Why did a young mother suddenly disappear before testifying against her mother at trial?

CASE DETAILS

Lena Chapin

Lena Chapin didn’t have what most would consider an ideal childhood. She and her five sisters constantly move from town to town, based on whoever their mother, Sandy, is with at the time. In Lena’s preteen years, Sandy and the girls move to a farm owned by their third stepfather, Gary McCullough. Although a bit rough around the edges, Gary is “a good guy” and a caring step-father to the sisters, and the girls love him.

Lena (right) and her sister Brandi

It isn’t long before Sandy begins her next affair – this time with a local 21-year-old named Kris Klemp. Gary learns about the affair and has also figured out that she is forging bad checks on his bank account. Gary talks to lawyer about getting a divorce. And that’s when Gary disappears.

Three days later, Sandy tells the local sheriff that Gary went off to buy fighting roosters and never came home. When asked to take a polygraph, Sandy replies, “If you find a body, I’ll take a polygraph.” Lena, 13-year-old at the time, is the only one who knows what really happened to Gary.

Lena and her sisters moved to Gary McCullough’s farm

Lena keeps the secret for years, but finally at 17, racked by guilt, Lena tells Gary’s brother, Albert, exactly what happened to Gary. Lena says that Sandy shot Gary and burned his body in a brush pile, then forced her to help clean up the crime scene and toss his charred bones out the truck window as they drove down a country road. What Lena doesn’t know is that Albert is secretly recording her confession, which he immediately gives to the sheriff. Sandy finds out about the tape and, as Lena’s legal guardian, convinces Lena to walk back her confession. Lena doesn’t speak of the murder again and goes on with her life, has a baby, gets a job, and is happily living with her boyfriend.

Lena’s stepfather, Gary McCullough

Then, as Lena approaches her 21st birthday and her independence from Sandy, she disappears on Valentine’s Day, 2006. When her boyfriend comes home from work, he finds Sandy packing up all of Lena’s belongings. Sandy tells him that Lena has run off to Florida with another guy. Yet all her clothes, photos, car, and most importantly her son, — the love of her life–are all left behind. Afraid of their mother, Lena’s sisters don’t report Lena missing. But a few years later, when a wrongful death civil lawsuit is brought against Sandy by Gary’s family, the local sheriff tries to serve Lena with a subpoena. That’s when everyone acknowledges Lena is truly missing. At trial, despite not having testimony from Lena, Sandy and her now husband, Kris Klemp, are found guilty of the wrongful death of Gary McCullough. They’re ordered to pay restitution of $7 million dollars.

Lena confessed to Albert

Lena’s sisters are convinced their mother killed Lena and, once again, masterfully disposed of the body. But if Lena is dead, where is her body? Her sisters won’t stop searching until they find her.


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25 Comments

  1. Nikki

    Why weren’t multiple different ground radar tests done like there’s a couple other things they could have tried that radar the ground on top of that why wasn’t the other tree checked or most importantly the well site?Not everything they could do was done.

    Reply

    • Nikki

      And why did Sandy and Chris not serve jail time it’s ridiculous also how the heck was Sandy allowed to get custody of Colter when she obviously murdered Gary with Kris

      Reply

  2. Hollie

    It takes an extremely hot fire to cremate a body, how on earth could they get a fire out in the open to 1000 to 1300°C that’s 1800 to 2500°F a normal bonfire is 600°C that’s 1100°F. Especially with how much fluid is in a body. It would take hours, like 6+ for the body/bodies to be cremated and then cool enough to touch. The mother is a complete sociopath who is killing anyone who gets in her way, why on earth does she have custody of Lena’s son? God only knows how much danger he is in.

    Reply

  3. Ashley

    I think a medium would be extremely helpful in locating Lena’s remains, to finally bring Sandy to justice. Sandy is a complete sociopath & a master manipulator.

    Reply

  4. Lightning

    this was so hard to hear to see

    if i could if i could make a wish i wish i could help to search
    you girls had this long history if i could say its time to take a little rest and i will help
    whatever it takes if it turns out i end up missing too i can only say it was worth to help you girls

    my thoughts will allways go out to you girls !!! i hope someday there will get this peace this closure for you i really do

    greeting lightning

    Reply

  5. Cold case chick

    Besides not using the ground penetrating radar at the other site that supposedly sandy buried the dog, it’slike they forgot about the well. Like others, I think she burned Lena’s body and what remained was put into the well before Sandy had the well filled in and covered. Covering a well makes no sense but given that this is a psychopath, it’s especially suspicious.

    Reply

  6. Ashley

    With the use of GPR, depending on the frequency of the antenna and length of intervals, a burial could have easily been missed. I would be interested in seeing the data and if there were any anomalies. Also, if the body was burned it would still produce ash and small chunks of bone. No body is every completely burned away to nothing. A team of forensic archaeologists would be a great team-up for this case.

    Reply

  7. ivona

    Sandy and Kris need to be locked up. I think Lena was cremated at well and since she changed her story into saying that the dog was burried under a tree, why the police didnt check the trees where sandy said she burried the dog. She manipulated Lena and then killed her when she found out about the confession tape, also why wasnt it used as an evidence to the court? And its definitely not okay for Lena’s child to be left for Sandy to take care of it. Sandy got what she wanted by manipulating Lena. She also took her other daughter in middle of nowhere and have a person hold a gun to her head. Sandy is guilty, and Kris helped her out.

