Steven MacKrell was in a great mood on the evening of Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The 25-year-old spent much of the evening with friends and a few family members at Lucky’s Tavern, a popular bar in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Around 1:30 am, Steven and several friends left the bar but weren’t ready for the night to end. Although they each went separate ways to retrieve their respective cars, they agreed to meet up in the parking lot of a nearby Walgreens to plan their next move. Steven never arrived at Walgreens and his friends would never see him again.
Steven lived with his parents, Donald and Astrid MacKrell, in Fort Lauderdale and worked as a professional poker dealer at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. His parents started to grow concerned when they didn’t hear from him at all on Thursday, but when he failed to show up for work on Friday they knew that something was wrong. Astrid called the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and reported her son missing.
Steven was the youngest of Donald and Astrid’s three sons and was very close with his brothers, Michael and Kevin. Michael had been at Lucky’s Tavern with Steven on Wednesday night, but he had to work in the morning so had left around 11:00 pm. Michael knew that Steven had several drinks while he was at the bar and had told him to be careful. “Before I left, I told him that I loved him and to just go home.” Steven hadn’t heeded his warning.
When Steven left Lucky’s Tavern, he returned to his car, which was parked on West Los Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale. He was seen driving north on Northwest Seventh Avenue, presumably heading toward the Walgreens where he had agreed to meet his friends. It was only a short distance away, at the corner of Broward Boulevard and Seventh Avenue. His friends waited for him but he never showed up.
Detectives noted that there were a number of surveillance cameras in the area where Steven was last seen, but it would take several days before they could gather all of the relevant footage. While they waited, they started interviewing everyone who had been with Steven in the hours leading up to his disappearance.
Investigators learned that Steven had worked an overnight shift at the casino Tuesday, then left at 4:00 am and went on a 13-hour fishing trip with his cousin, Sam Navarete. Steven managed to nap for a while on the boat, and once they got back to shore he was ready for a night out on the town. After grabbing a quick shower at Sam’s house, Steven and his cousin headed straight for Lucky’s Tavern.
While Steven was at the bar, his cell phone battery died and he didn’t have his charger with him. This meant he would have been unable to call for help if he ran into trouble; it also made it impossible for detectives to use phone pings to determine Steven’s location. Phone records showed that the phone was never turned back on after its battery died that night.
Aware of the fact that Steven had been drinking, detectives thought it was possible he had been in a car accident. They scoured along all the possible routes Steven might have taken but found no sign of him or his white Ford Fusion. Concerned that he could have crashed his car into one of the many waterways in the area, the Fort Lauderdale Nautical Unit conducted several sonar searches but failed to find anything.
Steven’s family was certain he wouldn’t have disappeared voluntarily; he was the father of a 1-year-old daughter and he absolutely adored her. He had also been talking about getting married to his longtime girlfriend. Those who knew him well told investigators that there was no way Steven would have walked away from his life.
Friends and family members spent the weekend hanging up missing person posters throughout the downtown Fort Lauderdale area. Kevin told reporters that he was worried about his younger brother. “It’s like he vanished into thin air. He hasn’t touched his debit card and hasn’t shown up for work, and he never misses work.”
Kevin admitted that Steven’s sudden disappearance was baffling to his family. “It’s so out of the ordinary for him, he never misses work and would never just take off without contacting anyone, that’s just not him.” Steven, who had been born at Plantation General Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, had spent his entire life in the area and had “never been away from South Florida.” He simply wasn’t the kind of person who would take an impromptu trip without letting someone know.
As days went by without any word from Steven, his loved ones grew even more worried. Kevin noted, “We’re so close as a family. He’s more than a brother, he’s my best friend. My mother is having a really hard time. I’m just trying to hold it together…you can’t imagine what the family is going through right now.” It was especially hard for his daughter, who had celebrated her first birthday just a few weeks before Steven vanished. She missed her father and didn’t understand why she couldn’t see him.
Nearly two weeks after Steven was last seen, investigators discovered that he had used one of his credit cards at a Pompano Beach gas station about an hour after he left the Lucky Tavern in Fort Lauderdale. It was the first potential break in the case, though no one knew why Steven would have made the 15-mile drive to Pompano Beach that night.
Detectives obtained surveillance footage of Steven from inside the Valero gas station on North Dixie Highway. It showed the missing man enter the store at 2:27 am and head for the snack aisle of the small store. Steven was stumbling slightly as he walked and appeared to be somewhat intoxicated, but not enough that it raised any red flags with the store clerk. He spent a few minutes contemplating different snack options, then walked to the counter where he used his credit card to pay for the $6.00 bill. He spent a few minutes chatting with two young women who were inside the gas station before he finally walked out into the parking lot.
After viewing the footage, Kevin noted, “There’s no doubt that’s him on the video.” He was somewhat comforted to learn that Steven had made it out of Fort Lauderdale that night. “There’s a lot of sketchy things that go on downtown in the late night hours, so I’m a bit relieved to get him out of that area, but it still doesn’t answer any questions for us.”
