In the afternoon of May 14, 2008 Brandon's car was located in the ditch on the Lincoln Lyon Road near Taunton, MN. not anywhere near where he told his parents he thought he was. His parents believe he became confused wandering around in the dark. Authorities originally suspected Brandon Swanson had fallen into the Yellow Medicine River but later concentrated on an area near Mud Creek, a few miles northwest of Porter.
Brandon graduated from Marshall High School in 2007 and spent a year studying wind energy at Minnesota West Community College in Canby, about 170 miles west of St. Paul. Officials say there is no evidence of foul play. There also is no indication Brandon staged his own disappearance, and his mother said the family doesn’t believe he would do such a thing. A year after Brandon Swanson disappeared in 2008, the Minnesota Legislature passed Brandon’s Law, requiring authorities to respond more aggressively to cases of missing adults up to age 21 and of older adults who disappear under suspicious circumstances.
February 20, 2018 02:24 PM
The Jacob Wetterling case came to a sad conclusion this past November with the sentencing of his killer 27 years after Jacob was abducted. Since then, KSTP has been working with families to raise awareness about other young people who are missing. Monday is Brandon Swanson's 28th birthday. He disappeared outside of Marshall when he was 19. It's believed he died of exposure. Brandon's family played a big role in changing state law to make law enforcement more responsive to reports of missing people. The search for Brandon is unprecedented and still active.Annette Swanson smiles when she looks at pictures of her son Brandon. “He loved his car, he loved to drive,” said Annette Swanson. In May of 2008, the night before he was to graduate from technical school, the 19 year old went out celebrating with friends in Canby, Minnesota. Around 1 a.m., he headed home to Marshall, about 30 miles away on Highway 68. “We know that he was on gravel roads,” said Annette Swanson. “Why was he on gravel roads? We don't know." "It's a straight shot down Highway 68,” said Search Manager Jeff Hasse with Midwest Technical Rescue Training. "But he wasn't on it. He took back roads on the way home." Hasse says Brandon hasn't been seen since.
"We believe that he got disoriented,” said Hasse. “And at one point, we know for a fact, he ended up traveling on a field road between two fields." He says Brandon got stuck and called his parents. "When he initially called them he said I am between Marshall and Lynd, come get me,” said Hasse. But Annette says her son was actually in a completely different place than he was telling them. "He was relaying to us he was near Lynd, Minnesota," said Annette Swanson. Lynd, where Brandon thought he was, is southwest of Marshall. He was really outside of Porter, which is northwest of Marshall, more than 20 miles away. Brandon started walking. Annette says he was on the phone with his folks the whole time. "It sounded like the phone fell,” said Annette Swanson. “And as it fell, we could hear him say oh! What did that mean? Did he fall into a ditch? Did he fall into the river? We don't know."
At 6 a.m., Annette and her husband Brian called police. "I couldn't breathe, I was nauseous, and I think that was just my motherly instincts telling me he's gone," said Annette Swanson. It was the beginning of what Hasse calls the most well-documented and detailed search ever conducted. Hasse points to a map showing where Brandon’s car was found. “Right on the border between Lincoln, Yellow Medicine and Lyon counties,” said Hasse. “But no phone has ever been located." KSTP was there in May of 2008 as several agencies looked for Brandon. Eventually, Hasse was called to manage the search. He brought in expert handlers with trailing dogs. Days of looking turned into weeks, then months and now years. "The search area is always bigger than you suspect it,” Hasse. "You know what we're doing with Brandon's situation” says Annette Swanson. “It's all based on science. It's all documented and backed up by science, it's there and it's real." Since 2008, Hasse and other volunteers have spent tens of thousands of hours, walking thousands of miles through farm fields, ditches and rivers, all in a 120 square mile area. They've performed 1,900 K-9 missions, using 45 highly-trained dogs, led by 35 handlers from nine states. They use GPS technology to track the dogs and handlers, which provides great detail of where they’ve searched. They broke down the search area into smaller segments and kept meticulous records. "I believe he fell, got wet, cell phone went dead,” said Hasse. “I think he continued walking. It was cold. It got down to 39 degrees."
Eventually, the dogs pointed them to farm fields north of Porter. "So we've got huge amounts of scent in here,” said Hasse as he points at a map. “More than I've ever seen in any other search. So we are really confident that he's somewhere in this watershed. We just can't get that final point." The farm fields where Hasse believes Brandon is are on Highway 68 between Canby and Porter, six miles from where his car was found. He was cold and wet and actually walking in the opposite direction of his home and where his parents were looking for him. "But I believe all our physical clues are probably located within a 15 foot radius,” said Hasse. “Once we hit one clue we'll have it solved. There are 206 bones in the body. We only need one." Annette describes what it’s like when you have a loved one who is missing. "When you have lost somebody but you have no answers, there's no knowing where they are or even what happened to them,” said Annette Swanson. “Your brain is in a constant state of trying to figure it out, but you don't have anything to go on. It's searching. It's searching for answers, it's searching for where, who, what, where, when, why? And you can't find it." "Search management is a real soul-sucking job,” said Hasse. "And when one goes as long as this, you know the family has put their hopes on your shoulders. And that gets to be a pretty hard burden. I told the family early on that we will continue searching as long as we have clues to follow up on."
The search for Brandon Swanson will resume this spring if they can get resources together and permission from land owners. Annette Swanson says the best thing the public can do to help families with missing loved ones is to support volunteer civilian groups that do long term searches. Search, Rescue and Recovery Resources of Minnesota is a source of information about a wide variety of established organizations that exist to provide search, rescue and recovery services. You can find out more information here. One positive thing that came out of Brandon's disappearance is "Brandon's Law." Annette and Brian Swanson were there when it was signed by the Governor in 2009. It requires police to take a report whenever a person, of any age, is reported missing in Minnesota. An investigation must also be done to determine what that person's status is. And the law makes it clear who has jurisdiction. Annette says that was a problem in Brandon's case because his car was found right where three counties come together. "When it's not clear as to the last know place where the person was seen, or for any other reason jurisdiction is in question, the county where the person was last known to reside has jurisdiction," said Annette Swanson.
There are resources available to provide assistance to families with missing loved ones.
The search for Brandon Swanson continues seven years later...
In the wee hours of May 14, 2008, Brandon Swanson was driving home from a friend’s house in Canby, Minnesota. The Marshall teen’s car veered into a ditch and got stuck, so he rang his folks for help and they hopped in their truck to come meet him.
Brandon said he was near the town of Lynd, though his car was later found in the opposite direction, near the border of Lincoln and Lyon counties. The 19-year-old stayed on the phone with his parents for 47 minutes as they tried in vain to find him. Growing frustrated, he decided to walk back to his friend’s house, staying on the line.
“They call it ambiguous loss,” Annette clinically begins. “It’s that state of having a loss in your life — in our case it’s the loss of our son — without knowing what happened. It’s extremely challenging. It’s really hard to grapple with and to come to terms with. I think for Brandon’s father and I, and for his sister, we’ve kind of figured out how to live in that gray area. But it’s really not someplace you want to live.”
That’s why the search for Brandon resumes Saturday. Really, it never stopped, Annette says, although they occasionally need to “press the pause button.” Much of the targeted area is farmland and searchers can only access it during certain times of the year, like after the fall harvest. Ken Anderson, founder of Emergency Support Services, has helped lead the search efforts since 2008. His volunteer organization works underneath the county sheriff’s office and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The windy prairie, coupled with the fact that Brandon could have walked more than six miles from his car in any direction, make this search especially difficult, he says.
