8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Photo courtesy of Canva

By Lisa Green

September 12, 2023

From brutal violence to disappearances to one of the deadliest commercial airline mishaps in history, it all happened right here in Michigan.

MICHIGAN—Everyone loves a good horror story, and the stories only get more horrific when you know they’re true. There are plenty of lesser-known real mysteries for true-crime fanatics to binge on in Michigan.

Sure, Michigan has plenty of creepy mysteries, including cryptid creatures and UFO sightings, but there’s no shortage of stories that we know to be true—even if we don’t know exactly who’s behind them.

According to Project: Cold Case, Michigan has the second-lowest homicide clearance rate in the US, meaning it is a hotbed for unsolved murder. Though this may be a depressing statistic, it means there’s a wealth of true-crime stories and mysteries to make your skin crawl.

We’ve assembled some of our favorite mysteries and true crime from around the Mitten State, bound to make you wonder what’s really going on out there.

(Warning: This article contains case information of violent crimes that might be considered disturbing.)

The Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa

Where in Michigan: Bloomfield Township

Disappearance: July 30, 1975

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Jimmy Hoffa in 1965. (Public Domain)

The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa is so well-known that there are countless pop culture references to him—including an entire 3-plus-hour Martin Scorcese movie that tells one version of events. Across the country, one question persists in one of the most famous missing person cases to ever exist: Where is Jimmy Hoffa?

Hoffa served as the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (or Teamsters for short) for over a decade. He was an important union activist, but he became involved in organized crime. This likely proved to be his downfall.

So what exactly happened? Hoffa fell into legal trouble, convicted for criminal activities he took part in while president of the Teamsters. Then-President Richard Nixon commuted Hoffa’s sentence under the condition that he not manage any labor organization before 1980. Despite that deal, Hoffa made plans to re-establish his base of power. Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, who had served as vice president of the Teamsters and was affiliated with the Genovese crime family in New York City, directly opposed Hoffa’s ambitions, even as Hoffa asked him for his support. Provenzano refused and allegedly threatened Hoffa and his family.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa was due to meet with Provenzano and Anthony Giacalone of the Detroit Mafia at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township at 2 p.m. However, the men never showed up. Hoffa called his wife around 2:15 p.m. from a nearby payphone to complain and promised her he’d be home around 4 p.m. He also called his close friend, Louis Linteau, to complain. According to FBI estimates, Jimmy Hoffa left the location without a struggle around 2:45 p.m. An eyewitness reported seeing Hoffa with three other people in a maroon car. He was never seen alive again.

Giacalone and Provenzano denied having scheduled a meeting with Hoffa and had alibis placing them in New Jersey at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance. But Giacalone’s son, Joseph, did own a maroon 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham. Though another family member had borrowed the car the day of Hoffa’s disappearance, police dogs identified Hoffa’s scent and, in 2001, DNA from Hoffa’s hair was matched to a hair in the car. However, this doesn’t prove the car was used in Hoffa’s disappearance, only that he had been in the car at one point.

Jimmy Hoffa’s body has infamously never been recovered, although not for lack of trying. Digs have been conducted periodically in the Detroit area in search of his body, but all have turned up empty. The 1989 agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Detroit office, Kenneth Walton, once told The Detroit News that he knew who killed Hoffa, but prosecution would never happen as it would involve divulging confidential information about informants. Crime historians and investigators generally believe that Hoffa was murdered by his enemies in the Mafia, but who did it, how they did it, where they did it, and even the motive are widely disputed.

Thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been spent chasing down tips on Jimmy Hoffa, but answers remain elusive. Many people have confessed to either disposing of Hoffa’s body or being in the maroon car Hoffa was last seen in. All such claims have proven to be either hoaxes or unsupported by substantial evidence. Most recently in 2019, Martin Scorsese’s film The Irishman adapted the narrative nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses. Both center around the story of Frank Sheeran, an alleged mafia hitman who confessed to murdering Hoffa but whose claims have been widely disputed and contradicted by DNA evidence.

Northwest Airlines Flight 2501

Where in Michigan: Lake Michigan

Disappearance: June 23, 1950

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

A DC-4 aircraft. (Photo via San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Did you know that, at one time, the deadliest commercial airliner accident in US history happened over Michigan skies? Flight 2501 was a Douglas DC-4 airliner with propeller engines that could take the aircraft to speeds of 280 miles per hour. The plane disappeared over Lake Michigan in 1950 and to this day has never been recovered.

Flight 2501 had an intended flight path from New York to Seattle. It departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on the evening of June 23, 1950 with 55 passengers, including six children and three crew members. The aircraft had plans to make a stopover in Minneapolis, Minnesota before continuing onward to Seattle, but unfortunately, the plane would never make it to either destination.

Flying at approximately 3,500 feet over Lake Michigan, the pilot of Flight 2501 requested a descent to 2,500 feet as the plane encountered a severe electrical storm and high-velocity winds. The plane was near Milwaukee, expecting to fly over the city in about 14 minutes. But Flight 2501’s last transmission was at 1:13 a.m., with radio contact ceasing shortly after. Witnesses reported hearing sputtering noises from an engine before seeing a flash of light. The cause of the crash has never been determined. To this day, it is unclear whether Flight 2501 exploded in mid-air or hit the water fully intact.

The next morning, a full-scale search ensued in an attempt to find the presumed-crashed aircraft. The US Coast Guard discovered oil slicks and aircraft debris floating on the surface of the water, as well as some human remains. The US Navy and State Police from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois were all involved in the search. Despite significant efforts including using sonar technology and dragging the lake’s bottom with trawlers, the aircraft was never found.

In the years to follow, two unmarked graves holding the remains of passengers were located. Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates (MSRA) affiliate Chriss Lyon found an unmarked grave in a St. Joseph-area cemetery. Evidently, remains that had washed ashore in Michigan had been buried, though the victims’ families were never notified. In 2015, another mass burial site was discovered at Lakeview Cemetery in South Haven.

The nonprofit MSRA still conducts an annual search for the missing airliner each year.

Oakland County Child Killer

Where in Michigan: Metro Detroit

Span of Crimes: Feb. 15, 1976-March 16, 1977

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Sketches of the subject in the Oakland County Child Killer case. (Public Domain)

The case of the Oakland County Child Killer, sometimes also called the Babysitter Killer, was the largest investigation of its kind in US history at the time. At least four children went missing outside their home, all of whom were last seen within a mile of Woodward Avenue. The killer is called the Babysitter Killer because they fed and bathed the victims before killing them and carefully placing their bodies in spots around the city.

The first victim was 12-year-old Mark Stebbins from Ferndale. On Feb. 15, 1976, he spoke on the phone with his mother right before he left the Ferndale American Legion Hall en route to his home. Unfortunately, Stebbins never made it home. His body was discovered four days later near an office complex in Southfield. The killer had somehow dumped Mark Stebbins’ body in broad daylight without anyone noticing. Due to the way Stebbins’ body and clothing was handled, little evidence was extracted. A psychiatrist suggested the police place a child-sized mannequin dressed as Stebbins where the body had been to lure the killer back to the scene. They didn’t carry out the plan, however, and later, in a taunting move, the killer left a funeral card from Mark Stebbins’ service for police to find, indicating the killer had attended the service.

The next victim would come later in the year. A 12-year-old girl from Royal Oak, Jill Robinson, had an argument with her mother on Dec. 22, 1976. Robinson had been asked to make biscuits for dinner and she refused, leading her mother to tell her to leave until she became part of the family. Robinson packed a denim bag with clothes and a blanket and left. She rode her bike to a hobby shop on Woodward Avenue just a few blocks away from her home, where she was seen by a family friend. Though her bike would later be found behind the hobby store that night, Robinson would never be seen alive again.

Jill’s body would be discovered a few days later, the day after Christmas, on the side of I-75 near Big Beaver Road. Her body was laid neatly in the snow within view of the Troy Police Department. Robinson had a persistent deep-seated fear of a man shooting her, to the point she had nightmares. She was killed with a shotgun, the only victim attributed to the Oakland County Child Killer who was killed in such a manner.

The third victim was 10-year-old Kristine Mihelich from Berkley. Just seven days after Jill Robinson’s body was discovered, on Jan. 2, 1977, Mihelich went to the nearby 7-Eleven store within walking distance of her home to retrieve a magazine. She was abducted in broad daylight, and 20 days would pass until her body would be discovered. Curiously, the evidence suggested Mihelich had been held captive for 20 days, only to be killed within 24 hours of her body being found. Her body was discovered by a postal worker in the snow at the end of a dead-end road only minutes from her home.

