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10 Chilling Accounts of Disappearances in Everglades National Park

by Blake Lynch
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Nestled within the sultry embrace of Southern Florida lies a landscape of untamed beauty and enigmatic allure—Everglades National Park. Spanning 1.5 million acres (6,070 square kilometers) of marshes, mangroves, and sawgrass prairies, this vast wilderness holds more than just scenic wonders; it harbors a trove of chilling mysteries and unresolved disappearances.

The following 10 unsettling tales involve people who went missing in Everglades National Park.

Related: 10 Missing Persons Cases Solved by YouTube Divers

10 1969 Madison County Jane Doe

Kidnapped & Buried Alive: The Unbelievable Story of Barbara Mackle

On February 26, 1969, a charred skeleton was discovered in Everglades National Park, approximately 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) west of Miami. Law enforcement first believed that the victim might have been Ruth Eisemann-Schier, who was wanted as a suspect in the Barbara Mackle kidnapping. Jane Doe was bound with metal coat hangers, placed in a wooden trunk, doused with gasoline, and set on fire.

Eisemann-Schier is notable for being the first woman ever placed on the FBI’s list of 10 most wanted fugitives. Eisemann-Schier was sentenced to prison for seven years in May 1969 after she confessed to helping in the kidnapping of Miami heiress Barbara Jane Mackle with her boyfriend, Gary Steven Krist.

On December 17, 1968, Krist and Eisemann-Schier kidnapped Mackle and placed her in a coffin-like box for over three days. After Mackle’s father paid a $500,000 ransom, Krist and Eisemann-Schier told law enforcement where Mackle was buried. Krist was captured three days later, but Eisemann-Schier eluded police for almost 80 days. Her “missing” status led to the initial speculation that the found remains could be hers.

However, authorities later stated that it was not her. Eisemann-Schier was eventually arrested in Oklahoma and extradited to Georgia, where she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Unfortunately, the identity of 1969 Madison County Jane Doe has never been determined.[1]

9 1975 Madison County John Doe

A Miami family gathering butterflies and photographing wildflowers in March 1975 found two plastic-encased decomposing bodies of two young murder victims. John Doe and Jane Doe were dumped approximately 10 feet (3 meters) apart in a gathering of bushes close to Loop Road, which is five miles (8 kilometers) south of the Tamiami Trail.

The family stated that they were enjoying the area, taking pictures, and exploring when they went down a side road and found the bodies. The family noticed an odd odor as they walked down the road, and the family’s son stumbled onto the body.

The bodies were almost completely decomposed, with only a rib cage, an arm in one bag, and a pelvic bone in another bag. One of the bodies was smaller than the other body, which seemed to be around 5’5″ (1.65 meters) tall.

The family quickly went to contact the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. The family initially believed the remains belonged to a nearby young couple that had gone missing from South Dade, Florida. However, the identities of John Doe and Jane Doe have never been determined.[2]

8 1983 Madison County John Doe

In 1983, an unknown man killed himself in Everglades National Park.

Described as “baby-faced” by those who encountered him, the man passed away after he shot himself twice with a pellet gun, stabbed himself nine times, slashed his throat, wrists, and forearms, and then threw himself into the lake.

The weapon the man used was a pellet gun manufactured in New York. Neither of the .177-caliber pellets penetrated his skull. The man then cut his throat with a disposable scalpel. After that, the man stabbed himself in the chest, but his breastbone deflected the thrust.

The man ultimately stabbed himself nine times in the abdomen and once in his wrists before he fell into the lake. Law enforcement later determined the man was 5’4″ (1.6 meters) tall, weighed 145 pounds (65.8 kilograms), had brown hair, and smoked Marlboro cigarettes.[3]

7 Craig Lawrence Allen

A resident of Fort Lauderdale, Craig Lawrence Allen, was last seen on August 14, 1993. Allen is known to have contacted an unknown person by telephone the next day from Kendall, Florida. Allen was then never heard from again. Employed as a computer analyst, Allen didn’t drink alcohol or do drugs and lived a somewhat sheltered life with a few close friends and no romantic involvements.

Earlier that year, Allen had converted from Judaism to fundamentalist Christianity. In 1993, Allen placed all his belongings in storage and became homeless, sleeping at campgrounds and on the beach. Allen also then began demonstrating delusional behavior.

During a visit with a friend in Washington, D.C., Allen pointed out Bible passages and explained to his friend how Allen was the Antichrist. After visiting with his friend, Allen returned to South Florida. He became homeless with occasional contact with his parents and grandparents, so they knew he was okay.

On August 10, 1993, Allen sold his car to a dealership for $4,600. Two days later, Allen, during a phone call with his mother, said, “You’re not going to like what I’m going to do,” and “You’re not going to hear from me again.”

Two days later, Allen disappeared. All his credit card activity stopped, and his message service was canceled. Authorities have speculated that Allen either joined a cult or committed suicide. Allen’s exact whereabouts are still unknown.[4]

6 ValuJet 592 Crew

ValuJet Flight #592’s Terrifying Descent into Chaos Over Miami | Mayday: Air Disaster

In May 1996, an emergency dispatcher in Florida received a call that a large jet aircraft had crashed in the Everglades National Parks’ Everglades Holiday Park. The airplane was a twin-engine DC-9 belonging to the ValuJet company. After hitting the ground, the airplane banked vertically to the right and pointed nearly straight down.

