Derrick James Engebretson

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A family lost

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lori and Robert Engebretson shout into the trees.


The word hangs in the air, echoing off the flanks of Pelican Butte.

They know their son will not answer. But they need to call his name in the same way they need to breathe.


Six years have passed since the boy disappeared from this spot, a densely wooded mountainside above Upper Klamath Lake.

Derrick would be 14 now. But the eyes peering out from a poster nailed to a nearby tree are still those of an 8-year-old. The weather has all but destroyed the image, erasing the smile the boy wore when the third-grade photo was taken.

It was snowing hard that December night six years ago. Robert remembers how his son's footprints led back to the road, then vanished.

Hundreds came to search for him with snowmobiles, dogs and helicopters. Hours turned into days, then weeks. Eventually, only Robert and Lori remained. Torn by guilt and recrimination, they returned to the mountain again and again, calling for their child as they scanned the forest for his bones. Gripped by their obsession, they slid into a kind of suspended animation, drifting through life with no direction, no thought for the future.

For years, they returned to the mountain every weekend, retracing steps over ground they'd walked hundreds of times. They found nothing, not the small hatchet Derrick had carried that day or a shred of his blue snowsuit.

Authorities insisted that Derrick had wandered off into the woods and died, that animals had scattered his remains. But the Engebretsons never really believed that, and a compulsion took over their world. They came back to the mountain because it was the only thing they could do.

In their hearts they knew somebody had taken their son. They always had.

During the search, a witness said he'd seen a man struggling with a boy along a nearby highway. And Derrick had been missing for only a few hours when Lori called her mother. Lori's intuition told her Derrick was gone.

"He's not here," she remembers crying.

Her mother had tried to reassure her. Of course, he's there. You'll find him before morning.

"No, Mom," Lori remembers insisting. "He's not here. We're not going to find him on this mountain.

"Somebody took him."

"I thought he was with you"

They hadn't planned to go to the woods that year. Lori had somehow talked Robert, an enthusiastic outdoorsman who always looked forward to the family's annual Christmas tree hunt, into getting an artificial pine. Less mess, she'd said.

But when a disabled neighbor asked for help getting a real tree, Robert didn't hesitate.

The afternoon of Dec. 5, 1998, Robert; his 64-year-old father, Bob; and Derrick set out for the woods on the flank of Pelican Butte, about 30 miles from downtown Klamath Falls.

As Bob's red Toyota pickup climbed the Westside Road, Robert remembers telling his father they'd have to make it quick. It was already after 2 p.m., and it would be dark shortly after 4.

Bob pulled onto a turnout at Milepost 12. Robert helped Derrick wiggle into his snowsuit, and the three of them started up an embankment into the ponderosa pines. Robert remembers walking ahead, telling Derrick to stay with his grandfather.

But the boy scrambled through the snow, annoying Bob by chopping on small trees with his hatchet. Derrick told Bob he wanted to catch up with his dad. The grandfather eventually relented.

Derrick knew the woods. When he was a week old, his mother put him in a pack and carried him along on a bear hunt. He grew up hunting with his father and mushroom-picking with his mother's father. He'd been to Pelican Butte on several of those mushroom expeditions.

About 3 p.m., the two men met up.

"Where's Derrick?" Robert remembers asking.

"I thought he was with you," Bob said.

"He was with you!" Robert yelled, instantly furious.

Screaming amid the snow

Robert turned and sprinted back up the hill. The light was fading quickly, and heavy, wet snow fell steadily. He screamed Derrick's name. Nothing.

An hour passed, and darkness cloaked the trees. Still nothing. Robert was desperate by the time he flagged down a man driving along the road. "Please call 9-1-1," he remembers begging. "Please help us."

Throughout the night and for the next two weeks, hundreds of people trudged through thigh-deep snow, searching for Derrick.

Lori and Robert couldn't eat, drink or sleep. Robert crawled through drifts. A scratch on his leg turned black with frostbite. Soon, his chest burned with pneumonia.

Lori built a bonfire at the turnout, hoping Derrick would see it and come to her. She remembers lying awake night after night, staring out the window of a donated camper to make sure the fire kept burning. Delirious from lack of sleep, she once thought she saw Derrick walk out of the woods toward her, waving and smiling.

In the hours immediately after Derrick's disappearance, Robert and other members of the family found Derrick's tracks in the newly fallen snow. The boy's small boot prints made a short loop from the spot where Robert had last seen him to a clearing near the paved, well-traveled road, where Derrick had lain down to make a snow angel.

Sometime after Derrick vanished, a snowplow had come by, obliterating the tracks that led away from the angel. That quirk of fate erased any chance of quickly determining what had happened.

No tracks led from the angel back toward the woods. And the blazes Derrick had cut in the trees with his hatchet were confined to a small area near the road. Robert felt certain his son hadn't walked back into the trees.

Family members repeatedly said that they believed Derrick had made his way to the road and might have been picked up by a stranger. But the sheriff discounted those concerns.

The official search ended eight days after Derrick disappeared, when Klamath County authorities broke camp after telling Lori and Robert that their son was dead.

They would look for his body in the spring.

Rumors, criticism spread

Robert, Lori and at least 100 volunteers stayed on the mountain for another seven days. Speculation deepened that Derrick had been abducted.

On Dec. 18, 1998, below-freezing temperatures forced the Engebretsons to call off the search, fearful that they were putting the lives of the volunteers at risk. Lori tearfully addressed the crowd. "Go home and take care of your own families," she said, vowing to return to the mountain as soon as weather permitted.

The couple did just that, spending the next two months trudging -- sometimes crawling -- through the snow. By February, they were behind on their mortgage payments. So Robert gave up the search on weekdays and returned to the Klamath Falls mill where he'd worked for 18 years. Every weekend for the next two years, he drove straight from his graveyard shift to the mountain.

Lori often joined him. They kept a map in their glove compartment and inked out areas where they'd searched. In the woods, they'd kneel to sift through piles of animal scat, looking for Derrick's teeth or fingernails.

But their ardor did nothing to quiet growing criticism in their close-knit mountain community.

The couple and others had openly criticized the popular county sheriff and the search-and-rescue coordinator for being slow to the scene the night Derrick disappeared. The search team was not mobilized for nearly five hours after the first 9-1-1 call, records showed, because the coordinator was reluctant to interrupt the group's Christmas banquet.

Friends of the team wrote negative letters about the Engebretsons to the local paper, Lori recalls. The group's leader was even quoted in a newspaper saying defensively, "We didn't lose the kid."

The sheriff was publicly dismissive when the Engebretsons announced they believed Derrick had been abducted and posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to his safe return. "If I were a parent," he said, "I guess I'd be hanging onto that, too."

Robert and his father passed lie-detector tests, but rumors swirled around the family. Once, Lori was standing in line at Kmart behind two women as they discussed Derrick's disappearance. "I heard the dad killed him," she remembers one woman saying, with the other replying, "Well, I heard the mom could have had something to do with it."

