The Case of Maura Murray: Holding on to Hope When Missing Person Investigations Go Cold

The Case of Maura Murray: Holding on to Hope When Missing Person Investigations Go Cold

maura murray

On a fateful day in February of 2004, 21 year-old Massachusetts university student Maura Murray disappeared without a trace. A car accident had taken place, and although witnesses statements had placed the young woman on Route 112 in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, the events that followed remain shrouded in mystery. Some seventeen years after her disappearance, missing person investigations continue the quest to discover what happened to Maura Murray, while her family hold out hope that she may one day return home.

A Kind-Hearted Honor Student

Maura Murray was born on May 4, 1982, to parents Fred and Laurie in Brockton, Massachusetts. The youngest of five children, Maura excelled both academically and in various athletic sports, while becoming known as a kind-hearted contributor to her local community. Graduating at the top of her class from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, Maura continued on to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and then the University of Massachusetts where she was pursuing a career in nursing.

In the months leading up to her disappearance, Maura’s behavior had shown signs of the unexpected. The slim built, brown haired, and blue eyed young woman had crashed her fathers car on the way to a party, causing some $8,000 in damage. She had also been arrested for using a stolen credit card number to order fast-food, although the charges were dismissed on the grounds of good behavior.

On the morning of the day that she would vanish, Monday February 9, Maura electronically submitted her homework, telling her professor that there had been a death in the family and that she needed to leave campus for the week—a statement that the family themselves couldn’t explain. She reached out to an accommodation provider in Stowe, Vermont, and the owner of a condominium in Bartlett, New Hampshire, where she and her family had forged positive memories in the past—although she didn’t make a reservation. Finally, she packed a bag with enough clothes and supplies to last several days, and left campus.

Strange Circumstances Unfold

At 3:15 pm Maura stopped at an ATM and withdrew $280—almost all of the money she had available to her—and visited in a liquor store, where she spent $40 on alcohol. Nobody who was interviewed over the course of following missing person investigations could explain why she left, or be certain of where she was going. Authorities revealed that she departed the area at around 4:30 pm in her 1996 Saturn, driving north towards New Hampshire.

At 7:27 pm that Monday evening, a local resident named Faith Westman reported to the police that a car accident had occurred near her home in Haverhill. Not long after this report, bus driver Butch Atwood indicates that he saw and spoke to Maura by the side of the road. Her car was in the ditch and the airbags had deployed, although Maura didn’t appear injured. Despite this, when Maura declined his help and told Atwood that she had already called AAA, his concern was piqued as the area is known for its poor cell reception. The bus driver returned home but contacted the police to report the incident.

A Missing Person In New Hampshire

When police arrived on the scene at 7:46pm, Maura’s car was locked, and she had vanished. A police officer, a state trooper, and eight firefighters searched the area for signs of the young woman. No traces of Maura have been found since that tragic evening, including cell phone or bank account activity. Speculation remains that someone local and able to traverse the nearby terrain may have taken the young woman, although no valuable leads have arisen.

On April 3 of 2019, authorities followed a tip from concerned private citizens who had used ground-penetrating radar to detect disturbed ground below the basement of a nearby property. When state police and FBI agents lifted the concrete floor of the basement, they found no sign of a crime. Because of the strange circumstances surrounding her vanishing, Maura Murray is considered to be missing and endangered. Despite her trail going cold after so many years, Maura’s family remain hopeful. They continue their campaign both through a tribute website and on Go Fund Me.

Seeking Support When Your Loved One Goes Missing

When an adult or child goes missing, time is of the essence. For those in need of assistance, the Lauth Missing Persons team bring more than two decades of experience and a proven track record to the table. Our dedicated investigators will waste no time in picking up the trail of your loved one.
We jump straight into fieldwork, alongside working closely with a global network of NGOs such as Interpol’s I Familia, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. We also assist families in setting up Go Fund Me campaigns—facilitating an unimpeded search and access to reward funds—so that focus can remain simply on bringing loved ones home again. Learn more by visiting lauthmissingpersons.com or by contacting us today.

