The Missing: Christopher Kerze

Prior to the Disappearance

          Christopher Matthew Kerze was born on February 19, 1973 in Eagan, Minnesota. By all accounts, his childhood and teen years were normal. He lived with his parents and the family owned a dog. Christopher was a member of the swim team and band, where he played the clarinet. In addition to these extra curriculars, he had maintained high grades, was invited to join the National Honor Society, and he was a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist. Several agencies report that he was secretly dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide, though the extent of these struggles is unknown. Christopher has brown hair and brown eyes, stands at about 5’11” and weighed around 135 pounds at the time of his disappearance. He has a distinctive gait – his feet point out when he walks. He also has a scar near his hairline and a birthmark on his foot that is red in color. At the time of his disappearance, Christopher was prone to wearing blue wire-rimmed glasses or contacts, as he is severely nearsighted.

A photo of Christopher taken shortly before his disappearance.
(via missingin.org)

The Day of the Disappearance

          On the morning of April 20, 1990, Christopher asked to stay home from school. He told his mother that he had a bad headache and needed rest. She gave him over the counter pain medication before leaving the house. His father was away on business that day, leaving Christopher alone in the house. What he did during this time alone and the time of his departure remain unknown. 
          When his parents returned to the house later that day, their blue 1988 Dodge Caravan was nowhere to be found. Inside the house, the family dog was loose and a note from Christopher was found in the kitchen. It read: “Mom, Something important came up + feeling somewhat better. Back by six. (Unless I get lost.) Love, Chris.” Strangely, the word “lost” was underlined twice, seemingly for emphasis. It should be noted that Christopher’s mother has stated he had a habit of losing his way while driving. She believes the emphasis in the note was Christopher poking fun at this lack of directional skills. Speculation has posited that this note may hold more meaning – that the emphasis was Christopher’s way of saying he was running away or committing suicide. We’ll get into that speculation later on in this article.

A 1988 Dodge Caravan similar to the Kerze Family’s.
(via cardomain.com)

          To the best of their ability, the family identified what he was wearing when he left the house: an acid-washed trench coat that fell mid-calf, a black sweatshirt, Bugle Boy jeans with pockets on the knees, a swatch with a zebra-stripe band, and brown boat shoes. 
          Christopher never came home and has not been seen since. Bank records show that he withdrew $200 from his account on the day of his disappearance. After searching the house, his parents realized a vintage shotgun was missing – his father’s 1954-56 Mossberg 20-gauge bolt-action. On April 21, a letter arrived at the family’s home. It was postmarked from Duluth, which is 163 miles away from Eagan. The note was allegedly from Christopher and stated that he had lied about his headache the previous day in order to take the car. It also stated he needed to get away to “to not even I know where.” The letter then stated the author’s intentions to take his own life and offered apologizes for the hurt it would cause his loved ones. 

A shotgun similar to the one Christopher took from the home.
(via charleyproject.com)

          On April 22, the family’s Dodge Caravan was found on the side of the road in Itasca County, with no sign of a driver having been in or near the car recently. This location is close to the George Washington and Chippewa National Forests – a fact we will examine later. The car’s location was about 20 miles north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where Christopher’s grandparents lived. The keys were inside the car, along with a note explaining to whom it belonged.