Retreat into darkness

Lori and Robert retreated into their own world, a triple-wide manufactured home perched amid the pines about five miles north of Bonanza -- a half-hour drive from Klamath Falls. Lori's thoughts turned so dark, her doctor put her on antidepressants. She gained 80 pounds. Robert gained 70.

Robert couldn't speak to his father. He blamed himself for not finding Derrick, but he blamed Bob for losing him. Bob Engebretson was too racked with guilt to even talk about it.

Lori watched her own father, Ben Davis, fall apart. He and Derrick had been inseparable and had spent hours in the woods hunting for morels. Three days into the search for Derrick, a distraught Davis punched Bob Engebretson in the face.

Lori, known for her hot temper, never turned on Robert, though her family expected her to. She was too afraid of losing the only person who fully understood her loss. But the couple, married when they were teenagers, drifted from their other two children, Amy, then 18, and Kenny, 15.

Amy had been a straight-A student with plans for medical school, but her grades plummeted, and she spent more and more time away from home. She began experimenting with drugs, she would say later.

Kenny, who had shared a room with Derrick, gathered all his brother's belongings, boxed them up and moved them to the garage several months after Derrick disappeared. When Lori discovered what he'd done, she screamed in anger.

Robert had taken a lot of time off work. At the same time, the couple had spent thousands of dollars searching for Derrick, paying for everything from psychics to a boat to search Klamath Lake. Eventually, they went bankrupt.

Family hunts and trips to the beach ended. One event after another kept the family trapped in despair.

Graffiti that turned up on a rest-area bathroom wall near Burns in 1999 said Derrick had been killed and buried. But an FBI profiler concluded the writing was "a cruel hoax." A boy named Derrick who was found in Texas under unusual circumstances looked a lot like the Engebretsons' son but proved to be someone else. A bone discovered in Pelican Butte in 2000, after three agonizing days, turned out to be from a deer.

The Engebretsons hung suspended in time. Their 1998 Christmas tree, the artificial one, stood in their living room for three years, Derrick's gifts still piled around it.

They couldn't help thinking that if they accepted Derrick's death, they would be betraying him. If by some chance he was still alive, he might be devastated to learn they'd given up.

Then in late 2001, a handwritten letter arrived in their mailbox.

"I know," it said, "who took your son."

A confession, then no deal

A year and a half after Derrick disappeared, a horrific crime shocked Oregon.

Frank J. Milligan, a 31-year-old state youth authority worker , approached a 10-year-old boy at a Dallas park on the afternoon of July 11, 2000. He offered the boy $100 to mow his lawn. The boy agreed. But when he reached Milligan's car, the man asked him a chilling question: Do you want to live or die?

Milligan bound the boy's hands with duct tape. Later, he stopped just north of Salem, forced the victim to walk down a dirt road and sexually assaulted him. Then Milligan choked the boy and pushed his face into the dirt so hard he blacked out. He cut the child's throat and left him for dead.

The boy woke up. Drenched with blood, he stumbled to a road, where a motorist stopped to help.

At the time of the attack, Milligan was out on bail from the Clatsop County Jail, accused of a 1997 sexual attack on an 11-year-old boy in Seaside. Detectives tracked him down, and he eventually pleaded guilty in both cases, drawing a 36-year sentence.

Months later, Milligan's cellmate wrote a letter to police and the Engebretsons saying that Milligan had confessed to abducting and killing Derrick. It arrived at the Engebretson home in late 2001.

An Oregon State Police detective who had investigated the Dallas case and others confronted Milligan. The pedophile confessed to killing Derrick and agreed to lead detectives to the boy's body.

Lori and Robert remember their hearts pounding as they drove five hours to Silver Falls State Park southeast of Salem. They stood at the park's entrance, feeling weak as the FBI used ground-penetrating radar to scan for Derrick's bones.

After several days of searching, police gave up. But a Marion County assistant district attorney told the Engebretsons that Milligan had agreed to plead guilty to killing Derrick if they agreed to spare him the death penalty.

Lori remembers her hand trembling as she signed the papers that would spare Milligan's life. Robert broke down in sobs.

But when Milligan faced the paperwork a few days later, he balked.

A prosecutor later told Lori that Milligan, who at 33 might live long enough to eventually walk free, had pushed away the pen.

No deal, he said.

From bad to worse

After Milligan recanted, the Engebretsons struggled with competing emotions.

On one hand, they felt relief because Milligan's failure to produce Derrick's body meant they didn't have to mourn his death. On the other hand, they still didn't know what had happened to their son.

Lori slipped into deep depression. She was irritable and lost her temper for no reason. She asked for some time off from the Klamath Falls craft store where she'd worked for 11 years.

When she returned a month later, she heard that a co-worker had talked behind her back. She blew up. She remembers standing in the shop, shouting angrily at co-workers. Soon after, Lori said her boss sat her down and told her she was going to find a new store manager. Lori could stay and take on less stressful tasks. When Lori resisted, the women agreed that she needed to quit.

Suddenly, the family that was already struggling had $1,600 less each month. Lori felt lost without the structure of work. She was anxious and worried all the time. Intrusive, upsetting thoughts overcame her, particularly when Robert went out to the mountain. She began to fear she'd lose him, too.

"You get up there on that mountain, and you start screaming Derrick's name, and even though Derrick isn't around now, you're still up there screaming his name," she would later say. "You get up there, and you just think about killing yourself."

Days blurred into months. Lori would get so lost in her thoughts that when she'd drive to the grocery store, she'd wake from a daydream and find herself at the mountain.

Faced with mounting bills, they were forced to sell their land and the triple-wide manufactured home with the big white kitchen that Lori had always called her dream house.

"This is it," she remembers telling Robert as they packed the last box, bound for a 30-foot camper trailer that was parked in a Klamath Falls mobile home park. "We've lost it all."

A frightening wake-up call

A while ago, Lori had a dream so real she thought she was awake.

She remembers seeing three figures -- one in a crimson cloak -- standing around her bed. A silvery cloud hung above her, and she could see a child's hand reaching out.

She grabbed the hand and pulled on it. Derrick fell from the cloud and landed on her. It reminded her of the moment he was born.

"I can feel his body on top of my body," she would later recall. "I'm crying and squeezing him so tight."

Then, she says, the figure in the red cloak spoke: "It's one for one."

She says she looked into the hallway and saw the figure take Amy. She screamed and woke Robert.

They hadn't seen their daughter in weeks. Amy's cell phone had been disconnected. She rarely stopped by, and when she did, she sometimes didn't speak at all.

Lori remembers speeding to the Klamath Falls house where they thought Amy had been living. She wasn't there, and for two days they searched at houses throughout the city. Lori hadn't cried that hard since that long-ago search in the mountains.

When they found her, Lori broke down. "You're alive," she remembers sobbing again and again. "You're alive."

