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Feb. 15, 2019

The Disappearance

The Disappearance

On Memorial Day 2017, Susan Osborne and her 14 year old son Evan Chartrand disappeared from their home in the small community of Holtville, AL.  Investigators have stated they currently have only 1 person of interest in their disappearance, Susan's husband, Jerry Osborne.

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Welcome to Secrets True Crime.  I am your host, Amber Sitton.  What is done is darkness will eventually come to light.  That is the purpose of this podcast...to shine light on the story of Susan Osborne and her 14 year old son Evan Chartrand.  They disappeared from their home in the tiny community of Holtville, Alabama on Memorial Day in 2017.  They haven’t been heard from since.  It would be 2 months before anyone reported them missing.  We will be looking at their lives leading up to their disappearance and taking a close look into the circumstances surrounding it.  As this podcast is being produced, the investigation is active and ongoing.  You will hear from Susan and Evan’s family, friends, teachers, neighbors and the sheriff’s investigators as we explore what happened to Susan and Evan.  Their story is complicated and it has some shocking twists and turns including prostitution, infidelity, lies and secret lives. I’m sure at times it will leave you frustrated.  It certainly has made me feel that way more than once.  Also, Susan has a 10 year old daughter from a previous relationship. She was with her father when Susan & Evan went missing.  Because of her age, I have chosen to not include her name in this podcast.  Listener discretion is advised.  While you won’t find foul language in this podcast, the subject matter may involve violence, sexual content and murder.  It’s not suitable for younger listeners.  


We’ll start their story with Susan’s best friend, Hollie Morris.  In May 2009, about a year after Hollie graduated from nursing school, she bought her first home.  This was an exciting time for her but she had no idea that her decision would be so life changing.  This is Hollie describing how she and Susan first met.  Hollie audio 0:01:  But um, anyway, she lived across the street from me and actually the weekend I moved in and she came over there and introduced herself and, and so we literally, we were inseparable from then we just became friends immediately. Sorry. (crying) We were like sisters. Hollie audio 1:10 So we did most everything together. She was over at my house because when she was across the street from me, she was at my house more than hers. Um, so, you know, we went places together all the time. We went grocery shopping together and to get our nails done and you know, you name it.}.  


Susan and Evan moved to Alabama from Michigan with Evan’s dad when he and Susan were still married.  They later divorced and Susan and Evan stayed in Alabama.  When Hollie moved across the street, Susan was at the end of a relationship with another man.  He is the father of Susan’s daughter.  This man will come up later in the podcast but at this time, we see no reason to name him.  Susan, Evan and Susan’s daughter lived in that home across the street from Hollie for several years and their friendship flourished.   Hollie also grew closer to Susan’s children. Evan suffered from some chronic health issues that caused him to be frequently absent from school.  I don’t know exactly what his diagnosis was.  I’m a person that likes details and I’ve asked a lot of people and no one seems to know the specifics.  What I have learned is that he had gastrointestinal issues and that food sometimes made things worse.  It was serious enough that he missed school often, was hospitalized at times and had suffered with it for the majority of his life.  He also spoke with a significant stutter.. Hollie audio 17:02:  his stuttering made him very nervous. So he wasn't friends with a whole lot of people because that did make him nervous. So he was quiet at school I know and he would be quiet around a lot of people if he didn't know you he’d be quiet around you, but if he knew you and felt comfortable around you he really opened up to you and would really talk to you and carry on conversations. And 'cause even when I first met him, you know, he was very quiet and very shy and then the more he opened up to me more, you get to know him the more you see his personality and what a jokester and cut up and everything he is. But like I said when he first gets to know someone he is very nervous and very shy and the stuttering made him very insecure. So he was very shy and insecure about that.}  I spoke with Evan’s friend Brianne.  She had a couple classes with him in middle school.  {Insert Brianne:  He was in my math class in 8th grade.  He’s was the sweetest person I think I’ve ever met.  He was just so genuine.  He was really funny too.  Always joking around.  And really sarcastic.}  I spoke to many people who knew Evan and every single one spoke about what a sweet kid he was.  Due in part to his chronic illness, the school gave him the opportunity to be a library aide.  The librarian, Mrs. Whatley, told me Evan smiled all the time.  He was a happy kid who never got into trouble.  She told me she is hoping he’s safe somewhere but she can’t imagine he wouldn’t contact friends.  She said he was the kind of kid that when asked to do something, he started working on it the moment she finished asking.  Mrs. Whatley remembered that he had been quiet in the beginning but really came out of his shell.  She noted it was a joy to see him calm down and not be nervous.   