By June, officials had identified 36 of the 110 people aboard by combing through Everglades National Park with garden rakes, ground radar, a backhoe, and other equipment. Most of the wreckage was found in small pieces.

About 68 of the 110 victims were identified, but some people’s remains went missing and have yet to be found in Florida’s Everglades National Park. For example, Captain Candi Kubeck’s remains have never been located.[5]

5 Kyle Andrew Carl Eppler

On the afternoon of July 29, 1999, Kyle Andrew Carl Eppler visited his mother’s workplace to borrow $20 for gas. He was seen for the last time by his mother in his hometown of Naples, Florida.

During the visit, Eppler told his mother that he planned on visiting his girlfriend and then going to his job at the Grouper House restaurant for a 4:30 p.m. waiter shift. Eppler, however, never arrived at his girlfriend’s house. Instead, Eppler disappeared, and over twenty years later, he has never been heard from again. The day after returning home to find a note Kyle had written saying, “Gone to find my river and myself,” Kyle’s mother reported him missing.

Eppler’s Toyota Camry was later found abandoned in Everglades National Park’s Coastal Prairie Trail parking lot, which is located around three hours from where Eppler lived with his mother. The parking receipt for the vehicle was marked on July 28, the day before Eppler saw his mother for the last time. Inside Eppler’s vehicle, law enforcement found camping gear, a bag of clothes, a backpack, some food, and journals.

Eppler’s shirt was later found three miles (4.8 kilometers) down the trail from where his Camry was parked. Eppler’s mother also later stated that at least one pair of Kyle’s hiking boots had gone missing from their home, as well as a hat he often wore.

Notably, Eppler was taking medication at the time of his disappearance. Also, while it’s worth noting that Eppler had tried suicide on two previous readers, readers should avoid assuming too much from this detail. Eppler’s case remains unsolved.[6]

4 2004 Madison County Jane Doe

On July 20, 2004, workers discovered scattered bones in a part of Everglades National Park that was inaccessible to motor vehicles. The bones have been determined to belong to a female between the ages of 30 and 45 at her time of death.

Interestingly, Jane Doe had several unique characteristics. One, she had an irregular pattern of locomotion or postural behavior, which means that she likely had a limp. Two, Jane Doe was found with Catholic prayer cards. Third, Jane Doe was found with a jacket made in Bangladesh and a rosary that included a depiction of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The identification of the remains has never been determined.[7]

3 Andrew Brian Renton

Andrew Brian Renton left the home he shared with his parents on his birthday, which fell on December 14, 2007. Andrew packed his canoe onto his truck and drove off from the family home, telling his parents that he was headed to Connecticut. Instead of going to Connecticut, however, Andrew went to Everglades National Park.

Days later, on the 19th of December, a suicide note Renton had mailed arrived at his family’s home, stating that Andrew had been diagnosed with cancer and that he planned on taking his life because he didn’t want to be a burden on his family. Andrew’s relatives didn’t know either of these details and, to this day, remain uncertain if Andrew’s health was as bad as he claimed.

Based on the letter’s postmark, Andrew’s father believed that he had gone to Everglades National Park. Almost a month later, on January 2, 2008, law enforcement found Andrew’s truck parked at Everglades National Park’s Whitewater Bay. Inside the truck was an empty handgun case and additional notes on Andrew’s health.

Then, on January 4, 2008, a search party found Andrew’s canoe hidden 30 yards (27 meters) off a trail leading to Bear Lake, which is a few miles from the boat ramp where Andrew’s truck was found. An exhaustive search, however, failed to locate his body. As of April 2024, Andrew is still classified as a missing person, and his body has never been located.[8]

2 Roger Kenneth Sawyer

Sixty-seven-year-old Roger Kenneth Sawyer disappeared in 2011 while he and his family were camping in Everglades National Park’s Flamingo Campground following the conclusion of a cross-country mobile home trip. A retired Oregon butcher, Sawyer and his family had significant outdoor experience.

After some of Roger’s family separated to go to the park’s Visitors Center, Roger and his wife remained behind in different parts of the campground. When the family reconvened at dusk, however, Roger was nowhere to be found.

At this point, park rangers, as well as Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, initiated a search for Roger but failed to find even a single trace of Roger, like a shoe or hat. While the search lasted for 10 days, Roger was never seen, nor was there any trace of him.

Roger’s case remains unsolved. Many media sources remarked on how a man who is highly experienced in the outdoors like Roger could mysteriously disappear.[9]

1 The Schreck Family

Schreck Family Missing In Everglades

The Schreck family set out for a thrilling adventure in the Florida Everglades, eager to explore the marshes and encounter gators. However, what was meant to be a joyous outing turned into a nightmare when their airboat veered off course, leaving them stranded in the swampy wilderness.

Scott Schreck, an experienced outdoorsman, later recounted their ordeal to the media, emphasizing the importance of knowing the area. Despite the ordeal, he expressed a desire to return to the Everglades, while his wife remained hesitant.

Their harrowing experience serves as a stark reminder of the dangers lurking in the vast and unforgiving wilderness of the Everglades.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen