In the summer of 1958 a ten-year-old boy vanished from a Catholic church camp in Rocky Mountain National Park. The mystery surrounding what happened to him seemed straight forward, until horrific secrets of the camp he loved surface and sent investigators into an entirely new direction.
- Article on Estes Park, CO
- Article on correlation between the deaf community and the rate at which they are sexually abused
- Articles on Mt. Meeker
- Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, CO): Denver Boy Reported Missing in Mountains, by Associated Press.
- The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO): Search Goes on For Missing 10-Year-Old, by Associated Press.
- The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, CA): Deaf boy, 10 lost in Colorado wilderness, by UPI.
- Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, CO): Greeley CAP Assigned to Search for Youth, by Associated Press.
- Medford Mail Tribune (Medford, OR): 250 Men Search for Boy in Colorado, by UPI.
- Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, CO): Missing Youth Thought To be in Estes Park, by Associated Press.
- The Indianapolis Star: Boy’s Picture Printed as Search Aid, by UPI.
- Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO): Hunt for Missing Boy at Standstill.
- The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA): Deaf Boy Thought Hiding in Rockies, by UPI.
- Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO): Hope Dwindling for Missing Boy, by Associated Press.
- The Lafayette Leader (Lafayette, CO): Local Men in Search for Missing Boy.
- The Estes Park Trail (Estes Park, CO): Search for Lost Boy Concentrates In Tunnel Area.
- The Estes Park Trail (Estes Park, CO): Bobby Bizup Hunt.
- Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO): Ponds Blasted in Hunt for Lost Boy, by Associated Press.
- Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH): Daytonians Aid In Futile Search.
- Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman: Search for Youth Being Eased Up.
- The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO): Indian Tracker Fails In Search For Missing Lad, by Associated Press.
- The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO): Denver Youth Still Missing, by Associated Press.
- Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO): Hunt Called Off For Missing Boy, by Associated Press.
- The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH): Search For Boy Ends, by Associated Press.
- Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, CO): Bizup Lad Wrote His Parents Happy Note Before Vanishing, by Associated Press.
- The Estes Park Trail (Estes Park, CO): Corral Dust.
- The Estes Park Trail (Estes Park, CO): Corral Dust.
- The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO): Report Lost Boy Seen Turns Out To Be False Alarm, by Associated Press.
- Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO): Search Resumed For Bizup Boy, by Associated Press.
- Broomfield Star-Builder (Broomfield, CO): Broomfield Riders Join Bizup Search.
- The Estes Park Trail: Hunters Asked To Look For Lost Bizup Boy.
- The Estes Park Trail: Fred Hodgman Back; Explores Continue Search for Bizup.
- Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO): Skeleton of Boy Found on Peak, by Associated Press.
- The Estes Park Trail: Remains of Bobby Bizup Found Near Timberline on Mt. Meeker by Hikers; Hearing Aid Located.
- The Morning Call (Allentown, PA): Son of Judge Aids in Finding Boy’s Remains.
- 9 News (Denver, CO): What happened to Bobby Bizup? Questions remain decades after boy disappeared from Catholic summer camp, by Kevin Vaughan.
- Interactive Timeline of Bobby’s disappearance via Knight Lab
- 9 News (Denver, CO): Priest listed in sex abuse report was working at church camp in 1958 when deaf boy, 10, disappeared, by Kevin Vaughan.
- 9 News Denver: Mystery on Mt Meeker, by 9news.com.
- 9 News (Denver, CO): Skull believed to belong to boy who disappeared from summer camp has been in possession of Colorado family, by Kevin Vaughan.
Hi park enthusiasts…
I’m your host Delia D’Ambra.
The story I have for you today starts out simple…but gets really complicated…as complicated as say, hiking a trail that has loose gravel, hidden tree roots…and unforeseeable obstacles that get in your way.
It’s the case of a ten-year-old boy who mysteriously vanished from a church camp near Estes Park, Colorado …only to be found dead a year later just three miles from where he was last seen.
Estes Park sits about 90 miles Northwest of Denver and is nestled right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. It happens to be a part of the American West that’s near and dear to my heart since its where I got married and visit about once a year.
When I picked this story for the show, I knew based on the geographic location and personal connection to the region, that it was going to be as hard for me to tell you about as it will be for you to hear.