Evan had 2 Instagram accounts. Almost all of the photos in both accounts fell into 1 of 3 categories.  Dogs, fishing and his little sister who he clearly adored.  Evan also loved dogs. He posted several photos of dogs he encountered various places.  It also included photos of their dogs, Sugar and Schnook. Both were fairly small mixed breed terrier types.  One was Evan’s and one was his little sister’s.  These dogs were their babies.  Hollie told me Susan really loved dogs too. You will hear more about their dogs in future episodes.  Evan also loved the outdoors especially fishing.  One of his Instagram handles was even about fishing.  Evan lived in a fisherman’s paradise with the Coosa River and Lake Jordan both practically in his backyard.  His instagram posts showed he took advantage of that every chance he got.  His Aunt Missy talked about his love for fishing with me quite a bit in our interviews.   Insert audio Missy:  21:54:  Evan was a sweetheart. He always had a smile on his face. He was obsessed with fishing beyond belief. Obsessed was fishing. He lived, breathed everything, fishing. He just loved it. And he was trying to make his own fishing lures. He was trying, he was just anything to do with that.  Evan and his mom were both fishing fanatics.  Susan called it her stress reliever.  In fact, the two of them were fishing together in 2013 when she first met her future husband Jerry Osborne.  Susan wasn’t known for having the best taste in men and we will discuss that a little further in future episodes.  Her last 2 relationships had ended badly so she’d been taking a break from dating for the previous few years.  Insert Hollie audio:  20:43:  I remember she called me up and was telling me about when she met Jerry and she's said I met this guy and she's said, he just seemed so sweet and so down to earth and she just said you know, she's, the more they started talking the more she just really started to like him, she's like, you're going to have to meet him.  I really like him  It wasn’t long before Hollie did meet Jerry.  [21:21] when I met him he just seemed so nice, so down to earth I mean and just even after they really got serious with each other and even after we got married you would've thought he was a great guy. He put on a good front. Uh, he seemed like such a great dad to Evan. 28:33 typically I have a good intuition about people, but I didn't. Not with him. Which makes it even more scary because it shows how good he is at lying. They dated for about a year before they were married. Hollie told me that Jerry called Evan his son, not his stepson.  Evan had not spoken to his birth father in quite some time prior to his disappearance.  Evan’s aunt Melissa told me this.  Insert audio Missy:  21:00:  He hadn't had custody of Evan or visitation or anything for a year and a half, so he had actually, once she had got back down there, she got him away from the dad. She got him away from the dad and got custody of him and so he hadn't seen him. Um, I believe he got into some drug issues from what I know of everything and was in and out of jail a few times, but I'm not sure about the jail part or when he was in, you know what I mean? But I do know he got into drug issues.  Jerry is an air force veteran and one Veteran’s Day, Evan posted a tribute to him on his Instagram.  The photo was of soldiers superimposed over the US flag and it read Veterans Day.  Remembering all who served.  Evan wrote Happy Veterans day, Thanks for everything you have done in the military, dad.  He then added another comment to the post.  It said “Even though he hates today because it reminds him of being blown up in Iraq and seeing all his comrades die.”  Several of Evan’s friends mentioned Jerry seemed to take an interest in Evan’s life and said they’d even seen him around the school.  Susan and Evan now lived in a home Jerry had bought prior to their marriage in Elmore County in Holtville, Alabama..  Holtville is a community just outside of the city limits of Wetumpka.  I’ve made the hour and a half drive from my home to this area numerous times to meet with various people while preparing for this podcast so I wanted to familiarize myself with the area.  Wetumpka is a small, beautiful southern city with a population of approximately 7800 people.  It straddles the banks of the Coosa River.  The Coosa River is a tributary of the Alabama River and is about 280 miles long.  The riverside downtown area has many renovated historical buildings.  There are many restaurants, boutiques, hair salons, barber shops, and coffee shops located in these historical buildings. Gold Star Park is also in the downtown area.  It’s a quaint public park with walking trails and boat launch and dock for the Coosa River.  This is the park where Susan & Evan were fishing when she first met Jerry and where a candlelight vigil would later be held for Susan and Evan after they vanished.  Susan, Evan & Jerry lived just 2.3 miles outside the city limits of Wetumpka in the community of Holtville which has an estimated population of just of 3600 people. Holtville is also home to Lake Jordan, a 6,800-acre impoundment on the Coosa River with 188 miles of shoreline. Elmore County has an abundance of water.  As I drove through the community on Holtville Road, I noticed a sign that read Welcome to Slapout.  Had I driven into another community?  I wasn’t sure so I decided to ask my next interview for an explanation of the communities.  I met Sonya Wilson at a local coffee shop.  It’s not the very best audio as you’ll hear some coffee shop noises in the background.  Sonya is the PE teacher at Holtville Middle School and she was born and raised in the Wetumpka area. You’ll hear more from her in later episodes.  Insert Amber/Sonya audio: 8:30:  AS:  Are Slapout and Holtville the same thing?  SW:  There the same thing.  And none of them uh have a city, a zip code or anything like that.  You’re either in Wetumpka or Deatsville.  Slapout got its name from a little store there.  The guy that ran the store, when you’d go in and ask him for something he’d say no I’m slapout.  So that’s where we kinda got the nickname from and Holtville is what the little community has always been called but it’s not a dot on the map.  It doesn’t have a post office or a zip code.  Insert Amber/Sonya audio:  SW:  The Boys store was the name of it, the B-O-Y-S.  It’s where the boys hangout, the guys from town.  It’s now the Piggly Wiggly but everybody still knows it as the boys store.  AS:  So the Piggly Wiggly is the boy store?  SW:  The Piggly Wiggly is the boys store.  And it’s been redone, fixed up numerous times over the years and the one across the street, they refer to it as the girls store.


I stopped at this Piggly Wiggly one day when I was in town and was curious about its history.  It’s the only Piggly Wiggly grocery store I’ve ever encountered that has gas pumps out front.  It’s a fairly small store but it seems to have most of the necessities.  Ironically, after my conversation with Sonya, I noticed on my Waze navigation app that the Piggly Wiggly isn’t noted on the map….it’s still labeled as the boy store.  This little section feels like the hub of the community. There’s also a Mexican restaurant, a small strip mall with an appliance store and Holtville Middle and High School.  Evan attended both of these schools during the 4 years he lived there. Evan did have some struggles not unlike what most kids deal with growing up.  Sometimes he was picked on at school because of his stutter but his teachers and his friends have both told me that Evan had a great group of friends plus his family to support him.  However, things were about to change again for Susan and her kids.  Her best friend Hollie was engaged.  She was moving to Key West because her fiance was being transferred there.  {Insert Hollie audio 1:10:  Even when I moved from Alabama, she was the one that was there the day that I left helping us pack things up and even my house was closing that day, even after we had already left to drive down to Key West, me and my now husband, then fiance, she stayed over her and Jerry, her husband, the suspect, they stayed over and you know they're cleaning up the backyard, things like that Insert Hollie audio 2:02:  we didn't have room in the truck to carry it down to key west or anything. So I told them, you know, whatever, if you need that you want, you can have. So she took all the plants. I had a bunch of potted plants back there. And so they took all of those and patio furniture and everything. you know, she stayed and was even so dependable. This is the type of person she was. When she got over there and realized how much stuff we still had to pack in the truck. She was dressed up in a dress and high heels. And everything, when she first got over there, a lot of my family, my husband's family was there. They left to go back home for her to change clothes and get the truck and then come back to my house to help out and get, change clothes to work clothes to help. So here she comes to my house and then drives 30 minutes back to her house and 30 minutes back to my house just to go change clothes and get the truck to come help. Insert Hollie audio 1:10:  she was one of the types of friends that if she ever said she was going to do something, she did it. She's very dependable, always there.


