UPDATE: Due to severe Winter weather in the Midwest this week, the search for Patrick has been postponed until Saturday, February 27.
Family, friends and volunteers from the community are gathering this weekend for a massive search with the hope of finding Patrick Chapman, a 34-year-old Missouri father who’s been missing since Mother’s Day.
“We’re hoping the search leads to some answers,” Jen Newbury told Dateline. “It’s been a long nine months. We need to know what happened.”
Jen, who lives in their hometown of St. Charles, Missouri, is Patrick’s ex-wife and the mother of their 11-year-old son. The two have remained friends long after their six-year marriage ended in 2011.
“Every time I look at him [Jackson], every time I see his face, it kills me,” Jen. “He needs his father. And we need answers.”
The last time Jen saw or even spoke to Patrick was on May 10, 2020 - Mother’s Day.
“He texted me Happy Mother’s Day,” Jen recalled. “Then he proceeded to ask me about Jackson’s Chromebook.”
Jen explained that Patrick was telling her that someone had taken money out of his account and that he wasn’t able to access it on his phone, so he needed his son’s laptop. Later that morning, he went over to Jen’s house and asked again for the laptop.
“I thought maybe he was accusing our son of taking money out of his account from the laptop - but I overreacted,” Jen said. “He looked upset and confused. But I told him to leave. It’s the last time I ever saw him.”
Jen told Dateline that Patrick texted a family friend and asked to come stay with them, about three hours away near Mill Spring, Missouri. He had briefly dated their daughter, and would sometimes stay at their home from time to time if needed.
Patrick arrived at the family friend’s house around 10 p.m. on the evening of May 10. By the next morning, Patrick, and the 1995 burgundy Escort Station Wagon he had been driving, were both gone.
Jen told Dateline that Patrick, who worked as a tow-truck driver, was known to couch surf or go camping, so it was believed he had just moved on to a different location. But when no one had heard from him over the next couple of weeks, the family friend reported him missing to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office on May 30.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. J.T. Wilson, who has been assisting the sheriff’s office since mid-June 2020 after Patrick’s car was found abandoned.
Trooper Wilson told Dateline that the Escort Station Wagon was found in a rural part of the county, in Mark Twain National Forest, less than two miles away from where he was last seen, on a 4-wheeler path. The car had severe damage to the bumper and all four tires were flat.
“It’s a very rural area,” Trooper Wilson explained. “There was no cell service, absolutely none. No way to even ping his phone.”
Patrick’s family told Dateline that Patrick’s wallet, containing his ID and bank card, medicine, were found inside the car. However, his cell phone and car keys were nowhere to be found.
Trooper Wilson told Dateline that multiple grid searches were conducted over the course of several months following Patrick’s disappearance. In addition to the search crews, cadaver dog teams were brought in to search.
Trooper Wilson said the crews have searched the area where Patrick’s car was found, along with other areas where he might have previously gone camping or slept in his car. But none of the teams have found anything in connection to Patrick’s disappearance.
Many of Patrick’s loved ones, including Jen and Patrick’s sister, Megan Ryan, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, have been down to Wayne County to search for him dozens of times.
“I know I’ve made at least 17 trips,” Jen told Dateline. “We’ve never dealt with this, with a missing person. We’re learning as we go.”
Jen added that those searching the rural area where Patrick’s car was found have had to invest in hiking gear and snow gear in order to traverse the rough terrain.
“It’s not a walk in the park,” Jen said. “You have to be prepared.”
Patrick’s sister, Megan, told Dateline they’ve really only had the area where Patrick’s car was found as a starting point, but want to make sure they’ve covered all they can before moving on to another area.
“We’re hoping the search this weekend will eliminate that area,” Megan said. “We want to make sure that we’ve gone through that area with a fine tooth comb and know without a doubt that he’s not there.”
The next search for Patrick is scheduled for Saturday, February 27, 2021 in Mill Spring, Missouri. More information can be found here.
But a winter storm could hinder their plans. The storm started today and is expected to dump 6-12 inches of snow and ice on the county. Trooper Wilson, who plans to be at the search this weekend, told Dateline it could be too treacherous and unsafe for crews to continue.
Missouri SAR (Search and Rescue) is also scheduled to join the hundreds of volunteers, but organizers continue to ask for those with access to canoes, drones, boats, jet skis, any equipment that could aid in their search.
Both Jen and Megan told Dateline that the idea that Patrick could have taken off to start a new life - or possibly even taken his own life, has come up, but they don’t believe that’s what happened.
“He would’ve never left his son,” Jen said. “That kid was everything to him.”
Jen told Dateline she doesn’t think Patrick would’ve left without the medication left behind in his car or the money from his stimulus check behind in his bank account.
“If we don’t find him in the area, near where his car was found,” Jen said. “Then there’s definitely foul play.”
Trooper Wilson told Dateline that at this time, Patrick’s case is nothing more than a missing persons case.
“There’s always a chance it could turn out to be a homicide or a suicide, but right now it’s a missing persons case and we’re doing the best we can to find him.”
Nine months have passed since Patrick’s disappearance and his loved ones are struggling with the idea that their continued searches for him are now more a recovery effort than a rescue.
“Even if he’s not with us anymore, we want him home,” Jen said. “His father died in 2010. We’d like to bring Pat home and bury him next to his dad - so he’s not out there somewhere all alone.”
They’re hoping to have some answers by the time Patrick’s 35th birthday comes around on February 24. But either way, they intend to honor him with a balloon release and a prayer for peace.
Family and friends are offering a $3,000 reward for information leading them to Patrick’s whereabouts. A billboard with Patrick’s photo and information is expected to be up along Highway 55 soon. A Facebook Page “Help Us Find Patrick Chapman” and Facebook group “Bring Patrick Chapman Home” have been created to discuss Patrick’s case, provide information for upcoming searches and hopefully bring in tips.
“Any information helps,” Jen told Dateline. “We’re doing everything we can to find him. Hopefully, someone who knows something will help us by coming forward.”
Patrick is described as being 5’6” tall and weighing 160 lbs. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. His tattoos include the word “Chapman” vertically down the right forearm, a circular saw blade or sun image between his shoulder blades and a cross on shoulder blade.
Anyone with information on Patrick’s whereabouts is asked to call the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office at (573) 224-3219.