26 Missing Persons Cases, Solved

May 9, 2024 | Jane O'Shea

26 Missing Persons Cases, Solved

Missing No More

We all know that when someone goes missing, it's very rare they're ever found alive. But in these cases, which include ones like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, we get to find out "what really happened."

Missing Msn

Zephany Nurse

Zephany Nurse was born on April 28, 1997 in South Africa, but she was barely in this world before tragedy befell her. Someone took her from the hospital just two days later, and they believed they would never see her again. If it weren't for an incredible coincidence, they probably wouldn't.

Zephany Nurses biological mother Celeste NurseDie Burger, Getty Images

Sisterhood Saves 

17 years later, after living with her abductor, Nurse was going to school when she happened to notice an incredibly familiar face in the crowd—a girl who looked just like her. This turned out to be her younger sister, who coincidentally went to the same school. It prompted a DNA test, and the truth came out. 

Family members gather in front of the Nurse's home after they heard the good news that Zephany Nurse was foundGallo Images, Getty Images

Bowe Bergdahl

In 2009, American soldier Bowe Bergdahl vanished while in Afghanistan. He then resurfaced as a POW, prompting the US to secure his release in 2014. In Bergdahl's case, it's clear where he was as a missing person. It was the why he went missing that got everyone—and almost landed him in jail.

Bowe BergdahlUnited States Army, Wikimedia Commons

The Night He Went Missing

After his release and a subsequent investigation, the US discovered that on the night he was captured, Bergdahl had abandoned his post. He wanted to go to another operating base and, among other things, complain to the general about how his superiors were running his work. He never even made it before he was taken. 

None of this spoke well of him, and led to punishments that included a dishonorable discharge and a demotion in rank. 

Bowe Bergdahl in front of court in uniformSara D. Davis, Getty Images

Perry Saturn

Perry Saturn was an American professional wrestler and something of a good guy. In 2004, he interfered when two men were attacking a woman, even taking a bullet in the back of his neck and in the shoulder when the men retaliated. 

Alarmingly, what followed was a total disappearance, where neither fans nor friends knew where he was. He came back a much different man.

Perry Saturn in 1998drdarindavis, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Working On Himself

At least partly because of his extensive injuries, Saturn had spiraled into addiction and then had become homeless for almost three years. When he came back into the public eye in 2010 and contacted his friends, he had finally kicked his bad habits.

boxing gloves hangs off the boxing ringlancelee, Shutterstock

Bakhretdin Khakimov

In the 1980s, Bakhretdin Khakimov was fighting for Russia in the Russian-Afghan conflict. The last that Russia heard from their soldier, he was headed into battle. When he failed to reappear, they could only assume he perished in the fray. Well: That's not what happened.

Bakhretdin KhakimovAREF KARIMI, Getty Images

Turning Into A Local

Afghani locals actually found Khakimov and nursed him back to health. Understandably then, he decided not to go back to his post. Instead, he got married, settled down in the village, began practicing herbal medicine, and took the name Sheikh Abdullah. 

The Russians only discovered him when a veteran organization tracked him down. 

Bakhretdin Khakimov funeralMOHSEN KARIMI, Getty Images

Steven Stayner

In 1972, Steven Stayner was in the second grade. As he was walking home from school one day, he disappeared. His parents were beside themselves, and worked hard to find him with flyers, to no avail. It was seven long years before Stayner struggled out of captivity to tell his story.

Steven Stayner with KidnapperBettmann, Getty Images

Free At Last

Very Bad Man Kenneth Parnell had abducted Stayner. Parnell told Stayner to now call him "Dad," told him his real parents didn't want him anymore, and mistreated him. Still, Stayner never gave up, and when he was 14 and another victim came into Parnell's house, he enacted an escape plan that saw them hitchhike 40 miles to the next police station. 

Timmy White, 5, who disappeared on Valentine's Day, sits on the lap of Steven Stayner, 14 kidnappedBettmann, Getty Images

Edgar Latulip

Edgar Latulip's disappearance in September 1986 immediately set alarm bells ringing. Although he was 21 years old at the time, he was vulnerable and suffered from mental issues that made him behave more like a 12-year-old. The truth about his vanishing would only come out much later.

Dramatic Class Reunion Stories factsShutterstock

Finding Edgar Latulip

In 2016, Latulip re-appeared and told his incredible story. Reportedly, he had impulsively gotten on a bus to Niagara Falls that day, suffered a head injury at some point, and subsequently experienced amnesia. He only came forward once he remembered who he was.

