10 Baffling Missing Person Cases at Indiana Dunes National Park

Located along Lake Michigan, near the Indiana coast, Indiana Dunes National Park The complex history and attractive features, including 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) of sand dunes, forests, grasslands, and wetlands, make it a popular destination for bird watching and fossil hunting.

However, despite the beauty of the park, several people have disappeared from Indiana Dunes National Park in recent decades. This list looks at ten cases of people who likely went missing in or near the park. From unidentified individuals who went missing to an infamous 1966 case involving the disappearance of three young women, we focus on examining the details surrounding some of the disappearances that occurred in this beautiful and nuanced park.

Related: 10 Missing Persons Cases Solved By YouTube Divers

10 michael steven bickel

In March 2012, Michael Steven Bickel was last seen in Portage, Indiana, before going missing while on a trip to Lake Michigan. Bickel’s Subaru was located and impounded after Bickel went missing. Interestingly, Beckel wrote two suicide notes, with one note stating that Bickel went for a 30-mile (48-kilometer) swim from Portage Lakefront Park to Chicago’s Navy Pier. Authorities later stated that Bickel drowned in Lake Michigan while he was swimming. One of the notes also suggested that Bickel intended to take his own life.

Although drowning is not an uncommon method of suicide, attempting to swim 30 miles in Lake Michigan is an unusual feat. Another unusual aspect of this case is Bickel’s missing toenail on his right foot, which would likely help distinguish him from other unidentified bodies.[1]

9 Mary Jo Klen

Following her disappearance in 2000, what happened to Mary Jo Klen remains a mystery in 2023. Klen was 40 when she was last seen in Valparaiso, in Porter County, Indiana, near Dunes National Park. Indiana. Over the past two decades, little information has been found about Klen’s case, making it even more difficult to pin down the mystery of what happened to Klen.

Unusually, there are no details about Klen’s clothing, jewelry, or personal items she may have had with her at the time of her disappearance. Often the small clues left about or by an unidentified body can make all the difference in later distinguishing the identity of this person.

One potential lead involving Klen is a Jane Doe found in Indiana a month after Klen’s disappearance. Many of the Jane Doe’s physical characteristics, including her height and weight, matched Klen’s. However, it is impossible to confirm what happened to Klen without additional details. Klen’s case emphasized the important role that even the smallest clue can play in missing persons cases. Without small clues like vehicles or clothing, it is much more difficult in most situations to determine what happened to a missing person.[2]

8 Unidentified victim from 2007

Indiana Dunes National Park rangers discovered the body of a missing person in one of the park’s rental houses on April 23, 2007.

The man was facing charges related to possession of child pornography and making bombs. Earlier, the US Secret Service issued a warrant on the man’s property and seized his computer and other items associated with the production of child pornography. No explosives were found in the man’s rental home or vehicle at the time his body was discovered.

While many properties in Indiana Dunes National Park are routinely rented out for recreational purposes, the man appears to have been using the homes to hide from the federal government. It is not clear if he rented the house legally or broke into it illegally. Given the seriousness of the charges he was facing, he probably had the motivation to avoid being found by the police.[3]

7 Bryce Dunfee

A 22-year-old man, Bryce Dunfee of Indianapolis, went missing in 2022 after falling through the ice of Lake Michigan while exploring West Beach, Indiana, near Indiana Dunes National Park with a group of friends. Dunfee, who graduated from New Haven High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had previously lost a brother. After he went missing, police searched for Dunfee despite adverse weather conditions, including high wind and wave conditions that caused boat searches to be temporarily postponed.

Dunfee was walking with his friends on the ice when an ice shelf collapsed. Unfortunately, Dunfee’s friends were unable to rescue him due to the force of the waves surrounding him. Law enforcement say ice shelves should only be viewed from the ground because they are typically not stable.

The Dunfee case highlights the high degree of caution people should exercise when exploring outdoor areas, especially ice shelves, which are natural features created when high winds push water against the shores of the lake and it then freezes. While ice shelves serve to protect shorelines from erosion, they can be deadly if they are not strong.[4]

6 Ann Miller, Patricia Blough, and Renée Bruhl

Three women, Ann Miller, Patricia Blough, and Renee Bruhl, visited Indiana Dunes National Park on July 2, 1966, and mysteriously disappeared. It is still unknown what happened to these women. The trio were last seen on the beach, where they left their belongings after entering Lake Michigan.

Police, Coast Guard and volunteers conducted a massive weeklong search effort, but no trace of the women was ever found. When three women matching the descriptions of the women were noted aboard a smaller boat, the search was expanded to a circumference of 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) from the beach, and more witnesses began to offer substantial initial reports. about women.

Various theories have been put forward regarding the disappearance of the women. Witnesses claimed to have seen the women talking to an unidentified man in his early twenties with wavy dark hair and wearing a beach jacket, who was operating a boat. What the women discussed with the man remains unknown. All three women enjoyed horses and had connections to men with criminal histories related to the horse market. It is reported that one of the women lost a large amount of money gambling on the horses, which could have been behind the disappearance.

