Details of Disappearance
Rutherford was last seen at approximately 12:30 p.m. at the Presque Isle Marina in Presque Isle, Michigan. He and his live-in girlfriend, Lana Ann Stempien, were planning to travel across Lake Huron to Mackinac Island in 27-foot Wellcraft Cabin Cruiser named Sea's Life. Photographs of Stempien and their boat are posted with this case summary.
At 2:07 p.m., Stempien called a relative on her cellular phone and said she and Rutherford were a few hours from Mackinac Island. That was the last contact with her. The next morning, when the couple had not arrived on the island, they were reported missing.
That same day, Sea's Life was found idling in neutral, ten miles from Mackinac Island. The radio was playing, the running lights were off and the swim ladder was up, and there was a 20-foot line floating off the back of the boat. The boat was empty and there were no signs of Rutherford or Stempien anywhere.
The couple's cellular phones, shoes and life preservers were still on board. One of the knobs from the instrument panel had come off and was found embedded in the sole of Stempien's shoe.
Two weeks after Rutherford and Stempien disappeared, Stempien's body washed ashore near Hammond Bay, several miles from where her boat was found. She was naked except for a thin gold necklace, a ring and her Omega watch, which her loved ones say she never wore in the water, as it was expensive and not waterproof.
There was an elevated level of carbon monoxide in Stempien's blood and investigators theorized she became overcome with fumes from the boat motor while swimming. The cause of death was ruled as drowning.
The couple's loved ones stated both Rutherford and Stempien were strong swimmers and trained in boat and water safety, and were not risk-takers. Coast Guard officials stated the water conditions on the day they went missing were fine for boating, but may have been too rough for swimming. The water temperature that day was approximately 68 degrees.
Some of Stempien's loved ones suspect foul play was involved in her death. There were reports that Rutherford and Stempien were having relationship problems, but other witnesses characterized the couple's relationship as strong and loving.
Authorities stated there was no evidence of a struggle on the boat or any trauma to Stempien's body, and it is likely that she and Rutherford drowned accidentally. Rutherford is still missing and his disappearance remains under investigation.