Niagara FallsMian Rizwan, Pexels

Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart is probably the most famous solved missing person case of all time, but people still don't know all the details. In 2002, Smart was 14 when she quite literally disappeared overnight from her bedroom in her family's Salt Lake City house.

Elizabeth Smart kidnaped victimWisconsin National Guard, Flickr

Good Samaritan 

Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Ileen Barzee were the culprits, and had actually been on an America's Most Wanted episode before Mitchell had abducted Smart at knifepoint from her own bed. Indeed, it was America's Most Wanted that helped Smart escape their grasp.

In March 12, 2003, two witnesses recognized Mitchell and Barzee's faces from the program, and officers soon rescued her. 

Brian David Mitchell kidnapperUnknown Author, Getty Images

Melvin Uphoff and Jacquelyn Rains-Kracman

In 1965, couple Melvin Uphoff and Jacquelyn Rains-Kracman vanished into thin air in Nebraska. Uphoff was 31 years old while Rains-Kracman was 18. At the time of their disappearance, the pair were not only married to other people, but also had six children (counting both their families) to take care of.

After four decades, investigators wrote it off as a cold case. Until the new millennium provided new answers. 

NebraskaBkell, Wikimedia Commons

Where They Were

In 2009, officials managed to locate Uphoff and Rains-Kracman outside the state of Nebraska. More than that, they were happy and healthy. As they told investigators, they had disappeared in order to cut ties with their families and start again with each other. Their new location remains private. 

Private Property signNick Beer, Shutterstock

Nguyen Thi Van

In 1992, Nguyen Thi Van was a typical teenager living in Vietnam, partying a little too much and angering her parents. So when she came home late one day and found her mother had purposely locked her out, she just continued the night by going to a karaoke bar with her friends.

It led to her 20-year-long disappearance, and her story when she re-emerged was haunting.

Young Asian girlVietnam Stock Images, Shutterstock

What Happened To Van

That fateful night, Van and her friends met a woman calling herself Thanh who, after gaining their trust, ended up trafficking them. They went on to enter forced marriages with elderly men in China. It took 21 years for Van to escape, with the help of a truck driver, back to her home country.

Free from forced marriageSnowMannn, Shutterstock

John Darwin

John Darwin's story begins as a death, ends up as a missing person case, and gets more and more bizarre in between. In March 2022, Darwin died, and his wife promptly began collecting his life insurance, which was worth 250,000 British pounds. 

If you think this sounds fishy, you're right. But I don't think you can quite guess where this is going.

missing person posterStockMediaSeller, Shutterstock

John Darwin's Secret

As you might have guessed, John Darwin faked his death so he and his wife could falsely claim his life insurance. But here's the thing: The entire five years they were collecting it, Darwin was still secretly living in the family home under a different name.

Police eventually cottoned on and arrested him in 2007, charging his wife as well. 

Fraud  insuranceAndrey_Popov, Shutterstock

Jaycee Dugard

Rivaling Elizabeth Smart's case in fame is Jaycee Dugard's. The girl disappeared at 11 years old in 1991, from just outside her home. Her case caused international panic, and barely a trace of her was found for 18 years. Even then, it was a fluke that revealed her. 

Kidnapping of Jaycee DugardRadar01/claycord.com, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Acting Strange

Dugard had been abducted by Phillip Garrido, who then kept her in a shack in his backyard for 18 years, even fathering two daughters with her. In 2009, however, Garrido was visiting the UC Berkeley college campus with the two teen girls, and acted so strangely that investigators looked into him and eventually found Jaycee.

Phillip and Nancy Garrido homeA Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive, Flickr

Steve Carter

Steve Carter's story is a missing persons case in reverse. Growing up, Steve always knew there was something a little off about his family. But it was only when he was 35 years old and heard about a strange news story that it all clicked for him.

Kidnaped babyLeka Sergeeva, Shutterstock

Steve Carter's Secret Family

After hearing about someone who was kidnapped as a baby and grew up in a false family, Steve realized that had to be what happened to him. He ended up finding the name "Marx Panama Barnes," a long-lost child, on a missing kids website. When he saw a photo of what the boy would have looked like at his age, he knew it was his face.

Steve discovered that he had been kidnapped as a child, and his "mother" had changed his name and then disappeared herself. 

