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Beneath the blue waters

What seemingly started out as a pleasure trip ended in a mysterious disappearance when two attorneys in-love vanished on Lake Huron. Her body was found, but his was never recovered. Was it an accident or was it murder? Chris Hansen reports

What secrets lie beneath the icy surface of Lake Huron? Did something sinister happen there?  Do the chilly waters hold the elusive clues to a mysterious disappearance, a death, and a family’s desperate quest to unravel it all?

It was tragedy that revolves around a vibrant young beauty in the prime of her life. There was just something about Lana Stempien: The tall blonde started modeling after high school, and spent six years traveling the country as an auto show model. But Lana always had high ambitions: She went on to become the first lawyer in her family, with a successful career as an attorney for the city of Detroit.

“She had a real effervescent personality,” says Andrew Jarvis, Lana Stempien’s co-worker. “You wouldn’t forget her, that’s for sure.”

“People were drawn to her,” says Tammy Swanson, Lana’s cousin.

Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: How did men react when she’d walk into a place?Tammy Swanson, Lana’s cousin: Oh, they’d fall all over her. I don’t think she ever paid for a drink when we had gone out.

Still, Tammy Swanson, Lana’s first cousin and one of her best friends, says Lana’s charm wasn’t really about beauty or brains— it had more to do with her radiant, free spirit, one that frequently caused her to unabashedly burst into song.

At 35 years old, Lana still seemed to be having too much fun to settle down, but two years ago when she started dating Chuck Rutherford, there were signs that might change. Rutherford was a 34-year-old attorney who’d worked at the Detroit prosecutor’s office. He was the son of a prominent Michigan lawyer. He’d started his own law practice, and Lana often helped her boyfriend with his cases.

Swanson: We figured one day they’d have their own law practice together.

After dating for a year, the two moved in together, sharing a modest suburban house.

Hansen: Was he a pleasant fellow to be around?Swanson: Yeah, he was nice. Quiet, but nice.

Though Chuck seemed different than Lana’s previous boyfriends— less athletic and more introverted, even casual observers like Dick Bell, who owns Jacoby’s, a favorite after work haunt of Lana’s, could see he was smitten.

Dick Bell, restaurant owner: He was fawning all over her and very attentive. It was kind of close that way.

Pat Koczara, Lana’s aunt and godmother, remembers an especially tender moment at her daughter’s wedding in Bermuda.

Pat Koczara, Lana Stempien’s godmother: All of a sudden, he came up to me and he said, “I really love your niece.”  And I just thought that was so sweet, because I just met him.

And Lana’s family says if Chuck loved Lana, that meant he had to love boating as well. Lana, the daughter of a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, grew up with boats and, four years ago, purchased a 27-foot Wellcraft cabin cruiser she named “Sea’s Life.”

Hansen: How important was the “Sea’s Life” to her?Swanson: Very, very important.

Lana’s family says Chuck was so taken with Lana that though he wasn’t a boater himself, he happily indulged his girlfriend’s love of the water. During their romance, the two spent almost every weekend on Lana’s boat, and Chuck was even learning to drive it. And last August, the couple decided to take a vacation together on Lake Huron. It was a boating trip Lana had been planning all summer.

On Wednesday August 10th,  Lana launched her boat from her parent’s house in Belle River, Canada, just across from Detroit, something the experienced skipper had done hundreds of times before. She and Chuck were heading to Mackinac Island, a summer destination in northern Michigan. But what started as a fun adventure would soon turn into a mystery, an investigation, and a list of unanswered questions.

The two-day trip was to take Lana and Chuck up the St. Claire River and into the vast waters of Lake Huron. From there, they would pass Michigan’s thumb area, then stick close to the state’s eastern shore all the way up to the straits of Mackinac.

Hansen: When it came to making sure the conditions were appropriate for boating, how was she?Swanson: A fanatic. She wouldn’t take risks with that boat.

Because the forecast predicted some rain that weekend, Lana’s family says she was in a hurry to leave Wednesday morning, eager to get a head start on any bad weather.  Before saying goodbye, she and Chuck promised Lana’s parents they’d call every night so they wouldn’t worry.

