James Otis Anderson

Anderson, circa 1982

  • Missing Since 06/13/1982
  • Missing From Townsend, Montana
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Male
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 03/21/1928 (96)
  • Age 54 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'9, 190 pounds
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Silver 1975 Volkswagen Scirocco (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Gray hair, brown eyes. Anderson has previously fractured his jaw and dislocated his hip. He wears eyeglasses, but they were left behind. His nickname is Jim.

Details of Disappearance

Anderson was last seen driving east on Highway 12 in Townsend, Montana, towards White Sulphur Springs, at 8:00 a.m. on June 13, 1982. He was an Episcopal priest, and later on the day of his disappearance, he failed to show up for services at St. John's Episcopal Church. He has never been heard from again.

He left his residence in order and there were no indications that he had planned to leave for an extended time period. The sermon Anderson was supposed to preach that day was laid out on his desk, and his toothbrush and razor were still in the bathroom. Some items were missing, however, and have never been recovered, including Anderson's address book, a treasured afghan, and a pistol. Police monitored his credit cards, bank accounts and Social Security number, but they were never used.

Anderson was separated from his wife at the time of his disappearance, and he had filed for divorce a few months earlier. They had two children and were fighting over custody of them. In addition to his divorce, he was having problems at his job and may have been facing termination from his position in the church. His estranged wife stated he had been acting strange and seemed distant and uncommunicative, which was one of the reasons for their separation.

In October 1982, Anderson's silver 1975 Volkswagen Scirocco was found abandoned in a heavily wooded area of White's Gulch in the Big Belt Mountains, northeast of Townsend. The car appeared to have been deliberately hidden, and investigators think whoever left it there was familiar with the surrounding area. It was not visible from the road, the trail or the air.

Anderson's wife said he wasn't a good driver and she doesn't think he could have driven his car to that location on his own. She doesn't believe he either walked away on purpose or taken his own life, because he "adored" his children and wouldn't have wanted to hurt them in that way.

A search turned up several of Anderson's belongings, including his prayer book, Old Testament Bible, cap, eyeglasses and clerical collar, about half a mile from Anderson's vehicle. They were found on a ridge overlooking Townsend, Canyon Ferry Lake and the surrounding area.

Police could find no connection between Anderson's case and the unsolved 1984 disappearance of Father John Kerrigan, a Roman Catholic priest who went missing from Ronan, Montana and was never found. The two men had worked in White Sulphur Springs, Montana at the same time earlier in their clerical careers, and they were friends.

Six months prior to his disappearance, before their separation, Anderson had dropped his wife's name from his life insurance and changed the beneficiary to his employer, St. John's Episcopal Church. The church collected on the policy when he was declared legally dead seven years after his disappearance. His case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Broadwater County Sheriff's Office 406-266-3441

Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated February 27, 2018; picture added, distinguishing characteristics and details of disappearance updated.