On July 10th, 2015, Jessica Mitchell and Vernal DeOrr Kunz decided to take a spontaneous camping trip to Timber Creek Campground a few miles west of Leadore, Idaho with their 2-year-old son, DeOrr Jay Kunz Jr. Jessica also invited her grandfather, Robert Walton, to come on the trip. Walton then invited his friend, Isaac Reinwand, who had no previous relation to Jessica or Vernal.
When they arrived at the campsite, they put up chairs and lit a fire, even though the average temperature that day reached over 80 degrees. Walton says during this time he was relaxing inside the trailer with the door open. Reinwand left shortly after lighting the fire to go fishing in a nearby waterway. When he returned, the toddler was missing.
Jessica claims that she shouted to her grandfather that she and Vernal were leaving DeOrr behind while they went exploring. However, Walton claims he never heard his granddaughter’s shout and was not aware he was supposed to be responsible for the toddler at the time.
Jessica called 911 after realizing her son was missing, but her tone of voice seemed to lack the emotion the parent of a missing child would typically have.
With no sign of the boy, Jessica and Vernal were named suspects in January of 2016 by the Lemhi County Sheriff, Lynn Bowerman. According to Bowerman, the parents’ recollections of events leading up to DeOrr’s disappearance changed multiple times throughout the investigation.
Eventually, the parents’ own private investigator, Phillip Klein, would also name them as suspects. Jessica and Vernal fired him immediately after that. They even attempted to sue Klein, but their lawsuits were dismissed three times. According to Klein, the investigation was “a sickening example of deflection of an event that in our opinion was most probably an accident and coverup.”
East Idaho News reported an update in 2019 that cites several inconsistencies in the parents’ story, failed polygraphs, blood found at the scene, and even a hit by cadaver dogs.
Jessica and Vernal eventually broke off their engagement, and were evicted from their residence for failure to make payments. Investigators were given access to the parents’ previous home, where they found a camouflage jacket and several toy cars that both parents claimed were with their son at the time of his disappearance.
To this day, neither Jessica nor Vernal have officially been named suspects in the case, but with the ongoing support of investigators such as Phillip Klein, the Idaho community is hopeful that DeOrr will one day be found and justice will be served.