Details of Disappearance
Bendele was last seen hunting pheasants in the Laidlaw Park, Idaho area on November 17, 1996. He called his mother at 6:00 p.m. to say his blue pickup truck had stalled on a remote desert road. Although the vehicle had gas, it wouldn't start. He sounded nervous and said he thought someone had deliberately tampered with it. Bendele couldn't provide specific directions to the truck and said he was going to try to mark a nearby turnoff so his mother could find him, and that he would call her back.
His mother contacted his girlfriend and they set off to find him in the girlfriend's vehicle, but they had to turn around and go back to town after their car struck an object that damaged the oil pan. At 2:00 a.m., the women called the police to report him missing. Six inches of snow fell that night, obliterating any tracks.
The next morning, search and rescue found Bendele's truck was near the Laidlaw Corral area north of Rupert, Idaho. The window was smashed and there was glass on the ground. Bendele's coat, cellular phone and his deceased father's shotgun he'd borrowed were inside it. The truck's battery was broken and tipped upside down. A photo of a similar vehicle is posted with this case summary. Bendele's mother doesn't think he would have left his father's shotgun unattended; he would always take it right back to his mother's house after he was done using it.
At the turnoff was an empty box and some beer cans, which Bendele may have used to mark the road. An extensive search of the area turned up no other evidence except a right-hand leather glove, a right-hand fryer glove of the kind Bendele used at work, and one of his new sneakers.
Bendele worked in a supervisory position at the J.R. Simplot Co., a potato processing plant in Heyburn, Idaho, when he disappeared. His last paycheck was direct-deposited in his bank account after he went missing, but the money was never touched. His hobbies include hunting and fishing. He was going through a divorce and had been living with his girlfriend and her three children in Burley, Idaho for about ten months; his own two children lived with their mother.
Although Benedele previously abused alcohol and drugs, his mother stated he'd turned his life around by the time of his disappearance. He didn't have any money or extra clothes when he went missing, although he did have a cellular phone. Authorities suspect he may have been taken against his will.