Details of Disappearance
Virgil was last seen in a fourteen-foot skiff near Chichagof Island near the Alaskan panhandle on June 11, 1986. He had departed from Pelican, Alaska earlier in the day with a dog and a friend, sixteen-year-old Nick Bevans, and a dog.
Nick stated they had been exploring nearby islands before Virgil departed, leaving him and the dog on a small island. When Virgil didn't return, Nick flagged down a passing boat.
Virgil's skiff was located a short time later near Chicago Island, run aground on a sandbar with its motor still in gear. There was a tie-up line tossed aside, and a radio, a high-powered rifle and two life jackets were present. The zipper pull to Virgil's vest was lying in the bottom of the boat. There was no sign of him at the scene and he has never been heard from again.
Investigators believe he may have fallen out of his skiff, possibly while trying to retrieve something he'd dropped in the water. He was not wearing a life jacket.
Virgil is an accomplished outdoorsman. He resided in Highland County, Ohio in 1986, and had left his home to spend the summer in Alaska. He had planned to get a job on a crab fishing boat, but the position had been taken so he went to work at a cannery instead.
He was a Boy Scout who was just three merit badges away from Eagle Scout rank. He was also a devout Mormon, and he planned to spend his work earnings on future church activities. He vanished three weeks into his trip.
Between October 1986 and January 1987, the CEO of Missing Children of America, a nonprofit missing children's organization, received three anonymous calls from a woman with a Tlingit accent who spoke about a boy named "Wade". The first two calls said Wade was alive and "well taken care of" and asked if anyone was looking for him. In the third and final call, however, the caller said he was "not doing well." These calls have never been traced and it's unclear whether they were legitimate.
There were several unconfirmed sightings of Virgil in the years following his disappearance. Witnesses may have spotted him in the Alaskan cities of Hoonah, Juneau, Pelican and Sitka. Virgil may also have been seen on Montreal Street and Charles Street in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in March 1998. It's possible he may be suffering from total or partial amnesia.
Author R.W. Swartz wrote a book about Virgil's disappearance, titled Cold Water Cold Hearts: A Mother’s Search for Her Son Missing in Alaska. Swartz concluded Virgil had most likely drowned on the day of his disappearance. His remains have never been located, however, and his case remains unsolved.