Details of Disappearance
McLaughlin took a leave of absence from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York in mid-October 1975. He was a junior at the time. He had a satisfactory academic record and planned to re-enroll for the spring semester the following January.
He was an art major who studied painting, photography and ceramics, but he planned to change his major to a more general liberal arts curriculum. His five roommates last saw him at 1:00 p.m. on October 23, 1975, when he asked for a ride to the 100 block of Marshall Street to get something to eat.
McLaughlin's family, who lives in Manhasset on Long Island, was not notified of his disappearance until November 3 because McLaughlin occasionally took out-of-town trips without telling anyone beforehand, and he had been planning a trip to England in December to visit his girlfriend who was studying abroad. He had obtained a passport and purchased a plane ticket in preparation for the trip.
It is uncharacteristic of McLaughlin to be out of contact with his loved ones for more than a few days, however, and all of his personal belongings, including his Jeep and $250 in cash, were left behind. His checkbook was missing, but there has been no activity on the account since October 1975.
McLaughlin resided in the 100 block of Harvard Place in Syracuse, off Westcott Street, when he vanished. He may have been seen in the restaurant of a Holiday Inn in Kingston, Ontario three days after his disappearance, but this has not been confirmed.
McLaughlin has never been heard from again. He may have been carrying at least $3,000 in cash at the time of his disappearance; his father gave him $3,300 to buy a car and he disappeared after making a $300 down payment on a 1963 Mercedes at a dealership in Syracuse.
Some reports place the amount of cash he had on him at as high as $7,000, and he may have been carrying a small personal check as well. McLaughlin had a reputation for carrying large sums of money at the time he disappeared.
Larry F. Brown was apprehended on drug charges and returned to New York in 1989. Authorities received information that suggested Brown knew McLaughlin's whereabouts.
Prior to his disappearance, McLaughlin had occasionally supplied marijuana at campus parties and was reportedly bringing in a large amount of drugs from New York City to Syracuse in October 1975. There were unconfirmed reports that he knew Brown through drug sales.
Brown requested to take a polygraph exam and he passed the test. Investigators do not believe he was involved in McLaughlin's disappearance.
While there is no evidence of foul play in McLaughlin's case, authorities consider his disappearance highly unusual because he does not have a history of leaving for long periods and because he left all his possessions behind.
They theorized that he may have committed suicide or developed amnesia, but there is no evidence to support this or any other hypothesis. Later, investigators came to believe he had probably been murdered in a robbery and/or as a result of his involvement in drugs, but they have not identified any suspects.
McLaughlin's case remains unsolved. His family held a memorial service for him a few years after his disappearance.