On Monday, November 8, 2004, around 1:00 pm, Amos Mortier left for home from class. He pulled into his Fitchburg, Wisconsin, rental home’s driveway and unlocked the door to welcome his husky mix, Gnosis. At 1:20 pm, he picked up the phone to talk to a friend and put an album by Jurassic 5 on his turntable. The 27-year-old then mysteriously disappeared at some point after that.
At Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, Amos was pursuing his dream of becoming an organic farmer by majoring in botany and ecology. Even though he hadn’t been all that interested in academics in high school, he was pleased with his choice to return and was performing well in every class.
Among the last people known to have seen Amos was Jesse Settle. He had met him on Monday at 11:30 a.m. on the MATC campus. At some point, though, Amos left the campus and was never seen again. “I thought he was going to play some pinball between classes in the lounge.” When Amos skipped all of his other classes that week, Jesse was a little taken aback, but not too alarmed. He figured that something had happened and that Amos would return eventually, providing a plausible explanation for his absence.
On Tuesday night, Amos was scheduled to have dinner with a few of his friends, but he did not show up. He didn’t respond to the voicemails they left on his cell phone. They began to worry after a few more days passed and they heard nothing from Amos. That Saturday, a few friends drove over to his house; they knocked on the front door but were not answered.
Amos’s friends noticed that his bookbag was inside one of his cars while he had both of them parked in the driveway. They made the decision to break into his house out of concern that he might have hurt himself. They saw that the door from the garage into the house was open, even though the front door was locked. They cautiously made their way inside while yelling for their friend.
Though dark, the house was not silent. Two turntables were oddly still turning; it seemed Amos had been enjoying some music when he was abruptly called away. The record had long since run out of juice and was whirling around endlessly with a staticky sound. Neither Amos nor his dog were in sight.
Amos’s friends were perplexed by what they saw; both of his cars were parked outside, suggesting that Amos couldn’t have gone very far on his own; on a table lay his wallet and a $1,000 cheque that his grandmother had sent him to help pay for his tuition. In order to find out where Amos’s family members might know where he might be, they thought it would be best to get in touch with them. They located his mother, Margie Milutinovich’s phone number, using the details provided on the cheque written by his grandmother.
At 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Margie received a call from one of Amos’s friends asking if she had talked to her son. When Margie discovered that Amos had not been seen by anyone for almost a week, she was taken aback and knew right away that something wasn’t right. She reported Amos missing to the Fitchburg Police Department at 6:30 the next morning.
To perform a welfare check, officers were sent to Amos’s rented residence. When they got there at 6:40 am, Amos wasn’t there. Because of how long he had been missing, they were concerned and started searching the neighbourhood right away, even though they found nothing inside the house to indicate that foul play had occurred.
On August 1, 2004, Amos moved into the rental house on 2.3 acres of land; at the time of his disappearance, he was still decorating and hanging pictures. His closest neighbours informed the police that they had never met him because he kept to himself. Following Amos’s disappearance, one of his neighbours discovered Gnosis wandering the neighbourhood uncollared. This information was discovered as police conducted a neighbourhood sweep. The neighbour had let the dog stay at her house without knowing who owned it. Although Amos’s family members were overjoyed to see Gnosis again, it didn’t help them locate Amos.
Police initially believed that Amos might have taken Gnosis for a walk in the woods and become hurt in some way, making it impossible for him to return home. He had already been missing for a week, so finding him quickly was essential if he had been hurt. Despite searching the surrounding marshland, cornfields, and woods, they were unable to locate him.
Tuesday saw an increase in the search effort. Some of Amos’s friends and family joined police officers and firefighters as they searched the rural area around Amos’s house. The Badger Chapter of the American Red Cross set up a refreshment station in Amos’s driveway, offering hot drinks, sandwiches, and snacks to the searchers. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office set up a mobile command centre in a parking lot on Lacy Road.
More of Amos’s friends and classmates learned of his disappearance by Wednesday and came to assist with the search. Lt. Jay Wilson of the Fitchburg Police Department told reporters that Amos’s prolonged lack of social interaction was highly unusual, and this caused the officers to become concerned for his well-being. “We’ve got a lot of resources that we’ve gathered to try and locate this gentleman,” they said, but they were unable to track down any information regarding Amos’s location.
The physical search for Amos was coming to an end by Friday. Within a mile of Amos’s house, numerous properties as well as fields, marshes, and wooded areas had been searched. There had been no discovery.
