Missing since 5/14/08
Brandon Swanson, 19, was last seen on 5/14/08 in Canby, Minnesota. Swanson had finished his last day of classes at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby, where he was enrolled in a wind turbine program. Later that evening, he was visiting friends to celebrate.
When Annette and Brian Swanson were unable to find him, Swanson said he was going to walk toward the town of Lynd where he could see lights. He stayed on the phone with his father, and headed down a gravel road. He had been on the phone for 47 minutes when his father heard him say an expletive, then the call ended abruptly around 2:10 a.m.
His parents continued looking for him for several hours, and then called the police at 6:30 a.m.
The following day, authorities used cellular phone records to locate Swanson's car. It was found 1-1/2 miles north on Lyon Lincoln Rd., off Hwy 68 west of Taunton, MN. The location was about 20 miles away from Lynd, nowhere close to where Swanson thought he was.
There have been reports that Swanson may have been drinking on the night he disappeared, which could account for his confusion. But according to the Charley Project, these reports have been refuted by the authorities; investigators do not believe that Swanson was impaired. Brian Swanson also told the Marshall Independent that his son did not sound intoxicated or incoherent. He added that there was no way that Brandon would have been able to fake his way through a 47 minute phone call with his dad.
Officials have said there is no evidence foul play, nor any indication that Brandon would have staged his own disappearance. According to the Charley Project, some authorities believe that Swanson accidentally fell into the Yellow Medicine River while walking in the dark. The current was high at the time.
Brandon's family, friends, and many volunteers have not given up searching.
The Search for Brandon
After the Lyon County Sherriff's department officially called off the search, the Swanson family continued to fund and organize volunteer searches on their own. They conducted multiple ground and water searches of the area, and also the nearby Yellow Medicine River.
On March 20, 2009, almost a year after his disappearance, the Marshall Independent reported that Jeff Hasse of Search Rescue and Recovery Resources of Minnesota was the new search organizer for the Swanson family. Hasse told the Independent that a distance of 5.6 miles (100 square miles) is a common distance to cover in 95 percent of searches, and the Swanson search had covered about 60 of those 100 square miles. Previous searches had not yielded any physical or investigative clues, however 134 canine cues (scents) have been found that point toward the northwest, toward Porter. Hasse determined that searches for Swanson the previous summer didn't go far enough in distance.
In March 2010, Hasse wrote on the official search page:
"This has been an exceptionally difficult and frustrating search. While there have been consistent and reliable indications that human remains are present in the area, we have yet to pinpoint the source (Brandon’s remains).
There are several possible explanations for this.
One of the main reasons why this is such a difficult search lies in the fact that the region receives nearly constant winds which can come from any direction. These winds move scent from the source and deposit it into “scent pools” such as wind breaks around farmsteads, tall grass in CRP land, and along ditches and creeks. When the dogs alert on an area of “hot” scent, it is often very difficult to differentiate whether we are near the remains or searching yet another scent pool.
We also may be facing the difficulty of locating remains that have been moved and/or scattered over a wide area. It is possible that predators such as coyotes, raccoons, and the like have scattered the remains. It is also possible that they have been inadvertently scattered or moved by human activity such as farmers tilling their fields or baling hay or cornstalks.
We also have some access issues. We can’t search everywhere we would like to search. We are very careful to protect landowner’s property and have generally avoided searching fields with crops in them even though there is a fair chance that Brandon ended up in a field. This leaves spring and fall available to us to search the many fields in the area. With the wet weather we had last fall and our early start this spring, we ended up searching very wet fields. This is miserable work. To effectively search a single 160-acre field, the team must walk in excess of ten miles in difficult footing.
In addition, we haven’t been able to search many pastures because of the cows. Even though the dogs are well trained to be around other animals, we avoid working around cows, especially during calving season. This leaves gaps in our search coverage and makes it difficult to eliminate an area from further consideration.
It is also possible that Brandon attempted to seek shelter from the wind near the end of his journey and crawled into an outbuilding or under old machinery and perished there. Because we are trying to avoid disrupting landowner’s lives as little as possible, we have only searched a few farmsteads."
These are only a few of the issues that make this a very difficult search."
- Jeffe Hasse, Search Manager, SRRMN (March 2010).
Because of the length of time that Brandon had been missing, the search efforts began to focus on finding Brandon's remains.
In March 2010, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) became the lead investigating agency on the case. The BCA has received 75 tips from March 2010 - May 2013.
The last official search was conducted in October 2011.
On the five-year anniversary of Brandon's disappearance, Twin Cities.com discussed the scale of the search for Brandon. "More than 500 volunteers, including 34 dog handlers from nine different states, spent more than 120 days searching for Brandon and covered part of 120 square miles, said Jeff Hasse, the search manager."
'It's by far the biggest search I've ever been involved in terms of length of time, number of missions and number of searchers involved," he said.
He added, "I think time favors the search," Hasse said. "I think eventually something will be found. I am hopeful."
Jeff Hasse is the founder of Midwest Technical Rescue Training Associates, a nonprofit organization that teaches technical rescue skills to public-safety providers.
About Brandon Swanson
According to the Website profile for Project Jason's 18-Wheels Campaign:
On March 12, 2009, Brian and Annette Swanson spoke before the House to help expand the Minnesota's Missing Children's Act so it can help missing and endangered adults. The bill, named Brandon's Law, would eliminate waiting periods when adults disappear under suspicious circumstances, or when young adults up to age 21 are reported missing under most circumstances. On Wednesday, May 6, 2009, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the bill into law.
Name/age: Brandon Victor Swanson, 19
Last Seen: 05/14/08 in Canby, MN. His car was found near Taunton, MN.
Physical Description: 5’5", 120-130 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes.
Last Seen Wearing: baggy blue jeans, blue striped polo shirt, black hooded zip-front sweatshirt w/emblem on back, white MN Twins baseball cap, glasses, sterling silver chain. Was carrying a black Motorola SLVR cell phone, wallet/identification and keys.
Investigating Agency: Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), Special Agent Woodford, 651-793-7000.
Brandon's story was featured on Nancy Grace: America's Missing on March 8, 2011. You can view the transcript here.
Divine, Mary. (2013, May 13). Five years after Brandon Swanson's disappearance, the porch light's still on. Pioneer Press. Retrieved May 31, 2013 from http://www.twincities.com/minnesota/ci_23233985/five-years-after-brandon-swansons-disappearance-porch-lights
Nancy Grace show. (2011, March 8). Teen Student Vanishes After Accident. CNN.com. Transcript. Retrieved March 10, 2011 from http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1103/08/ng.01.html
Published: 05/14/08. Revised: 03/10/11, 3/13/11. Last updated: 05/31/13.