During his short life, Tristen Alan Myers, 4, experienced more than some adults.
Born in Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Mississippi, on July 16, 1996, Tristen was immediately given to his grandparents, Robert and Sally Myers, to raise because his mother, Raven Myers, was only 15 when she gave birth. Tristen’s father is unknown.
The Myers lived in Metairie, Louisiana.
When Tristen was three years old, his grandfather had been drinking and working on a car one day and backed the car, accidentally striking the boy. Tristen suffered a broken leg, a deep laceration on his head, and a few burns.
In 2000, Sally became seriously ill, which forced Robert to make a heartbreaking decision after realizing he could not care for his wife and grandson simultaneously. Therefore, he asked his brother, John Myers, to raise Tristen.
John and his wife, Donna, resided in Roseboro, North Carolina. They drove to Louisiana to pick up Tristen in August 2000. On the drive home, John began calling the boy “Buddy.”
Taking in Tristen was not without problems. He soon exhibited emotional problems and allegedly attacked and killed one of the family dogs. John and Donna took him to Clinton and Fayetteville for a series of tests. According to The Charley Project, “Doctors found that Tristen was emotionally and physically underdeveloped, but they were unable to do a complete evaluation of him as he could not seem to understand simple directions and could speak only a few words.”
In late September 2000, Tristen walked away from his home at 2147 Microwave Tower Road. A neighbor found him at a nearby farm and returned him.
Afterward, John and Donna installed a buzzer on the back door that would electrically chime inside the home if Tristen left. However, they did not put one on the front door.
On October 5, 2000, Tristen walked out the front door and vanished into thin air. He wore a black T-shirt, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes.
The family’s remaining two dogs, a three-legged tan chihuahua named Buck, and Sasha, a Doberman puppy, were also missing.
Donna frantically searched the house and yard for Tristen before calling the police. Volunteers showed up to aid in the search with law enforcement. Searchers combed through thick woods along Microwave Tower Road and expanded the search area over the next few days.
Police brought in cadaver dogs; they followed Tristen’s scent to the edge of a pond. The boy could not swim, so the authorities thought he might have somehow fallen into the water. They drained the pond but found nothing.
Then, out of the blue, Buck returned home five days after Tristen vanished. Sasha came back, albeit slightly thin, over a week later. Overall, both dogs appeared clean and healthy.
Unfortunately, Tristen never returned home. The police did not give up; they continued searching for the missing boy, draining more ponds and widening the search area again. They even explored a salvage yard but found no trace of Tristen.
Donna appeared on “The Jenny Jones Show,” and Tristen was listed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Then, a glimmer of hope came.
In April 2003, a boy matching Tristen’s age and description appeared in an Illinois hospital.
A man named Ricky Quick took the boy, who he said was his son, Eli, to a hospital in Evanston to be evaluated for aggressive behavior like Tristen before he disappeared.
Hospital staff quickly noticed that Eli was dirty and had not changed his clothes for days, so they called the police, and the boy was placed in foster care.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) circulated a picture of the boy to NCMEC and discovered reports on Tristen’s disappearance.
Eli’s face, lisp, and scars strongly resembled a photo and description of Tristen, the Hattiesburg American reported.
Raven told the Chicago Tribune that if Eli turned out to be her son, she wanted to claim him.
“He’s still mine; he’s still my son. I’ve grown up a whole lot and I want to take responsibility. I want to reconstruct a relationship with him.”
Raven was working as an exotic dancer in Fayetteville at the time and had given birth to another child.
However, DNA testing on samples provided by Raven did not match. Eli was not Tristen, and the results dashed everyone’s hope that Tristen had finally been found.
Sadly, Raven died at age 23 in March 2004 from massive head injuries after she jumped from a moving pickup truck.
DNA testing on Eli in July 2003 revealed his mother as Laura Trandel, who lived downstate in southern Illinois. Eli’s real name was Timothy Trandel. Laura had six children and did not have custody of them. She had given Timothy to Quick, knowing he had three daughters and wanted a son. Quick had taken Timothy to various places throughout the U.S. without paperwork proving the boy existed.
Timothy was removed from foster care and placed with Laura’s sister, Cheri Trandel; she had adopted one of Laura’s other children and had legal guardianship over two others. One of the remaining children was adopted, while the other lived with the biological father. Cheri said she wanted to adopt Timothy, but it is unclear if she did.
Timothy is now 26 years old and resides in Centralia, Illinois, according to his Facebook.
No trace of Tristen has been found since he walked out the door 22 years ago. There were a couple of sightings in 2011 and 2015, but they turned out to be false leads.
Robert and Sally Myers have both passed away since Tristen’s disappearance. John Myers died in January 2015 at age 67. Donna survives but no longer lives on Microwave Tower Road.
If you have information about this case, call the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office at (910) 592-4141.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
My son is Tristen’s age and even had blond hair until his teens. Like Tristen, my son had aggressive behavior from age 4 to 13 and later during his mid to late teens. It is challenging as a parent, and it takes GREAT willpower not to lose your shit.
Someone new and inexperienced at raising an emotionally and physically underdeveloped child could easily snap. I’m not saying that is what happened here, but it is possible. There are many things that do add up, in my opinion.
If Tristen had previously walked out the back door and left home, why didn’t John and Donna put a buzzer on both the back AND front doors? Kids are smart. He knew there wasn’t a buzzer on the front door.
Reports vary about the day Tristen vanished. He and Donna watched a Barney video, and she fell asleep. Tristen slipped out of the house after a doctor’s visit. He disappeared while napping on the living room floor.
Why are there different versions of what happened? I realize it could be the media; sometimes, organizations get the facts wrong. But where were the adults?
What about the missing pups? Buck returned FIVE days after he vanished with Tristen and Sasha more than a week later. WTF?? Where were they that entire time? How come searchers did not find them while looking for Tristen? The dogs going missing and then returning doesn’t make sense, either. Something feels off with this case.
Was Tristen abducted? If so, was it someone local? The area around the Myers home sits away from the highway and town. I highly doubt a random stranger just happened to be traveling along that road and spotted the boy. Maybe Tristen only intended to go outside to play with the dogs, and a local person saw him and grabbed him. They either took the pups, or the pups simply wandered off.
Then we have Eli/Timothy. One question: Did authorities NOT show the Myers a picture of this child? If the police were to show me a picture of a boy and asked if that was my son, I would know INSTANTLY. I don’t think Timothy looks like Tristen. Everything about his face is different. The ears are similar, but that is it.
I don’t think someone kidnapped Tristen. An animal attacked him, or the answer lies close to home. This case is a mystery, for sure.
Sources: Chicago Tribune, Hattiesburg-American, The Charley Project, and The Fayetteville Observer