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New evidence gives hope to family of missing man in 2012 case

Family members have been searching for Sean Kosky for nearly three years.
Sean Kosky

MCMINNVILLE, Ore. - For three years, a McMinnville family has been left wondering what happened to their son and brother.

Sean Kosky was sitting on a couch watching a movie, and then the 24-year-old was gone. Since his disappearance in 2012, the case has gone cold. But after more than two years, that could be changing now that new evidence has been discovered.

Sean's mother, Denise McGunnigle, has not given up hope that her son will be found.

"He was the class clown in school. He was funny, everybody liked him," she said.

McGunnigle describes her son as a goofball who was into rugby and liked to write. Diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy in second grade, Sean tried his best to fit in with other children.

But with major seizures, heavy medications and clinical trials to study his condition, it was difficult at times.

"He did testing for epilepsy that caused him pain and discomfort, and me discomfort, so that he could, 'Maybe help just one kid mom, help just one kid'," McGunnigle recalled.

The seizures kept Sean from working or from moving away from home. His family says he fell in with a dangerous crowd, shooting heroin and smoking lots of marijuana, even though he was taking anti-seizure medication.

Even at 24, he needed constant supervision, so when his mom went out of town in September 2012, Sean stayed the weekend at the house his cousin rented in the Miller Woods area of McMinnville. It was the caretaker's home on a 130-acre nature preserve with ponds, trails, ravines and a creek.

At the time, the house had no Internet or phone service and only one gravel road in. Cousin Kristen Harrison, her boyfriend and a roommate were there. That Sunday night before everyone went to bed, they all said Sean was watching a movie in the living room. An hour later, when the roommate came out for a glass of water, Sean was gone. The next morning, panic set in as Sean was nowhere to be found.

"He didn't go anywhere and I know it sounds wrong to say because it puts him in a box that I'd rather not have put him in, but he wouldn't have left his cigarettes, his pot, he just wouldn't have," McGunnigle said.

Police verified Sean's cell phone hadn't been used in days and he couldn't drive. Search crews looked for months, drained the ponds, and used cadaver dogs, but always came up empty.

According to police, Sean may have owed money to a drug dealer, further complicating the search effort. But no suspects have emerged to support a specific theory.

Then, this past April, the first real piece of evidence was found. Sean's sandals were discovered by an adjoining property owner while hunting. It was at the edge of a ravine, less than a mile from the house. The Yamhill County Sheriff's Office says it was 100 yards outside of all the search perimeters.

Perhaps Sean had a seizure walking and fell into Baker Creek which will be searched this summer. Or, were his shoes planted there years ago? The family has now hired private investigator Ray Marcom to help.

"People I have talked to have all said he was not suicidal, but he did feel as though he was a burden to people," said Marcom. "As I understand it, he wanted to stay there, he wanted to live up there with his cousin, but that wasn't going to be possible and he knew that the night that he disappeared, he was told that."

Suicide is a theory Sean's family doesn't agree with. But with a former homicide detective now on the case, and more searches planned, there is new hope of finding out what happened to Sean Kosky.

"I can't go anywhere until I find my boy," Denise McGunnigle said while crying. "He was my everything, he was my baby."

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More searches are planned for the next month, around the property where the sandals were found, and in Baker Creek as the water levels recede. Sean had a metal nerve stimulator device installed near his heart, and a metal rod in his leg. Authorities say those things could still be found out in the forest.

There is a $5,000 reward in the case. Anyone with information about Kosky's whereabouts can call the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office (503) 434-7506 or contact private investigator Ray Marcom (503) 583-5496 or marcominvestigations@gmail.com

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