The last victim attributed to the killer was 11-year-old Timothy King from Birmingham. On March 16, 1977, King’s parents went out to dinner with a client at his father’s law firm. His parents figured he could take care of himself for a few hours. That evening, King decided to borrow 30 cents from his sister to get candy from the local drugstore a few blocks away on Maple Road. He left the drugstore through the back entrance, and that was the last time King was seen alive.

Two witnesses reported seeing King in the parking lot with a man driving a Gremlin. That eyewitness testimony helped form police composite sketches. King’s father wrote an open letter plea to the killer that appeared on the front page of the Detroit News. His father, Barry King, begged the killer to release him to no avail. King’s body was discovered six days later in a shallow ditch near Eight Mile Road in Livonia. His autopsy revealed the killer kept him alive for six days, fed him his favorite meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and suffocated him approximately six hours before his body was located.

While the killings were ongoing, “stranger danger” gripped the metro Detroit area. Authorities questioned every Gremlin owner in Oakland County with no results. Though a special task force was formed in response to the killings, gathering more than 11,000 tips, it came to nothing. A suspect has never been named. Several persons of interest were identified, but DNA evidence ruled out the most promising leads. Local author Marney Rich Keenan, author of the book The Snow Killings that centered around the case, believes police cover-ups and infighting hurt the investigation.

One man, going by the name “Allen,” sent a long letter to Detroit psychiatrist Dr. Bruce Danto alleging that his roommate “Frank” had kept the children in an apartment in Detroit. Danto received a call from Allen on April 10, 1977. The two agreed to meet in a bar the next night, with Allen offering Polaroid evidence in exchange for a letter of immunity from the then-Governor. However, Allen never showed up and the trail went cold.

Victim Timothy King’s family has been fairly active with the case over the years. King’s sister, Catherine, maintains an active blog surrounding the case. Barry King, Timothy King’s father and a prominent lawyer in Birmingham for years, was active in the media in trying to push police to search more aggressively for his son’s killer. Barry King died in 2020 without ever seeing the Oakland County Child Killer brought to justice.

The Disappearance of Paige Renkoski

Where in Michigan: Fowlerville

Disappearance: May 24, 1990

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Interstate 96 in Michigan. (Photo via
Doug Kerr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Paige Renkoski is one of Michigan’s longest-running cold cases. Her case has been labeled a homicide, even though her body was never located and no one was ever charged in her disappearance or death. Though no one’s heard from her in over three decades, authorities are still actively pursuing this case.

On the morning of May 24, 1990, 30-year-old Paige Renkoski drove her mother to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport before deciding to visit a friend in Canton. By the afternoon, she had bought a beer from a local store and started driving west in I-96 in hopes of making it to her fiance’s softball game. Renkoski stopped about a half mile from the Fowlerville exit at around 3:30 p.m. There, she was seen talking to at least two unidentified African-American men, possibly three, all standing near a maroon or burgundy minivan. Renkoski was seen throwing her hands up in the air and one of the men put his hand on her shoulder. This would be the last time anyone saw Paige Renkoski alive.

A motorist passed by the scene at 3:30 p.m., then returned on the way back around 7:30 p.m., becoming concerned when they saw Renkoski’s car in the same location with no one in sight. When police investigated, they found the doors unlocked, lights and radio on, the engine idling, and the beer open. There was no damage to the car. Renkoski’s purse, wallet, and shoes were also found inside the vehicle.

Witnesses provided enough description for six police sketches of the possible perpetrators, but no suspects were ever positively identified. At the time, there had been several incidents of people flashing fake police badges to get motorists to stop. There had also been three unsolved abductions and murders of young women. It’s unknown if either of these events are related to Renkoski’s disappearance.

An unidentified inmate who was imprisoned in a Michigan prison for a carjacking was named as a suspect in 2001. He committed the carjacking mere weeks after Renkoski disappeared, and while it’s not clear what led police to believe he may have been one of the men Renkoski was talking to that day, the inmate passed a lie detector test and the authorities eliminated him from their inquiry.

Investigators have received and investigated more than 1,000 tips since Renkowski disappeared. Though many leads have been followed and locations have been searched—even using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs—Renkoski’s remains have never been located.

Michigan State University professor Dr. Geri Alumit Zeldes is currently working on a documentary with fellow Spartans about Paige Renkoski.