It was a breakthrough. For the first time in years, they were thinking of something other than their lost son. Although Milligan had not led them to Derrick, his confession had allowed the Engebretsons to stop blaming themselves for the boy's disappearance. The thought that they could lose their other two children terrified them. It shifted their focus away from the past and toward the future.

They worked on reuniting their family. After more than a year at the trailer park, Lori and Robert had saved enough to rent a small house in Klamath Falls, a place big enough for Amy to move back in with them in November 2003. After she returned home, Amy stopped using drugs and started talking about going back to college.

Kenny moved back to Klamath Falls after graduating from trade school. Last year, Lori and Robert took him to the ocean, their first deep-sea fishing trip since Derrick had disappeared. They agreed to start a tradition and meet their now 21-year-old son and his girlfriend for weekly card games.

Robert, now 44, and Lori, now 42, also started bowling again, the first thing they'd done for fun as a couple in years.

They don't feel closure. They still don't know exactly what happened to Derrick, who comes to Lori in dreams. He smiles and makes a promise: "I'll see you soon."

The pain of losing him is as sharp as ever. They can't bring themselves to put up a live Christmas tree.

New sign of hope

But for the first time in years, the Engebretsons have hope.

Six months ago, they learned that Amy, now 23, was pregnant with their first grandchild. They're anticipating the birth like nothing that's happened since Derrick disappeared.

Lori and Amy have spent hours decorating a nursery in the rental house. They've been shopping at Wal-Mart for baby clothes and furniture. Robert assembled the white crib that stands in the center of the nursery. A large, purple stuffed unicorn leans in one corner, and framed Anne Geddes prints hang on the walls.

Six years ago, three generations of Engebretson men went to cut a Christmas tree. One never came back, and the family lost their way. Finally, with the crushing guilt that nearly destroyed them lifted from their shoulders, they are living as a family again.

And the granddaughter they have already named is the new life that is bringing them back. They will call her Adrianna, and she is due on Christmas Eve.

Michelle Roberts: 503-294-5041
©2004 All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 06, 2006


These are my notes from the search after meeting Mr. and Mrs. Engebretson and retracing the steps of what happened that day at Pelican Butte.

What it means:

Red= Derrick's tracks
Yellow= Father's tracks
Blue= Grandfather's tracks
White x= Snow angel
Green square= Last sighting of Derrick
White square - Derricks father and Grandfather find eachother and relize Derrick is missing
Black circle= Pull-off parking
Red X - Hole in ice measuring 3ft in diameter, in about 3-8 ft of water, 5ft from shore

Derricks grandfather, an expert tracker, was able to track Derrick to the road where the snow angel was made. The Klamath Falls Police Department plowed the road and all tracks were lost...

The tracks in red 2 1/2 miles down the road are not proven to be Derricks. They were tracks equal to the size and shape of Derricks that day. The track lead into a small inlet show on the drawing. Witnesses said their were only one set of tracks leading to the inlet, nothing coming out.

After we put this together the only logical location to search was the inlet. That brings me to the next article.

Searchers Seek Link To Missing Boy In The Bottom Of An Inlet

October 21, 2002

Searchers seek link to missing boy in the bottom of an inlet

KLAMATH FALLS (AP) — It has been four years since 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson disappeared while hunting for Christmas trees with his father the on slopes of Pelican Butte.

Hundreds of people joined in the original, desperate search after Derrick's disappearance on Dec. 8, 1998. They never found so much as a shred of clothing.

On Saturday, volunteers brought a new approach to the search by using a metal detector to look for a hatchet Derrick was carrying when he was last seen.

Billy Crabtree, founder and director of a private search organization called REACT of Oregon, believes the key to Derrick's fate might be found in a shallow inlet near Malone Springs Road.

Four years ago there was a hole in the ice, and a child's footprint on the bank.

According to Klamath County Sheriff's Office Detective John Dougherty, the hole in the ice was discovered at the time of the initial search.

"The hole in the ice was discovered by Ben Davis, the missing boy's grandfather," Dougherty said last week. "Divers were put in the next day. An additional search was done in the area during the spring thaw."

If it was Derrick that fell through the hole, one clue that would remain after four years would be the hatchet.

If a hatchet were found in the sediment of the inlet, it could indicate that the boy died there.

On Saturday, Portland diver Jeff Preece spent several hours carefully working his way through the shallow water and the deep muck.

Using a metal detector designed to work underwater, Preece found several metal objects, including an oil filter and a metal road sign.

But no hatchet.

Lori Engebretson, the boy's mother, said she appreciated the effort by Preece and Crabtree, who also conducted a search of the area a week earlier.

"Any effort to find my son, I feel 100 percent wonderful about," she said.

In the initial search, hundreds of people, dog teams and an Air Force helicopter equipped with an infrared scanner combed the snowy woods on the flanks of Pelican Butte outside Rocky Point, but turned up little more than a child's bookmark that no one could be sure was Derrick's.

After the search was called off, Lori and her husband Robert Engebretson of Bonanza continued looking on their own for the son they nicknamed "Bear Boy."
Copyright 2002 - Southwestern Oregon Publishing Company - Coos Bay, OR

9-1-1 Transcript/Chronology

9-1-1 Transcript/Chronology

This is a chronology of events on Dec. 5 in the Klamath Falls area. Shortly before 3 p.m. that day, 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson got separated from his father and grandfather. while hunting for a Christmas tree in the Winema National Forest near Rocky Point. The location is about a 29-mile drive from Klamath Falls. The boy's father and grandfather searched for more than an hour before flagging down a driver on mountainous West Side Road. This chronology was pieced together with selected radio and telephone communications at the 9-1-1 center in Klamath Falls; interviews with family, searchers and emergency personnel; and weather reports from the National Weather Service, which collects data at Klamath Falls Airport.

2 p.m. (time approximate)-Derrick Engebretson arrives with his father, Robert, and grandfather, Bob, at a turnout on West Side Road near Rocky Point. They hike into the woods to look for a Christmas tree.

2:46 A light snow hits Klamath Falls. An 8 knot wind carries the storm toward Rocky Point. Visibility is three miles.

3:00-Bob Engebretson hikes out of the snow-covered woods, where he last saw Derrick hiking in his father's footprints in the snow to deliver him a hatchet. "Where's Derrick?" Robert says as he reaches the Toyota pickup. "I thought he was with you," Bob says. They hike into the woods to hunt for the lost boy.

3:19-Snow whites out the region. Visibility: 1/4 mile.

4:13-Snow weakens slightly. Visibility: 1/2 mile. Temperature: 23 degrees.

The first call to 9-1-1

4:13 (1 hour, 13 minutes since Derrick was lost)-A 26-year-old Chiloquin man named Fred Heins calls from a resort two miles from Derrick's disappearance.

9-1-1: 9-1-1.

HEINS: Yeah, we've got a situation on the West Side Road.

