Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

 The Mysterious Disappearance of Karlie Guse

This case has remained unsolved for 5 years, 1 months, and 25 days.

In October 2018, Karlie Guse was like any other 16-year-old. She was a junior at Bishop Union High School in Bishop, California (CA) and although she had a few struggles, she was more or less like any other teenager. On the night before she disappeared, she went to a party and smoked some marijuana that some believe might’ve been laced with another drug.

Although Karlie made it back home safely, it’s not clear what happened to her after that. The morning after the party is when she vanished, with some witnesses saying that they saw her walking down the road toward a main highway in the area. After that, no one knows what happened to her, even several years later. What happened to Karlie Guse?

Table of Contents

About Karlie Guse

Karlie Guse was born on May 13, 2002 to parents Zachary Guse and Lindsay Fairley. However, Karlie’s parents split up when she was only two years old, with her father going on to remarry again, giving Karlie a stepmother in Melissa Guse. For a while, Karlie lived with her mother, but she ultimately went to live with her father and stepmother in Bishop, CA. The couple eventually had two more children who were Karlie’s younger siblings.

In August 2018, Karlie’s father and stepmother purchased their dream house in Sierra View Estates, located in Chalfant, CA. The move was a short one from the nearby town of Bishop, CA.

Karlie the Teenager

Prior to her disappearance, Karlie was a junior at Bishop Union High School in Bishop, CA. Many described her as a happy kid with plenty of friends. “She is absolutely loved by everybody that knows her. She’s such a sweet girl. She’s funny,” said her mother, Lindsay, about her daughter. Karlie also enjoyed dancing and hanging out with friends.

In addition to going to high school, Karlie sometimes worked for her stepmother as an escrow assistant at a title company.

Another photograph of Karlie Guse.
Another photograph of Karlie Guse (FBI).

Troubles in School

Unfortunately, Karlie had been having some trouble in school: her grades were falling, and she got into trouble for coming to class while high. Her father and stepmother attempted to get her back on the right track, and their efforts seemed to be working. “Her grades were getting better. She was getting better,” said her father.

All things considered, Karlie may have had some teenage troubles as so many teenagers do, but she didn’t seem the sort to up and disappear on a whim. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened on a chilly October morning in 2018. 

The Disappearance

It was Friday, October 12, 2018, when Karlie told her stepmother that she was going to a high school football game. She was allowed to attend under this pretense. However, Karlie’s real plans were to go to a party with her 17-year-old boyfriend — not necessarily an uncommon practice for a teenager.

According to her boyfriend, he and Karlie smoked some marijuana at the party, but Karlie had a bad reaction to the drug. “She got scared of the music. She got scared of me,” he told a news outlet during an interview. Some believe that it’s possible the drug had been laced with something more serious.

Karlie Picked Up from Party

Around 8 PM, Karlie called her stepmother, Melissa, to come and pick her up from the party. Immediately, Melissa headed over to Bishop to get Karlie and found her stepdaughter wandering on the road. Melissa explained, “She was really pale, looked like a ghost. Her pupils were really dilated.” When asked, Karlie admitted that she was high, and that it wasn’t her first time.

Karlie Afraid of Something

When the two got home, Karlie told her family that she was concerned for her own safety. “She was scared of something. I was trying to talk to her,” said her father, Zachary. Melissa also described Karlie as acting “paranoid” and “disoriented.”

A Cell Phone Video Made

According to Karlie’s parents, instead of going to sleep, Karlie stayed awake and spoke regretfully of choosing to use drugs. Melissa decided to make a cell phone video to show to Karlie later as a teaching moment for the teen.

At some point in the recording, Karlie says that she doesn’t want to go to sleep because “you’re going to kill me.” Melissa was taken aback and asked, “Why would I kill you? That’s preposterous.” Karlie responded, “I’m just thinking all this demonic stuff. I can’t help it.” It’s not clear if this cell phone video has ever been released to the public.

Now, it’s true that marijuana can make some people feel paranoid, but this was seemingly not a normal reaction for Karlie. Her family believes that whatever drug she took had been laced with something else. Karlie’s boyfriend, however, insists that the strange reaction was just because she hadn’t smoked in a while.

Another photograph of Karlie Guse.
Another photograph of Karlie Guse (FBI).

Karlie Finally Falls Asleep

Eventually, both Melissa and Karlie fell asleep in her bed. (However, some other sources seem to indicate that Melissa slept in another room.) Melissa woke up at 5:45 AM, looked over and saw that Karlie was still there sleeping, and fell back to sleep herself. Later, Melissa woke around 7:15 AM, but Karlie was gone. The teen had left her cell phone and glasses behind, items that she would have taken with her on a normal day.

Both Zachary and Melissa spent about two hours driving around the White Mountain Estates and surrounding areas searching for Karlie. They originally thought that she’d left the home and gone for a walk to clear her head and expected to find her walking around somewhere nearby.