And when she checked in that first evening, Lana told them they’d already made it much farther than she’d expected. The couple had pulled into a marina in Oscoda, looking for a place to tie up for the night, and some decent food.

Richard Bannon, met the couple at a dock: They were tired. He was hungry. He was tired of eating rice cakes.

Richard Bannon, who’s boat was in the slip right next to Lana’s, offered to drive the couple to the nearby Au Sable Inn, where he and his wife joined them for dinner and drinks.

Bannon: They seemed happy together. I just felt they were very much together.

After a fun evening laughing over cocktails, the couples retired to their boats.

Bannon says Lana and Chuck were up by 7 a.m. Thursday, wanting to get an early start as they headed back out onto Lake Huron.

At 12:30 the couple stopped in Presque Isle, where Gene Austin gassed them up.  They joked about who should pay the bill and before pulling out, Lana asked about any trouble spots.

Gene Austin, gas station worker: They told us that they were going to Mackinac island for the weekend, and she asked me if there was any shallow water.

But Austin says Lana, the ever safety-conscious boater, already had the two shallow areas he told her to avoid programmed into her GPS. And as he watched “Sea’s Life” pull out, he never imagined he’d be one of the last people to see the smiling skipper alive.

Friday, August 12th was an ugly morning on the waters of northern Lake Huron and even in his 52-foot express cruiser, boater Tom Behan was struggling against the powerful winds and high waves. So he was shocked to spot a much smaller boat battling the elements.

Tom Behan, boater in Lake Huron: The boat was bobbing around like a cork and I made a remark that “Boy, there’s a brave soul out here in that size boat in a 5 foot sea.” I said, “I think the boat’s in trouble.”

It was “Sea’s Life” —  Lana Stempien’s boat.

Just an hour earlier, her distraught father had called the Coast Guard to report the boat overdue.

The family hadn’t heard from Lana, or her boyfriend Chuck, since 1:45 p.m. Thursday, when Lana called her Aunt Pat in Florida.

Pat Koczara, Lana's aunt: She was in very good spirits. I didn’t hear anything wrong in her voice and she said she was about two hours away from Mackinac island.

But the couple never made it.

When the St. Ignace Coast Guard arrived on the scene shortly after Behan first spotted “Sea’s Life,” they feared something had gone terribly wrong. 

Jim Renkes, Coast Guard: We tried to use our loud hailer to see if we could get any sign of people on board the boat or any response. There was nothing. The boat was empty. There was nobody on it.

Not only was Lana’s boat abandoned, it was about 11 miles northeast of Mackinac Island— way off course, its engine idling in neutral, the stereo still playing, just adrift in the middle of the lake.

Renkes: That’s where we found the boat. It was in open water.

What had happened to Lana and Chuck?  The Coast Guard launched a massive search and rescue effort that spanned some 1600 square miles, but 26 hours later, they called off the search — there was no sign of the missing couple anywhere.

Lana’s cousin Tammy Swanson got the call from another cousin.

Tammy Swanson, Lana’s cousin: She didn’t even say hello. She just said “Lana’s missing.”Chris Hansen:  Lana’s missing?Swanson:  Right. I was in shock. I was in awe. I said “I just left her a message. What do you mean she’s missing?”

How could Lana, the daughter of the former Coast Guard officer, go missing on the water? To Chris Crowley, another cousin's of Lana's, it just didn’t make sense. He says Lana always adhered to the strict rules of boating she learned from her dad.

Stunned, Lana’s large, close-knit family jumped into action. Within hours they had converged from all over the state, pouring over maps, renting airplanes, helicopters, even jet skis.

Crowley: In very short order we had about 20 people.Hansen: At first did you hold out hope that maybe Lana and Chuck would be found alive?Crowley:  Oh that’s all we were thinking about. We were completely thinking "search and rescue."Hansen: You figured they were clinging onto some life jacket, life ring…Crowley:  Absolutely. That’s the only way we could think. In fact, we were making a lot of jokes about we know when we find Lana she’s gonna say “What the heck took you so long? I’ve been out here for a day and a half, where you been?”

