In October 2018, Karlie Gusé walked out of her California home and vanished into thin air. The case received national media attention, caused friction among Karlie’s family members, and started a social media trial.
About Karlie Gusé
Karlie Gusé (pronounced goo-say) was born on May 13, 2002, to Zachary and Lindsay Gusé. Her parents divorced when she was two years old, and Karlie went to live with Lindsay (now Fairley). However, she eventually moved to Bishop, California, to live with Zachary and his new wife, Melissa.
Karlie is a junior at Bishop Union High School in Bishop, CA. She is a typical teenager who likes to dance, hang out with her friends and 17-year-old boyfriend, and work an after-school job. People describe her as a happy and positive girl who has a good relationship with her mother, Lindsay, despite their distance. Lindsay lives in Nevada.
“We were always really, really open. We were literally best friends. She could talk to me about anything,” Lindsay told Dateline in October 2018. “She’s such a sweet girl. She’s funny.”
Karlie’s father, Zachary (Zac), Gusé, works in construction. His wife, Melissa, is an escrow assistant at a title company where Karlie works after school. Zac and Melissa have two sons, ages 10 and 9.
In August 2018, Zac and Melissa bought their dream home in White Mountain Estates south of Chalfant Valley.
Life in the Gusé house seemed ideal. But two months after moving into their dream home, their dream turned into a nightmare.
Where is Karlie Gusé?
On Friday, October 12, 2018, Karlie told Zac and Melissa she was going to a high school football game. In reality, she went to a house party in Bishop, CA, with her boyfriend. While at the party, Karlie smoked some marijuana, which she had done on more than one occasion.
Around 8:00 p.m., Karlie used her iPhone to call Melissa and asked if she would pick her up. When Melissa arrived in Bishop (it’s unclear where the party was located), she claimed Karlie was running down the street.
“She was really pale, looked like a ghost. Her pupils were really dilated.”
Karlie did admit to Melissa that she was high. Earlier in the school year, Karlie’s grades dropped, and she got in trouble for going to school high on marijuana. Her dad and Melissa told her that she needed to stop the bad behavior, and it appeared that she did. Her grades improved, and she was getting better.
When Melissa and Karlie returned home that Friday night around 9:00 p.m., it was obvious to Zac that Karlie was not right.
“She was scared of something,” Zac said. I was trying to talk to her.”
Version One as told to Dateline:
When Melissa and Karlie got home, they ate dinner together, and then Karlie went to bed. Zac told Dateline that before she went to bed, Karlie seemed disoriented. He refused to comment further on the matter. At 5:45 a.m. the next morning, Melissa awoke and went through her usual morning routines. She opened the doors to the kids’ room and said good morning to them. She opened Karlie’s bedroom door, and she saw Karlie asleep in bed. Melissa went back to bed for a bit. She awoke again around 7:00 a.m. and opened Karlie’s door again. Karlie was not there.
“I went back into our bedroom, and I said [to Zachary], ‘Honey, she’s not here.’ And he said, ‘What do you mean she’s not here?'” Melissa told Dateline. “I said, ‘She’s gone. She’s not in her room. She’s not outside. She’s not in the backyard. She’s not anywhere.”
Melissa picked Karlie up, and they returned home around 9:00 p.m. Melissa changed her story and said that when Karlie went to bed, she asked Melissa to stay with her. But Karlie was restless and could not sleep.
“She wanted to paint toenails,” Melissa said. “She wanted to read the Bible.”
Melissa then recorded their conversation on her phone. She claimed it was so she could replay it for Karlie as a way of teaching her a lesson about drug use. The recording was eight minutes long. (One report said the audio was actually 23 minutes long and that Lindsay only listened to 8 minutes of it)
In the recording, Karlie says, “I really messed up today.” Melissa responds by saying, “We all do things in life that we regret, drugs, especially.”
“Thank you,” Karlie says. “I love you.” Melissa then tries giving Karlie a salad and a power bar, to which the teen blurts out, “This is the devil’s lettuce (the term for marijuana)!”
Melissa then tried getting Karlie to go to sleep, but Karlie said, “No, I don’t want to go to sleep. You’re going to kill me.”
“Why would I kill you? That preposterous,” Melissa said.
“I’m just thinking all this demonic stuff,” Karlie says while crying. “I can’t help it.”
Melissa fell asleep in the early hours of October 13, 2018, while lying beside Karlie in Karlie’s bed. At 5:45 a.m., Melissa awoke, looked over at Karlie, and fell back asleep. When Melissa woke up again around 7:15 or 7:30 a.m., Karlie was gone.
Melissa later admitted on Dr. Phil in March 2019 that she lied to Dateline.