However, when they saw no sign of her, Zachary grew increasingly worried. He contacted Karlie’s biological mother, Lindsay Fairley, and let her know what was going on. At the time, Lindsay lived in Nevada. Lindsay told Zachary to call authorities, so he called the Mono County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to report their daughter missing, and a search for the missing teen began.

The Search Begins

The Mono County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) began searching the area around where Karlie was last seen with air and ground searches, as well as cadaver dogs. However, no evidence was found, and no clues that might point to where she might’ve gone.

Sergeant Seth Clark said of the case, “The biggest clue in this case is that there’s no clue. We think Karlie may still be out there.” Additionally, the MCSO stated that there was no evidence of an abduction or any other crime

No Forced Entry

Authorities examined the Chalfant home and determined that there were no signs of forced entry. It seemed unlikely that someone had broken into the home and forcibly taken Karlie from the bed that both she and her stepmother were sleeping in that morning.

A photograph of Karlie Guse.
A photograph of Karlie Guse (Facebook).

No Missing Belongings

When examining the house, authorities also discovered that Karlie had not taken any of her belongings — not even any cash. If she had planned on running away, surely she would have packed some sort of a bag and taken at least some supplies. The fact that her cellphone was left behind also meant that authorities had no way of tracking her location.

Witness Sightings

A witness reported seeing her between 6:30–6:45 AM on the morning of October 13, walking down a nearby street and looking up at the sky. She was wearing only a shirt and sweatpants despite the temperature being in the low 40s.

Other witnesses reported seeing Karlie walking down the road toward US 6. A driver reported that she was at the intersection of US 6 and White Mountain Estates Road early that morning, although it’s not clear where she might’ve went from there. There was no sign of her found when authorities checked the area.

The intersection of US 6 and White Mountain Estates Road, where Karlie Guse was supposedly last seen.
The intersection of US 6 and White Mountain Estates Road, where Karlie Guse was supposedly last seen (Las Vegas Review Journal).

No AMBER Alert Issued

Karlie’s disappearance did not qualify for an AMBER Alert to be sent out, according to the MCSO. They wrote in a Facebook post, “[Karlie’s disappearance] does not meet the criteria for an AMBER alert as there is no evidence or indication of an abduction.”

There was some speculation that Karlie’s disappearance was somehow connected to the disappearance of another local teen, 19-year-old Madelyn Lingenfelter. Madelyn parked her car along Mount Rose Highway on September 19 and then disappeared. She has never been found, either.

Time Goes By

For weeks, authorities and volunteers alike searched for the missing 16-year-old. The MCSO continued searching for Karlie and released a statement on Facebook a week after her disappearance:

“For several days we conducted a search of the surrounding high desert, utilizing helicopters, scent dogs, off-road vehicles, and foot patrol. We are scouring her social media and electronic devices. Her family is fully cooperative, and we are in regular contact with them.”

Mono County Sheriff’s Office (Source: Facebook)
A missing person banner for Karlie Guse.
A missing person banner for Karlie Guse (Facebook).

However, no trace of her has ever been found, and now, over four years later, there are still no answers regarding what happened to Karlie Guse. She has not made contact with any family or friends since her disappearance. Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braud has stated: 

“We are no closer to finding Karlie. Should this develop into a crime, we do not want our investigation to be jeopardized in any way. Therefore, we will not release any information about what investigative actions have taken place.”

Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braud (Source: Crime Online)

Theories on What Happened

Because this case has few, if any, clues, rumors and theories abound about what happened to 16-year-old Karlie Guse on that chilly October morning. Most theories are plausible, although some might be more probable than others. 

Karlie Ran Away

One of the prevailing theories is that Karlie ran away on that chilly Saturday morning. Even her parents acknowledge that she might’ve ran off after some of her struggles with drugs in the previous months. “Maybe’s there’s things she kept from us. Who knows?” said her father, Zachary, to a news outlet. 

However, if Karlie did run away, then it seems likely that she would have packed a bag with some supplies — at the very least, her glasses. Instead, none of her items were missing from the home, indicating that she took only the clothes on her back with her.

A missing photo for Karlie Guse.
A missing photo for Karlie Guse (Facebook).

Karlie’s Father and Stepmother Did Something to Her

Another theory is that Karlie’s father and stepmother did something to her on the morning of her disappearance. Her stepmother, Melissa, has been accused of being a publicity-seeker after launching a Facebook group called “Bring Karlie Home!” 

However, it makes sense to me that that Karlie’s parents would start public groups to try to get their missing daughter’s name out there in order to raise awareness about her disappearance. If they didn’t, they’d be accused of not caring about their daughter’s disappearance enough and not doing enough to try and find her. I’m not sure they deserve the criticism they’re getting based on the current evidence available.

It should also be noted that the Mono County Sheriff has stated that Karlie’s father and stepmother have been cooperative during the course of the investigation.

