MT NYLEEN KAY MARSHALL: Missing from Clancy, MT - 25 June 1983 - Age 4


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Namus: The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
NCMEC: Have you seen this child?

Nyleen was last seen on an outing with her family in the Elkhorn Mountains, near Clancy, Montana when she wandered off.

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Details of Disappearance
Nyleen accompanied her family on a picnic outing in the in the Helena National Forest in the Elkhorn Mountains on June 25, 1983 near her hometown of Clancy, Montana. She was playing with some children who walked ahead of her for a moment at approximately 4:00 p.m.

When her friends turned around, Nyleen had vanished. She was last seen sitting alone near the beaver dams on Maupin Creek. An extensive search of the area turned up no indication of her whereabouts.

Nyleen's family was questioned about her disappearance and her stepfather was considered a person of interest in her case. Her mother died in 1995; it was reported she was sexually assaulted and murdered in Mexico.

An unknown man wearing a jogging suit was seen nearby just before she disappeared, and reportedly spoke to Nyleen and told her to "follow the shadow." It is not known if he was connected to Nyleen's case.

In November 1985, an anonymous person called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on several occasions and said he'd abducted Nyleen. The police traced the calls to various phone booths in Edgerton, Wisconsin, but after the phone booths were identified, the calls stopped.

In January 1986, an anonymous person sent Child Find, a New York-based missing children's organization, a typewritten letter saying he had picked up "a girl named Kay" on a road in Elkhorn Park between Helena and Boulder, Montana, and had decided to take her home with him. The letter was postmarked Madison, Wisconsin, thirty miles northwest of Edgerton, and included details about Nyleen's case that had not been released to the general public.

The writer explained that he had a good investment income, worked from home, and homeschooled Kay. He also traveled frequently with her all over the United States and in Canada and Great Britain. He said he loved the child and she was happy, and that although he knew her family missed her he could not "let her go."

Nyleen has never been located. The person who wrote and telephoned authorities has not been identified, and it is unclear whether this individual actually had anything to do with her disappearance. Investigators stated the information in the phone calls and letter indicated sexual abuse.

Although it's possible Nyleen simply wandered away from the group and succumbed to the wilderness, but her disappearance is classified as a non-family abduction. Her case is unsolved.

Details: On June 25, 1983, four-year-old Nyleen Marshall vanished while on a trip with her mother and step-father to the Elkhorn Mountains. That day, the Marshalls and several other families traveled to a picnic area in the Helena National Forest. At around 4pm, she and several other children went playing along the banks of a shallow creek. Some of them noticed her talking to an unidentified man in a purple jogging suit. He tried to get her to play the game "follow the shadow". He was the last person to be seen with her before she vanished. For ten days, searchers combed the area where she was last seen. However, there was no evidence found to determine what happened to her. The Marshalls were certain that she had been abducted, so they distributed thousands of missing persons fliers across the United States.

On November 27, 1985, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received an anonymous call from a man who claimed that he had Nyleen. Two months later, an organization called "Child Find of America" received a typewritten letter from the same man. He claimed that he was raising her as his own child and that he now calls her "Kay". He also claimed that he loved her and did not plan on returning her to her family. Although he claimed that he was taking care of her, he also mentioned committing acts that are considered child sexual abuse.

Over the next six months, Child Find of America received two more letters and another two phone calls from the man. They came from Madison, Wisconsin; the FBI was able to trace some of the calls to specific phone booths there and Edgerton. However, once the ones where they came from were found, they subsequently stopped. The letter was also postmarked from the Madison area. The man indicated that he has traveled with Nyleen to several different locations in the United States; this matches the alleged sightings of her throughout the country.

In June 1990, authorities received another lead in the case. Nyleen's uncle saw two composites for a man and woman wanted for child abduction in another part of the country. He believes he saw them on the first day of the search for Nyleen. To date, no trace of Nyleen or her abductor have been found.

Suspects: Nyleen was last seen talking to a man in a purple jogging suit. He has never been identified and is considered a prime suspect in the case. The unidentified man that has contacted several missing persons agencies is considered a possible suspect. He claims that he lives off of substantial investments and that he and Nyleen travel frequently. He allegedly traveled with her to San Francisco, New York, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Great Britain. He has sent letters and made phone calls from Madison and Edgerton, Wisconsin. The man claims that his parents and younger sister were killed in a car accident when the latter was nine.

An unidentified man and woman wanted for a separate child abduction are considered possible suspects. Nyleen's uncle believes that he saw them on the first day of the search for her. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has also indicated that her stepfather was a person of interest in this case.


In November 1985 the National Center for Missing and Exploited children received an anonymous phone call from a man who claimed he abducted and had Nyleen, Two months later Child Find of America received a type written letter from the same man. Parts of the letter is posted above. During the next sixth months Child Find Of America received two more letter and two more phone calls from the same man.

The letter was postmarked Madison, Wisconsin and the FBI traced the phone calls to various phone booths in Edgerton, Wisconsin. However, the calls abruptly stopped.

Phone calls and letters

On November 27, 1985, two years after Marshall's disappearance, an anonymous phone call was placed to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System from a man claiming to have abducted Marshall. Two months later, in early 1986, a typewritten letter was sent to law enforcement in Wisconsin from an anonymous man claiming he had picked up "a girl named Kay." This letter included details about Marshall's disappearance that had never been released to the public; one detective described him as being "privy to things that a normal person would not have access to." The writer of the letter explained that he had a good "investment income" and worked from home, where he homeschooled Kay. He also claimed to travel frequently with her throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He claimed that though he knew her family missed her, he loved her and could not return her. The letter was postmarked from Madison, Wisconsin. Around the same time, an anonymous caller claiming to be the writer of the letter placed several phone calls to Child Find of America, a national missing children's non-profit in New York.

The phone calls made to Child Find were traced to several phone booths, including one located near a pharmacy in Edgerton, Wisconsin. Law enforcement disclosed that information relayed from the caller and in the letter suggested Marshall was a victim of sexual abuse.

Excerpts of the letters that were shown during the case's 1990 airing on Unsolved Mysteries read:

Excerpt 1
I didn't want their person to try to get information from her. All I could tell them was that she was OK. I hope Child Find can get the following back to her family.
I picked "Kay" up on the road in the Elkhorn Park area between Helena and Boulder. She was crying and frightened and as I held her she was shaking and I decided that I would keep her and love her. I took her home with me.
I have a nice investment income and I can work at home so I care for her myself all the time. I teach her at home and she likes to go with me when I travel.
Her hair is short and curly now and she has really grown. She is about 45 inches and around 50 pounds. She has all four of her permanent upper and two of her lower incisors at this time. She takes a bath and brushes her teeth every day.
She eats well. Her favorite meal is pizza and Cherry

Excerpt 2
she would gladly recount to you trips to San Francisco, New York, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago, Puerto Rico and Canada. We were even in Britain for a month last year and she loved it. (Nobody questions passports.)

Excerpt 3
t is or where it comes from, only that I get it from the bathroom every morning. It is actually a spoonful of my semen. It doesn't affect her physically. I have NEVER "molested" her in any other way. She is a sweet little girl and it is because of how much I have grown to love her that I realize how much her family must miss her. But she has adjusted and seems happy. She trusts me and isn't afraid. We play [sic] alot and she laughs when we clown around. She smiles and acts coy when I tease her. She giggles when we snuggle and hugs me sometimes for no apparent reason. I love her and I have her. I just can't let her go![

Sometime after the receipt of the letters and phone calls, a witness claimed to have seen a girl resembling Marshall at a restaurant in Janesville, Wisconsin. After the receipt of the letters, an unnamed individual claimed to have murdered Marshall and disposed of her body in a mine shaft near Helena. The mine shaft, which had since been sealed, was searched to no result.