9-1-1: What kind of a situation?

HEINS: A lost little boy.

9-1-1: How little?

HEINS: I don't know. I just got stopped on the side of the road by his father. He asked me to call 9-1-1.

9-1-1: OK, are you there with his father now?

HEINS: No, I'm not. I'm at Rocky Point Resort.

9-1-1: Do you know this person's name?

HEINS: No, I don't. It's two miles south from Rocky Point.

9-1-1: OK, so is he going to be waiting there for law enforcement?

HElNS: Yeah, he's out looking for his little boy. In (In a garbled exchange, HEINS explain that the boy's been missing more than 11/2 hours.)

9-1-1: Sir, were you going to head back out to that area, or are you on your way some- where else?

HEINS: I was on the way somewhere else. But I was going to drive back to let them know that I did call 9-1-1.

9-1-1: OK, we need some more information. We need to find out what kind of child we're dealing with and how old and everything. Is there any way that if you do go out there, have him come in to Rocky Point and give us a call?

HEINS: I highly doubt that he will because he's walking up and down trying to find his kid.

9-1-1: Well, he's not going to get any response if we don's get any further information because we can't send out an army.

HEINS: (Garbled, agitated.) . . . kid out in a snow storm!

9-1-1: His kid could be 17 or 18 years old, is what I'm saying. We need to know what we're dealing with. So we need to know what kind of equipment to send out, OK? We can't just send a whole crew of peopleout not knowing what we're sending 'em to. Do you understand what I'm saying?


9-1-1: We need to have more information is all.


9-1-1: It's for his own benefit, OK?

HEINS: Yeah.

The first deputy heads to scene

4:28-Sun sets.

4:30 (1 hour, 30 minutes since Derrick was lost)Deputy Richard Hamilton of the Klamath County Sheriff's office phones in, gets sketchy information from 9-1-1. He heads toward the mountain.

4:38-Snow falls lightly in Klamath Falls. Vis- ibility: 3/4 mile. Temperature: 23 degrees.

5:01-Fred Heins phones 9-1-1 with more information. He says the boy is 6 and got lost on a Christmas tree hunt with his father, Robert Engebretson.

9-1-1: We got a deputy on the way. But of course, with the weather conditions, it's going to be a delayed response.


9-1-1: Um, and is he still looking for the little boy?

HEINS: He is. I spoke to the grandfather, and the grandfather is looking. The three of them (were) out. . .

9-1-1: (Garbled.) The riffle boy's on foot? Or does he have a sled ?

HEINS: He's on foot. They were getting a Christmas tree or something. The little boy went off after his father, following his tracks.

9-1-1: OK

HEINS: So the little boy (was walking in his dad's tracks), and so they're having trouble finding him.

9-1-1: OK.

HEINS: He's wearing a blue, like, snowsuit, with a hooded coat.

9-1-1:And a hooded coat OK, that's greet. We've got the information. We got a deputy on the way. Thanks so much for getting that other information. OK, sir?


5:03-9-1-1 radios Deputy Hamilton and gives him information about the lost boy.

Search and rescue called

5:04-Sgt. Bill Pulliam of the sheriff's office talks to a 9-l -1 dispatcher, saying he heard the basics on the radio. He recommends that 9-ll phone sheriff's Detective Bud Wilson, coordinator of Klamath County Search and Rescue. 5:05-9-l-l pages Wilson. 5:09 (1 hour, 39 minutes since Derrick was lost)-Wilson calls back on his cellular phone. He is off duty, driving into Klamath Falls from his home in Keno to attend his search and rescue group's annual Christmas awards banquet.

9-1-1: We've got a missing 6-year-old.

WILSON: Where at?

9-1-1: Between Rocky Point Resort and mile- post 12 on the West Side Road.

WILSON: What were they doing?

9-1-1: Apparently he was out-they were out looking for a Christmas tree with his dad and his grandpa. The (garbled) lost contact. Now they're out looking for him.

WILSON: (Garbled.)

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: You know why this happened, don't you?

9-1-1: Because they should just go to a (garbled).

WILSON: Not only that, but I was just on my way to our search and rescue Christmas dinner.

9-1-1: Oh my God. You want us to call some- body else?


9-1-1:I don't know.

WILSON: (Laughs.)

9-1-1: Poor Bud.

(A garbled exchange follows.) WILSON: Well, let me call you back in a few minutes.

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: When I get through here, I'm gonna go to the Safeway, and then I'll call you. (Garbled.)

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: And then we'll see where we're at

9-1-1: OK.

OSP' fire officials asked to help

(Sgt. Pulliam calls 9-1-1 and directs a dis- patcher to phone Oregon State Police (OSP) and see whether they have any units in the Rocky Point area. 9-1-1 gives OSP basic infor- mation and says that Klamath County Search and Rescue has been called, "but it's gonna be a bit before they can get all together.")

5:22 (2 hours, 22 minutes since Derrick was lost, 1 hour, 9 minutes since 9-1-1 called)- Wilson phones 9-1-1 to check the status of the search.

9-1-1: Hi, Bud.

WILSON: Hi. Who's headed up there?

9-1-1: I've got (Deputy) Hamilton, (Deputy) Mike Smith, and we're going to see if somebody from OSP, if OSP can send a trooper up, too.


9-1-1: Till search and rescue is called out or whatever.

WILSON: Yeah. (Garbled.)

9-1-1: Yeah.

WILSON: Well, how long has it been since they've seen him?

9-1-1: OK,, when they called us, which was 16:15 hours (4:15 p.m.).

WILSON: Uh-huh..

9-1-1: They said he'd already been missing an hour and a half.

WILSON: Right So they were right off of the West Side Road there?

9-1-1: Uh, apparently so. They were between the Rocky Point Resort and milepost 12 on the West Side Road, somewhere in there.

WILSON: Right (Garbled) Hmm. OK, well, I've called a couple of my people already, and they're already gone (to Mollie's restaurant). So (garbled) up to Mollie's and see who's up there because that's where everybody's at -or gonna be going to. This is like last year!

9-1-1: Why? (A garbled exchange follows.)

WILSON: Well, yeah, I will. I'll just keep calling back with you, 'cause I don't want to (garbled) start 'em up there (garbled) if the troops get up there and find him right away.

9-1-1: Yeah.

WILSON: You know. (Garbled.)

9-1-1: Well, that was what 37 (Hamilton) (garbled). He was coming from Chiloquin. So I don't know.

WILSON: Yeah. (Garbled) going from town. In a whiteout (garbled) condition. (In a garbled exchange, Wilson mentions that some volunteers from the northern end of Klamath County have canceled their trip because- of the poor weather.)

WILSON: OK, well, I've got my cellphone with me. So if anything happens between now and the time I call you back, just page me and I'll call you.

9-1-1: OK, Bud. WILSON: You know, like I said, everybody's getting ready to go to this party. It's gonna be hard to get a hold of people.

