Erik Patchin and some friends went to a poetry reading on Monday, May 23, 1994, in the evening. The reading took place at The Waterworks in Tallahassee, Florida. Erik then drove a friend to her house, which was about five miles away. Erik got back into his silver Volkswagen Beetle around 2:00 a.m. Tuesday and drove to his home in Lloyd, Florida. Erik is 20 years old and never made it home. He was never seen again. The drive should have taken less than 30 minutes.
When the staff at the Jr. Food Store on U.S. Highway 27 South opened for business at 5 a.m., they saw Erik’s Volkswagen in the parking lot but couldn’t find him. They didn’t think too much about it because they thought the driver had been having car trouble and had left the car there overnight.
In the late afternoon, Susan Durant, Erik’s mother, stopped by the Jr. Food Store on her way home from work. As she walked by the parking lot, she saw her son’s unique silver Beetle parked close to the store’s front door. When she pulled into the parking lot, she looked around for Erik but didn’t see him. Like the store workers, she wasn’t too worried. She thought Erik’s car might have broken down and he had called a friend to come get him.
Susan began to worry when she got home and still hadn’t heard from Erik. She called a few of his close friends and found that no one had heard from him since 2:00 am. Susan called the police to report Erik missing because she thought something bad had happened to him.
Erik was last seen at Tallahassee Community College, where he was majoring in English at the time of his disappearance. He worked part-time as a DJ at the college radio station and loved writing poetry and song lyrics. He skateboarded all the time and almost never went anywhere without it. Erik had never been missing from home before, and he was always in touch with family and friends.
Police found out that Erik was last seen leaving his friend’s house on West Call Street in Tallahassee early Tuesday morning. His friend thought he was going to drive straight home at that time. He didn’t say why he pulled into the Jr. Food Store parking lot, and when his car was found, it didn’t look like anything was wrong with it.
Erik’s mother found his skateboard, a notebook he used to write poetry, and other personal things in the Beetle. No one knew where Erik was because he didn’t leave a note in the car and there were no signs of foul play in or around the Volkswagen.
One of Erik’s best friends, Amanda Farnsworth, said that none of his friends thought he would voluntarily disappear. “He’d call if he wasn’t going to be somewhere.” His grandparents or mom would always worry about where he was, which made him very nervous.
As soon as Erik’s family and friends found out he wasn’t there, they started handing out missing person flyers all over Tallahassee and asking people who might have seen him after the poetry reading.
The search for Erik began in two counties. It was in Leon County that he was last seen, in Tallahassee. But he was on his way to his home in Jackson County. Deputies from both Jackson County and Jefferson County helped look for the missing young man, even though there was no proof that he made it to Jackson County.
On June 3, 1994, Leon County deputies were searching Jefferson County from the air when they came across a field with more than 300 marijuana plants. The search for Erik had to be put on hold for a few hours while the plants were taken down and detectives tried to figure out who planted them.
When the search for Erik started up again, deputies tried to find Erik’s trail with dogs but failed. They looked all over the neighborhood where Erik’s car was found and gave out missing person flyers to people who lived there, but nothing they did helped them figure out what had happened to Erik.
The search was going on for a third week, and Susan was still hopeful about her son’s safety. “I need to think he’s okay. That is what keeps me going, but I think I’m just scared. She was sure Erik wouldn’t have left his life on his own, but she didn’t want to think about the possibility that he might have been killed.
Amanda, Erik’s friend, didn’t know what to think because Erik seemed to have vanished without a trace. He’s just disappeared, that’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of. What’s going on is completely confusing me.”
Erik had said he wanted to visit some friends who lived in Atlanta, Georgia, according to one of his friends. When detectives talked to his friends and coworkers in that area, they found that he didn’t have any solid plans to go there and that none of them had talked to him since he disappeared.
Detective Warren Forrest of Leon County said that the case was very hard to understand. “I’d do anything to help you find this kid…”In most cases, someone would have seen something, so this is one of those strange cases. Even though detectives had been looking for Erik for a long time, they had not been able to find any solid leads.
People who worked at the grocery store where Erik’s car was found in January 1995 said that Ruth Brumbley had seen Erik there a few days before he went missing. She said he had been with people who looked like they were in a motorcycle gang and called them a “rough bunch.” Ruth said Erik wore a blue bandana and looked like he was part of the gang. She also said the police had never asked her about Erik or the people who were with him.
People who knew Erik and his family were shocked by Ruth’s claim. Erik hadn’t been in any kind of gang, as far as they knew, and they wondered if she had seen the wrong person. Erik and Beth Cobb met at a poetry reading and dated for a few months. Beth Cobb said, “He was chill and fun to be with; he didn’t hang out with bad people.” His favorite things were his skateboard and Beetle, not motorcycles. A poetry reading was his idea of a fun night out.
Years went by, and no one knew what happened to Erik. There were many ideas about what happened to Erik, but none of them could be proven. In August 2001, Leon County Detective Tony Drzewiecki told reporters that they had tried to prove all of them. At one point, a source told police that Erik may have been killed by drug dealers who liked to hang out near the Jr. Food Store, where his car was left. One of the men he said was guilty died in prison, but he never admitted to having anything to do with Erik’s case.
Over the past few years, Detective Drzewiecki said, investigators have looked for Erik’s body in wooded areas and ponds but have not found it. While they found several stolen cars, Erik was nowhere to be found. Even though there wasn’t much proof, he thought Erik was probably dead. “There are definitely people living in and around that area who know something first-hand or second-hand that could help us find his body.”
There was no sign of Erik Sol Patchin in Tallahassee, Florida, in May 1994. He was only 20 years old. Erik was a smart and friendly young man who liked to write poetry and skateboard. When he went missing, he was a student at Tallahassee Community College. Erik’s abandoned car was found a few hours after he was last seen leaving a Tallahassee bar for a poetry reading. Detectives think he was probably killed, but they have never been able to find any proof to support this theory. Erik was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 160 pounds when he went missing. He has brown eyes and grey hair. Erik wore a black T-shirt, green shorts, and tan hiking boots the last time he was seen. Please call the Leon County Sheriff’s Office at 850–922–3300 if you know anything about Erik.