Cold Case: Nyleen Marshall

Posted: Feb 20, 2013 11:01 AM by Shannon Newth
Updated: Feb 20, 2013 4:03 PM

Details surrounding the June 1983 disappearance of 4-year old Nyleen Marshall are scarce, and facts are hard to come by. But to this day, law enforcement officials continue to get leads.

In fact, the most recent lead came on February 4th. Although most tips aren't promising, investigators are persistent in their search for answers.

It happened on June 25th 1983, when Nyleen was with friends and family at a HAM radio picnic in the Elkhorn Mountains near her hometown of Clancy. Around 4 p.m., she was playing with other children near a creek.

Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle said, "The area where she went missing is a creek bottom...there's a swampy area there, mine shafts in the area, what you see was mostly this type of tree, even back then I believe."

The children noticed Nyleen was no longer with the group, and from there, investigators say it's anybody's guess as to what happened. Doolittle said, "That's the one thing we can say with 100% accuracy...there she was there one minute and gone the next."

Hundreds of volunteers and several law enforcement agencies combed the area, including up and down Warm Spring Road.

Despite exhaustive efforts, no clues were found.

Derek VanLuchene of Ryan United said, "That's concerning, because if you get to a missing child that quickly, usually you'll find some sort of evidence or some sort of trace of something...but really they just found nothing."

VanLuchene continued, "Either she wandered off and succumbed to the elements or a wild animal might have grabbed her, or the worst-case scenario, she could've been abducted."

Her still-active case file is filled with potential scenarios and theories as to what happened that June day. As with many missing persons cases, Nyleen's family was questioned.

Doolittle said, "From what I've been told, the step-father was, and was throughout the investigation, a person of interest."

Her mother has since died; numerous reports indicate she was murdered in Mexico in the mid 90's. Other leads state that a man in a jogging suit, not associated with the group, was seen talking to Nyleen shortly before she disappeared.

In 1985, a man claimed to have the little girl; Doolittle said, "There were some leads out of Dane County, Wisconsin, where some letters were sent, I believe they went to the National Center for Missing Children."

Further investigation yielded no evidence, however.

In late 2003, Jefferson County deputies met with national "cold case" and behavioral analysis experts.

Doolittle said, "From that we generated some information that we wanted to go find which means we took some dogs team back up to the site and we got some assistance from the state crime lab on that and an anthropology professor, with no further leads coming from it, but it did lay to rest some issues that came up during the meeting."

Cold Case: What happened to Nyleen Marshall?
Posted: 4:57 PM, Feb 07, 2017
Updated: 9:57 AM, Feb 08, 2017

When you walk in to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, you walk past a mystery more than three decades old: what happened to Nyleen Kay Marshall?

“My gut tells me she is deceased,” said a somber Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle.

On a sunny June afternoon in 1983, Nancy and Kim Marshall brought their children to a ham radio gathering with other people in a meadow in the Elkhorn Mountains outside of Boulder, off Warm Springs Creek Road.

Four-year-old Nyleen vanished from the fields where she was catching frogs with other children. “Since then, we have gone back to the area where she went missing,” Doolittle said.

But no trace of Marshall has been found, not even a scrap of clothing she wore that day.

Doolittle said, “We still have no solid leads.”

The area where Nyleen disappeared is full of dense forests, nestled between steep rocky cliffs and mine shafts.

Ralph DeCunzo, then with the Lewis & Clark County Search and Rescue, was one of the people who led the effort to try and locate the girl.

“For a long, long time, and even somewhat today, that search still haunts me,” recalled DeCunzo, 33 years after the initial search.

Hundreds of volunteers poured into the area, including members of the Mormon Church and even strangers to the Marshall family, all to find the barefoot girl dressed only in a yellow t-shirt and shorts.
“If she was barefoot, our thought was that she couldn’t have gone very far,” DeCunzo said.

Ken Gardiner was one of the volunteers who was out there, and to this day remembers the feeling of frantically trying to find Nyleen. “I can actually kind of feel it right now,” Gardiner said with tears in his eyes. “I just got kids of my own.”