Karlie Overdosed 

One of the other theories in this case is that Karlie died of a drug overdose and her father and stepmother hid the body. Karlie’s biological mother, Lindsay Fairley, told Dr. Phil that she didn’t believe the story her ex-husband and his wife were telling:

“I believe my daughter had a drug overdose and I believe it because she was asking for help… And I believe very early morning Melissa saw her with her eyes open and I think that’s when my daughter passed.”

Lindsay Fairley (Source: Crime Online)
An age-progressed picture by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
An age-progressed picture by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Karlie Wandered Off and Got Lost

Another theory is that Karlie wandered off into the desert area surrounding Chalfant, got lost, and ended up succumbing to the elements. If Karlie was still high or otherwise intoxicated on whatever drugs she took, it seems possible that she might’ve wandered off and gotten lost in this manner. The fact that she left home in nothing but sweatpants, shoes, and a shirt when it was 40 degrees suggests that she still could have been impaired by whatever drugs she’d used the night before.

Karlie Was Picked Up by Someone

One of the more troubling theories is the idea that Karlie, in a still-drugged state, wandered over toward the highway and ended up being picked up by someone with nefarious intentions. This might explain why she has never been seen or heard from again, and why nothing was found in the local area that pointed to her whereabouts.

What Do I Think Happened?

This case is one of the tougher ones because there are so many possibilities regarding what happened to Karlie. All of the theories seem plausible, but only one can be true in the end.

Seems Unlikely that Parents were Involved

Many people in the online sleuthing community have suggested that Karlie’s father and stepmother had something to do with her disappearance. Even Karlie’s biological mother has pointed fingers at them in this case: “I believe my daughter had a reaction to whatever it was that she had ingested the night prior to her disappearance.” She’s also stated that she thinks Melissa found Karlie dead the next morning of an overdose.

However, given that authorities searched the home and found no evidence of anything nefarious — no blood, no signs of a struggle, no suggestions of a clean up — it seems hard to believe that her father and stepmother would have been involved somehow. The only way I see them being involved is if Karlie indeed passed away from an overdose and then they hid the body. But why would they try to hide that from authorities? Others, including Karlie’s boyfriend, knew that she’d had a bad reaction to whatever drug she’d taken that night, so her death would have been easily explainable to police. 

Additionally, the fact that several witnesses claimed to have seen her walking down the road in the early morning hours suggests to me that she made it out of the house by herself. Then again, Karlie’s father, Zachary Guse, ended up being arrested for felony corporal injury to a spouse in 2021, so perhaps there was more going on in the home than meets the eye.

A missing poster for Karlie Guse.
A missing poster for Karlie Guse (Facebook).

Wandering Off or Being Abducted More Likely

If we believe what Karlie’s parents told us about what happened after returning home, then it sounds like the effects of whatever drug she’d taken didn’t wear off for some time. It seems possible that she wandered off, perhaps still disoriented from whatever she’d taken. Given that she was only wearing a shirt, sweatpants, and shoes when it was in the 40s that morning, it seems possible that she was still under the influence. 

If Karlie wandered off into the desert, I would think that the cadaver dogs and search teams would have found her early on. However, if she was wandering near the road (which several witnesses said she was), then it’s possible that she was picked up by someone who wished to do harm to her and took advantage of an intoxicated young girl.

Case Outlook

Regardless of what happened, Karlie’s family deserves answers, and Karlie herself deserves justice. Someone out there has the key to solving this case, either because they saw or heard something that day or have heard someone talking about it in the years since. It’s time to come forward with whatever information you have about the disappearance of Karlie Guse.

Case Updates

There have been a few updates in the disappearance of Karlie Guse, but none so far have led to her whereabouts.

March 2019: Dr. Phil Episode

An episode of Dr. Phil titled “Disappeared into Thin Air: What Really Happened to Karlie Guse?” was aired recounting the disappearance of Karlie’s disappearance.

Karlie Guse’s father and stepmother, Zachary and Melissa Guse, on Dr. Phil.
Karlie Guse’s father and stepmother, Zachary and Melissa Guse, on Dr. Phil (Dr. Phil).

October 2020: Family Videos Released

The FBI released a series of videos from Karlie’s family, including ones with her father, Zachary, and her stepmother, Melissa, in an attempt to rekindle interest in the case.

March 2021: Zachary Guse Arrested

In March 2021, Zachary Guse (Karlie’s father) was arrested for felony corporal injury to a spouse. I was unable to find more information about the outcome of the arrest and charges.

Do You Have Information?

There is currently a $5,000 reward for information leading to the location of Karlie Guse. At the time of her disappearance, Karlie was 5’7 and 110 lbs. with blue eyes and dark blonde hair. She was last seen wearing a white shirt, grey sweatpants, and Vans shoes. If you have information, please contact the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 932–7549 or the Sacramento FBI Office at (916) 746–7000.

An FBI missing poster for Karlie Guse.
An FBI missing poster for Karlie Guse (FBI).

Cold Case Questions

  • Do you think drugs played a role in Karlie Guse’s disappearance?
  • What do you think happened to Karlie?
  • Will Karlie ever be found?

Let me know what you think about this case in the comments below!

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