of a significant amount of tools. He was taken into custody for questioning. 

Despite his reputation and criminal record, Shearing came from a respectable family. His father, since deceased, had once been a prison guard and his brother was a sheriff. Shearing had graduated from high school and had successfully completed a heavy mechanic's course. 

David William Shearing

Royal Canadian Mounted Police detectives, Sergeant Mike Eastham and Constable Ken Liebel were convinced David Shearing was guilty from the beginning and tried to get his confidence. Eventually, they got him to confess to the crimes by getting him to relax and defer appointing a lawyer.

Initially, he was led to believe the arrest was related to a hit and run incident which he quickly confessed to before the detectives confronted him with the Bennett-Johnson case. Quickly, Shearing accidentally admitted to Eastham that he had heard the murders were committed at Bear Creek which was not information released to the public. After effort and persuasion, Eastham managed to convince Shearing to confess to the six murders and he eventually agreed to re-enact the murders and even to turn over the murdered family’s possessions. Crucially he handed the police a .22 calibre Remington pump-action rifle, which was forensically matched as the murder weapon.

Shearing initially stated in his confession that he shot the four adults as they sat around their campfire, then shot the girls as they slept in the tent, saying he only wanted to rob them. He told the RCMP that he loaded the bodies into their car, drove it by night to the mountainside, and set it on fire using five gallons of gasoline. He said he cleaned the campsite, then took the truck/camper back to his nearby property, only to burn it later when he discovered how difficult it was to re-register.

David Shearing pleaded guilty to six counts of murder on April 16, 1984, and was given a life sentence with no possibility of parole for twenty-five years. This was the maximum possible penalty for second degree murder and the first time in Canadian history that it had been handed out.

Following Shearing’s conviction, Mike Eastham re-interviewed him and got the disturbing truth behind the killings - paedophilia. He lusted over the young girls and was determined to sexually abuse them even if it meant killing the parents and grandparents.

Mike Eastham 2018

Mike Eastham 2018

He said he saw the family when they set up camp and spent several days spying on them, with a fantasy to have sex with Janet and Karen. At dusk on August 10, 1982, walked into the campsite with his rifle and shot Bob Johnson, then Jackie and then George and Edith in cold blood.

The two girls were already in their tent, ready for bed. Shearing said he looked in, told them a dangerous biker gang was around and their parents had run for help. While they stayed in the tent, he said, he loaded the bodies of their parents and grandparents into the back seat of the family car and covered the bodies with a blanket. Then he crawled into the tent with the girls.

Shearing told Eastham he kept the girls alive for nearly a week, staying with them both at his ranch and at a small fishing cabin on the Clearwater River whilst repeatedly raping them.

They left the cabin after they were nearly discovered. A prison guard was supervising prisoners from a local jail who were fishing on the river. He came to the door of the cabin to tell Shearing not to be alarmed. But Shearing hid the girls behind the door and told them to stay quiet. The guard noticed nothing unusual.

The next day, Shearing said he took the girls back to his ranch and on August 16th, one at a time, he took each girl for a walk in the woods, told her to turn around so he could urinate, then shot each sister in the back of the head. He took the bodies back to the Johnson family car, which he’d hidden and put them in the trunk. He drove the car to a secluded spot and burnt it.

To double-check the story, Eastham found the prison guard. He remembered the meeting exactly as Shearing had described it. Then, RCMP Constable Ken Leibel hiked through the bush to the fishing cabin. Shearing told Leibel he carved his initials on the wall there. Leibel found them next to a second set, JJ, for 13-year-old Janet Johnson.

In his ten-minute summation at Shearing's trail, Supreme Court Justice Harry McKay described the crime as “a cold-blooded and senseless execution of six defenceless and innocent people...a slaughter that devastated three generations in a single bound. What a tragedy. What a waste, and for what?”

In September 2008, David Shearing was up for parole. The National Parole Board ruled that he still had violent sexual fantasies, hadn't completed sex offender treatment and was not ready for freedom. His second application, in 2012, was also rejected when a petition with 13,258 signatures was presented to the National Parole Board. Shearing then applied again in 2014, then withdrew the request a month before the hearing. In the meantime, online and paper petitions got 15,258 signatures urging the parole board not to release him. He now goes by his mother's maiden name, Ennis and is married to a woman he met whilst in prison.






Further reading and viewing

The Seventh Shadow : The Wilderness Manhunt for a Brutal Mass Murderer by Michael Eastham and Ian McLeod (1999, Paperback)

The Wells Gray Gunman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unFwrrYLZH8

The Detectives The Wells Gray Gunman S1 E1  (Canada only)https://watch.cbc.ca/the-detectives/season-1/episode-1/38e815a-00d94f07a15