Year after year, once the snow melts across western Minnesota, canines continue to pick up a scent — possibly Brandon’s — which serves as a beacon. “As long as that scent is still there we have something to work with,” Anderson says. Authorities initially thought Brandon may have fallen into the Yellow Medicine River. However, search efforts later moved toward Mud Creek near Porter, Minnesota. Although occasional tips still trickle in, they reportedly haven't uncovered any new information about Brandon's disappearance. Anderson would not discuss how many people are involved with the search, but Annette says the amount of support the family has received from strangers and volunteers is “overwhelming.” “Honestly, to think that Brandon is still in their minds after all these years — of course he’s in ours — it’s almost hard to fathom,” she says.
While Annette remains hopeful her family can one day “bring him home,” the Swansons intentionally aren’t as involved in the search efforts as they once were. Anderson still feeds them updates, though Annette has asked to be kept on more of a need-to-know basis. “Maybe that sounds odd or takes people aback, but there was a time we were really hands on,” she explains. “It really takes a toll on you mentally and emotionally, and we really want to be able to put energy into our family.” This weekend the Swansons are heading to Waseca where their daughter lives with her husband and kids. The trip was already planned, but Annette admits quality grandbaby time is a welcomed distraction as crews traverse the fields looking for a trace of her son. Not a day goes by she doesn’t think about her missing boy, who she remembers fondly as the family’s devil’s advocate, always up for a debate. It was a long journey, learning to exist in that answerless “gray area,” she says. But Annette still wonders what happened the night her son vanished. “There’s something about the not knowing part,” she says. “There’s a part of you where your brain can really come to a place where I think I know that Brandon’s not alive, but you don’t know until you know. The one thing as humans we search for are definitive answers to be able to make sense of things. And that’s something that we don’t have.”
The Disappearance of Brandon Swanson.
According to official statistics, in the US alone 2,300 people go missing every day.
Around 91% of all cases are closed within 48 hours, and 99% of cases are solved completely within one year.
This of course leaves 1% of cases that aren’t solved. The case of Brandon Victor Swanson is one of them.
Nineteen year old Brandon Swanson lived in Marshall, Minnesota with his parents. On the night of 14 May 2008, after celebrating the last day of college classes with a friend, he was driving home along a gravel road, and somehow crashed his car into a ditch.
Unable to move it himself and get back onto the road, he called home at some time after midnight and asked his parents to pick him up near Lynd, a small town Southwest of Marshall. His parents left the house and began driving to pick up Brandon, at the same time speaking with him on his mobile phone to determine exactly where he was.
After getting to the location which he had described, they started flashing the car’s headlights so that Brandon could start walking towards them. Brandon told them he couldn’t see the lights at all, so he got back into his car and started flashing his own headlights in the hope that maybe they would see him. His parents said that they couldn’t anything either.
Both sides got increasingly frustrated, and Brandon eventually said that he was going to start walking towards the town of Lynd, to a friend’s house. He said that he knew which direction to head in as he could see what looked like the lights of a town. His father dropped Brandon’s mother back at home, then began driving again to find his son.
At around 2am Brandon and his father were on the phone to each other, with Brandon desperately trying to direct his father to where he was, and Brandon’s father equally desperately trying to locate his son. Forty-seven minutes into the phone call, Brandon suddenly exclaimed, ‘Oh shit!’ and the line went dead. And that was the last time anybody heard anything from Brandon Swanson. His dad tried calling back a number of times, but Brandon never picked up his phone. His frantic parents continued the search but were unable to find him. A few hours later – at around 6.30am – they notified the police.
Since that day more than five hundred volunteers have spent over one hundred and twenty days looking for Brandon – or any evidence pointing to where he could be – covering over one hundred square miles in the process. This has included over thirty dog handlers from nine different states.
The result? No evidence. No clues. Nothing.
The only thing that has ever been found is Brandon’s car, which was discovered around twenty miles away from where he told his parents he thought he crashed.