Andrew Kehoe, America’s First Mass Murderer

Where in Michigan: Bath Township

Span of Crimes: May 16-18, 1927

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Bath Consolidated School following the attack by Andrew Kehoe. (Public Domain)

School shootings are unfortunately common today, but not many people know that the deadliest act of school violence in US history predated them all—and happened in Michigan.

Andrew Kehoe was a troubled man. At age 14, Kehoe watched his stepmother burn to death when an activated stove caught on fire in front of her. Neighbors believed Kehoe might have been behind the malfunctioning stove, but this was never confirmed. He later had a nasty fall and suffered a severe head injury, after which he drifted in and out of a coma for two months. He then got married and purchased a 185-acre farm outside the village of Bath Township.

Whether Kehoe was always a tortured soul or whether the head injury changed him isn’t clear. He displayed animal cruelty numerous times, including killing his stepsister’s cat, shooting a neighbor’s dog, and even once beating a horse to death. He was intelligent, generous, and meticulous, but had quite a temper. He was also more than a little eccentric, sporting full business attire while working his farm’s dusty fields.

Kehoe eventually became treasurer of the Bath Consolidated School Board, but his motivation for doing so seems relatively selfish. He actually opposed the creation of the consolidated school, citing a hefty tax burden. In his tenure as treasurer, he campaigned for lower taxes because of his own financial hardship.

Kehoe seems to have snapped after his wife became ill with tuberculosis and he fell into debt. The mortgage on his farm was foreclosed when he stopped paying his mortgage. All the while, he blamed the Bath Consolidated School for his woes. He wanted revenge against the citizens of Bath—and he began planning it.

Over a few months, Kehoe planted explosives around Bath School without ever raising suspicion. With a reputation for penny-pinching and a degree in electrical engineering from Michigan State University, school administrators simply figured Kehoe was trying to save the school from the expense of hiring an electrician. Kehoe also apparently had hundreds of pounds of dynamite and pyrotol, a surplus World War I munition given to farmers for agricultural purposes.

On the morning of the bombing, Kehoe’s first order of business was to kill his ailing wife with a fatal blow to the head. Then he lined the buildings on his own property with homemade firebombs, reportedly so his wife’s relatives had nothing to inherit. In a particular act of cruelty, he tied together the legs of all his animals to ensure they could not escape the barn fire. Before he set the property ablaze, Kehoe placed his wife’s unpaid medical bills on top of her corpse.

At 9:45 a.m., the Bath Consolidated School detonated. Fortunately, Kehoe had improperly wired the place, only bringing half the building down. Still, though not as high as Kehoe had originally planned, the death toll was staggering—the highest for any act of school violence in US history. In all, 38 students were killed along with six adults. Nearly 60 others were injured. In Kehoe’s final act, he lured his rival, superintendent Emory Huyck, over to his wired truck. The two argued briefly before Kehoe discharged the vehicle bombs, killing them both in a gruesome display for onlookers.

Kehoe left little to no indication why he committed such horrible deeds. There was no suicide note or manifesto for his actions. The only thing that offered any clue was a painted sign on a fencepost on his farm that read “Criminals are made, not born.” The Kehoe farm was later completely leveled to ensure no explosives remained, with the property sold at auction to pay for the neglected mortgage.

The James Couzens Memorial Park now exists where the Bath Consolidated School once stood. A Michigan State Historical Marker was placed in 1991 and a bronze plaque bearing the names of the victims was installed in 2002. The community is currently planning on opening a new museum on the 100th anniversary of the bombing.

Disappearance of D’Wan Sims

Where in Michigan: Livonia

Disappearance: Dec. 11, 1994

One of the state’s most curious missing persons cases happened in Livonia in the 1990s, but continued to play out through the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Christmas shopping season in 1994, Detroit resident Dwanna Harris reported that her 4-year-old son, D’Wan Sims, disappeared during a shopping trip to the Wonderland Mall in Livonia.

According to Harris, she and D’Wan were walking along the corridor between a Target and the main mall area at approximately 2:30 p.m. when D’Wan suddenly vanished. Harris searched for her son alone, then with a security guard, and eventually called police around 4 p.m. Just days after her son’s disappearance, Harris pleaded in a news conference for her son to come home.

There was one huge hole in Dwanna Harris’s story, however. Surveillance video from the mall never captured D’Wan Sims on video. There’s no proof he ever set foot in the mall at all. Eyewitness reports did report Dwanna Harris arrived at the mall around 3:30 p.m., alone.

