On October 13, 2018, 16-year-old Karlie Guse went missing from her Mono County, California home.
The story is extremely bizarre, involving a high school party, drug use, and some conflicting stories from her step-mother.
It has been 2 years since Karlie disappeared, and there has been no sign of Karlie since.
LEAD UP TO THE DISAPPEARANCE
Karlie was born on May 13, 2002. Her parents, Lindsay Fairley and Zachary Guse, divorced when she was just a toddler. However, her father remarried quickly to her new stepmother, Melissa. She had 2 younger brothers, ages 9 and 10 at the time of her disappearance.
In August of 2018, Karlie moved to Chalfant, California with her father and stepfather, a super small town between Yosemite National Park and the state of Nevada. The community housed just over 650 people, and many people went to work and school in the nearby town of Bishop, only about 14 miles away.
Even though Karlie's mom was granted custody of her daughter during the divorce when she was just a toddler, she respected her 16-year-old's decision to live with her father when she moved to Yerington, Nevada. It was nearly 160 miles away from Chalfant, and Karlie wanted to remain in close proximity to her friends.
Those who knew Karlie described her as a fun loving, sweet girl. She was quiet, but was popular among her classmates and generally well-liked. She worked part-time at the same title company Melissa worked for as an escrow assistant.
Though she was typically a well-behaved kid, around the time of her disappearance, she had been suspended from school after being caught smoking weed on campus. Her grades were also beginning to drop, so she was attending counseling to help get back on track.
But in the days leading up to her disappearance, friends said she was experience "episodes" of paranoia where she would be worried someone was tracking her via cellphone. But neither her mother nor stepmother noticed any out-of-character behavior.
On the evening of October 12, Karlie asked her stepmother if she could go to the high school's football game, but in reality, she planned to go to a house party with her boyfriend. Melissa agreed, thinking she was going to the football game. At 8pm, Melissa called to confirm she had a ride home, to which she responded her boyfriend would be driving her home.
What happened after that phone call is a bunch of holes filled in by her parents, and the attendees at the party. According to some friends at the party, shortly after that phone call, Karlie began to panic and become inexplicably frantic. 30 minutes later, she called Melissa and asked her to come get her from the trailer park where the party was being held. "Never mind, hurry up. I changed my mind. Come get me. I'm booking it down Dixon Lane. Hurry! Hurry! I'm scared!" Melissa recalled Karlie saying on the phone. Melissa left immediately, worried.
But when Melissa arrived, Karlie was nowhere to be found. She searched the area and spotted a small light which she traced to Karlie, nearly a mile away, running down the street with her cell phone flash light. Once Melissa swiped her, she told her she was very scared, and Melissa said she looked terrified. During the drive home, Karlie vocalized her fear that the car would kill her and kept changing seats.
Once Zachary returned home, they both noted Karlie was acting erratically, frantically huddling in a corner one moment and then telling them how much she loved them the next. She was, however, terrified of her cell phone. Karlie said she didn't know what was wrong.
Melissa served Karlie dinner to try to calm her down, a salad she jokingly called "the devil's lettuce". She started to calm down but still seemed anxious. She admitted she smoked weed while at the party. After dinner, Melissa and Karlie painted their nails and read from the Bible.
Karlie was still acting strangely, so in an attempt to collect evidence to show Karlie the next day how she acted while high, she recorded a nearly 9 minute video of Karlie. She kept saying she didn't wan to sleep in case she was killed, and asked Melissa to call 911 if something had happened to her. They chatted for awhile, and then went to bed.
DISAPPEARANCE AND INVESTIGATION
The events of the evening are hard to piece together because Melissa changed her story a few times. First, she said that she stayed with Karlie all night long, woke up at 5:45am and she was still there, but after falling asleep and waking back up past 7, she said Karlie was gone. In another statement, she said that she had gone to check on her, as they slept separately, and found she was gone around the same time.
Her story was under intense scrutiny, but she claims that the latter story was a lie, and that they had fallen asleep together. Once she realized Karlie was gone, she said she and Zachary spent 2 hours driving around the area looking for Karlie, whom they believed may have just gone out for a walk to clear her head. They contacted authorities at 9:35am.
There was nothing to suggest Karlie had been abducted, so an Amber Alert was not sent out. The remoteness of the area, as well as the limited police resources available, led the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children into the case.
They found no evidence of forced entry, and that all of her personal belongings, including her phone and money, were left behind. They found a text to her boyfriend, in which she said she thought the weed had been laced.
There were 3 possible sightings of Karlie in the wake of her disappearance, including a thin female with long hair walking down the street with a piece of paper in her hand, and another witness who corroborated a similar sighting. A 3rd witness saw a girl matching Karlie's description walking down the highway.
A week long search was conducted, including helicopters, searchers on horseback, off-road vehicles and cadaver dogs. But on October 25, the searches were suspended. Posters with the 16-year-old's image were put up at grocery stores, gas stations and light posts throughout the city, but no one was able to provide any further information as to what happened to her.