The authorities say that there is neither any evidence of foul play, nor any evidence that Brandon would have staged his own disappearance. They have also said that they do not believe there was any evidence that he was intoxicated or ‘impaired’ in any way. (And if he was drunk for instance, then it’s likely that his parents would have picked up on this over the phone). The authorities received over seventy-five tips about Brandon, but none have borne any information that has led anywhere near to finding him. The last official search was conducted in October 2011, and age-progressed photos have also been distributed in the hope that somebody may recognize him.
As a crime writer I find this case fascinating and disturbing, and I have looked at countless theories around what happened that night. The most prevalent theory is that Brandon must have fallen into a river or creek – possibly the Yellow Medicine River – which is fifteen feet at its deepest point, and would have been running incredibly fast at the time he disappeared. The problem with this theory however, is that there would be some trace if he had fallen in, and so far nothing has been found at any point of the river.
A number of other theories have been considered, including the idea that Brandon might have hidden in an abandoned structure to escape the cold and then succumbed to hypothermia, or that he was attacked by an animal and taken away. Yet again, the main problem with these theories is that of evidence – or, more specifically, the big fat lack of it. If for instance he did hide in a structure, then surely it would’ve been found by now? Not to mention the fact that an animal attacking, fatally wounding and then dragging a person away would leave a huge amount of evidence behind.
Yet more theories are that Brandon was either hit by a car or picked up by an apparently helpful driver who turned out to have a malicious intent. These theories have major flaws, however; if a person has time to register danger, swear down the phone and then end a phone call, surely they would have time to get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle? And if he was picked up by someone, surely he would tell his dad, who he was on the phone with at the time?
Also, if someone had just offered to give him a lift home, why would he swear at all?
On the subject of the phone call, a huge question here is why the phone call was ended. If something dangerous was imminent, it seems unlikely that Brandon would actually hang up the phone. He would be more likely to drop the phone, and his parents would then hear anything that was going on (such as a struggle, or the whooshing of the river, or the impact of a car). But instead somebody pushed ‘end’ on the phone. As has been asked so many times in this case- why?
An answer might be that Brandon dropped the phone, causing the battery to fall out and so ending the call that way. However, Brandon’s dad said that after the call ended, he kept trying to call Brandon but that he wasn’t picking up the call, which means the phone was in working condition but not being answered.
At time of writing – six years later – there is still no evidence or even a trace indicating what happened. In spite of all the searches using state of the art equipment and techniques, and all of the theories and hours of investigations and searches, we are still no closer to knowing what occurred that night, or where Brandon Swanson is now. Just as with the case of Elisa Lam in Los Angeles, there seem to be more questions than answers. Impossible as it may seem, a nineteen year old man seems to have – literally – disappeared without a trace.
Brandon was 19, had just finished a year-long program at a local (Canby, MN) technical school for wind energy. Brandon was due to graduate from the program on May 14, the day he vanished. He intended to enroll in a 4 year college for a renewable energy program in the fall of 2008.
He was not a big kid, 5’ 6” tall and 120 lbs soaking wet, but he was a skilled debater, and avid historian. Friends of his stated that you did not want to get into a debate or argument with Brandon, because “you’d lose”. He had a younger sister (17 months) who was attending Marshall High School at the time. Brandon had worked at the local Hy-Vee for the past 4 years, the last two in the bakery department.
Brandon was blind from birth in his left eye – Congenital Blindness. Which, even though he wore glasses (for the right eye) his depth perception was very poor (especially in the dark).
Brandon started his evening at a house in Lynd, MN rented by several friends. He was at a small gathering of five people described as a “get together of a few friends.” He consumed an unknown amount of alcohol. One eyewitness stated that the gathering was “low key” and Brandon was not overly intoxicated.
Sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 pm, he left the gathering alone and drove to another friend’s house in Canby to say goodbye to a classmate who was moving away the next day. The exact route Brandon used to get from Lynd to Canby is not known, but on average it would have taken him about 40 minutes to get there and the distance was about 32-35 miles. In Google maps, there several possible roads / routes – and at least 3 of them involve major highways. Although given what happened later it is likely that he took one of the back roads and safely made it to the house.