So after a tearful goodbye, Hollie and her fiance pulled away on their way to their new home in Key West.  But Hollie had forgotten to do something.  Susan called her to see if she’d remembered to have her mail forwarded and she had not.  Susan told her not to worry about it.  She said she’d go to pickup Hollie’s mail each day until Hollie was able to get it forwarded and Susan would mail it all to her at once in Key West.  The Friday before Memorial Day, Susan called Hollie [01:39:27] So on that Friday before she disappeared, she told me, she said, I've got your mail. I've got to get it mailed to you. She said I was going to take it as post office today but Evan's out sick today. She said, is it okay if I'm gonna take this post office and get it mailed to you on Tuesday because Monday's a holiday  Hollie would never receive her mail from Susan.  They had one last phone conversation before Susan and Evan disappeared.  {Insert Hollie audio 1:36:47:  We talked on the phone on May 28, about 2:30 that afternoon and talked on the phone. Nothing out the ordinary, just casual conversation. So nothing that made me think anything otherwise that anything was wrong. }  Hollie would chat with Susan one more time on Memorial Day, this time through texts.  {Insert Hollie audio:  [01:36:55] We text back and forth multiple times on that Monday, on Memorial Day. And if I remember correctly, we were texting back and forth. You know, even, I remember, it was later that afternoon, I want to say like four something, five something that afternoon we were still texting back and forth and almost everything. Just casual conversation. I mean, nothing out of the ordinary. }  This is the last reported communication with Susan by anyone other than her husband, Jerry Marshall Osborne.  Hollie told me she and Susan called or texted with each other almost every day and the morning of May 30th, Hollie sent Susan a text that read “Hey, how are you?”  Susan didn’t respond.  Hollie continued to text and call Susan and Evan both over the next few weeks but she wasn’t able to reach either of them.  Insert Hollie audio:  [01:37:52] I didn't think a whole lot of it at the time because I was thinking, okay, well maybe she has been known to drop her phone and break her phone. So she would say she's like, I'm so clumsy I broke another phone.  when over the next few days and I still couldn't get her and I was trying to call her or text her phone. I was calling her and Evan's phone over the next few weeks and then I couldn't get either of them. And so, because my first thought I was thinking, you know, the only thing I think of, I said, I don't know if she's mad at me because I moved but she wasn't acting like she was mad at me. I was like, that's not her. I don't think she's, I don't think she'd be like that. And I said, but I'm sitting here trying to think of everything as if something's not right, something's wrong.  


