JOE HELT DISAPPEARED AT AGE 17 WITHOUT A TRACE. THIS MONTH HE'D BE 42 YEARS OLD. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO JOE HELT?
Joseph Helt disappeared without a trace in 1987, but his story lives on in the hearts of those he left behind. So many questions left unanswered, so many hopes left unfulfilled. Whatever happened to Joe on that cold January night?
Both of Joe’s parents died of cancer in 2007 & 2008, twenty years after their son vanished from Cragsmoor, without ever knowing what happened to their boy. Now his remaining family and friends seek an answer to this 24-year-old mystery.
The story goes that on January 16th of 1987, 17 year old Joe Helt was partying with friends at the remains of Mount Cathalia Ski Lodge in Cragsmoor, a few miles from his hometown of Ellenville, NY. This was a frequent hang out spot for the kids in that area. At some point in the night, Joe left the party with three acquaintances, Kelly Diaz, Wade Marks, and John LaForge. The four got into LaForge’s Subaru and drove a few miles, heading for Sam’s Point Dwarf Pine Ridge. They drove up the mountain and were following the loop road around the lake when the four wheel drive vehicle got stuck. After attempting to free the vehicle for some time, they say Joe got frustrated and walked off alone, heading back down the mountain and five miles into Ellenville for help. This was at about 3:30 a.m. Twenty minutes later, Marks and Diaz left as well, heading the same direction as Joe, walking to Marks' house which was within two miles of their location. Alone, LaForge left about ten minutes later, heading to his home only a mile and a half away. When the others didn’t catch up to Joe, they thought nothing of it. It was cold and dark; he must have been moving quickly. The next day, LaForge returned to the loop road with some friends to retrieve his vehicle. That evening, Joe did not show up for work. His mother, who had thought he spent the night with friends, became concerned. She made some calls but couldn’t find him.
And the search began. For all of that evening and much of the next day, state police with canines searched a twenty mile square area around Sam’s Point Preserve. As the team searched, the snow began to fall. Over the next few days, a harsh winter storm blew in over the Shawangunks, dumping over two feet of snow on the area around Sam’s Point. The search had to be called off after six days, when the storm made roads impassable, and survival nearly impossible. Search teams returned to the area after the snow melted, but still not a trace of Joseph Helt was ever found.
In January 2011, a group of Joe’s classmates arranged a candlelight vigil, to mark the 24th anniversary of his disappearance. They are working to raise awareness for Joe’s case, which is now under a new detective and being reviewed. A Facebook page and Twitter account are the center of the awareness effort in support of Joe Helt. Media response includes articles in local and regional newspapers and coverage on YNN News Channel 6, NBC and Nancy Grace. Most recently, an online petition is asking for FBI involvement in Joe’s case, and it appears there may be reason.
Those supporting Joe’s cause have been putting up fliers around the Ellenville area, and those fliers have repeatedly been torn down, except for the two in sight of security cameras. Suggestions have been made of fabrication or alterations of details to the case and the story of what happened that night. Some say that the story given by the last three to ever see him makes no sense at all. There are also suggestions that conflicts of interest may have occurred between this case and a political figure in the area at the time. It seems that there is more motivation behind this publicity than just closure. And one can't help but wonder about any such motivation, especially since Joe's case was never listed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children until 2010, a full 23 years AFTER he disappeared. He was never listed on the NYS Police's list of Missing Persons until 2011, a full 24 years AFTER he went missing. Law enforcement has never contacted Crime Stoppers either. Family, friends and those familiar with Joe’s case think there is something yet to be discovered. Perhaps there really is a mystery to be solved in Ellenville, NY. 24 years later, as his 42nd birthday approaches, it is about time we found an answer to the big question; what really happened to Joe Helt?
7/5/11:truecrimediva.com "What Happened to 17-year old Joseph Helt? 24 Years Later Justice is Demanded
6/14/11 CrimeWire: Joseph Helt's Story
5/29/11 Cold Case Mystery Show: The Joseph Helt Story
1987 Times Herald Record articles:
Jan. 13, 2011, Tod Westlake
Shawangunk Journal article:
Times Herald Record articles:
1/15/2011 Kevin Gleason
1/17/2011 Keith Goldberg
Times Herald Record photos:
1/17/2011 Jeff Goulding
YNN Hudson Valley News Channel 6 coverage (3 stories):
YNN News 4/9/11
YNN News 1/16/11 Candlelight Vigil story
YNN News 1/16/11 News story
1/29/11 Nancy Grace‘s “America’s Missing: 50 people in 50 days”:
2/11/11 NBC (NYC) news segment, Pei-Sze Cheng:
2/11/11NBC (NYC) VIDEO segment:
2/14/11 Poughkeepsie Journal article Emily Hamilton:
Blog Talk Radio:
2/27/11 Bring Them Home Now Radio:
2/26/11 CUBANARAMA Radio: