Private Search for Wyoming Man Who Vanished in 2022 Turns Up Little Evidence
Family members, volunteers from three states scour forest land outside Laramie for Chris Mauk
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Sep 20, 2023
Chris Misselt and his son, Noah, discuss notes as they strategize the search area at Vedauwoo recreation area on Sept. 16, where they looked for Christopher Mauk, who disappeared 14 months ago. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jennifer Kocher)
By Jennifer Kocher
Special to the Wyoming Truth
LARAMIE, Wyo. – The volunteers were divided into mountain goats and bottom dwellers.
True to their name, the goats were tasked with ascending the towering rock formations ringing the dense undergrowth of pine trees and aspen groves in a heavily recreated area of Vedauwoo Recreation Area, 10 miles east of Laramie.
At nearly 8,000 feet of towering rocks packed tightly like Legos, Vedauwoo is a climber’s oasis.
But the 18 volunteers were not there to recreate. Instead, they were scouring the thick greenery and rock crevices on Saturday for any trace of Christopher “Fid” Mauk, who disappeared 14 months ago.
Mauk, then 39, was last seen on July 2, 2022, by his girlfriend, 42-year-old Nikki Gallegos. She claims that Mauk, who only has one leg following a fireworks accident in 2018, woke her up at 5:30 a.m. that day to say he had secrets to tell her but wanted to shower first. Gallegos fell asleep before they had that conversation, she said, and never saw or heard from Mauk again.
Without a trace
Leading the search Saturday was Gillette-based volunteer private investigator Stacy Koester, along with Ashley Means and Koester’s husband, Bobby. Search teams out of South Dakota and Utah joined them.
The South Dakota team of Chris Misselt, Noah Misselt, Kay Luther, Jeremy Comrie and
Brandon Snyder are seasoned search and rescue volunteers who mapped out the route and led the team of “goats.”
On the ground were the volunteers from Utah, including Jason Clark and Lyndee and Matt Anderson and their daughter, Sierra—all members of Road Warriors for the Missing that Clark founded in 2015. The group of motorcyclists typically focus on locating missing and exploited teens in Utah through poster canvassing and ground searches. To date, they’ve recovered hundreds of teens, Clark estimated, and were eager to come to Wyoming when Koester called.
Also present were Mauk’s dad, Jerry, and family members, among others.
Clark and Koester, who is in the process of establishing a missing person nonprofit with Means called WyoFind, have been collaborating on Mauk’s case. Together, they unearthed some intelligence that led the teams to this particular area.
Citing an ongoing investigation, Laramie police would not comment on the search or whether anyone else is a person of interest in Mauk’s disappearance. Koester said both the Laramie Police and Laramie County Sheriff’s Office were aware of the search and were standing by in case the group unearthed potential evidence.
At 7 a.m., the volunteers huddled at the trailhead under a crisp, blue sky as they listened to Chris and Noah Misselt, a father-and-son team from the Box Elder area, map out the roughly five-mile search grid.
Misselt explained the ground rules: Mauk is considered to likely be deceased, so volunteers should look for clothing – including an orange shirt, blue jeans and a black and white sneaker – as well as bones or anything that might have been in his pockets. Found items were to be marked with a flag and GPS located for law enforcement.
Darcy Allsop, 71, assigned to the bottom dweller group, stomped through a thicket of aspens lining a creek, using her walking stick to stir out snakes and clear snarled undergrowth. A retired sheriff’s deputy from Cheyenne, Allsop drove to Laramie to help after learning about the search from a friend. Her neighbor, rancher Curtis Mack, came along.
“I wanted to help my community,” Mack said. “This is what you should be doing—not sitting on your couch doing Facebook.”
It was the first missing person search for Allsop, who spent 17 years working in different facets of law enforcement. In her day, she said, missing people were not a common occurrence.
“I’m happy to be out here helping,” Allsop said. “It’s a darned shame that his family doesn’t have answers.”
Mauk’s cousin, Brittany Whitson, 35, was visibly emotional as she trudged through the thick grass and trees. Like Mauk, she also struggled with methamphetamine addiction in the past, but had been clean for the past five years. The cousins were close, and Whitson had been helping him get sober shortly before he vanished.
Days after Mauk’s disappearance, Whitson and other family members attempted to do their own investigation.
“We knocked on everybody’s door that I knew he had affiliations with,” she said. “And I risked my sobriety, but I had to go back and knock on old doors. I didn’t care because that’s my cousin.”
Whitson is convinced that Mauk is deceased; she’s positive that if he were alive, he would have contacted her or another family member. She also believes Mauk is sending her messages through the white feathers she continues to find everywhere and keeps in a plastic bowl.
“The feathers symbolize somebody from above giving you a spiritual hug,” she said.
On the rocks above, the team of goats — clad in neon yellow T-shirts — slowly ascended with walkie talkies crackling. The bottom dwellers, meanwhile, searched the crevices and thick brush underneath.
Few clues were tagged during the 12-hour search. Still, the volunteers were undeterred and made plans to search a separate location early Sunday morning.
Standing in a huddle on a rocky ridge in the waning sunlight, the group shared jokes and recounted stories from the day. As Misselt explained, sometimes it takes one outing or several dozen to find anything of merit. Now, Koester can eliminate this area, which is part of the process of locating missing people.
“It’s not discouraging in the least,” Misselt said. “We’re just happy to be here.”
Koester agreed. “To see teams come together from a few different states to search for a man none of us have ever met is truly beautiful,” she said. “Together, we covered a lot of ground and will cover more in the coming weeks until we bring Chris home to his family.”
Christopher Mauk is described as a white male, approximately 6-foot-2 and 140 pounds, with blue eyes and red hair. He is known to wear glasses but did not have them when he left. He has scars on his abdomen and left and right eyes, as well as tattoos on his hand, both shoulders, right calf and both upper arms. He also is missing his left leg.
Anyone with information or who has had contact with Mauk is asked to call the Laramie Police Department at (307) 721-2526 or Stacy Koester at (307) 299-6710.