The mystery of Don Kemp has haunted those closest to him since he vanished in 1982. Like many people who perished under bizarre circumstances, there are numerous theories about what happened to Kemp; some mundane, some supernatural. The tale of Kemp's disappearance is full of twists, turns, and a few concrete explanations. Formerly an executive at an ad agency in New York City, Kemp gave up his job in pursuit of a simpler life. He planned to leave the city and write a book about Abraham Lincoln's slaying. How his body ended up off a rural Wyoming highway remains a puzzle.
Some people speculate his passing was part of a cover-up in a conspiracy theory about Abraham Lincoln. Others say aliens abducted him. Could he have been transported to another dimension? What seemed like a simple case of exposure turned into a disconcerting narrative full of inconsistencies. As is the case with many missing persons cases, we may never know the full story.
A Highway Patrol Officer Thought Kemp Wandered Away As A Result Of His Medication
Though investigators didn't find Kemp's body until years after his disappearance, police formulated several hypotheses to explain what happened to him. A traffic accident had previously disabled Kemp, and his view of the world significantly changed afterward. His family claimed his personality was different, and police believe he may have been taking medication for pain or mental health reasons that impacted his behavior.
Some believe his medication may have been in a briefcase he forgot at the Cheyenne museum; it's possible his lack of medication led Kemp to abandon his vehicle and venture into the prairie.
About Kemp's mental state, Highway Patrol officer Randy Teeters said:
I have no idea what would inspire anybody to walk out through that prairie in the middle of winter. We considered possibly someone under medication that didn’t know what they were doing due to the medication, or being out of the medication, possibly that would affect him to the point of where they would just walk out into the middle of nowhere.
A Blizzard Made Kemp's Tracks Impossible To Follow
When exactly Kemp went missing remains unclear, but his car was still running when authorities found it on November 16, 1982. Police had a very small window of time in which to search because a blizzard rolled in just three days later. By the time the weather improved, the trail had gone cold. Police found evidence Kemp stayed in a nearby barn, but there were no tracks leading out of the structure; it seemed as though Kemp vanished into thin air.
Investigators speculate Kemp didn't want to be found. Deputy Ron Johnson, who was responsible for flying over the section of highway where Kemp went missing, said:
I felt the guy was disorientated, and I felt that he didn’t want to be found. If he would’ve wanted to be found, he would have heard the aircraft, could have waved his arms, got our attention, gone up to a ridge, anywhere, and been sighted.
Kemp's Mother Believes Someone Took His Life
Kemp's mother, Mary Kemp, wasn't so certain her son's passing was an accident. After police traced the mysterious phone calls Judy Aiello received to a trailer in Casper, WY, Mary was convinced the man who lived there, Mark Dennis, played a roll in Kemp's disappearance. Dennis says he didn't make the calls to Aiello and that he never checked his phone bill to see whether someone else made calls from his line.
Mary tried to confront Dennis in person to ask about her son's whereabouts, but Dennis moved just three weeks after police initially questioned him. Until her passing, Mary maintained that someone took her son's life; she rejected the theory Kemp perished of exposure.
Kemp Left His Briefcase At A Museum Shortly Before Vanishing
The last time anyone definitively saw Kemp was at a museum in Cheyenne, WY, where he forgot his briefcase. The case contained his driving glasses, which means he drove without them. Kemp allegedly called the museum to tell them he'd be back to retrieve the briefcase, but never arrived.
Kemp visited the museum on November 15, 1982, just one day before authorities discovered his car on a rural stretch of highway.