As hunting season approaches each fall in the mountains of Virginia, Kim Whitmore holds onto hope that a hunter or hiker will come across a clue that will finally lead to answers about her brother’s disappearance.
“It’s been three falls already though,” Kim told Dateline, noting that this fall is now the fourth one. “And still no closer to finding my brother. Or anything that could lead us to him. Like a backpack or his hat.”
Keith Whitmore always wore a hat, mainly his University of Virginia (UVA) hat.
“He was a big fan,” Kim said. “And he never took that hat off.”
Kim is a few years older than Keith and his twin sister. Growing up in Virginia, Kim said the siblings had a typical childhood, playing outside all day, entertaining themselves, and were always close despite some sibling rivalry.
“He was all boy and, you know, that brother who teased us all the time,” Kim said. “But he was always there when we needed him.”
Kim told Dateline that her brother worked hard his whole life, and even managed to retire from his job as a maintenance mechanic at the Hershey plant before he turned 50.
“I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about him,” she said. “His co-workers said he kept to himself, but was super hard working, respectful and always willing to lend a hand.”
As the years passed, Kim said her brother distanced himself from the family. He bought a house in a secluded area outside the small town of Greenville and lived a simple life, mainly kept to himself, avoiding people except for when he ventured out to pick up Chinese food each week.
The last time the family saw Keith was in June 2015. Their father was on his deathbed and Keith came to say goodbye.
“He was his typical self, but he seemed fine and it was good to have the family together,” Kim said. “But that was it. That was the last time we saw him.”
Kim continued to reach out to her brother through letters, calls and messages on social media. But his responses trickled down to silence.
In the spring of 2018, Kim stopped by her brother’s house with her grandsons, hoping to say hello.
“I wanted my grandsons to have a good male Christian role model in their lives and I thought it would be good for them to see Keith,” she said. “But we couldn’t reach him.”
Kim and her sister continued to stop by the house. The porch light at his house was on. His cars were in the driveway. No one answered the door. Not even for the police who attempted a wellness check in May.
In June, the porch light went off.
Kim discovered his power had been cut off. And that his mortgage had not been paid. Trash in the outdoor trash bins had long expired. After countless attempts to reach Keith, Kim and their sister broke into his house.
“Except for the power being off, everything appeared to be in order,” Kim said. “Only thing that was strange was that his phone and wallet were missing.”
There was no trace of Keith, or any clues about where he could be.
“It’s really like he vanished into thin air,” she said. “Nothing made sense.”
In June 2018, an official missing persons report was filed with the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office and an investigation was conducted.
Sergeant Steven Cason told Dateline they conducted multiple searches in the area with both deputies and cadaver dogs. He said investigations concluded that Keith was last seen in April 2018 by an acquaintance or co-worker, at a store in Greenville.
“It’s difficult, but he wasn’t in contact with many people in those last few months and didn’t really go anywhere,” Sgt. Cason said.
He added that they searched bank and credit card records, and while Keith had plenty of money in his accounts, nothing had been used since April.
Sergeant Cason told Dateline they haven’t had many leads in general since Keith was reported missing, and haven’t received any tips since 2020. But he urged anyone with information to come forward and that they would follow up.
“If someone remembers seeing him, or has any information at all, please give us a call,” he said. “We’ll follow up on every tip and do everything we can to find him.”
Cason added that there does not appear to be any foul play, but he isn’t ruling anything out.
Keith’s sister Kim told Dateline that over the years, she’s replayed all different scenarios in her head. She said that she sometimes thinks he took his own life, but then wonders why his body hasn’t yet been found.
“He was a single man with no children who liked to keep to himself,” Kim said. “But what makes him less important than anybody else? He was someone’s brother, son, and friend. Doesn’t he deserve national attention, too? Doesn't he deserve to be at peace?"
In the years since Keith’s disappearance, his family has been dealing with the legalities of taking over his house and finances. In 2019, their mother passed away.
And in March 2020, Kim suffered another loss when her son, Jared Meadows, died at just 32 years old. His body was found in the Shenandoah River.
“It’s been a really rough time, a rough few years,” Kim said. “I think that’s why I cling onto hope that we’ll find Keith. That's all I have. I think finding him would finally bring some peace and closure to this family. That’s all we want.”
Keith was 48 years old when he was last seen and was described as being 5'10" and about 185 lbs. He had brown eyes and, at the time, had brown hair which his sister said was starting to go gray.
Anyone who believes they may have information on Keith’s whereabouts is asked to call the Augusta County Sheriff's Office at 540-245-5333 or Crime Stoppers at 800-322-2017.