On Saturday, the ground search was cancelled. Deer hunting season was set to begin that day, so armed hunters would be prowling the woods, according to Fitchburg Police Sgt. Don Bomkamp. Officials ended the volunteer search because they could not risk any searcher’s safety. But police kept searching for Amos, combing through a number of tiny bodies of water on Saturday in hopes of finding the man who had gone missing. They yielded nothing.
Detectives didn’t think it was likely that Amos had voluntarily vanished, but they couldn’t completely rule out the possibility. The disappearance was described as suspicious by Deputy Chief Don Bates, who added, “It’s frustrating.” He acknowledged that Amos’s lack of communication with his family was highly unusual, which raised suspicions among investigators that foul play might have been at play.
Investigators discovered that Amos had a caravan and a sizable garden on some land he owned in Grant County. Nothing suggested that Amos had visited the area recently was discovered by the team tasked with searching it.
Because Amos had volunteered for a while with a Milwaukee urban agriculture project, investigators decided to extend their search into the city. They got in touch with the local news media to help spread the word in an effort to reach as many people as possible. Anyone who knew Amos was asked to get in touch with the detectives.
Weeks passed with the case making little headway. Lt. Jay Wilson acknowledged a month after Amos was last seen that he believed Amos had been the victim of foul play. He pointed out that Amos would never have voluntarily left his dog alone and that there was no other plausible explanation for his disappearance that the investigators could come up with.
Margie could not accept her son’s possible death. She was certain that he was still alive somewhere, just having trouble remembering where he was and how to get home due to amnesia. She used the internet to spread the word about Amos’s disappearance along with his friends. They made a website, www.findamos.com, with case details, flyer downloads, and images of the man who went missing. Margie asked anyone who believed they knew anything to get in touch with her so she could investigate.
With the hope that greater awareness would lead to more leads regarding Amos’s location, Adams Outdoor Advertising company gave the family access to a billboard. Positioned prominently on the eastbound Beltway, the billboard showcased images of Amos along with a phone number that individuals could contact if they had any information.
On December 8, authorities combed through a landfill on Highway MM close to McCoy Road in Fitchburg with the aid of a search dog. Although Amos’s home was close to the landfill, it was unclear if investigators were looking into a specific tip or if they were just ruling out the possibility that Amos’s body had been left there. Despite their lack of success, Lt. Wilson assured reporters that they would not be giving up on the case. “We are working every day to get him back to his family with a team of people.”
Amos was a quiet man with a sharp sense of humour and a strong concern for the environment, according to friends. Amos was very attached to his dog, Gnosis, and had a close relationship with his mother. Miranda Maysack observed, “He’s able to jump into any conversation and make witty remarks about anything.” He was very passionate about organic farming and had enjoyed showing kids in Milwaukee how to grow their own vegetables in rooftop gardens. Eventually, he hoped to move to North Carolina and pursue his dream of organic farming. It never occurred to any of his friends that he would have just up and left his life without saying anything to anyone.
Weeks passed, and Margie’s desperation to find her son grew. She expressed concern to a reporter that she couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been involved in an accident in the woods and wondered if he was hurt and lying at the bottom of a forgotten well in a remote Wisconsin woodland. “You don’t want to be comfortable, you don’t want to eat, you don’t want to sleep, and your son might get hurt or cold.”
By mid-December, Margie was becoming more and more irritated with the circumstances. She was frustrated that the police would not provide her with information regarding the case, and she was furious because she thought some of Amos’s friends knew more than they were letting the police know. All she wanted was clarity.
Margie acknowledged that Amos had a history of drug use; in 1996, he was arrested for selling psilocybin mushrooms to a law enforcement informant who was undercover. In the end, he had entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanour possession charge. Margie said that Amos made the decision to change his ways after that. “He gave up on everything and truly made amends.” When he vanished, he was at his best.
Margie’s search for her son had taken over her life. She had no plans to celebrate Christmas as it drew near. “I’ll be studying and looking for any hints that I can find in front of my computer.”
Detectives were still working nonstop behind the scenes to find Amos. By year’s end, it was evident that they still thought Amos had been involved in illegal drug sales, which may have contributed to his disappearance. They didn’t seem to think Amos was still alive, in contrast to Margie. They started a John Doe investigation to find out if there was any criminal activity connected to his disappearance. This type of investigation is comparable to a grand jury investigation, but it is handled by a magistrate rather than a jury. The purpose of this proceeding was to obtain information from Amos’s friends, who the detectives acknowledged were difficult to talk to.
Since Amos was reported missing, Detectives David Bongiovani of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Shannan Sheil-Morgan of the Fitchburg Police Department had been working exclusively on his case. Despite speaking with almost a hundred people, they were unable to produce any conclusive evidence regarding what had happened to Amos. It seemed as though they were leaning towards a drug connection, despite their assurances to the public that they weren’t narrowing their investigation to that possibility.