Another group of cousins plastered the Northern Michigan shoreline with flyers.

Swanson: Our only thought was we’re going to every bar, every marina, every party store, every anywhere…just hoping that she was somewhere.

Detective Sergeant Robin Sexton of the Michigan State Police had a missing persons case on his hands  — and after inspecting Lana’s boat with three other troopers, there were very few clues about why the young couple had seemingly vanished.

Hansen:  Was there anything on board the boat that indicated foul play?Detective Sexton, Michigan P.D.:  Nothing. It appeared that somebody just walked off the boat. There was nothing untoward, unusual about the boat condition at all.Hansen:  Any signs of a struggle?Detective Sexton: Nothing. Hansen:  Obvious signs of blood?Detective Sexton:  Nothing. No damage to the boat. Things that may have been considered of value were still there. Money was in the wallet. Clothes were laying on the deck.  Nothing unusual. The natural assumption is they drowned.

Had the couple simply gone for a swim and somehow drifted dangerously far from the boat? 

Hansen: Boat got away from them — they drowned?Crowley: The water wasn’t that warm. The weather wasn’t that calm—and they decided to both jump off the boat and the boat got away? That just doesn’t seem to add up.

On Thursday, the day before Lana’s boat was discovered, the water in Lake Huron had only been about 65 degrees. When Richard Bannon waved goodbye to the couple that morning in Oscoda, they were bundled up in sweatshirts. And, when she talked to her Aunt Pat, Lana hardly sounded like she was ready to dive in for a swim.

Koszcara: She said, “We were hoping to get an early start. We wanted to avoid the rough water.” She says “But it didn’t work out that way.” So I got the impression that the water was very rough.

What’s more, when “Sea’s Life” was found, the swim ladder was still up—not down as you’d expect it to be if someone had gone for a swim.

Whatever went wrong, Lana’s family was convinced it didn’t start with a casual dip in the lake.

And an accidental drowning seemed every bit as unlikely.

Koczara: We knew that both her and Chuck were excellent swimmers.At the wedding in Bermuda, we watched them tread water for maybe 20 minutes to 30 minutes and I had that in my mind.Swanson: We figured they had to be out there somewhere. They’ve got to be on an island somewhere.

It was a slim, but comforting thread of hope.

But on Tuesday, August 16, five days after Lana and Chuck had last been heard from, that hope began to fade.  Lana’s beloved father was scheduled for heart surgery that day—and she’d promised to be home from Mackinac in time to be by his side.

Swanson: She wouldn’t have missed it. If she was somewhere, she would’ve made that phone call: “Hey, I’m okay. This is where I am. The boat got away from me. I’m ok.”  She didn’t call.

Lana is found
Then, on August 24th, 14 days after Lana and Chuck set out on their trip, Beverly Wheaton, who’d seen the state police divers combing the waters near her home, spotted a strange shape on this rocky shoal in Hammond Bay.

Beverly Wheaton, Huron beach resident: I was sitting at the picnic table and looking out and saw something... an object that was, seemed out of place.

It was Lana. 

Crowley: We were crushed. We were convinced that we’d find her and we were going to find her alive.Swanson: Nobody could stop crying. There was a sense of “she’s home.” We could have a funeral for her. We could try and grieve for her. We could put her to rest.Hansen:  But it must have been just profoundly sad to have this reality hit home.Swanson: She’s really gone. She’s really not coming home.

Any solace Lana’s family found as they laid the tall beauty to rest was short-lived. Instead of providing answers, her body only deepened the mystery of what had gone wrong on Lake Huron. She was found nude, wearing only a necklace, a ring and her treasured Omega watch.

Hansen: Did it disturb you that she was found unclothed?Swanson: Very disturbing. Why was she naked? We just couldn’t understand that. It just raises more questions of what happened.

When Lana Stempien’s body was discovered, she was wearing nothing but jewelry, and police are convinced she went into the water that way.

