BERWICK, N.S. - Earle Fuller still drives the 1988 Chevy Silverado truck his son bought brand new.
Betty Fuller regularly reflects on the bewildering events from the evening their son went missing.
And private investigator Craig MacMullen yearns to get to the bottom of the only case he’s not been able to solve.
These three lives are interconnected indefinitely by the search for answers in a 29-year-old mystery, a cold case built around the nagging question they’ve all lost sleep over: what happened to Lyndon Howard Fuller?
“When you put a puzzle together, when you get down to the last two or three pieces, there’s only so many shapes that fit, and this puzzle has pretty well been put together, so there’s only a couple of pieces left and I don’t know where those pieces are because they’re not in the puzzle box – but they’re somewhere,” says MacMullen, a retired RCMP officer.
“I believe this case starts off with a bizarre beginning and I think it’s going to have a bizarre ending,” he says.
“I’ve never not solved a case. I’ve never not known.”
From ordinary life to mystery
By all accounts, Lyndon seemed to be leading an ordinary life before his name made national headlines. The Central Kings Rural High School and Kingstec Community College graduate spent long hours working alongside his father on the family’s farm in nearby Welsford, a rural community north of Berwick.
Family friend Jean West fondly recalls her children idolizing Lyndon, who was known for helping the younger kids during his time in 4-H, and playing hockey in the evenings.
“He was an absolutely superior human being. He’s one of those young men that everybody would be proud to have as their own,” she says, her voice cracking.
“He was a kid that had to work hard for whatever he accomplished - and he did that.”
West still gets emotional when she thinks of Lyndon, and wonders where he might be.
“It rocks you right to the core to know that it can happen right here and somebody can just disappear,” she says, noting that her children even helped with the search efforts undertaken after Lyndon went missing.
“We tried to keep it up as long as we could and looked everywhere we could.”
The great escape
No one would have guessed Lyndon would one day vanish without a trace.
“If he'd go somewhere and he thought he was going to be back at suppertime and he wasn't, he'd always call his mother and tell her,” recalls Earle, describing his youngest son as “the tops” and a “real nice fella.”
Lyndon was admitted to a private room at the Western Kings Memorial Hospital in Berwick for treatment of mild depression on Nov. 23, 1988.
“He wasn't a person who really wanted to be around a hospital,” says Betty, adding that Lyndon, an organized and meticulous person, was always nervous in medical settings.
He was given medications that were meant to have a calming effect during his hospital stay, but was far from calm by day three.
That day would replay in the minds of many for decades to come.
The 22-year-old dove out a third-storey window at the hospital around 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 25, 1988 and vanished under the cloak of darkness barefoot, wearing only pajamas.
Earle and Betty were in the hospital at the time, but there was only a nurse in the room with Lyndon when he went out the window.
Earle describes Lyndon, who was five-foot-10 and weighed 165 pounds at the time, as being wiry “like a cat.”
He immediately rushed outside to help his son after the nine-metre drop, but merely found imprints in the grass.
“He had gone just that quick,” says Earle.
Historical weather data compiled by Environment Canada lists the temperature recorded at the Greenwood station around 8 p.m. on that clear evening as slightly below zero degrees. There was no snow cover on the ground.
“It was a cold, cold night. He wasn't dressed warm. He could have succumbed to the elements,” says Betty.
That’s one theory.
Multiple theories to chase
MacMullen has been on the case since the Fuller family inquired about his investigative services in 1994. He’s spent countless hours exhausting every lead that he felt could paint a clearer picture of what happened in the moments before and after Lyndon jumped.
“There’s not one single new clue since his feet went through the window,” he says.
“To me, that’s a clue.”
Lyndon had discretely left the hospital earlier that same evening, around 6:30 p.m., and a gentleman escorted him back to the facility at about 7:10 p.m. after learning that he was an in-patient.
MacMullen’s investigation revealed Lyndon initiated a break-up with his long-time girlfriend the week before he was admitted as an in-patient, but she continued to visit him in the hospital and had expressed some concerns that something seemed off. There had been talk that he might be transferred to another facility.
