|This case has remained unsolved for 5 years, 2 months, and 2 days.|
Terrence Woods Jr. was an accomplished film worker at the young age of 27. He’d already worked on several big-name sets and shows, including The Voice UK. He was working in rural Idaho for the show Gold Rush in October 2018 when he suddenly took off into the surrounding forest and hasn’t been seen since.
While the crew that was working with him claimed that Woods Jr. was acting odd that morning, his family says that it was very out-of-character for him to simply run off — especially in a rugged and remote area. Years later, authorities still haven’t located Woods Jr., nor has anyone heard from him since he disappeared.
Did something happen on the set that made Woods Jr. run off, as his family suspects? Or was this a case of a mental breakdown, as others have claimed? Over four years later, we’re still searching for answers. What happened to Terrence Woods Jr.?
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About Terrence Woods Jr.
In 2018, Woods Jr. was 27 years old. He was described as a “happy-go-lucky” person who loved to travel and spend time with his family. He’d studied TV and film at the University of Maryland in 2013 for his undergraduate degree, then went on to live in the UK for five years, working on several British TV shows.
Woods Jr. was accomplished in his industry, winning a White House Photographer’s Association Award along with some student Emmy awards. One of the producers who worked with Woods Jr. described him: “He was always bubbly, passionate about his work and was on his way to a long successful career in TV.”
One of Woods Jr.’s friends described him as “one of the nicest, calmest, most gentle people.” This only makes his disappearance even more bizarre. Why would a calm, gentle person who had worked on several different television shows suddenly run off into a forest, never to be seen again?
The Day of the Disappearance
On October 5, 2018, Woods Jr. was working on the Discovery show Gold Rush with a production company called Raw TV. He’d just started the job five days earlier, but he’d worked on British TV shows before like The Voice UK, so he had experience on TV sets.
The Raw TV crew was filming in Penman Mine, an abandoned gold mine in the unforgiving countryside in Idaho County. Although the shoot was to continue for several more weeks, Woods Jr. sent a text to his father early that morning saying, “I’ll be coming back on the 10th now dad [sic].” It’s not clear why he sent that text or what the reason was for coming home early.
During filming that day, some of the other crew members reported that Woods Jr. had been “acting strange” and had a panic attack at some point that morning. He also reportedly tried to grab an in-flight drone with his bare hands at one point.
Woods Jr. Suddenly Ran Off
Around 5 PM that day, a spokesperson for Raw TV reported that Woods Jr. “dropped his radio then spontaneously ran down a steep hill and into the Idaho woods” after he said he needed to relieve himself. Witnesses saw him run down the side of a cliff into a forested area in the Nez Perce National Forest located in Orogrande, Idaho.
Some of his coworkers tried to chase after Woods Jr., but the cliffside was too steep and dangerous, and they turned around after getting cuts and bruises from the unforgiving terrain. They contacted the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office at 6:41 PM to alert them to Woods Jr.’s disappearance.
The Search Begins
The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office conducted searches for Woods Jr., using helicopters, search dogs, and ground teams starting on October 6. The searches continued for six days, but they were unable to find the 27-year-old. The Sheriff’s Office noted that “rain hampered tracking efforts” on their Facebook page.
The Nez Perce National Forest spans for about four million acres in Northern Idaho, making search efforts very difficult. Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings has discussed the issues with trying to find Woods Jr. in such difficult terrain:
“Our county is approximately 8500 square miles (bigger than some states) with approximately 16,000 people. The area he went missing in is rugged and secluded with dirt roads and no cell service. There was an extensive search when he went missing and no real leads.”Sheriff Doug Giddings (Source: Oxygen)
The original report from the Sheriff’s Office stated that Woods Jr. was “having a really hard time emotionally and had a mental breakdown earlier [on October 8].” However, his family doubts the accounts given by the coworkers. His mother, Valerie Woods, stated, “He was responsible. He wouldn’t run away without good reason, unless he was scared.”
Woods Jr.’s Suitcase Was Packed
According to Woods Sr., his son’s suitcase was neatly packed when authorities found it. The only odd item was a pair of muddy shoes. The fact that the suitcase was packed though does seem to indicate that Woods Jr. was indeed planning to leave the set soon.
Was Woods Jr.’s Mother Ill?
It was discovered that on the day he disappeared, Woods Jr. requested to leave the set on October 10 because his mother was “unwell” and was having surgery. However, his mother had no such surgery scheduled. Woods Sr. thinks this an indication that his son wanted to leave for some reason, stating, “If he told them his mother was having a so-called emergency surgery, he wanted to leave.”
