It is a tragic moment for a family when their outing ends in disaster when a woman calls emergency services to inform them that her two-year-old son, DeOrr Kunz Jr., is missing from the Timber Creek Campground located ten miles west of Leadore, Idaho. This is a tragic moment for the family because it was their son who went missing.
When children vanish without a trace, their families often spend months, years, and sometimes even decades looking for answers about what happened to their missing loved ones. However, arriving at a conclusion and finding some kind of resolution to a problem is never easy, particularly when there is insufficient evidence.
And DeOrr Kunz Jr., who has been missing for the past seven years, has had one of the most tragic endings to his story as well as one of the most baffling.
In the years that have passed since the incident, authorities and the parents’ former private investigator have made numerous attempts to frame the parents as suspects. However, there has only been a small amount of evidence found, and neither of the parents has admitted to committing the crime. As more time passes, the family continues to put more distance between themselves and the community that they formerly held in such high regard, leaving everyone wondering where DeOrr Kunz Jr. is.
What happened to Baby DeOrr Kunz Jr.?
It is a puzzle that has investigators stumped, and it has saddened both the family and the friends of the victim.
On July 10, 2015, two-year-old Deorr Kunz Jr., who was from Idaho Falls, went missing while visiting the Timber Creek Campground, which is located 10 miles from Leadore (east of Challis), Idaho, with his parents, Jessica Mitchell and Vernal DeOrr Kunz Sr.
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Along with DeOrr’s great-grandfather, Robert Walton, who was also Jessica’s grandfather, Isaac Reinwand, a friend of Walton’s was also traveling with the group.
When DeOrr went missing around 2:40 in the afternoon, the group was on a fishing trip as a family. On that particular day, Mitchell and Vernal made the decision to take them camping, and the subsequent fishing trip was spontaneous and unplanned, as stated by other members of the family. The choice to venture out into the woods was destined to have disastrous consequences.
Jessica and Vernal told the authorities that they believed their son’s great-grandfather was watching him at the Timber Creek Campground. However, the boy’s great-grandfather was under the impression that the boy was with his parents and Isaac down by the creek. At the time of his disappearance, DeOrr was dressed in blue pajama pants and a jacket with a camouflage pattern.
The independent 911 calls made by the parents, interviews conducted by the police, and other evidence sparked an investigation that yielded more questions than answers.
Since then, there has been no trace of DeOrr, and nobody has been held accountable for his disappearance in connection with the investigation. Mitchell and Kunz Sr. were identified as suspects by the previous sheriff of Lemhi County, Lynn Bowerman, in January 2016, but they were never arrested or charged with any crime. There was scant evidence, if any at all, to suggest that they had committed any kind of crime.
Since the beginning, the parents have maintained the position that they are unaware of what happened to their son. When Reinwand and Walton were questioned by the police, both of them stated that they did not have any idea where the boy was. Walton died in June 2019.
The case has been relatively quiet in the public eye over the past few months, with the exception of a continuing court battle between the family and a private investigator. An announcement was made in June 2019 that a bone that had been discovered at the campsite in June 2019 was from an animal and had no connection to the missing boy after months of testing at the FBI office in Quantico, Virginia.
Sheriff Steve Penner of Lemhi County says that the investigation into the crime is still ongoing and open. After winning the election for sheriff of Lemhi County in 2017, Steve Penner is now in charge of the investigation as the lead investigator. He also serves as the sheriff of Lemhi County, a position that was previously held by Lynn Bowerman, who has since retired.
DeOrr’s Arrival at the Timber Creek Campground
Mitchell, Vernal, and DeOrr set up chairs and started a fire in the fire pit as soon as they arrived at the campsite. Walton went to the trailer, where he relaxed inside while claiming that he had forgotten to close the door.
Issac Reinwand has stated that not long after he arrived, he left to go fishing on the nearby stream, and he did not return until it was discovered that DeOrr was missing.
Mitchell claims that after Jessica and Vernal had finished what needed to be done, Jessica yelled to her grandfather that they were going to leave DeOrr behind while they explored the surrounding area. Mitchell makes this claim. Walton, on the other hand, insisted that he had never heard Jessica’s call and that he was unaware that he was the one responsible for the boy. He also claimed that he was unaware that he was the one responsible for the boy. The family found out that DeOrr had gone missing thirty minutes after learning of the news.
Jessica and DeOrr Sr. were reportedly making their way down to a stream close to the campsite in order to fish with Reinwand, as stated by Lemhi County Sheriff Lynn Bowerman. DeOrr Jr. was present throughout their interaction with the three people.
The parents of DeOrr Jr. asked the toddler, who was two years old at the time, whether he preferred to stay with his grandfather or go fishing. In response, the toddler allegedly started walking back to be with Walton. This would turn out to be the final time that anyone saw him alive.