Detective Sexton, Michigan P.D.: Over that period of time, the clothing wouldn’t disintegrate or wash off. Also, the clothing would’ve left marks.

Were Lana and her boyfriend Chuck just enjoying a romantic skinny dip when something went tragically wrong?  It’s a theory her family refuses to accept.

Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: This skinny dipping theory doesn’t work for you?Tammy Swanson, cousin: No.Hansen: People go skinny dipping all the time—romantic couples?Swanson: No. Why is your jewelry on?

The Omega watch
Tammy Swanson says her cousin always removed her jewelry before swimming and always put it in exactly the same place.

Swanson: She would have put her rings through the watch clasp and put it through the steering wheel.Hansen: She did the same thing every time? Swanson: Yes. So why was her jewelry still on?

What’s more, Lana’s Omega watch, which sells for $1,500, was a treasured gift from an old boyfriend. And, she’d just spent $300 to have it cleaned and re-sealed.

Swanson: It was a very precious piece of jewelry to her.Hansen: Does it make sense to you that she would go into the water voluntarily with this prized possession?Chris Crowley, Lana Stempien’s cousin:  Not at all, she wouldn’t do it.

Too cold for swimming
Plus, there was the weather.

Swanson: It was cold. It wasn’t a hot day where you would just go in the water.

But what about drinking?  Police found an empty bottle of vodka on Lana’s boat, raising the question of whether the young couple had just been partying too much and become careless. 

Andrew Jarvis, a friend of Lana’s who worked with her in the Detroit law department, and also boated with her, says that just wouldn’t happen.

Andrew Jarvis, Lana’s co-worker: She would never, never drink when she was operating that boat. She was extremely safe. If she were gonna have a drink or two, she would wait until she got to shore.

It would be months before a toxicology report would reveal what, if anything, was in Lana’s system. The initial state autopsy concluded the cause of Lana’s death was drowning. And with no obvious signs of trauma, the official report lists the manner of death as “accident.”

Detective Sexton: It gives appearance of being a boating accident. We have questions, but right now, there is no definitive evidence that there’s foul play involved here.Hansen:  Can you rule out foul play?Detective Sexton:  No, we cannot.

Without hard evidence, lead investigator Detective Robin Sexton says any talk of foul play is pure speculation.

But Jack Cote, a lawyer who has 25 years experience reconstructing the events surrounding the disappearance of boaters, believes Lana’s Omega watch is one of many indications that something suspect was likely involved.  He volunteered his services to both Lana Stempien’s and Chuck Rutherford’s families when he first heard about the case.

Jack Cote, helping the Stempien family in the investigation: The possibility of foul play in my mind is at least 50/50 if not higher.Hansen: The autopsy showed no obvious signs of trauma. Does that rule out foul play?Cote: No. Because you can have an absence of trauma and still drown.Hansen:  Pushed overboard?Cote: Yes.

Though Cote says the Rutherfords have told him they no longer need his help, he’s still working with the Stempiens.

Lana's torn shoe
He believes one of the most intriguing clues is Lana’s size 8 ½ New Balance running shoe, found lying on her boat with a knob from the boat’s GPS bracket strangely wedged in the sole.

Cote: If you took a hammer and tried to pound that in, you would have difficulty doing that.Swanson: That was very odd. The Coast Guard told us that the only way that the knob could have been embedded in her shoe was with force.Hansen: Does that indicate to you that there was some sort of struggle on board this boat?Swanson: That there was something.Cote: Something out of the ordinary?Swanson: Something out of the ordinary, something happened.

Cote also points to a suspiciously large tear in the back of the same shoe as one more hint of a violent struggle.

Hansen: It’s a struggle that is somehow related to, or lead to, the demise of these two people?Cote: It could very well be.

Whose fenders?
And then there are the mysterious fenders—which boaters use to protect their boats when they tie up to another boat.

Tom Behan, who first spotted Lana’s abandoned boat, worried when he noticed a pair of blue fenders oddly tied together, dragging from a line behind the boat.

Tom Behan, spotted “Sea’s Life”: Probably 30 to 50 feet away from the boat, which was immediate suspect to me. Why is this line hanging off the back of the boat?  As a safe boater, you don’t ever allow that to happen.