5:24 to 5:27-A 9-1-1 dispatcher takes a call from OSP Trooper Stephen Nork, based in Klamath Falls. He recognizes the Engebretsons as neighbors of his mother. He suggests someone call the fire chief at Rocky Point, Larry Renicker.

9-1-1: Well, see, we contacted Wilson. Except he is having a hard time getting ahold of anybody in search and rescue. They're having their big search and rescue dinner tonight They can't find anybody home yet.

NORK: So, nobody's out there yet?

9-1-1: That's why we've got two deputies, and we're trying to get somebody from OSP to go up there and search. (Garbled.)

NORK: Yeah. (Garbled question about who is at the scene.)

9-1-1:I don't know. We're still waiting for a call back.


5:34-A light snow falls on Klamath Falls.

Visibility: 1 mile. Temperature: 24 degrees.

5:36 (2 hours, 36 minutes since Derrick was lost; 1 hour, 23 minutes since 9-1-1 called)

9-1-1 calls Wilson, who explains that it's going to be tough to assemble his troops because they are heading to the 6:30 p.m. banquet in whiteout conditions.

9-1-1: There's a Larry Renicker up there in Rocky Point that works in the fire. . .

WILSON: He's the fire chief, yeah.

9-1-1: Want me to call him and see if he might want to send (garbled), see if he can get anything together? WILSON: Yeah, we probably could. 9-1-1: I don't want to step on anybody's-go over anybody's head.

WILSON: Yeah. (Wilson suggests the dispatcher call Renicker in Rocky Point to let him know what's going on.)

5:39-9-1-1 phones Renicker. The dispatcher says she has talked to Wilson, who is having a tough time rounding up his troops because they are having their search and rescue dinner.

9-1-1: We did get ahold of him (Wilson). And he wanted to know if there would be any way that your fire guys could go out and start a little search.

RENICKER: Where is this at?

9-1-1: It's on the West Side Road, milepost 12, between Rocky Point Resort and milepost 12 on the West Side Road. (Garbled) turnout just north of milepost 12 on the West Side Road. You know where that's at?

RENICKER: Yeah. I can get some people together.

9-1-1: OK.

5:41-OSP Trooper Paul Randall calls to ask where the staging area is and says he has someone en route.

RANDALL: Do you need any, some more marked units?

9-1-1: Well, at this point we can't-the search and rescue people, I guess, are having some big banquet and they're hard to get ahold of.And we just called out the Harriman (Rocky Point) fire department people to assist And we've also got three deputies-well, one up there, two on their way and then you. At this point, you know, he's 8 years old, he's in this blizzard, and I guess they need all the people they can get at this point.

RANDALL: OK, I'll call . . .

9-1-1: Equipment I think is their big concem. It's the equipment that they can's get in, back into the woods where he was. So . . .

RANDALL: Depends on how deep the snow is out there.

9-1-1: Exactly. I don't know. I don't know what else they would need. But I guess anybody (garbled) would be helpful.


5:51-Derrick's grandmother, Darla Engebretson, phones 9-1-1 and says the boy's mother, Lori Engebretson, is distraught and wants to drive through the snowstorm from Bonanza (about 60 miles away). 9-1-1 encourages her to stay home and remain calm, telling her that searchers are on their way.

5:53 Sgt. Pulliam calls 9-1-1 to say he'd been in contact with Wilson and that they had decided to send trackers to the scene and wanted them ASAP. He says they have more information on Derrick: He's 8 years old, not 6.

PULLIAM: Just for your own info, when 1 talked to Bud, this is the night for their Christmas party. And he thinks he's notable to get in touch with anybody because they're in transit there.

9-1-1: Well, he needs to go there and tell them to put it off.

PULLIAM: Well, he's already made arrangements to (garbled).

9-1-1: Oh, yeah. I thought they didn't want to respond because it's the dinner.

PULLIAM: Oh, no, no, no.

9-1-1: OK. (Giggles.)

PULLIAM: No. That's not the case.

9-1-1: Where's the party at?

PULLIAM: Mollie 's.

9-1-1: Oh, OK.

PULLIAM: But, uh, they're gonna try to get in touch with everybody-(garbled) one's in transit So. . .

9-1-1: OK.

PULLIAM: They're gonna be a while before everybody gets up there.

9-1-1: OK. Well, there's one trooper, possibly they're gonna call out another one on the way up there, and then the three deputies.

ANOTHER 9-1-1 DISPATCHER: They also got a Forest Service Unit and fire guys . . . two fire guys from Harriman (Rural Fire Protection District at Rocky Point).

PULLIAM: OK, great Well, I think that's about all we can do until they get up there, then. He's gonna try to get ahold of a couple of trackers and get them up there as quick as he . . .

9-1-1: Trackers or tracksters?

PULLIAM: Trackers. Try to track ....

9-1-1: Oh, trackers. OK

Others offer help

5:59 to 6:20-State police call to say that snowmobiles are on the way to Rocky Point and that Nork is headed there. A fire depart- ment volunteer at Rocky Point says he has a four-wheel-drive and is going to the scene. By now, the snow is easing and visibility is three miles, temperature at 24 degrees.

6:26 (3 hours, 26 minutes since Derrick was lost; 2 hours, 13 minutes since 9-1-1 called)

-Wilson calls 9-1-1 for a status report. 9-1-1: They're still looking.

WILSON: OK Did Harriman (fire department) get out?

9-1-1: They got a couple Harriman people out. Not very many. I think two or (speaks to other dispatcher), I think two Harrimans, Kathy? She doesn't know how many. Apparently they're gonna get who they can.

WILSON: Yeah, because I was trying to get ahold of (Sgt.) Bill (Pulliam), but he's not answering his cell phone.

9-1-1: That's because he's at Mearle West Medical Center (to check on people injured in an auto pileup) and needs you to call him there.

WILSON: Oh, he does, huh?

9-1-1: Yeah. I paged you. Did you not get my page?


9-1-1: Oh.

WILSON: You did ? I didn't feel it.

9-1-1: Oh.

WILSON: Well, gosh, that was a waste. (Checks pager, finds it was not on.) Yeah. I (garbled) didn't have it on. (The dispatcher gives Wilson the emergency room phone number to reach Pulliam.)

WILSON: All right, I'll try. (There are crowd noises in the background.) I'm hoping they can find him without us leaving our party again this year.

9-1-1: Oh, well.

WILSON: Guess where we're at (Chuckles.)

9-1-1: Yeah, I know.

WILSON: (Laughs.)

9-1-1: But in these conditions, I wouldn't bet on it (that Derrick is found before the party begins).

WILSON: Yeah. Well, the problem being that from what they're saying, it's taking 45 minutes to an hour to even get there.

9-1-1: Yeah, it is.

WILSON: I don't know. We got three deputies up there. (Garbled.)