Shocked man in office looking at his computerMelnikov Dmitriy, Shutterstock

Jane Doe

This one almost defies belief. One day, an "unidentified woman" went missing while on an Icelandic tour. Her fellow tourists immediately sprung into action, describing her as Asian, wearing dark clothing, and with a strong command of the English language. Except...the answer was right in front of them.

Icelandic tour by busBahadir Yeniceri, Shutterstock

She Was There All Along

Embarrassingly for everyone involved, this Jane Doe was never missing. She'd been there almost the whole time, and had only left the tour briefly to change her clothes. It was just that when she came back, no one recognized her. She ended up even participating in her own search party before realizing the mortifying truth.

shocked Asian woman in  winter clothesLuis Molinero, Shutterstock

Petra Pazsitka

Petra Pazsitka's disappearance started a national manhunt in Germany in 1984 after she failed to show up to her brother's birthday party. A known criminal even confessed that he had fatally attacked her, though police never discovered a body. But when Petra was discovered, the mystery deepened.

woman disappearingAlex Linch, Shutterstock

Avoiding Her Family

It took 31 years for police to track down Petra, who was now living in Dusseldorf under an alias. When they did find her, however, Petra wouldn't answer any of their questions about why she had disappeared. Hauntingly, she also refused to speak to her family.

Middle age blonde woman talking on smartphone stopping someoneKrakenimages.com, Shutterstock

Lucy Ann Johnson

In 1961, Lucy Ann Johnson went missing from British Columbia, leaving behind a family that included her little girl Linda. When her husband finally reported her missing four years later, officers—assuming the worst—dug up the family backyard, but couldn't find a body.

It took half a century to find the answer.

Showel and soiltotajla, Shutterstock

A New Life

In 2013, Lucy's daughter Linda put out a plea in a paper asking if anyone had any information on her mother. Soon after, she received a reply from a woman, Rhonda, who claimed she was Linda's half-sister and that their mother was alive. 

It turned out that Lucy's husband had been abusive, and she had run away despite him barring her from taking her children with her. She had been living Carcross, Yukon for years, and had remarried and had four more children.

Carcross, Yukon TerritoryRichard Martin, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Robert McDonough

Robert McDonough was 73 and suffering from dementia when he went missing in Limington, Maine. His support system was immediately on his disappearance, and soon news crews were out reporting his missing status and asking the community to help find him. Then came the twist.

Limington, MaineDoug Kerr, Flickr

He Solved His Own Case

At 4 pm, the news crew at WMTW went live on McDonough's disappearance...only to find him on that same broadcast. The elderly man walked out of the woods near to the setup and strolled calmly over to the cameras.

TV interviewwellphoto, Shutterstock

Judith Bello

In 1993, police discovered the abandoned car of Judith Bellow in Stanwood, Washington. As a young wife and mother of two, the public immediately called for investigators to track down what happened to her, but the case went cold...until 2011.

Missing person posterabeldelgado, Pixabay

She Had To Get Away

Bello was only 28 when she disappeared, and it seems she wanted a new start. Explaining that she was fleeing from an abusive husband, Bello was discovered 18 years after her disappearance, two states over from her two children and with a new family. 

Woman runningDaniel Reche, Pexels

Julian Hernandez

Julian Hernandez had grown up with this father since he was five years old, and at 18 he was happily applying to colleges and thinking about his future. Then he hit a snag: There was a weird discrepancy in his social security number, and this revealed his family's darkest secret.

 college or university application or document from school. College acceptanceTero Vesalainen, Shutterstock

His Father's Sins

After the social security number issue, Julian's name was flagged in the missing persons database...even though up until that point, Julian had no idea he was a missing person. It turned out his father Bobby had snatched him away from his mother in Alabama when he was still just a boy.

kidnapped boyCreativeAngela, Shutterstock

Carlos De Salazar

Spanish doctor Carlos De Salazar looked like he had it all from the outside when he went missing at the age of 26. By 1995, he was written off as deceased and his family and friends tried to move on with their lives. His re-discovery was another enormous disruption.