Search Efforts

           After the van was discovered, the immediate area was searched. There was absolutely no sign of Christopher. It is possible that he hitchhiked after abandoning the van. After the search, the family received a tip from someone claiming they picked up a hitchhiker that looked similar to Christopher. This hitchhiker requested a ride to Duluth, which is where the letter on April 21 was postmarked from. However, this tip could be neither confirmed nor disproven.
          After the disappearance, Christopher’s family and best friend began getting what they termed “hang-up calls.” After answering, there would be background noise that sounded like a party. When they tried to speak to whoever was on the other end of the line, the call disconnected. After six months, these calls stopped. The fact that Christopher’s best friend also received the calls is interesting, but the calls were never confirmed to be connected to the case in a meaningful way. This leads me to believe it’s a cruel hoax. And if not a cruel hoax, then a misguided attempt to help soothe the family’s grief.
          Christopher’s disappearance was featured in the video for Soul Asylum’s song Runaway Train. The band used this video to put public focus on the fact that there is a consistent epidemic of youth going missing and being presumed to be runaways. As the video states: “there are over one million youth lost on the streets of America.” Christopher is one of many missing minors featured in the video which did increase awareness of the case, but I can’t find anything in my research to suggest that any compelling tips or leads resulted from this.
          In 2004, the Eagan police department received a letter postmarked from Seattle, Washington. It said to stop looking for Christopher, and that he would come home when he was ready. The letter was anonymous and could not be confirmed to be authentic. On one hand, the implication of this letter was that Christopher was alive and needed space. On the other, the lack of identification and confirmation of it being authentic leads me to the same conclusion of the hang-up calls. It’s probably a hoax, unfortunately. 
          The latest update to this case came in 2016, after the resolution of the Jacob Wetterling case. Jacob, age 11, was murdered in St. Paul, which is 15 miles from Eagan. The fact that his case was resolved by a perpetrator confession nearly 27 years after the murder gave the Kerze family hope. New age-progressed photos of Christopher were released and the family gave a slew of interviews to bring his case back into the public consciousness. As of the writing of this article, no new leads on Christopher’s whereabouts or fate have surfaced.

Christopher at age 17 compared with an age-progression created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
(via twincities.com)

Theories

          There are a few theories about what happened to Christopher – he was killed while hitchhiking, ran away and is still alive somewhere, or  he completed suicide in the woods. Let’s examine them one at a time.
It seems very unlikely that something insidious happened to Christopher on his journey. He’s said to have hitchhiked, which is definitely dangerous, but the chances of anything bad happening is slim to none. Besides, at least one driver admitted to giving him a ride with nothing unusual happening. While it is possible, Occam’s Razor says this scenario is not probable.
          The theory that Christopher ran away and started over anew is slightly more likely than the foul play scenario, in my opinion. The fact that no sign of him – either alive or dead – has ever been found slightly lends itself to this theory, but also works against it. It’s possible that Christopher took the shotgun to pawn for extra money, hence why it was never found. Most pawn shops are above-board, but he could have sold it to some random person on the street, or a shady shop. It’s possible to get rid of  a gun without leaving a trace. Plus, he withdrew a decent amount of money from his bank account. Why take that out if he was planning on taking his own life? On the other hand, when someone tries to create a new identity, signs of their original life typically surface eventually. There has been absolutely no signs or even suspected signs of him, which seems off to me. The soul Asylum video was run nationwide. Surely someone would have caught a glimpse of him over the years. Again, it seems possible, but not probable.
          Finally, let’s discuss the most likely theory – Christopher completed suicide somewhere in the woods of Minnesota. There is, unfortunately, a lot of evidence for this theory. The note the Kerzes got in the mail was a suicide note. It explicitly outlined the plan. And while I haven’t seen anything to confirm that Christopher is the on that wrote the note, I haven’t seen speculation otherwise. If the handwriting was different that Christopher’s, his parents would have noticed and notified the police. Aside from the note explaining his intentions, the fact that he took a gun with him is troubling. Though suicides using a shotgun are not common, they do happen.      Additionally, Christopher went missing near two national parks. It seems likely that he found a suitable spot in one of those forests and took his own life. The forest has obscured this location over time since then. National forests are notoriously hard to conduct searches in, which is likely why nothing has been found. 
          Having said all of that, there is one part of his disappearance that I can’t quite reconcile with the available information. I can’t figure out why Christopher took that money out of his bank account. Is it possible he used it to pay his way north? Was he giving himself an extravagant last day? That’s all I can come up with. 

Investigating Agencies

          Regardless of the above-examined theories, we still have no answers. Christopher is still missing. His case is still open. He is considered to be an endangered missing person, but many agencies consider him to be a runaway. If you have any information about Christopher Kerze, the items that went missing with him, or anything else related to the case, you need to contact the Eagan Police Department at 612-454-3900. His parents deserve answers after all these years.

Sources

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