Paul Flores Arrested for Disappearance of Kristen Smart

Paul Flores Arrested for Disappearance of Kristen Smart

According to stunning new allegations by prosecutors, Paul Flores killed Kristen Smart following attempts to sexually assault her in her dorm room on the night she went missing. This week, investigators, family members, and true crime fans are all feeling some semblance of progress in the case of missing Cal Poly student, Kristen Smart after Paul Flores, a long-time person of interest in the case was arrested in connection with her disappearance. Smart disappeared in 1996 after she left a party with her friends and never arrived back at her student dormitory. Since her disappearance, investigators have been looking Flores, who was reportedly the last person to see Smart before she went missing.

The public’s fascination with the Kristen Smart’s case goes back to 1996 when she first went missing. The Cal Poly student was on her way to a party the night she went missing, May 24, 1996. She was supposed to speak to her parents on the phone before she left her dorm room for the party, but her parents never heard from her. Kristen ended up at an off-campus party where she became heavily intoxicated and passed out on the lawn of a neighboring house. Kristen was leaving the party with friends when Paul Flores came up on them and offered to walk Kristen back to her dorm. Kristen was never heard from again, and Paul Flores has always been identified as the last person to see her alive.

The theory that Paul Flores killed Kristen Smart came from the presumed timeline of Kristen’s last movements the night she disappeared. Since Flores was the last person to be seen with her, it stands to reason he would have information about her disappearance. However, over the years, Paul Flores has proven to be a tough nut to crack. Despite the fact that Flores remained ingrained in discourse around the case for the next 20 years, he was never formally charged by law enforcement, and invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when deposed in a wrongful death suit in 2005 levied by Kristen’s parents. Despite numerous searches by law enforcement, friends, and family, her remains have never been found.

Authorities investigating the disappearance of Kristen Smart have credited a true-crime podcast in part for the progress that has been made in the case. Your Own Backyard, a true-crime podcast that takes a deep dive into Kristen Smart’s disappearance, was launched in 2019 by Chris Lambert, a veteran podcaster who was humble when describing his investigative efforts to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, “The podcast was one part of the whole formula. Even with what I found, I can’t go arrest somebody. I needed [the sheriff’s office] to do their job. I was willing to do what I could to assist in that. You can get varying levels of agreement about what I did directly led to an arrest. My personal opinion was that I was one piece of the formula.” Following the release of the podcast, law enforcement was able to develop leads. Paul Flores and his father, Ruben, was also arrested as an accessory after the fact and is believed to have helped Flores dispose of Kristen’s remains. In a press conference following their arrest, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said to the media, “In 2019, we interviewed several witnesses that had not been previously interviewed and some of that information came to light through the podcast that many of you are familiar with.”

Paul Flores and his father, Ruben were arraigned on Thursday morning. The DA’s office is reportedly requesting a higher bail amount for Ruben Flores set at $250,000. Paul Flores remains in jail, held on zero bail for felony murder.

Family of missing UC Berkeley student offers $10,000 reward for information in disappearance

Family of missing UC Berkeley student offers $10,000 reward for information in disappearance

missing UC Berkeley student offers $10,000 reward

The family of missing UC Berkeley student, Sydney West is now offering a reward of $10,000 for any information leading to her safe return. The 19-year-old college student hasn’t been seen since September 30, 2020, at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. In a statement released by the San Francisco Police Department, Sydney Is described as “at risk” due to depression.

The parental anxiety of sending young adults out into the world is further exacerbated by the pandemic for many with children going off to college. While many parents are dealing with even less contact with their children in these times, Sydney’s family remained close with her while she attended college literally across the country. The missing UC Berkley student was actually very familiar with the town, having lived in the Bay area most of her life before moving to North Carolina. After her family was unable to contact her in the days following her last confirmed sighting, they reported her missing both in North Carolina and San Francisco. After four long months, her family is desperate for answers, prompting them to offer a financial reward for information leading to her safe recovery.

