Portland detectives released a major detail in the missing person case of 18-year-old Owen Klinger. Police say they believe he planned to hop freight trains and live "off the grid."
Klinger was reported missing by his roommates early Monday, Oct. 7, when he left his University of Portland dorm on foot headed west on North Willamette Boulevard the evening prior and never returned. Since then, police have investigated his disappearance. His parents, with the help of hundreds of friends, neighbors and strangers, have set up coordinated searches around Portland for information or signs of Klinger. A GoFundMe page was also set up to help aid search efforts, bringing in more than $23,400 as of Oct. 16.
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, police suggested that the college student, who started his freshman year at U of P, left on his own accord. "Investigators believe Owen had been watching videos about hopping freight trains," Portland Police Bureau said Wednesday. "The direction he was walking was an area where freight trains are commonly staged. He had also watched the movie 'Into the Wild' in which a young man leaves to go to Alaska to 'go live off the grid.'"
Shortly after Klinger was reported missing, family and police noted he used an ATM on campus, withdrew money, got some food and left on foot. He had a drawstring backpack on at the time.
Klinger reportedly told his roommates he was going to a sports team meeting. "Detectives were able to confirm that Owen did not attend any team meeting nor was one scheduled," police said. They believe Klinger turned off his phone shortly after heading off campus Sunday evening, Oct. 6, but on Friday, Oct. 17, PPB clarified that investigators aren't certain whether Klinger disappeared on his own accord.
"At this time we are not ruling anything out and continue to focus efforts on locating Owen. We know Owen's phone has not been sending or receiving data, but would like to clarify that we cannot with certainty say how or why," a PPB news release stated.
Police said they are still engaged in active search efforts and are asking ride share operators or anyone who may have picked up Klinger to contact investigators. Video of Klinger walking in the area the night he left was also released by police.
Klinger's mother, Mary Klinger, said her son's phone records showed no activity after the time he left Oct. 6.
Susan Lennertz, a longtime family friend of the Klingers who has helped coordinate independent search efforts, said Wednesday's news from police didn't provide any solace. Lennertz said the notion that Klinger left on his own accord to hop trains and live outside society is "one of many possible scenarios."
"Owen watching a movie isn't evidence that he's off the grid," Lennertz said. "The searches are still on today. This is a terrible nightmare for the family and no relief in site."
On Oct. 10, after a candlelight prayer vigil was held at the UP campus, Klinger's parents, Mary and Dustin, asked for the public's help in continuing search efforts for their son. "We want Owen to know how much he's loved by us and the whole community," Mary Klinger told reporters after the vigil.
PPB says it is still working with UP in "a coordinated effort."
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