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The Disappearance of Michael Dunahee

Hello, my loyal true crime readers! I wanted to mention that this article first appeared on the True Crime Center blog as a guest post. I thought I would share it here as well in case you missed it. Head on over there and check out some of their cases. ~ Christine

Case File Overview

On March 24th, 1991, four-year-old Michael Dunahee disappeared from the playground of Blanshard Elementary School at 12:30PM. 

Blanshard Elementary School

Photo of school where Michael Dunahee disappeared from
Source: CBC News

On the windy Sunday in Victoria, British Columbia, Crystal Dunahee and her husband Bruce loaded Michael and his six-month-old sister Caitlin into the family vehicle and headed out for Crystal’s flag football game. When the family arrived at the school, Michael asked his mom if he could go have fun on the playground equipment, which was within easy view of the field. Crystal replied, “OK, you can go to the park, wait there and don’t leave with anybody, just wait there and daddy will come and get you.” 

Michael vanished in mere moments while Crystal put on her cleats for the game and Bruce, Michael’s dad, checked on the score of a previous game a short distance away. 

By 1:00PM, police and countless volunteers were combing the area for Michael. Despite over 11,000 tips and one of the largest search efforts in Canadian history, no trace of Michael was ever found. 

At the time of his disappearance, Michael was wearing a blue hooded jacket with red lining and red cuffs, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt, multi-coloured rugby pants, and blue sneakers. Michael has blond hair and blue eyes. 

Case File Theories

Most missing person cases have several possible theories to explore. However, given how quickly Michael disappeared from a public place both the police and Michael’s family are quite sure that the young boy was abducted. There is no real mention of the perpetrator being someone in the Dunahee’s inner circle; the general consensus seems to be that it was a crime of opportunity by a stranger. 

The authorities interviewed all known sex offenders in the area and several witnesses, but very little information was uncovered. Witnesses reported that “a man in his late 40s or early 50s had been near the playground, and that a brown van had also been spotted nearby.” Unfortunately, even though the police staged an elaborate re-creation at Blanchard Elementary School a month after Michael was abducted no new leads were generated. 

Michael Dunahee

Missing person Michael Dunahee
Source: CBC News

In January of 2009 there was some fleeting hope that there might finally be movement in the case when a missing-person poster of Michael was found inside the Milwaukee home of 62-year-old Vernon Seitz. Just before dying of natural causes, Seitz confessed to his psychiatrist that he killed two children in 1958.  When local authorities searched his house they found many disturbing items, including child pornography, books on cannibalism, and files on unsolved missing children cases in the US. Regardless, after investigating, Victoria police could find no connection between Seitz and Dunahee.  

I think that it is highly probable that a stranger abducted Michael, but sadly the police seem no closer to identifying the perpetrator today than they were in 1991. 

What do you think happened to Michael? 

Not only did Michael’s disappearance rock the community of Victoria to its core, but also his family has never really recovered from their tremendous loss.  Michael’s sister Caitlin was only six months old when he disappeared, and she misses the older brother she never had the opportunity to really know. Caitlin explained, “My mom says he was really good with me … I just have to hold on to that.”

Michael and his sister Caitlin

Missing person Michael Dunahee and his sister Caitlin
Source: CBC News

Crystal has long blamed herself for her son’s disappearance. She told the media, “Giving my permission to let him go play in the park by himself … I should have made him wait. That’s the hardest part to deal with.” The pain, loss, and guilt that the Dunahees continue to grapple with are unfathomable. 

Bruce and Crystal Dunahee

Photo of Michael Dunahee's parents
Source: Times Colonist

On top of losing their beloved son, the Dunhees have had to endure additional pain and disappointment over the years. Horrible pranksters left the family voice messages stating that Michael had been killed by a Satanic cult. Another cruel caller even demanded a $10,000 ransom for Michael’s return and then was never heard from again. Additionally, the Dunahees have often gotten their hopes up that Michael has been found. Numerous men from various parts of British Columbia, such as Port McNeill, Surrey, and Chase have been thought to be Michael until DNA tests proved otherwise. Heartbreakingly, Michael remains a little boy lost.

There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to Michael’s whereabouts. Anyone with information about Michael’s disappearance can contact the Victoria Police Department’s dedicated Tip Line at 250-995-7444 or, to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Age progression of Michael

Age progression photo of Michael Dunahee
Source: National Post

Related listening and reading 

Where is Michael Dunahee? – Dark Poutine podcast

MichaelDunahee.ca – website 

We will never forget Michael Dunahee  – Facebook page 

Vanished: The Michael Dunahee Story – book by Valerie Green

“Michael Dunahee disappearance: 25 years later, his family still wants answers” – CBC News article

“New link in cold case of Victoria boy missing since 1991” – CBC News article

“Michael Dunahee: Family and community still haunted by disappearance 25 years later” – CBC News article

Interested in missing person cases? Check out the disappearance of Trevor Andrews and the vanishing of Lisa Marie Young.

Published inMissing Person Files

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