Scott Kleeschulte grew in Saint Charles Missouri which is about 20 minutes from Saint Louis across the Missouri River. It’s a region with a lot of greenery, kind of on the edge of where the urban region ends and the farmland begins, and back in 1988 everyone in town would let their children roam free.
One of the most famous places, and one of Scott’s favourites, was known as The Trails. It was about 30 acres, and it was at the intersection of Elm Street and Elm point rd. There were hills with trails worn over for biking and hiking. And there was a creek for the children to play in. But maybe the most fascinating part of The Trials was a complicated network of caves and tunnels that ran through one of the hillsides. The neighbourhood children had begun digging the tunnel system in the ’60s and following generations had kept the tradition going. The caves went as deep as 30 to 40 feet into the ground in some regions. Scott’s favourite aspect to do was ride his bike along with the trials, but he may have visited often the caves as well. He likely stayed away from the creek though as he didn’t like water.
Scott was very near to his family. He had four siblings, Tim, who was 19 years old, 17 years old Stacie, 12 years old Richie and six years old tammy. He was particularly close with Richie, as the two were so close in age and played football together. His mum, Peggy, told him he was a momma’s boy, not too old yet to be offended about snuggling up with her on the couch while the family watched TV.
The day of his disappearance, June 8th of 1988, was the final day of first grade for Scott at Coverdell Elementary. That morning his parents promised to take him to get a new pair of shoes later to celebrate, and probably go out to feast with the whole family. His dad, Richard, said “That morning before we went to work, he was still in the home and watching his cartoons, and that’s the last we saw him. Went to work and we said,
We'll see you this evening, and he said,OK, Dad.”
Much of the data from this day comes from a 2011 interview that Nancy Grace performed with Richie, who goes by Richard as an adult, but to minimize difficulty, as that is also his dad’s name, I will proceed to refer to him as Richie.
Scott got home around 3:30 that day and had some time to waste before the celebration started. He grabbed a snack, altered out of his school clothes, and went out. He first went to tour with a regional boy named Mike who was close with both him and Richie. But Mike was finishing up dinner and told Scott he’d be out in a bit. So Scott decided to play by himself.
When Stacie left for work around 4:30 she sighted Scott playing on a grassy hill by their home. Soon after she sighted him, a storm broke out. It began abruptly but was over by the time Scott’s parents got home around 5:15. Despite the shortness, the storm had been so severe that it affected flash flooding in the region. Richard and Peggy were shocked, and a bit worried to see Scott wasn’t home when they got there. He was scared about storms and they’d estimated he’d want to head home as quickly as it was over.
But Because Scott had said he was going to go play with Mike, his family at the house weren’t too anxious as they inferred the boys were inside. So they sent Ritchie out to check with Scott’s friends and the neighbourhood children, and to check the regions they loved to hang out at. But when he didn’t discover any clue about Scott, the family began knocking on doors. It was coming to be obvious that something might be wrong. They called the police around 8 pm when it began to get dark and the police showed up right away. They took statements and began making preparations for an intensive inspection the following day.
The search was strong, involving helicopters and 30 officers scouring just the Trails alone. They also had the regional children show them all the regional hangout spots and searched those.
Local citizen Bob Highshoe brought in three bloodhounds trained in tracking. Despite the storm, they were eligible to track Scott’s odour from his house. The dogs did pursue his odour to The Trails. But then they proceeded further to Fox Hill Road, where the scent vanished near a construction site for a new apartment complex. The site was about three miles from the boy’s house on Leverenz drive according to google maps, but just about a mile as the crow flies and Scott may have been eligible to take a more direct path back then.
These scent trails were not from the day he disappeared, as Scott would explore often. Richie even said in a later interview that he discovers it very unlikely Scott was at the trails that day “ I don’t think he made it to the forests even because I was down there, and there was just one way in and one way out that he would come. And he — I didn’t notice him, and I came out that way before the storm had hit and we never crossed paths. So he never made it to the dirt trails even. So something occurred on the road.”
Officers performed small inquiries of regions missed and followed up on leads, but the next massive search was in July.
On July 4th a regional woman called in to report that she’d listened to the voice of a kid saying “help me.” near The Trails. Police had followed up but the lead was uncertain and there were few details about it. This trip was one of many called in by psychics. John P. Zumwalt, the chief of the detective bureau, said law enforcement has publicly asserted they don’t believe psychics, but will still follow up on any guides, just in case. Also, some later articles cited that someone sighted Scott playing by the caves right before the storm. No record of that sighting could be discovered and it’s apparent those articles are just implying this tip, and the details have gotten confused as time went by. Either way, it provoked police to scour the forests once again.
