We sail through endless skies
Stars shine like eyes
The black night sighs
The moon in silver dreams
Pours down in beams
Light of the night
The earth, a purple blaze
Of sapphire haze
In orbit always
While down below the trees
Bathed in cool breeze
Silver starlight breaks down from night
And so we pass on by the crimson eye
Of great god mars
As we travel the universe — Black Sabbath, “Planet Caravan”
‘THERE, BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD, GO I’
Last summer, an 18-year-old named Theodore Alvin Kudrna — also known as Teddy — disappeared after meeting with friends at Skinner Butte Park. He was dropped off at the park by his mother, who thought he was going for a hike.
Instead, Teddy joined a group of other young people — some who were known to him, some who were not — who went to the river to get drunk.
His family became concerned the following day when he failed to show up for important obligations — a funeral and job training to be a wildland firefighter, the latter a job his family knew Teddy was very excited about. Their worry turned to dread as they began to learn more about what happened to Teddy the night of his disappearance.
“I want my son,” his mother told a KVAL reporter days after Teddy’s disappearance. “I’m hoping that he has amnesia and he’s walking around town looking like a homeless teenager, because he would be dirty. He would be disoriented. He’d be hungry. That’s my hope.”
“My fear,” she added, “is that he’s dead in the river.”
Teddy Kudrna disappeared June 1, 2017. A random citizen, going for a walk, found his body June 17, 2017, on the river’s edge, a mile or two downstream from where he was last seen.
Teddy, who I gather was not a practiced drinker and had little experience with alcohol or other drugs, was heavily intoxicated at the time of his disappearance and had fallen in the river repeatedly — numerous pictures taken by his friends and their own accounts of what happened before he vanished confirm that — but it remains unclear what exactly happened to him.
It is possible his friends (or “friends” depending on how you look at it; some of them were merely acquaintances and some of them hardly acted like true friends at the time of his disappearance) watched him get swept away by the river and lied about what happened because they were scared of getting in trouble.
It is also possible that Teddy woke up alone (some of his friends admitted to abandoning him passed out by the river) and, in a drunken stupor, fell in the river and drowned.
There are many possibilities. All of them have the same horrible outcome.
What is undeniable is that for the time he was missing, Teddy’s family and real friends were totally devoted to finding him. Words cannot do justice to this lovely group of people. Their pain and fear and determination to find out what happened to him was palpable to anyone who encountered them.
I grew up in the Whiteaker neighborhood. As a rebellious, self-destructive teenager, I spent many nights getting drunk with friends on top of Skinner Butte or along the river. Teddy, who liked mixed martial arts and heavy metal music, might have been part of my group of friends had we been closer in age.
I feel lucky that I survived my reckless teenage years relatively unscathed, and that my closest friends did, too. Sometimes I am surprised any of us did.
For the weeks that he was missing, I obsessed about Teddy. I had regular communication with his father, David Kudrna, whom I met while search efforts were underway. I sought out all the information I could find about Teddy’s case. I spent hours — alone and with others — walking along the bike path and the riverbank looking for him or evidence of what happened to him.
I would have been happy to be wrong, but I knew Teddy was in the river. It was a truly awful prospect, and all signs pointed to it.
I did not know Teddy personally, and I can only imagine how his disappearance and death impacted his family and friends. His case affected me, and I remember thinking: What if Teddy had never been found? How would his family carry on? How would they maintain their momentum to keep searching for him, or would they?
Teddy’s loved ones did not get the outcome they so badly wanted — for him to be found alive and well — but at least they got some closure. They were not left wondering where he is or if he is alive out there, avoiding them for some reason.
For many, many reasons, I am interested in the dark underbelly of our community. I interact with it constantly. But Teddy’s disappearance got me thinking about the agony loved ones of the missing go through as they struggle to find out what really happened, and his case inspired me to look deeper into the cases of missing people in our area.
MISSING PEOPLE: RESOURCES AND TERMINOLOGY
There is a wealth of information on the internet about missing people. Unfortunately, most websites devoted to the topic are poorly done, out of date and difficult to navigate.
The two best sources of information on missing people are, in my opinion, the NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) website and The Charley Project website.
NamUs is an officially sanctioned resource used by law enforcement and other government agencies, as well as the public, to aid in finding missing people and identifying skeletal remains.