There are really only 3 main theories in this case, and all come down to the drugs that she took while she was at the party. The theories split once she leaves the house. (There is also a theory that her parents accidentally killed her, which is interesting but not necessarily the most believable... but I did include it!)
Though it is bizarre that her stepmother lied initially about the events that happened, I feel like that can be chalked up to the shock of finding out that your stepdaughter is missing. Many theorizers believe that she had smoked something far stronger than weed - her paranoia, quick emotional switches and odd behavior aligning more to something like LSD that may have triggered psychosis. She was a small girl, and her trip may have lasted into the morning.
In her paranoia and drug-induced fear, even the morning after, she left the house. That seems to be the agreed upon portion of the story. Friends, family and other party-goers corroborated her state of mind. It seems unlikely that an in-house abduction or murder occurred, and most likely that she left the house on her own accord, still heavily under the influence of an unknown substance.
What happened after? That's where the stories diverge. 1, she may have overdosed and died. Depending on where she walked, her body may just have not been found. Locals have described the area as "a massive, weird area". Rugged, rough terrain and wild temperature swings, and "literally thousands of possible places to hide". It doesn't seem unlikely that she was in the process of overdosing and left her house, and died while wandering away.
2, the same thing could have happened, but she could have come to and not ultimately died of a drug overdose, but of exposure if she came to while lost in the woods somewhere. Exposure or dehydration wouldn't be out of the question of she wandered away in a drug-induced psychosis and found herself in a vast wooded area with no way out. One Reddit user said that there is a desert region that is within walking distance of her family's house which would be extremely difficult to find a body in. Whether she died from an OD or from exposure/dehydration after wandering from the home, it seems likely that her body is close by, but in an extremely difficult to search area.
And the 3rd is that she was abducted after she left. While walking down the highway, an opportunistic psycho saw a young, pretty, vulnerable girl wandering in a drug-induced stupor and decided to take the opportunity. Honestly, this seems like the least likely theory, but it certainly could have happened. Though some locals claim that the nearby desert/mountain ranges/terrain would be easy to get lost in, another one says that it wouldn't be, and thus, getting abducted by a trucker down Highway 6 would be a lot more common.
Even though most people do not believe that foul play was involved from inside the home, there are a lot of questions aimed toward the parents, specifically the stepmother. Her story-switching is, rightfully, considered suspicious by many. Additionally, one Reddit user asks, "Who lets their kid basically overdose right in front of them and not get them medical help? Why didn't they take her to the nearest emergency room if her eyes were dilated and she was clearly either hallucinating or in a psychotic state?" Sure, her parents may have been ignorant and believed that this was a common reaction to marijuana use, but I do agree... I would have to imagine if I was the adult in that scenario that I wouldn't have just tried to get her to sleep it off. I would have probably gone for some sort of help.
Another thought is that Melissa may have given Karlie something to help her "sleep it off", like a Xanax or something that reacted poorly with the drug she was on. Internet sleuths find it odd that Melissa was checking on her kids at 5:45 on a Saturday morning, and believe that perhaps she knows more than she's letting on. This is probably the least likely theory, but perhaps Zachary and Melissa gave her medication to help her sleep that reacted with the drugs she was on and it killed her, and they disposed of the body in a panic. One theorizer believes that the 2 hours they were "looking for her" before contacting law enforcement was when they disposed of her body. I will say, if Melissa stayed the entire night with Karlie (like she claims she did), it is bizarre that she wouldn't have woken up if Karlie woke up to leave.
As for the sightings? Though some people swear that the sightings were legit, many believe that Melissa, who had the same general body shape as Karlie, was walking while "searching" for Karlie (or trying cause false identifications to skew the timeline) and the sightings were actually of Melissa. Karlie's mother, Lindsay, believes the police botched the investigation and didn't look into Melissa and Zachary enough.
Honestly, I think theory 1 or 2 is the most common, and that Karlie's body will be found one day in the area near her home. To me, the simplest solution is normally the correct solution. It seems odd that, in the span of just hours, she'd be drugged at a party and kidnapped off of the highway. Given her state of mind and body, it makes much more sense that her continued trip guided her outside and she wandered away and died. Honestly, I find the theory that she was accidentally killed by her parents more likely than being abducted off the side of the road, but honestly, we will never know. Any of these theories, realistically, could have happened.
Some disappearances I write about are 50+ years old, those who loved them now dead. Karlie has only been missing for 2 years as of today. She'd be 18 years old, perhaps going off to college. Her parents are still alive, her brothers are still pretty young. Which is why I was hesitant about saying she was "only" missing for 2 years. "Only", sure, in comparison to other people. But in the lives of her friends and family? It probably feels like 2 lifetimes. Regardless of what happened, I'm certain her parents have replayed that night over 1 million times, wishing they had done something different, not realizing it would be the night that ended her life as they knew it.
I believe there is still hope to close this case one day, and for the sake of those who love her, I hope she is found.