Courtesy Photo
Allen Fletcher is shown in an undated photo.

Courtesy Photo Allen Fletcher is shown in an undated photo.

An enduring mystery on Whidbey: A skipper missing 7 years

Allen Fletcher, then 30, disappeared in Langley after the boat he captained pulled into the harbor there.

By Kira Erickson / Whidbey News-Times

LANGLEY — It’s an unsolved mystery that still baffles family members and police officers seven years later.

A Port Townsend man who was captaining a sailboat for two acquaintances has not been seen since the night of Nov. 19, 2013, when they stopped at the South Whidbey Harbor for the night.

Allen Fletcher’s family members, however, haven’t given up on him. They are hoping the recollection of this event will help jog somebody’s memory about that night on Whidbey Island.

Reports from investigators with the Langley Police Department described the events that occurred on the day Fletcher went missing.

Fletcher, who was 30 at the time, had just gotten his captain’s license from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, according to his cousin, Melissa Adair.

Reports show that on the day he disappeared, Fletcher was helping a couple he met through a mutual friend sail on a trip that was supposed to take them from Edmonds to Bellingham. But it became stormy and they pulled into Langley for the night. The couple later told police they had asked Fletcher to leave their boat because he had become intoxicated while aboard.

A witness helped pull the boat into port and later claimed that the couple seemed afraid of Fletcher. Another witness, a homeowner near the marina, also remembered seeing someone who matched Fletcher’s description that night.

According to Langley Officer Charles Liggitt, who was investigating the incident at the time, there was no foul play detected.

The young man was last seen near the beach. Adair said Fletcher had made a phone call to a friend, frustrated about the unfortunate turn of events. According to phone records, Liggitt confirmed the call was made. Fletcher’s last call of the night was to the owner of the boat.

The next day, the couple could not find Fletcher. The boat owner tried to call his phone, but he did not answer. The couple was able to contact a friend to help captain the boat, and they sailed away to Bellingham.

There was a 10-day gap between when Fletcher went missing and when the Langley Police Department was notified.

“We didn’t take action about his absence right away, because he was one of those free spirit, hippie-wandering types,” Adair said.

She added that Fletcher was very close to his mother. A big indicator that something was wrong was when he did not take his flight home to see her that Thanksgiving.

“He would never in a million years leave his mother,” Adair said. “He was a mama’s boy.”

At the time, the police department notified the harbor master, the Coast Guard and workers with the ferry system that the man was missing.

The report showed that just over two weeks after Fletcher’s disappearance, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office dive team recovered a dark-blue coat matching the description of what Fletcher was wearing the night he disappeared.

Dave Marks, who was acting police chief in Langley at the time, told a Record reporter back in 2013 that the coat was found as if it was on a hanger. Since it wasn’t inside-out, the coat did not lead investigators at the time to believe Fletcher drowned while wearing it.

But no cellphone or body was ever found.

Liggitt said it is highly unusual to have a missing person case like this in Langley.

“It’s unknown where he would have gone to,” Liggitt said. “He wasn’t from the area.”

At the time of the investigation, Fletcher did not have any known mental illness or behavioral disorders, and Liggitt had said he was not suicidal.

The case remains open to this day.

Adair said that over the years, the family has come up with several theories about what may have happened to Fletcher, including kidnapping.

“We came up with so many crazy stories,” Adair said. “Maybe he found a ship to China or has amnesia and doesn’t know who he is.”

When her cousin first went missing, Adair recalls the whole extended family flocking to Langley to search for him. But their search didn’t yield any results, and neither has the investigative work family members have done over the years by trying to obtain dental or bank records.

It has been extremely difficult, even seven years later, for the family to come to terms with what may have happened that November night. Adair said the lack of closure has been hard. She is hoping somebody might remember something from that night that could help shine more light on the case.

Annette Kleiforth, Fletcher’s mother, said her son is not an aggressive person, despite what the couple might have said about him.

“He was looking forward to coming home and spending time with us,” she said.

Adair remembers her cousin as someone who really cared for other people. They were around the same age and grew up together.

“He was such a good guy,” she said. “I really loved him.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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