- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

MCALESTER, Okla. (AP) - It took an international connection for McAlester residents Kay and Grant Grumbine to learn the fate of their son, who had been missing for 10 years.

As a result of the hard work of a German woman living in Ireland, they now have the answer to questions that lingered for a decade.

Because of her hard work and determination, the Grumbines now know what happened to their son after he seemingly disappeared without a trace along a lonely stretch of highway in southwestern New Mexico, the McAlester News-Capital reported (https://bit.ly/1mOtsSG ).

Troy Darren Grumbine, who was 34 at the time, went missing from his home in Irving, Texas on Feb. 1, 2004.

For years, all his parents knew was that his car was found empty the next night 19 miles west of Deming, New Mexico. Police found it with the engine still running, one of the doors open, with Troy Grumbine’s wallet inside and a still-warm container of chicken from KFC in the passenger seat.

“The New Mexico police searched with dogs,” Kay Grumbine said. They also brought an airplane to circle the area in case Troy Grumbine had become lost and disoriented and wandered away from his car. They even did calculations to determine how far he could have walked, Grant Grumbine said of the police efforts in New Mexico.

Despite the diligent search, police found no trace of Troy Grumbine, other than what was left inside his car at the side of the highway.

Over the next 10 years, the Grumbines went to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona a number of times, but were never able to learn their son’s fate. Kay Grumbine spoke of countless nights, poring over Internet sites related to missing persons, but she never was able to find the answers she sought.

Then, on July 21, Grant Grumbine answered a knock at the door of the couple’s McAlester residence to find two men standing on the doorstep. One of them looked somewhat familiar.

“I opened the door,” Grant Grumbine said. “I thought ‘I know this guy,’ but I couldn’t ‘place’ him.”

He soon learned why. He hadn’t seen the man in years.

Rodney Bergeron, of the Irving, Texas police department, was involved in handling the missing person investigation for Troy Grumbine 10 years ago. Now, he and fellow officer Jerry Sanderford had driven to McAlester to personally give the Grumbines some new information.

The Grumbines said they were told the police had some good news and some bad news. They had learned what happened to Troy Grumbine - police had verified he died on Feb. 2, 2004, the night after he went missing in Texas.

Police surmised that after Troy Grumbine abandoned his car, he had hitchhiked and caught a ride into Arizona, where he later died in a car-pedestrian accident later that night while walking west in the eastbound lane of Interstate 10 near San Simon.

Police ruled out foul play. The driver of the car that hit Troy Grumbine contacted police and remained at the site until help arrived. Troy Grumbine died at the scene of the accident, his parents were told.

Once they started to recover from the initial shock at hearing of their son’s fate, the Grumbines were amazed to learn how questions related to the mystery of their son’s disappearance were answered after the passage of so many years.

The case was solved by Henrike Hoeren, a German woman living and working in Ireland, whose hobby is using the Internet to research missing person cases.

“She had gone to two different Web sites,” Kay Grumbine said.

“What caught her attention was that Troy had possibly been wearing a gold chain and a cross,” she said. Hoeren also learned an unidentified man wearing a gold chain and a cross was struck and killed by a car along Interstate 10 near San Simon, Arizona, the same night Troy Grumbine’s car was found in New Mexico.

Another similarity caught her attention as well. Both were described as big men, standing more than six feet tall.

Hoeren also was able to view a photo of the man killed in Arizona 10 years ago and thought it looked like Troy Grumbine.

Included with the photo of the then-unidentified Arizona man was another photo of something he’d been wearing - a gold chain with a cross.

That proved enough for Hoeren to personally contact authorities in Arizona and Texas and convince them there was a strong chance that Troy Grumbine and the unidentified man in Arizona were indeed the same person.

Police felt the only sure way to determine the truth would be through DNA testing. Unbeknownst to Kay and Grant Grumbine, Irving police requested that the person buried in Arizona be exhumed.

Only after the DNA results were used to make a positive identification did the Irving police travel to McAlester to personally inform the Grumbines that their son had finally been found.

The Grumbines are thankful that Henrike took all the time and trouble to locate their son, even phoning authorities in Texas and New Mexico and convincing them that she had a substantial lead.

“She’s our Irish angel with a German accent,” Kay Grumbine said.

She said she had been able to speak with Hoeren over the phone and the two shared some tears while talking over what had transpired.

Hoeren told Kay Grumbine in an email that she came across Troy Grumbine’s name while researching missing persons cases on the Internet site charleyproject.org.

“I started by researching his name and looked @ all I could find on the missing persons posters that were online as well,” Hoeren said in the email. “After that I tried to learn more about the highway Troy’s car was on and looked up the highway online to see where it goes to.”

That led her to another site called indentifyus.org.

“I decided to look in the different states which cross the highway,” Hoeren said in the email. “The first I hit was the right one. What made me quite sure about this next to the similarity in the picture was the image attached with a gold pendant.”

Even today, the Grumbines are not sure why their son suddenly left Texas that day in 2004. They said he had bipolar disorder, which may have triggered his decision to suddenly head west on the day he was reported missing.

“In one of his writings, he said he wanted to go to Joshua Tree,” Kay Grumbine said. “He said he wanted to go to California and walk into the ocean.”

“It’s definitely closure for us.”

Grumbine said, “The last 10 years we’ve been very sad, although we kept our faith and lived each day to the fullest. …We knew whatever happened God would take care of him. Little did we know he was already with God and we were the ones sitting here worrying.”

She maintains that more missing persons could be found if more people were aware of the resources available that Hoeren utilized in locating her son.

“I think people need to know more about this kind of thing,” she said. “It’s like a miracle to us and our friends can hardly believe it.

“God had to be involved in this.”

___

Information from: McAlester News-Capital, https://www.mcalesternews.com

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