The Charley Project is the private, unofficial project of one highly devoted individual who does an amazing job of gathering information about missing people.
According to the NamUs database, approximately 60 people are missing in Lane County. The Charley Project lists approximately 30 people missing in Lane County. About a third of those they profile are the same people.
The discrepancy largely lies in diagnostic criteria. The Charley Project, for example, lists only people who have been missing for at least one year, whereas NamUs in some respects is more inclusive.
NamUs, for example, profiles Judy Parker — an elderly mentally ill woman missing from Springfield under mysterious circumstances since December 31, 2016 — whereas The Charley Project does not. And NamUs is more likely to profile chronic runaways, whereas The Charley Project tends to focus more on long-term missing persons cases.
Further complicating matters, it can be difficult to determine the jurisdiction of a given case, and different organizations categorize cases differently.
For example, Rebekah Bramel, a Portland resident, was last seen by family members in Portland on April 30, 2007. However, a vehicle containing her personal belongings was found abandoned in the woods outside of Springfield in early May 2007. Did she disappear in Portland or somewhere in Lane County?
Since we do not know, both the Portland Police Bureau and Lane County Sheriff’s Office are investigating agencies in her case — at least until it is determined whose jurisdiction she falls under, which would require finding her or figuring out what happened to her. Which may never happen.
More recently, Daniel Oberg, a Sweet Home resident who was last seen there April 23, 2017, had his vehicle and his two beloved dogs turn up abandoned in the Marcola area shortly before he vanished.
For the time being, law enforcement agencies from both Linn and Lane counties are assigned to his case. It could be that Oberg was murdered and his body buried in Sweet Home, but his vehicle and dogs were abandoned in Lane County, perhaps in an attempt to confuse law enforcement.
It could be that Oberg fatally overdosed on drugs in Marcola after leaving Sweet Home, and his body was hidden somewhere in Marcola. Both rumors are going around about his disappearance.
Once again, there are many possibilities. For the time being, it is unknown where he disappeared, what happened to him or whose responsibility it is to investigate his case.
Meanwhile, Oberg’s friends and family agonize while trying to get to the bottom of things.
Other things to consider: A missing persons case can look many different ways. It is tragic, for example, if someone gets lost in the woods or falls off a cliff or gets knocked off a boat and is never seen or heard from again.
However, in those cases, at least little doubt remains about what happened: The person died, and it was just an accident. Often the person died doing something they loved to do.
The only reason the person is listed as missing in these cases is because their body was never recovered. Such people are usually classified as “lost/injured missing,” and there is usually no need for justice in these cases because it is abundantly clear what happened and nobody is to blame (unless you want to blame nature or perhaps human clumsiness or carelessness), though family members may not get closure until the remains are found.
The Charley Project provides the following definitions for different types of missing people:
Missing: The default classification for adults under 65.
Endangered Missing: The default classification for minors (under 18) and elderly persons (over 65). Adults between those ages will be listed as endangered missing if they have a medical condition or are missing under circumstances that indicate they may be in danger.
Endangered Runaway: A minor missing under circumstances which indicate that he or she left voluntarily.
Family Abduction: A minor who is believed to have been taken by a family member, such as a parent, who does not have legal custody or a legal right to take the child.
Lost/Injured Missing: A person of any age missing under circumstances that strongly indicate they had an accident that caused their disappearance, or that they became lost in a wilderness area. Foul play is not suspected in these cases. Most probable suicides are included; people who wandered away as a result of mental illness or dementia are not included. An example of a lost/injured missing person would be someone who disappeared on a rafting trip.
Non-Family Abduction: A minor who is believed to have been abducted by a non-family member.
While these classifications are sometimes arbitrary or contradictory or unclear, they do provide a useful guide for how to examine and differentiate missing persons cases.
What I am primarily concerned with is missing people who fall under the categories of missing, endangered missing, endangered runaway and non-family abduction, because those people are statistically the most likely victims of either suicide or — more commonly — “foul play” or homicide. (An endangered runaway, for example, may have initially left home voluntarily, but they remain missing years later because they were murdered or have been swept up in human trafficking.)
PAIN AND FRUSTRATION AND DEAD ENDS
I recently spoke to a woman whose younger sister mysteriously disappeared about 10 years ago. She told me she had to see a counselor for many years because of the guilt she felt about her less-than-warm final interactions with her little sister. She would not have bothered arguing with her about things like a small, unpaid debt or any other trivial issue had she known they might never see or speak to each other again.