Raw TV Defends Itself from Accusations
Perhaps because of Woods Jr.’s attempts to leave the set early, some of his family members have suggested that the Raw TV crew might’ve been unwelcoming towards him. He was reportedly the only black worker on the set, something they think might’ve caused him to feel intimidated or mistreated.
Another friend of Woods Jr. said that there should be a full investigation into the crew of Raw TV: “We need a timeline of events from when Terrence arrived in Idaho until they said that he disappeared.” Woods Sr. has also stated that he hasn’t been able to get into contact with anyone else who was on the Raw TV set the day his son went missing.
A Raw TV spokesperson has defended the company, stating:
“The police have closely examined the case, including Terrence’s correspondence with us and others, and found nothing to support the allegations you have put to us.”Raw TV Spokesperson (Source: VICE)
One of the producers on set who was one of the last people to see Woods Jr. met with the parents. According to Terrence Woods Sr., the first thing this producer said to him was, “I had high expectations for your son but when I met him, he didn’t stand up to them.” Mother Valerie Woods said of another interaction with this producer:
“You know, I had to explain to [the producer] that I talked to several people [Woods Jr.] worked on jobs with, and they gave nothing but praise about the work that he did. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden now, he goes missing and you’re telling me that he wasn’t good at what he was doing. It doesn’t make sense to me.”Valerie Woods (Source: VICE)
Complaints Against Raw TV
Were the parents right in blaming Raw TV’s culture? I tried to find some information about the company and was able to find a few relevant complaints, although I’m not sure that the complaints could be construed as evidence that Raw TV had anything to do with Woods Jr.’s disappearance.
An ex-Raw TV employee told VICE that there were some issues within the company. They said there was a “toxic undercurrent” that made them feel uncomfortable, along with “conversations where [Raw TV] would make disparaging comments about people they were looking to hire.”
Another anonymous source who reportedly worked on Gold Rush described the workplace: “It’s the kind of place where people sigh and say things like ‘it’s political correctness gone mad.’” They also explained that the atmosphere on the team was not particularly welcoming toward newcomers — perhaps leading to issues with a newcomer like Woods Jr.
Again, some poorly-worded comments may point to a potentially toxic work culture, but they don’t indicate to me that the film company had anything to do with Wood Jr.’s disappearance.
The Search (Possibly) Continues
Woods Jr.’s family has reportedly hired private investigators and gone to the media through radio and television shows, looking for help in solving their son’s case. Valerie Woods is frustrated with the lack of information in her missing son’s case:
“One minute [the police department are] saying the case is closed and the next, they’re saying it’s still active. I haven’t heard anything from them in over a year now.”Valerie Woods (Source: VICE)
Others in the community have pointed to the fact that because Woods Jr. is a person of color, his case didn’t garner the media coverage it otherwise might have, and that the Sheriff’s Office didn’t do as much as they could have. Here are some public comments on Facebook regarding the suspicions:
According to the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, the case remains open and Woods Jr. is classified as a missing person. They don’t have any active searches going on at the moment but they are still collecting tips and leads.
Theories on What Happened
Unfortunately, there are only a few plausible theories in this case given that about a dozen people witnessed Woods Jr.’s disappearance — that is, if you believe what the Raw TV crew has told authorities. Some suspect that foul play might’ve been involved on the part of the production company, although authorities have repeatedly stated that there is no evidence of foul play.
Woods Jr. Had a Mental Break
One of the more common theories is that Woods Jr. had some sort of a mental breakdown, causing him to run off into the woods where he eventually succumbed to the elements. This is certainly possible, although I couldn’t find any evidence that he had suffered from any sort of mental illnesses in the past.
Furthermore, Woods Jr.’s friends and family don’t ever mention him having any sort of trouble with mental health. One of his friends reported that although she’d worked with him many times in the past, she’d never noticed any mental health issues:
“It doesn’t make sense when I hear people say that he struggled with his mental health or that he didn’t live up to expectations. I spent six months on a TV production course with him and he always exceeded expectations and never ever showed signs of having any mental health problems.”One of Woods Jr.’s Friends (Source: Oxygen)
And, even if Woods Jr. had some sort of a mental health emergency, his family still wants answers. “If he had a mental breakdown, how do you say he doesn’t want to be found,” asks Woods Sr. of his son’s disappearance.
The fact that the search was called off so quickly — after only six days — leads some to believe that authorities didn’t do all that they could in this situation. I know that if one of my loved ones went missing, I’d want law enforcement to be searching for more than six days.
