Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

The Suspicious Disappearance of Kyron Horman

This case has remained unsolved for 13 years, 6 months, and 3 days.

Kyron Horman was like many youngsters who loved animals and playing sports. He was excited to go to school on that fateful Friday because it was science fair day and he’d done his project on one of his favorite animals, the red-eyed tree frog.

After being dropped off at school, Kyron set up his science fair project for display. A few people reportedly saw him that morning at school, but he was marked absent for his classes and he wasn’t on the bus home. No one has seen him since the morning hours on that Friday; he simply disappeared.

Where did Kyron go? Did he leave the school willingly or did someone take him? If he did run away, why would a well-mannered and happy 7-year-old run off? Perhaps there is a more nefarious explanation to his disappearance.

Table of Contents

About Kyron Horman

Kyron Horman was born on September 9, 2002 in Portland, Oregon to father, Kaine Horman, and mother, Desiree Young. The couple got divorced prior to Kyron’s birth, citing irreconcilable differences. After the divorce, both parents shared custody of Kyron until 2004, when Desiree had to go to Canada for treatment for kidney failure.

A Bit of Family History

From then on, Kyron lived with his father, even when Desiree returned from Canada and lived nearby in Medford, Oregon. Kaine need childcare because he was working full-time so and he invited one of Desiree’s friends, Terri Moulton, to live with them and provide childcare. Terri moved in along with her 16-year-old son.

Eventually, Kaine and Terri fell in love and got married in 2007. They had a daughter together in 2008. Later on, Desiree (Kyron’s biological mother) tried to get custody of Kyron back, stating that the boy had told her he wanted to live with her instead of his father and stepmother. However, Desiree was unsuccessful in getting custody at that time.

Kyron’s soccer photo from Facebook.
Kyron’s soccer photo from Facebook.

Kyron the Kid

Kyron enjoyed a number of sports like soccer, bowling, and minigolf. He was also a big fan of Legos, model cars, and Hot Wheels. Some of his favorite places to go were zoos and aquariums because he loved animals so much. Additionally, science was one of his favorite subjects in school, hence why he was so excited to go to the school science fair on the day he went missing.

At the time of Kyron’s disappearance, he was a second grader at Skyline Elementary School in Portland, OR. According to most, he was a normal, well-behaved 7-year-old — although his stepmother might’ve disagreed. More on that later.

The Day of the Disappearance

By all accounts, Kyron was excited to go to school on Friday, June 4, 2010 because it was science fair day. He’d worked hard on his project about one of his favorite animals, red-eyed tree frogs.

Reportedly, the PTA president saw Kyron and Terri at Skyline Elementary School that morning around 8:15 AM as they were setting up his science fair project. Another student reported seeing Kyron in school as well, although authorities aren’t positive that the student actually saw Kyron.

Terri says she left the school around 8:45 AM, after dropping Kyron off and taking some pictures of him with his science fair project. She also stated she walked around and looked at some of the other projects at the school. She claims that the last time she saw Kyron, he was at school, heading inside the building to presumably to go class.

The last known picture of Kyron, pictured in front of his red-eyed tree frog science fair project.
The last known picture of Kyron, pictured in front of his red-eyed tree frog science fair project.

Kyron Wasn’t in Class or on the Bus Home

Despite being dropped off at school, Kyron never was reported present in any of his classes that day. At 10 AM, Kyron should have been in his homeroom class, but he was marked absent by the teacher. He also was marked absent in all his other classes.

In the afternoon, Terri, Kaine, and their baby daughter walked to the bus stop to greet Kyron coming off the bus. However, Kyron wasn’t on the bus. When the school was contacted for more information, it was discovered that he wasn’t in any of his classes that day, either. From there, the school secretary called police to notify them that Kyron was missing.

The Search Begins

The search for Kyron started around 4:30 PM, over seven hours since the boy was last seen at school. Originally, police were under the impression that he’d run away from school. For this reason, Kyron’s case was originally classified as a missing person’s report. However, as authorities searched the surrounding area and came up empty-handed, they began to realize that this might be more than just a boy running away.

Statistically, children who run away from home make up the majority of missing child cases reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). That being said, the vast majority of children who go missing are quickly found; over 90 percent of children who went missing in 2021 were located.