The case made headlines because it happened in the same year that South Carolina mother Susan Smith killed her children and falsely claimed they were kidnapped. Police received over 1,000 tips, but none led to D’Wan Sims. Dwanna Harris subsequently failed two lie detector tests, but continued to claim D’Wan was abducted and she didn’t know where he was. Though investigators expressed doubt, Harris never changed her story about the alleged mall abduction.

Dwanna Harris was never formally charged with a crime, but strong suspicions about her role as a primary suspect in the disappearance have persisted amongst authorities familiar with the case. Harris was convicted of a domestic assault charge against her husband in 1996, but kept in consistent contact with the agencies handling her son’s case.

Although D’Wan Sims has never been found, there have been several occasions where it was believed he had been. The first identification was a lead indicating D’Wan Sims was living in Lansing. Investigators followed up on this, and while the boy did resemble Sims, it wasn’t him.

The next lead came in 2019 when a man named Mike Cash came forward wondering if he was D’Wan. He walked into the Livonia Police Department exactly 25 years to the day of Simms’ disappearance. Dwanna Harris, by that point living in North Carolina and remarried, met the man and expressed doubts that he was her son, saying that he did not know questions her son would know.

Cash’s DNA was tested against samples from the Sims family. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it took two years to complete. In that time, Dwanna Harris passed away from a heart attack. The DNA results finally came back in 2021, revealing that Mike Cash was not D’Wan Sims.

If Dwanna Harris knew what happened to D’Wan Sims, that knowledge died with her. But on the other hand, D’Wan Sims might still be out there somewhere, unaware of his peculiar past.

John Norman Collins, The Ypsilanti Ripper

Where in Michigan: Ypsilanti

Span of Crimes: July 9, 1967–July 23, 1969

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Denton Cemetery, the location where authorities discovered the body of one of John Norman Collins’ victims. (Photo via Dwight Burdette / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Ypsilanti is known as a small college town where Eastern Michigan University (EMU) is located as well as the suburb of a larger college town, just east of Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. When the Michigan Murders began happening, students from both campuses started turning up dead, leaving the surviving students gripped with fear.

Long before we coined the term “serial killer,” and long before the country would come to know infamous names like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, there was the Ypsilanti Ripper, sometimes also called the Co-Ed Killer. During his reign of terror, The Ypsilanti Ripper exclusively selected female victims that were brunette, Caucasian, and menstruating at the time of their deaths. The man later identified as the killer was someone nobody had suspected—John Norman Collins, an education major at EMU who was only 20 years old when the Michigan Murders began. At the time, Collins wanted to teach upper-elementary grade school

The first victim attributed to the Ypsilanti Ripper was Mary Terese Fleszar, a 19-year-old EMU student. In August 1967, Fleszar’s nude corpse was discovered on a nearby abandoned farm. She had suffered multiple stab wounds and a vicious beating. Fleszar was last seen alive walking to her apartment, talking to a man in a grey Chevrolet. While Fleszar’s body was being prepared for her funeral, an unidentified man, now believed to be Collins, came to the funeral home. He asked the funeral home’s staff if he could take a photo of Fleszar’s body as a “keepsake to the family”—one that Fleszar’s family never asked for. The funeral home turned the man away, only later suspecting him to be her killer.

Other victims soon followed, creating a trail of murders leading back to Collins. The following summer, 20-year-old Joan Schell was on her way to see her boyfriend in Ann Arbor but missed the bus. The EMU art major did something many young adults considered safe at the time—she hitchhiked. Schell’s roommate begged her not to accept a ride, but Schell hitched a ride with a mysterious man who physically resembled Collins, her neighbor. Schell was never seen alive again, and her body was discovered a few days later on the side of a road. Like Fleszar, Schell’s body had been viciously stabbed and brutalized. Though police questioned Collins, he claimed he had been visiting his mother out of town the weekend Schell disappeared. Police never confirmed his alibi.

By 1969, the Ypsilanti Ripper’s murders started picking up speed, with female students at both EMU and University of Michigan (UM) fearing for their lives. Within the year, sales of self-defense items like security locks, knives, and even tear gas surged in the area. The Ypsilanti Ripper’s next victims included Maralynn Skelton, 16, of Romulus; Dawn Basom, 13, of Ypsilanti; and Alice Kalom, 21, of Portage. All of the bodies were found in such a gruesome state that the full details of autopsies have still not been released.

