Laurel Leigh Silver-Valker

Silver-Valker, circa 2015

  • Missing Since 12/29/2015
  • Missing From Catalina Island, California
  • Classification Lost/Injured Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 06/25/1970 (53)
  • Age 45 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'5, 160 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A black wetsuit and a white dive tank.
  • Medical Conditions Silver-Valker suffers from fibromyalgia, and also injured her back several years prior to her disappearance. She has chronic pain as a result.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Blonde hair, green eyes. Silver-Valker has a gap between her two front teeth. Her ears are pierced.

Details of Disappearance

Silver-Valker was last seen on December 29, 2015. She went scuba-diving off Ship Rock at Catalina Island in California to look for lobsters at 9:35 a.m. She went down without a diving partner or a buoyancy vest. The last time anyone saw her, she was fifteen to twenty feet below and gave a thumbs-up sign to the dive captain. She never resurfaced.

Silver-Valker is a very experienced diver who was close to making her 1,000th dive. She started diving about sixteen years prior to her disappearance, as a form of therapy to help with her chronic pain. She had gone diving in the Ship Rock area many times before and was very familiar with it.

She had taken the 43-foot commercial passenger vessel, Sundiver Express, to the dive site. It was captained by Kyaa Heller. Silver-Valker was a regular on the Sundiver Express and sometimes even volunteered as a crew member on the dive boat.

For some reason, that day Silver-Valker's name was not on the roster of passengers. This was part of the reason no one realized she was missing until after the Sundiver Express arrived at the next dive site, about twenty minutes away. Heller notified the Coast Guard of her disappearance at approximately 12:00 p.m., two and a half hours after she was last seen.

The Coast Guard investigated Silver-Valker's disappearance and filed a complaint against Heller for negligence. She could have defended herself in court before a federal administrative law judge, but opted to voluntarily surrender her credentials instead. Because she had surrendered her license instead of having it taken from her, Heller was later permitted to re-apply to get it back. Her license was restored to her and she still captains dive boats for Sundiver.

This is not the first time a vessel owned by the Sundiver company left a diver behind. In 2010, a court awarded $1.68 million to Daniel Carlock, who was left behind while diving off a Sundiver boat and spent several hours floating off the coast of Newport Beach, California until he was found by some Boy Scouts and rescued.

Silver-Valker was born in Santa Monica, California and studied at Concordia University and California State University at Fullerton. She taught special education classes at several different schools before going on permanent disability because of her back problems and fibromyalgia.

Her body has never been found, but her sons did sue the Sundiver company for her wrongful death.

Tustin, California police are investigating this case.

Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated October 31, 2022; details of disappearance updated.