25th Anniversary Of The Disappearance Of Joseph Helt
On Friday, January 16, 1987, 17 year old Joseph Helt of Ellensville, NY attended a party with friends. In the early morning hours of January 17th, Joe left the party with three acquaintances. He has not been seen or heard from since. 25 years later friends and family are still looking for answers.
The party is said to have been at the old Mount Cathalia ski lodge, a popular party spot for kids at the time. Unable to leave the party with his best friend, Armando Rodriguez who already had a full passenger load, Joe left with three acquaintances despite allegedly having had a heated argument with them earlier in the evening.
Reportedly, Joe along with John LaForge, Wade Marks, and Kelly Diaz left the party to go on a joy ride in LaForge’s Subaru near the Sam’s Point Ice Caves. During the ride the car became stuck in a ditch and the four were unable to get it free. Its said that Joe became frustrated and left having decided to walk five miles to town alone. According to reports Marks and Diaz left together shortly after Joe and LaForge not long after them.
Why Joe chose to walk the further distance to town alone rather than stay with the group remains a mystery. Sources say that two of the others lived within two miles of where the car was stuck. The party they had recently left was also closer than town. Some people also question why the other 3 split up and left the car at separate times rather than leaving together.
It wasn’t until late Saturday afternoon that Joe was discovered to be missing. Approximately 20 – 30 minutes after Joe failed to show up at 5 pm Saturday for his shift at the Auction Barn in Napanoch his employer contacted Lee Ann Helt, Joe’s mother. Lee had expected Joe to stay at a friend’s house the night before and after making a number of phone calls hoping to locate her son, Lee reported Joe missing.
By the time searchers got out to the area that evening it had started to snow. It continued to snow for the next few days and the worsening weather made searching difficult. To further complicate matters high winds were causing drifting making some roads virtually impassable. Searchers did all they could despite the conditions. Unfortunately, any sign of what may have happened to Joe was wiped out by the storm. There have been other searches over the years but nothing that might give a clue has ever been found.
Some believe that Joe may have died in an accident while walking back to town. Others aren’t so sure. They point to oddities like missing person flyers for Joe being torn down by an unknown person(s) within 24 hours of being hung. Others cite what they say are inconsistencies in LaForge, Marks, and Diaz’s version of events such as one report stating that LaForge said he got a call at about 3:30 pm Saturday from Marks who informed him Joe had not made it home, nearly two hours before anyone else realized Joe was missing. Some even question whether or not LaForge’s Subaru was really stuck since it was recovered before Joe was reported missing. The only thing that seems to be certain is four people left a party together and only three made it home.
In a sad turn of events Joe’s mother, Lee Ann died of cancer in 2007 not knowing what happened to her son. Other family members and friends have carried on looking for answers believing that somebody somewhere knows something that will tell them what happened to Joe 25 years ago.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for tonight (1/16/12) to remember Joe at the Pioneer Fire Hall, 73 Center Street, Ellenville NY from 6 pm – 9 pm.
Joseph Helt’s case remains an open investigation. Anyone with information should contact the New York State Police BCI at Ellenville at (845) 626-2863.
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