At the same time, Susan’s mom, Linda Anklam, was also trying to reach them to no avail. Susan’s family lived long distances away in Texas, Michigan and North Carolina.  Susan’s mom and brother’s texts and calls were going unanswered.  They too were worried. Neither the family nor Hollie knew how to contact Jerry.  Insert Hollie audio 1:53:13:  well for a little while, I would go every few days I would call or text every few days I wasn't getting a response and I'm sending messages just like, Hey, what now? How are you? And then it got to where I'm sending messages. Like, let me know you're okay. You're okay. I've been worried about just checking in with you. Just things like that. And I was like, great. I'm really worried about you. Please just let me know and I was getting messages like that to both her phones and I would send them a message or a phone call every few days and they didn't have voicemail setup so I couldn't leave a voicemail or anything either of our phones, but um, most of it I was sitting texting and calling every few days at least if and then it got where I was calling him at least once a day for a while and that was going on for about two or three weeks. And then they were disconnected  1:40:55 At this point I was, when I was even telling my husband and my mom, my fiance at the time, I kept telling them even something's wrong.  This is not right.  I said and you know it keeps telling me well maybe she's mad at you because you moved. I said maybe so, I don't think that's her. Maybe she is. I don't know.  Maybe she just doesn't feel like talking right now.  I don't know.  So I kept trying to shrug it off that, you know, she was mad or you know, some, you know, she just didn't feel like talking or whatever because I mean occasionally we would go a week or so without talking. It was no big deal and um, but you know, for her to go several weeks like that and I was like, there's something wrong. And so. But I couldn't remember her mom's last name. I knew she lived in Texas. I can't remember her last name, you know her. I found one of her brothers on facebook, but he couldn't, it was set up where he didn't receive messages from outside of his friends. So I couldn't send him a message. Susie’s mom had also found their phones were disconnected. Initially, Linda told me it was just too painful for her to talk with me and participate in this podcast.  She’d lost her husband just a few short months before Susan and Evan vanished so I think the losses have been overwhelming. Another family member has since told me that Linda has decided she does want to speak wi,th me so I believe we will all hear her story in a future episode. Linda has previously stated in news interviews that Susie was private and she didn’t want to upset her by calling the police.  Many of those close to Susie have expressed to me how private she was and all had similar concerns.  Also, Linda had visited Susan, Jerry,Evan and Susan’s daughter for Mother’s Day, just 2 weeks before their disappearance.  Other family members have told me it was a nice visit and everyone seemed to be happy.  In July, after she discovered both their phones were disconnected, Linda decided to write Susie a letter and mail it to her. Then one day, the unopened letter came back from the post office as undeliverable.  


Around this same time, Susie’s other brother, Brian, and her sister in law, Melissa, were planning a trip to see Linda at her home in Texas.  They didn’t communicate with Susie and Evan on a regular basis and had no idea they were missing.  Here is Melissa.  Insert Missy audio: 34:48: to go a couple months without talking to them wasn't a big deal.  When they arrived at Linda’s home in Texas, Linda broke the news. Insert Missy audio: 33:10: his mom had knew this was going on but didn't want to say anything to us while we were planning the trip to come down. I think she didn't want to upset Brian and Brian make the trip through Alabama on the way there. Um, and stuff. So she waited till we got to Texas to tell us. And then when we got to Texas as we know more and walk to the door and all of those, she goes and she says this has been going on, but I have not wanted to tell you because I knew you were making the trip already. 


This is also when Susan’s family was able to make contact with Hollie.  Then one day I got a message from him, her brother and Jason in North Carolina. He had sent me a message asking me if I had. [01:42:09] He said, um, he said, can you give me a call? You know, it's an emergency concerning susie. And he had his phone number in there and as soon as I saw that I was at work and I immediately called him, I, I said, what's happened? I said, have you, have you found them? Have you heard from them. And he says so I take it you haven't heard from them either? I said no. You know, we know something's wrong because I knew if you, if you haven't talked to her something's wrong. He said I knew if anyone had talked to her, you had. [01:43:05] so he told me, he said, you know, we're filing a missing persons report. And he said will you talk with the detective, yes, tell them they need to call me immediately.