In a news interview, Sheriff Dan Staton told The Oregonian, “If the child had walked away from the school, the likelihood of finding him under those circumstances would have been extremely high.” Despite the desperate search efforts around the school and surrounding area, no sign of Kyron was found. What started as a likely run away child case quickly turned into the largest search effort in Oregon state history.

Other Agencies Join the Case

Soon, other law enforcement agencies were recruited to join the search for Kyron, including the FBI and the National Guard. These agencies assisted with a grid search around Skyline Elementary, but they still found no clues regarding where Kyron might’ve gone.

Additionally, authorities interviewed over 300 students and their parents to see if any of them had seen Kyron that Friday. From these interviews, we know that the PTA president and possibly another student had seen Kyron at school on Friday, June 4. However, that was the last time the boy had been officially seen.

Suspicion Falls on the Family

Because no clues or information of substance had been found, suspicion quickly fell to Kyron’s family — both his father and stepmother (Kaine and Terri Horman) and his mother and stepfather (Desiree and Tony Young). The public didn’t understand why Kyron’s family wasn’t speaking to the media, as many families do.

On June 9, an FBI spokesperson stated that the Horman family “is not speaking to the media because they do not believe it’s in the best interest of finding Kyron.” Understandably, this didn’t put the public’s suspicions to rest.

A News Conference

On June 11, Kyron’s family appeared for a news conference. All of the parents thanked law enforcement and search volunteers for their efforts in trying to locate their missing 7-year-old. They addressed the media together, wearing t-shirts with Kyron’s picture on them.

The Youngs (left) and the Hormans (right) at a press conference regarding the disappearance of their son, Kyron Horman.
The Youngs (left) and the Hormans (right) at a press conference regarding the disappearance of their son, Kyron Horman (The Oregonian).

A Criminal Investigation

It didn’t take long for authorities to realize that Kyron’s disappearance wasn’t a normal missing child case, or a case of a 7-year-old running away. On June 14, Kyron’s disappearance was reclassified as a criminal investigation. Even more suspicion fell on his family, and the public was demanding answers.

A week or so later on June 25, Kyron’s biological parents (Kaine Horman and Desiree Young) appeared on some network news morning shows, hoping to keep Kyron’s story in the news cycle.

A Break in the Family?

On June 28, Kaine Horman, Desiree Young, and Tony Young, released a statement through the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office stating that they were fully involved and cooperative in the police investigation. Interestingly, the name of Kyron’s stepmother, Terri Horman, was left off of this statement. Later that day, Kaine moved out of the family home, taking their 19-month-old daughter with him.

More (Troubling) Information Comes Out

Why was there a sudden change in the family dynamics? For a while, the extended family had been putting forth a united front when it came to Kyron’s disappearance. However, through their arduous investigations, law enforcement had uncovered some troubling new information that painted the boy’s disappearance in a new light.

A billboard that was put up regarding Kyron’s disappearance.
A billboard that was put up regarding Kyron’s disappearance (Facebook).

A Murder-for-Hire Plot?

On June 28, over three weeks after Kyron went missing, Kaine suddenly filed for divorce from Terri. The reason for this? Investigators reportedly told Kaine that his wife Terri had tried to hire a hit man to kill him.

A landscaper who worked for Kyron’s family reported to authorities that Terri had approached him about six months before Kyron’s disappearance, offering him a large sum of money to kill Kaine. After learning this information, Kaine filed for divorce, requested a restraining order against Terri, and left the family home with their 19-month-old daughter. The divorce papers and restraining order were later served to Terri.

Curiously enough, another ex-boyfriend has accused Terri of trying to set up a murder-for-hire on him back in 1990. Despite the allegations, Terri has never been charged with a crime in any murder-for-hire allegation and denies any involvement.

Terri’s Emails

Terri had reportedly sent a number of emails to friends blaming her marriage issues with Kaine on Kyron. Desiree has stated that police showed her emails that Terri had sent. Regarding the emails, Desiree said:

“[Terri] blames a lot of the marital problems between Kaine and herself on Kyron. It was a huge point of contention in their marriage and she had expressed in great detail her hatred for Kyron… I now believe, without a shadow of a doubt that not only is she capable of hurting Kyron, that it’s clear that she could have hurt him in the worst possible way” (The Oregonian).

