In the two weeks after Halloween, three college men disappeared from Minneapolis, Collegeville, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Around the same time, a 21-year-old woman in Brainerd failed to show up for work, and has not been seen since. Despite constant media exposure and massive search efforts, all four are still missing, and authorities are still waiting for the one tip or stroke of luck that might yield some answers. If the cases are linked, a break in one might solve them all. But at this point it seems just as likely all four are only connected by a tragic coincidence.
Collegeville, Minn. — At the most basic level, investigators have just two scenarios — either these cases are related in some way, or they’re not. But things don’t stay basic for long. Any two cases might be related, and the other two random. Or any three.
The cases might just have some uncanny similarities. All four young people seem to have disappeared at night, after consuming varying amounts of alcohol. And at least two would have come close to bodies of water on their way home.
Or there might be someone targeting young people. All four are white, all are between 20 and 22 years old. All three men are similar in height and build. Their schools — the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, St. John’s University in Collegeville and the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire — all lie close to Interstate Highway 94.
A baffling array of possibilities occupies family members and investigators, including the FBI. Bob White is the director of the Phoenix-based Center for Missing Adults, and a former police missing persons investigator. He says until something better comes along, this is the only way to pursue these cases.
“(Investigators in Minnesota) are not ruling anything out, and I know I certainly wouldn’t,” White said. “You’ve got to look at all facets and every aspect that might come your way, and each and every one of the tips that come in to law enforcement is worth its weight in gold when it comes to just that one that lets you break things loose and find that person.”
But for every possible connection, White says there will often be signs pointing the other way. For example, these young adults disappeared in very different settings. Christopher Jenkins, the U of M senior, was last seen in crowded downtown Minneapolis. But 20-year-old Josh Guimond disappeared from the isolated and wooded St. John’s University campus.
In Eau Claire, Rochester native Michael Noll was last seen at a home in his own neighborhood. Deputy Police Chief Gary Foster says Noll was intoxicated, and they continue to focus on the Chippewa river just 100 feet away.
“There’s nothing to indicate any foul play involved,” Foster said. “In talking with the other authorities in Minnesota we find no connection to those cases. We’re not ruling out any possibilities, but at this point we’re concentrating on what’s reasonable over here in this investigation.”
The only woman to disappear was Erika Dalquist of Brainerd. Her mother Colleen says she thinks Erika was taken, but doubts any connection with the three men.
“We try to stay away from theories, because we can come up with some real doozies,” Dalquist said from her home in Cushing. “But we really believe that wherever she is, she’s not there of her own free will.”
At St. John’s University in Collegeville, friends of Josh Guimond have been making ribbons and raising money for continued efforts to find him. Junior Gina Pustovar staffs a table in the student union for the “Find Joshua Fund.”
“Right now I think the police and everyone involved are leaning toward abduction, since we haven’t found any clues or anything,” Pustovar said. “He just seemed to disappear. We just hope wherever he is, he’s safe, but it’s not like him to run off and leave everything behind. He’s very responsible and very mature.”
Bob White of the Center for Missing Adults says abductions certainly do happen to adults. So do serial abductions and serial murders, but these are extremely rare.
“I never had any in my nine-and-a-half years with the Phoenix police department,” White said. “And to put that in perspective, the Phoenix police department gets about 700 missing person cases per month.”
Active searches continue in Eau Claire and Minneapolis, where officers have also now turned to the river for clues. But in all four cases the tip lines are open, and investigators are listening.