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Missing Persons

Disappeared: Christopher Virdell, missing 1 1/2 years. (UPDATED)


This blog was originally published on September 7, 2013. There is an update in this case as of September 25, 2014.

Sadly, human remains have been located near Centralia, and have been positively identified as those of Christopher Virdell. See this news report from KOMO News for the latest. My heart goes out to the Virdell family in this tragic hour. Though this case has a sad ending, at least it is an ending; as tragic and awful as it is, this missing persons case has now been resolved. Hopefully police will confirm the perpetrator of this inhuman and senseless crime.

Here is the original text of this article, published September 7, 2013.

A little more than 18 months ago, on the morning of Thursday, February 9, 2012, 18-year-old Chris Virdell left a friend’s house in Spanaway, Washington, headed to the Safeway store where he worked. He was due to come on shift at 11:30 AM. He never made it. He was a conscientious employee, never having missed a shift before, and no one has seen him since.

Christopher Virdell seems to have been a well-liked, outgoing young man, a recent graduate of Bethel High School. Photos left behind show him clowning in a mirror for a social media website, and an ID photo shows hints of weird colors in his hair. In any event he should have been extremely easy to recognize, as he was wearing a bright rescue-orange hooded sweatshirt and sneakers with luminous laces at the time he vanished.

He was on his way to catch a bus from the friend’s house to Safeway. It is not known whether he actually got on a bus. According to a news report, police used sniffer dogs to catch Chris’s scent, but they lost the trail somewhere between the friend’s house and the bus stop. This suggests he got into a car before reaching the bus stop.

I was curious about the geography of this case, so I ran the start and end points–the intersection near where the friend’s house was located, and the Safeway store where he worked–and found they were barely six miles apart. A major road, Meridian Avenue East, is the way to get there. Whatever happened to Chris Virdell happened along this road, or perhaps an even smaller area–on 224th Street East before the turn to Meridian Avenue.

virdell case geography

Google Earth view of Spanaway, Washington. The purple line is the likely route Chris Virdell would have taken to get to work that day. Click to see more detail.

The geography here is very limited. I suspect–and evidently many others do as well–that Chris Virdell got a ride from someone along this street, was abducted, and met with foul play.

This theory is supported by the records from Chris’s cell phone. According to the Tacoma Weekly paper, Chris texted his friends six times before 9:42 and 9:48 AM on February 9. Then, in the next hour, 60 more messages were sent, evidently somehow different–the news story did not explain how–but these messages were possibly sent by the person or persons who attacked him. Chris’s father, Paul Virdell, believes his son’s attackers mistook him for someone else, and murdered him. There is a rumor that a man in prison in Virginia confessed to the crime, but this appears to be unconfirmed.

So we know pretty much where something unusual and sinister happened to Chris Virdell, and we know almost exactly when–probably right after 9:48 AM. Like the case of Edward Dubbs I profiled not long ago, this is a case where the mystery event we’re looking for is limited both in time and in space. This seems like a case that is easily resolvable. So far as I can tell, however, despite law enforcement activity and a fair amount of publicity generated by the Virdell family and friends, Chris Virdell’s case has not been brought to closure.

Someday soon I hope that it can be.

Here is Charley Project’s case file on Christopher Virdell.

Update, February 23, 2014

On Saturday, February 2, 2014, law enforcement officers in Roy, Washington shot and killed a 21-year-old man named Michael Bourquin who was wanted on some sort of drug charges. The police stated that Bourquin was their prime suspect in the Christopher Virdell case.

Virdell’s family has evidently believed for quite some time that Michael Bourquin killed Christopher Virdell. The potential motive for the killing, if that’s what happened, is unknown. This information comes from this news article published on February 5. Thanks to Meaghan of Charley Project for the heads-up.


  1. From the little we know about this case, the “mistaken identity” theory seems unlikely. It sounds like Virdell was probably abducted by someone he knew.

    You’re right; the mystery does seem like it *should* be resolvable. Hope it is solved before long.

  2. Margie

    A poster on another forum mentioned that she saw a picture of Virdell with a Juggalo ball cap on. I found a YouTube video of the Feb. 22, 2012 vigil where his mother asked for a “Juggalo shout-out”. I wonder if he took off to go to one of their gatherings and ran into trouble. I did a quick Google search and it does not seem to be the safest group that a person could join.