Evan’s friend Briane told me she received a DM from Susan’s brother, Jason, through Instragram around this same time.  She said Jason wanted to know when she’d last spoken to Evan.  She hadn’t spoken to him in months.  She checked with other friends of Evan’s and she couldn’t find anyone who’d spoken to him recently.  This is when Linda, Susie’s brothers, Brian & Jason and her sister in law, Missy, called the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office to make the missing persons report.  Missing persons reports are handled by the Sheriff’s investigations unit.  The report was made on a weekend so the following Monday, 2 investigators Captain Chris Ogden and Lieutenant Troy Evans went to Susan & Evan’s home for a welfare check.  When they arrived they found Susan’s vehicle in the driveway.  They rang the doorbell and the door was answered by Susan’s husband, Jerry Osborne.  Jerry was cleaning.  Here is Lieutenant Evans describing what they found when Jerry answered the door.  {Insert investigator audio:  he just he had some incense burning.  He had a burn barrel going in the backyard.  Which is was ninety something degrees ah at the time which we thought was alarming.  And he made the comment that we had caught him on his cleaning day um to which the house looked pretty much in order.  Like I said, it was just a large amount of incense burning in the house almost to the point where it was almost too much to stay in there with.}  Jerry told the investigators that on Memorial Day, he and Susan had a fight and that she and Evan left with an unknown man in a truck.  Insert investigator audio:  He just said she’d gotten into a vehicle with an unknown male uh and left, he believed to the Birmingham area which we couldn’t understand why he assumed she gone to Birmingham.  Insert investigator audio:  he just said it was just a pickup truck but he gave a fairly descriptive um well a description of the subject.  Said he was about 6 ft tall, had a beard, glasses, uh sunglasses on.  White male um and he was able to tell us all this based on a um surveillance camera he has surrounding his house.  He said he did not go outside and confront the gentleman that uh he knew himself better than that.  There would have been a problem.  That he stayed inside the vehicle er the residence um while her and Evan got into this pickup truck and drove way. Um  Which we thought was odd that he was able to give height description and that sort of thing on a guy that never got out of a truck on a very small not very good surveillance system that he had at his house.}  He stated he hadn’t seen or heard from either one of them since that day.  Evan was scheduled to have oral surgery on May 31st, 2 days after Memorial Day.  Jerry gave the investigators a bill from the dentist office as proof that Susan and Evan were ok.  Insert audio Inv Ogden:  He also provided a dentist paperwork for Evan while we were there and it gave us the impression that Evan had made an appointment or had attended a dentist appointment since they were last seen and that was basically him saying hey look I can prove they’re still around because he made this dentist appointment...but I well I know it was the same day we were able to verify he did not in fact make that appointment.

 While they were at Jerry’s home, the investigators noticed some curious things and later that day, they also received a phone call from Susan’s best friend Hollie.  [01:43:58] So that next day, the next morning at work, that's when I called the detective and talked to them.  [01:44:16] I started explaining to him about the emails and just even some of the information you know. And I was at work so I couldn't stay on the phone very long so I said, let me just give you a little brief synopsis right now and I'll tell you more when I get off work. I said but something's happened to them. He said what makes you think that? And I'm trying to explain to him why I think that. and I said you know, she wouldn't just up and disappear like this.  [01:44:38] She would have told me she would've called me. I said she wouldn't have left Hannah grace.  Then Hollie dropped a bombshell on the detectives.  Susan had been keeping some pretty shocking secrets about her husband Jerry some of which she’d shared with her best friend.  And Hollie had proof.  [33:32] January of 2016, me and her were texting one day because we text or talk on the phone most every day. There was not very often we did not talk and she sent me a text and said, what's your email address or my email address, and she said, I'm about to send you an email. Don't talk about it through text. What secrets had Jerry been keeping?  What did the investigators find at Susan & Jerry’s home?  Would it be enough for police to get a search warrant?  Did Susan & Evan really leave with another man?  Join us next time for episode 2.  Thank you for listening to Secrets True Crime.  If you have any information that could help in solving the disappearance of Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand, please call the Elmore County Sheriffs Office at 334-567-5546.  You may also email me at secretstruecrime@gmail.com.  Follow Secrets True Crime on facebook, instagram and twitter.  @secretscrime