Patrick Shawn Betz was 11 years old when he vanished on January 20, 1988, from Upland, California.
He went out that night to the Pizza Chalet, where he was hanging out and playing video games with the owner’s son. Shawn was fooling about when his mother and sister came in, and he tried to set up his sister Pam with the guy behind the bar, who stated he was leaving for college the next day. The boys attempted to attend a game at a local high school but were unable to do so and returned to the Pizza Chalet. Shawn walked home alone around 9 p.m., according to the owners. He never showed up.
The cops were summoned, but they claimed he had run away and would return on his own. They spoke with the Chalet owner and took a look around, but little was done. Shawn had gotten into a fight with a classmate and was facing a court date, but his parents stated that he was unconcerned. The parents also told the cops that he couldn’t sleep without his special blanket, which was still at home, along with all of his belongings. He would have taken that blanket if he had fled.
Someone who sounded like an older woman called Shawn’s school the next morning to say he was going to live with his grandmother in Washington and would never return to school. His grandmother used to live in Washington, but she had migrated to California by the time he was born. Shawn was well aware of this. Shawn’s family wondered if he was trying to communicate with them or if he was being held captive by someone to whom he provided false information as a clue.
His family distributed leaflets and canvassed the neighborhood without success. Four months passed before the police consented to seek for him and returned to their home, but the case was already closed. The only observable evidence was that as soon as the Pizza Chalet owners were questioned, they hastily packed up their belongings and departed town before the cops could interview them again. The only question previously asked was what time he left.
His family isn’t sure if it had anything to do with the case, but the Pizza Chalet proprietors vanished just as Shawn’s case was being resolved. The unusual part was that neither the Pizza proprietors nor the customers left right away for the Middle East. However, a Middle Eastern family had been shot in their home just a few years before, so they may have been afraid of community reaction just because this case included them, and they did run, but not out of guilt, but out of fear of xenophobia.
The police told the Betz family that the proprietors of the Pizza Chalet had gone to Los Angeles, but that by the time the cops found them, they had already flown out of the country. Because there was no extradition treaty where they went, the police told the family there was no way to interview them (the family cannot remember what country it was they went to). There were some comments after the film aired claiming the Pizza Chalet owners didn’t leave the country, but I was able to clarify that there were several owners throughout time, but the correct proprietors in question did depart the nation.
The authorities were drawn to the older brother for some reason, despite the fact that he was just 15 and they couldn’t legally question him without an adult present. Regardless, they picked him up and interrogated him for nearly 8 hours. They also gave him a lie detector exam during that period (which his family admits he failed, but because of an anxiety issue he already had). He was also promised that if he confessed, he may leave, which he did in order to end the questioning.
His sister claimed that when the family went into the police station after learning where the youngster was, the Chief of Police was screaming at him so loudly that they could hear it–despite the fact that the entrance was several rooms away. The major problem with blaming the older brother is that he had many witnesses indicating he was in San Francisco, more than 6 hours away, when his brother went missing while performing in his band, Manta. There’s no way he could have pulled it off.
In 1991, the authorities received anonymous information that someone in the family had buried Shawn in their backyard or beneath the house, and bloodhounds were dispatched. Shawn’s father stated that they had nothing to conceal and that the search be carried out. They combed the site for nearly 9 hours, leaving no stone unturned, but came up empty-handed.
In the mid-1990s, a woman who worked at a beauty parlor near the Pizza Chalet came forward to claim she believes she saw Shawn with an older juvenile that night, but when questioned again, she wasn’t sure. As is customary in cases like this, there were other unconfirmed sightings throughout time.
Shawn’s sister, Pam, had just given birth to twins at the time of the search, and one of the boys went on to become a security guard. He was working in another city when an elderly man came in and said he was from Upland. Shawn’s (now-grown) nephew casually mentioned that his uncle was from the area but had gone missing. There was no name given or anything, but the man gave Shawn’s name to the nephew without prompting. The elderly man, he said, was animated. He even took out a piece of paper and began asking questions and writing notes about Shawn. Shawn’s nephew considered the meeting to be unnerving. Especially when Shawn has been missing for nearly two decades.
Shawn was one of the 36 children featured in Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train video, and one of the men who have yet to be discovered. His appearance in the video came as a complete shock to the family, who only learned about it after someone saw it and informed them.
A subscriber to my channel, Crime Hound, asked me about covering this case, therefore my main source is my own tale as provided to me by the family. Prior to this, there was very little on the internet. Steve, a subscriber, also made arrangements to attend a City Council meeting and convey the tale there. (See the link below for more information.) At the meeting, his mother (Barbara Betz) and sister Pam were allowed to call in. The Chief of Police was present, and they began rewriting the case as well. This case is being posted at their request in order to get the information out there and possibly find some help in solving it. After that, a reporter called Steve Scauzillo, a staff writer from the Upland Gazette interviewed the family and me.
Many mysteries remain, such as who called the school the next morning and why they said what they said. His family was adamant that no one had noticed he was missing. The cops had only just arrived at their house. The young man working behind the counter at the Pizza Chalet that night was never found. As far as the family knows, he has never been interrogated. Also, why did the Pizza family appear to be fleeing the nation, and why did the elderly man know Shawn’s name off the top of his head? The final two links provide age-progressed photographs of Shawn as he would seem now. His mother is sick, and his father died without realizing what had happened.
[2/8 ADDED] For LA, I spoke with Crimestoppers. Because Upland lacks one, LA will accept gratuities in exchange for a reward. You can also call 1-800-222-TIPS to use their p3 tip Mobile app. You have the option of remaining anonymous.