Friday, August 2, 2019

Brandon Victor Swanson: Missing Since May 14, 2008

Brandon was last seen in Canby, MN visiting friends. He was returning home after a party, on his way home to Marshall his car became stuck in a ditch. Brandon called his parents requesting their assistance to pull his car out of the ditch. Brandon reported that he was between Marshall and Lynd. His parents left home to provide assistance and kept in phone contact with Brandon. His parents were unable to locate him but remained in contact while he attempted to describe his location - continuing to believe he was between Marshall and Lynd.

Becoming frustrated Brandon stated he would walk to Lynd and remained on the phone with his Dad while he walked. The 47 minute phone conversation ended abruptly with Brandon stating "another damn fence and shortly thereafter "Oh, s--t!". Contact with Brandon could not be reestablished and he has not been seen or heard from since.

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.

Missing Minnesotans: Brandon Swanson
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.

Kevin Doran Updated: February 20, 2018 02:24 PM

The search for Brandon Swanson continues seven years later...

It’s been seven years since Annette Swanson last saw her son. She still doesn’t know why.

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. 
“His dad was on the phone with him,” Annette recalls, “and [Brandon] said ‘oh shit,’ and that was the end of the conversation.” Years of chased leads, countless man hours, and a wellspring of hope have failed to reveal what became of Brandon after that call ended.

“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.

The Disappearance
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.

The Aftermath
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 recognise him.

The Theories
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.

No Trace
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.

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