Officially, Terri Horman has not been officially named a person of interest or a suspect by law enforcement. However, she has been called a “prime suspect” by a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge.

A Friend and a Burner Phone

One of Terri’s friends, DeDe Spicher, was interviewed during the course of the investigation. On the morning of Kyron’s disappearance, it was reported that Spicher abruptly left her job as a gardener at a client’s nursery and then returned about an hour and a half later.

During the time she was gone, the client was unable to contact Spicher. However, Spicher claims that she did not leave the nursery where she was working on the day that Kyron vanished. According to a 2013 interview Spicher did with BlinkOnCrime, her cell phone records confirmed that she hadn’t left the nursery.

Spicher also assisted Terri in other matters. She was seen driving Terri to her attorney’s office, and allegedly helped Terri purchase a burner phone at some point. Investigators later searched Spicher’s property, along with some that belonged to her relatives, although it’s unclear if the searches revealed anything.

Theories on What Happened

For this case, there really are only three potential theories: Kyron ran away, Kyron was abducted, or Terri did something to Kyron. Internet sleuths have long blamed Terri for whatever happened to Kyron, but it’s important to look into all of the theories regardless.

Kyron Ran Away

Although it’s possible that Kyron decided to run away, it doesn’t make much sense that he would have decided to run away during school hours. Surely, it would have been better for him to have run away from home where he could have packed a bag of supplies and clothes as some other children have done (like in one of my other articles, The Strange Disappearance of “Shelby’s Sweetheart” Asha Degree).

That being said, it’s still possible that Kyron decided to run away from school. However, with all of the search efforts put forth by authorities and volunteers, it seems unlikely that Kyron would have been able to get too far. He had a several-hour head start, but even with that, how far is a 7-year-old really going to get without outside assistance?

The only way the theory that Kyron ran away willingly makes sense is if he was picked up quickly by someone after leaving the school grounds.

Kyron was Abducted from School

Another theory is that Kyron was abducted or taken from the school grounds. I don’t think this theory is very plausible, mostly because Kyron was inside the school for a while before he would have been abducted. Surely if someone had gone inside the school and forcefully grabbed Kyron, the boy would have screamed or fought back and, with the science fair going on, there ought to have been plenty of people around to stop the abductor.

Terri Did Something to Kyron

Perhaps the most popular theory in this case is that Terri, Kyron’s stepmother, did something to make Kyron disappear. When talking to Dr. Phil about Kyron’s disappearance, Desiree (Kyron’s biological mother) said, “Yeah, I believe that she did something that day. She still hasn’t revealed all of the true things that happened on June 4th.”

It should be noted that Terri has alibis for part of the morning of Kyron’s disappearance, being caught on security cameras at two grocery stores (Albertson’s and Fred Meyer) before heading to a local gym. From 8:45–10:10 AM, she was at the grocery stores and later, she entered the gym at 11:39 AM. However, that still leaves over an hour that was unaccounted for during the morning Kyron went missing.

Terri claims the between going grocery shopping and heading to the gym, she drove her and Kaine’s 19-month-old daughter on rural backroads, trying to soothe the infant’s earache. No surveillance footage of Terri in her car at this time could be located by authorities so it’s difficult to corroborate this part of her story.

Another factor that some people point out as evidence of Terri having involvement in her stepson’s disappearance is the fact that she failed two polygraph examinations.

Personally, I don’t give a lot of weight to polygraph examinations for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that polygraph results aren’t admissible in a court of law. People who lie pass can pass polygraphs and people who are telling the truth can fail them. The polygraph is an investigative tool, not an infallible method of truth-extraction as some people would have you believe.

Case Updates

To this day, Kyron has not been found. No trace of him — clothes, glasses, shoes — has ever been found. That being said, there has been a lot of suspicion focused on Terri Horman regarding his disappearance.

November 2010: Desiree Goes on the Today Show

In November 2010, Desiree Young (Kyron’s biological mother) went on the Today Show and made some claims regarding Terri Horman (Kyron’s stepmother). In the documents that Kaine Horman filed in his divorce proceedings from Terri, he claimed that she would get heavily intoxicated and pass out on the couch from alcohol.

On the program, Desiree stated that he never told her about these claims and she would have been more ardent in filing for custody of Kyron had she known of these troubles going on in the home:

“[Kaine] had several opportunities to make the right choice and either let me know or remove Kyron from the house. I would have removed Kyron from the house if I would have known what was going on.”