The blue fenders, sometimes called bumpers, disturb Lana’s family because her fenders were white—they say she didn’t own any blue ones, and hadn’t purchased any.

Swanson: There were no blue bumpers. her parents agree she never had blue bumpers.Hansen: How can you be so sure that she didn’t purchase these?Swanson: Cause I myself called different marine stores and have printouts of what she purchased, and that was not something she’d ever purchased.Cote: If they didn’t buy them, who tied to them to their boat? The only explanation is some third party.

Was another boat moored to “Sea’s Life”? And if it was, who was on it— and why were they there?

Police downplay the possibility because when the Coast Guard arrived shortly after Behan first saw Lana’s boat, the blue fenders were gone.

Detective Sexton: Sometime between when he left and they arrived, these fenders, and no disrespect to him, if they existed, disappeared. The Coast Guard never saw them. Behan: Those fenders were there. There was absolutely no question about it. Absolutely, 100 percent sure.Cote: So the question is… where did they go? The possibility of foul play is very high on the agenda.

GPS mystery
What’s even more disturbing to Lana’s family is her GPS.  At 1:22 a.m., some 12 hours after anyone heard from Lana and Chuck, police say someone appears to have activated the tracking device.

Detective Sexton: We had no idea what was going on. It appeared the track started at that time in the morning for no apparent reason.Crowley: It’s very puzzling, very peculiar for no one to have seen them and for nearly 12 hours to go by, and then for the GPS to be turned on is just not explainable.Hansen:  What are the possibilities do you think?Crowley: I don’t think it points to them accidentally falling off the boat in the middle of the afternoon.

Was someone on board Lana’s boat in the middle of the night, tampering with the tracking device in the darkness?

Adding to the mystery, Dateline has learned that part of the memory on the GPS was suspiciously blank.  The company that makes the unit says that could only happen if someone intentionally deleted information, perhaps in an effort to cover the boat’s whereabouts.

Hansen: Is it possible that somebody was messing around with this GPS, deleting information?Detective Sexton: I guess it’s possible.

Detective Sexton cautions that police are still analyzing the data from the GPS and are not prepared to draw any conclusions from it. 

But Lana’s friend Andrew Jarvis, who volunteered to act as the family’s attorney, asked a technician who previously made minor repairs to Lana’s GPS to analyze that same data.

Andrew Jarvis, Lana’s friend and now-Stempien family attorney: There is no other explanation other than somebody physically erased that information—somebody who didn’t want anybody to know where that boat had been.

But who would do that, and why?  And why was the knob embedded in Lana’s shoe? Why was her shoe torn? Where did those blue fenders come from? And why was Lana naked except for the jewelry she always took off before swimming?

They were lingering and disturbing questions. And the most troubling one: Where was Chuck?

Foul play?
If foul play was involved in the disappearance of Lana Stempien and her boyfriend Chuck Rutherford, speculation about who would want to harm two successful young attorneys has run the gamut from pirates on the water, to a mafia hit.

Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: This is not an area known for piracy.Jack Cote, helping the Stempien family in the investigation: No, no.Hansen: Chuck was a former criminal prosecutor. Somebody in the mafia might have been upset with him and gone after him and this was some kind of a hit?Cote: Nobody to my knowledge to date has identified someone that he may have prosecuted that would have a vendetta against him. If that motive existed, there’s a lot of easier ways to get at him than out in the middle of Lake Huron.

And Andrew Jarvis says of all the wild theories he’s heard, only one seems plausible: When the couple stopped for the night in Oscoda, or to get gas in Presque Isle, things somehow got ugly.

Andrew Jarvis, Lana’s friend and now Stempien family attorney: They ran into somebody up there on the water that they didn’t hit it off with, had some ulterior motives. Maybe things went sour.

But how did Lana die— and what happened to Chuck?  Five months after he and Lana disappeared, there is still no sign of him anywhere.