Another victim in California was later attributed to the Ypsilanti Ripper. Collins and his roommate had traveled to Salinas, California on June 29, 1969. In this window of time, 17-year-old Roxie Phillips was murdered. Her body was found in a ravine in a similar fashion to the Ypsilanti Ripper’s other victims.

But Michigan authorities could only prove in a court of law that Collins killed one Michigan victim, 18-year-old Karen Beineman. Beineman was a freshman at EMU and would become The Ypsilanti Ripper’s last known victim. On July 23, 1969, Beineman was, ironically, purchasing a blonde wig to protect herself against danger. She made one final mistake—accepting a motorcycle ride from a stranger, a man later believed to be the Ypsilanti Ripper.

As revealed in Collins’ subsequent trial, the prosecution believed Collins either persuaded or forced Beineman to the house belonging to his uncle, a police officer. They alleged that Collins tortured Beineman in the basement before murdering her and disposing of her body. Though Collins did not take the stand in his own defense, prosecution tied him to the murder through the wig shop employee’s positive identification of Collins, blood in the uncle’s basement that matched Beineman’s blood type, and hair clippings from Collins’ cousins found in both the basement and Beineman’s underwear. Collins was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole before then being tried in California for Roxie Phillips’ murder.

To this day, Collins maintains that he didn’t know Karen Beineman and denies he was involved in any of the Ypsilanti Ripper murders. Still, the killings ceased after Collins’ arrest. While investigators acknowledged the resemblance of the Ripper’s victims to Collins’ mother, Collins angrily denied any such connection in a 2019 letter to reporter Frank Witsil from the Detroit Free Press.

The Ypsilanti Ripper’s other Michigan victims technically remain unsolved cases.

The Disappearance of Kevin Graves

Where in Michigan: Electric Forest Music Festival, Rothbury

Disappearance: July 1, 2018

8 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries and True Crime Stories From Michigan

Electric Forest 2018 (Photo via
FifthLegend on Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Tens of thousands of people attend the hugely popular Electric Forest Music Festival every year. It’s so popular that it’s often called a “modern-day Woodstock.” Yet despite the high attendance, no one saw what happened to a 28-year-old mechanic from Highland Township in 2018.

Kevin Graves attended Electric Forest that year with his girlfriend, Kaela Covington, and two friends. According to Covington, Graves had been acting strangely. He was reportedly suffering from mental illness and was later found to be off his medication at the time of his disappearance. On the final day of the festival, a Sunday, Graves and Covington got into an argument in the concert area. Graves apparently needed to cool off, so he said he would go back to their tent to rest. Around that time, he went to an ATM and withdrew $200. No one would see Kevin Graves again.

When Covington returned to their tent, Graves’ possessions were there, but he was nowhere to be found. Covington and their friends searched the festival site for the rest of the day trying to find Graves, to no avail. They reported him as missing the next day and the search began. Within the next few weeks, multiple teams would scour the 2,000 acres of Double JJ Resort, where the festival was held, turning up nothing.

Like with many missing person cases, possible sightings of Kevin Graves have emerged in the time since—one even seems fairly reliable. A woman told investigators she saw a man resembling Kevin Graves in a restaurant just 10 miles away, three days after he was reported missing. The man suspected of being Graves was reportedly barefoot and behaving unusually. He used the restaurant’s phone for about a half an hour, seemingly arguing with someone. He was also panhandling outside the restaurant. The person was wearing a pair of dirty tan shorts that was later found outside near the hotel next to the restaurant. A friend of Kevin Graves from California was staying at the hotel during that time.

One popular theory is that Graves left to join a cult, specifically a local religious group called Twelve Tribes. Witnesses reported seeing buses at the festival connected to the group, which later reached out to the Graves family and to the media stating they were not even at the festival that year.

Another theory, believed by Graves’ friends and some investigators, is that he simply doesn’t want to be found. He may be on a marijuana farm out west or somewhere else, they say. His parents believe Graves is dead and his body is somewhere in the forest, but authorities aren’t sure that’s possible, considering how thorough their searches have been.

The search is still active, with flyers posted on the festival grounds for the event even five years later, a large billboard near the site bringing awareness to his case, and a Facebook page that remains active.


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