The natural beauty of the mountain peaks and rivers that flow through this part of Rocky Mountain National Park is what my heart and mind tend to dwell on when I’m out there…but getting caught up in that idyllic scenery makes it easy to forget that you’re truly in the wilderness.
This story takes places at a church camp for boys that offered young men the opportunity to go hiking, swimming, fishing, and basically, anything they wanted to do to enjoy nature.
On a summer evening in August 1958, when one camper was a no show for dinner counselors got worried…
At first the incident was chalked up to a scared, lost boy perishing in the Colorado wilderness.
But over the last six decades… a tangled web of allegations and new evidence has emerged that’s prompted authorities to question everything they thought they knew about the disappearance and death of ten-year-old Bobby Bizup.
This is Park Predators.
Right before six o’clock on Friday August 15th, 1958, Terry Cowan, a camp counselor at an all-boys wilderness camp called Camp St. Malo was making his rounds letting campers know that it was almost time for dinner.
Some online dictionaries pronounce the name of the camp with a French pronunciation—like SAN-MA-LOW Malo, like its one word, but other say it like.
I’m going to pronounce it how I most commonly heard it and that is SAINT MAWL-OH.
Camp St. Malo was a Catholic church camp for boys located just south of Estes Park, Colorado at the base of a staggering 13,000 + foot mountain known as Mt. Meeker, The camp was super close to the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park.
It opened for six weeks in the summer, usually welcoming campers in late June and closing for the season in mid-August. Boys ages nine to 16 were allowed to attend.
While stopping to chat with boys from each cabin, Terry made sure he told one boy in particular, Bobby Bizup that it was time for dinner. Terry found Bobby fishing near a creek not too far from the camp’s main grounds and motioned for him to pay attention.
Terry and the other staff members had to take extra care when communicating with the ten-year-old because Bobby had been born with a hearing impairment. Even though he wore a hearing aid, he still had difficulty picking up most sounds and his speech was hard for a lot of people to understand. He mostly relied on sign language and reading people’s lips in order to understand what they were trying to communicate to him.
The Denver Post reported that when Terry told Bobby he needed to wrap up his fishing activities and make sure he would time for dinner. Terry pointed at his wristwatch that showed it was close to 6:00 pm. According to Terry, Bobby nodded that he understood the message and all the information had registered clearly.
After his interaction with Bobby, Terry made his way back toward the main building of the camp and carried on with his other duties for the evening.
There were more than 80 campers to manage…and if your someone who has cared from young boys in any capacity you know that wrangling THAT many young men takes a lot of energy and effort.
Terry had a lot of things to do and personally escorting Bobby to dinner was not one of them.
The camp was a week-long retreat that promised plenty of hiking, shooting, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding for boys.
Over the years as it grew in popularity, averaging 80 campers a week just became the norm.
With that high a volume of kids on the grounds in August of 1958, counselors like Terry were busy …extremely busy.
When six o’clock came and went and all of the other boys had shown up to the dining hall…except Bobby, staff noticed.
The research material isn’t super clear on whether or not counselors inside the dining hall did like a head count or a cabin count or something and that’s how they realized Bobby was absent…but however they found out…the fact remained that he was not there when he should have been.
Minutes ticked by and then a half hour…and then longer and there was still no sign of Bobby.
The staffers didn’t panic immediately though. They figured maybe Bobby had just decided to keep fishing and skip dinner. After all, he wasn’t a newcomer to the camp by any means. This was actually his second summer attending the camp…and fifth week being a registered camper.
He’d been three different times in the summer of 1957…and one week earlier in the summer of 1958.
He knew his way around the cabins, mess hall and outbuildings. Staff assumed he’d probably ventured off to explore and lost track of time.
He was from the Denver area and the only son of U.S. Air Force sergeant, Joseph Bizup and homemaker, Constance Bizup—who some sources refer to as Connie.
According to the Greeley Daily Tribune, on Friday night about a dozen camp counselors searched high and low for Bobby but they didn’t find him. It was like he’d vanished into thin air.
They grew more concerned with each passing hour thinking maybe he’d ventured too far away from the fishing hole Terry had last spotted him at and he’d gotten lost once it got dark.
Unfortunately, camp staff did not report Bobby officially missing until Saturday morning, August 16th…hours after anyone had actually seen him.
The Greeley Daily Tribune published that Camp St. Malo personnel filed a missing person’s report with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office— a department 35 miles away from the camp.
It’s unclear from my research why the staff contacted Boulder authorities instead of a closer agency, but either way deputies were dispatched to the scene and arrived Saturday morning.
The Daily Sentinel reported that at some point shortly after alerting law enforcement, the camp called Bobby’s parents and the U.S. Forest Service to let them know what was going on.
By mid-day on the Saturday, more than fifty searchers made up on deputies, rangers, state patrol troopers and volunteers had assembled and started scouring the rugged terrain that surrounded Camp St. Malo looking for any sign of Bobby.
Joseph and Constance made the drive up from Denver to the camp in no time and aided authorities however they could.
Joseph participated in searches while Bobby’s mom had to take a back seat to that part of the ordeal. The Daily Sentinel reported that the chaos of the search and learning that her only son was missing made her so distraught that she needed to be cared for by a doctor in the early days of the search and rescue operation.
According to several news reports, more people joined the search efforts for Bobby on Saturday. Camp St. Malo closed on Sunday, but some counselors stayed behind to search for Bobby while all the other camp attenders went home to their families.
Three days into the search—on Monday August 18th— more than 100 people were out looking in the woods and along creeks in the rocky incline of Mt. Meeker.
Authorities utilized helicopters and a small plane as well as divers who searched the creek where Bobby was last seen fishing. The water in that area wasn’t very deep though—maybe just a foot or two in the deepest spots. There was also little to no current.
So, really, I don’t think the divers were looking for Bobby’s body necessarily. More than likely they were searching for something that belonged to him or a clue that could point them in the direction he might have headed if he was lost.
The Bakersfield Californian reported that the last people to see Bobby described him as weighing 82 pounds, stood four feet six inches tall and was wearing a sport shirt, light blue summer jackets, blue jeans and sneakers. Other than that, he looked like your average fifth grade boy…with the exception that he had a hearing aid.
According to The Greeley Daily Tribune, on Monday specialized scent tracking dogs were flown in from California and volunteers with the Colorado Civil Air Patrol started to search 60 square miles… and made an interesting discovery.
Members of the group located an ice cream carton that camp staff positively identified as something Bobby used to put his bait worms in when he went fishing. Next to the box, they’d also found a small fishing pole.
The weird thing was that these items were NOT very close to the creek Bobby had reportedly been fishing in… they were a good ways away on a hillside about a mile away from Camp St. Malo.
The discovery of those items reignited everyone’s hope that Bobby was still alive and just trying to find his way through the woods and was maybe even leaving items behind him as he went.
On August 19th—five days after he disappeared— more than 500 searchers, including 300 men from the same air force base where Bobby’s dad was stationed, meticulously combed every square inch of the wooded mountainous terrain surrounding the camp; checking under thick brush and in ravines, but still… no sign of Bobby surfaced.
That same day the sheriff from Boulder told the Medford Mail Tribune quote– “the boy may be hiding from the group” —end quote. At first that statement stood out to people looking on from the outside—and I’ll be honest even felt a little presumptive to me at first when I read it— but as I researched this story more and saw all the reporting on this, I think I know why the sheriff made that statement.
In the immediate days following Bobby’s disappearance and the case getting a lot of local press, people in the towns of Estes Park, Boulder, Fort Collins and even as far away as Denver were being super vigilant and keeping their eyes peeled for 10-year-old boys that looked like Bobby.
Several people called into investigators to report sightings of Bobby.
For example, the Medford Mail Tribune reported that just a day or two into the search, a driver had come forward and said they’d spotted a boy who matched Bobby’s description on the side of Highway 7 near a large rock just a few miles from the turn off to Camp St. Malo.
The Estes Park Trail newspaper reported that when, bloodhounds were taken to that spot on the highway, they alerted and ran off in the direction of Estes Park. To authorities, this made them feel certain Bobby had been or was somewhere in the vicinity.
After that reported sighting, three more tips came in that said a boy matching Bobby’s description had shown up in local stores in Town.
One of those reports stood out from the rest.
The Greeley Daily Tribune published an article that said a hardware store clerk in Estes Park had remembered seeing a boy matching Bobby’s description come into his store on Tuesday August 19th and when he asked the boy a question, the boy didn’t respond. Instead, the kid had just pointed to his mouth and ears – indicating he could not hear or speak.
Now–I have to admit, if I was Bobby’s parents, that report would have given me a lot of hope that my son was still out there.