The following week, investigators announced that they had obtained additional surveillance video of Steven from outside the Valero gas station; this footage would change the course of the investigation. It showed Steven standing next to his Ford Fusion, which was parked at one of the gas pumps. He was talking to the occupants of a small silver car, perhaps a Chevrolet Malibu or Impala. Steven could be seen leaning in the driver’s side window of the silver car, which was pulled up alongside his car. There was no sound on the video, so it’s unclear what Steven was saying, but he appeared to be upset.
As the silver car started to pull away, Steven stepped back and appeared to throw his drink at the vehicle. The silver car left the gas station, but circled back and pulled up next to the gas pump immediately behind Steven’s car. Steven can then be seen driving away from the pump and pulling out of the parking lot with the silver car speeding after him.
After watching the footage, Kevin noted, “At this point, this is our strongest lead. Whoever followed my brother out of that gas station — whoever chased him — has to know something. Detectives obtained surveillance footage of the silver car’s passenger as he went inside to buy something; they released a picture of this man and asked for help from the public in identifying him.
Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Kevin Dupree told reporters that they had no evidence suggesting that the occupants of the silver car had any involvement in Steven’s disappearance, but investigators wanted to speak with them to see if they could provide any additional information about where Steven went when he left the gas station.
Steven’s family wasn’t so sure about the people in the silver car; Astrid feared that they had chased after Steven with ill intentions in mind. She thought it was possible that they had caught up with him and mu*rdered him, but tried to remain optimistic. Kevin made a plea to the public for help. “If you know something, can you please step up and say something? This man has a family back at home who’s worried about him and a new baby who wants to know her father.”
A month after Steven was last seen, it appeared that the investigation had started to stall. There had been no reported sightings of Steven and the identity of the occupants of the silver car remained unknown. Hoping to generate some new tips, Broward Crimestoppers announced that they were offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for Steven’s disappearance.
In October, Steven’s family along with members of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department held a press conference to raise awareness about the case. It was clear that going months without any answers was starting to have a toll on Steven’s loved ones. Astrid told reporters, “This is something that no parent should go through. The not knowing what happened, the not knowing where he’s at…it’s a really painful moment that this family is going through.” Steven’s father, Donald, agreed. “Every day that goes by is one day longer without any answers.”
Investigators appealed to the public for help in finding Steven. Detective Tracy Figone stressed that no tip was too small to be called in. “Anything at this point would help. Anything that you might not think is a big deal, let the police decide. It may end up being one of the biggest leads we’ve had this far.”
Months went by and there was no movement on the case. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, and the volunteer group Guardians for the Missing joined forces to search through countless waterways in both Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. They found dozens of cars, but Steven’s Ford Fusion remained missing.
Astrid organized a prayer service to mark the first anniversary of Steven’s disappearance. “It’s not a vigil because we are holding onto hope that he is still alive.” She made another plea for anyone who knew anything about what had happened to her son to call police. “We’re going crazy trying to figure this out. We need people to step forward with information about what happened to Steven.”
Detectives admitted that they still had no idea what had happened after Steven pulled away from the Pompano Beach Valero station. His license plate was never scanned by any license plate readers, indicating that he hadn’t left the area. They used helicopters, boats equipped with sonar, and divers to comb through dozens of canals and waterways that Steven might have driven past. Each search failed to yield any clues to Steven’s fate.
In February 2017, Steven’s family announced that they were offering a $7,000 reward for information leading to Steven’s whereabouts. This was in addition to the $3,000 reward being offered by Crimestoppers, bringing the total available reward to $10,000. They were hopeful that the additional money would bring in new tips, but the money went unclaimed.
Alison McManus, founder of Guardians for the Missing, joined the search for Steven shortly after he went missing. Her group, which uses sonar to locate vehicles underwater, has spent countless hours scanning different waterways looking for Steven’s missing Ford Fusion. “Anywhere we can find that he might have went or driven, we have searched.” They were able to locate dozens of vehicles, many of which had been stolen, but have been unable to locate Steven’s car.
In April 2022, the group Adventures with Purpose spent two days searching through different bodies of water in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach in search of Steven and his vehicle. They found several cars, including one that had six bullet holes in its driver’s side door, but found nothing related to Steven.
As of March 2023, Steven remains missing. Detectives admit that they have no idea what happened to him and are keeping all options open. They do not believe that he chose to voluntarily disappear, but are unsure if he met with foul play or was simply involved in a tragic accident. The identities of the occupants of the silver car seen following Steven remain unknown; although they are not considered suspects in his disappearance, they may hold the key to locating Steven.
Steven James MacKrell was 25 years old when he went missing from Pompano Beach, Florida in July 2015. He was last seen on surveillance camera being followed by a small silver sedan, and it’s unclear if the occupants of this car were involved in his disappearance. Steven has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of his disappearance, he was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 165 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray T-shirt, khaki pants, and black shoes. His car, a white four-door Ford Fusion with Florida license plate WJ70L, is also missing. If you have any information about Steven, please contact the Fort Lauderdale Police Department at 954–828–5700.