Jeremy Bright Vanished From A County Fair - His Disappearance Is Still Unsolved After 35 Years

By every account, Jeremy Bright was an all-American boy of the 1980s who enjoyed sports and spending time with friends. "He knew everybody and everybody knew him," his mother recalled in a segment on Unsolved Mysteries, adding, "He was a real outgoing kid." In mid-August of 1986, Bright went to visit family for a week before starting his freshman year of high school. It was supposed to be a normal trip, but everything changed when Bright went with his sister and a friend to the local county fair. The last credible sighting of Bright was later that evening when he stopped by his grandmother's tavern for some money. His family would never see him again. What ensued was a delayed police investigation followed by a series of tips and leads that went nowhere.

Jeremy Bright seemingly vanished into thin air over 30 years ago, leaving no trace behind. Below we'll examine the facts surrounding the case, including what went wrong in the investigation and why Bright is presumed dead.

Photo: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children / KVAL 13

  • Bright And His Sister Were At The Fair On 'Kids Day'
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    Bright And His Sister Were At The Fair On 'Kids Day'

    On August 14, 1986, in Myrtle Point, Oregon, Jeremy Bright and his sister, S'te (pronounced "Ess-tee") headed off for the 75th annual Coos County Fair and Rodeo. It was an event the siblings looked forward to every year, and this year was particularly special since the children had moved with their mother, Diane Beatty, to Grants Pass, OR, after Beatty separated from their stepfather the previous year. Their stepfather, along with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all still lived in Myrtle Point, and the siblings planned to spend the week staying with family.

    By all accounts, the events leading up to the day Jeremy went missing were ordinary, but at some point in the evening of August 14, things went horribly wrong.

  • Bright Failed To Meet His Sister At The Ferris Wheel As Planned

    Bright and his sister separated at the fair sometime around 1:30 pm on August 14, but made plans to meet up at the Ferris wheel at 5 PM that evening. S'te waited for her brother at the Ferris wheel, but when he failed to meet her as planned, she reported him missing to a police officer. The officer simply reassured S'te that Bright would eventually show up, but as the evening wore on, there was no sign of him.

    Later accounts indicate that Bright was sighted in the afternoon and evening, so it's unclear if he was truly missing when S'te spoke with the police officer. He was supposed to be with his friend Johnny, but the timeline of when they were together is also hazy. Authorities would later note that an Amber Alert would have likely been issued if it existed at the time.

  • The Disappearance Was Briefly Mentioned In A Local Paper Five Days Later

    Despite Bright's family's frantic search for him, his disappearance did not elicit much media coverage at first. Myrtle Point's local newspaper eventually ran a small piece about Bright, which appeared on the second page on August 19, 1986, five days after he was first reported missing. The headline simply read, "Youth is missing," and went on to give a brief description of Bright and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

    It's speculated that the gap between Bright's disappearance and it being covered in the paper, along with not running the story on the front page, slowed the search to find him.

  • There Were Sightings Of Bright Later In The Day
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    There Were Sightings Of Bright Later In The Day

    Conflicting reports claim S'te saw her brother near the Ferris wheel or getting into a pickup truck between 1 and 1:30 PM on the day of the fair, but there are two accounts from family members which suggest he was still alive that evening. Bright's mother recalls him calling her from a payphone at the fair around 4:45 PM, just 15 minutes before he was supposed to meet S'te at the Ferris wheel. Beatty didn't notice anything wrong when she spoke to her son.

    Family members also reported that Bright stopped by the local tavern they ran to get some money around 9:45 pPMm that night. This encounter is believed to be the last credible sighting of Bright.

  • Police Briefly Believed Bright Ran Away With The Traveling Carnival
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / FilmRise

    Police Briefly Believed Bright Ran Away With The Traveling Carnival

    When it became clear to Bright's family that he was nowhere to be found, police theorized that he might have been hiding out in an attempt to leave with the fair. The fact that his mother and stepfather were separating was used as reasoning for wanting to run away. However, Sergeant Steve Dalton of the Coos County Sheriff's Office investigated the theory from all angles and didn't believe Bright was a runaway. In an interview on Unsolved Mysteries, Dalton stated that Bright was not "the type of a kid who would have struck out on his own," based on Dalton's extensive interviews with friends and family.

    Years later, the Coos County Sheriff's Department followed up on a tip that a man named Jeremy Bright was working for a traveling circus in Florida. Although authorities questioned the man, it turned out to be a different Jeremy Bright.

  • Bright Left His Wallet, Keys, And Watch At His Stepfather’s House

    When Diane Beatty drove down to Myrtle Point to pick up S'te and help search for Jeremy, she didn't think her son had gone far. Upon arriving at the home of Bright's stepfather, Beatty found Bright's wallet, keys, and watch. Beatty recalled that it was a new watch and important to her son. "He wouldn't leave without them," Beatty later said of her son's belongings. Today, there is still no explanation as to why Bright's personal belongings were left at his stepfather's.

    Nothing else of Jeremy's was ever found in the investigation, including the blue nylon shorts and red tanktop he was last seen wearing.