Amos’s family declared in April 2005 that they would pay $10,000 for any information that could lead to his location. Detectives declared at about the same time that they thought Amos had been killed for drugs. Don Bates, the deputy chief of police in Fitchburg, stated to reporters, “It is apparent that Amos’s disappearance is related to his drug activity and proceeds thereof.” He did not elaborate on the specific drugs that Amos was allegedly involved with, and he acknowledged that they lacked evidence linking him to a murder.
Margie told reporters that she was still hoping Amos was alive and that she disagreed with the police conclusion that he had a drug problem. In June 2005, three separate nurses came forward to say they had treated a man who they thought had been Amos, which gave her hope. He had stated that he didn’t know his name, had some facial injuries, and was experiencing memory issues after attending the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee.
Following up on the tip, investigators sent Amos’s photo to all Tennessee sheriff offices; detectives were then dispatched to search the festival campgrounds, but they were unable to locate anyone who fit Amos’s description. Additionally, they requested copies of any photos taken during the festival from attendees so they could review them, but they were unable to locate any proof that Amos had attended.
When it was evident that the police were blaming drugs for Amos’s disappearance, a rift developed between Margie and the police. Margie made it plain that police were not welcome at the “gathering of hope” that friends and family threw to commemorate the first anniversary of her disappearance. “The family and friends of Amos have no choice but to disbelieve any information the police have regarding this case because none of the information the police have released has been verified.”
Detectives observed that Amos was paying rent in Dane County and a mortgage in Grant County, but he didn’t seem to have a stable job while attending school. There were claims that Amos had been dealing marijuana to pay his bills. He was known to hang around with people who were involved in the drug trade, and his friends later acknowledged that they had taken marijuana out of his house before reporting him missing to the police because they didn’t want him to get into trouble.
Court documents related to the John Doe investigation were made public in July 2007. Amos was supposed to confront the person who owed him a large sum of money for the marijuana he had supplied, according to testimony given by a few of his friends, just before he vanished. A friend asserted that Amos owed someone up to $90,000; Amos stated he was scared of this person and wanted to confront them.
Although Margie was happy that the court documents were made public, she didn’t think they provided accurate details about her son’s disappearance. She thought that some of Amos’s friends had been lying to avoid being prosecuted; in fact, a few of them would go on to be found guilty of different drug offences and be imprisoned. It was hard to know whom to trust.
(Image courtesy of projectcoldcase.org) Amos
Police carried out a total of eighteen searches while conducting their investigation. Among the properties searched were Amos’s residence, his caravan, his vehicles, his storage locker and the residences of two friends. In Amos’s home, investigators discovered what they thought to be bloodstains in a bathroom, but they were unable to conclusively link the spots to foul play. Reporters were informed by Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard that no charges were expected in this case soon. “There is insufficient evidence to support filing criminal charges against anyone related to [Amos’s] disappearance.”
Even after the case stopped making news, Margie persisted in looking for her son. It has grown harder to determine who to believe about the events in the days preceding Amos’s disappearance as the years have gone by. It is indisputable that he was dealing marijuana, but it is debatable if this is what caused him to disappear.
While some friends testified that Amos owed someone a large amount of money, others asserted that Amos was the one with financial debt. Some speculate that Amos may have decided to go into hiding after learning that his marijuana operations were being investigated. But those closest to him don’t think he could have ever parted from his beloved Gnosis.
It’s possible that Amos was actually out for a walk with Gnosis when something happened because a neighbour discovered him running loose. There were large cornfields, heavily forested areas, and marshes all around his house. It’s highly likely that he experienced some sort of mishap and was unable to flee before passing away from the weather. The truth might never be known until his body is discovered or someone admits to killing him.
In 2004, Amos Mortier, then 27 years old, vanished from sight. He was a kind and humorous young man who cherished the great outdoors and his dog, Gnosis. The reasons behind his disappearance remain unclear, and there are numerous theories as to what could have happened to him. Margie, his mother, has never given up looking for him and keeps holding out hope that he will turn up. Amos weighed 130 pounds and stood 5 feet 5 inches tall with brown hair when he vanished. He also had hazel eyes. He has an asymmetry in his upper teeth and a scar above his right eyebrow. Amos was last seen wearing blue jeans, brown hiking boots, and a hooded brown Carhartt jacket. Please call 608-270-4300 to report any information you may have about Amos to the Fitchburg Police Department.