Disappearance of April Pitzer
|April Beth Pitzer|
Arkansas, U.S.February 19, 1974
|Disappeared||June 28, 2004 (aged 30)|
Newberry Springs, California, U.S.
|Status||Missing for 15 years, 5 months and 16 days|
|Known for||Missing person|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
|Weight||120–130 lb (54–59 kg)[lower-alpha 1]|
April Beth Pitzer (February 19, 1974 – declared legally dead August 27, 2012) was an American former model who disappeared in 2004 under unusual circumstances in Newberry Springs, California, a small community in the Mojave Desert. Her case has been profiled on the series Disappeared, and was one of the most high-profile cold cases in California.
Background[edit | edit source]
At the time of her disappearance, Pitzer had relocated from Longview, Texas to California after losing custody of her two daughters. Pitzer, a former model, suffered from bipolar disorder, and had claimed to her mother that she was working as a waitress in California during the spring of 2004; however, she had stopped taking her bipolar medication and was living in homeless shelters and on the streets.
Disappearance[edit | edit source]
Pitzer was last seen in Newberry Springs on June 28, 2004 by Chuck Hollister, a man in his sixties with whom Pitzer had been residing at the time. According to Hollister, he dropped Pitzer off at a bus stop in Newberry Springs after helping her pack her belongings; Pitzer had been planning to return to Arkansas to live with her mother, Gloria Denton, who later confirmed this. Pitzer never arrived in Arkansas, and has not been seen or heard from since.
Investigation[edit | edit source]
On September 9, 2004, an anonymous transit employee in Barstow, California notified police that they had been told by a woman riding their bus that she knew Pitzer, and that she was "in a hole." The same week, a message written inside a rest stop on Interstate 5 in Oregon was discovered; the message read: "Want to find missing girl from Arkansas? I-15 freeway, 3 miles east of Barstow." According to Pitzer's mother, she suspected her daughter may have been targeted as a result of her past as a drug informant in Texas. Additionally, a cafe proprietor in Newberry Springs stated she had hired Pitzer as a waitress several days before her disappearance; she claimed that on her second day of work, Pitzer arrived with what appeared to be a blackened eye.
Law enforcement examined Hollister as a potential suspect as he was the last person to see Pitzer. Hollister, however, denied any involvement, claiming that after dropping Pitzer off at the bus stop, he had helped a friend move to Oregon and was out of the state; when he returned, she was gone.
Mine searches[edit | edit source]
The message discovered in the rest stop led law enforcement to home in on mine shafts in San Bernardino County[lower-alpha 2] outside Newberry Springs in their search for Pitzer. In 2005, it was discovered that Chuck Hollister's close friend, Dan Dansbury, who went by the name "Dan Dan," owned the Red Dog Mine, a mine that was abandoned in 1979. During a December 2005 search in and around the Red Dog mine, police recovered a white suitcase and scattered clothing that Denton claimed was Pitzer's, which was scattered across a 3 mi (4.8 km) radius.
Hanging in an abandoned shack approximately 12 miles (19 km) from the Red Dog Mine, near Ludlow, police discovered a nightgown belonging to Pitzer tied in a hangman's noose. Also found in the shack were strips of gauze and a bottle of iodine. Additional clothing was discovered buried under a deck attached to another shack near the Indian Queen, a separate mine in the vicinity. Multiple articles of clothing discovered were identified by Pitzer's mother as clothes that she had sent her daughter in care packages. Numerous searches were undertaken at the Red Dog Mine; inside, searchers discovered additional belongings of Pitzer's, including boots and undergarments, as well as a mattress and a sheet stained with blood and bodily fluids.
Hollister died of cancer in September 2006, and denied any involvement in Pitzer's disappearance. In November 2009, Pitzer's mother was contacted by Hollister's friend, Dan Dansbury, while organizing a search for her daughter in California. Denton met with Dansbury, who was on his deathbed; he claimed to have known Pitzer, but denied any involvement in her disappearance. However, after their meeting, Dansbury reportedly told a friend that the previous searches for Pitzer at the Red Dog Mine were "in the right place," but he added that they "hadn't gone far enough." Samples of dirt and other debris from the mine were collected for potential forensic evidence.
Pitzer was declared legally dead on August 27, 2012. In 2016, after years of searches, Pitzer's mother stated that she was confident her daughter's remains were not in the mine, although they may have been at one time before being relocated.
Later developments[edit | edit source]
A local methamphetamine manufacturer in Newberry Springs, Steve Wilkinson, was considered a suspect in Pitzer's disappearance, possibly related to her past as a drug informant. It was reported that Wilkinson had been seen in the area of the Red Dog Mine on September 4, 2015, one day prior to a planned trip to Amarillo, Texas. En route to Amarillo on September 5, Wilkinson was killed when the Cessna 310 airplane in which he was a passenger crashed into a mountain near Silverton, Colorado.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- The Charley Project and Doe Network listings for Pitzer state she weighs approximately 120 pounds (54 kg), while the San Bernardino County Missing Persons database states she weighed 130 pounds (59 kg) at the time of her disappearance.
- San Bernardino County contains over 22,000 mines, according to a 2009 article published by the Santa Barbara Sun.
References[edit | edit source]
- "April Beth Pitzer". Missing Persons. Newberry Springs: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
- "April Beth Pitzer". The Charley Project. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
- Quintero, Jose (October 12, 2016). "Authorities ask for public's help in locating remains of missing woman". Victorville Daily Press. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
- "Mojave Mystery". Disappeared. Season 2. Episode 8. November 22, 2010. Investigation Discovery.
- "Desert search continues for woman missing five years". The Sun. November 22, 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Herron, Gary (March 21, 2016). "RRHS coach has adventure of a lifetime". RRObserver. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
- Quintero, Jose (July 30, 2016). "County has cold case backlog". Victorville Daily Press. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
- Denton, Gloria (December 5, 2006). "A Mother Unearths Vital Evidence Investigators Missed". Missing Pieces (Interview). Interviewed by Eric Meadows and Todd Matthews. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
- Johnson, Shea (February 6, 2013). "Still searching for April Pitzer". Desert Dispatch. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
- Esper, Mark (September 23, 2015). "Intrigue surrounds Silverton-area plane crash". The Durango Herald. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
[edit | edit source]
- April Pitzer at The Doe Network
- Audio interview from 2017 with Pitzer's mother on UnFound (via Stitcher)
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