Walton later said that he had seen his grandson near the stream, but that he had taken his attention away from the boy for a brief moment. When he looked back, DeOrr Jr. was no longer there.
The hunt for DeOrr
Since the boy went missing weeks and months ago, multiple exhaustive searches have been conducted in the mountainous areas, including the open meadows, the dense pine forests, and the waterways. Over the course of several years, members of Search and Rescue teams made multiple trips into the wilderness campground on foot, horseback, and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Using helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), searches have been conducted from the air.
Advanced search teams and K9 dogs were brought in to look for any trace of DeOrr, and the search area was narrowed down to include the area around Stone Reservoir and Timber Creek, which are both located close to the campsite where he was last seen.
There has been no concrete evidence of DeOrr’s whereabouts presented despite the efforts of three private investigators who have conducted their own investigations into the case.
After traveling for forty minutes along the highway, the group arrived at the Stage Shop, a convenience store located in Leadore. The family reported that the store clerk saw Mitchell and Kunz Sr. with their son while they were inside the store.
However, when questioned later, the clerk stated that they had seen a blonde boy at 6:00 pm that night, which was different from the time that the parents had given to the police in their reports, which was 1:00 pm. After some time had passed, Vernal Kunz stated that the clerk was “mistaken,” which is a claim that has been called into question.
Controversy in the Kunz Case
As soon as the parents’ stories were compared, it became clear that there were significant discrepancies between them. The inconsistencies in the statements became public, and officials stated that both individuals had declined multiple opportunities to take a polygraph exam. As a direct consequence of this, Mitchell and DeOrr Sr. were both named as potential suspects in the investigation that took place in January of 2016.
Sheriff Lynn Bowerman of Lemhi County was quoted as saying, “I believe his parents are keeping something from us. In my opinion, there is no room for doubt. We gave them every opportunity to explain if it was some kind of accident, but they haven’t done so even though we gave them every chance to do so.
Bowerman believes that the case “has to be a homicide” and that the boy is not located anywhere near the region from which he vanished.
The boy was said to be wearing cowboy boots that were one size too big for his feet, and according to members of his family, the boots kept slipping off of his feet. Many people had the assumption that DeOrr’s boots would have been removed in the event that he was kidnapped or attacked by an animal. However, there has been no sign of the boots turning up.
However, there has been a discovery of insignificant evidence, and neither parent has admitted to being responsible for the crime. As more time goes by, the family continues to put more distance between themselves and the community that they formerly held in such high regard, leaving everyone wondering where DeOrr Kunz Jr. is.
Suspicion attached against Jessica and DeOrr Sr.
After getting a divorce and Jessica remarrying not long after, the couple moved out of their apartment and into a new one. The investigators were able to get their hands on everything that had been stashed away, and they found the jacket that DeOrr Jr. was said to have been wearing on the day that he vanished.
After that, the police determined that they were dealing with a potential homicide. There have been no arrests made, but it appears that Jessica and DeOrr Sr. are still being investigated as suspects.
So, what exactly transpired? Is it possible that young DeOrr got lost in the woods and was eaten by one of the animals that live there? Or perhaps DeOrr was a liar and he never went on the camping trip at all.
There was no sign their son had ever been at the site, there was no blood or DNA evidence discovered, and the jacket he was probably wearing was in their apartment the entire time. This evidence continues to mount against the parents.
“They need to know that mom and dad are being less than truthful, and they can make a decision about whether or not to donate based on that,” said Lynn Bowerman. We have talked to them on numerous occasions, and each time, certain aspects of their account are different from what they told us previously.
Every time we talk with them, the smallest details are different than before. After re-interviewing them, we found that they were unwilling to be truthful with us… “In terms of persons of interest, I think mom and dad are higher on the list, but we won’t rule out [Robert and Isaac] just yet because they were at the scene, so we won’t rule them out.”
Investigation by Klein
The family initially hired a private investigation firm known as Klein Investigations and Consulting, but they later terminated their services. Philip Klein, the CEO of the company, stated that his team of investigators found evidence to rule out the possibility of the victim being kidnapped or attacked by an animal. Klein is quoted as saying, “We have said one thing throughout the entirety of this case, and that is the evidence will lead us to the truth.” And we want to reassure the general public that we are making progress toward our goal. Klein also claimed that a member of Deorr’s extended family had rehired him to investigate the case, which is something that the attorney representing Mitchell and Deorr Sr. vehemently denies.
After he voiced his viewpoint regarding the issue, Mitchell and Kunz decided to terminate his employment and eventually made an attempt to sue him. At least three times, their lawsuits were dismissed, and KIC emerged victorious in every instance. In October 2019, the lawsuit was finally resolved.
The allegations that Klein was negligent in his conversations with the media, including making defamatory allegations against the parents that allegedly hindered the investigation, gave rise to these lawsuits.
