SPECIAL REPORT: Missing in Northern Michigan: Bob Dale

18 years ago, Bob Dale vanished from Sault Ste. Marie.

He’s one of more than 300 people listed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System as missing in our state.

Basically, here we are 18 years later, and there’s been nothing, not a trace, not a clue. No evidence at all. So it’s been a long, long, long 18 years.”

May 18th, 1996. It’s a date that haunts Bob Dale’s family. 

“We
know he wouldn’t have walked away. He loved his boys, took his boys fishing, hunting, taught him things that a father teaches you, you know? Day by day, and he loved his boys to death, and he wouldn’t have left him,” explained his brother, Scott Dale. 

His family, and investigators have few clues as to what happened to the 33-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie. 

“We received a phone call really early in the morning from his wife saying that they had went out the night before to a wedding reception out on 6 mile. Left there, went downtown to meet some people downtown, and he was not able to go into the bar that they wanted to so he stayed in the car and tried to go to sleep or sleep it off type of thing,” recollects Scott.

Bob was gone.

They searched for him on land and in the water. 

“At the time, the search efforts were in the downtown area, where Bob and Kristi lived at the time, which is west of town, so the efforts around the Ashmun Bay area and West Pier,” recalls Dt./Sgt. Thomas Swanson with the Sault Ste. Marie Police Department.

“The Sheriff’s Department has done dives for us, there’s been cadaver dogs out looking for him,  so they spared no expense as far as I’m concerned looking for Bob,” says Scott. 

And almost two decades later, there hasn’t been a sign of Bob. 

“And during that search the second day, I remember vividly, looking at my older brother Steve and saying,  ‘Can you imagine if we’re still talking about this 20 years from now?’ and I made that statement and I mean, here we are 18 years from now,” says Scott.

For years, the investigation focused on a bar, the Downtowner, where some said they last saw Bob, but now police are taking a closer look at where Bob and his wife were earlier that night. 

“Bob and his wife Kristi had been together at a wedding reception earlier in the Brimley area,” explains Dt./Sgt. Swanson.

While tips and clues have poured in over the years, they hope focusing on the wedding reception will bring new information. 

“Whether or not something suspicious happened, there were other people involved with his disappearance or he simply disappeared and it was a complete accident, we don’t know.”

Both investigators and the Dale family say they are now only interested in one thing. 

“It’s not about somebody being responsible for a crime occurring anymore as much as it is trying to find their brother, trying to find the dad, trying to find a husband,” says Dt./Sgt. Swanson.

“We don’t care about putting somebody in prison now, we just want closure,” declares Scott.

That need for closure is what keeps this case open. 

“Sault Ste. Marie is a very small town. There has been thousands and thousands of tips to the Soo Police Department, State Police, the Sheriff, the Soo Tribe, they’ve all worked together, and they pursue every lead they get and they’re still working on it.”

The most recent lead was just last fall. 

“We spent a significant amount of time with the cooperation with the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department on searching an area in the Brimley area, and the information was vague at best to begin with. It wasn’t very good, but there’s been so much information that we can’t truly rule anything out, so we felt it was necessary, mostly for the family to follow up on it,” explains Dt./Sgt. Swanson.

The family says they’ll continue to seek out answers, no matter how long it takes, just so they can bring their beloved bob home. 

“We just want to find out where he is, take whatever’s there, or whatever’s left, and just give him a proper burial and let the family just be able to go on and say ‘Wow that was a really tough 18 years,’ and that’s all we’re asking.”