Details of Disappearance
Michael was last seen in Jackson County, Indiana on December 18, 1971. He was camping in a makeshift 9-by-15-foot cabin made of railroad ties. It was located along the White River about a mile and a half south of Brownstown, off State Road 135.
The cabin, which was windowless and had one door, had a wood-burning stove inside it and was lit by a kerosene-fueled Coleman lantern. The furniture consisted of a couch, a cot and a daybed.
Two other teenagers, 17-year-old Stanley Ray Robison and 19-year-old Jerry Allen Autry, both Brownstown residents and students at Brownstown Central High School, were with Michael. Photos of Stanley and Jerry are posted with this case summary. Two other youths were also in the group, but both of them left at 3:00 a.m. or shortly thereafter. At the time those two people left, the other three were preparing to go to sleep.
The cabin caught fire sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. and burned to the ground; it was discovered at 8:10 a.m. by Stanley's older sister. Authorities who investigated the fire believe it started near one of the beds. An alarm clock found in the ruins was stopped at 3:35, and a passing motorist reported having seen what they thought was a brush fire at around 3:30. The cause of the fire has never been determined.
The remains of Stanley and Jerry were found in the ruins of the cabin. Their bodies had been almost completely incinerated and only a few bones were found. The two boys were identified by their class rings. There was no sign of Michael at the site of the fire, though. He has never been heard from again.
The circumstances of Michael's disappearance are unclear, but the case was reopened in 2022. Authorities hope to learn Michael's fate and bring closure to his family.