‘People Magazine Investigates: Where is Mark Himebaugh?’ on Investigation Discovery seeks to solve the mystery of the disappearance of 11-year-old Mark Himebaugh from Del Haven, New Jersey, in late November 1991. His family and the detectives who took part in the search over the ensuing three decades are interviewed in this episode. What caused Mark to vanish, and is he still missing? Let’s investigate.
What Happened To Mark Himebaugh?
Jody and Maureen Himebaugh welcomed Mark into the world on May 23, 1980 at Del Haven in Middle Township, New Jersey. The latter recalled her 1976 move to Del Haven and the 1978 birth of her older son, Matthew. According to Mark’s aunt Kristen Hamann, “Mark, with his bright red hair and freckles, was so sweet.” He appreciated nature, loved animals, and enjoyed making things, Maureen continued. The Delaware Bay was the love of his life. The boy developed a close relationship with his mother as he grew older, and his generosity to others showed out.
When Mark started going to school, things started to shift, and the teachers started to complain about how he became agitated when things did not go his way. The youngster had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which led to frequent and violent outbursts, according to his cousin Lauren Maguire. In addition, Mark’s family described how he would become upset over insignificant things, such as throwing the controller if he lost a video game. While Maureen allegedly showed patience with her younger son under these circumstances, she said Jody did not.
“I don’t think Jody understood Mark or felt there was something wrong with Mark,” Maureen said. He was unable to handle it. She also described how Jody frequently changed jobs, which left the family struggling financially. While her husband allegedly spent more time with his hobbies, including his boat and pop-up truck camper, Maureen was forced to work as a server and as a housekeeper in order to pay the expenses and raise her boys. The couple ultimately divorced in March 1991, and the episode noted that the Himebaughs experienced hardship as a result.
On November 25, 1991, Mark, who was 11 years old, was looking forward to Thanksgiving in three days and his mother’s birthday the following weekend. It was a typical day, Maureen said, with Mark attending school and coming home to watch TV on the couch. Around the same moment, she remembered seeing smoke pouring from the neighbouring bushes. David Zeiss, a retired chief of the Green Creek Fire Company, recalled how a brush fire started in a marsh next to the Himebaugh home in Del Haven, only a few steps from the beach.
Zeiss reported that when he arrived at the site, there was thick smoke coming from Sunray Beach’s south, and there were locals gathered nearby. Mark, an 11-year-old adventurer, watched the firefighters battle to put out the brush fire with more interest than most others. He was a Curious George, Maureen recalled. He immediately sprang up and asked if he may go see it. His mother concurred even though he had fractured his left foot on the monkey bar about six weeks prior and had just gotten his walking boot taken off.
Mark ran out towards Sunray Beach, which was visible from their home, Maureen remembered, before taking off his ‘excellent trainers’ and donning his second-hand shoes. The small boy crossed Sunray Road, his street, and made his way along Delaware Avenue, which ran parallel to Sunray Beach on the Delaware Bay. He was wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, grey trousers and the hand-me-down LA Gear trainers he had borrowed from his elder brother, Matthew. Maureen was supposed to drive a neighbour to pick up her car from a repair shop at about that time when she knocked on the door.
The programme stated that Maureen was expected to return after saying farewell to Mark in less than 15 minutes. She arrived late, though, as a result of the roadblocks that the fire department had set up to divert traffic due to the fire. Around 5:00 PM, Maureen went back to look for her kid but was unable to locate him anywhere. According to reports, Mark was last spotted by a park security at 4:00 PM. With the aid of an army of community volunteers, canine teams, and aircraft, the authorities launched a thorough search.
Is Mark Himebaugh Dead or Alive?
On the evening of November 25, one of the firefighters discovered Mark’s right trainer in the sandy brush a little distance from the Himebaugh residence. In her memory, Maureen said, ‘I became excited, thinking, ‘He’s got to be out there, there’s his trainer.” Sadly, the shoe offered no proof, and the investigators ultimately came to the conclusion that Mark had been kidnapped by someone among the people assembled to witness the fire. Due in part to Jody Himebaugh creating suspicions by allegedly leaving to go to work while others searched for his son, the police first suspected him.
Rich McHale, a retired Middle Township detective, ruled out Jody as a suspect since he had a solid alibi. The police received dozens of information from witnesses who claimed to have seen the youngster conversing with two “persons of interest” in a small white or grey car at around 3:30 PM, while others said they had seen him with an elementary-aged female. Despite the New Jersey state police disseminating a composite sketch of the male passenger who was purportedly observed interacting with Mark, neither of the potential suspects has been named yet.
On the basis of his similarity to a composite sketch, the police were able to identify one suspect, a child sex offender who had previously been convicted. Thomas Butcavage, a criminal from Pennsylvania, was found guilty of sexually assaulting young boys and was given a sentence of 18 to 36 years in jail. When he reported to the authorities that the prisoner had shown him a video of a youngster who resembled the missing 11-year-old, a male sex worker connected Thomas to Mark. Despite this, Thomas has consistently denied having anything to do with Mark being missing, and the police have not discovered any tangible proof connecting him to the case.
If anyone has information connecting Thomas to the disappearance, the Middle Township police are still pleading with them to come forward. The authorities announced in May 2023 that they were collaborating with Tabtu Corp and its service provider Terawe to employ Vollee Artificial Intelligence to sift through the information and uncover patterns that would not be immediately obvious to the human eye. Additionally, a reward fund offers $30,000 for Mark’s safe return and $10,000 for reliable information. “I’m still waiting and hoping,” said Maureen, “but not so much dreaming as hoping to get closure.”