A couple of notes:
This was 2008 – and even though he had a cell phone, it was a flip phone (Motorola Slvr) with a keypad, not a touch screen and did not have a gps / map system built in.
The area around Lynd, Canby, and Marshall is flat farmland. Roads with the exception of State Highways (23, 68, and 75) are built primarily on section or township lines and are gravel. Some of those go for a section or two straight as an arrow and then turn into minimum maintenance roads or field roads – depending on the owner / farmer. The only time the road turns is if there is a lake or pond and even then the road may just stop at the nearest section line.
At the house party in Canby, it was reported that he had an additional shot of whiskey and left at some point between 12: and 12:30 for his home in Marshall driving his green Chevy Lumina.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The two-lane Highway 68 is a direct route southeast from Canby to Marshall. Brandon had driven it many times, as this was a direct (and shortest) route for him to get from home to school. However, he doesn’t appear to have taken Highway 68 to get home. It appears that he was driving on gravels roads northeast of the highway to get home. It is believed he was on the gravel roads to avoid detection by law enforcement and a DUI charge. These gravel roads do not parallel the highway, they are at about a 45 degree angle to the highway (running east-west and north-south), so he would have had to make multiple turns in a stair-step fashion to follow the highway’s relative path.
It is possible that he was warned or told at the party that police / state patrol were out on highway 68 or 75 doing DUI check points. This has not been verified or confirmed (either that he was told this or that they actually were doing a crackdown on that night). It is also possible that since he drove that road (highway 68) frequently, he knew were and when police were likely to be out.
While there is substantial evidence Brandon knew the main roads around the area, there is only circumstantial evidence that he knew the back roads and even less that he knew them well.
A couple of writeups on the web mention that Brandon had a prior arrest for DUI or a Minor in possession and that he had just completed a year’s probation for that offense and a 2nd offense probably would have resulted in possible jail time and or loss of license. Another reddit user was able to pull up the public record - showing Brandon's conviction for DUI / etc... https://i.imgur.com/ZFfKhTl.png
It is a fact that he was under age (21 is legal) and drinking. That alone may have been enough incentive for him to wish to avoid the direct but more traveled / patrolled road.
It is known that he eventually ended up driving west down a minimum maintenance road for a mile. This was a field road between two large crop fields. In 2020 Google Maps, this “road” is still on the map, as a “continuation”of 110th St. The road that he was on takes a sharp left turn and it is very possible that he was distracted, tired, or simply not knowing, he just went straight ahead to the west. He was attempting to turn south (left) back on to a gravel road when he missed the field approach and went into the ditch at low speeds. The ditch bank was shallow but steep there and the frame of the car became hung up, so he was not able to back out or go forward. This occurred at approximately 1:15 a.m. There was no damage to the car and no evidence of injury inside the vehicle.
Brandon attempted to contact two or three of his friends by cell phone but was unable to reach them, so he called his parents for assistance at 1:54 a.m. Brandon says he is in a ditch between Marshall and Lynd and directs his parents there. There were several calls placed between Brandon and his parents between 1:54 and 2:17 a.m. During one call, he states he is on the left side of the road just off Highway 23 (suggesting from the position his car was found that he was oriented towards the south and was confusing Highway 68 for Highway 23). During this time, Brandon’s parents searched for him by car but were unable to find him.
There has been considerable speculation as to why Brandon was so disoriented as to his location. His disorientation was likely due to a combination of five factors: 1) fatigue, 2) at least mild intoxication (Remember, his blood alcohol was still rising after he left Canby from that shot of whiskey.), 3) unfamiliar roads (While he had driven Hwy 68 many times, he probably had little reason to drive the gravel roads.), 4) the fact that all the intersections look relatively alike (mostly tilled fields with very few landmarks), 5) possibly simple distraction. These all could have contributed to him not knowing exactly where he was.
How he came to the conclusion that he was near Lynd is a little more difficult to explain. While we will never know for sure, it is thought that when he realized he had traveled down a minimum maintenance road, he conducted what is known as a transderivational search. He searched his memory for other minimum maintenance roads that he knew and came up with the gravel road which lies along a golf course between Marshall and Lynd with which he was apparently familiar.
At 2:17a.m., Brandon’s mother calls him. Brandon is clearly becoming impatient and tells her that he is going to walk to Lynd. He directs his parents to meet him at the Lyndwood Tavern in Lynd. At some point in this conversation span, Brandon’s mother begins to get ill and is taken back to their home in Marshall. Brandon’s father drops her off and begins the trip back to Lynd to the tavern.
At 2:23 a.m., Brandon and his father begin a 47-minute cell phone call. During this call, Brandon indicates that he was walking along a gravel road away from Marshall towards Lynd. At some point, he leaves the road and travels cross-country, stating that he is going to “cut across because it will be quicker than following the road.” He further stated that he had encountered two fence lines and noted that there was water nearby. Shortly after, Brandon exclaims; “Oh s***.” His father believes he hears Brandon’s foot slipping and the phone goes dead. This was at 3:10 a.m. No further contact was made, even after repeated attempts.
People have commented that it is odd that Brandon did not know where he was – if you have ever been in a farm area that extends for miles – All the farms / fields / roads look the same after a while – and keep in mind this was early May – so there was not much scenery to begin with.
Also people believe that in order to get to where he thought he was, he would have had to have crossed over highway 68 – and would have noticed that – thus knowing he had NOT in fact crossed a major highway, he would have been able to determine that he was in fact NOT near Lynd, but elsewhere. People who are lost or confused as to their location often do strange things – there have been documented cases of missing people walking across major highways and later not recalling that they did in fact cross them.
We have Brandon’s own words – “I see the lights of Marshall to the east and highway 23 to the south. “ This itself implies that he believes the closest town to him is Lynd and that he believes that it is to the west of him and is north of the highway he sees.
There are reports that in the last moments of the call Brandon says something to the effect of “Damn it – another fence” and his father hears him climbing the fence and then slipping on rocks and then the “oh-shit” and silence. The consistent part is the slipping and the “Oh-Shit”
In True Crime Garage – it was incorrectly (at least according to google maps 2020) reported that south of MN68 avenues and streets swapped (avenues running east / west and streets running north / south) to the opposite of what they are North of MN68. This is verified incorrect at least in 2020. Is it possible that the cities changed the naming / numbering schema in 12 years? Maybe, but unlikely.
a. Brandon dropped his phone and it broke
b. Brandon dropped his phone and the battery popped out
c. Dropped phone and could not find it in the dark
d. Dropped phone and it went into river / water or underneath something where he could not get it.
Weather in the early morning hours of May 14th was mostly clear with a light wind (for the area) of 6-9 mph. The temperature at the time of his disappearance was 46° F and dropped to a low of 39° F. The moon was at its third quarter, due west of Brandon’s position, and setting at the time the phone went dead.
Brandon’s parents continue to look for him throughout the night. At 6:30 a.m., they contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office and report him missing. The sheriff at the time, indicated that since Brandon was 19 there was nothing he could do until he had been missing for much longer. The quote that stuck with Brandon’s mother was “he is 19 – he has a right to disappear for a while” After repeated calls to the sheriff and calls to the Lynd police department, and the neighboring Lincoln County Sheriff – wheels were put in motion to get Brandon’s cell phone records.
At around noon that day, records where obtained which indicated his last cell phone ping was on a tower 20 miles north east of where Brandon thought he was – on the border of Lincoln and Lynn county. Based on that information, the Lynn county Sheriff sent vehicles looking for Brandon’s car as did the Lincoln County Sheriff. At 12:30 pm on May 14, Brandon’s Green Chevy Lumina was found on the Lynn / Lincoln County line road, high centered (meaning the car’s center section was in contact with the ground but the drive wheels were not) facing southbound, toward US68 on the west (left) side of the road, just as Brandon had described to his parents.
