By Rick Coates
People sometimes just disappear; often with adults it is by their own
choosing. But typically that disappearance is attached to some reason:
crimes committed, financial pressures, mental illness or stress. There is
usually some sort of indicator that points to a person choosing to
disappear. But what happens when not one of the indicators exists? That
seems to be the case with Jacob Cabinaw of Traverse City.
March 31, 2011 will mark the one year anniversary of Cabinaws
disappearance. Jacob Cabinaw is 32 and is 511 and when last seen weighed
approximately 150 pounds and had short black hair (shaved head). He is
Native American and was wearing his work clothes, consisting of a grey
jacket, grey pants and brown work boots. He was driving a 2002 silver
Chevy Malibu that was damaged along the front passenger side.
LAST DAY IN TOWN
Here is what is known about Cabinaws last day in the region. After
finishing work at Daves Garage in Traverse City, Cabinaw joined some
friends at Hickory Hills to play frisbee golf (he was an avid player).
After they finished he was invited by his friend and playing partner Gary
Wittig to go to a party. Cabinaw declined, saying he had homework to
complete. Around 7:30 p.m. he dropped Wittig off at the lighthouse pole
across from the beach volleyball courts in Traverse City.
After that it is all a mystery. Cabinaws bank card was used around 9 p.m.
for a $5 purchase in Buckley. The clerk doesnt remember him.
At 2 a.m., Cabinaw is on video at a Kalamazoo gas station using his bank
card but at 1 a.m. he made his monthly call to the military to notify them
that he was still in school. That call pinged off a tower in Oklahoma.
Cabinaws bank card was used next at a gas station in Fort Worth, Texas
the next day for $30. A few hours later, his card was used again for $30
at a gas station in Sweetwater, Texas where the video did not show who
made the purchase. That was the last time his card was used, and after a 1
a.m. phone call his phone was not used again.
Cabinaws family and friends immediately knew something was not right. He
was living with his mother in the Grawn area and when he didnt return she
It was not like Jacob to not call, said Sandra Cranson, one of his nine
brothers and sisters. This was totally out of character for him, so we
started calling everyone from friends to the police.
At first the Sheriffs Department did not investigate since Cabinaw is an
adult and there was no evidence of foul play.
I am not saying that Jacob Cabinaw left, but people do leave, said
Captain Dave Meechum of the Grand Traverse Sheriffs Department. We have
been investigating this case for almost a year now. It is still an open
case even though it has been several months since we have had any leads.
His file is on my desk every day. Solving this is important to our
Gary Wittig, Cabinaws friend of the past couple of years, is also baffled
by Cabinaws disappearance and said that their conversation at the frisbee
golf course was casual and that his friend gave no indication that he was
under any duress.
Jake was in great spirits that day; he didnt seem upset at all and he
never mentioned that he was having any problems, said Wittig. For Jake
to just up and leave is totally not him; for him not to say anything to
anyone just does not make sense. He has two sons that he adores. I just
cant believe he would leave them behind.
Sandra Cranson agrees.
Jacobs father was in and out of our lives for most of his childhood. He
grew up without his father, said Cranson. He was so committed to his
sons and after what he went through growing up he vowed to always be there
for his boys.
While divorced, Cabinaw was on good terms with his ex-wife; he was not
behind on child support.
Rachel (Jacobs ex-wife) has been very helpful through this process. She
had his cell phone in her name so she was able to get all of his bills,
said Cranson. We reviewed every call he made in the past year and not one
Equally baffling to Cranson and Cabinaws family and friends is that he
showed no signs of a person whose back was up against the wall.
On Sunday he was at my house working on a school paper, said Cranson.
Why would a person who was planning on leaving work on a paper for
school? There are other things that do not make sense. Like how did he get
to Texas without any money? He didnt pack a bag or take anything with
him. It just does not
Cabinaws best friend Ken Barringer agrees.
I have known Jake for 10 years and this is not the Jake I know. We spoke
almost every day, my family loved him. Jake was always smiling and never
seemed stressed, said Barringer. If he had problems he would have told
me. But he was in the National Guard, a great soldier; he was going to
college and he was a hard worker at Daves Garage. Plus, he talked about
his sons all the time and was very involved in their lives.
Barringer is also baffled as to why Cabinaw might have traveled to Texas.
He never spoke about Texas, and besides his brother being stationed in
Texas in the military for awhile, Jake never mentioned any friends down
there, said Barringer. I couldnt think of any reason why he would make
a spur-of-the-moment decision to go down there.
There has been much speculation from family and friends in regard to Jacob
Cabinaws disappearance but no hard evidence to support any theories.
One theory is that Cabinaw might have been concerned about being in
trouble with the National Guard for his actions on March 31, 2010. Gary
Wittig admitted to the Sheriffs Department that he and Cabinaw had smoked
marijuana that day. The speculation is that Cabinaw might
have possibly been concerned that he would be drug tested and kicked out
of the National Guard.
First all, it is alleged use, but we spoke to Jacobs commanding officer
last week and were told that Jacob was a model soldier and had never been
in trouble, said Cranson. So if Jacob did smoke some pot I doubt that he
would have split town and turned his back on his family, his sons, his
employer, the Guard and school to essentially work for cash somewhere.
His friends speculate that Cabinaw might have been convinced to help
someone in the spur of the moment that night. Figuring that he would be
back by morning, he wouldnt need clothes or money and somewhere along the
way something went wrong.
While his cell phone records have given no inclination as to why he has
disappeared, the family and law enforcement have yet to access his e-mail.
They had computer experts examine his hard-drive and nothing turned up.
Two weeks ago a search warrant was issued to Yahoo to access Cabinaws
e-mail account but it could be months or years before Yahoo complies with
Our family knows that law enforcement believes he left on his own. I am
sure there are others that have speculated this to be the case as well.
But these are people who did not know Jacob. Anyone who knows him would
never believe he could do this, said Cranson.
But in reality one year later -- even though our family knows that Jacob
did not disappear by his own choosing -- the reality is we have to hope
the others are right because that is our only hope of seeing him alive
At the time of publication Express Contributing Editor Rick Coates was
exploring additional details about Jacob Cabinaws disappearance. Look for
a follow up piece in the near future.