Cote: I would have expected his body to have surfaced at about the same time and in the same general vicinity as Lana’s.Hansen: Do you see it as at all strange that Lana’s body is found two weeks after the incident, yet all these months later we still haven’t found Chuck’s body?Detective Robin Sexton, Michigan P.D.: Not in the slightest. It is not unheard of for bodies to enter the water and never be recovered.

Still, it’s a troubling question that continues to haunt Lana’s family:

Tammy Swanson, Lana’s cousin: Is he still underwater? I don’t know. Is he somewhere else? I don’t know.

Chuck's family declined to give Dateline either an interview or a statement. Detective Sexton, who talks to them regularly as his investigation continues, says the Rutherfords are just trying to cope.

Detective Sexton: They are extremely saddened by the loss of their son. They are very private people, and they want answers to the questions just like the Stempiens do.

Patrick Quinlan, a college buddy of Chuck’s who’s kept in touch with him over the years, says Chuck’s friends are still in shock.

Patrick Quinlan, Chuck Rutherford’s friend from college: It’s just bizarre to have a buddy just disappear.

Bizarre, and to some people, suspicious.

But Chuck's college pal is angered by suggestions that because he's still missing, Chuck was involved in Lana’s death.

Hansen: Do you think there’s a possibility that Chuck is still alive?Quinlan: No.Hansen: That he had something to do with Lana’s death and somehow was able to get off the boat?Quinlan: No. He’s not a violent, hot tempered person. It just doesn’t match with who he is.

Here is the photo the family has requested of the two missing boaters -- Chuck and Lana.

Hansen: We have been told, that Lana told a bartender friend of hers that “If anything ever happens to me, look at my boyfriend.” Did you check into that?  Is it significant?Detective Sexton: It’s part of the investigation.

Though Sexton won’t elaborate, Andrew Jarvis checked out the story for Lana’s family and got sworn statements from several people confirming the incident.

He says the witnesses he spoke to told him the comment was made in a Detroit bar a few months before Lana disappeared and was prompted by a television story about the murder of Laci Peterson.

Jarvis: They did not believe she was joking. She seemed very nervous after making that statement.

Jarvis says he also has sworn statements from people who describe a troubling incident at another bar in downtown Detroit.

Lana and Chuck were hanging out in a Detroit bar one night with another couple.  They say Chuck had too much to drink and became belligerent. When Lana told him to straighten up because he was embarrassing everyone, Chuck started swearing loudly and calling Lana names.  They say Chuck’s verbal abuse was so out of hand that at one point one of them had to stand between the couple to separate them. And then, two Detroit police officers who were in the bar having dinner actually had to forcibly escort Chuck outside.

According to Lana’s friends, that kind of behavior had caused Lana to rethink her relationship with Chuck.

Jarvis: From those sworn affidavits, it indicates Lana was going to end the relationship with Chuck. She didn’t believe that they had a future together.

And there’s something else: “Dateline” has learned that the very last phone call Lana made from her boat before she died was to another man— someone who Chuck was jealous about in the past.

Jarvis: It’s a person who Chuck had expressed jealous behavior towards Lana, or been agitated when she had spoken to this individual on the phone.

Two days into Lana and Chuck’s boat trip, at 1:59 p.m. on Thursday, August 11th, Lana left her male friend a one-minute message.

Jarvis says she was making plans to meet up with him when she’d be on the east coast for her cousin’s upcoming wedding.

Jarvis: She was not taking Chuck to that wedding. He did not know that Lana planned not to take him to that wedding.Hansen:  27 foot-boat, close quarters. You have to wonder if she’s calling another man, does he overhear it? Is there some sort of disagreement? That leads to an accident or a tragedy?Detective Sexton: I don’t know.Hansen: Is that an important piece of evidence in this case?Sexton: We’re still looking at it.

Detective Sexton says without any evidence, the possibility that a phone message caused an ugly argument is pure speculation.

Detective Sexton: Whether it happened or not, I don’t know. But how would you prove that?

Chuck’s friend Patrick Quinlan says whatever happened on board “Sea’s Life,” it’s a stretch to think Chuck is now hiding out somewhere.