Angry doctor with hand in front of him trying to grab somethingVelychko, Shutterstock

Alone And Happy

A full 20 years after these events, mushroom pickers were working in Tuscany, Italy when they stumbled upon none other than Doctor Salazar, living as a hermit on a nature reserve. Apparently, Salazar had suffered from depression, and this total isolation was one of the only things that had helped him. 

man living in forestZivica Kerkez, Shutterstock

Timothy Carney

Timothy Carney's missing persons case started like many do. After he called in to work and said he would be late but then didn't show up at all, people began to get worried. After seven years without spotting him, The Kristen Foundation finally located him under alarming circumstances.

man disappearinginLite studio, Shutterstock

He Didn't Want To Be Found

When the Kristen Foundation at last found Timothy Carney, he wasn't very happy to be found. He was now a fervent member of the religious organization Gospel Outreach, who kept him under strict rules. 

angry man yellingOzan Çulha, Pexels

Arthur Gerald Jones

Arthur Gerald Jones was living the high life as a Chicago trader in 1979 when he vanished into thin air and left a bereaved wife and three children behind. In other cases, when the missing spouse is found, they have a story of domestic issues. Jones's story was something else entirely. 

man disappearingArtFamily, Shutterstock

Falling In With A Bad Crowd

When investigators found Jones in 2011, he was in Las Vegas under an alias. In fact, he had been jumping from state to state in the intervening decades, using different fake names as he went. Why? Because he had gotten into trouble with the mob and was fleeing justice. 

Caesars Palace Las VegasBernard Spragg, Flickr

Gabriel Nagy

Gabriel Nagy was a husband and father of two children when he went missing in January 1987—right after he called his wife and informed her he'd be home for lunch. In the ensuing investigation, police found his car abandoned, and the last known trace of him was him taking money from his bank account.

Safe to say though, this was not your usual "abandoning my family" tactic.

abandoned carGanchar, Shutterstock

He Lost Who He Was

When investigators found Nagy 23 years later, he'd been living a heartbreaking existence. Sometime after his lunch-time call, Nagy had experienced massive amnesia and couldn't remember a thing about his former family. 

In the years since, he had to scrabble together jobs for money and was even living on the street. Eventually, he thankfully remembered his real name and used it for Medicare, leading to his discovery by authorities.

A homeless man is standing in parking lot.MART PRODUCTION, Pexels

Winston Bright

In 1990, Winston Bright disappeared, leaving his wife Leslie and their children. Although there were always questions about what happened to him, after a decade Leslie was able to declare Winston legally dead. Once she did so, she collected his pension...and then suddenly, the story changed.

man disappearingrukawajung, Shutterstock

Something's Fishy

Shortly after she claimed the pension, Winston showed back up at Leslie's doors. He told her that he now went by the name Kwame Seku and that he'd been suffering from amnesia. Oh, and he wanted to claim that pension for himself. 

Now, as we've seen, sometimes amnesia really does happen. In this case? People had their doubts.  

Male hand is knocking on wooden doorBits And Splits, Shutterstock

Harold Wayne Lovell

Harold Wayne Lovell went missing at 19 years old, and the circumstances drew police to the worst conclusion possible. Lovell had been cleaning the infamous John Wayne Gacy's pool shortly before his disappearance, and it looked like he was one of Gacy's many victims. Not so. 

Two police officers walking on the street.Kindel Media, Pexels

A Happy Ending

34 years later, people uncovered Lovell living a normal life in Fort Lauderdale, picking up jobs where he could. He was also shocked to hear his family thought he had met such a dark fate. He'd originally told them he was looking for construction work but happened to make his way down to Florida instead. 

Fort LauderdaleYanjipy, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Tanya Nicole Kach

In 1996, Tanya Nicole Kach was 14 years old and attending Cornell Middle School in Pennsylvania when she disappeared. Little did her parents know, this disappearance had been a long time coming, and happening under their noses.

girl walking to schoolmangpor2004, Shutterstock

Fighting For Her Life

For some time, the security guard at Tanya's school, Thomas Hose, had been "befriending" her and gaining her trust before he abducted her. Over 10 years later, Tanya convinced the owner of a grocery store in the neighborhood to help her escape. 

kidnapped girl trying to  escapeChameleonsEye, Shutterstock

Margie Profet

Evolutionary biologist Margie Profet had stopped contacting her family in 2002, so her network was smaller than usual when she was last seen in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2005. No one knew where she could have gone, and no one seemed to have any leads. Well, they should have asked Margie.

Cambridge Ma Inman SquareTim Pierce, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Nothing To See Here

This entire time, Profet had only been living in a remote location. Unfortunately, she was also suffering from an ailment that limited her mobility and caused her pain, reducing her potential "sightings" further. In May 2012, a friend informed her of her "disappearance" and her missing person status, much to her surprise. 

isolated houseSean Valentine, Pexels

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