Desiree Young (Source: The Oregonian)

September 2016: Terri Goes on Dr. Phil

In September 2016, Terri went on Dr. Phil to deny any and all charges that she had something to do with Kyron’s disappearance. She also denied any participation in a murder-for-hire plot. When asked what she thought happened to Kyron, she explained that she believed someone took him from the school.

Terri Horman on the Dr. Phil Show.
Terri Horman on the Dr. Phil Show.

December 2016: Terri Arrested on Unrelated Charges

In 2016, Terri was arrested several times in California for gun theft, domestic violence, and possession of a stolen vehicle. Ultimately, the charges for the stolen vehicle were dropped. As for the gun theft, it was reported that Terri had the stolen gun in her possession.

Terri Horman’s booking photo.
Terri Horman’s booking photo (KOBI5 News).

Regarding the charges of domestic violence, Terri’s new partner explained:

“She was trying to put a knife — a kitchen knife to my face and then she was telling me that if I talked to law enforcement that something is going to happen to me or my family.”

Terri’s Partner (Source: WHAS11 News)

February 2022: A New Task Force?

In February 2022, Kyron’s mother, Desiree Young, requested that the Multnomah County’s District Attorney’s office start a new task force to investigate Kyron’s disappearance. Despite the case being over a decade old, no arrests have ever been made.

A missing poster for Kyron posted in 2022.
A missing poster for Kyron posted in 2022 (Facebook).

DA Mike Schmidt replied to the request in a statement to a local news network:

“My heart goes out to Kyron’s family and the dedicated and compassionate community they have built around his disappearance. To date, this case is open and we remain committed to investigating new facts and evidence should either surface.”

DA Mike Schmidt (Source: KGW8 News)

What Do I Think Happened?

Kyron’s disappearance is a difficult case simply because there is so little evidence pointing to what happened. It’s like the boy simply vanished from his school, never to be seen again.

As far as the theories go, I’m inclined to believe authorities’ suspicions regarding the involvement of foul play. Law enforcement has stated that they believe there was criminal behavior involved in Kyron’s disappearance. The fact that nothing of Kyron has ever been found furthers this suggestion.

But did this potential foul play involve Terri? If she had nothing to do with Kyron’s disappearance, she should have fully cooperated with law enforcement — something they didn’t do, according to Kyron’s biological parents, Kaine Horman and Desiree Young. As a reminder, Terri has never been named a suspect or a person of interest in the case.

A Troubling Pattern of Behavior

Not cooperating fully with authorities doesn’t automatically mean that Terri had something to do with Kyron’s disappearance. Other incidents however point to a troubling pattern of behavior on Terri’s part.

The fact that a judge granted Kaine’s restraining order shows that there was a credible threat to Kaine’s safety. Judges don’t just grant anyone a restraining order for anything; there has to be a credible danger posed by the abuser according to Oregon law.

Furthermore, with charges of domestic violence and potentially two murder-for-hire plots, Terri isn’t looking very good. It’s entirely possible that she has racked up these other charges (like grand theft firearm, domestic violence, and stolen vehicle possession) and had nothing to do with Kyron’s disappearance. However, I find it more probable that she might’ve had something to do with her stepson’s mysterious disappearance because she has shown us that there is a pattern of poor choices and behavior.

Regardless of who is responsible, it’s time to bring Kyron home. Someone out there knows something about what happened to him. If he’s still alive, it’s high time he be reunited with his family who are still out there over a decade later desperately searching for answers. If he’s no longer with us, then it’s time for the perpetrator to be brought to justice.

Do You Have Information?

There is currently a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the location of Kyron Horman. On the day that Kyron disappeared, he was wearing a CSI t-shirt, black cargo pants, glasses, and black Sketchers sneakers. If you have information, please contact the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office at (503) 823–3333 or (503) 261–2847.

An age-progressed picture of what Kyron Horman might look like at age 19. Picture from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
An age-progressed picture of what Kyron Horman might look like at age 19. Picture from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Cold Case Questions

  • What do you think happened to Kyron?
  • Who was involved with Kyron’s disappearance?
  • Do you think Kyron is still alive out there somewhere?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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