The problem with all these sighting though, was that none of them really helped police narrow in on where Bobby was.
In reaction to the alleged sightings, Joseph Bizup told reporters that he believed his son had quote— “got scared because he didn’t go to supper when he was supposed to, and when he saw the counselors looking for him, he just ducked into the woods to dodge them.” –end quote.
Bobby’s parents didn’t think it was out of character for their son to hide if he thought he was in trouble. So, the statement the sheriff made about Bobby possibly hiding from searchers makes a little more sense when you understand it in that context.
The Estes Park Trail reported that all of the alleged sightings of Bobby in Estes Park prompted investigators to focus more ground searches closer to town. They set up roadblocks and used the bloodhounds to try and pick up Bobby’s scent in several places. In total more than 200 people participated in the effort which covered a five square mile radius.
According to The Estes Park Trail, for a day or two authorities temporarily shifted their focus to the grounds of a local YMCA resort in Estes Park where a man had spotted a boy acting unusually near and old railroad tunnel…but, pretty quickly that lead went nowhere.
Authorities and camp staff felt CERTAIN Bobby was not in the woods or the wilderness anymore. Just based on the fact that they’d had so many people on foot and in the air searching inch-by-inch for him, the likelihood that he was still in the trees or rocky terrain seemed slim.
The director of Camp Malo a guy named Reverend Heister told reporters with the Fort Collins Coloradoan and UPI news quote —“I think he just took off. We definitely think he’s somewhere near the camp. We feel he’s alive, all right, and in the Estes Park area. Because we would have found him by now if he was in the hills” end quote.
By the end of the first week of Bobby being missing, Bobby’s parents and volunteers with local newspapers printed flyers with his photo on them and handed them out around town and to residents and visitors around Mt. Meeker. The flyers included a message directly to Bobby that read quote —“Mother and Father love you. We need you. Mother is sick. She needs you at home. We love you” —end quote. Not long after that, the Bizups were forced to return to their house in Denver so Constance’s personal physician could tend to her.
The impact of their flyers did not stop with their departure though. Thousands of copies of the posters were printed and dropped out of a plane over the Colorado wilderness around Mt. Meeker.
I think the hope was that if Bobby was out there still, he’d see one of the flyers and come out of hiding, if that’s what he was doing. The flyers were also meant to alert hikers and hunters along the western slope of Mt. Meeker to be on the lookout for the boy.
Everyone was hoping against hope that Bobby was out there somewhere and would know it was okay to come home.
What’s interesting to me is that in all of the articles outlining the intense searches conducted to find Bobby, not one law enforcement source considered or even mentioned the notion of abduction or foul play. Everyone involved seemed to think Bobby was intentionally hiding from authorities, but no one considered, or at least verbalized that they considered it was possible the 10-year-old did not have the ability to come home.
I understand that investigators could only theorize based on the evidence and information they had in front of them at the time, but a ten-year-old boy vanishing without a trace seems like something that nowadays would set off alarm bells that there was a real possibility a stranger abduction or murder had occurred.
Then again, this story takes places in 1958…an era where the idea of someone snatching a young boy in the woods at a church camp just wasn’t really something people thought could happen.
Anyway, by day seven of the ongoing search for Bobby and no sign of him turning up in town, volunteers circled their efforts back to the creek where they were told he’d last been seen fishing.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that searchers began draining beaver ponds and deep pools upstream and downstream of the spot looking for Bobby. Obviously, that task was much more solemn than the other efforts that had gone on before. Essentially, they were looking for Bobby’s body in the event he’d fallen in and had gotten tangled in brush and drowned or something.
But once again – those efforts resulted in no Bobby.
Right after that, investigators and Bobby’s family got some news that crushed any mounting hope that he had been seen in town and was still out there.
A man vacationing in the area from Illinois came forward and told authorities that his 11-year-old son, who uncannily resembled Bobby may have been the boy the hardware store clerk in Estes Park had spotted just days earlier.
What was almost unbelievable was that this man’s son was almost the same age as Bobby AND he wore a hearing aid.
This was a devastating blow – I mean, what were the chances that another young boy, resembling Bobby, with a hearing aid, was spotted alone in the town of Estes Park at the same time authorities were searching for Bobby.
With that promising sighting debunked; authorities didn’t have many other routes to take to keep the case moving forward.
