Monday, April 09, 2018

The Monday Mystery: Brandon Swanson

Brandon Swanson Missing Lynd Canby Marshall

Hello and welcome back to another Monday Mystery! Today I'll be talking about the case of Brandon Swanson. This is a pretty odd case and there's not a huge amount of information about it out there so I think this one will be a theory-heavy post, which I hope you don't mind! 

Brandon Victor Swanson was born in Spencer, Iowa on the 30th of January, 1989; to his parents, Brian and Annette Swanson. He also has a younger sister, Jasmine, who is only 17 months younger than him and it was said that they had a pretty great bond and he was very protective of her. Brandon lived at home with his parents and sister in Marshall, Minnesota and had graduated from Marshall Senior High School in May of 2007. He started a year-long college programme in August of 2007, at the Minnesota West Technical and Community College in Canby, where he was studying Wind Energy, something that he was extremely passionate about. He had plans to transfer to Iowa Western Community College in August of 2008, with the intent of eventually enrolling into a four-year course at university to follow his dream of a career in sciences. Brandon was described as someone who was devoted to his family and enjoyed politics, history, music and he was also an avid reader, with a "mind like a sponge."

The story starts on May 13th, 2008, the day before 19-year-old Brandon was set to graduate from his year-long college programme. To celebrate, he attended a little get together at one of his friend's houses in Lynd. It was described as being a low-key event and that Brandon didn't have much to drink and he definitely wasn't drunk. Sometime between 10:30pm and 11pm, he left by himself and drove to another friend's house in Canby. It was said that, here, he had a couple of shots of whiskey, but still wasn't heavily intoxicated. He didn't stay for very long and then set off for his home in Marshall, sometime after midnight. The journey from Canby to Marshall is a direct route down Highway 68, but instead of doing this, he took the rural route and travelled down lots of back roads.

The reason behind this is thought to be due to him wanting to avoid being stopped by the police and getting a DUI because he had been drinking and he'd already received a DUI a couple of years previous to this. I'm not really sure how DUI's work but according to Google, if you receive a second DUI within a certain time period, you could be looking at jail time and a suspension from driving so I can totally understand why he didn't want to get caught. As a result of driving down lots of gravelly back rounds, at around 1:15am, he actually ended up driving his car into a ditch. There was no damage to the car and no evidence of injury, but he was unable to get it back out again. He tried calling a few friends for help, but they didn't pick up so at 1:54am on the 14th May, he called his parents, Brian and Annette Swanson, for assistance.

He told them that his car was stuck in a ditch and he believed that he was somewhere between Marshall and Lynd. After reassuring them that he was okay and wasn't hurt, his parents immediately got into their pick up truck and went to the spot where they were certain he was, but they couldn't see any sign of him. They both stayed on the phone for the full duration and flashed the lights on their vehicles at the same time but they still couldn't spot each other. Everyone grew pretty frustrated about the situation and at one point Brandon even got so annoyed that he hung up his phone, but his Mum rang him back right away and apologised. Brandon starts to become impatient and says that he'll just walk back to his friend's house in Lynd and so his Dad, Brian takes Annette home, before leaving again to continue the search for Brandon.  

At 2:23am, Brian and Brandon start another phone call, one that would last 47 minutes long. Finally, Brandon says that he notices some faint light in the distance and tells his Dad to meet him in the parking lot of  Lyndwood Tavern. Brandon states that he was walking along a gravelly road towards Lynd but later decides to cut through a field because it'll be quicker. He also mentions that he'd encountered two fence lines and that he could hear water nearby. At 3:10am, Brandon shouts "Oh s***." Brian also believes that he heard the noise of a foot slipping and the phone abruptly went dead; even though the call was still connected, he could no longer hear Brandon. He tried ringing back another five or six times but got no answer. This was the last time anyone has ever heard from Brandon. His parents quickly turned to their son's friends for help and they searched all night, driving down dirt roads and through farmland but they couldn't see any sign of him. At 6:30am, they felt they had no other choice but to report him as a missing person to Lynd police. They quickly joined the search, but they, too, couldn't find anything and then a countywide request was put in motion to expand the search. The days following his disappearance, multiple calls were made to Brandon's phone, all of which started ringing and went through to voicemail. By Thursday, the phone would no longer ring and just go straight through to voicemail. 