“No. That – the Dateline NBC? Yeah, that was a false story. Because I wasn’t – it was a lie about checking in on Karlie. Because it was in the beginning, and I didn’t know what to say and – I should never have even done the interview.”
Searching For Karlie
When the Gusés realized Karlie was gone, they drove around the area for about two hours looking for her. Zac then called Lindsay in Nevada, who urged him to call 911.
On the afternoon of October 13, 2018, Mono County Sheriff’s Office launched a search and rescue operation for Karlie Gusé. Police used multiple helicopters, half a dozen scent dogs, and about 60 personnel.
Three witnesses who live in the White Mountain Estates where the Gusé’s live claimed they saw a girl matching Karlie’s description. One witness, Richard Eddy, 78, was retired and used to work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He lives on Ponderosa Street, down from the Gusé home. Richard claimed that on October 13, he was relaxing and drinking coffee in his Jacuzzi, which sits in an enclosed room facing Ponderosa. Sometime between 6:30 a.m. and 6:45 a.m., he saw a tall, slender female with long hair walk by.
“She was looking up, looking around at the sky,” Eddy said.
Two other witnesses (names not found) reported seeing Karlie that morning in the area of Sierra View Road and Highway 6. One saw her at White Mountain Estates west of Ponderosa Street. The other saw her near White Mountain Estates and Highway 6. Karlie was actually walking towards the direction of Highway 6. She was wearing a white T-shirt, gray sweatpants, and sneakers. The temperature that morning was in the low 40s, but Karlie did not have a jacket on. She left her cellphone, glasses, and other personal belongings at home.
The sheriff’s office concluded that Karlie walked to Highway 6, a distance of less than a mile because of the witness statements. What happened after that is a mystery. Karlie Gusé is still missing.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Office had little to go on as far as the investigation was concerned from the get-go. There were no physical or digital clues leading to Karlie’s location. There was zero evidence pointing to foul play or abduction. No signs of forced entry, but the front door was cracked open.
One week after Karlie vanished, the sheriff’s office set up a checkpoint along Highway 6. Approximately 50 people drove through the checkpoint on October 13, but no one recalled seeing anyone matching Karlie’s disappearance.
Since she went missing, detectives have checked her social media accounts and electronic devices. They’ve issued search warrants and conducted data dumps but came up empty.
Possible sightings of Karlie were reported in California and Nevada. Sheriff Ingrid Braun said they followed the leads but turned up nothing. The sheriff’s office called the FBI to help in analyzing cell phone data and pursuing leads.
Was Karlie on Something Stronger than Marijuana?
Lindsay Fairley thinks so. In fact, Lindsay believes her daughter may have ingested something like LSD and believes the marijuana was laced with it. But, one source said police tested the marijuana, and nothing else was in it. Before her disappearance, Karlie asked Lindsay about the drug, and Lindsay warned her it was dangerous. However, Karlie’s boyfriend swore what Karlie took that night was just marijuana. He said on the night of the party, she had not smoked in a while, and maybe it might have triggered something. He also said Karlie was simply not feeling well and that she was scared of him and scared of the music playing.
Melissa Gusé started a Facebook group for Karlie. As of this writing, there are 15,803 members. There is also an official Facebook page. The investigation continues into her disappearance, and both Lindsay and the Gusés have not given up hope she will be found.
In March 2019, Lindsay Fairley filed a formal complaint against Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
There is a lot of coverage on this case, and I’m not sure why this particular case has received so much attention. I also have no idea what’s true and what isn’t. Family members have changed their stories, and media reports vary.
I don’t know what to make of this case. On the one hand, I feel the dad and stepmom know way more than they are telling. But on the other hand, this could be an abduction or runaway case.
I definitely believe Karlie was on something stronger than marijuana. LSD does make sense. If LSD is taken in an environment that is distressing to the user, the trip can be frightening and unpleasant. Negative reactions to LSD can include paranoia, delusions, and anxiety (DrugAbuse.com). I think she could have taken a hit of it without her boyfriend seeing her. They were at a party, after all.
But I did some reading on Cannabis-induced Psychosis, which can occur if the person has used the drug long term. We know Karlie smoked it several times before her disappearance, but I don’t know for how long. Her boyfriend was positive; she only smoked marijuana. So, this could be an option for her strange behavior that night.
Police should have interviewed every single one at the party because someone there may have slipped her something.
And speaking of the party…how did Karlie get to the party in Bishop? We know it wasn’t Melissa because she thought Karlie was at a high school football game. Was it her boyfriend? If so, why didn’t he take her home?
Police checked her cell phone, but of course, there is nothing released publicly about this. I’d like to know if she used her cell phone at all before her disappearance.
Did Karlie Run Away?
