Post by Graveyardbride on Jun 7, 2015 16:39:07 GMT -5
Strange Disappearance in Toms River
Sunday, August 7, 1983, was a bright, sunny day in Toms River, New Jersey. Around 8:45 that morning, John E. Warren (above), age 69, called down to his wife Estelle, who was doing laundry in the basement, that he was leaving and would return in about an hour. This was the last time she would hear her husband’s voice. He then left his home at 62 Yorkshire Drive, approximately a mile from Ocean County College (OCC). Usually, he took a footpath through the woods to OCC, where he had held the position of associate professor of engineering for 16 years before retiring two months earlier. At 9:15, Warren was observed by a security guard. A jogger – who claimed the professor told him he envied his [the jogger’s] “ability to run” – reported seeing him around 9:50, after which the man seems to have vanished into thin air.
After Mrs. Warren reported her husband had failed to return from his walk, an intensive search commenced and the woods, the entire campus and neighborhood were thoroughly and repeatedly searched by police, the sheriff’s department and volunteers. A bloodhound was able to follow what was believed to be Warren’s scent to a college campus pond off Hooper Avenue. From the pond, the tracking dog proceeded along the edge of the woods until it lost the scent about a mile from the school. When all efforts to find Warren failed, an even wider area was searched by Army National Guard helicopters as well as a State Police helicopter utilizing an infrared heat detector, but there was no trace of the missing man. Law enforcement officers, desperate for a lead, even called in a Forked River psychic who claimed he had dreamed that John Warren suffered a heart attack while walking in a swampy area to the east of Hooper Avenue across from the college. The psychic spent seven hours attempting to ascertain Warren’s whereabouts, but without success.
In an interview with an Asbury Park Press reporter, Estelle said it was her husband’s habit to walk through the woods on a dirt path to the campus. “I said to him, why the woods? Why don’t you take the car? If it gets too hot, you can drive back.” But Warren ignored her suggestion. She indicated her husband had been “very athletic” until around 1981 when he developed arthritis in his hip. Until then he had been an avid jogger for more than 20 years. Now, he limited himself to walking four miles, or less, per day. “He just couldn’t stand up and lecture for six hours anymore,” she continued. “He certainly wasn’t depressed about his retirement because every summer he was on vacation.” When asked if she suspected foul play, Mrs. Warren replied, “That comes to my mind. But who would want to do something like that?”
Years later, Chief Michael G. Mastronardy of the Toms River Police, said, “I remember going out there with Lt. Bahr and doing a search through the woods. We did numerous searches of the area. There is a lot of woods back there and it is a possibility that he got sick out there and went off the path. Animals and birds could have gotten to the body.” The case was even featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Robert Stack, but, according to Mastronardy, the show didn’t generate any new leads.
Lieutenant Michael Dorick of the Dover Township Police confirmed there were “no leads to follow up on.” But in 2001, when he became supervisor of the detective bureau, he decided to reinvestigate the case. “I did some Internet searches and tried to see if anything showed up on the computer,” he recalled. But when he attempted to re-interview Warren’s family, he was surprised to discover some family members were uncooperative. Although Dorick declined to speculate as to whether these family members might know more about their missing relative than they were telling, he conceded, “Anything’s possible in a case like this. You just never know. I just think it’s very weird how he went for a walk and disappeared and no body was found.”
Then in 2006, Dorick said that “out of the blue,” he was contacted by Alberto D. Morales, editor of The Viking News, the Ocean County College newspaper, concerning the John Warren case. Morales wrote an article that appeared in the October 19 edition, with a followup story January 8, 2007, which noted that Warren had worked as a development and engineering consultant for a company that had a contract with the government. The article reads in part:
After an Oct. 19 story in The Viking News about the case of John E. Warren, a retired associate professor of engineering who disappeared after a walk in the woods near OCC 23 years ago, new information has surfaced. According to Warren’s resume dated May 16, 1968, he was highly trained and knowledgeable in rocket science for the United States government. Before becoming a professor at OCC, he was the senior development engineer/consultant for Nash Controls, where he developed a “fuel control system for military use on a rigid rotor helicopter.”
His employment background included “designing and developing scientific instruments and control systems … designing and developing analog computers for flight control simulation.” He listed “interesting projects” while being the chief systems engineer from February 1954 to September 1956 with Airborne Accessories Corp. as “fail-safe d-c servo, 3 axis ‘feel’ system; engine controls and instruments; guided missile servo-powdered iron clutches.”
Many wonder if Warren’s brilliance and background played a role in his disappearance when he went for his ill-fated walk Aug. 8, 1983. When Warren did not return from his daily exercise, his wife became alarmed and notified local police. Hours later, a mass search including a bloodhound, three Army National Guard helicopters and one New Jersey State Police helicopter with an infrared heat detector, many policemen and 35 volunteers from fire companies, first-aid squads, local citizens and OCC colleagues took place.
But while admitting Warren disappeared under suspicious and mysterious circumstances, Dorick does not believe it had anything to do with his previous employment.
In the past few years, there have been several theories posted on the Internet, some of which are plausible and others decidedly bizarre. One person surmised that Warren was attacked and killed by a black bear, then dragged into the bear’s den and eaten. While black bears vary in size, weighing anywhere from around 125 to 550 pounds, almost every bear attack in the United States and Canada is instigated by a dog and Warren was not accompanied by a dog. Bears avoid humans and attack only if threatened or a person gets too close to a female bear’s cubs. Additionally, even if Warren died of a heart attack and his body was discovered by a bear, it is unlikely the bear could have dragged him into its den without leaving traces of clothing and other items, and drag marks would have been easily discernable during the first few days by those searching the woods.
Another person theorized that Warren could have been carried off by the Jersey Devil. However, Toms River is nowhere near the Pine Barrens, the Devil’s favorite hangout, and if descriptions of the flying demon are to be believed, the creature would not be large enough to snatch and carry off a fully grown man. Furthermore, in a city with a population of 65,000 in the days before cell phones and iPads, surely someone would have seen a creature flying overhead clutching a human being in broad daylight.
It will soon be 32 years since John Warren left on his walk into oblivion and although technology is much more advanced today and the case remains open, Mastronardy has indicated there is no new information that would allow investigators to utilize modern technology. Nevertheless, anyone with information, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is asked to call the Toms River Police Department at (732) 349-0150.
Sources: Ocean County Compendium of History, The Charley Project, The Asbury Park Press and The Viking News.