The Biggest Brandon Swanson Theories: What Really Happened?

On May 13, 2008, 19-year-old Brandon Swanson completed his first year at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. Later that same evening, he and his friends were celebrating at a home in Canby, where they were also having a send-off party for one of their classmates.

According to witness reports, there was alcohol at the party, and Swanson had at least one shot of whiskey. However, as reported by The True Crime Files, Swanson’s friends said he “did not appear to be intoxicated” when he left the party just after midnight on May 14. Swanson reportedly planned to drive from Canby to his parents’ home in Marshall. The drive should have taken around 30 minutes.

At approximately 1:15 a.m., Swanson’s vehicle got stuck in a ditch. The True Crime Files reports he initially attempted to call his friends for help. However, nobody answered his calls. At approximately 1:54 a.m., Swanson called his parents and told them his car was stuck in a ditch off a gravel road. However, he was not entirely certain of his location. 

During the call, Swanson assured his parents he was not hurt and that he would wait with his car. However, when Brian and Annette Swanson arrived at their son’s expected location, they could not see him or his vehicle. 

As reported by The True Crime Files, Brandon and his parents agreed to flash their headlights in an attempt to find each other. Unfortunately, they still could not see each other. 

Brandon Swanson was on the phone with his father when he vanished without a trace

Brandon Swanson said he could see lights in the distance, which he believed were coming from the town of Lynd. He told his parents he would walk the rest of the way and meet them in the parking lot of a Lynd tavern.

Brian said he stayed on the phone with his son while he was walking. As reported by The True Crime Files, Swanson planned to take a shortcut through some fields, as opposed to staying on the main road. During the call, he told his father he passed several fences and gravel roads. He could also hear water running in the distance.

Brian said he and his son talked for approximately 47 minutes before Brandon exclaimed, “Oh s***!,” and the call was abruptly dropped. Brian said, “There was nothing after that.” Brian believes his son may have slipped and fallen. 

Brian and Annette attempted to call their son back numerous times. However, their calls were never answered. By the following morning, the calls were going directly to voicemail. The True Crime Files reports Brian and Annette continued driving around looking for their son, but they did not find any signs of him or his car.

At 6:30 a.m., they called authorities to file a missing person’s report. However, authorities said to wait, as it is not unusual for men his age to go missing without contacting their parents.

Brandon Swanson's vehicle was located but he was never found

Later that same morning, a review of Brandon Swanson’s cell phone records revealed he was just outside Porter, Minnesota while he was talking to his parents. The town he saw in the distance could not have been Lynd, as he was 25 miles away from where he thought he was. True Crime Files reports, he was walking along Highway 68 between Canby, where he attended the party, and Marshall, where his parents lived.

Authorities began their official search for Swanson shortly before noon. At approximately 12:30 p.m., his Chevrolet Lumina was found in a ditch on the borders of Lincoln and Yellow Medicine, just over a mile from Taunton. Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky said the vehicle was positioned in a way that Swanson would not be able to get any traction to get out of the ditch. However, as reported by The True Crime Files, there was no visible damage to the vehicle and no signs that Swanson was injured in the incident.

In the months following his disappearance, law enforcement personnel and volunteers searched the region on horseback, on foot, and using all-terrain vehicles. They also utilized search dogs and scoured several bodies of water. Unfortunately, no trace of the missing man was ever found.

As reported by The True Crime Files, the search dogs led their handlers to the edge of Yellow Medicine River, which caused authorities to conclude that Swanson likely fell into the water.

Authorities believe Brandon Swanson fell into a river

As the river was searched, and Brandon Swanson’s body was never found, authorities believe he made it back out of the water and continued walking. However, he likely died of hypothermia, as the temperature was just under 40 degrees that morning. They do not believe foul play was involved.

The True Crime Files reports the search dogs also indicated there were human remains near Mud Creek, north of Porter. However, authorities never actually found any remains.

Authorities said Swanson could be anywhere within a 122-square-mile area. Ten years after Swanson vanished, Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flated said “It’s a huge area. If you take that immediate area where the car was and then the time frame when he was talking on the phone with his parents, who knows what direction he went and how far he traveled?”

Volunteer firefighter Darrin E. Delzer said he has another theory about what happened to Swanson, based on several things he noted about the case. In response to an article by Angelo Marcos, Delzer said Swanson was legally blind in his left eye, and always wore glasses. However, on the morning he went missing, he left his glasses inside his car.

Delzer also noted that Swanson said, “Not another fence,” right before saying “Oh s***.” Delzer suggested the teen may have fallen into an unmarked cistern or well, which are not uncommon in rural areas.

Other theories about Brandon Swanson's disappearance

Another theory suggests Brandon Swanson may have orchestrated his own disappearance. As explained by Minnesota’s Unsolved Cases, it is possible that the teen left the area on his own and is now living under a new identity. However, it is not likely. As he had attempted to call his friends and was attempting to meet up with his parents, it is far more likely that he wanted to be found.

It has also been suggested that Swanson may have had some kind of mental breakdown. However, his parents both said he seemed to be lucid when they spoke with him on the phone and he did not have any history of mental illness.

The theory that he fell into the water, and either made it back out or drowned, has also been criticized, as his phone seemed to be working after the call with his father was disconnected. Minnesota’s Unsolved reports that if the phone were submerged in water, all of the calls would have gone directly to voicemail. Although it is plausible that the phone fell on the ground, while Swanson fell in the water, it was never found near any of the bodies of water in the region.

Although he may have sought shelter in an abandoned building, most, if not all, of the abandoned buildings in the area were searched and neither his remains, nor his personal belongings were ever found.

Minnesota Governor signs Brandon's Law

As reported by Minnesota’s Unsolved Cases, it is also possible that Swanson was either abducted or involved in a hit and run, and the driver panicked and disposed of his body. However, there is simply no evidence proving either theory.

Annette and Brian Swanson believe their son’s disappearance may have been solved if law enforcement had begun their investigation immediately after they reported him missing. 

As reported by FindLaw, states do not generally require a waiting period for reporting a child or an adult missing, However, priority is often given to cases involving young children, people who are mentally or physically impaired, or cases where foul play is evident.

As reported by The True Crime Files, the Swansons proposed a law in their son’s name, which would “require law enforcement to take a missing persons report without delay after notification of someone missing under dangerous circumstances, no matter the missing person’s age; immediately conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if the person is missing, and whether the person is endangered; and promptly notify all other law enforcement agencies of the situation.”

Brandon’s Law, which was sponsored by former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and Senator Dennis Frederickson, was signed into law by Minnesota’s then-Governor, Tim Pawlenty, on May 7, 2009. The law officially went into effect on July 1, 2009. 

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