On September 11, 2010, the California National Guard called the parents of Noah Pippin, 31, to ask where he was because he didn’t show up for military duty and that wasn’t like him. Nonetheless, Noah was listed as Absent Without Leave (AWOL). It was this phone call that would set off a series of events for the family of Noah Pippin who also knew that he wouldn’t normally shirk his responsibilities but they were concerned about him. Noah’s parents knew that he once served in the Marines and deployed to Iraq three times. To them, he seemed troubled, preoccupied and depressed the last time they saw him. They wondered if he committed suicide. The family began to trace his steps. Noah left Michigan on August 25, 2010 in a cab to go to the airport to get a rental car. In October 2010, the family remembered they had a picture of the cab and the number. They called the cab company and it was confirmed that Noah did go to airport and rented a car. Records indicate that Noah drove to Kalispell, Montana. The family questioned why Montana instead of California and wondered what happened to him.
At his family’s insistence, Noah visited with them for a week in Traverse, Michigan prior to his deployment with the National Guard to Afghanistan. Noah drove from California to Michigan with a U-haul full of his belongings so he could store them while he was deployed. He had abruptly quit his job 3 months earlier at the Los Angeles Police Department where he had been working for a year a half as a police officer. He decided the job was not working out so he left the position and volunteered to go back on active duty with the Army. Noah volunteered to go on a 13 month deployment to Afghanistan. Noah became a police officer after getting out of the US Marine Corps so when he became disillusioned about the job, he went back to what felt comfortable. Noah got rid of his apartment in California and then when he got to Michigan, he started giving away everything he owned. Noah’s parents questioned his decision to give away all his belongings and told him he could store some of his stuff in their basement. They also knew he deployed to Iraq 3 times and as a result of their observations asked him about his mental health. But he assured them he was okay.
Noah’s parents were already concerned about suicide and worried when Noah didn’t show up for his National Guard duty. They contacted police on September 24, 2010. Initially it appeared the police didn’t share their same concerns about Noah and even made assumptions about his AWOL status as if he was a malingerer. But after the family shared the information they had confirmed with the cab company, the police began to take notice. The police investigated and learned from cell phone records that Noah called a taxi in Hungry Horse but the taxi didn’t know where he went to. On August 31, 2010, all activity stopped on Noah’s cell phone. The family and police wondered if Noah stopped in Montana to do some hiking as a form of rest and relaxation before he was deployed. Credit card activity showed that Noah checked into a hotel on August 28, 2010 and stayed for two nights. Aside from credit card activity at local stores for supplies and a couple restaurants for meals, there was no more activity on his cell phone and credit card and it appears that Noah Pippin disappeared on August 31, 2010. Noah’s dad couldn’t help but wonder if he went to Montana to die. Where Noah went after he left the hotel in Hungry Horse remained a mystery for two years.
In December 2010, the family felt like Noah was probably was dead. His mom continued to send messages to his e-mail but he never responded. Then Noah’s brothers reminded their parents that some of Noah’s stuff was in the basement. The brothers suggested they go through his belongings to see if there were any clues to his disappearance. Noah’s parents admitted it was hard to go through his stuff but they began the process and found a notebook that contained detailed directions to a place called Blue lakes which was south of Glacier National Park in Montana. They also found a list of supplies one would take on a wilderness trek. It appeared that Noah planned on going to Glacier National Park but didn’t mention it to his family. After learning this information, they couldn’t help but assume Noah went there to clear his head. Now the concern was why didn’t he show up for military duty and why haven’t they heard from him. The hotel in Hungry Horse called a month later and informed the police they found some of Noah’s property in the lost and found. This property included cell phone and computer chargers but the cell phone and computer were not present. At this point police thought maybe Noah was a victim of robbery and foul play, maybe even a homicide victim.
The police needed an eye witness who may have seen Noah. In February 2011, the family shared developments in the case with the media while the police contacted the Forest Service. The police talked to people who occupied cabins in the area but no one had seen him. Some witnesses thought they saw Noah walking on the road but couldn’t confirm it was him. At this time, police had no more leads to follow and they all had to wait for the snow to melt before they could begin searching for him. In June 2012, Noah’s parents went to the Blue Lakes to look for him. They noted that they were pleased Noah’s last known location was in such a beautiful place. Eventually witnesses contacted the family to share that Noah showed up to their camping spot. They provided details that he talked about being in the military and deploying to Iraq, therefore he was positively identified. It appears that Noah followed through with his plans to hike to the Blue Lakes and then he headed to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Noah’s parents were relieved to know he was alive two weeks after his cellphone activity stopped. But now it appears Noah deliberately didn’t go back to active duty with the National Guard. Shirking his responsibilities was not like Noah so why would he go AWOL?
It was September 15, 2010 when the witnesses ran into Noah while they were setting up their camp. They said it appeared that he only had a day pack which wasn’t the norm for someone so far back in the wilderness. Noah said he was going to hike along the Chinese Wall where there was no trail. The family offered Noah dinner and to put him up for the night but he declined and insisted on continuing on his hike. The next day, the weather pattern changed and the family sensed a snow storm was on the way so they left immediately and got caught in blizzard like conditions on the way out. The family thought if Noah got caught up in these conditions, it could be dangerous. A ranger also contacted the family and confirmed that he witnessed Noah sleeping on the trail on September 15, 2010 and it appeared he was heading towards the Chinese Wall. The ranger observed Noah wasn’t equipped for the trip too. Everyone acknowledged that a two day’s hike from civilization could be very dangerous in winter conditions. It was hard to anticipate what could happen in the mountains in blizzard like conditions and the outlook was bleak. Police began a recovery mission after learning this information and a helicopter search team looked for him in August 2011 but he was not spotted. The inconclusive search gave the family hope but they wanted closure.
UPDATE: On August 24, 2012, Noah Pippin’s body was recovered and reports indicate that Noah died from exposure. Noah Pippin froze to death in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Former Marine Noah Pippin is reported missing after failing to appear at drill. -A Soldier’s Story, Disappeared (November 21, 2011)
ID Go: In August 2010, 31-year-old ex-marine Noah Pippin left Michigan to report to the California National Guard. But Noah never shows up. Police trace his path to the forests of Montana, leaving Noah’s parents to wonder why he is venturing into the wild. -A Soldier’s Story, Disappeared (S5,E8)
Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.
Missing Hiker Last Seen in Montana Backcountry
Missing Hiker: Bob Marshall Wilderness, MT
Why Noah Went to the Woods
Into the Woods: The Noah Pippin Case
Ex-Marine from Michigan missing since last year
Missing Marine story to air on cable Feb. 27
Noah Pippin Investigation Continues
Human remains found in Montana wilderness believed to be missing Iraq war veteran who vanished two years ago
Search party finds body of Suttons Bay man missing in Montana wilderness since 2010
Lost son found
Missing Marine’s Remains Identified
New evidence found in Marine’s wilderness death
Missing Marine likely died of exposure during blizzard in Bob Marshall Wilderness
Former Suttons Bay High School Graduate’s Body Found in Montana After Two Year Search
Missing Iraq war veteran’s remains found in Bob Marshall Wilderness
The Disappearance of Noah Pippin – Part 1: Vanished Into Thin Air
The Disappearance of Noah Pippin – Part 2: Nothing Shall Be Impossible
Disappeared Premiered ‘A Soldier’s Story’ on Investigation Discovery: Noah Pippin’s Body Located in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness (February 27, 2012)
Did Noah Pippin Go AWOL? | Disappeared (YouTube)
A Soldier’s Story | Disappeared | Investigation Discovery (S5,E8)
A Soldier’s Story | Disappeared | Investigation Discovery (website)
A Soldier’s Story | Disappeared | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)