Furthermore, each of the three women was ultimately facing personal issues that could have led to their disappearance or faked deaths. Some reports indicated that Blough was having difficulties with “horse syndicate people” before she went missing. In 2023, Blough’s sister also said that Blough was dating a married man and that she may have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance.[5]

5 Johnice “China” White

Park ranger notes reveal that on August 7, 1995, a girl disappeared from her home near Indiana Dunes National Park. The next day, the girl’s lifeless body was found in an isolated section of the park in Gary, Indiana. The incident notes indicate that the park was prepared to work in coordination with the Gary police in the investigation of the crime. No further notes on disappearance or death are made within the Indiana Dunes National Park ranger’s notes.

In 2015, Barry Taylor of Gary, Indiana, was first questioned about the death of a 15-year-old girl, Johnice “China” White, whose body was discovered in the park on August 8, 1995. Due to the date and age, this JW appears to be the girl referenced in the ranger’s notes. White, who attended Wirt High School, disappeared a few hours before her 15th birthday. Gary’s community searched for her for more than a day before finding her body at the bottom of a hill in the park with her bicycle near her.[6]

4 Roxana Shah

Roxanne Shah, an Indianapolis resident who enjoyed camping and hiking, went missing in February 2011, prompting search efforts. Her minivan was later discovered in the parking lot of Mt. Baldy, a landmark in Indiana Dunes National Park. Shah, however, had not brought any camping gear with her. Additionally, temperatures in the area that month were below freezing overnight.

Shah’s husband initially expressed hope that she would have traveled to Chicago because it was not uncommon for her to leave home spontaneously several times a year.
However, on October 11, 2011, the body of an unidentified person, only referred to as RS in the park ranger’s incident notes, was found on one of the park’s beaches. These notes appear to refer to Shah’s disappearance, and his obituary uses the date his body was discovered as his date of death. A medical examiner determined Shah’s cause of death to be drowning with no signs of foul play.[7]

3 Martha Nehring Pilnok

Martha Nehring Pilnok disappeared approximately twenty minutes from Indiana Dunes National Park on January 15, 1944, in Valparaiso, Indiana. At the time of her disappearance, Pilnok was residing on a farm with her husband and her father. A Caucasian female, 5’2″ tall, between 130 and 150 pounds, Pilnok is believed to have also sometimes used the name Martha Lena Pilnok.

In 1965, Martha’s daughter approached the police and stated that she had not seen Martha in over 25 years. This means that Martha’s daughter would not have last seen Martha in 1940, several years before Martha’s disappearance. More than a decade later, in 1958, Martha’s husband, Fred Pilnok, filed for divorce stating that Martha was alive and living out of state. Martha did not contact her husband or her children after 1944. It is not known whether Martha remarried or disappeared.[8]

2 1989 Burns Harbor John Doe

The body of a 17-25 year old John Doe of uncertain breed was discovered in a wooded area on March 28, 1989 between US 20 and Old Porter Road near Interstate 94 between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana.

The man was discovered wearing aqua green shorts and a baseball cap. Interestingly, while NamUs reports that the cap featured the logo of the minor league baseball team, the Rochester Red Wings, Doe Network believes that the cap featured the Detroit Red Wings logo.

The man was also wearing low-cut Fila sneakers. Surrounding the man’s body were white plastic cigarette holders, an empty Coca-Cola bottle, and a bottle containing white residue. Although the man had nearly perfect teeth, he had cosmetic caps on his two upper front teeth.

Police are not sure how John Doe died, but have stated that he was likely struck by a large vehicle. The man’s leg and clavicle were broken, suggesting he was dragged off the road and later passed away.

John Doe may have passed through Indiana Dunes National Park before he passed away, given how busy the roads involved are, along with the prospect that John Doe could have been a hitchhiker struck by a vehicle. While the Porter County Coroner’s Office and the Burns Harbor Police Department are investigating the case, John Doe has never been identified. However, as of 2023, the case remains open and unexplained.[9]

1 [1945CondadodePorterJaneDoe

Una Jane Doe fue descubierta en el condado de Porter, Indiana, en 1945 por un cazador en un matorral situado aproximadamente a media milla al sur de la autopista US 6 y a una milla y media de la línea del condado de La Porte.

Jane Doe, que se creía que tenía menos de 60 años y medía 5’6 ″, vestía un abrigo gris azulado y medias de nailon y tenía los dientes llenos de oro. Solo se encontraron partes esqueléticas parciales, lo que indica que la mujer había fallecido durante aproximadamente un año antes de ser descubierta.

Curiosamente, en 2021, los investigadores policiales intentaron exhumar los restos de Jane Doe de 1945, pero en su lugar descubrieron los restos de otra mujer. Creían que el cuerpo pertenecía a otra Jane Doe ya que los restos carecían de dientes naturales y solo tenían dentaduras postizas superiores. La condición deteriorada del cuerpo dejó a las fuerzas del orden público incapaces de distinguir el sexo, la raza, la edad u otras características de identificación. Sin embargo, se tomó material de los huesos para el análisis de ADN.

Después de varias investigaciones, se desconocen la identidad y las circunstancias que llevaron a la muerte de la Jane Doe del condado de Porter de 1945. Abierto durante 77 años, este caso de Jane Doe representa uno de los casos de Jane Doe sin resolver más antiguos en la historia de Indiana.[10]

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