9-1-1: (Garbled.) I think it's just a matter of this kid so far in wherever he is. (Wilson and the dispatcher discuss an unrelated matter.)

9-1-1: I don't know, 'cause I haven't talked to 'em at that point

WILSON: Yeah. O.K I'll give (Sgt) Bill (Pulliam) a call and see what's going on.

9-1-1: OK

WILSON: I do have my pager on now, though.

9-1-1: OK

WILSON: All right. Sorry.

9-1-1: Uh-huh. Bye bye.

Search and rescue party

6:30-Klamath County Search and Rescue's annual Christmas and awards dinner begins at Mollie's restaurant. About the same time, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Doug Corrigan arrives at Rocky Point.

6:40-9-1-1 calls Sgt. Pulliam at the medical center to tell him the situation. The dispatcher says that Wilson and Sheriff Carl Burkhart are at the Christmas dinner and want an update from the scene "so they don't have to send any search and rescue people out unnecessarily." Pulliam agrees to drive to Mollie's and talk to Wilson and Burkhart. While driving there, he calls for an update from Deputy Smith on the mountain.

PULLIAM: Can you give me an update?

SMITH: We're still checking the area right now. Um, we (garbled) have two units on scene. And I don't have anything further yet

PULLIAM: 10-4 How much time are we looking at with the kid in the woods?

SMITH: Close to four hours now-at least close to four hours now.

PULLIAM: 10-4. 36, Sam 9. Do they have a snowmobile in the area?

SMITH: No. I don't believe they do. Not yet.

PULLIAM: Copy. How many people do you actually have on scene? Do you have fire (department volunteers) and everybody?

SMITH: I believe we have a couple of fire units in their private vehicles. There's also some fire units that are checking in the area in their vehicles, going up and down the road. And there's 37 in his unit, and I believe one fire unit beck et the post

6:45-Sheriff Burkhart (S.O. Adam 1 ) calls Pulliam on the radio from Mollies:

BURKHART: I copied some of your traffic. We're going to get some people rolling just as soon as possible here (garbled). The crew is at West Side Road, milepost 12. Is that accurate?

PULLIAM: That's affirmative.

7:00 (4 hours since Derrick was lost; 2 hours, 47 minutes since 9-1-1 called)-Snow falls more slowly than earlier. Visibility: Seven miles. Temperature: 24 degrees.

In the next half-hour, Derrick's grandmother calls to say the boy's mother is on her way to the mountain. An Oregon Department of Transportation truck plows snow on West Side Road at the request of state police. There are now five state troopers at Rocky Point: Sgt. Bill Floyd, Trooper Randall, Lt. Mediger, Sgt. Chris Kaber and Trooper Nork, who is joined by his wife in the search. Mediger has brought along two snowmobiles.

7:31-Snow stops falling in Klamath Falls.

The city accumulates 1.5 inches. On Rocky Point, the snow is estimated at 5 to 8 inches. In the next half-hour, OSP's snowmobiles arrive to help the five searchers. Rocky Point's fire volunteers report to 9-1-1 that they have an ambulance standing by. Chief Renicker and emergency medical technician Kari Ferns- neither trained in search and rescue-do not take part in the search.

Search and rescue team mobilizes

8:25 (5 hours, 25 minutes since Derrick was lost; 4 hours, 12 minutes since 9-1-1 called) -At Deputy Hamilton's request, 9-1-1 calls Sheriff Burkhart to ask when the search and rescue team will arrive at Rocky Point.

BURKHART: Just tell him the roads are extremely slick, and they're trying to get there. It's real slick. (Garbled.) Slow going

9-1-1: OK, so there is no actual ETA time?

BURKHART: Well, couldn't tell you because we just don't know if they're having to chain up what they're having to do.

9-1-1: OK

BURKHART: But they're en route, so just tell them to stand by. (9-1-1 then calls Hamilton to tell them the news.)

8:37-Wilson calls from the sheriff's office to say he's heading out to the search and rescue compound, where the team keeps much of its equipment.

WILSON: We should have everybody en route shortly, the whole crew.

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: (Garbled.)

9-1-1: No. I just got through talking with (garbled bled). And he said it snowed so much that he just couldn't (garbled). It's unbelievable. (A garbled exchange follows.)

WILSON: But anyway, I'm heading towards the compound. So you can put me on duty.

9-1-1: You're on, buddy boy.

WILSON: And if you haven't already, put a (garbled) in.

9-1-1: The state police was offering (garbled) night-vision goggles. Would those help you guys, or do you have stuff like that?

WILSON: Uh, no. We don't have anything like that.

9-1-1: Would you be able to use them?

WILSON: Well, I'll tell you, as soon as I get out there where I can call Larry, I'll see what (garbled).

9-1-1: And they also have the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Detection) unit I don't know if it's on a car-it's on a passenger car, and I don't know if it'd actually make it up there. You know, that heat-sensing unit they have. They're offering that if you need to use that also.

WILSON: Oh, OK. Yeah.

8:44-After the Klamath Falls Police call to offer snowmobiles, 9-1-1 calls Wilson.

9-1-1: How many snowmobiles do you have going up, or do you?

WILSON: Probably two.

9-1-1: Two extras in addition to the two that are up there?


9-1-1: Do you need more? Could you use more?

WILSON: Well, I don't really know yet. Till I get up.

9-1-1: Because (city police officer) Jon Deese is offering-I guess he knows the guy that owns Klamath Motor Sports-and he's offering to get in touch with him, and I'm sure (garbled) demo units that he might be able to loan you guys.

WILSON: Well, OK. (An exchange follows in which Wilson discusses the number of sheriff's personnel at Rocky Point and tells 9-1-1 that the city police department can get its FLIR equipment up there. 9-1-1 asks the city police department to send up its FLI R unit and night-vision binoculars. The police department tells 9-1-1 it's en route with FLIR and night-vision goggles.)

9:00 (Time approximate. 6 hours since Der- . rick was lost; 4 hours, 47 minutes since 9-1-1 called)-The first of Wilson's search and rescue team arrives at Rocky Point: trackers Larry Hawkins and Dan Anderson.

9:12-Wilson talks to 9-1-1 about who's going up to the scene and about what Derrick was wearing.

WILSON: Apparently, it snowed twice since he come up missing.

9-1-1: So there (garbled) the tracks.

WILSON: Right. But the mother's there. And the grandfather. And Mom says he'll climb a tree 'cause he's scared to death of cats.

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: He's got good boots, good socks, good snowmobile suit on. He's got a good hat She's not worried about that part of him.

9 -1-1: Oh, good, OK

. WILSON: So she just said he's scared to death of cats and . . . if nothing else, he'll climb a tree.

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: So I think that night-that QIR- will do it for us.

9-1-1: Good deal.

WILSON: I'm hoping.

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: And Larry said it's (garbled) in snow but that should work really good.

9-1-1: OK.