The missing UC Berkeley student has been described by her family as “a bright, kind, caring, talented, and athletic young woman,” who played volleyball and wrote music.  Her disappearance was described as uncharacteristic of Sydney, who never would have disappeared without letting her family know where she was going. Sydney’s great aunt told Dateline, “We know someone must know something. We certainly hope it leads to her return. We have received multiple leads for which we are grateful. We hope someone who was on or near the Golden Gate Bridge the morning of September 30th who may have seen something will come forward with information. We need her home safe.”

In a prudent move by the family of the missing UC Berkeley student, Sydney’s family has opted to hire a private investigator to conduct an independent investigation into her disappearance, concurrent with that of law enforcement. The family has reported that they continue to receive tips about her disappearance, but nothing has “panned out as credible.” They also continue to utilize social media as a tool for spreading awareness about Sydney’s story. The “Find Sydney West” Facebook page has garnered more than 8,000 followers, and is populated by posts from friends and loved ones praying for her safe return home.

Sydney is described as being 5’10” tall and weighing 130 lbs. She has blonde hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a sweatshirt, dark-colored shorts, and slip-on blue Vans shoes.

Anyone with information on Sydney’s whereabouts is also asked to call the San Francisco Police Department 24-hour tip line at 1-415-575-4444, text a tip to TIP411

Into the Night: The Bizarre Disappearance of Student Brandon Swanson

Into the Night: The Bizarre Disappearance of Student Brandon Swanson

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(Brandon Swanson vanished May 14, 2008, from Marshal, Minnesota while driving home late at night.)

Shortly after midnight on May 14, 2008, Brandon Swanson mysteriously vanished in Marshall, Minnesota. Brandon had been celebrating the end of the spring semester with friends from Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s Canby campus. 

Between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m., Brandon left the celebration and drove to another friend’s home in Canby to say goodbye to a classmate that was also having a party. Friends say Brandon did not appear intoxicated when he left shortly after midnight to go home. Canby is approximately 45 minutes away from Marshall where Brandon lived with his parents. 

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(Brandon Swanson called his parents and told them he believed he was near the town of Lynd, Minnesota, after crashing his car into a ditch.)

Brandon’s parents received a call from Brandon at approximately 1:54 a.m. telling them he had gotten stuck in a ditch on a back road that ran north of Highway 68, the main road he would normally take to get home. He told them he was not injured but needed help to get home. 

Why Brandon chose to turn off Highway 68 and take gravel back roads home is but one of the mysteries in this story. 

Unsure of his exact location, Brian told his parents he thought he was near Lynd, a small town in Lyon County with a population of only 445 people. 

Brandon’s parents, Brian and Annette Swanson, decided to go get him and went to the location but were unable to find him or his car. 

The Disappearance

The road was dark and the area remote. Annette called Brandon on his cell phone and they both agreed to flash their lights to let each other know they were in the area. On the phone, Annette could hear Brandon flashing his car lights and told him, “We are flashing our lights” We are flashing our lights!” Brandon replied. “Don’t you see me?” They never did see him. 


(Brandon Swanson’s parents drove to Lynd to search the dark gravel roads for any sign of their son or his vehicle.)

Frustrated, Brandon hung up on his mother. She quickly called back, and they both apologized to each other for becoming annoyed. 

Brandon said he would leave the car and walk toward Lynd and they agreed to meet him at the Lynd Tavern parking lot. 

While talking to his father, Brandon described seeing lights in the distance and continued to walk down the gravel road. He described hearing rushing water and saw two fence lines, all the while continuing to talk to his dad. 

The call lasted 47 minutes when suddenly Brian yelled, “Oh shit!” and the call disconnected. His parents tried to call him back numerous times, but the phone rang each time until the following day when calls went straight to voicemail. 

The Search for Brian

At 6:30 a.m. the following day, Brian’s parents called the police to report him missing. To their dismay, the police told them to wait as it was not unlike a young man Brian’s age, to disappear for a bit. 

Later that day, cell phone records showed Brandon was near Porter, Minnesota, not Lynd when he called them. Porter is between Canby and Marshall along Highway 68.

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(During a search, for Brandon Swanson, his vehicle was found on a gravel road just north of Taunton, Minnesota.) 