The private investigator, owner of Craig Investigations Inc., explored the idea of Lyndon having an adverse reaction to the medication, or experiencing some sort of dissociative amnesia, a rare psychiatric disorder that can result in memory loss relating to one’s personal identity.
“I can’t buy that he abandoned everybody,” says MacMullen.
“I believe he must have changed somehow.”
That’s if Lyndon somehow evaded the swarms of search and rescue volunteers, police officers, firefighters, tracking dogs, local residents, helicopters and RCMP divers who were looking for him.
Did Lyndon become entangled with a secretive religious cult and get whisked away?
Was he a victim of foul play?
Did he hop a train passing through Berwick around 8 p.m. that night, heading for points unknown?
Is he somewhere out there, living his life under a new identity?
Has he made any attempts to contact relatives?
MacMullen has contemplated all of these scenarios – and then some.
“I want to keep this case on the top of people’s minds – always. I feel as though there’s an answer, and somehow we haven’t found the piece that’s going to trigger that answer,” he says.
MacMullen firmly believes someone out there knows something about this mysterious disappearance.
“Not everybody has participated,” he says.
“Someone might be hanging on to a clue that they think is irrelevant.”
More info needed
Cpl. Mike Carter of the Kings District RCMP confirmed Lyndon Fuller’s case is still an ongoing missing person investigation.
"If information is received regarding the investigation it is… followed up with immediately,” he says.
The Berwick Police Department’s force initially handled the investigation, with assistance from the RCMP, until the RCMP assumed responsibility of policing services in the town in 1999.
“In the initial stages, first six months, of the investigation a large number of tips, clues and information was being provided to police for follow up. Most of the information was being provided by people in Nova Scotia. None of this information was confirmed sightings,” said Carter.
Bulletins, poster campaigns and television broadcasts led to reports of possible sightings throughout the country, but nothing panned out.
“As the years progressed, the tips and information being provided to police became less and less. These tips tend to be somewhat vague in nature and difficult to follow up on,” said Carter.
RCMP members teamed up with the Fuller family and Child Find Canada to have an artist sketch a drawing of what Lyndon might have looked like in 2011 in an attempt to gather more information from the public.
“The information that police receive from the public these days tends to be things they remember from the time period he went missing, like an observation or interaction from a time they met him or saw something back when he went missing,” says Carter, who noted that they are still searching for evidence that can be verified.
“People are encouraged to contact police with any information they believe may be relevant.”
Police do not have digital records of Internet usage, cellular devices or banking information to work with in Lyndon’s case.
“The vast majority of information that has been gathered through the years has either been proven not related to Mr. Fuller, or the trail dries up with no further information to follow,” says Carter.
Left to wonder
A smiling face with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes beams back at Earle and Betty as they cover their dining room table with missing person posters and newspapers clippings. Lyndon’s photo and information has been distributed throughout North America many times.
Now in their 80s, the Fullers are holding out hope they will find the answers they seek in their lifetime.
“You have ideas but you always come back to the same place that you don't really know what happened,” says Betty, her warm grin fading for a moment.
“When you don't know, anything is possible.”
The family has worked tirelessly with search crews, Child Find, investigators and the media.
Twenty-five years after his baby brother went missing, Ashley Fuller penned a heartfelt plea for information.
“Time has only dulled the rawness; it has not taken away the pain or sadness. Peace has eluded us as we have no resolution,” the Vancouver resident wrote.
Ashley expressed concern for his parents, who have been left to ponder the fate of their lost son.
“They were always ready to try something new in the search for him. For me, there has been this kind of emptiness where once a brother had been.”
Reached by phone Nov. 17, Ashley says his brother is far from forgotten.
“He’s ever present in my mind. We miss him very much and would love to have this resolved.”
As for Earle and Betty, they move forward drawing strength from the ongoing support of family and friends.
“It’s not over until it’s over,” vows Betty.