As August came to a close, cold fronts and rainy weather moved in to the area and some snow had started to fall on the mountains. These conditions made it super challenging for law enforcement searchers and volunteers. During the first full week Bobby was missing, it had actually rained almost every day and temperatures had dipped into the 40’s.
So, definitely not ideal weather to be out in… especially considering Bobby only had a light jacket with him when he reportedly vanished.
Hope of finding him alive had dwindled to almost nothing after the first week and a half and on August 26th, the search for the 10-year-old was officially called off.
Authorities announced that every cabin, shed and barn in a 10-mile radius around Camp St. Malo had been thoroughly searched and cleared. Waterways, brush piles and even alleyways in the town Estes Park had turned up no sign of the boy.
Bobby’s father, Joseph, told The Cincinnati Enquirer quote —“We don’t know what has happened to our boy, but we don’t think we’ll ever see him again.” –end quote.
He later expressed to the Denver Post that neither he nor his wife blamed staff at Camp St. Malo for what had happened to their son. He said he felt they’d done everything they could do to take care of him while he attended the camp and in no way did the family feel Bobby’s disappearance was the camp’s fault.
After the official search was called off, people in the immediate area of Estes Park remained vigilant and kept an eye out for Bobby in the off chance he was out there somewhere— but for the rest of 1958 into 1959 nothing really happened with the case.
Camp St. Malo reopened in June of 1959 to a fresh new batch of campers…and with those new attendees came a discovery that changed everything…
On Friday July 3rd, 1959—almost a year after Bobby disappeared— three men named Neil Hewitt, Jerry Cusack, and Mike Courtney, were hiking with a group of young men from Camp St, Malo up the side of Mt. Meeker at roughly 11,000 feet when they spotted something unusual near a ravine.
They worked their way around the banks of a waterway known as Cabin Creek and got closer to take a better look. After just seconds of starting, the trio quickly realized they’d found a bundle of tattered little boy’s clothing, a small baseball cap, a hearing aid battery case and what looked like several bones.
The men didn’t brush this find off. They hiked back down to Camp St. Malo to alert the camp’s director. The men felt in their guts that what they’d discovered could be related to Bobby Bizup.
The men were reportedly so convinced of this because one of them recognized the Zenith brand hearing aid battery pack in the pile of stuff, right away. Neil, Jerry and Mike had actually participated in dozens of searches for Bobby in August of 1958 and now they were the very people to find what they thought could be his remains.
What’s weird is that some news reports say the camp’s director, Richard Hiester didn’t actually report the discovery to police until three days later—on July 6th. Now, I don’t know if the delay was due to Neil, Mike and Jerry having to traverse back down the more than 10,000-foot mountain…or if the camp just didn’t have the desire to come forward right away with the information or what, but either way when they did notify Boulder sheriff’s deputies, investigators responded to the ravine right away.
When they arrived to where the items and bones were, they collected everything as evidence and noted that some of the bones appeared to have been gnawed on by animals and scattered further from the main pile of stuff.
Officials sent what they believed were 12 rib bones, a clavicle, several vertebrae, a humerus, and a few other long bones to a doctor in Estes Park to get confirmation that they were in fact, human.
Missing from the assortment was a skull or anything that looked like a jaw bone.
While they waited on that determination, investigators held on to the hearing aid and clothing as potential evidence.
The Estes Park Trail newspaper reported that police let the director of Camp St. Malo know about the update and the director called Joseph and Constance Bizup to let them know bones had been found.
At the time of the discovery, Bobby’s parents were vacationing in New York, trying to heal from the trauma of everything that had happened in the past year. It’s unclear if they came back to Colorado right away or made their way back over a period of several days.
Either way, the day after the bones were sent to the doctor, he confirmed what everyone feared— the bones were human and definitely belonged to a young boy.
Obviously, DNA testing wasn’t available in 1959, so there was no way for investigators to confirm 100 percent that the remains belonged to Bobby, but just based on the fact a Zenith hearing aid and pants similar to the ones Bobby had last been seen wearing were with the bones was enough for authorities to publicly announce that he had been found.
One article in the research material stated that the baseball cap that was found had Bobby’s name written on the inside of it. But that was just one report, I’m not sure if its entirely accurate. But if that’s true, then I definitely see why police felt so confident that the remains were really Bobby.