A search began and at approximately 12:30 p.m., Brandon’s Chevrolet Lumina was found about a mile and a half north of Taunton, right on the border between Yellow Medicine, Lincoln and Lyon Counties. 

According to True Crime Files, the car was found with no physical damage and no evidence of physical injury. 

“It was off the side of a field approach, and the vehicle was hung up,” Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky told CNN. “It’s sort of a sharp incline, nothing major but enough that the car would get hung up, so the wheels are too high off the ground to gain traction.” 

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(Searchers combed the countryside and the Yellow Medicine River for any sign of Brandon Swanson in May 2008.)

In the months following Brandon’s disappearance, law enforcement, volunteers, and emergency personnel search the area by ground, horseback, and all-terrain vehicles to search all three counties in the vicinity of where Brandon disappeared and the Yellow Medicine River.

Authorities believed Brandon may have fallen into the river and drowned, but canines followed his scent to the river’s edge but did not signal and continued walking on. To the police, this suggested Brandon may have fallen into the water but managed to get out and continued walking. However, the temperature that evening was around 39 degrees, and he could have succumbed to hypothermia.   

Cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human remains during several searches, in the area of Porter near Mud Creek, but a body was ever found. 

Police do not have any evidence of foul play and believe Brandon’s body would be found within a 122 square-mile search area. 

“It’s by far the biggest search I’ve ever been involved in terms of length of time, the number of missions and number of searchers involved said Jeff Hasse, founder of Midwest Technical Training Associates. 

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(Brandon Swanson with a friend, prior to his disappearance in 2008.)

Porch Light is Still On

Brian and Annette turned on their porch light on May 14, 2008 – the night Brandon vanished.

The light remains on every night. “There’s no reason to turn it off now,” Brian said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to find him alive, but I still want to believe that we will find him. That’s probably a stretch, but I still want to believe that.” 

One positive thing has come out of Brandon’s disappearance. Brian and Annette spearheaded legislation that was signed into law in 2009. Brandon’s Law requires police to make a report whenever a person of any age, is reported missing and investigation must ensue. It also clarifies jurisdiction. 

The Swansons face a life of ambiguity, never really being able to move forward, no way to gain closure. “They call it ambiguous loss,” Annette said. “It’s that state 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.” 

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Brandon Swanson, please contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 507-537-7666.

Vanished: Missing Beauty School Student Deanne Hastings

Vanished: Missing Beauty School Student Deanne Hastings

On a frigidly cold night in November 2015, Deanne Hastings vanished. Her disappearance would open a life struggling with bi-polar and leave a family with mysterious questions. What happened to Deanne Hastings?

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(Deanne Hastings mysteriously vanished in November 2015, from Spokane, Washington.) 

In November 2015, Deanne Hastings, 35, vanished in Spokane, Washington. The mother of three, and a beauty school student, was engaged to get married before she disappeared. She seemed to have it all. 

Deanne was born on February 27, 1980, in Pahrump, Nevada. Deanne was the second child and Carson was her older brother.  

According to Trace Evidence Podcast, Carson said they had great parents and wonderful childhood. “We would go everyplace together, on picnics, hikes, and bike rides,” said Deanna’s mother Patricia. “We were always a team.” Friends described them as the typical All-American family. 

Growing up. Deanna was a very compassionate child and always behaved very caring to others. But she also wasn’t afraid to pick up lizards and play in the dirt. Her mother describes her as amazing, bright, and fearless. Deanne excelled in school and was highly praised by her teachers. 

While Pahrump offered the family a quiet place to raise children, when Deanne was in the fourth grade, her parents decided to move 1,200 miles north to Spokane, Washington. There, the children would have the opportunity to grow up in a more typical environment, with houses right across the street instead of a mile down the road. 

Deanne thrived in her new home in Seattle, but things would take a turn for the worse when Deanne turned 15. Deanne’s brother was joining the Navy and preparing to move to Texas, and their parents were preparing to inform the kids they would be separating. Deanne took the news very hard. “After that, she really turned,” said Deanne’s mother Patricia. “It’s like something in her spirit broke.” 