The first port of call in the search for Brandon was to check his phone records, from this, the police were able to trace his last phone calls to a cell tower in Minneota, which gave them a prime area to focus their search efforts on. At 12:30pm on May 14th, they located Brandon's car, a green Chevy Lumina Sedan. It was found in a ditch, 1.5 miles north of Highway 68 on Lyon Lincoln Rd, which is in close proximity to towns Taunton and Porter; over 20 miles away from the location he told his parents he thought he was in. He had been drinking that night, but both his friends and parents both state that he didn't seem drunk and the police believe this to be true. Police also found a pipe in his car so it's possible that he may have been smoking pot that night, this would explain the disorientation but obviously, it can't be proved either way. I think it's also important to mention that Brandon was also legally blind in his left eye which may have made his perception more difficult, especially in the dark. There were no signs of any major damage to the car and there wasn't any indication that Brandon had suffered an injury, but the strange thing was that all the doors to his car were wide open, when it was found. The nearby area was pretty rural, with lots of gravelly roads, fields and rivers but there was no indication or marked tracks to give them an insight into which direction Brandon may have taken... 

The police then brought in some search dogs to help them try and trace where Brandon could have ended up but initially, the search was inconclusive so they then brought in some bloodhounds instead. The bloodhound tracked a scent from Brandon's car, all the way to the driveway of an abandoned farm. It then continued and followed the course of the Yellow Medicine River. At one point, the bloodhound jumped into the river and then got out again. This indicated that it was likely that Brandon may have fallen into the river at one point, but got out again. It's been said that The Yellow Medicine River's depth ranges from knee high in certain areas to 15 feet in others. At the time of Brandon's disappearance, it was said to be flowing high and fast. The bloodhound then continued north towards the gravel road forming the boundary between Lincoln and Yellow Medicine Counties but then he sadly lost the scent. The trail was three miles long and was pretty consistent with the 47-minute call he had with his Dad, as he had indicated travelling on gravelly roads, then moving cross-country. He also mentioned fence lines, which were in the area. 

Many searches were carried out on ground, ATV, horseback and helicopter for weeks and weeks but still, nothing was found. Brandon's family, friends and even volunteers also joined the search and repeatedly walked the area he was thought to have been, but again, nothing was found and the authorities couldn't get their head around it either, it was like he really had just vanished into thin air.

In 2009, Brian and Annette Swanson worked hard to try and expand the Minnesota Missing Children's Act so it can also help missing and endangered adults. The bill signed by Tim Pawlenty in May of 2009, is called Brandon's Law and helps eliminate that waiting period when adults disappear under suspicious circumstances. When Brandon initially went missing there was a little bit of an issue with getting the search in motion because of his age. A police officer even said to Annette that Brandon "had a right to be missing." ...And that's where the information regarding this case sort of ends. I heard that they did another really intense search in around October 2015, but I haven't found that much information regarding this so I'm guessing nothing of note was found.

This case really breaks my heart, he was a seemingly happy guy, that had a very promising future ahead of him, but the evidence strongly points to the fact that his life was probably cut short and that makes my heart ache so much. There have been so many times where, I, myself, have gotten into sticky situations and have called my Mum and had long phone calls with her until I'm home safe. I couldn't imagine the pain of hearing your child shout out and the phone going dead and not getting a reply when you ring back and then never really knowing what happened to your baby, absolutely awful. And the saddest thing is that it's said that his parents still keep their porch light on every night for him, just in case he comes home. 

And now it's that time in the post where we'll discuss some theories. Please remember that all theories featured on this blog are all pure speculation, not fact and are not meant to harm any person or business. 

He drowned?
As we know, the bloodhound tracked his scent to the Yellow Medicine River and so, a pretty popular theory is that he actually fell in and ended up drowning and his body got swept downstream. This theory is plausible, as we know, it was around 3am so it would have been very dark, especially as it was in such a rural location and as I mentioned earlier, he was also blind in his left eye so it's possible that he just didn't see it and fell in and drowned. Another theory is that the reason why his phone went dead at that 47-minute mark, was because he accidentally dropped his phone into the river, which subsequently broke it. Again, this is plausible but the river was extensively searched multiple times. Lincoln County Sheriff, Jack Vizecky even said himself that the river is two miles long in that area and takes six hours to walk and he actually personally walked the river himself, every day, for 30 days and nothing was found and they also dredged the river and also brought in a diving team and again, nothing was found. It's important to remember that even though Brandon's scent was traced to the river, it wasn't the end of the trail, which indicates that even if he did get into the river, he probably got out again, unharmed. I also think that if he had drowned his body or remains would have been washed up by now, it's been nearly 10 years and they haven't. Ultimately, there is no solid evidence to back up this theory and the police do not believe this is what happened either.

