March 3, 2011

08/01/09: Justin Burkhart, 28, Bend, OR

Justin Burkhart
On Saturday, August 1, 2009, 28-year old Justin Burkhart got off work at 9 pm and spent the night drinking and dancing with friends at the Underground, a nightclub on Northeast Third Street in Bend, Oregon. The group stayed until the bar’s 2 a.m. closing, then Burkhart invited friends back to his new apartment to have a glass of wine. He had just moved in two days before.

The group drank on the front porch of Burkhart's apartment complex in downtown Bend with other tenants of the complex until around 3:30 a.m., when two of his friends, who were brothers, left to walk the two female party guests back to their car a few blocks away. As the brothers were leaving, Burkhart said he was going to the Pita Pit to get something to eat. The friends told Burkhart that the restaurant had closed for the night, but he headed there anyway.

He only had his wallet and his keys with him.

A witness saw Burkhart walking near a footbridge next to Drake Park. It was the last time he was seen.

Eloisa Chavez, Burkhart's mother, and Teri DuFresne, a private investigator working on the case, believe Burkhart may have headed to the 7-Eleven on Galveston Avenue, about a half- mile's walk from his apartment, after finding the Pita Pit closed. DuFresne said employees of the 7-Eleven did not recall seeing Burkhart that night.

When Burkhart missed appointments with friends over the weekend and then didn't show up for work on Monday, he was reported missing.

A detailed article on Justin Burkhart appeared in the Bend Bulletin on 11/1/09 and on


On June 7, 2010, Justin Burkhart’s body was found in the Deschutes River by a Bend city employee, just below the Newport Bridge. The body was dressed in pants, shoes and a shirt and Burkhart's identification was found on the body.

An autopsy determined he had drowned, and there were no signs of foul play.

The case was forwarded to the district attorney's office for review.

About Justin Burkhart

Eloisa Chavez, Burkhart’s mother, hired a private investigator to look into her son’s case. The investigator found no evidence to suggest that anyone wanted to harm Burkhart. He was known to be jovial, had a vibrant personality, was well liked, and had no known enemies.


Burkhart had some previous run-ins with the law for drug offenses, but after a 2-year stint in federal prison on a cocaine charge, it all seemed to be behind him. When he was released in 2008, he enrolled in Central Oregon Community College, and made the dean's list for the fall 2008 term.

In late 2008, he started working at Allyson's Kitchen in the Old Mill District, and started dating Rachelle Templin, his fiancée at the time of his disappearance.

“I was with him almost every day for a year," Templin, wrote in an e-mail to the Bend Bulletin," and I can honestly say that drugs were not part of his life. He was at work, school, or home with me for the majority of that time. He was doing great things, and trying to be the best man he could be.” (Bend Bulletin, 11/1/09).

He was doing great things, and trying to be the best man he could be.”
- Burkhart's fiancee
In the days leading up to his disappearance, Burkhart was stressed because his fiancee was moving to Alaska to take a teaching job. Just two days before his disappearance, he had tried to persuade her to go get married at the courthouse, but she said turned him down. The couple had previously decided to put the wedding on hold so her income would not disqualify Burkhart from receiving grants to pay for school.

But while he was a bit down about these developments, there was no sign that he was depressed. In fact, he had purchased a plane ticket to visit Templin in Alaska in early September, and was planning to move there in November. He was even considering trading in the tickets for a plane trip to Hawaii, where he might meet Templin in September and marry her. His co-worker Serena Searcy also said Burkhart was an “open book” who would have likely told her if he was feeling threatened by anyone or if he were seriously depressed.

A Celebration of Life was held at the Riverbend Community Park on July 17, 2009 in Bend.

Facts in This Case:
Last seen: 8/1/09, Bend, OR
Recovered: 06/7/10, Deschutes River
Physical description:  Hispanic, 5'8", 155 pounds, dark brown eyes, brown close-cut hair, medium complexion.
Identifying Characteristics: Has a dental retainer. Tattoos include a sleeve on his left arm, "JDB" on right arm, and "Scrap" on his right calf.
Last seen wearing: Green polo shirt, jeans, silver-tone Fossil watch
Investigating Agency: Bend Police (541) 693-6911
Investigative Case #: 09-03-05-261

1 comment:

Doc Conjure said...

Very sad. The only things I can think of is that he stopped to relieve himself and fell in or that it was a spur of the minute act of desperation brought on by the alcohol, as alcohol lowers inhibitions. I tend to think it's more likely the first scenario.