Still No Answers for Family of Missing Moorcroft Man as Reward Expires
Chance Englebert remains missing after disappearing over four years ago
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Dec 02, 2023
By Jennifer Kocher
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Chance Englebert’s grandmother had been hopeful that reward money would provide a much-needed break in her grandson’s missing person case. Linda Kluender contributed $200,000 to Englebert’s reward last year on Dec. 2 in honor of his 29th birthday.
But as Englebert’s 30th birthday looms today, the funds remains unclaimed.
The idea, Kluender said, was to provide financial incentive for people to share information on what happened to Englebert a little over four years ago.
Englebert, then 25, disappeared during a Fourth of July weekend trip to Gering, Nebraska, with his wife, Baylee, and infant son, to visit her family. The couple lived in Moorcroft at the time.
Englebert had been golfing with his father-in-law and other family members on July 6, 2019, when an argument ensued over a new job he had recently taken after being laid off from a local coal mine, Baylee told Englebert’s mother, Dawn.
Baylee said Englebert called her from the golf course and told her that he wanted to go home. The couple argued during the drive to Baylee’s grandparents’ residence, and Englebert then set off on foot. As he walked through downtown Gering, he called friends and family in South Dakota and Wyoming to come get him, but all were too far away, according to Dawn. So he started walking the roughly 35 miles to Torrington.
Englebert was last spotted on surveillance camera walking alone in neighboring Terrytown, about 1.5 miles north of Gering and the midway point between Gering and Scottsbluff, according to the Gering police.
The last message Englebert sent to his aunt was a jumble of letters and emojis, which Dawn said Englebert never used. His phone last pinged shortly after 9 p.m. the night he disappeared on a cell tower near County Road 19, west of Scottsbluff, Gering police said. This happened at about the same time a severe thunderstorm rolled through the region.
Despite multiple searches with over 15 agencies, Englebert was never found.
Brian Eads, the Gering police investigator in charge of the case, did not respond to a request for an update and an inquiry on how many leads the reward money helped generate.
Money no motivator
Kluender is disappointed by the lack of results. She put a one-year expiration date on the reward money, figuring a year would give people enough time to come forward.
“If they didn’t, there was no reason to leave this money sitting in a savings account indefinitely,” she wrote in a message to the Wyoming Truth. “I am saddened that I couldn’t have cut a cashier’s check for this money and find some answer to this mystery for myself and my family. Seems the people in the know feel their life is more valuable than $200,000, and Chance’s life is worth nothing.”
Dawn also is disheartened the reward money did not provide information about what happened to her son.
“I don’t think we have enough money to get all the answers, but I hope that people will realize how much pain there is with Chance missing and speak up,” she said.
Despite extensive local and national media coverage, including features on News Nation and NBC’s “Dateline,” Eads and Gering police investigators appear stumped. In an exchange with the Wyoming Truth in September, Eads said the investigation remains ongoing and police regularly follow up on tips.
Additionally, Eads noted in previous interviews that he’s not ruling out foul play, but there is no evidence to suggest a crime occurred. He said that Englebert’s family members have cooperated with police.
In the absence of facts, however, rumors abound.
One rumor is that Englebert succumbed to the elements and either fell or accidentally wandered into the North Platte River. But Dawn doesn’t believe it.
“I don’t know what could have happened, but I know that didn’t happen,” she said, citing her son’s proficiency as an outdoorsman and physical strength as a former rodeo competitor.
A South Dakota-based private investigator, who has been working with Dawn on the case since January, does not give credence to this theory, either. He asked to remain anonymous out of fear that revealing his identity would jeopardize his work.
From the evidence he has gathered and following dozens of interviews, the investigator sees nothing to suggest Englebert succumbed to the weather or was a victim of the storm that evening.
“He did not fall off the bridge,” the investigator said. “And Chance did not decide to go for a swim in the middle of a storm.”
The investigator also was not surprised that the reward money didn’t result in breakthrough tips about Englebert’s disappearance.
“First, people cherish their freedom more than money,” he said, declining to provide an update on the status of his ongoing investigation. “The small group of people who may have knowledge of what happened to Chance is culpable and risk being charged with a crime. Therefore, they will not risk their freedom to collect a large reward…I believe they feel Chance is gone and therefore not worthy of the truth. “
A family torn
Englebert’s disappearance has left a rift between Baylee, her family and the Engleberts amidst swirling rumors and tension about what might have happened, Dawn said.
“The thing I have learned about a missing person case is that it brings out lots of evil, drama and no one trusts anyone,” she said. “The families just want answers and teamwork. It’s another part of the heartbreak, unfortunately.”
And this time of year is hard as the family convenes to celebrate the holidays.
“We miss Chance so much. We miss his son. And we just need answers,” Dawn said. “We want our boy to be brought home and to get the justice he deserves. Chance should be here for his 30th birthday. He should be celebrating with us all.”
After Dec. 2, a $20,000 reward still remains. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Gering Police Department at (308) 436-5088 or the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff at (308) 436-6667. They can also submit anonymous tips at (724) 466-4673 or (866) 660-4025.