The discovery was heartbreaking for everyone, especially Bobby’s parents…but at the same time it was also kind of confusing.
Authorities told the Estes Park Trail newspaper that the ravine Bobby’s remains had been found in in was searched…at least THREE times by THREE different search groups during the first week of the investigation.
Each of those times, no one had reported seeing a boy’s body.
Yet somehow, he’d definitely ended up there or been there the whole time and was either overlooked or placed there after all the searches.
This glaring discrepancy led police to conclude that somehow Bobby had been alive during all the searches and after the three times that that particular ravine had been combed, he’d made his way up there and died from exposure to the elements.
I’m not kidding, officials literally told news outlets, quote– “he may have wandered into the area after the search was complete” —end quote.
So, they strongly implied that a ten-year-old boy had survived in the Colorado wilderness for AT LEAST ten days without food or shelter and then hiked roughly 2,000 feet in elevation up a mountain where he got so turned around, he died of natural causes from the cold rain and snow that had started coming in during the month of August.
The Estes Park Trail published an aerial photo of the area where Bobby was found and I’ll be honest, looking at it makes me think that what authorities believed happened is super unlikely.
Not to mention, the spot where Camp St. Malo is marked on the map is just 3 miles downhill from the spot where Bobby’s bones were eventually found
So, in the event he did actually wander his way up mountain, he would have been in the perfect spot to look down and literally see the grounds of Camp St. Malo in the distance. From his vantage point, he would have had a much better sense of direction to be able to get back to camp.
Almost as strange and confusing as the discovery of his remains was the fact that three Camp St. Malo counselors had been the people to find Bobby.
I mean, what were the chances that these three guys—out of the hundreds of searchers who’d looked for Bobby—would be the people to stumble upon his remains.
What’s weird, is that according to news reports at the time…authorities didn’t even question these guys. They just thanked them for their help and didn’t focus on them at all. I also never saw any reports that indicate authorities questioned Terry Cowan, the counselor who’d last had interaction with Bobby on the night he vanished.
By the end of July 1959, the Boulder County Coroner officially ruled that Bobby had died of natural causes, specifically exposure. This ruling closed the case for good.
Now, I know I’m not a doctor or medical examiner, but it seems odd to me that a coroner would feel comfortable definitively ruling on a cause or manner of death if the skull of a deceased was still missing, but either way that’s what happened.
At the time, no one seemed to question the coroner’s decision, and everyone, including Joseph and Constance Bizup just accepted the idea that Bobby had wandered away from camp, hid from searchers for awhile, been scared to get in trouble, and decided to hike three miles up a mountain where he unfortunately died of exposure.
As unfathomable as that may seem, for the family and for authorities, the case was closed. The Bizups held a funeral for Bobby in late July 1959 and buried what was left of his remains in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.
Everyone moved on, thinking there was nothing more to do or say
Decades passed and the 1980’s came and went and during that time, Camp St. Malo closed. Years later in 2011, a fire destroyed the main buildings. After that, a flood ripped through and destroyed most of the land. The only thing that was left standing was a stone chapel that marked a boundary point of the original grounds of the camp.
9 News investigator Kevin Vaughan reported that during the years that the camp was actually operating, thousands of boys attended it and made memories there.
Vaughan reported in 2019 that the former wilderness retreat had some dark secrets hiding beneath its façade.
In 2019, shocking allegations surfaced against Catholic priests in Colorado that accused them of using their positions of power within the church to sexually abuse young men…within the walls of sanctuaries and at ministry camps run by their staff.
Camps exactly like Camp St. Malo.
Vaughan’s reporting detailed that from 2002 until 2019 victims who claimed to have been abused by priests all over the state had come forward to the Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and explained that they’d suffered abuse at the hands of men who worked for the Catholic church and at Camp St. Malo in particular.
The AG’s report was finalized in 2020 and exposed at least 43 Colorado priests who quote– “molested 166 children between 1950 and 2019.”–end quote.
The findings determined that three victims claimed to have suffered abuse while attending Camp St. Malo. To make matters worse, the AG’s report also confirmed that the camp’s founder, a man named reverend Joseph Bosetti, had victimized a teenage boy around the time he started the camp in 1949 and that abuse had continued for more than a year.
But that wasn’t even the worst of it.
