The Bizarre Case of The Lost Martin Family? What Really Happened?
The disappearance of the Martin family has baffled law enforcement investigators, private detectives and amateur true crime enthusiasts for nearly 70 years. The peculiar case of the lost Martin family has so many bizarre occurrences and strange coincidences it’s hard to believe it’s a true story but it absolutely is. It’s just a very weird true story.
It all started with a Family Searching for Christmas Decorations!
It was December 7, 1958, and Kenneth and Barbara Martin were looking for greenery to use as Christmas decorations to furnish their home in Portland, Oregon.
Together with their three daughters, Barbara, Virginia, and Susan, they crammed into the family’s 1954 Ford Station Wagon and set out for the Columbia River Gorge. They would never be seen alive again.
The Martins told their friends they’d be back before dark!
The Martins left home at 1 pm with a plan to return by nightfall. They told their friends as much before leaving and were promptly reported missing when they didn’t come home.
While locals reported seeing the family at a gas station and a cafe before their disappearance, all clues led to dead ends.
A search of their home made the disappearance even more mysterious. Police found laundry in the washing machine, dishes in the sink, and a lot of cash, all signs the family intended to return home.
When the Hood River Sheriff found out Kenneth stopped to get gas, and then spotted tire tracks leading from a parking area to a cliff side, he thought Kenneth may have accidentally driven his car into the Columbia River.
But Multnomah County Detective Walter Graven kept investigating the disturbing disappearance.
He found more tire tracks on a bluff leading into the Columbia River — and the tread was indeed a match with the tires on the family’s missing car. There were also paint chips on a nearby rock, which the FBI confirmed belonged to the same make and model of the Martins’ car.
Detective believes the Lost Martin Family wasn’t lost at all, but were Murdered!
Unlike the Hood River Sheriff, Graven suspected the family had been murdered. This is largely due to the fact that a local man found a gun covered in blood near an abandoned stolen car — which was near the area where the family disappeared.
The gun had clearly been used to beat someone over the head. The entire gun was completely covered in blood.
The car thieves were identified as Roy Light and another man who wasn’t publicly named. The owner of the cafe where the Martins dined that night said the two men were also there, and left at nearly the same time as the Martin family. Incredibly, the thieves were never questioned. The gun itself only complicated things further.
The owner of the gun intensifies the Mystery!
Graven was stunned to link the weapon to Donald Martin, the family’s son. While Donald had been living on the East Coast and working in the Navy during the time of the family trip, Graven soon discovered that Donald had been accused of stealing the gun from a sporting goods store he was employed by a few years earlier. How it ended up near the site of his family’s disappearance was baffling.
It was also clear that Donald had a strained relationship with his family. He never rushed home to help find his missing relatives after they vanished, and he didn’t show up after the bodies of Susan and Virginia were recovered from the river in May 1959. (Disturbingly, Virginia had a hole in her head, but it was never confirmed by the coroner what caused it.)
Did Donald Martin Murder his Family? Is he the reason the Martin Family Has been lost for nearly 70 years?
Donald also skipped the memorial service for his sisters — and only traveled home in June to settle the family estate and meet with Graven. During the meeting, Donald said,
“I know of no one who would murder my folks or no reason for it but I don’t see how it could have been an accident.”Quote by Donald Martin
Graven saw Donald as a suspect, or at least a person of interest, but his bosses told him to leave the case alone — apparently sticking with the accident theory.
Privately, Graven remained obsessed with solving the case until his death in 1988 — in disbelief that the gun was never processed as evidence, the two men were never questioned, and Donald Martin never became an official suspect.
“The Martin case will be solved if I live long enough, for the car and bodies to be found.”Detective Walter Graven
The Disturbing Disappearance Of The Martin Family remains unexplained to this day.
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