WILSON: So just tell him to contact Larry Hawkins when he gets (on site). And that'll be his point of contact end Larry will (garbled).

9-1-1: Do you want anything out on this yet?


9:16 (time approximate)-Georges Kleinbaum, search-and-rescue coordinator for Ore gon Emergency Management, receives a phone call from OSP dispatch requesting a FLIR helicopter. He immediately calls Wilson, who postpones the request.

9:30 (time approximate; 6 hours, 30 minutes since Derrick was lost; 5 hours, 17 minutes since 9-1-1 called)-Seventeen members of Klamath County Search and Rescue arrive at the scene of Derrick's disappearance. Wilson is not among them. He will drive up the following morning.

Copyright 2003 Oregon Live. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


His name is Frank James Milligan. If you have known this man personally somehow in your life I would like you to contact me. Please review his past employment history. If you think of anything it will help. Thank you.

To this day nothing has ever been found of Derrick James Engebretson, no clothes, no hatchet, no remains, nothing...

This brings us to an individual named Frank James Milligan. Through extensive research my research partner (justiceseeker1) and I found the link between this man and Derrick Engebretson. At the time, Mr. Milligan drove a 1998 Black Honda which was spotted in the area of Derricks disappearance just before he went missing. at the time, Mr. Milligan was employed by The State of Oregon counseling trouble juveniles. At the time, Mr. Milligan had already committed sodomy and attempted murder of a 10 year old Salem boy.


Mr. Milligan drove a 1998 black Honda. The car WAS searched by LE during the investigation of the Salem boy's case with nothing found pertaining to Derricks case. Mr. Milligan's car was spotted in the area of Derricks disappearance at the time of Derricks disappearance by multiple witnesses.


Mr. Milligan was employed by the State of Oregon as a Troubled Juvenal councilor. Mr. Milligan often traveled across Oregon counseling troubled juveniles including locations such as Burns, Salem, Portland, etc..


On July 2, 1999 Milligan was arrested for sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy in 1997 to whom he had become a "father figure."
His bail was set at $250,000. His mother posted the bail and he was released from jail.

In March of 2000, the prosecutors asked the court to revoke Milligan's bail for associating with children. The judge refused to return Frank Milligan to jail.

On July 14, 2000 Frank Milligan pled guilty to one count of sex abuse, and two counts of attempted sodomy.

On July 11, 2000, a 10-year-old Oregon boy was abducted from a park. His throat was slashed when he resisted the abductor's attempts to fondle him. He was dumped under some bushes in a field near Salem, and left for dead. The boy survived his injuries and flagged down a passing motorist who took him to the hospital.

On August 09, 2000, Frank Milligan was arrested.

On August 11, 2000 Milligan was charged with kidnapping, sex abuse, and attempted aggravated murder for his attack of the 10-year-old boy.

Milligan received a 6 year and three month sentence for the sex abuse conviction on the 11-year-old boy.

In August Of 2001, Frank Milligan pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexual abuse and attempted murder for the attack on the 10-year-old boy. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

That sentence will begin after he serves the six year sentence for the sexual abuse of the 11-yr-old boy.

Further research by law enforcement showed Milligan had owned books on serial killers John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and others. He stalked children in e-mails pretending to be a 13-year-old boy and was found to collect child pornography.

Mr. Milligan is currently incarcerated for two different cases. Attempted murder and rape. Mr. Milligan has made a partial confession to Derricks murder but since has recanted. Mr. Milligan is leading LE to believe Derrick is dead and buried in the Burns Oregon area.

Friday, March 03, 2006



Family Of Missing Boy Criticizes Search and Rescue

Family Of Missing Boy Criticizes Search and Rescue
Posted: 12/15/02 6:29 am
Family of missing boy criticizes search and rescue

KLAMATH FALLS (AP) - The parents of missing 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson want to see different people in charge of the Klamath County search and rescue.

Lori and Robert Engebretson support the need for a search and rescue team, but said the leadership of the team is ``too political'' and didn't act quickly enough in the early stages after Derrick went missing on a snowy mountainside Dec. 5.

Derrick was with his father and grandfather hunting for a Christmas tree when the boy got lost near Pelican Butte in the Winema National Forest.

Members of a search and rescue dive team on Tuesday checked a spot on the Upper Klamath Lake near Malone Springs where it appeared someone had gone through the ice, about two miles north of where Derrick disappeared. But no sign of him was found, Sheriff Carl Burkhart said.

An extensive search involving hundreds of volunteers has turned up nothing. The search was conducted by the Klamath County Sheriff's Department, which coordinates the county's volunteer search and rescue team.

The team's leadership has been criticized for not responding quickly enough to start a search for the boy.

Detective Bud Wilson, the leader of the search and rescue team, has been criticized for not sending team members to the search site sooner the night Derrick disappeared. A dispatcher said Wilson seemed reluctant to break up the team's Christmas party in the early hours of the search.

``(Search and rescue) needs to be completely out of the police department. It's too political,'' Lori Engebretson said. ``It should be state-run and (members) need to do training constantly.''

Burkhart said funding is a problem for search and rescue, but he said Wilson does a good job and doesn't deserve the criticism he's been receiving.

Search and rescue's budget of about $6,000 is funded through donations.

Lori Engebretson also questioned why the sheriff and Wilson apparently turned away experts willing to help in the search. She points to several cases in which they say searchers who offered resources such as tracking dogs were told they weren't needed.

``We never did think they did everything they could, but we weren't going to be critical,'' Lori Engebretson said. ``What would it have hurt to break up a Christmas party so Derrick could have a Christmas?''

A park service official involved in search and rescue said he did not see a reason to criticize the search leadership, despite the fact his professional search and rescue crew was not called to help until the second week of the search.

``There's a hundred ways to make those calls,'' said George Buckingham, chief ranger at Crater Lake National Park and head of the park's professional search and rescue team. ``And when to actually launch a search is a tough call. My gut was they had more than enough actual ground pounders. It can be a problem if you have too many people.

``You need to sit in Bud's seat before you get too critical. I've worked with him. He's a competent individual.''

Posted Wednesday January 13, 1999

© Copyright 1997, 1998
Lee Enterprises

Molester is top suspect

Molester is top suspect
Posted: 11/3/05 5:06 pm

Molester is top suspect

Published November 14, 2004

Authorities search for link between convicted man, Derrick Engebretson

Combined staff and wire reports

Klamath County authorities Saturday confirmed a report that a man serving a prison sentence for attempted murder is a suspect in the disappearance of a young Bonanza boy nearly six years ago during a family Christmas tree hunt near Rocky Point.

The Oregonian reported Saturday that Frank J. Milligan, convicted of raping a 10-year-old boy then slashing the boy's throat and leaving him for dead, may have been in-volved in the disappearance of 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson on Dec. 5, 1998.

The possible link between Milligan and Derrick was made two years ago said Ed Caleb, Klamath County District Attorney. It was made public only this weekend after it was uncovered by an Oregonian reporter working on a story about sex abuse.