This cannot be ruled out. Just because Karlie took zero personal belongings that we are aware of does not mean she did not run away. I know from personal experience that a runaway does not always take their belongings with them. If someone is helping her, that person could be providing everything for her. I think it’s possible someone she knows picked her up as she was walking towards Highway 6. We can’t rule this out just because people think she would never run away. And it does not matter what her family says her home life was like; there could be other reasons she ran away they know nothing about. Again, I know this from personal experience. Maybe she got up early, knowing her family slept in on the weekends.
Was Karlie Abducted?
Witnesses saw Karlie walking towards Highway 6, so did someone see her and take advantage of the time of day and Karlie walking alone? I do think it’s possible, even if the chances are slim. According to CalTrans, around 200 cars per hour drive the section of Highway 6, where Karlie allegedly disappeared from. However, on Sundays, the number of cars is much less. Therefore, the chances of a predator coming along right at that exact moment on a Sunday is slim. Not to say it couldn’t happen, of course, because it definitely can and has happened before.
Did someone lure Karlie away with the promise of something, like a modeling job? Human traffickers are on social media and other online places children will be. Maybe someone contacted her through social media and started an online relationship. Karlie was paranoid and scared that night, so maybe she actually had a reason to be. I’d like to know if Karlie was exhibiting signs of grooming.
Originally, I thought yes, Zac and Melissa know more than they are saying. You cannot ignore the bizarre behavior of Melissa Gusé or the fact that she lied and changed her story. Melissa’s actions after Karlie’s disappearance are odd, to say the least. She did several live Facebook videos regarding Karlie. At times, she appeared nervous and out of breath, as if she ran a mini-marathon. As I said, it’s odd, but not proof of anything.
Then there’s the Dateline lie. Her reason really doesn’t make sense. “I didn’t know what to say.” How about what happened? And if you didn’t know what to say, that’s what a spokesperson is for.
Not only did she lie to Dateline about that morning, but she has also changed her story several times. For example, in Version 2 above, there is no mention of them watching a movie. However, Melissa has said they watched a movie. Also, in version 2, she says in the morning, she looked over at Karlie and then went back to sleep. On Crime Stories with Nancy Grace, she said that when she looked over at Karlie, the teen was awake. If she was awake, why didn’t Melissa talk to her to see if she felt better and doing okay?
When a person lies, they never remember the lies they told. When a person tells the truth, their story never changes. This is a fact. So, it does bother me that she lied to Dateline AND changed her story.
Zac and Melissa have also been criticized for not taking Karlie to the emergency room that night. Should they have? Yes. I agree they should have, but they didn’t. It was a mistake. Dwelling on it does little for Karlie.
Some places online, like Facebook, for example, say that Zac was drinking that night. I could not find anything to confirm this.
Judging Does Not Help
It’s easy for us to sit back and judge Melissa’s and even Lindsay’s actions. But let me tell you something.
My son went missing a few years ago (we found him a week later), and people criticized me the entire time. I set up a Facebook page, which was a HUGE nightmare. Anytime they didn’t like what I said or did or didn’t do, the whole thing was a hoax, according to them. I did not release every bit of info I had or the police had given me. They criticized me for that. People felt because I had a public page, they had a right to know everything about the case. I also never spoke with the local press. I had someone do that for me, and people didn’t like that.
But I didn’t care. All I cared about was finding my son, and I let the professionals handle it.
People who have never experienced a missing child seem to know everything about it. They think they know what they would do in that situation, but the truth is, YOU DON’T KNOW UNTIL IT HAPPENS. It’s the most horrific thing I have ever experienced, and I was lucky. We found my son. I cannot imagine going through this for months and years.
Team Melissa folks accused Lindsay of not getting out there to search for her daughter. Well, f**k them, Lindsay.
I was the same way. Why? Because I could barely function and I thought, “What if I leave and he comes home?” I also did not want to deal with anybody other than police, and they criticized me for that, too. People can be assholes to families of missing people. It’s ridiculous.
Even though Melissa lied to Dateline and changed her story, all that means is she’s not 100% truthful. It does not mean she is responsible for Karlie’s disappearance. It’s important for me to see both sides because I was not originally doing that. I pointed the finger at Zac and Melissa, but then I thought back to when my son disappeared. You literally have no idea what to do. You’re in shock, and you’re scared. So many horrible thoughts go through your head about what your child may be going through. That alone can drive a person crazy.
What are your thoughts on Karlie’s disappearance? Please be respectful.
Hillier, Bianca. 2018. “Sixteen-Year-Old Karlie Gusé Missing After Vanishing From California Home.” NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/missing-in-america/sixteen-year-old-karlie-gus-missing-after-vanishing-california-home-n923066.
Kari, Doug. 2018. “Search Continues For California Teen Karlie Gusé.” Las Vegas Review-Journal. https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-nevada/search-continues-for-california-teen-karlie-guse-1519961/.