A 20 year-old man hitchhiking in Canada mysteriously disappears.
Weight: 165 lbs.
Eyes: Dark brown
Hair: Dark brown
Defining Characteristics: Tattoo of a skull with a “Mohican haircut” on left arm
Charles Horvath answered to no one. In the spring of 1989, the Britton was hitchhiking his way across British Columbia, Canada. He planned to fly to Hong Kong in a few months to celebrate his 21st birthday with his mother, Denise. But Denise said that before she could make final arrangements for the trip, Charles disappeared.
“I telephoned the RCMP repeatedly, begging them to look for Charles because I was so concerned that something was wrong. I then asked them if they could give me the name of the local newspapers to enable me to place an ad, as we had started planning my trip to come and search for my child myself.”
Denise Allan, Charles’ mother
Denise flew from England to the town of Kelowna, Canada, to search for Charles. She put up flyers all over town and soon heard from a woman named Joanne Zebroff:
“When I first met Charles, it was this charming, good-looking guy who was obviously new to Canada. And I really liked him. I thought well, here’s a unique person. He loved his family, he showed me pictures. He was so proud of all these photographs of his mother. They were very close, it was obvious they were close.”
The last time Charles dropped by the apartment to visit Joanne, he arrived unexpectedly. Joanne’s brother was in town for a special family reunion. Joanne said that she politely refused Charles’ request to visit:
“He went, ‘But it’s Charles.’ And like, ‘Of course you’re going to let me up.’ And we just couldn’t.
Denise posted dozens of reward notices
Denise learned that while he was in Kelowna, Charles stayed at a campground in a rough part of town:
“I wanted to go to the campsite to inquire, but I was very apprehensive of going. And eventually I got the courage and went to go see them, to see if they remembered Charles.”
According to Denise, the campground manager said that Charles left quickly, leaving his tent and all his possessions:
“I was just numb. I went down to the police station and I was told that they were going to inform Interpol to get his dental records and the file was being passed on to homicide. I was also told that they believed my son to be dead, that we may never find his body or what happened to him.”
Denise received an ominous letter
Sgt. Gary Tidsbury of Royal Canadian Mounted Police admitted the local response was inappropriate:
“It’s very unfortunate that a comment like that would be made, and I would have to say that that would be that member’s personal opinion and certainly not the view of the police. I don’t know upon what he based that, other than the fact items were left at a campsite. And in my opinion, that does not substantiate that.”
One night when Denise got back to the hotel, she found a chilling note. It read:
“I seen your ad in the paper looking for your son. I seen him May 26. We were partying and two people knocked him out. But he died. His body is in the lake by the bridge.”
Local divers volunteered to look for the body of Charles Horvath. They found nothing.
Some of Charles’s possessions were found
Then Denise received a second note saying they were looking on the wrong side of the bridge. According to Denise, the next day she got word that divers had indeed found a body:
“The fear in the young officer’s eyes told me that they thought it was Charles. The total panic on their faces. I was hysterical in the bathroom crying. The coroner came to see me at the motel. I asked him if it was good news or bad. And he said, ‘It wasn’t Charles.'”
Local divers searched for him
The dead man was identified as a 64-year old Kelowna resident, a probable suicide. Once again it seemed that Charles might be alive. Then a man named Gino Bourdin came forward, claiming to have seen Charles just before he disappeared:
“He was a nice guy. He was a good friend. He used to always come over to our camp, little camp and have coffee in the morning and play Frisbee and catch with my son and just sit and chat with us. He was friend, a real friendly guy, probably too friendly. He seemed, I don’t know, naïve … He’d talk to anybody, make friends with anybody.”
Gino last saw Charles during an all-night party at the campground. The next morning, Gino woke up to find Charles gone and his things left behind. What disturbed Denise most was that her son’s cache of personal photographs was not taken:
“It was assumed that something terrible had happened to him which caused him to leave his belongings, because it was so unlike him to have left his photographs behind, which were very important to him.”
Another new twist came when police contacted Charles’s relatives in eastern Canada.
According to Sgt. Tidsbury:
“They related to us that during his time there with them, he did advise both relatives that it was his intention when discussing his family situation to disappear off the face of the Earth and that his mother would never find him and that he wanted to carry on with his own life.”
Denise found the story difficult to accept:
“It is totally out of character for him to have gone out intentionally to break away from his family, because he wasn’t that kind of boy.”
Many years have passed without a word from Charles, but police have received tips from hundreds of people claiming to have seen him. Be it good news or bad, Denise Allan just wants to know what happened to her son:
“If Charles is out there in this world, you know, in a gutter somewhere, he needs picking up and bringing home and getting medical help or whatever kind of help is required. If not, if he is dead and he’s been murdered, he needs burying. I’ve been asking for help for so many years because of my fear that something’s happened to him. And it’ll only be if he’s found dead that I’ll be proven right. What a way to be proven right.”
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.
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