Klein stated that the search was “a sickening example of ‘deflection’ of an event that in our opinion was most probably an accident and coverup.” Klein called the search “a sickening example of “deflection” of an event.” In addition, he asserts that the investigators have a theory regarding ‘how’ DeOrr died but are unable to determine ‘why’ his death took place. He believes that the mother is the person responsible for the coverup of the entire incident. Despite the fact that she admitted to the media that she believed Vernal was capable of harming their child, Klein maintains that she is just as capable of committing such a heinous crime.
Klein is the second investigator the family has hired who has subsequently left their employ; both of them continue to point the finger of suspicion at the parents. Klein is adamant in his belief that the death of DeOrr Kunz was most likely the result of an accident and an attempt to cover it up.
The result of the DeOrr Kunz Disappearance
Shortly after the disappearance of their son, Jessica Mitchell and Vernal Kunz called off their engagement, and in the end, both of them eventually remarried and relocated outside of the state.
Investigators were granted access to the property by the landlord who was living there after the parents were kicked out of the apartment they shared because they were behind on their rent payments. Once inside, they discovered the missing camouflage jacket as well as several toy cars that both parents claimed their son had been playing with at the time he went missing. A family friend used a credit card to make “seemingly purchases of items unknown to investigators in testimony,” in addition to the toys and the jacket. In addition, there was a box containing an insurance tracking device along with some instructions.
In 2016, cadaver dogs were spotted at five different locations, one of which was less than a kilometer and a half away from the campground. There was no additional evidence discovered at the scene of the crime.
In April of 2019, a new private investigator, David Marshburn, got involved in the search for the missing person. He is a participant in the investigation and was one of the co-founders of the Search For Me Foundation.
The Real Life Nightmare series on HLN conducted a reexamination of the case in November 2019 and aired previously unseen footage, including hours of recorded interviews with members of the victim’s family and friends. A documentary titled Missing 411, directed by David Paulides and released in 2019, featured the case and included interviews with key members of the investigation team.
It was decided in March of 2020 that a small bone that had been discovered at the Timber Creek Campground did not belong to DeOrr. The bone was discovered in June 2019 by Sheriff Steve Penner, who then forwarded it to the FBI office in Quantico, which is located in Virginia, for examination. In his words, “Preliminary testing couldn’t rule out it being human, but tests at Quantico did not find any human DNA on the bone.” This was in contrast to the results of the tests conducted at Quantico. It is highly likely that the remains belonged to an animal.
In Idaho Falls, Idaho, on December 30, 2012, DeOrr Jay Kunz Jr. was brought into the world by his parents, Jessica Mitchell and Vernal DeOrr Kunz Sr., Jessica’s fiancé at the time. Little Man was the nickname that his family used to refer to him. He was a curious, fun-loving, and enthusiastic child who had an average love for life but an above-average enthusiasm for life.
On July 10, 2015, Mitchell and Vernal made the spur-of-the-moment decision to go on a camping trip, which seemed to come out of nowhere. She would then proceed to invite her grandfather, Robert Walton, who already lived with the couple, to come and spend time with them. Walton then asked his friend Issac Reinwand, who insisted that he had never met the couple or DeOrr prior to this trip. DeOrr was also adamant that he had never met Reinwand.
After loading up, the five people traveled to Leadore in a truck that was pulling a camping trailer. The trip took about two hours. Instead of stopping at the campground, they continue for another forty minutes down the highway until they reach the Stage Shop, a convenience store in Leadore. They claim that the store clerk saw Mitchell and Kunz with their son while they were inside the Stage Shop.
The Final Verdict
Camping is just one of many popular things to do in Idaho, which is a state that has a wide variety of natural landscapes, ranging from stunning mountain ranges to sun-baked deserts. Because of this, spending time outside is an essential component of the lives of Idahoans. However, when a family camping trip in Idaho ends in tragedy, the vast forest transforms from a blessing into a curse. Idaho is home to an impressive 35 million acres of public land, making it appear to be the perfect destination for a vacation.
It has been a number of years since DeOrr Kunz Jr. allegedly disappeared and left on his journey. However, the communities and people who loved DeOrr in their hearts believe that there will come a day when DeOrr is discovered, and justice will be served. This is because they have the ongoing support of dedicated investigators such as Phillip Klein.
Has DeOrr Kunz ever been discovered?
Robert Walton, DeOrr’s great-grandfather, and Isaac Reinwand, one of Walton’s friends, were also traveling. Since that day, DeOrr has not been seen and no one has been put on trial in relation to his disappearance.
What transpired with little DeOrr Kunz?
On July 10, 2015, DeOrr went missing while camping at Timber Creek with his parents, Jessica Mitchell and Vernal DeOrr Kunz. Robert Walton, DeOrr’s great-grandfather, and Isaac Reinwand, one of Walton’s friends, were also traveling.
What was DeOrr Kunz Jr.’s age?
2 years of age