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.
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.
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.