Details of Disappearance
Kenneth disappeared with his family: his wife Barbara
, and three daughters, Barbie
, Susan, 13, and Virginia, 11. The Martins disappeared from their hometown of Portland, Oregon on December 7, 1958. They lived in the 1700 block of northeast 57th Avenue.
They set off that day in their nine-passenger cream and red 1954 Ford station wagon with the license plate number 1G-7156, en route for Columbia Gorge, where they planned to collect greenery to decorate their home for Christmas. They bought gasoline at Cascade Locks late that afternoon. They were seen leaving a restaurant in Hood River, Oregon late in the afternoon, on the way back to Portland. Kenneth was carrying two cameras.
The Martins never arrived home. Everything was left undisturbed at their residence; the previous meal's dishes were draining in the sink, there was a load of wash in the washing machine, and Kenneth's Santa Claus suit was still laid out from a Christmas party he'd been to the night before. They also left a substantial amount of money behind in the family bank accounts.
In February 1959, a searcher discovered tire tracks matching the Martins' vehicle heading off a cliff into the Columbia River, near The Dalles, Oregon. In May of that year, a river drilling rig near the site of the tire tracks hooked something heavy and metal on its anchor. Before the object could be pulled to the surface, it came loose. It may have been the missing Ford.
A couple of days later, Susan and Virginia's bodies were found downstream, near Bonneville Dam. They had both drowned. Photos of the two girls are posted with this case summary. Kenneth, Barbara and Barbie's remains have never been recovered.
Police believe all the Martins either perished after they accidentally drove their car into the river, or possibly they were were abducted and were inside their car as it was pushed off the cliff. The only surviving member of the family was the oldest son, Donald, who was in the Navy and stationed in New York at the time of the disappearances.
An attempt was made to search the water for additional evidence, but the search was called off when a diver nearly died. No further searches were made and the case was closed. Kenneth, Barbara and Barbie remain missing, however.