Michael Palmer 1999-06-04
POLICE PRESS HUNT FOR MISSING TEEN
By Karen Aho, Daily News Reporter, July 17, 1999
Friday marked six weeks to the day since a Wasilla teenager vanished late at night
from a rural intersection.
On Wednesday, a group of criminal investigators gathered in a conference room to
piece together, minute by minute, everything they've learned from hundreds of tips,
some three dozen interviews and a handful of polygraph tests about his disappearance.
Early next week, they'll trudge back with search dogs to the riverbank where the
investigation first began, where 15-year-old Michael Palmer's bicycle and shoes
were found. None of the leads ever panned out, Alaska State Troopers said.
"So far everybody that was listed as a suspect has passed with flying colors," trooper
Lt. Jay Yakopatz said. That doesn't mean troopers have ruled out foul play, Yakopatz
said. And it doesn't mean they have any new reason to suspect Palmer's body is near
the river. But this time they're using more highly trained search dogs to cover
"It may not just be Michael; it may be some evidence out there that the initial
search didn't see," said 1st Sgt. Paul Burke, who heads the troopers' search and
For the family, things just get tougher. One of his brothers got married this month
in a celebration absent the family's youngest boy.
"I'm just hanging on by a thread. We all are," his mother, Lisa Palmer, said Friday.
"It gets harder and harder every day."
Palmer can't understand why someone isn't coming forward with information. Someone
is holding back, she said. "Somebody knows something. They've got to," she said.
Palmer was last seen by his friends about 4 a.m. June 4 at Pittman Road and Silver
Drive after a high school graduation party. His bicycle was found the next day in
the Little Susitna River. His wet shoes had been placed neatly together on an airstrip
about 200 yards away.
Troopers don't believe he fell into the river. The water is shallow and clear and
runs into a logjam a little more than a mile downstream.
Within two weeks, troopers received dozens of calls, many from teenagers who had
attended any of a slew of parties held in the area that week.
At least three anonymous callers to Crime Stoppers and troopers said Palmer had
been hit in the head in a fight at a second party, Yakopatz said. Troopers tracked
people down who were there and finally learned that Palmer had never been at that
Troopers got reports that Palmer had left a party with two people in a blue sedan.
Then the sedan turned up in Valdez. Two investigators flew down immediately. Right
people, right car. Wrong party.
With posters of Palmer scattered throughout Southcentral Alaska, the calls still
come, although they seem to be dwindling, his mother said. About two weeks ago he
was mistakenly placed at a biker party in Talkeetna.
Yakopatz said troopers have about five more polygraph tests to administer. According
to Lisa Palmer, who calls troopers daily for updates, one person has refused to
take a polygraph and hired a lawyer.
She thinks her son has been abducted. She's hoping he has some kind of amnesia,
which would explain why he hasn't called.
"Something happened on that corner," she said. "Michael never would have turned
and gone down to the river."
Mostly, she wants people to know that her son is a good boy, one who has long abided
by his mother's overprotective ways. She said she always demanded to know where
he was, and he always called. He had never run away, she said.
When Lisa Palmer got home at 12:30 a.m. June 4 from Providence Alaska Medical Center,
where she works the night shift as a nursing assistant, she called the house where
Michael was staying. His friend's mother said the boys were sleeping in the clubhouse
out back as planned. Lisa Palmer went to bed.
When Michael didn't come home later that day, she learned he and his three friends
had actually snuck out and ridden their bicycles to the party. His friends said
Michael drank a couple of beers but didn't become intoxicated.
Michael became separated from his three friends on the way home when they rode on
She said the family is offering a "large" reward for information in addition to
the $1,000 reward being offered by Crime Stoppers.
Palmer is white, 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 110 pounds. He has blond
hair and blue eyes.