There is not a lot of good / solid information about the initial search – other than at some point in the afternoon a Chippewa County K-9 unit is called in and arrives on scene. The police k-9 is not SAR trained and relies on “fear scent” and actual / vegetation tracks to find it’s target. Unfortunately, by the time the dog arrives, the road had been graded and any physical tracks were gone.
The sheriff of Lynn county stated at the time – there was nothing unusual or wrong with the car, it was just high centered and there was nothing a single person could have done to get it unstuck. He also said that there were no signs of foul play or suspicious activity at the car.
Note: On the the FBI VICaP Missing Person’s page, this is contradicted by the statement that the car was found with its doors “Open” – There is some debate as to a) why is Brandon on the VICaP page – which primarily deals with people believed to be victims of violent crime? And b) what is exactly meant by open? (Many Minnesotan’s use open to mean unlocked and not physically “open”)
It is also (wrongly) believed that on the Nancy Grace show it was stated that a pipe was found in Brandon’s car. This is incorrect. I have looked through both the transcript and the sheriff’s statements and a pipe is NEVER mentioned. I believe this is the result of people confusing the two Brandon’s – Swanson (MN) and Lawson (TX).
Thursday, May 15, 2008
By 11:00 a.m., members of the Codington County Search Dive & Rescue team arrived at the request of the Lyon County Sheriff. The dive team conducted an extensive search of the North Branch of the Yellow Medicine River looking for Brandon and was unable to find anything in the river.
While initial attempts at obtaining a direction of travel using trailing dogs failed, once they switched to another scent article, one of the dogs was able to pick up a trail. From Brandon’s vehicle, it traveled ½ mile south then turned west onto 390th St. where it continued for a mile. There, the trail turned north onto Co. Rd. 16. The trail continued north for ½ mile then turned west onto the driveway of an abandoned farm. It continued west for approximately ¼ of a mile and then left the driveway and roughly followed the course of the Yellow Medicine River heading northwest. At one point the bloodhound jumped into the Yellow Medicine River and then exited it. The handler interpreted this behavior as possibly indicating that Brandon might have fallen into the river at that point. However, the trail continued past this point to a drainage, where it continued north towards the gravel road forming the boundary between Lincoln and Yellow Medicine Counties. The dog was unable to trail any further.
This trail is consistent with Brandon’s 47-minute cell phone conversation with his father. We know he traveled along gravel roads for most of the conversation. He then left the road and traveled cross-country at the driveway. He mentioned two fence lines, which are in the area. The terrain near the river is wooded, uneven, and has many animal dens. And the moon was setting during the conversation, leaving him with only starlight to navigate by. Finally, the average person walks between 1 and 3 miles per hour. That puts Brandon between ¾-mile and 2.5-miles away from his car when the phone went dead. The trail to the point in the river where the dog jumped in is within that range.
It is most likely that Brandon tripped, stumbled, or slipped on one of the many hazards in the area. He likely dropped his phone and it was rendered inoperable somehow (shorted out in water, hit something hard and broke, battery popped out, or he simply couldn't find it again).
In addition to the bloodhounds, two area search dogs worked the area near the car and around the Yellow Medicine River. There were also an unknown number of emergent volunteers searching the area around the vehicle and a team from the Department of Natural Resources that floated the river in a boat.
Based on the bloodhound trail, a presumption was made that Brandon fell into the water and drowned. Much of the search effort from this point on is directed towards this scenario. While this was a reasonable scenario to explore, other scenarios exist, such as Brandon stumbled, lost or broke his phone, and continued walking. In fact, the bloodhound evidence is more suggestive of the second scenario. While the dog did at one point jump into the Yellow Medicine River, it came out again and continued with good purpose of movement, suggesting the trail continued. The dog was able to follow the trail until just shy of another gravel road. When a dog stops trailing, this doesn’t necessarily mean the trail "ends;" it may simply mean that the dog is at the end of its "nose time." This was over a three-mile trail, which is a relatively long trail.