Hansen: You just don’t buy it?Quinlan: If he was still alive, somebody would have heard from him.

Even Lana’s family is cautious, acknowledging that no matter what was going on in their relationship, it may have absolutely no connection to her death, or to Chuck's disappearance.

Pat Kozcara, Lana's aunt: I feel very much for his family. That’s gotta be terrible to think about that every day that your child may still be in that water.

Jarvis: For all I know, Chuck could be recovered, his remains, and this could all turn out to be a big accident.

Was it murder?  Was Chuck involved? Or was it something else entirely? Something surprising would turn up in Lana’s toxicology report.

Carbon monoxide poisoning?
Three months after Lana and Chuck disappeared, there was a surprising development: Lana’s toxicology report revealed she had a high level of carbon monoxide in her system when she drowned.

After all the speculation, was this the answer?  Was it an accident after all?  Were Lana and Chuck just swimming dangerously close to her boat’s exhaust?

Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent:  A lot of people believe that.Tammy Swanson, Lana Stempien’s cousin: I don’t. I don’t know who would swim with the motor running. You shut if off. Hansen: So if she was in the water voluntarily, she would have shut the boat off.Swanson: Absolutely. Chris Crowley, Lana’s cousin: I think the carbon monoxide makes the possibility that this was an accident less. I don’t think that either Chuck or Lana would jump off the back of the boat and swim in the exhaust. Hansen: There is the possibility though that carbon monoxide or fumes got into the cabin. Crowley: For both of them to be overcome and to fall out of the boat, seems a bit of a reach.

Lana’s cousin also believes if Lana’s boat was releasing dangerous levels of odorless gas, they would know. After police returned “Sea’s Life” to her family, they used it to search the waters of Lake Huron.

Hansen:  Did anybody feel dizzy, sick, nauseated?Crowley: No. We didn’t experience any problems and some of my cousins and friends spent days on the boat.

And both of the attorneys working with Lana’s family argue it’s a big mistake to assume carbon monoxide equals accident.

Hansen:  Does, that in your mind, rule out foul play?Jack Cote, helping the Stempien family in the investigation:  No, because a person could be forced to expose themselves to a certain high concentration of carbon monoxide poisoning.

One theory is that if Lana were thrown off the boat, she could have inhaled a high dose of carbon monoxide and she struggled to get back on.

Andrew Jarvis, Lana's friend, now-Stempien family attorney: If it were foul play and she were thrown off that boat, she’d swim to the back platform and try and get on, which is where the exhaust would be bubbling up. If somebody were trying to prevent you from getting in the boat.

The toxicology report revealed something else: there were only negligible levels of alcohol in Lana’s system, eliminating the theory that Lana and Chuck were partying and accidentally fell overboard.

No answers
All of it puts Lana’s anguished family right back at square one— with all those unanswered, troubling questions.

Hansen: The watch, the fact she had no clothes on, the GPS, the knob, the line, the fenders, what is the most bothersome part of all this for you? Swanson:  That the answers aren’t coming fast enough.Detective Sexton: This has been frustrating. We wish we had more answers than we do.

Unsatisfied, Lana’s family paid for a private autopsy, and has hired a private lab to do a thorough forensic exam of her boat.

Hansen: Is it possible, you’re pushing this beyond where it needs to go? It’s a tragic accident, and we should just live with it?Crowley:  No, I can’t subscribe to that. I know that we loved her deeply and we’re a very emotional family, but we’re a very rational family. I firmly believe somebody knows something.Hansen: How far will you go to get answers here?  Crowley: We’re not going to quit. We’re going to work for the next 40 years if that’s what it takes to get the answers.

Answers that may lie beneath these icy waters, answers the family of an accomplished young man hopes will come soon, answers the family of a beautiful model turned successful lawyer needs to ease the wrenching pain of losing someone so vivacious, so radiant.

Swanson: She was full of life. She had things to do. We had plans. And to be taken this way...Pat Koszcara, Lana's aunt: Some days, I can’t think about it. If I think about it, it becomes real. I don’t want it to be real yet.