Gardiner allowed himself to remember the details of the efforts from him and the others, especially a search technique called grid searches. “Stretch your hands out, so my arm out to your arm out to his arm. Grid searches. Huge areas, huge areas of grid searches,” Gardiner explained. Despite those efforts, “Nothing.”

Other tactics were used to try to find the girl; search dogs, divers to search the mine shafts and ponds, even a psychic and the FBI were brought in to help. But they all came back empty- handed.

“They brought in heavy equipment and actually drained the pond because they were convinced that she was in there,” remembered DeCunzo. “She wasn’t.”

Five days into the search the weather turned and so did the mood.

“I think after about day five, with the elements and the potential of dangerous critters out on the hillside, it kind of came into our minds that we may not have a successful end to this,” DeCunzo said.
But that realization didn’t stop the volunteers from looking, sun up to sun down.

“We show up one more time. Again and again. One more time,” said Gardiner. “Maybe today, maybe there’s something today. We weren’t quitters.”

After the 10th day, the search was called off. Gardiner recalled, “It’s the fourth of July, snow on the ground, hope is gone.” “We did everything we thought we could do, but we weren’t successful,” said DeCunzo.

Calling off the search in 1983 didn’t close the book on the disappearance of Nyleen Marshall. It just ended that chapter. “How could a little girl go missing with just no sign of here at all, just go missing off the face of the earth, basically?” wonders Derek VanLuchene.

VanLuchene worked on the case when he was with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations in 1999 and now runs Ryan United, an organization he started after his brother Ryan was kidnapped and murdered in rural Montana, dedicated to helping communities and criminal justice organizations protect children.

But a fundamental question remains – was she abducted or did she simply get lost in the woods?

“That’s still the frustration to me that this little girl is still out there,” VanLuchene explained. “She’s not, whether deceased or alive, you know, she’s out there and not been found, and it’s something that no one has answers to at this point.”

In the years since Nyleen vanished the case took many bizarre turns; from anonymous letters claiming to be from an abductor in 1986, to Marshall’s mother, Nancy, being murdered in Mexico in 1995.

The case has become a favorite topic of internet sleuths on chat forums and websites. “We kind of look at those too, just to see what’s out there, and we check the internet,” explained Doolittle.

People from all over the country continue to keep up with Nyleen’s case, take an interest in the latest developments, and try to give any help they can.

“I probably would say somewhere around two inquiries a month of somebody has seen something or somebody has heard something or somebody has a question or somebody will send something to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” Doolittle said. “It’s always out there.”

With little facts to go on, many people have come up with theories of their own.

“I think she was abducted and sold and will probably never know her real identity,” said DeCunzo.

“I think actually she’s alive,” said a hopeful Gardiner.

“I think someday maybe there’ll be an answer, but…it’s been a long time,” VanLuchene said hesitantly.

For the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the case is still open. “It’s not something that we ever just put away,” Doolittle said.

Anyone in the area during the picnic in 1983, including family members, have been interviewed extensively, at least several times, according to Doolittle. The Sheriff and a group of volunteers even went back to the site in the Elkhorns where Nyleen is believed to have disappeared.

“We ran cadaver dogs through there for body parts. We actually had some anthropologists from the college in Missoula that were out there with us,” said Doolittle. “We had an excavator that we dug up a lot of spots with.”

If Nyleen’s body was in the mountains above Boulder, after 33 years, “even the remains might have disappeared, even if there was something there, we might not have even found it,” Doolittle said discouragingly.

But some still have hope and have not stopped looking – and the search for Nyleen Marshall will not be over until the family has answers.

If you have any information regarding her whereabouts, or any details about her disappearance, contact the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 406-225-4075.

Tragically Nyleen's Mother Nancy was raped and murdered in Mexico in 1995.