In 2002, Milligan confessed to killing Derrick, only to later retract his confession.

"Now the question is whether he is telling the truth or not telling the truth," Caleb said.

A confession is not enough to convict a suspect, Caleb said. It is not even enough for the filing of charges. Evidence that backs up someone's confession is needed, he said.

After the confession State Police investigators tried to find evidence that Milligan had come in contact with Derrick or had been near Klamath Falls at the time of the boy's disappearance.

"No one at this point has been able to do that," Caleb said.

Without the evidence there is no grounds to charge Milligan with a crime, he said.

Derrick, who was a third-grader and known to family as "Bear Boy," was searching for a Christmas tree with his father, Robert, and grandfather Bob Engebretson when he wandered away in a snow storm near Pelican Butte. His disappearance led to a massive search with dogs, snowmobiles and hundreds of volunteers that lasted for weeks.

"For 18 days and 18 nights we never quit," said Ben Davis, Derrick's other grandfather.

Eventually the Air National Guard and the U.S. Forest Service were brought in to aid in the search, but the boy wasn't found.

Over the years authorities have looked into multiple leads and have had other suspects and people of interest, but none of the leads have panned out, said Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who inherited the case from former sheriff Carl Burkhart. The case is still classified as a missing person.

"There has been no new information for investigators recently," Evinger said. He said they are still trying to put enough of the pieces of the puzzle together.

Davis said the investigators told Derrick's family about Milligan's confession about two years ago. The family was kept abreast of the developments in the case and brought up to the Willamette Valley when Milligan told authorities he killed the boy and he would show them where he buried Derrick's body.

Despite the intensive initial search and many searches since, Derrick was never found and was presumed to have frozen to death in a snowstorm. But law enforcement officials now say they believe Derrick found his way to the roadside, where he was picked up by Milligan.

''He is a suspect,'' said Oregon State Police Detective Ken Pecyna.

Evinger confirmed that authorities have a theory that Derrick made it to the road, but he would not go into specifics of how they came to that theory.

The Oregonian said other high-ranking law enforcement officials confirmed that Milligan is a suspect. Evinger said an Oregon State Police investigator told him that Milligan is the only suspect in the case.

In July 2001, Milligan pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, sodomy and sexual abuse after he lured a 10-year-old boy into his car at a Dallas park in 2000 by offering the child $100 to mow his lawn.

Milligan raped and strangled the boy, slashed his throat and left him for dead. The child survived. At the time of the attack, Milligan was out on bail after being charged with the sexual assault of an 11-year-old boy in Seaside.

Milligan surfaced as a potential suspect in the Derrick Engebretson disappearance after a fellow inmate claimed that Milligan had bragged about abducting and killing the boy, sources close to the case told the Oregonian.

When confronted, Milligan, who had been sentenced to 36 years in prison for the Dallas and Seaside crimes, confessed to killing Derrick and agreed to lead detectives to the place where he claimed to have buried the boy's body, the newspaper said, citing law enforcement sources.

But nothing was found, and Milligan later recanted the confession, according to police and Derrick's family.

''He took them to the spot where he said he had buried the body, then he didn't do much to help them find it,'' said Lori Engebretson, Derrick Engebretson's mother. ''He said, 'Well, I guess I don't know where it's at. It was night, dark, and I was trying to hurry.' ''

Davis said county, state and FBI investigators combed the wooded area near Silverton but didn't find a trace of Derrick.

"All they found was some dead animals," he said.

Based on evidence found at the scene of the disappearance, family members believe Derrick was making a snow angel near the road and was abducted by someone who happened to be driving by. ''We think it was a crime of opportunity,'' Lori Engebretson said.

Word of Derrick's disappearance got to Davis late the night of Dec. 5, 1998. He rushed up to Rocky Point and joined the search near Rocky Point.

Davis said he has been hunting and tracking all his life and he knows how to find and follow people's tracks through the snow. He found Derrick's tracks that night, he said.

"I knew it was Derrick's because I had got him the boots," Davis said.

The tracks lead Davis from where the boy disappeared in a circle back to Westside Road. There there was the imprint of a snow angel. Nothing more.

Davis said he told authorities that he thought his grandson had been abducted, but he said they insisted he was missing in the woods.

One witness reported seeing a man struggle with a boy near the road but didn't stop because he assumed that they were father and son, Lori Engebretson said.

During the search, a search dog owned by Kathlynn Petty of Portland kept urging Petty to return to Westside Road in its efforts to find Derrick.

The Engebretsons weren't the only ones searching for Christmas trees that snowy night. Davis said two or three other families were in the woods off of Westside road on tree hunts.

Police had never publicly identified Milligan as a the suspect. But in 2002, they announced they were investigating a tip that Derrick might have been abducted by a man driving a black Honda sedan.

At the time, police also released a photo of a black Honda parked in front of a white ranch-style house. The Oregonian, however, obtained an original copy of that photo that includes Milligan - meaning law enforcement officials had used a computer program to erase him from the photo released to aid the search.

The newspaper learned of Milligan's alleged involvement in the Derrick Engebretson case while researching a story about child sex abuse on the children's ward of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem. Milligan, a longtime state worker, was a psychiatric aide on the children's ward from 1994 to 1997.

For Derrick Engebtetson's family the search for their lost son and grandson continues.

"We go up there every once in awhile," Davis said.

The put ribbons on trees in memory of Derrick and go over the now too familiar land again, on the lookout for clues.

"We kept hoping, we are still hoping," Davis said. "Someday, maybe, we will get a closure."

H&N Staff Writer Dylan Darling contributed to this story.

National Park Service Report

National Park Service Report
Posted: 11/16/03 6:57 pm





To: All National Park Service Areas and Offices

From: Division of Ranger Activities, Washington Office

Day/Date: Tuesday, December 22, 1998


98-763 - Crater Lake NP (OR) - Assist; Major Search

On December 5th, eight-year-old Derrick Engebretson became separated from his father and grandfather while the three of them hunted for a Christmas tree in the Winema National Forest just south of the park. The park provided search and rescue equipment as requested during the early phases of the search; park personnel were subsequently requested after the Forest Service assumed responsibility for management of the search on December 13th. Ranger/medic Pete Reinhardt and ranger/ski patrol coordinator John Broward responded with members of the park's volunteer ski patrol to help with the coordination of more than 100 volunteers in a labor-intensive grid search of rugged terrain covered with four feet of snow. The operation was hampered by temperatures in the single digits. At the time of the report on Saturday, it appeared that the search would be terminated. Media coverage has been extensive. Volunteers included employees from many local businesses, school teachers, high school students, Oregon National Guard and Air Guard personnel, and employees from the NPS, Forest Service and BLM. Local businesses and individuals donated tons of food and clothing to searchers. [Ken Hay, Safety Officer, CRLA, 12/19]