Deanne’s father moved out and Patricia and Deanne lived alone. While circumstances were not ideal, they did well and were very close. Patricia described Deanne as her best friend. 

All that would change, however, when Deanne went to her mother at work and told her she was pregnant with a son she would name Hayden. The father of Hayden was a young man who went to school with Deanne and though they were young, they would be described as very good parents. 

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(Deanne Hastings moved to Spoke, Washington where she would be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.)

Deanne moved in with the father, and they spent the next nine years together but after a decade together they decided to separate. Deanne seemed to struggle with the separation due to her own parents splitting up. So, Deanne returned to live with her mother and shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder that would quickly go out of control. 

Patricia described her breakdowns as “episodes, “She would have periods where I almost didn’t recognize her and I was afraid of what was happening to her,” said Patricia. “Sometimes she could come back and she would be Deanne and be bright, and happy and lovely and then other times, most of the time, she would be very different and so it was like I had just lost my friend. I lost my daughter.”

Deanne would begin to disappear for days at a time. However, while she would be out of sight during these episodes, she always kept her phone with her and responded to texts. 

Hoping things may get better, Deanne decided to move to Texas with her brother. There she thrived, even finishing school to become a nurse’s assistant. It was also in Texas she met her new love and she would end up marrying and having two more children. 

But soon, Deanne’s episodes returned. The decision was made that Deanne and her children would return to Washington and live with her mother. And, it was in Washington where Deanne’s episodes would become worse than ever before. Eventually, she would check herself into in psychiatric center in Idaho. Always very proactive with her mental health, when she completed the program, she began thriving once again. 

With life finally looking up, Deanne met Mike Tibbets, a successful HVAC technician who made a good living and could provide Deanne the opportunity to pursue her goals. They talked of marriage and she enrolled in cosmetology school at the Glen Dow Academy. Life had turned around once again. 

The Disappearance

November 3, 2015, Deanne was scheduled to begin her first day at the cosmetology school. “She was spunky, she was ready to go.” Mike Tibbets said. “She was happy. I mean she was getting ready, running around and excited.” 

Mike worked late that evening and returned to find a note that Deanne had written telling him she had a great day and she was running to the store located just five miles away. Hours went by and he heard nothing, and Deanne wasn’t responding to texts. Mike decided to drive to the store to look for Deanne but when he arrived at the store it was closed. He began driving around searching for Deanne and suddenly realized he could use the phone’s GPS to locate her phone.

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(Using GPS, Mike Tibbets, Deanne’s boyfriend, found her car parked in a public parking lot in a rough part of Spokane, Washington.)

Mike found Deanne’s car parked in a public parking lot at 919 West Sprague Avenue, directly across the street from the Knitting Factory, a venue for local musicians and comedians. 

The doors were locked, so Mike looked in through the windows but did not see anything that seemed out of the ordinary. Mike decided to call Deanne’s phone, assuming Deanne was close. His stomach turned when he heard her phone inside the car. He looked down and saw the light from the phone inside. Where could she be? Deanne never left to go anywhere without her phone.

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(Missing person posters of Deanne Hastings, missing from Spokane, Washington, on November 3, 2015.)

Mike stayed and waited at Deanne’s car until daylight on November 4. At 8:00 a.m. he called the cosmetology school hoping she was there. The man on the phone explained she had not arrived for her second day of classes. Mike explained what was going on and the man on the phone offered to make missing person posters. He called several friends to help.  

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(A credit card belonging to Deanne Hastings was used in Cheney, Washington, about 15 miles from where her car was parked in Spokane.) 

While canvassing the town, Mike received an alert from his credit card company that his card was being used at the Trading Company, a grocery about 15 miles southwest in Cheney. Instead of rushing to the grocery store, Mike staked out Deanne’s vehicle thinking she should be coming back since she went to the grocery store. This is a decision Mike would come to regret, and one of many that would raise the eyebrows of police. 

After several hours of waiting, Mike finally decided to drive to the store where the credit card was used. He showed the flier around, but nobody recognized Diane. He decided to ask if he could see the surveillance video of the timeframe when the card was used but employees told him they needed the manager’s permission and would call him.

The following day, 36 hours after Deanne went missing, Mike contacted the Spokane Police Department and filed a missing person report. He explained that Deanne was bipolar and that she had a history of vanishing for days at a time, but this time was different. According to Trace Evidence, Mike would later say he felt the police were dismissive of Deanne’s disappearance after telling them about her psychiatric history. 


(Local news began reporting about Deanne Hasting’s disappearance in Spokane, Washington in November 2015.)

Media Intervention
Thinking there was a possibility that this may be one of her episodes, rather than concerning her family, Mike contacted the media instead. 

Carson, Deanne’s brother found out because a friend called him and told him his sister was on the news. “I figured Deanne was having another manic episode,” said Carson. “That was my initial thought, and she would be back in a day or two.”  However, when Patricia found out, it was different. Be it a sixth sense or something, Patricia knew something was not right. She reminded everyone that in the past, Deanne would “always” take her phone with her and stay in touch with someone.

Deanne’s last text was sent approximately 10:00 p.m. on the night she vanished. The text was to her son, 17-year old son Hayden, and said she had had a great day at school, and she hoped he was proud of her. 

Drugged and Kidnapped

On November 6, the grocery store called Mike back and invited him in to view the surveillance video. Mike saw Deanne on camera at approximately 12:00 p.m. on November 4, acting erratically and waving her hands while continuously looking over her shoulder. Even more baffling was the items that Deanne bought that included four energy drinks, string cheese, birthday cake candles, cigarettes, and a bottle of vodka. 

There were also eyewitness accounts. A nearby salon owner said Deanne walked in and seemed disoriented and addressed the woman as “Mommy,” and told the woman someone had drugged and kidnapped her. 

The next sighting occurred only minutes later. Two women saw Deanne sitting nearby and offered to call her family for her and even to drive her home, however, Deanne was combative and refused. So, they called 911. 

Spoke Police Department dispatched an officer and EMT’s who tried to treat her but found her belligerent. Again, she told them that someone had drugged and kidnapped her. Deanne ended up leaving and began walking toward a coffee shop and the officer let her go. 

This infuriated the family. The Spokane officer would later tell the family that Spokane does not have a public intoxication law and had no reason to detain her. 

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(Media coverage of Deanne’s disappearance generated several leads including a call from a man who said he had picked Deanne up at the Knitting Factory on November 3, 2015.)

On Sunday, November 7, Mike received a strange phone call from a man who he had shown Deanne’s flier to on November 4, at the grocery store. The man was an employee at the Trading Post and claimed he had spent time with Deanne the night she vanished. They arranged a meeting and Mike brought his sister along to meet with the man. The man explains he met Deanne outside the Knitting Factory and spoke to her and they smoked a cigarette together. He claims Deanne went home with him, but no sexual interaction occurred. The next morning, he claims he and Deanne drove to the store and he went inside to buy cigarettes but when he returned Deanne was gone. 

Her car keys were inside the man’s car, so he gave them to Mike who went and picked up the car. Inside he found Deanne’s purse and wallet and noticed several credit cards missing. Later, police would become frustrated as Mike moving the vehicle removed any chance at finding any forensic evidence in or around the car where it had been parked. However, the frustration worked both ways as Mike did not feel the police took him seriously after divulging Deanne’s psychiatric history. 

Shortly after the meeting with Mike, the man moved to Florida which many have found suspicious. 

Police Investigation

A detective would not begin investigating the case until Monday, November 8. 

Detective Jeff Barrington of the Major Crime Unit at Spokane Police Department got the case. Barrington pulled Deanne’s phone records and pinged her phone activity but found nothing suspicious. He also monitored Deanne’s credit cards, a move that quickly paid off. 

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(A man, along with two other individuals were seen on surveillance video using Deanne’s credit cards in Spokane and Spokane Valley.) 

Deanne’s credit cards had been used November 7, and in the days following, at several locations in Spokane and Spokane Valley, primarily at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. Barrington viewed surveillance video and found a male individual, along with two other unknown individuals using Deanne’s credit cards. 

Releasing the photographs to media quickly identified the man as Randy Riley. Barrington found out Riley had a minor criminal past and had recently been evicted from his home. The detective began his effort to locate Riley. 

On November 28, Riley’s former landlord called the police and told Barrington that she had seen Deanne still with Riley and lying in the street. Another witness called saying she saw Deanne in the same area, seemingly disoriented and asked her if she was okay. 

With these leads, Det. Barrington quickly found Riley hanging around outside a restaurant he frequented and questioned him. 

According to Riley he and a friend, James, met Deanne near a storage unit and they hung out with her and drank. Riley told the detective Deanne “gave” him her credit cards and told him to go get himself something to eat. Riley said he had no knowledge of where Deanne could be but Barrington wasn’t satisfied.

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(Deanne Hastings driver’s license was found several weeks after her disappearance in front of a local deli.) 

Several weeks after Deanne’s disappearance, her driver’s license was found on the ground outside of Sonnenberg’s Deli in downtown Spokane. 

On December 10, 2015, Riley was arrested on identity theft charges and brought in for an official interview about Deanne’s disappearance. This is when his story changed. 

He claims that in the frigid cold of November, Deanne went up a hill to go to the bathroom and never came back down. Riley then tells investigators, the following day while he was moving his belongings from his former apartment he and James went back to spot where Deanne had been in the woods. He claimed they found her coat and shoes, so he picked up the items and found Deanne’s credit cards inside her coat. He also admitted being the one who threw Deanne’s license on the ground near the deli. 

When questioned, James claimed that when Deanne went to relieve herself in the bushes, she didn’t return right away so he went to check on her, but she didn’t want to move from the spot. He told investigators Riley was up there for 10-15 minutes and came back alone and that he never saw Deanne again. 

The location where the men showed investigators this all took place was only 300 yards from Deanne’s home. 

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(Volunteers search for missing Spokane woman Diane Hastings. Photo courtesy of KREM.)

Barrington organized a search to canvass the area on foot with cadaver dogs, also using a plane with heat sensors. Nothing was found. 

At a dead-end, Detective Barrington began investigating Mike Tibbets. Mike claimed he and Deanne had no marital issues, however, this was contradicted by a text Deanne had sent a friend in October that said, “I want out. Honestly, Amanda, I’m 99% sure he drugged me the other night.”

Mike told investigators that Deanne had been agitated in the weeks preceding her disappearance and that she had accused the neighbors of drugging her water supply. He claims the mental health issues were probably due to a gap in her medication usage because she could not get her normal medication due to an insurance issue. 

It seemed Barrington’s investigation was at a standstill. 

A Cold Case

In January 2016, Deanne’s friend Amanda received a message from Riley’s friend James via Deanne’s Missing Facebook page. James claimed to be having a mental breakdown and was adamant he needed to speak to one of Deanne’s family members and he would tell them anything they needed to know. Carson and James spoke, and the call became confrontational and James hung up without telling Carson anything new. However, Carson believes he was going to confess to something but changed his mind of chickened out – something Carson may never know. 

After that, the case has gone as cold as the night Deanne vanished.

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(Deanne’s case has become a cold case with few leads or evidence.)

Dealing with The Loss

The family has made public pleas for Deanne’s safe return and fear she met an unimaginable end while struggling to hold onto hope that she will one day call or walk through the front door. “Deanne was an amazing family member,” Carson said. “She cared more about others than she did herself.” 

Carson speaks about Deanne in the past tense as he believes too much time has gone by to hold onto hope she is still alive.

Though Deanne had fallen off the grid before, her family agrees she would have never abandoned her children. 

“Her son was getting ready to graduate high school and go into the military, she wouldn’t have missed that,” Mike Tibbets said. “I think about her every day.”

The family believes someone knows something and will be forever haunted wondering what James really had to say that day. 

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Deanne Hastings, please call Spokane Police Department-Major Crimes Unit at 509-456-2233 or 509-242-TIPS (8477).