    • Hmm, interesting theory, and I did not know that he was in with “Juggalos.” I’m not sure it’s a factor in his disappearance, though. Why would he choose that precise moment, right before work, to run off with his friends in that subculture? He was a model employee who had never been absent before. Why not wait until after work to go off with them?

      Most people are creatures of habit. Virdell’s habit seems to have been to go to work when he was scheduled to go to work. Logically this supports the inference that he was on his way to work when something happened. If his habit was to get to work on time, that would probably have been his choice, suggesting that, because he did not make it to work, whatever happened to him was not a result of his own choice, but someone else’s.

      Food for thought, though.

      • Bethel Highschooler

        I went to school with Chris. Please stop the wild accusations of running off with juggalos. There are no “real” juggalos in Spanaway. Chris was a different kid with a different out look on life but belive me he did not run off to join some clan of some sort. Chris was involved with bad people with bad drug habbits. Drugs usually lead down bad roads when debt comes into play do they not? Praying for some info or for the police to at least comment on the death of the 21 year old supposed killer.

    • Juggalos are a family just because some of them the FAKE ones do some messed up stuff and gave us the REAL ones a bad name does not mean we are all bad just saying

  3. Deborah

    Praying for Chris’ family, and that they get the resolution they and he deserves.

  4. Shannon

    The calls or texts after 9:48am, any idea to who? Or content? I was under the impression the phone went off after 9:48am. Chris did not take off on his own or run off with Juggalos. Good theory though, the more people keep talking the better. He had tickets to a Rave that weekend that he never picked up, money in bank and paychecks to pick up. If he planned to run off he would of prepared better. Thank you for this article and I hope people continue to talk about this. Chris graduated with my son and he went missing 1 mile from my house, I block from our high school on a school day. I do believe he got in a car with someone he knew,or a planned pick up from his “friends” house.

    • The news stories I looked at didn’t specify the nature of the post-9:48 texts, but there was evidently a flurry of them (so the phone did not switch off) and they must have been somehow unusual from the kind of messages he normally sent, because some people close to the case believe they were sent by his abductor(s), if in fact he was abducted. I agree with you, the run-away-with-Juggalos theory doesn’t wash. Abduction seems likely here. Sad case.

  5. What about the GPS on his phone did the police use that at all to try to locate him, as of today it has been 2 years that he has been gone and the police don’t seem to try I’ve seen them look for other missing people that wander home the next day, but when it comes to Chris the only thing you ever see is something his family is doing and I just keep wondering why.

    • Technologically, you can’t use a cell phone that way. If someone happened to call him–and his phone happened to be switched on–the cell phone provider would have a record of which cell tower the call pinged off of, but that would only narrow down the location within a few miles. This case seemed to happen in such close quarters I doubt even that information would have been very helpful.

  6. Got a message on the Charley Project:

    “Why is Charley project posting about Chris Virdell? Michael had nothing to do with the murder. The PCSD knows who killed Chris…..but, you support them blaming a dead kid after they kill him? This does not go well.”

    • Sharon

      Meaghan, if the PCSD knows who killed Chris why hasn’t that information been released. And how do you have this information? Where is Chris’s body if they know who killed him?

  7. It’s time for another update. His body was found, about 1.5 hours away from where he disappeared. RIP Chris.

    I honestly wonder if he even left the house he was last seen at (by which I mean alive/willingly). There are some interesting posts on the missing persons’ Facebook page his parents set up for him, to say the least.

    • Yes, thank you–I already incorporated that same news story into the update on this story which I posted yesterday. I was very sad to hear this news and my heart goes out to his family.

  8. SByes

    I wonder if the texts after 9:48 that the police suspect were made by the responsible party went to a number that was associated with Michael Bourquin or if they somehow imply his involvement either directly or indirectly. The fact that the detective said they were suspicious of Bourquin fairly early on and because they have been very tight lipped from the beginning regarding the details of the texts, I am inclined to think that those texts very possibly do contain something strong enough to point in Bourquin’s direction, but not nearly enough to act on. I am guessing that they went as far as they could with out a body and that they believe or are hoping that something found with his body will link to something in those texts messages. Just a thought but I really do hope they get some good evidence with the new development because it seems as if they have nothing otherwise.

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