Tuesday, May 13th 2008 was a day of celebration for 19-year-old Brandon Swanson and his classmates at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College. Brandon, along with hundreds of other students had just finished their first year of college and a celebration was in order. That’s exactly how Brandon planned on spending the rest of his day. Brandon spent the evening of May 13th catching up with friends and classmates and celebrating their achievements as well as discussing what was ahead of them.
According to those who were in attendance that night, Brandon wasn’t intoxicated and had only had a shot of whiskey throughout the whole party. Between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm, Brandon left the party and drove to a friend's house in Canby, Minnesota to say goodbye to a classmate. After saying his goodbyes, Brandon hopped into his car sometime after midnight.
Brandon’s case is full of bizarre happenings and inconsistencies and this just so happens to be the first one. At around 1:15 am Brandon called his friends to ask them for help after his car had become stuck in a ditch. According to Google Maps, the MN-68-E takes between 33 and 43 minutes from Canby to Marshall, so why was Brandon out on the road so late? It’s possible that witnesses got their times mixed up, hence why Brandon was out past 1 am.
None of Brandon’s friends answered, presumably they were sleeping off the alcohol or partying too hard to hear their phones. Then there is a 30-minute gap before Brandon calls his parents to let them know what is going on and that he needs help. Bizarrely, Brandon tells his parents that he is somewhere between Lynd and Marshall. According to Google Maps, Lynd is south-east of Marshall and none of the routes that Brandon would have driven from Canby to Marshall took him anywhere near Lynd. So that begs the question, why was Brandon in Lynd?
His parents arrived at his location only to find no sign of their son. His mother, Annette called him saying “We’re flashing our lights, we’re flashing our lights!” after the pair had agreed to flash their headlights so that they could locate each other in the dead of night. On the other end of the phone, Brandon says “Don’t you see me?” but neither party could see each other, adding an air of confusion to the event.
In a fit of frustration, Brandon hangs up on his mother and presumably keeps flashing his lights and looks for his parents. Annette, worried and also frustrated, calls Brandon back and the pair exchange apologies for their rash words. It’s at this point that Brandon abandons the idea of being picked up at his car and tells his parents that he would meet them at a Lynd tavern car park. He told his parents not to worry because he could see the lights from Lynd and he knew that he was close.
Brandon then spoke to his father, Brian and told him that he was taking a shortcut through a field, along a gravel road and near a source of running water to get to them faster. The full conversation between father and son is unknown but we can assume that they talked about Brandon’s walk and the festivities of the night before. At around 47 minutes into this call, Brandon shouts “Oh shit” before the call mysteriously goes dead.
This is when panic set in for Brian and Annette and they contacted Brandon’s friends to help them search for their missing son. All night they drove up and down Lynd, desperately looking for Brandon but to no avail. By 6:30 am the Swanson’s contacted the Lynd Police Department to file a missing person report only to be told that “At his age, he had a right to be missing.” The Lynd Police Department were less than cooperative with the Swanson’s and delayed the search for Brandon because they believed he was probably still out partying.
When hours passed and Brandon still hadn’t made contact with his family, The Lynd Police Department decided to take his disappearance seriously and began their search. They had wasted precious time in Brandon’s case by brushing him off as ‘yet another teen out partying’. Brandon’s phone records show that his phone had last pinged in Porter which is along the MN-68-E route between Canby and Marshall.
Porter is around 25 miles from Lynd and to this day, we still don’t know why Brandon told his parents that he was in Lynd. Brandon may have gotten confused after crashing his car or is there something more sinister at play here?
On the afternoon of May 14th 2008, Brandon’s car was discovered with Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky telling CNN “It was off the side of a field approach and the vehicle was hung up. It’s sort of a sharp incline, nothing major but enough that the car would get hung up so the wheels are too high off the ground to get any traction.” An examination of the scene found nothing out of the ordinary and there were no prints left behind to help them figure out where Brandon had gone.
At first, investigators thought that Brandon could have fallen into the Yellow Medicine River. In some sections, the river is almost 15 metres deep and is fast slowing. Search dogs were called in to examine the area and according to Jack Vizecky, the dogs alerted to the fact that Brandon was indeed in the water. But as the days passed, there was no sign of Brandon or his belongings. Vitzecky told CNN “The only thing that would have been if someone was in the shadows and they got him that way. I can’t say there wasn’t someone else there, but I can’t find any evidence of it. I can’t explain why clothing, belongings wouldn’t surface. I can’t explain why after searching for three weeks the dogs could not smell anything.”
Investigators have spent years traversing the banks of the Yellow Medicine River and the surrounding areas but have so far, come up empty-handed. Over 122 square miles have been searched, yet there is no sign of Brandon. Brandon’s parents don’t believe that he drowned and suspect that their son is a victim of foul play.
Brandon Swanson never got to finish his second year at college, but he does leave behind a powerful legacy that will help other missing people. On July 1st 2009 Brandon’s Law became effective in Minnesota thanks to the tireless campaign of his mum, Annette and dad, Brian. Brandon’s law “requires authorities to conduct a preliminary investigation without delay when a missing persons report is received.”
Without answers, we are simply left to theorise. The main theory is that Brandon fell into the Yellow Medicine River and either drowned or made it out, dying soon after due to hypothermia. Even in May, the temperatures in Minnesota can plummet quickly and if you’re not wearing suitable clothing, hypothermia can quickly set in. Many people, including Brandon’s parents, don’t believe that he fell into the Yellow Medicine River and believe that foul play was involved.
Reddit User U/Dunn17 commented on a thread in R/unresolvedmysteries in 2019 “Interesting to see how many people still talk about Brandon to this day. I actually currently live in Marshall and grew up in this area. It’s pretty much known locally that this wasn’t some alien encounter. The story goes around here that Brandon owed a lot of people money for his trucks that he either worked on or purchased. Many believed that he ‘got what was coming to him’. I actually work with his 3rd cousin's boyfriend and the legend does that his body was buried in concrete in a church in South Dakota but that was a stretch in my opinion. I do think though that this was some sort of payback for what Brandon may or may not have done. Though I can’t be sure.”
There is no way of validating this information provided by a random Reddit user, although it is an interesting theory and gives a possible insight into how foul play may be involved in Brandon’s case. Other people who have looked at Brandon’s case believe it may be a case of alien abduction or something otherworldly, but there has been no evidence provided to support these theories.
Over 13 years later, 19-year old Brandon Swanson still remains missing. Brandon is described as a white male with brown hair and blue eyes, he is 5’6”, 120/125lb and has pierced ears. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a white or black hat twisted to the side and a white short-sleeved shirt. If you have any information you are urged to contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office on 507-694-1664 or FBI ViCAP on 1-800-634-4097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.