Lena Chapin's Case Remains Unsolved, but Here Are 5 Theories Regarding Her Whereabouts
Family drama and disturbing disappearances loom throughout the sixth episode of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries. The installation takes a deep dive into the peculiar case of Lena Chapin, a young woman who went missing from Dent County, MO, in 2006 after she claimed, on tape, that her mother killed her stepfather.
Lena's case is full of twists and turns. It really centers on one woman: Sandy McCullough (now Wink), Lena's mother. The story starts out with the disappearance of Lena's stepfather Gary McCullough in 1999. Gary had never missed work, so him vanishing raised concerns for friends, family, and coworkers. Sandy told people that Gary had gone away to buy fighting roosters. At this point, Sandy had been having an affair with a man named Kristopher Klemp. When police obtained a search warrant to go through the house, they made odd discoveries: none of Gary's clothes were there, and Kris had been living there shortly after the disappearance. No one ever found Gary, and Sandy soon married Kris.
Over the years, Lena grew increasingly agitated by what she presumably knew about the case. One day in 2003, she confessed to her former stepfather Albert — Gary's brother. Albert taped the conversation on his recorder. Lena said Sandy had shot Gary in the head several times as he was eating scrambled eggs. Sandy and Kris wrapped up the body and burned it to ashes, and Lena was forced to help with the cleanup. Lena eventually walked back her confession after her mother found out and got a lawyer. Gary's family pursued legal action against Kris and Sandy in 2006, positing Lena as an accessory to murder. The idea was that Lena could get immunity for testifying, but Lena went missing months before. Gary's family eventually sued Kris and Sandy in a civil lawsuit, the jury awarding them $7 million for Gary's wrongful death.
What happened to Lena? Here are a few theories about this unsettling case that has yet to be solved.
Theory 1: Sandy Killed Lena
There's no doubt that Sandy looks the most suspicious with all things considered — the only piece missing is concrete evidence to convict her. Sandy could have had several motives. There was the matter of Gary's disappearance and how she could be locked up for it. Lena could have been granted immunity should she testify against her mother in court. Sandy also wanted a boy because she had six girls. After Lena went missing, Sandy got custody of Lena's son, Colter, her grandson.
Theory 2: Kris Killed Lena
Another possible culprit is Kris Klemp, who, along with Sandy, has been reluctant to cooperate with any investigation regarding Lena's disappearance. Lena's sister Brandi Petersen has also testified against Kris for threatening to shoot her. If he was indeed involved in Gary's death, he might have had a strong reason to keep Lena quiet as well. There were also rumors that Lena's son may be Kris's, but there's no evidence to back that up. Sandy is now remarried to a man named Joe Wink and continues to raise her grandson as her own.
Here's what Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly had to say to The Monett Times: "We think [Sandy and Kris] are insurance for each other. All she has is Klemp. Sandy can't testify against Kris because we believe he killed Lena, who was a loose end. Kris can't testify against Sandy because he helped dispose of Gary McCullough's body."
Lena's sisters believe Lena's body is on one of Sandy's former properties, but it has yet to be found.
Theory 3: Lena Went to Florida
Sandy spread a lot of rumors about her daughter. She told Lena's boyfriend that Lena left for Florida to be with another man. She also said Lena joined a carnival in Florida. This struck Lena's sisters as odd, as she did not take any of her clothes or many photographs. More importantly, she left behind her son, Colter.
Theory 4: Lena Got Wrapped Up With the Wrong People
Again, this rumor comes from Sandy herself, who, according to Lena's sister Brandi, said Lena had been hanging out with the wrong crowds and became a sex worker to get access to drugs. Brandi is highly skeptical of this. Lena's friend Rachel Bryce also doubts this.
"It's so unfair that Sandy can just say Lena was into drugs as if that's the reason why she disappeared," Bryce told The Salem News. "Lena only started using drugs because of her mom. Lena was partying too hard because she was traumatized from what her mom made her do to clean up the murder."
Theory 5: Lena Moved Away to Start Over
Lena possibly moved away from her mother to start over. Jeanne Decker, Lena's younger sister, wrote in a statement to The Salem News that before she disappeared, Lena had planned on moving to Arkansas with her son, Colter, as she had been with the wrong crowds and wanted to start over. E.J. Schulke, a former neighbor, also recalled Lena talking about plans to save up and move to St. Louis.
This theory hasn't been ruled out, but it's still highly suspicious that Lena did not take her son and has not reached out to him in any way.