A 20 year-old man hitchhiking in Canada mysteriously disappears.

Charles Horvath

Missing:
Gender: Male
DOB: 8/21/68
Height: 6’
Weight: 165 lbs.
Eyes: Dark brown
Hair: Dark brown
Defining Characteristics: Tattoo of a skull with a “Mohican haircut” on left arm

CASE DETAILS

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 FarinaVarious seasons available now on Hulu.

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17 Comments

  1. thinkingoutloud

    if charles was extremely close to his mom and was planning to go to hong kong soon to celebrate his birthday, why would he randomly take off and not even bring any of his stuff? i believe something happened at the campsite and everyone’s covering it up to save themselves.

    it’s strange as well that his relatives said that he would like to disappear off the face of the earth. from the mother’s point of view and his close friend joanne’s, it seems like charles loved to be around people so i don’t understand why he would tell his other relatives he wanted to disappear…unless they had something to do with it. charles def met foul play and everyone’s hiding it

    Reply

  2. Ivan William Mervin Henry

    I have no idea how anyone can say this 64 year old man committed suicide. What I get out of the note suggesting to look for Charles in the water under the bridge and to find someone else leaves only one conclusion. The letter writer is responsible for yes another murder. Who would do this? It is easy if one reviews other letter after a sibling has been found murdered. It is a signature of this and most likely another player with hi, Two scum bags no doubt about it. My position is I am not naive and I know how they are and how they go about playing games with peoples lives.

    Reply

  3. Chanita

    I’m So Sorry

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    Hi Unsolved Mysteries,

    Someone commented that this could be Charles: http://www.sacp.ca/missing/details.php?id=97

    Don’t think it’s possible.Charles’ eye colour is brown and this person had blue eyes.

    Reply

  5. somebody

    If he told his relatives he planned to disappear. That his mom would never find him. Possibly he did. I dont understand leabing his things though. Or the big camp party something happened and everyones covering it up

    Reply

  6. Duffy

    I was 11 years old living in Kelowna at the time Charles Horvath disappeared, I remember the CHBC news report. I remember the Unsolved Mysteries segment really creeped me out, but that show was just creepy in general. At the time I was just amazed that Kelowna was being mentioned on a big American TV show for anything besides Ogopogo. The campground was called “Tiny Town” or “Tiny Tent Town” or something and it WAS a scary place, really scuzzy, down along Lakeshore road. Kelowna has always had a rough and seedy underbelly, it was a big biker gang town back then and probably still is.

    Reply

  7. Khristina

    That really does look like him Pat!

    Reply

  8. Pat Champeau

  9. Erza Risher

    i have an idea he could have easily made it look like he dead. I think you need to look outside the U.S.A. He probably left the van and went and had a privet plane. I would suggest to look outside the U.S.A.

    Reply

  10. Mulder

    Why did the mom “Politely refuse” to let her son in during the family reunion? He (From what’s reported was even surprised) Odd. From that one could gather that some members of the family didn’t get along. However this wouldn’t jive with what was insinuated from the broadcast. From what we’re told he was very close to his family.

    Reply

  11. Anonymous

    i just saw this on tv today. no more information? maybe he got knocked over the head…something and is laying unconscious in a hospital as a john doe?! Hopefully is still alive.

    Reply

  12. Anonymous

    This the most Bizarre case. It seems that this young man met with Foul Play. That is unfortunate. Cause the last time someone saw him was that couple at the camp site. The one’s he had coffee with and played frieesbe with. They said he went to a party and the next day he wasnt there although his possessions were there. My theory: he went to the party because he is friendly met someone people and maybe their intentions weren’t good. Something happend and they got rid of the body. I think what was in the note someone left was right although maybe his body was in a different location. This is very sad. I dont think he just left like that. He seemed like a sweet soul with a free spirit. It is unfortunate that someone knows what happened to him but are not coming forward…peace be with his mother and family. Hoping answers will come…

    Reply