The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 21 - 1/18/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
By Paul Rock
This is the first in a series of stories about Sublette County mysteries: unsolved murders, strange occurrences, and other historical oddities still lingering from our yesteryears. I have a growing list of such mysteries and am eager for more. Call or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions. If you can help solve any of these, don't hesitate to contact the Sublette County Sheriff (and me).
Let me say that these stories are only an overview of what for the people involved was immense, sometimes life and death stuff. Their many thoughts and feelings form an ocean too vast to capture in this limited space. There is much unknown. Questions remain unanswered; information unavailable. No disrespect is meant. And who knows, perhaps another piece of a puzzle will fall into place.
The disappearance of Dianne Olson must have been an agonizing one for the family involved. Worse than a murder in a way because there was no chance for closure. The questions just linger, never revealing how or why. Months go by, years pass, and there is just nothing. Nothing but an empty place at the dinner table and a hole in the heart.
It should have been the happiest summer of young Dianne's life. One of her last letters home talked of boys and cars and the future. Happy, however, was not to be.
The time was late June 1963, a time of more innocence than now seems possible. Dianne Olson, just 16 years old, and her twin brother, Mike, were up at their grandparents GP Bar dude ranch at Green River Lakes, a stupendous setting 50 miles northwest of Pinedale.
The grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Stan Decker. Her mother was Naomi Olson. Dianne's father was Perry Olson, who many will remember when he worked at Boulder Lake and at the Henry Hittle ranch.
Sublette County was a happening place in 1963. The First National Bank of Pinedale opened its doors. Construction began on the Boulder Lake dam. And with what could only be described as the end of an era, the Pinedale town council passed an ordinance prohibiting livestock from running loose in town.
Lincoln Service swallowed up Cora Valley Electric, forever giving us the words Blinkin' Lincoln to enjoy. Faler's moved into its "new" building (today's Knotty Pine Plaza) in 1963, and Bar Cross yearling steers weighing 650 pounds sold for $26 in Omaha.
June 28th, a Friday, was like any other day at the GP Bar ranch until about 6:30 that evening when folks started noticing that Dianne was gone. They looked all around but could not find her. Worry set its sharp hooks and grew until the police were notified. Sublette County Sheriff Morris C. Horton responded and organized a search. (Horton had been appointed in November 1954 to replace then Sheriff Paul C. Pape. Horton served until resigning in October 1970 when Bud Slater took over.)
Sheriff Horton mobilized a wide-ranging search party. An array of men on horseback and on foot, sometimes up to 60 a day, scoured the countryside, up Big Sheep and down Little Sheep mountains. Airplanes criss-crossed the area. Packs of bloodhounds tried to sniff up a trail. The dogs started yelping up Mill Creek once, but nothing was found. People in boats searched the lake shore. Other boats floated down the Green River, looking for sign. They looked everywhere or thought they did.
The search did not turn up even an inkling as to Dianne's whereabouts or the manner of her disappearance. A report mentions a scream coming from the campground area, and another of someone seen running nude.
A missing person poster was circulated far and wide throughout the West. A couple weeks went by, and Sheriff Horton had to admit all leads were exhausted.
Then a month later on Monday, July 29, 1963, an incredible clue appeared. Family members found Dianne's clothing and glasses about 200 yards northwest of the GP Bar lodge, up toward the lake. Sheriff Horton called in a Civil Defense scuba diving team from Cheyenne.
The dive master's report tells a cold and empty tale. "Water temperature - 48 degrees, water clear, bottom clean white sand, dove to 122 feet, visibility excellent, no underwater current."
The entire west end of the lake was covered. There was no sign of the girl. Were the clothes found folded neatly in a pile with the glasses on top? Or were the clothes ripped and dirty and strewn about; the glasses broken? The case file is maddeningly silent about this and many other details.
The family contacted the FBI and received a letter back signed by J. Edgar Hoover himself. Hoover filed an official missing person report but could not begin an active investigation to find Dianne without a violation of federal law within the FBI's jurisdiction.
The family also tried to get the National Guard called out to help with the search. Some major general with the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., understood the family's distress but was unable to respond until civilian authorities requested the Guard through proper channels. Cold comfort that.
The hope was Dianne had somehow gotten lost in the big timber and was walking around in circles up there around Green River Lakes weak, hungry, and cold. Dianne's eyesight was extremely poor, so if she was up there lost without her glasses then she was very lost indeed. Nighttime temperatures were near freezing, and two days after Dianne disappeared, snow fell.
As time went by, hope ebbed to embers and then flared up again with alleged sightings of Dianne reported in various places. A motel owner in Ukiah, CA, thought he saw a girl similar to Dianne with an older woman in a light green Pontiac station wagon with Oregon license plates. Dianne was reported seen in St. Anthony and Pocatello, ID, in Vernal, UT, and in a red convertible car in Salt Lake City. None of the leads panned out. The sightings were always the wrong person, or no one at all could be found. One lady from Kremmling, CO, wrote to Sheriff Horton to ask if Dianne disappeared near a corral. A corral built of new boards, she wondered, or at least with a new board gate.
Night after night, the Kremmling lady dreamed of Dianne in connection with such a corral. The lady was embarrassed to be talking of such things, but the dreams seemed so real.
Present-day Sheriff Hank Ruland remembers the case well. He and Dianne Olson were school classmates. The whole community was shocked and could talk of nothing else for a while. It seemed so improbable that someone, and so young a girl at that, could just disappear. There was no indication of foul play though Sheriff Ruland finds the disappearance to be a suspicious one. Dianne just vanished, gone without a trace.
She remains so to this day. <
Paul Rock is a private investigator with extensive civil and criminal case experience.
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