Fatal and tragic and mysterious endings certainly have a way of making petty disputes and disagreements seem especially petty and unfortunate.
Few if any people are prepared for someone they love to mysteriously disappear; there is no blueprint for what to do or how to handle it.
A disappearance is, obviously, a shocking, devastating and overwhelming experience for loved ones. Usually, when their own efforts fail, people default to relying on the experts — the media and especially the police — for help.
A common sentiment among the loved ones of the missing is that law enforcement did not do enough, or are not doing enough, to find them. Law enforcement efforts are often viewed as inadequate at best, negligent or indifferent at worst. Disinterest is a common attitude from police, if the accounts of the loved ones of the missing are any indication.
“Although I generally am supportive of Law Enforcement,” writes one author (from Whereabouts Still Unknown, a blog about missing people), “and feel that they really made an effort at the time, you will see a few cases where it appears that they just plain dropped the ball … and never picked it back up.”
Police agencies in bigger cities like Portland have bigger caseloads, in which case investigating a missing person when there is no concrete evidence of foul play or some other compelling reason to dig deeper might seem highly impractical.
A small agency (such as Lane County Sheriff’s Office) might have better customer service when compared to a bigger agency, but fewer resources to devote to a case. Hence an agency such as LCSO may do little more than devote a weekend to searching for someone on the ground before calling it quits, due to a lack of resources if not a lack of care.
In the case of Teddy, his father told me he was disturbed to encounter EPD officers patrolling the bike path while search efforts were underway, not because their help was unwanted — it was badly wanted — but rather because EPD was not patrolling the bike path looking for Teddy. The EPD officer Teddy’s father spoke with told him they were out looking for “gang graffiti” to document for their gang files.
I am sure you can imagine that Teddy’s father was unimpressed.
Teddy’s mother, Isla Dane, described her family’s experience searching for her son as totally overwhelming and disorienting, and her experience dealing with Eugene police was far from satisfactory. According to her, search efforts were primarily orchestrated by family and concerned citizens, and police only took action after they were pressured to.
“We took it upon ourselves to do what we did to look for Teddy,” she told me. “Otherwise, I would have sat there in silence for 17 days until the police arrived at my door to tell me Teddy’s body was found — by a community member, not the police.”
Dane believes police agencies need a designated liaison to help families navigate what to do when a loved one goes missing. “I tried to convey to EPD that a family liaison would be extremely helpful, because what we went through was hell. Not just because my son was missing, but because of the runaround EPD gave us.”
Loved ones of missing people get frustrated when they see no outcome or an undesirable outcome, or if it appears authorities are wasting time on superfluous things like “gang graffiti” instead of searching for their missing loved one.
That said, criticizing cops is easy — perhaps too easy — and often unfair.
Nationally, there are countless missing people, and some cases probably do remain unsolved because of disinterest or indifference or just plain sloppiness from law enforcement.
However, police often are the ones most interested (if not the only ones interested) in solving a particular case. In some cases involving missing prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless and other people on the fringes of society, police may be the only champions the missing person has.
Additionally, while I have no desire to make excuses for callousness or laziness from cops, one must consider that police might know more about missing persons cases than the public is aware of. Sometimes they do not devote more resources to a case because of having too much work or too few resources, etc., but sometimes they do not devote more resources to a case because they already know exactly what happened, they just remain silent about it because they cannot prove it.
As for the media, they usually care most about what attracts attention, what sells.
The woman I mentioned above, whose younger sister has been missing for more than a decade, told me a Eugene/Springfield-based television news station produced a story about her sister that never aired. When she asked them why it never aired, she was told that the public is not interested in stories about missing people.
Obviously, I disagree. I think people matter. I think missing people matter. I think getting to the bottom of things matters.
Genuine interest and inquiry and concern — along with diligence and determination — can go a long way in any endeavor, which is why I am writing this: I want cases to get solved.
Lane County has, unfortunately, no shortage of fascinating and tragic missing persons cases to investigate. Below are just a few cases lingering.
Jerome Clements Charles
Charles has been missing from Eugene since June 2, 1984. The Charley Project classifies him as missing. He was 26 years old at the time of his disappearance.
According to The Charley Project, Charles left his father’s residence on West 3rd Avenue, “saying he was going for a walk and would be back in about two hours. He has never been heard from again. Few details are available in his case.”
