New Engebretson lead pursued
By MATT HALL
Four years ago, 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson became separated from his father and grandfather as the three searched for a Christmas tree near Pelican Butte.
Engebretson, carrying a hatchet to cut the tree with, was never seen again, and no trace of his whereabouts was found despite a ground and air search involving hundreds of people.
Since then his parents, Robert and Lori Engebretson of Bonanza, and others have refused to give up the search, despite a lack of credible leads.
One of those leads came in July when the Oregon State Police released information concerning a person of interest driving a late-model, black, two-door Honda reportedly seen in the area on Dec. 5, 1998, the day of Engebretson’s disappearance.
“To my knowledge, that lead has not panned out as a credible lead,” said Sgt. Chris Kaber of the Oregon State Police. “The lead came from a group of investigators from the Salem State Police office.”
Now REACT of Oregon, a volunteer search and rescue group out of Molalla, Ore., has taken a hand, already bringing 20 searchers into the area for a new ground search last Saturday.
“We didn’t recover any evidence,” said Billy Crabtree, a REACT of Oregon member, and organizer of the search. “We found a bone and turned it in to be analyzed, but we don’t think that it was a human bone.”
However, in conversations with former Klamath County Sheriff Carl Burkhart and others who have been involved with the search, the organization thinks that it may have discovered a new lead.
“Evidence has led us to the lake, to a small inlet in Upper Klamath Lake where a three-foot diameter hole was found in the ice a few days after the disappearance,” Crabtree said.
“At the time of the disappearance they had a K-9 search and rescue team, and Harry Oates’ dog gave a death alert at the hole,” Crabtree added. “We’re returning Saturday with an underwater metal detector and we hope to find Derrick’s hatchet.”
In addition to the REACT of Oregon team, last Saturday’s search also drew members of the missing boy’s family and circle of friends.
“Derrick’s teacher and his grandparents were there,” said Crabtree. “It was an emotional day, even after four years.”
REACT of Oregon has posted “everything that we’ve ever found printed about Derrick” on its web site at www.findmiranda.com, according to Crabtree.
“People come to the site, read, and post anything that they might have,” he said.
Crabtree chose this disappearance for his team to investigate because “Something drew me to this case — you’ve got to go with your gut.”
Anyone with any information about the disappearance is urged to call the Klamath County Sheriffs Department at 883-5130.
To contact REACT of Oregon, or volunteer for the upcoming search call (971) 570-3519, or go to the organization’s web site.
Business and Agriculture Editor Matt Hall can be reached at 885-4425, (800) 275-0982, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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