OZARKS UNSOLVED: Where is Donnie Erwin? The case of a missing Camden County man

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 6:14 PM CST
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CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - Donald Erwin disappeared nine years ago. The case rocked the community.

The Case:

Donnie Erwin, 59, is an army veteran. Due to some health complications, he only had one leg, making him recognizable. On December 29, 2013, Donnie asked his wife for a gift card to go buy some cigarettes. He left in his 2002 Silver Hyundai Elantra and never returned. That car is missing.

Erwin’s sister, Yvonne Erwin-Bowen, has led the efforts to find her brother.

“No, no communication, no, nothing just vanishes without a trace,” said Erwin-Bowen.

She remembers the day he went missing.

“It was around noon, and I walked in the door, and my husband was on the phone with my brother’s wife. He said it was Karen. He said Donnie was missing. All I remember is dropping my grocery bags, then getting on the phone with her,” said Erwin-Bowen.

He had a routine. Erwin spoke to his sister on the phone every morning.

“I can’t remember that last phone call from my brother. That was at 5:30 in the morning, and I was probably still pretty much asleep. He would always call and ramble. Sometimes I don’t know if I even listened to the conversation. You know, it was just the yep, yep. Yep. Because I wasn’t up at 5:30 in the morning,” said Erwin-Bowen.

One thing she does remember is a phone call from her brother the night before.

December 28, 2013

“About 8:30 that night, he called me, and then we were in the middle of the fight, watching the MMA fight. He asked me if I could hear him. I said, well, I can hear you now because they live in a trailer. If you know where I’m talking about, it’s an area that doesn’t always get a really good signal. I said, Well, I can. This time I said, you know, I don’t have a problem hearing you. The phone went dead, and to this day, I regret not picking the phone up and calling him back,” said Erwin-Bowen.

The Search

Sergeant Scott Hines was one of the detectives who started searching for Erwin.

“This is a case that still haunts me. I helped start working on this case in 2013. I’m still looking at this case. I read up on it all the time. I read all the supplemental investigations that we’ve written up on this over the years, hoping to find something that we missed,” said Sgt. Hines.

Erwin bought cigarettes in multiple places.

“The story he gave his wife was that he was going to go get cigarettes that morning. So we checked at the local gas stations where he would normally buy cigarettes.”

Sgt Hines says deputies started searching immediately.

“The first few days of a missing person case, the first 48 hours essentially are very important,” said Sgt. Hines.

“We responded back in the area. We conducted foot patrol searches, we conducted horseback searches, we had the Civil Air Patrol out, and we contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol, their Water Patrol Division, to have them help us look by using their side scan sonar on their boats to search the lake. We searched every public boat ramp and every private dock in the area. There’s just no sign of Erwin or his vehicle.”

That vehicle, a four-door silver 2002 Hyundai Elantra with a cross in the mirror. Sgt Hines says they have even left the state searching.

“Over the last few years, we’ve searched in parts of Texas for Mr. Erwin, and every lead that we follow up on ends up in nothing.”

Erwin’s sister has never stopped looking for her big brother.

“We’ve done searches. I handed out flyers at four in the morning to the anglers when they have the Big Bass Bash down there. Who else to look for a car in the water but people that are really good at reading sonar? I did that for two weekends in a row. I’ve done the parades, the dogwood festival parades.”

She wants her brother home.

“If it’s God’s will, then I’ll find my brother. If I’m not meant to find him, then it’s not God’s will for me to find it. But the hope and the dream of possibly being able to bring him home and lay him to rest will never stop. I’ll always have that dream.”

“If he’s never found alive, I’ll live the rest of my life with a part of me missing. If he’s found, then I can at least close that chapter,” said Yvonne.

If you have any information on Donnie Erwin, contact the Camden County Sheriff’s Office at 573-346-2243.

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