According to 9 News’s article, two priests out of the 43 named in the report were identified as being especially prolific in their sexual abuse of young boys while studying for the priesthood and employed at Camp St. Malo in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
One was named Harold White and the other was father Neil Hewit…
Yep, the same Neil Hewitt who was one of three men who’d discovered Bobby Bizup’s remains in July 1959.
According to documents from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office published by Kevin Vaughan, Neil abused at least 8 boys in 4 different parishes during his decades long service in the Catholic church in Colorado.
The report stated that he would use alcohol and pornography to groom his victims and cause them to let their guards down. He’d then isolate them and abuse them for his own sexual gratification. The findings stated that one of Neil’s victims ended up choosing to take his own life years after suffering from Neil’s abuse.
Both Harold and Neil were counselors at Camp St. Malo in the summer of 1958. They left the priesthood in 1980. Neil Hewitt got married and moved to Arizona and in 2019 9 News caught up to him at his mobile home and asked him about Bobby Bizup.
Neil told Vaughn that the night Bobby disappeared, he was running the snack bar at St. Malo
and Bobby had come up wanting to buy candy with 25 cents the camp nurse had left for him under his pillow after losing two teeth.
Neil said he told the boy he shouldn’t have any more sweets and Bobby took off after that. Even though Kevin Vaughan didn’t ask Neil if he did anything to Bobby, Neil volunteered that he didn’t do anything to the 10-year-old.
Based on all the research material I could find for this episode; Neil Hewitt has never been questioned by law enforcement in relation to Bobby’s disappearance and death.
Not only were predators like Neil working at the camp when Bobby disappeared, but new testimony that’s emerged literally in just the last few years is telling a different story than what authorities so many years ago believed likely happened to the ten-year-old.
Information has come to light that completely contradicts the theory that Bobby simply wandered off and died in the woods.
After the bombshell information regarding Catholic priests came out in 2019—people who were still alive and had been at Camp St. Malo the night Bobby disappeared started speaking out.
For one thing, Neil Hewitt’s story he told 9 News reporter Kevin Vaughan about having a conversation with Bobby the night he vanished had never been known before.
But even more interesting than that were stories flooding in from other people about what they saw and heard back in August 1958.
A park ranger who was unnamed in Kevin Vaughan’s reporting said that he’d interviewed a few young men at the camp back in the initial days of the investigation and those boys had said that the last time they saw Bobby right before he disappeared, he was acting really upset.
Another man named Richard Heister, who for clarity is the nephew of former Camp Malo Director, Reverend Richard Heister, told 9 News that on the night Bobby went missing he’d been in a large house on the camp that everyone would gather in sometimes.
While hanging out, Richard said a boy rushed past him, pushed him out of the way and said something loud that he couldn’t quite understand. After that, the boy who’d pushed him ran out the front door.
It was only years later that Richard realized the boy who’d left in a huff was Bobby Bizup.
According to 9 News, in November 2020, all of the mounting suspicion about whether or not the abusive priests could somehow be tied to what happened to Bobby led to the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch to officially open a criminal investigation.
You heard me right…I said open NOT reopen a criminal investigation…because technically back in 1958 and during all the years since, no one had looked into what happened to Bobby as an actual crime.
By 2020, Bobby’s parents had died and the only surviving family member left to advocate for his case was a cousin who spoke extensively with 9 News.
But the announcement about an actual criminal investigation getting underway wasn’t even the last of the bizarre twists in this case.
Thanks to 9 News’s reporting and Kevin Vaughan’s diligent journalism…all of the new information about Camp St. Malo and Bobby Bizup caught the attention of a man in Denver who’d became critically important.
This guy’s name was Tom McCloskey. After watching 9 News’s investigation in May 2021…Tom came forward to federal authorities with a major clue.
Tom brought authorities a HUMAN SKULL that he’d found in the home of his father, Dr. Joseph McCloskey.
Tom’s story was that his dad had been in possession of the skull for years and after his death in 1980, Tom took it and just… casually kept it in a paper bag in his basement.
Channel 9 reported that back in the 1950’s and 60’s, Tom’s dad, happened to be good friends with Reverend Richard Heister – the director of Camp St. Malo.
Tom told Kevin Vaughan that during all the years that his father had the skull he’d made reference on more than one occasion that it might have belonged to a boy who disappeared at Camp St. Malo in 1958.