He succumbed to exposure? 
This theory starts with Brandon falling into the river, getting out and then just succumbing to exposure and getting something like hypothermia. This is very plausible, especially if you consider how cold it was out that night, starting off at 46F which is around 7C and then it dropped to 39F, which is around 3C. I can imagine that once he got out of the river, into the freezing cold, he could have easily started the hypothermia process. During the final stages of hypothermia, you go through something called "terminal burrowing" which is pretty similar to what animals do when they're hibernating and find an enclosed place to curl up under, this is also closely associated with paradoxical undressing, which is the stage of hypothermia where you start to feel super hot so you take off all your clothes. It's definitely plausible that this is what happened and they just haven't been able to locate his remains yet but I really would have thought that the cadaver dogs would have been able to find them. However, the police have publicly stated that this is actually what they believed happened, it's just a matter of time until they find the remains, which they believe to be in some farmland. 

He fell asleep on farmland and died from machinery? 
We know that Brandon had been drinking but we just don't know if he was drunk or not. The guests at both parties were all under 21 and remained very tight-lipped about how much drink was involved, which I understand because they didn't want to get into trouble. If he had been drunk or stoned, I think that would explain why he was so disoriented and maybe he got even more lost, after his conversation with his Dad ended, there's no way of knowing. I know that when I've had a lot to drink, I just want to lay down and nap FOREVER so it's possible that he entered a farmers field and fell asleep and in the morning when the farmer used his machinery, he ran into Brandon, accidentally killing him. I could imagine if this did happen, someone might panic and quickly just dispose of the body so they wouldn't get into any trouble. This theory could also link up with the hypothermia theory, maybe in the final stages, he decided to hide somewhere in the farmland. There were a few farms nearby to where his car was found, some abandoned, some not and there was one, in particular, that was very reluctant to let anyone do any searches on their land, which is incredibly sketchy to me. If you have nothing to hide, why wouldn't you let the police just look for a missing kid? I don't know, I find that odd. I haven't found any more information on this but I'm guessing eventually the police searched the area and didn't find anything, but they definitely did have enough time to get rid of a body if they needed to. Another theory surrounding the farm is that he attempted to enter the farmhouse and was shot, with them thinking he was a crazed intruder, but to me, that just sounds like the plot of a two-star horror film on Netflix. 

He fell down a well and couldn't get himself out again?
This theory is similar to the one with the river in the fact that it was dark and he would have been without a flashlight because this was 2008 and he had a Motorola SLVR phone; his vision wasn't perfect so this may have made it harder for him to see where he was going and he could have simply just tripped and fallen down a well or some other structure. I think this could maybe be possible but I'm sure that all nearby wells or structures would have been searched by now. 

He faked his own death to start a new life? 
This theory is ALWAAAYS in the line-up of every single case and this one is no different, but I don't find it plausible at all. Brandon seemed like a guy that adored his family so much and I couldn't imagine him doing that to him, especially in that way. Also, we need to remember that he was moving away to Iowa in August, which would have been a fresh start in itself, he wouldn't have needed to fake his death to do it. 

He was attacked and killed by an animal? 
This is a pretty popular theory online and I guess it's plausible. Maybe he was lying unconscious or asleep and an animal attacked him, but we're talking about an animal here, have you seen them eat? They don't swallow something whole, they'd definitely be evidence and signs of ripped clothing or something so I don't really believe this theory. Also, something my Dad said to me as a kid sort of rings true here "You never need to be scared of animals. Be scared of people, they're the only ones that can truly hurt you." I've never personally heard of a case where someone went missing and it turned out he got eaten by a bear. Have you? 