On July 5th, precisely six weeks since Scott had disappeared, the police went back to the trails to the investigation, this time concentrating on the caves. The caves were not strengthened, and Scott had disappeared just before a violent storm, so police were concerned that the boy might have pursued shelter in the caves and been caught in a cave. They brought in uncovering equipment for the tunnels, eradicating most of them in the procedure. Brian Ochs, who manned the bulldozer that eradicated the caves was amazed by the depth of the caves and the complication of the tunnel system. He said the mud had been so flexible it could be dug with a spoon, and he was stunned that no one had ever been hurt or murdered in a cave-in. After the investigation concluded, the project begun by neighbourhood children 20 years earlier had eventually been destroyed.
This search provoked a revival in the media, and the Post Dispatch checked in with the Kleeschultes to notice how they were coping. Peggy and Richard told that the entire community had been assisting them so much. Their co-workers brought food to them, and two little girls opened up a lemonade stand to help raise money for the search. The girls then halted by the Kleeschulte house and contended they take the $26.26 profit to help locate Scott. Neighbours and friends dropped off cards and notified the family they were in their prayers. But the case grew cold, though periodically the media attention would shine on Scott’s case in apparent relation to other missing children.
In 1993 the killing and disappearance of two more kids would provoke speculation and resurgence in the news about Scott’s case. In November, nine-year-old Angie Housman from St Louis was abducted and killed. Then in December, 10-year-old Cassidy Senter disappeared while walking around in her neighbourhood. Angie Housman’s killing was just recently solved in 2020, so the likelihood of whether or not her killer may have had something to do with Scott’s disappearance has not yet been explored by law enforcement.
The case grew cold until 2007 when one Michael J Devlin was imprisoned. His truck had fitted one sighted during the recent kidnapping of local boy Ben Ownby and he finally admitted to abducting him during questioning. But when police scoured his apartment they discovered Ben alive and well, but also Shawn Hornbeck, a boy who’d been missing four years.
The case, known as the Missouri Miracle, brought scrutiny to other unsolved kidnappings in the region and the FBI put together a task force to infer if Devlin could be credible for other kidnappings, including Scott’s. But about six months in, the task was suddenly disassembled with no notification given to the families, and no data about what was discovered shared publicly.
In any case, with Scott back in the spotlight, a few regions of unrest were cleared up. Chief McCarrick had mentioned in 1996 briefly that there was a sighting of Scott after the rainstorm and this sighting was not heightened on in the media until the 2007 updates. McCarrick substantiated in a 2007 interview with Fox News that the final substantiated sighting of Scott was by a neighbour who saw him stepping after the rainstorm. They had no reason to distrust this sighting, and as a result, lean towards a kidnapping. He also said that due to the resemblances in situations, he always thought Scott’s disappearance could be related to Shawn Hornbeck and Arlin Henderson’s cases. Arlin Henderson’s kidnapping stays unsolved to this day. McCarrick also stressed that because of this, they did not believe Scott’s disappearance was connected to the storm. He said it was a misunderstanding that had prevailed in the media for quite a while.
Richard further cleared this up in an interview with the O’Fallon journal. He told that a neighbour contended to have noticed Scott after the thunderstorm stopped. They said they saw him stepping lonely on West Adams Street, near Ken drive, and that he was splashing in the puddles by the curb.
The case began to see new leads in 2016. Nonetheless, these guides have not publicly panned out to anything, and his case has mostly fallen out of the mainstream media. But that was also the year that the case began to persuade the attention of internet sleuths.
It began with a Reddit post on January 22nd of 2016. Someone posted a question on the askreddit sub saying; To those who have accidentally murdered someone, what went wrong?
One of the more prominent replies read:
“This still disturbs me to this day. As children, we had a hideout in this dirt cliff/cove. This is the nicest approximation I can discover on google, only 3x taller and possibly 10x as wide.
There was a neighbourhood child who, in hindsight, was possibly mentally handicap in some way, but to us, he was just the weird/creepy child (this was the 80’s and we weren’t precisely raised PC).
Three of us were led the way to our base and discovered a weird child sitting at the top in our “guard chair”. We shouted at him to get out, and he said something like “make me” and began hurling dirt clods and sticks down at us. We all ran around the side to make our way up.
It gets pretty fuzzy here, but all I remember is he fell. I still remember the noise. When we got back down to check on him, he was in a very anxious stance with blood coming out of his mouth. We all just freaked out and ran home, and AFAIK, no one has talked a word of this to anyone. We didn’t go back for over a month, and never told a word of it between us.
Again, this was the 80’s, so media wasn’t like today. Opportunities are it got a tiny article in the newspaper B-section: “missing mentally disabled kid discovered dead after fall” or something like that.
The comment obtained a slew of upvotes and reactions, and the poster added an edit the next day reacting to the most common questions.