    Reply

  8. Lester

    Sorry to say. After watching this episode. I suspect that they burnt Lena as they did Gary and disposed of it the same way. With Sandy and Chris now divorced might provide an opportunity to get him to give evidence against Sandy granting him immunity. Also with one daughter seen them carry Gary’s body wrapped up should have been enough to have brought charges against them I would have thought. From what I gather they did grown scanning in one area and not by the tree where the dog was supposedly originally buried at the old house nor was the grown scanned where the well might have been at the old house either. I really hope this case gets solved. I also would have thought that with Sandy’s history that she would or could be considered as unfit to have custody of Colter as well as possibly due to her age having such a young boy when there are other family members. I hope they will try and get custody and that my comment has given them ideas of a possible way forward.

    Reply

    • Melissa

      Im hoping that they solve the case and found her body but if they didn’t it would be very disappointing I’ve seen this episode and I know that from what I saw in the episode was that the mother wanted custody of the kid and saw a opportunity to do something because one of her kids told someone what the mother did if her daughter was still alive I’m sure she would show up to court and say what she had to say but I hope that they have found her and found her mother guilty

      Reply

  9. Indira

    Sigue manteniendo el mismo.nombre? Sigue suelta por la vida? Cuanta impunidad! ¿A nadie le resultó raro que la unica testigo ocular, quien ya habia declarado y posteriormente se retractó por presión de la madre, desaparezca juusto cuando es citada a declarar como cómplice del homicidio? Me estan jodiendo… y encima van y le dan la custodia a la principal sospechosa! Y yo me quejo del sistema judicial de mi país. Vergonzoso.

    Reply

  10. Katie

    After watching “Missing Witness” I am outraged and furious! How could someone do that to not only their husband, but to their entire family, and then she does it again to her own daughter! What is wrong with people and the justice system?! How and why did she get custody? Did she pay them off like she did with those missing posters? Why is it all they had to do was pay a fine? Why not a prison sentence too?! Why wasn’t ultraviolet lights used at the crime scene after she cleaned up? We all know you cannot clean up every drop of blood. Why hasn’t warrants been issued to dig up earth and stuff at both properties? I hope the child is told the truth about his mother when he’s older and also about the vile human that’s raising him now. I really wish the family the very best and hope they get answers, a bunch of very brave girls and my heart goes out to them.

    Reply

  11. Mary

    Maybe to put a new crew to investigate this case, how come they leave it slide the evidence that Lena confess to her ex stepfather? Forensic files episode they solved mystery that seemingly look impossible even finding blood stains in one house after 10 years had passed.. seriously is it not enough evidence that Lena confession of whom is the murderer of Gary??
    One of her daughters saw Sandy trying to clean the floor and didn’t want her kids to go inside and see her doing that. Try look from there.
    It’s ridiculous to ignore a recorded confession so what other evidence are you looking for?????
    Obviously you can find his body as they burned it as it mentioned.. so will you leave this case go then, because you didn’t found the body? Seriously???

    Reply

  12. KLT

    Can’t believe this kind of thing is happening in real world. Manipulation at its finest. Norma Bates kind of thing.

    Reply

  13. Kim

    Same here. I am really outrage and sad. It bothers me eight that thought that how much Lena loves her son and her murderer took away her beloved son. How is that possible that Sandy can get free from one case to another, remarry over and over, and have a son? Check out Forensic Files or Cold Cases where the authority has done much better job to for justice. It’s different feeling when watching these shows. It’s the feeling of relieved and satisfied knowing that justice has been done.

    Reply

  14. Alejandro Alvarez

    Lena was cremated too, they had the experiense to kill and the justice? in nowhere.
    The FBI where is or the criminologist is a joke?
    ES UN CHISTE CON TODAS ESAS PRUEBAS Y LA JUSTICIA NO HACE NADA, CUANDO LA GENTE ES INOCENTE LOS METEN PRESOS (BUENO ALGUNOS SERAN CULPABLES PERO HAY GENTE INOCENTE Y ALGUNOS CULPABLES LIBRES INCREIBLE)

    Reply

  15. Arash

    Why they didn’t search the area that Sandy claimed she buried the dog?

    Reply

  16. Willow

    Did everyone just forget to look for the well that was covered up? If the body isn’t there, at least a clue could be. Like a weapon or something!

    Reply

  17. nobody

    After watch the episode I thought Lena was cremated after killed by Sandy. Same as Gary. That’s why her sister can’t find her body. Might be Lena’s son was watching when she got killed….?

    Reply

  18. Padraig

    DNA OR BLUE LIGHT BLOOD STUFF WOULD HAVE SHOWED UP IN 2003 WHY DID THE CASSVILLE COPS FORGET TO DO THAT??

    Reply

  19. Confused

    How the f* could Sandy get custody of Lena’s son??
    Whats wrong with the system over there I the US?!

    Reply

  20. grace

    IT IS so wrong! they sould be locked up!! they killed gery and lena so how is this possible that they are free?? just because ther is no body?? come on!!!!

    Reply

  21. Johanna

    Can please somebody lock Sandy and Kris up?! I mean how is it even possible that she simple had to pay a certain amount of money (which she didn’t even do!!) for taking one’s life??? And then still having custody over a kid…? The child whos mother she killed??
    I must say I am just outraged and sad, that this can even happen. I’m feeling very, very sorry for this family and simply wish them all the best.

    Reply

  22. Marisol Smiley

    Berkshire ufo. My name is marisol smiley I saw this episode and I was burn in Connecticut. I was six years old in 1969. I believe I too was abducted that same summer in 1969. I have never forgotten what happened to me I was labeled crazy by some and I was also spank for saying that the mobsters are real and they took me. My mom punished me so I never spoke of this for a very long time.

    Reply

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