IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT THE HERMOSA BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: Detective Joshua Droz at (310) 318-0334 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Air Force veteran Michael Vanzandt, 36, was living in Lancaster, California at the time of his disappearance. Michael was originally from Pleasant Lake, Michigan where he was raised by his mom. He has two brothers and one step brother. After graduation in 1999, Michael enlisted in the Air Force. It wasn’t long after that in 2000 when he met a fellow Air Force member at Yakota Air Base in Japan. They were both from Michigan and grew up about an hour and a half from one another. They married in 2001 and by 2006, they had three children. Michael was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. While stationed there, he deployed to Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
After twelve years of service, Michael left the Air Force and got a civilian job in human resources at Edwards AFB. In 2014, Michael and his wife decided to separate and divorce. His wife says they just grew apart. But despite the break-up, the two had a good relationship for the sake of the three children. They had shared custody. Michael tried dating a couple people after the divorce but the relationships didn’t last because he just wasn’t ready yet. Although he remained friends with the two women. It was clear Michael was focused on moving out of his small apartment and getting a house for his family. In early 2016, Michael was approved for a mortgage.
On March 5, 2016, Michael dropped the three children off at his ex-wife’s house because he had plans to go out with some friends that night. He drove from Lancaster to Hermosa Beach where he was meeting his friends. They were going to watch a UFC event and Michael was excited about that because he loves the UFC. Michael parked his car in a parking garage and they ubered it to the Underground. After the UFC event was over, they all decided to go to the American Junkie bar. While they were waiting in line, Michael said he was going to use the bathroom at the liquor store. This is the last time anyone saw Michael Vanzandt again.
When friends decided to abandon their plan to go to the American Junkie, they left and went bar hopping. The last time they spoke to Michael, he said he was going to the bathroom at the liquor store and would be right back. They were starting to get concerned so they texted and called him but got no response. The phone calls were going straight to voicemail. After leaving the bars in Hermosa Beach, they went back to the parking garage to see if Michael had retrieved his car and he had not. The next day, one of his friends started making phone calls with no luck. Another friend went to his apartment and learned that he was not there. His car wasn’t either.
Michael’s ex-wife grew concerned when Michael didn’t show up to drop off an insurance form for one of the kids who was having a medical procedure done. She called one of his ex-girlfriends who offered to go to his apartment and see if she couldn’t find Michael and/or the insurance form. She looked around the apartment but nothing appeared to be out of place and nothing looked suspicious. Michael’s ex-wife called his place of employment at Edwards AFB and learned that he never showed up for work which was totally out of character. They knew now that Michael was missing.
One of Michael’s friends attempted to file an official missing persons report but were quickly disheartened when they realized the police were not as concerned. Michael’s friend went to Hermosa Beach to look for him. She learned that Michael’s car was still in the parking garage. Michael’s ex-wife tells the kids at this point that Michael is officially missing. And they didn’t waste any time trying to garner attention for Michael’s disappearance on social media. The information spread like wild fire. On March 8, Michael’s friends met with a detective in Hermosa Beach who laid out a game plan for launching a missing person’s investigation.
After the investigation was launched, friends and family put up fliers in Hermosa Beach and spoke with local businesses but no one had seen Michael. Investigators talked with all the friends Michael was out with on March 5th but none of them provided any new leads. Investigators looked at cell phone records and the last time the phone was used, it pinged in Hermosa Beach. It appears the phone went dead around 9 p.m. Next investigators looked thru surveillance video around the bars the group frequented. It was at this point, news outlets also began covering Michael’s disappearance. Family and friends hoped for the lead that would be a breakthrough in the case.
After the investigators and Michael’s family and friends were unable to locate Michael in downtown Hermosa Beach, they all shifted the search efforts to the shoreline. Michael’s family hired a helicopter to search up and down the coast line. Meanwhile, the police positively identified Michael on video surveillance. They witnessed Michael come out of the door at the liquor store and then he went southbound on Hermosa Avenue. They could see how the group kept missing Michael in the crowds by a matter of seconds as they searched for each other. The police speculated that Michael was probably looking for a bathroom. Michael went back to the liquor store and bought some whiskey. It was here that police were able to confirm his cell phone was in fact dead.
The last confirmed sighting for Michael Vanzandt was at 11:27 p.m. in Hermosa Beach. Friends and family hoped he ran into someone else while out, maybe an unknown group of people. They felt helpless because there were no new leads despite their exhaustive efforts. Michael’s brother Tyler walked the coast line again and again until he couldn’t walk anymore but eventually realized that his time on the ground was not effective. The Hermosa Beach P.D. confirmed that the investigation is still open but were at a loss after taking all the proactive measures. Michael’s brother thought maybe he went swimming while drinking but deep down inside prays that he’s out there in the world in an effort to maintain hope. Michael had a good job, he was planning on getting a new home, and starting a new chapter in his life for his children.
Source: Just Out of Sight, Disappeared, Investigation Discovery
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When Michael VanZandt, a veteran and father of three, disappears one night in Hermosa Beach, Ca., police suspect a group of strangers may be involved. But his loved ones are haunted by suspicions about his thrill seeking when considering his fate. -Disappeared