Nancy Fay Chilson Marshall
Birth: 30 Apr 1953
Richmond, Contra Costa County, California, USA
Death: 24 Jul 1995 (aged 42)
Mexico City, Cuauhtémoc Borough, Distrito Federal, Mexico

Burial: Ridgeview Memorial Park
Allen, Collin County, Texas, USA
Additional information about Nancy's murder is discussed in this article.

The Marshall’s continued to be diligent in searching for their child. They wanted to make an age progressed sketch of Nyleen, however, that was hindered when it was learned all the photos they had sent of their daughter perished in a fire at the FBI lab. Another report states that several years after Nyleen’s disappearance, her uncle saw a composite drawing of a couple wanted in another state for child abduction. He said the faces in the sketch closely resembled a couple he remembers seeing on the scene the first day of the search for Nyleen. Sadly, years would go by with no leads or developments in the case and then just after the 12th anniversary of Nyleen’s disappearance, something would again happen to this family that is almost too horrible to believe.

The Marshall’s had been living in Japan for several years as Kim Marshall had been sent there for work. He was next being transferred to Mexico. Kim and his children stayed behind in Japan to finish moving while Nancy Marshall flew to Mexico to look at possible houses for the family. Kim was at the Tokyo airport ready to leave the country and join his wife when he received a phone call. Nancy Marshall was dead. She had reportedly met with friends the night before and was in good spirits. She was discovered in her room the next day at the upscale Radisson Paraiso Hotel in Mexico City. Nancy was found hanging from a shower rod with her hands tied behind her back. She had been bruised and beaten and her wedding ring, watch and a bottle of perfume were missing. The money and valuables in her safe were untouched. It was also discovered that Nancy’s hotel room door had been kicked in.

Mexican authorities actually listed Nancy Marshall’s death initially as a suicide. Kim Marshall was livid. He hired a PI and the authorities changed their classification to “under investigation”. Kim was extremely frustrated with the developments in the case. He says he was advised by the State Dept. to not push an investigation of murder. They said it would prevent them from releasing Nancy’s body for burial. Although convinced his wife’s death was a murder, Kim didn’t press because as he stated he refused to ‘let her body rot in a Mexican morgue’. Nancy’s body was released to the family and she was buried in Texas.
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Mystery in Montana: The Disappearance of Nyleen Kay Marshall​

In the beauty of the Helena National Forest, tragedy struck on June 25, 1983, when 4-year-old Nyleen Kay Marshall vanished during a family picnic near Clancy, Montana. A playful moment with friends turned into every parent's nightmare when Nyleen went missing around 4:00 p.m., leaving behind a four-decade mystery.

As her loved ones frantically searched the Elkhorn Mountains, hope dimmed with each passing moment. The children she was playing with said they last saw Nyleen sitting near Maupin Creek's beaver dams, a poignant image frozen in time.

A mysterious figure, clad in a jogging suit, added another layer to the puzzle, reportedly whispering "follow the shadow" to Nyleen before she vanished. Despite reported sightings and cryptic calls traced to pay phones in Edgerton, Wisconsin, leads in the case eventually fizzled out.

Anyone who watches true crime shows knows that investigators almost always look at family members first, as was the situation with Nyleen's case. Suspicions initially swirled around her stepfather; a person of interest in the case. Tragically, Nyleen's mother, haunted by her daughter's disappearance, met a horrific fate, reportedly assaulted and murdered in Mexico in 1995, surely compounding the family's anguish.

In a perplexing turn, an anonymous caller eventually claimed responsibility for Nyleen's abduction, leading authorities on a frustrating chase across state lines. A creepy, typewritten letter, postmarked in Wisconsin, painted a bizarre picture of a man who claimed to love and care for Nyleen, yet refused to return her to her family. Nyleen would be 46 years old if she is still alive.

Was she a victim of the wilderness, or something more sinister? The enigma of her disappearance persists, leaving a community gripped by unanswered questions and a family shattered by loss. Anyone with any information regarding her case can contact the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 406-225-4075.

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