He owed a debt and was being followed?
Whenever something major happens in a smaller town, there are always so many rumours that circulate and it has been said that the general consensus in Marshall is that Brandon owed quite a lot of money to a drug dealer and because he didn't pay, they killed him. The only piece of evidence I have found to support this is the fact that a pipe was found in his car, which does suggest that he had done some form of drug in the past.  I'm not sure how much I believe this theory but I guess it's not entirely far-fetched because something super similar happened where I live just a few weeks ago. It's plausible, and would maybe explain why he was taking lots of backroads, instead of the usual route and it also could explain the "Oh, s***"Maybe he just dropped his phone and ran but other than that, there's not a lot of evidence to support it and if this did happen, I would have thought at least his phone would have turned up at some point. 

He was hit by a car? 
We know that he was walking around a lot of gravelly roads, presumably intoxicated and it's completely possible that a car just came out of nowhere and ran him over and like the farm theory, they didn't want to get into trouble so they disposed of the body. The only piece of evidence to support this theory is the fact that when they used the bloodhounds to track his scent, they ended at a gravelly road, which could indicate that he either was hit by a car and they took his body or someone may have even offered him a lift to the nearest town. 

He was met with foul play? 
This is a theory that has mixed reviews, some people believe that because it was such a rural location, the likelihood of a killer roaming about is pretty much diminished, but no matter how small the town is, it's still possible, I think. There are a few indicators that suggest foul play in my opinion. Firstly, Brandon is now on the ViCAP list and if you don't know what this is, it's the "Violent Criminal Apprehension Program" On the list are people that have gone missing under suspicious circumstances, where the authorities have reason to believe that foul play was involved or that they were met with a very violent death. Secondly, when they located Brandon's car, all the doors were wide open, which I find pretty odd because if he had decided to leave his car, I would have thought he'd have made sure to lock up properly. Ultimately, the fact they never found his body or his phone suggests to me that he was met with foul play at some point. Maybe it was someone he knew and they followed him or maybe it was someone by pure chance, there's no way of knowing. Joe from the Thinking Sideways podcast (which I really love) had a pretty interesting theory where he suggested that maybe Brandon wasn't ever actually alone in the car and had someone in there with him that he didn't feel safe with, and that's why he drove his car into a ditch.  - Listen to the full thing here! It is pretty weird that he told his parents he was over 20 miles away from where he actually was. This could have been a simple mistake but surely he would know roughly where he was by the distance he drove???? The other weird thing is that he waited over 40 minutes until he called his parents and I just don't understand that. If I was stranded, I would have called my parents right away, there is no way in hell I would have just sat there, down a creepy dark road, on my own. NOPE. Not today, Jason Voorhees.

This is one case where I'm just not entirely sure what I believe. I used to completely favour the river/hypothermia theory but my problem with this is that I just think his body would have been found if this had been the case. Since finding out that Brandon is on the ViCAP list, I'm really starting to believe that at some point he was subjected to foul play. I think this is a very odd case and I get the feeling there is a lot of information that has been kept private from the public so we're not seeing the full picture. I also think that maybe the outcome of this case might have been a lot different if the police had been given access to all of the areas they wanted to search, right away. It's very weird to me that someone would be against police searching an area unless they have something to hide... I also think Brandon's behaviour that night was a little odd, something just doesn't add up. I don't think you could believe you're 20 miles away from where you actually are, unless you're not entirely coherent, but everyone claims that he was. I also find it a little odd that he waited over 40 minutes to ring his parents. I get that he may have been worried that he'd get into trouble, but seriously, who in their right mind would fancy sitting in a pitch black, rural road, on their own, waiting for Pennywise the Dancing Clown to appear, with his balloon, to shout EGG BOY at you??? I definitely would not. And why was he so set on meeting his Dad in that parking lot, when other places would have been easier? I don't know. It just doesn't add up to me. 

I think this case is just very sad and a whole lot of unfortunate events. It's been said that if Brandon had just called the police and told them that he was lost, they would have been able to locate him within 300 metres of his location and I think the outcome would have been very different. It's just such a shame he didn't feel like he could turn to the police in his time of need. If you believe you have any information on this case, please contact the Lincoln County Sheriff at (507) 694-1664.

If you'd like to know more about this case, I would highly recommend the "Thinking Sideways" podcast and also "The Trail Went Cold" podcast, which actually has Joe from Thinking Sideways on there too, sharing an extra theory which I found super interesting! As always, thank you for reading! If you have any thoughts on this case or there's another case you'd like me to research in the future, please let me know in the comments! 

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