Owen Klinger, the missing University of Portland freshman, who seemingly vanished without a trace on October 6, 2019, had researched train hopping and watched the movie Into the Wild, Portland police said in a press release and video interview.
That has led police to believe that it’s more likely that Klinger left on his own, a theory that the college lacrosse player’s family has pushed back against. Portland police released the new details on October 17, 2019 as searches for Klinger continue with multiple volunteers. There’s been little to go on, just an ATM withdrawal and a photo showing Klinger leaving campus.
Klinger’s parents released a statement on the Find Owen Klinger Facebook page on October 21. It read, “Portland police have notified us that they have recovered a body that we believe is our son, Owen Klinger. We deeply appreciate the extraordinary effort and support that thousands of people have provided over the past two weeks. We now ask for privacy as we move forward with our healing process.” The cause of death was not revealed.
“Investigators believe Owen had been watching videos about hopping freight trains. 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,'” police wrote in the news release.
Police pointed to two additional clues in arguing that they now think Klinger did not meet with foul play, at least initially; they say he misled his roommates about where he was going and turned off his cell phone. However, they later corrected the latter, saying “the phone has not been sending or receiving data,” according to KOIN.com, and they also now say he wad walking west on North Willamette Boulevard, not north as they originally stated. The television station reported that Owen’s mom says the train hopping videos are being over emphasized.
“Those train-hopping videos were just one of 50 channels Owen had subscribed to on his YouTube feed,” Mary said to KOIN. “When we looked in his YouTube search history and his recent viewing history, we don’t see that he has even looked at those videos any time in the recent past.”
“Members of the Detective Division have conducted interviews and have reviewed video evidence concerning the disappearance of Owen Klinger. This is a coordinated effort with the University of Portland and Owen’s family and friends,” police wrote.
The IMDB profile for 2007’s Into the Wild describes this way: “After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.” It’s based on a Jon Krakauer book.
Here’s what you need to know:
Owen’s Family Is Pushing Back Against the New Police Report
The Finding Owen Klinger Facebook page responded by saying, “Today’s police press release caused some confusion, but one thing we know is Owen is still missing! Bring him home.”
Portland police Sgt. Brad Yakots said in a video interview with KGW8 that there’s a “few things we do know…Owen walked away from the University of Portland campus…we haven’t really had any leads since then.”
Klinger’s parents Dustin and Mary have given numerous interviews and posted videos about their search. They say that Owen was getting good grades, was athletic, and no one noticed any signs of trouble. Owen’s mom, Mary Klinger, told Fox12: “This is not like him at all, he’s our middle child, he’s the peacekeeper and doesn’t rock the boat. In his friend group, he gets them all together and gets things going, he’s a great kid.”
Owen’s family is not convinced by the train hopping theory. “He did watch the movie ‘Into the Wild,’ so that’s one of the police’s theories, he also watched ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ but I don’t think he’s hijacked any art in the last week,” Dustin Klinger, Owen’s father, said to KGW8, which added that Owen’s parents believed he would not have left cold weather gear back in his dorm.
In a video, Mary thanked people for continuing to search for Owen. “We don’t know where he is. There are different theories. The police made a release on their favorite theory but also in that press release there were errors.”
She stated: “We don’t know that Owen turned off his phone. We just know that his phone is off. It’s terrifying.”
“We don’t believe he hopped a freight train to Alaska and so we’re a little frustrated with Portland police who have promulgated that theory, but they assure us that they’re also looking into other leads and issues they have,” Dustin Klinger said to the television station. “We just tell people we’re not done searching for Owen. We haven’t given up on him.”
“We will pretty strongly that he knowingly left on his own will. We don’t know yet whether something unfortunately additionally happened to him,” Yakots said, adding that it’s illegal to travel on trains.
Klinger withdrew money from an ATM on campus “and then walked away. We have video evidence of him walking away from campus.”
“Owen is 6’1″, 165 pounds and was last seen wearing light-blue hooded sweatshirt, jeans and a drawstring backpack,” police wrote previously. “The picture of Owen facing away from the camera shows the actual clothes he was wearing Sunday evening. School officials say it’s unusual for him to go more than a day without contacting loved ones.”
“Owen Klinger, a first-year, student has been reported missing by his schoolmates and family,” the university wrote in a statement. “He was last seen leaving Christie Hall on UP’s campus at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 6. Any individuals with pertinent information should contact UP Public Safety at (503) 943-7161.”
Police Now Say Klinger Told His Friends He Was Going to a Lacrosse Team Meeting But No Such Meeting Was Scheduled
Portland police now say that Klinger, 18, “left the University of Portland campus on Sunday, October 6, 2019 at 7:50 p.m. Owen told his friends that he was going to a team meeting. Detectives were able to confirm that Owen did not attend any team meeting nor was one scheduled.”
In addition, there’s proof that Klinger did withdraw some money.
“Based on the investigation, we know Owen withdrew money from an ATM on campus. He then turned off his cell phone before leaving campus. He is observed walking on North Willamette Boulevard at North Portsmouth Avenue towards North Lombard Street. Investigators believe he continued north towards North Columbia Boulevard on foot.”
Police also revealed, “The investigation continues into the disappearance of Owen Klinger. Detectives assigned to the bureau’s Missing Persons Unit have interviewed family and friends of Owen. Detectives have also worked with TriMet to establish Owen’s last known location in North Portland, near the intersection of North Portsmouth and North Lombard. They have collected video from surrounding businesses and residences in this area as well.”
Police added: “At this time we do not know where Owen is. We will continue to work with the family and will follow up on any additional leads. Bureau investigators and University of Portland officials are still working in a coordinated effort however Detective Lori Fonken is the lead on this case. She can be reached at 503-823-1081 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sergeant Joe Santos is the supervisor in charge of this investigation and he can be reached at 503-823-0406 and email@example.com.”