In the episode about Michele Whitaker of Investigation Discovery’s ‘Disappeared,’ the details surrounding her sudden and unexpected disappearance are covered. Last seen in 2002, the South Carolina resident vanished, after which the authorities launched an extensive search. By including interviews with her family members and other acquaintances, the episode provides an in-depth study of the entire case and lets us know if she was found or not by the end.
Michele Whitaker Vanished Without a Trace in 2002
On August 16, 1969, Laura Andrews gave birth to Michele Laurel “Shelli” Whitaker, who grew up with a brother and a sister — Bruce Andrews and Lynda Andrews. During her 20s, she moved to Spartanburg County along with her family, where she began working at local restaurants and bars, such as PJ’s and Hillcrest Sports Bar. Also known as Shelli amongst her friends, she reportedly had a drug issue and was even arrested for DUI just sometime before disappearing. At the time, she had been serving a sentence at the Spartanburg County Detention Facility for the same and was instructed to be kept behind bars until they found an open bed for her at one of the drug rehabilitation centers.
Jailers mistakenly released her, but Michele got arrested again a couple of days later while she was walking drunk on the road. Soon, she was released from prison again. After getting released, on August 4, 2002, she allegedly had an argument with her mother, Laura Andrews, possibly over her drug issues. Following the fight, Michele packed some of her belongings, left the house, got into a car with a friend and drove away. However, Laura claimed that this was not the first time her daughter had left the house. In the past, she used to leave and return in a few days. When there was no sign of Michele after several days, Laura went to the police and reported her missing.
The detectives launched an investigation and started to delve into the 33-year-old’s disappearance, trying to find out if there was any foul play involved. In the same month she went missing, the authorities received an anonymous letter informing them that she had been killed and dumped in Landrum. However, this never got confirmed. A man named Doug Gilmore claimed that he met her in a local pool hall, where they hung out for a while before going on a motorcycle drive around the area. It was he who dropped her off at the Truck Stops of America in Spartanburg on August 16, 2002. Since she was last seen in an area where there had been previous cases involving predatory killers, the investigators, as well as her family and friends, were worried about her well-being.
Upon delving deeper into the case, the police believed that Jonathan Vick, a Spartanburg County resident, might have been responsible for Michele’s sudden vanishing. In the first few years of Michele’s disappearance, there had been no activity on her credit report and Social Security number. So, the case went quite cold despite her family’s efforts to find out about her whereabouts. However, a public records search showed that someone with the same name, date of birth, and Social Security number as Michele Whitaker was residing in Victorville, California, in 2006. A couple of years later, in 2008, when Michele’s case was televised on a TV show, the authorities received a call that she was safe and alive in Oregon.
One of her neighbors recognized the then 38-year-old woman on the missing persons TV show and immediately sent a photo to the authorities. Reportedly, after Michele left South Carolina, she finally settled in Oregon, where she worked as a live-in nanny. When Michele was found, she was reunited with her family after six long years. Soon, she was interviewed, and she revealed that the reason she left her life behind was that she wanted to start a new one. Moreover, she had a hard time living with herself due to her troubled life and the argument with her mother right before leaving.
After the fight, she drifted around thinking that everyone, including her family, would be better off without her. Originally, she had plans to move to Myrtle Beach and get paid under the table. But on her last night before disappearing, she ended up traveling to Las Vegas before ending up in Oregon. After reconciling with her mother, she said that she had no clue that people had been looking for her and that she felt guilty for keeping her family and friends worried for so many years.
Michele Whitaker Keeps Her Personal Life Private
Following her return to her people and town in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, in 2008, Michelle Laurel Whitaker began the second chapter of her life. At the time, her equation with her mother, Laura Andrews, wasn’t exactly amiable. Back then, her mother stated, “It was a bittersweet reunion. Today is better. Today things are calmer, and I think just the shock of her being found after six years was stressful for her, and for us.” Having said that, her statements displayed hope that the tensions would ease with time. Laura had added, “I don’t care where she is, as long as she’s safe and happy.”
As far as her current whereabouts are concerned, Michelle Whitaker seems to have gone under the radar. She has likely preferred to keep personal details about her life private and away from the prying eyes of the media. From what we can tell from Andrews’ statements upon her reunion with her daughter, we infer that the mother and daughter might have mended their differences and share a close-knit bond today. We believe Michelle is leading a healthy and happy life surrounded by those she loves and who love her.