Searches have been ongoing in this case for 12 years now. Searchers have not found any solid trace of Brandon, nor have they found evidence of foul play. (even though Brandon is listed on the VICADS website (FBI Violent Crimes)
In 2015 searchers blocked off part of the Mud Creek (about 3.5 – 4.0 miles as the crow flies from Brandon’s LKP) and ran the HRD dogs through the area. Although the dogs hit on several locations, no human remains were found.
HRD dogs also hit on a “Field Cultivator” which was parked on the side of a farm field. It was determined during 2008 searches that many of the fields which searchers suspected he could be in were in fact planted before Brandon vanished – which in most cases means that farmers would not have been in the fields again until the crops were a sufficient height for a post emergent herbicide, if at all until harvest. The speculation is that if Brandon was in the field – it is possible his remains were missed during the harvest and that the cultivator hit and scattered his remains. (at this point likely skeletal)
Field cultivators are 30-60 feet wide and have tongs or spears that go down from 4” to 9” into the dirt to till it and break it up and may also have a “Disc” attachment which further chops up any remain crop residue
Searches have been limited due to the nature of the land the searchers are covering – as a majority of it is active farmland, Farmers / owners are not keen on having hundreds (or even a few) people tearing through their fields during growing season. Searchers have (out of personal safety) also avoided searches during the post harvest goose and deer hunting seasons.
That leaves a very limited window of Late November, December and March / April (before planting) when searchers can actually get on property and check out areas of interest.
Some of the area / fields of interest which have not been searched are also used as cattle grazing land. This even further limits the access / time available to search due to calving season (spring) and cows being protective of their young – especially against perceived predators like dogs.
Many if not most of the searches have been conducted over very rough terrain – farm fields and dense weed filled ditches and groves of trees that have been untouched for years. If anyone thinks it is easy walking across a plowed / harvested field – I have news for them – it is not easy. The plow (after the harvest) leaves furrows up to 10 – 12 inches deep and spaced just oddly enough that they are not easily stepped across. And just in case you think it is easier on an atv…it is not… if you want to test your dentist’s skill level – I suggest you take an atv across a freshly plowed field.
Rumors and Unfounded allegations
There have been several rumors over the years about Brandon and where he is – one of the more persistent ones is that he owed someone in the local drug trade money and was killed and buried in a shallow grave in a field nearby as a warning to others who owed the same person money.
Another rumor states that his body was moved to as far away as Canada by the dealer – so he would not never be found. Variations also have him buried in North Dakota or South Dakota…
Brandon and Brandon… aka the name game. Brandon Lawson was an oil worker in Texas who disappeared in August of 2013. Lawson was on his way to his parents home, when he apparently ran out of gas on the side of the road was on phone with 911 and vanished. His car was found open and a pipe of some type was found in his car. Brandon L also had an old (8 year) warrant for his arrest outstanding.
One interesting note: Brandon Swanson is on the VICaP database of missing persons, but Brandon Lawson is not. Also interesting is that the writeup on the VICaP site is the only location that mentions the doors to Brandon’s car being found “Open”. No other information, article or searcher mentions that the car doors were found open. What makes this even more odd is that Brandon Lawson is NOT on VICaP and he more likely was the victim of a violent crime…Also interesting that the doors on Brandon Lawson’s car were found “open” as if someone had searched his car. So, is this just a case of the FBI confusing the two? Or is there something more at work?
It is completely possible that the mention on VICaP of Brandon S is due to political pressure applied by his parents and family during the passage of “Brandon’s Law” – which states that in MN, Law Enforcement has to response immediately to any report of a missing person, no matter what their age. Prior to passage of Brandon’s Law, police were given a 24 hour leeway in cases of missing adults where there is not direct evidence of physical harm or a crime.