David Crabtree had been a friendly and easygoing child, but his family saw a change in him as he approached his teenage years. He started hanging out with an older crowd and, at their urging, began drinking alcohol. On the evening of April 9, 2000, he snuck out of his house to meet up with some of his friends but never made it home. More than 20 years later, his family is still looking for him.

David was one of four children and had a close relationship with his three siblings. Born in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, he had been a cheerful baby and happy child. He adored his older brother, James, and wanted to do everything he did. He excelled at several sports and especially enjoyed wrestling; he won numerous trophies and medals for his skill in the wrestling ring.

Brenda, his mother, saw a change in her youngest son in the weeks before he went missing. On April 5, 2000, 15 miles away from Locust Grove, in Pryor, Oklahoma, Brenda got a call from the police. This was the last straw. David was in a car with older teens when it was pulled over. He was clearly much younger than the other teens, so the police officer gave him a ticket for staying out past his bedtime. Becky had to drive to Pryor to get David.

David didn’t hurt his mother when he was mad about being caught. Brenda says that her son has never been mad or argumentative with her. But he never spoke out against the rules she tried to make or raised his voice, and he never learned from his mistakes either. Whenever no one was looking, he would sneak out of his bedroom window and meet up with his friends.

Brenda sent David to a juvenile facility in Claremont on April 6, 2000, to try to get him to change his ways. Afterward, she told a reporter, “I wanted him to see what kind of life he would have if he kept going.” She planned to get him help before he turned to something more dangerous because she knew he had been drinking. His stay at the facility was short. A day after he got there, he was caught with alcohol and sent back home.

David had a good day on April 9, 2000. He spent time with his mom, siblings, and cousins, and that night they all ate dinner together. David told his sister and brother, who were watching TV in the living room at around 8 o’clock, that he was going to bed. After telling them he loved them, he went down the hall and into his room. They were going to never see him again.

At 10 p.m. that night, James went to David’s room and saw that he wasn’t there. It was soon clear that he had left again through his bedroom window. Over time, one of his sisters would remember seeing three of David’s friends hanging out outside their house earlier that night. They had even asked her if she wanted to go out with them later. She said no to their offer, but David seemed to have chosen to go with them.

David’s siblings knew he would be back in a few hours because he often snuck out of the house to hang out with his friends. They didn’t worry too much until the next morning, when they saw that he still wasn’t there. He also didn’t go to school that day. Brenda was worried, so she called the Locust Grove Police Department to say that David wasn’t there.

David was known to have left home without his mother’s permission, so the police thought he was a runaway and didn’t try to find him. Brenda was angry because her son did sneak out of the house sometimes, but he always came back, so she was sure he hadn’t run away. David’s siblings agreed; they were sure that when he climbed out of his window that night, he planned to sneak back in later.

Given that the police were not going to assist them, David’s family began their own search for him. Brenda drove around the streets of Locust Grove and nearby towns for hours on end looking for her son. The woman went to all the places she knew David liked to hang out, but no one knew where he was.

Years went by and David never spoke again. But his family didn’t know why he hadn’t called anyone. They wanted to believe that he was still alive somewhere. Brenda was especially upset when he disappeared. “He meant to hate me, and I thought it was my fault.” James thought it had more to do with the people David was friends with. It’s possible that they took him farther away from home than he planned the night he snuck out. It was unknown what happened to him after that.

In 2017, David’s case was finally looked into by the police. Bryan Hurry, the chief of police in Locust Grove, saw James’s post about his brother going missing. He found out that David Crabtree, a teenager who had gone missing from Locust Grove, was someone he had never heard of. He found out that David had been marked as a runaway when he first went missing, and that this had never been changed.

Chief Hurry said that dealing with teens who ran away had been done very differently in 2000. If the police hadn’t heard from the teen’s parent after a certain amount of time, they would assume the runaway had gone back home. In David’s case, this is what happened: the police thought he had come back, so he was never added to the national missing person database. It was a shocking mistake.

Brenda knew why the police had said David was not a runaway. “They didn’t help me because they saw him as a troubled teen.” In an instant, Chief Hurry admitted that the case had been handled wrongly 17 years before and began looking into David’s disappearance. He also got in touch with a local news station, hoping that the attention would lead to some tips from people who knew where David was.

Chief Hurry said he didn’t think David would have chosen to not talk to any of his family members for so long, especially James. “He would have talked to his brother if he were still alive.”

David had not been seen or heard from for almost 18 years when Chief Hurry found out about his disappearance. He asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to help with the investigation because he knew he would need more help to solve the case. They said David was missing under suspicious circumstances, but they also said it would be hard to figure out what happened to him. The case had been closed for a long time.

There are theories about what might have happened to David but very few facts. There were reported sightings of him in Kenwood, Pryor, and Tahlequah following his disappearance but none of them could be confirmed. David was just 13 years old when he went missing, certainly not old enough to take care of himself. It’s very possible that he ran into foul play shortly after leaving his home that April night; police admit that they have no idea if he is alive or d*ead.

Brenda was convinced there were people who knew exactly what happened to her son and she pleaded for them to come forward and assist investigators as they attempted to build a timeline for the days and weeks following David’s disappearance. “I beg people, if anyone knows the smallest thing, no matter who they’ve seen David with, please call it in. We need answers.

David Crabtree was 13 years old when he went missing in 2000. Unfortunately, at the time law enforcement dismissed him as a runaway and did not attempt to locate him. David is of Cherokee descent and has brown eyes and dark brown hair. At the time of his disappearance, he was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray shirt and black pants. If you have any information about David, please contact the Locust Grove Police Department at 918–479–8121.

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