The Portland Police Bureau announced Wednesday that they believe missing 18-year-old University of Portland student Owen Klinger left the area of his own free will.
The Police Bureau said that, prior to Klinger's disappearance, he had watched YouTube videos about hopping freight trains, as well as the film adaptation of Jon Krakauer's “Into The Wild,” where a young man leaves behind his family and heads into the Alaskan wilderness.
Police believe Klinger might have been walking toward a train yard when he was last seen leaving campus on Sunday, Oct. 6.
The release of the details set off an immediate outcry within Klinger’s nuclear family, who believe the information was cherry-picked and will ultimately hamper the search efforts they’re continuing to organize.
“It doesn’t make sense. He’s a practical kid,” said Owen’s mother, Mary Klinger. “If he had a dream in his heart to go adventure somewhere, we would have talked about it more. He would have made a plan, gotten more of his money, gotten more stuff, gotten a buddy. He wouldn’t have gone on his own without telling us, breaking all our hearts.”
She noted the same night Owen had watched “Into The Wild,” he had also binged “Ocean’s 11,” episodes of “Suits,” and possibly “Good Will Hunting.” As for the YouTube videos of train-hopping, she said it’s not clear how often or how recently Owen watched them.
Owen’s father, Dustin Klinger, said he felt the release of the details amount to the police “abdicating” the investigation.
“They’re giving up because he watched a movie,” Dustin said. “They have absolutely no evidence other than that he watched two things online.”
Stephen Yakots, a spokesperson for the Police Bureau, said there was mounting evidence that led detectives to believe Klinger had left campus “on his own volition, by his own wishes, on his own power.” His phone had been deliberately shut off. He had withdrawn money from an ATM. He told his friends he was going to a “team meeting” when no meeting was scheduled.
“All the evidence points to it, thankfully, not being foul play,” Yakots said, adding, “it’s important to keep in mind that Owen is an adult.”
Yakots said he wasn’t sure what was next for the investigation.
“We’re obviously still releasing information in the hopes that somebody comes forward, somebody recognizes Owen,” he said. But, he added, they won’t know the next step “until we get a phone call from somebody that spotted Owen, until we get a phone call from Owen, or until another piece of evidence arises.”
The family said it is continuing to search for Owen in the Portland area. The next search is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Portland Tennis Center and around Cathedral Park.