Can we just pause here for a minute—I mean, as I was reading all of this…it was so incredible it was almost hard to believe. I mean who just has a boy’s skull in their house for years all the while suspicious that it might be related to Bobby Bizup… but NEVER says anything.
How Joseph McCloskey came into possession of the skull is what has my mind asking all the questions. Did someone give it to him? When did they give it to him? Who would have given it to him? — I have all the questions.
Based on what I learned from the reporting that’s out there on this lead, Tom would have only been a young boy when his dad reportedly got the skull…so I don’t think he’s all that suspect in this.
What we do know for sure is that in 2020 the skull was sent off for DNA testing to confirm whether or not it even belonged to Bobby. The results of those tests have not come back yet or at least not been announced publicly.
If it is his, that opens up an entirely new avenue of investigation for federal authorities currently working his case.
Because the information about the skull is so limited and it’s kind of developing in real time, a lot of the source material about it does not describe like what kind of condition it was in when Tom came forward with it or if it has any teeth that dental records for Bobby could be compared to. Nothing.
As of November 2021, authorities have not released any further information about the skull or their ongoing investigation.
Which just leaves us with unanswered questions… and most of the people who could probably answer them are long gone by now. Remember, Bobby died more than sixty years ago.
Sadly, his parents passed away without ever knowing what happened to their only son.
Knowing what we know now, it seems that everyone involved in this case today whole-heartedly believes that at the very least there might have been the possibly that foul play was involved…or else I don’t think the National Park Service would have launched an investigation into it. If the NPS really believed Bobby’s death was a result of a tragic accident…I think they would have kept it labeled that way.
Officially on the NPS website, Bobby’s picture and case information is labeled as a “suspicious death”
Something that feels like too much of a coincidence to me is that Bobby was at Camp St. at the same time there were two confirmed child sexual predators on staff.
I’m left to speculate as to whether his challenges with communication might have made him a vulnerable target for a sexual predator.
According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault a disturbing percentage of the deaf community has been sexually assaulted, specifically in their youth and only about 10% of those victims reach out to either authorities or rape crisis centers out of fear of having their statement translated wrong, being misinterpreted, or not being believed.
Not only would Bobby being deaf have made him an easy target for an abuser, but the recent testimony that’s come out about his disposition on the night he disappeared points to something far more sinister possibly going on with him immediately before his death.
By multiple accounts, Bobby was extremely upset by something – he didn’t just walk away from the camp.
Another thing I also just cannot stop thinking about is WHERE Bobby’s remains were found in relation to where Camp St. Malo was located.
He was thousands of feet in elevation up the mountain… and near Cabin Creek that he could have easily followed downstream in the event he did get lost and needed to find his way back to camp.
The fact that his body stayed three miles uphill from the camp, where ultimately animals got to it just does not feel like he went there himself. I’m more inclined to believe he could have been placed there after possibly being abducted and killed. But again, that’s just speculation at this point. We don’t know for sure if Bobby died of foul play or natural elements.
All I know is that the location of his body and clothing…and the fact that his fishing pole and worm box were not in the same area, just raises some red flags for me all around.
There is so much about this case that is unknown, but one thing that is certain is that Bobby deserved better. It’s heartbreaking that an official criminal investigation was never opened in his case when he first disappeared…or that no one even thought to consider the possibility of murder.
It’s also really strange to me that the coroner in his case was allowed to make an official ruling on his cause of death without having his skull.
Even though investigators now are facing an uphill battle to solve this sixty-year-old mystery I think there is still hope that the truth of what happened to Bobby will finally come out.
I think people deserve to know the truth and Bobby definitely deserves justice.
A small story I read while researching this case that I think sums up just how innocent he truly was in all of this came from the Greeley Daily Tribune.
The article details the last letter Bobby ever sent to his parents from camp. It arrived at their home in Denver on August 15th, the day he vanished, which meant he had to have sent it a day or two before he disappeared.
It reads in part quote: “I bought an airplane and I painted all over it. The paint is silver and the other is yellow. I pulled two teeth and put them under the pillow. We went to a short hike and came back and went to church….In the morning we went to church and I was going to fix the bed and I saw under the pillow 25 cents. I said wow…how come, for my two teeth? I caught a chipmunk. It’s missing…. Love Bobby. Good luck and lots of kisses.”
Park Predators is an audiochuck original show.
So, what do you think chuck, do you approve? *howl*