Missing since October 20, 2007
Lee Cutler, an intelligent and good-hearted high school senior who loves hanging with his friends, is similar to most American teenagers, who do not always call mom with updates on his whereabouts.
On the morning of October 20, 2007, Beth Frazin, Lee's mother, is thinking the same thing. Lee had been at a sleepover the night before and was headed to work at noon at a new job at the mall -- calling mom had probably slipped his mind. However, as the morning passes into afternoon without any call from Lee, Beth grows anxious. After all, she told him to call. Beth repeatedly calls Lee's cell phone only to listen to his voicemail message on the other line. A concerned mother, Beth decides to drive to the mall, yet is startled to find Lee has not shown up for work. Lee's new boss is nonplussed by Lee's absence, offering that perhaps Lee misunderstood the schedule and thought the shift started at five o'clock, instead of noon. He is probably still with his friends, she reasons.
Beth returns home, waiting for what she describes as the longest hours of her life until the clock struck five.
For a small group of friends from Adlai Stevenson high school, the previous night was like any other. Lee gathered with family and friends for a birthday party at a favorite hibachi steak house. As the party entered the cool fall air, Lee gathered with some friends for an impromptu game of hackey-sack as his mother, Beth Frazin, slipped into her car and drove home. Lee soon followed, and arriving home, he walked into his mother's room and asked if he could stay over at a friend's house. Beth said of course, yet repeatedly asked him to call in the morning.
Lee had a good heart, but his past reveals the darker pain of someone blessed by a heart that welcomes too many in. He was a habitual problem solver and negotiator, trying to mend fights between his mother and stepfather, often dealing with topics that many teenagers would rather ignore. He has a history of internalizing the pain and misfortunes of others. During his freshman year at Adlai Stevenson, Lee was involved deeply with a girl in her senior year. When the relationship ended, Lee became distraught and at one point, brought a knife to school.
At 3:45 on October 21, nearly 11 hours after the clock struck five at Beth Frazin's house, police find Lee's gray 2007 Toyota Corolla 177 miles away in Baraboo, WI. The next morning, after watching the car all evening with no sign of Lee, the officers begin investigating the vehicle and the surrounding area. Inside, they find a copy of "Into the Wild" and a note, addressed to his mother: "My head is too big for my body, finally I'll get to sleep. I'm sorry mom for being a coward, I love you mom, please be happy."
In the years after Lee's tough break-up, Beth helped guide Lee through the difficult process of psychiatric treatment, and soon enough, the Lee his friends knew before, returned. He was the charismatic leader of the B'Nai B'Rith youth group. As troubles mounted at home, Lee became more involved in his Jewish faith, he spoke to his cousin, who was a free spirit like Lee, and had served in the Israeli Army. For a young man trapped with a difficult stepfather, and mounting emotions from relationships with girls, the chance to escape and serve a cause may have appealed to him.
As the sun rises in the state park in Baraboo, police begin finding Lee's possessions in the nearby woods -- his yarmulke, his pants and love letters from his most recent girlfriend, Autumn. A few days later his wallet is found caught in a branch in the river and empty bottle of Tylenol PM near his car. Recently, he had been using the drug to help him go to sleep.
Taking a clue from the found copy of "Into the Wild," (a true story about a young man leaving life and living in the Alaskan wilderness), State police and investigators comb the area. Helicopters and heat sensing computer technology cover every possible area Lee, an amateur hiker, would have covered. Clued in by the note to his mother, teams of divers are bestowed a more grim task -- combing the shallow river near the spot where investigators had found Lee's possessions. The result is bittersweet -- both squads find nothing. Investigators conclude that Lee has disappeared.
While many signs point to suicide, investigators remain certain that if Lee killed himself or is dead, he is nowhere near the state park where his car was found. If Lee were in the park, alive or dead, he would have been found. In such a mysterious case, almost everybody has a theory. Was it possible for Lee to flee the country to join the Israeli Army with the help of his free-spirited cousin? Did he meet a girl online and run away, staging his own death? Recently Beth has heard that Lee was spotted in a homeless shelter in California, and other witnesses claim to have seen Lee on the streets of New York and Las Vegas. Every time, Beth sends a flyer to local authorities and every time, the lead turns up false.
Beth has her own theory. "Wherever Lee is, he is personally happy. In the note found in his car, he said he wanted me to be happy, but you know what? I'm not happy. I want Lee to come back."