My friend, Joseph Helt, was just 17 years old when he went missing on 1/16/1987. He was a Junior at Ellenville High School in Ellenville, NY. Joe out late at night partying with friends at a local party spot, the remnants of the old Mount Cathalia Ski Lodge in Cragsmoor NY (which is just outside of Ellenville NY). Joe left to take a ride with three acquaintances, Kelly Diaz, Wade Marks and John "JP" Laforge. According to these acquaintances, their car got stuck in a ditch on Sam's Point Road and Joe got frustrated so he left to walk back to Ellenville. Kelly and Wade left about 20 minutes later, walking the same way that Joe did. John left 10 minutes after that and walked the short distance back to his home in Cragsmoor. All three made it home safely but Joe was never seen again.
On January 17th when Joe failed to show up for his shift at the Napanoch Auction Barn in Napanoch, his boss, Vic, called his mother, Lee Ann. Lee Ann checked around for Joe and when it became apparent that Joe was nowhere to be found, she contacted Ellenville Police. The police and rescue workers soon scoured the Cragsmoor area looking for Joe.
Unfortunately, as the rescue workers made it up to the mountain a major snow storm was moving into the area. Over the next several days, over 2 feet of snow fell which hampered the search. Rescue workers worked through the storm for 6 days searching for any trace of Joe but nothing was ever found. They called off the search after 6 days saying that if Joe was up there on the mountain, there was no way he could possibly survive. Search teams did go back up on the mountain in the spring after the snow melted and the ground thawed, but no trace of Joe was ever found.
Marks, Diaz and LaForge say that the last time they saw Joe he was walking away from them when the car got stuck in the ditch. That was 24 years ago and Joe's case has gone cold. Rumors have flown all around the Village of Ellenville over the years pointing toward the three. No real evidence has ever been found. There have been several people who have come forward with information that contradicts the story told by these three, however, nothing concrete has ever been found.
Joe's case is currently being looked into by NYS Investigator Thomas Fortuna. In October 2010 Joe's case was registered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In November 2010 another classmate and I were discussing the idea of starting a multi-year reunion and we remembered Joe. We wondered what ever happened with his case and I started an internet search. I discovered that he was recently entered into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and it looked like renewed interest had been sparked in his case! We decided to start a facebook support group for Joe and it really took off. (In Support of Joe Helt:http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?...217368108&ap=1) We scrapped the reunion idea as the facebook group not only required a lot of attention, but I felt that raising awareness for Joe's case was a more important to me right now.
Over the years many rumors and thoughts have run through the town. People have pointed toward the three acquaintances who were with him that night, and we have even had several people come forward with information which contradicts the story told by the three acquaintances, including one individual who heard Kelly Diaz tell her ex-husband that the story about the car getting stuck in the ditch was just a cover story. We have even had a couple of Joe's family members come forward with information that contradicts the story told by these three acquaintances. However, even though these three have acted extremely guilty for 24 years, we have yet to find concrete proof of their guilt. Joe's case has remained a cold case for 24 years and nothing has been done for him. Unfortunately Joe's mother and father both passed away from cancer in 2007 and 2008, just 9 months apart from each other. They passed away never knowing what happened to their son. The burden of carrying on for Joe has fallen to his siblings and most of all his aunt, Beth Churchill (Joe's mother was her sister).
Joe's missing person's flyers are continually ripped down from the local grocery store in town no matter how many we put up and when we posted posters all along the street by the high school for the candlelight vigil, they were ALL taken down within 24 hours. Well, all of them except the two that were posted on a pole that could be seen by the security camera from the high school that is. We've had things like this happening non-stop.
On January 16, 2011, the 24th anniversary of Joe's disappearance, we held a candlelight vigil in Joe's honor. Approximately 50-60 people attended. I have attached video of the event for your review.
We've been working hard to gain media attention, and there has been some local area media attention lately on Joe's disappearance. This is a list of recent tv news and newspaper stories covering Joe's case, as well as newspaper stories from 1987 when Joe first went missing:
Nancy Graces Americas Missing: 50 people in 50 days:
NBC (NYC) news segment:
NBC (NYC) VIDEO segment:
Blog Talk Radio BRING THEM HOME NOW:
Blog Talk Radio CUBANARAMA:http://forjoehelt.webs.com/apps/vide...log-talk-radio
YNN Hudson Valley News Channel 6 coverage (4 stories):
Shawangunk Journal article:
Times Herald Record articles:
Times Herald Record photos:
Poughkeepsie Journal article:
Blue Stone Press article:
1987 Times Herald Record articles: