Parents post reward for boy lost in storm
The family of 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson now believe he may have been abducted while looking for Christmas trees
Thursday, December 31 1998
By Gordon Gregory, Correspondent, The Oregonian
The parents of Derrick Engebretson, the 8-year-old boy lost in a sudden snowstorm Dec. 5 in the mountains northwest of Klamath Falls, say they believe their son may have been abducted, and they have posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to his safe return.
Even as Derrick's family and others spent another day on the mountain searching Wednesday, Derrick's mother, Lori Engebretson, insisted there's a strong chance her son was kidnapped.
She said he might have found his way to a nearby paved road that traverses the east flank of the mountain just below the place he was last seen. There, she said, he might have encountered the wrong person driving by.
"There's a 50-50 chance," Lori Engebretson said. "They haven't found anything, any of his belongings, anything on this mountain."
Derrick became lost while he was looking for Christmas trees on Pelican Butte with his father and paternal grandfather. The three were separated for a time just when a fierce snowstorm hit the area.
An all-night search was mounted that night and continued in earnest for almost three weeks. At one time, there were several hundred people on the mountain. Three heat-detecting helicopters, spotter planes and search dogs also participated. The Engebretsons, who live in Bonanza, as well as some friends and family members, continue the effort on the mountain.
Lori Engebretson said there has been no confirmation that a library card from the Bonanza school Derrick attended and located by searchers on the mountain, or what appeared to be a crude shelter made of branches, were from her son.
Betty Davis, Lori's mother, said that her husband, Ben Davis, found tracks in the snow the night Derrick was lost that led down the mountain and to the road. The tracks were small enough to have been made by a child, she said. A snowplow clearing the road had obliterated the tracks as they reached the road, so there was no way to follow them further, she said.
Klamath County Sheriff Carl Burkhart hasn't ruled out foul play, but he said everything indicates Derrick succumbed to the cold and his body is simply hidden beneath the snow.
"We're not saying that it's not at all possible, but I think it's very remote," Burkhart said.
Burkhart said it is natural for the family to look at any possibility that their loved one might still live.
"If I were a parent, I guess I'd be hanging onto that (possibility) too," he said.
Burkhart said that while they have discontinued the formal search, officials still are working the case. Burkhart said they would probably take search dogs back to the area as soon as the snow has diminished substantially, perhaps as early as March.
"This is a suspended case, and we won't close it until we find him,' he said.