Charles, unlike the other missing people discussed in this article, is unique in that he comes from an infamous outlaw family: He is one of 10 children born to the late Avery Chester Charles and Ruth Wanda Charles. Every member of the family (alive or dead) has felony convictions. Charles has at least four siblings currently incarcerated in Oregon prisons for violent offenses.
An August 23, 1987, article from The Oregonian says, “Jerome C. Charles, 29, served two prison terms before his final parole in 1983. At age 18, he was first arrested in 1975 for driving without a license and resisting arrest. Jerome Charles was reported missing by his father in 1984. The elder Charles said he believes police murdered his son, but he has never taken that account to authorities. Police still list Jerome as a missing person.”
Wendy Marie Dehoop
Dehoop was once a police dispatcher in California and has been missing from Eugene since April 22, 2005. The Charley Project classifies her as endangered missing. She was born Nov. 5, 1960, and was 44 years old when she vanished.
The Charley Project says Dehoop was last seen when she dropped her husband off at the Home Depot off Green Acres Road. “She was scheduled to drive to Halsey, Oregon, for her own job at Georgia-Pacific but never arrived. She has never been heard from again. Her boss and boyfriend reported her missing.”
Someone found Dehoop’s purse six days after her disappearance and dropped it off at a Bi-Mart in Eugene. “He said he had found it while walking his dog. The wallet was missing. On May 2, 10 days after Dehoop’s disappearance, the same person who found her purse led authorities to her white two-door 1990 Toyota Corolla SR5 with Oregon license plate YCH635. It was on Lorane Highway just east of Fillmore Street in south Eugene. There was no sign of Dehoop at the scene.”
Dehoop’s sister Terri Slaughter-Cabbell wrote on Facebook on April 22, 2013: “Some of you may wonder why I always repost Missing people’s pictures, it’s something very close to my heart. Today makes eight years that my sister, (my BABY sister) has been missing. I keep in touch with the authorities, but nothing new (at least I know they are still looking), eight years of wondering, wishing is hard. I miss her very much and just wish we could get some closure.”
Dehoop has now been missing for more than 13 years.
Kevin Scott Nordquist
Nordquist is classified as missing by The Charley Project. He has been missing from Eugene since Dec. 5, 2005. He was born on May 1, 1967, and he was 38 years old at the time of his disappearance.
The Charley Project says Nordquist was last seen “leaving an acquaintance’s residence in the vicinity of the 32400 block of Matthews Road in Eugene, Oregon. He was en route to a pub on College Hill Road, but never arrived there. He has never been heard from again. Few details are available in his case.”
A May 5, 2011, article in The Register-Guard by Jack Moran says that Nordquist “went missing under suspicious circumstances,” and “witnesses heard several gunshots in the Goshen neighborhood where the 38-year-old former snowboarding instructor was last seen, authorities said.”
Lane County Sheriff’s Det. Carl Wilkerson told Moran, “It absolutely is a suspicious case, where I think someone could know something that could help us.”
A family member is quoted saying, “He just disappeared, and that was it.”
OTHER CASES COMPILED FROM THE CHARLEY PROJECT, NAMUS AND NEWS REPORTS
Kevin Daniel Elkins
A member of Eugene’s homeless community who has been endangered missing since 2005 and is the only missing person mentioned in this article whom I ever encountered personally.
Robyn Leslie Hatcher
An endangered runaway missing from Eugene since 2014. Sadly, little has been made known to the public about her case.
Jeremy Adam Hayward
Endangered missing and mentally ill, he was last seen leaving the hospital in Eugene in 1976.
Vicki Lynn Hollar
Endangered missing and speculated to be a victim of serial killer Ted Bundy, she vanished from Eugene in 1973.
Anne Cornell Magnuson
Endangered missing from Pleasant Hill since 2002, she was a victim of domestic violence, and her ex-boyfriend is suspected of killing her.
Eryn Beth McClary
An endangered missing sex worker who was well known and well liked in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, she was last seen at the Jesco Club in 1995.
And the list goes on and on.
Brenton Gicker is mental health crisis worker, emergency medical technician and registered nurse who lives and works in the Eugene/Springfield area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like him to explore a case, please contact him.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Charley Project
The Encyclopedia of the Missing
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) findthemissing.org