Derrick James Engebretson

Friday, March 03, 2006

Boy's Kin Don't Think Graffiti's A Real Clue

Boy's Kin Don't Think Graffiti's A Real Clue
Posted: 12/15/02 12:17 am
Boy's kin don't think graffiti's a real clue

By JEFF BARNARD
The Associated Press

October 5, 1999

GRANTS PASS -- The parents of a missing 8-year-old Klamath Falls-area boy say they think graffiti found on a bathroom wall at a rest stop in the Oregon desert is more likely a cruel joke than a significant clue.

Wanting to pursue any possible lead in the disappearance of Derrick Engebretson, detectives last week removed part of the wall and sent it to the state crime lab to check for fingerprints or anything else that might shed light on its origin. Derrick disappeared last December while looking for a Christmas tree with his family near Pelican Butte.

Investigators refused to say what was written on the wall, but Derrick's mother said Monday it suggested her son may have been abducted.

"At first you think, `Oh my God, he might be alive and somebody is actually going to give him back,"' Lori Engebretson said.

"All I can say is I hope if Derrick did die, I hope he died on that mountain and not at the hands of some sick person. If he died on the mountain, he just closed his eyes and went to sleep. There would have been no pain or anything."

On Saturday, she and her husband, millworker Robert Engebretson, drove the 250 miles from their home in the small farming community of Bonanza, near the California line, to the rest stop to have a look for themselves. But they left unconvinced that the message was significant.

"I think it's just a big, sick joke," Lori Engebretson said. "I thought, if somebody would have had Derrick, if they put this on the wall, they were wanting to be caught. If they were wanting to be caught, why didn't they leave something of Derrick's there?"

Not a trace of Derrick -- not one of his gloves bearing the logo of the Goosebumps books he loved to read, the jacket he hated to wear, or even the hatchet he carried -- has turned up since he disappeared Dec. 5 on the east side of the Cascade Range.

The boy had been out with his father and grandfather. He had been sent up a hill with a hatchet to cut down a tree. After he disappeared, a snowstorm blew in. Helicopters with heat sensors, tracking dogs and hundreds of volunteers combed the woods for more than a week.

Since then, Derrick's family has spent nearly every weekend on the mountain looking for him. They have found someone's glasses, shoestrings, and the tag out of a T-shirt. But no sign of Derrick.

The remote-controlled Big Foot truck and laser-sighted BB gun Lori Engebretson bought her son for Christmas are still wrapped and underneath the artificial tree in the family room.

"There's clothing I can't imagine would fit him now, even if he does come home," she said. "The presents, the paper is starting to come off because it's so old.

"But, yeah, it's still there. The tree is not lit any more. But it is still put up."

"At first, it was tough, but now it's just a permanent fixture in the house. Nobody says anything about it any more. Every once in a while we just stare at it. But nobody talks about it any more."

On Derrick's ninth birthday, July 5, they took a bunch of balloons up to the mountain and left them on a tree.

"I haven't given up on him being alive," his mother said. "I pray ever single night for him to be alive in somebody's safe hands."


*Copyright © The Mail Tribune 1999, Medford, Oregon USA

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