Well, I didn’t anticipate waking up to this. I have no indication why we didn’t all tell our parents. We all just booked it for our respective houses without saying a word. I think it was primarily because he was “the odd kid” and we all thought that would get us in difficulty somehow.
No, I don’t think we were directly credible. Indirectly perhaps. Again, it’s fuzzy and all I remember is us hurling sticks at each other.
I have attempted to discover any record of him to no avail. I recall the neighbourhood children from those days’ first names, but not the last. I have since shifted a few hundred miles away and didn’t keep in touch. I don’t even recall the creepy kids first name. I have looked blindly for any record of the child, and have expended hours on Facebook attempting to discover my old friends, but haven’t discovered anything yet.
No, I don’t know if he perished or not that day. All I have to go off of is my mum mentioning him going missing and us not glimpsing him around after that. When we eventually went back to our “base” over a month later, there was nothing extraordinary. No police tape or anything like that. I don’t recall any cops surveying the region asking about him.”
This rapidly gained traction and people reacted, wanting to know more. Someone inquired if they ever discovered a body and he responded: “No idea. We were children (maybe 10-12ish) so we didn’t precisely watch the news or read the paper. Even if our parents knew, I don’t guess they would have mentioned it to us at that age, even though he was relatively well-known around the neighbourhood. He went to a different school, so it was never brought up there. I did inquire my parents perhaps 10 years ago if they remembered him, and they said something along the lines of “yeah, didn’t he go missing?” and that’s about as far as I liked to push it.”
Numerous users advised them to go to the police or asserted their condolences. Other’s accused them of killing.
All of this provoked another user to examine further. They either tracked the poster’s IP address to discover their name and address or the Original Poster, or OP had left sufficient in their history to be effortlessly identifiable. Either way, the user examining them said “I figured out where OP was nowadays, his age, then where he was as a child based on the age he said he was,” They mentioned that OP must have evolved around Saint Louis as they’d saw a show that was only on Saint Louis public TV from 85 to 91. And they went on to say they had the poster’s precise address, and it was within 30 minutes of Saint Louis and one hour of Saint Charles. They also went on to disclose even more data about the poster, saying “They’re also currently struggling with some medical problems and live near their mum. Appears probable to me that they moved back near home.”
They then decided to scour through the missing person’s cases from Saint Charles Missouri. Even though it appeared very probable that police could have discovered the body and it wouldn’t have been a missing person case in the first place, they told that they didn’t bother with obituaries as they were behind a paywall. They then reacted publicly with “Was it Scott Kleeschulte? He went missing in 1988, in St Charles, MO, near where you evolved and nowadays reside, correct? That would make you around 10/11 at the time he went missing, he would have been 9.”
This story started to disclose other subreddits and even other parts of the internet. When it began to earn traction, the poster that had doxxed the actual confessor said “So I’m the guy who commented Scott Kleeschulte (check my history). I won’t say too much about who I’ve enticed about this, but it’s a problematic situation, and this guy needs to talk with LE right now. I sent them much more information about this guy, and they should be eligible to ID him.”
Law enforcement has never said that they’ve followed up on this trip, and by now have either tested it to their entire ability or omitted it on principle, as much of the data doesn’t make sense. Primarily that the user made no mention of the flash flooding that day. Also, there is no mention in any articles that Scott was disabled. He was 9 years old at the end of first grade, which implies he was held back, but not certainly disabled. And if he had been, that certainly appears like something that would have been brought up during media coverage, as it would have made it all the more urgent to discover him.
Unfortunately, a lot of this data is already getting mixed up and resulting in rumours about the case. In a post on our generally sceptical unresolved mysteries subreddit, a post named ‘Redditor admits to murdering childhood pal; other Redditor investigates and substantiates it true” detailed the claim, but added in a lot of data about Scott’s case that was not in the actual post. This made it seem as though the cases were an exact match.
The post alleges that the Reddit user had told it was the final day of school, and that there was a torrential downpour that day that may have washed away the corpse. True of Scott’s case but not mentioned anywhere in the OP’s post. A few commenters suggested this out, but that didn’t halt others from picking up the story. Now several of the first various results that come up when looking up Scott’s case on google are all to do with the Reddit fiasco. And because of the false post being one of the first results, it’s rapidly becoming the narrative on youtube and amateur crime blogs that the Redditors admission matches the Kleeschulte case precisely.
This extraordinary, and the likely fabricated tale has not yet earned sufficient traction that either law enforcement or Scott’s family have felt the need to comment on it. But with Reddit users bringing up the thread on Facebook and calling SCPD, it’s only a matter of time. With so limited data publicly accessible on Scott’s case, his story is well on the way to coming to be a tall tale, about a scandalous admission and the internet detective who attempted to solve it.
Source: Unresolved Mysteries, Reddit