Foul Play Was Involved Somehow
Another possibility is that Woods Jr. met with foul play, perhaps because he was the only person of color on the Raw TV set. Woods Jr.’s family seems to believe that something more happened that day, and Woods Sr. has said of his son’s disappearance:
“I think my son, Terrence, saw something, heard something and didn’t want to be a part of it and when he created the story that he had to leave, unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be possible.”Terrence Woods Sr. (Source: Atlanta Black Star)
The former Idaho County Sheriff, Doug Giddings, said of the case, “We haven’t ruled out that something bad happened, but as far as foul play, there is no evidence of foul play.” A Raw TV spokesperson also denied the accusations, stating:
“The suggestion that Raw had anything to do with Terrence’s disappearance is inaccurate and unfounded. The thorough police investigation has found no evidence to support any claims of wrongdoing by Raw.”Raw TV Spokesperson (Source: Oxygen)
What Do I Think Happened?
This case is an extremely tough one to solve, firstly because of the remote area in which Woods Jr. went missing, and secondly because of the lack of clues left behind. There’s not enough evidence to point definitively at any outcome, leaving his family and loved ones with no answers. “It’s been like a cancer, eating me from the inside,” said Terrence Woods Sr. regarding his son’s disappearance.
Mental Health Probably Played a Role
The sudden change in Woods Jr.’s behavior (if we believe the Raw TV workers’ accounts) could suggest a mental health issue like schizophrenia. As a reminder, I’m not a doctor or mental health professional, but there are plenty of other cases where schizophrenia is the culprit behind odd behaviors and sudden disappearances like this one, and this sounds like it might be along the same vein.
Given that roughly 5% of the US population experiences serious mental health illnesses, it’s entirely possible that Woods Jr. developed some mental health issues as he aged. Most men develop schizophrenia in their late teens and early 20s while women tend to develop it in their 20s and early 30s. It’s true that at 27 years old, Woods Jr. might’ve been a bit on the old side to see the first signs of schizophrenia, but it’s not unheard of for men to develop it later:
“Some researchers believe that a variety of outside (aka environmental) factors can cause the prefrontal cortex to finish developing differently than it would have, causing a person to develop schizophrenia.”(Source: Psych Central)
If Woods Jr. was suffering from schizophrenia (or any other mental health disorder), then that could explain why he ran off into the forest and didn’t respond to searchers calling out his name while looking for him.
Still, I find it odd that none of his family or loved ones ever reported any signs of mental health issues prior to the disappearance, especially if Woods Jr. was struggling so much with an illness. Wouldn’t his friends and coworkers have noticed signs in the weeks prior?
Raw TV Likely Uninvolved
There’s an old saying that I think is relevant here: “Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” According to sources, there were about a dozen people on the Raw TV set for Gold Rush. If something nefarious happened to Woods Jr., getting that many people to keep their mouths shut — and for many years — would be very difficult to do.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible, only that it’s unlikely that someone wouldn’t have come forward with the truth about what happened by now. Someone likely would have cracked under pressure by authorities or out of guilt due to what happened.
Could Raw TV have done more in supporting the Woods family in their search? Yes, I’d argue, as it’s the company’s duty to keep its workers safe regardless of where a set is located. However, there is also only so much a production company can do when it comes to searching for a missing person. It’s also possible that some of the workers know more than they’ve shared with authorities, in which case they should come forward.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this case will be solved until someone finds Woods Jr. or his remains, a task that could prove impossible given the vast green depths of the Nez Perce National Forest.
Terrence Woods Sr. said of his son’s unsolved disappearance, “With death, you have two things: closure and healing. I have nothing.” If you have any information that could help bring closure to the Woods family, please reach out to authorities. Terrence Woods Jr. and his family deserve answers and justice.
Despite this case being a relatively recent one, there are a number of updates, mostly to do with case coverage.
July 16, 2019: Missing Pieces Episode
An episode of Missing Pieces aired on July 16, 2019 that covered the story of Terrence Woods Jr.’s strange disappearance. Missing Pieces is a Fox 5 DC True Crime/Mystery podcast.
October 2020: GoFundMe Set Up
The Woods family set up a GoFundMe in October 2020 in order to try and raise funds for more private investigators and lawyers that could help find their missing son. The GoFundMe is now closed to donations.
November 27, 2020: Dr. Phil Episode
A Dr. Phil episode regarding Terrence Woods Jr.’s disappearance aired in November 2020.
Do You Have Information?
At the time of his disappearance, Terrence Woods Jr. was 27 years old, about 5’9, had a light complexion, and weighed around 130 lbs. He has black hair and brown eyes and was wearing a light brown sweatshirt and black cargo pants. If you have information, please contact the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office at (208) 983–1100.
Cold Case Questions
- Why do you think Terrence Woods Jr. ran off into the woods?
- Do you think foul play had something to do with Woods Jr.’s disappearance?
- Is Woods Jr. still alive out there?
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!
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