Christopher Temple was 17-years-old when he stepped away from a group of friends on April 22, 1990, and seemingly vanished into the night.
April 22 is Earth Day, an annual event to support the protection of the environment, and Chris and his friends had a few celebrations to attend. First, they went to the Earth Day festival at Riverfront Park, before he and three friends headed to the Rose Lake Recreation Area with plans to camp there for the night.
Although it’s not clear as to why, Christopher walked away from the group at around 9 pm. When he hadn’t returned four hours later, his friends called his parents, who reported him missing at 1 am. Police arrived at the recreation area and began to search with dogs and a helicopter from 3 am that same night. But after scouring up to two square miles of land, Christopher was nowhere to be found. The authorities deemed him a runaway, and decided to put an end to the search pending any new evidence to the contrary.
According to his parents, John and Ronnie, to run away would be extremely out of character. Christopher had no major problems that they knew of, and was a bright student just two weeks from graduation. Christopher had been driven to the recreation area by one of his friends, and didn’t even have a driving licence of his own.
John told a local paper that Christopher knew that he could always give him a call, and that he had come to pick him up in the early hours of the morning on more than one occasion. He described Christopher as generous and soft-spoken, and probably a little too trusting at times. Christopher’s teacher, Marilyn Newman, agreed, even describing him as ‘an easy victim’.
Speaking to the Lansing State Journal, she said: “He’s slight and quiet, the kind of person who walks with his head down."
But there was another side to Christopher. Like a lot of teenage boys, he regularly smoked marijuana, but also sold a little on the side. Some say that he had a history of shorting his clients, and believe that it may have got him into trouble. Old acquaintances have also expressed surprise at his whereabouts that evening. There were other, bigger parties going on that night, some that Christopher had personally been invited to. The remote area that he and his friends went to wasn’t often visited by anyone from his school.
When no clues had turned up four days later, a second aerial search was launched while Christopher’s friends scoured the campground by foot. The next day, police returned on horseback and also searched a nearby lake. But still, they found nothing. John and Tonnie hired a private investigator and proffered a $1000 reward, which was soon raised to $2500, hoping that it might prompt someone to come forward. Desperate for answers, they even turned a psychic on the request of one of Christopher’s friends.
A year and a half after Christopher vanished, two hunters uncovered one of his shoes in a boggy area, around 300 yards from where Christopher was last seen. According to locals, the area is full of marshland, even likened to quicksand by some.
Detective Howard Woolridge, who was working on the case, said: “If you step through this stuff you can go right down to your armpits in a heartbeat. It’s nothing to fool around with. It’s life-threatening”.
The other shoe was found just a few weeks later. But that wasn’t the only discovery - just 100 yards away from the second shoe were handfuls of long, strawberry blond hair, enough to fill two 8 x 10 envelopes. Though the hair did not belong to Christopher, it did leave police wondering.
As the years turned into decades, with no further clues, the investigation into Christopher’s disappearance all but dried up. In a letter to a local paper in 2015, Christopher’s parents expressed their disappointment over the lack of police and press attention in the case. “We hope you will remember”, they wrote. “We always will”.
Sadly, John would never get the answers that he and his family so desperately needed. In August of last year, John passed away at the age of 72, never knowing what became of his son.