Chance Englebert, his wife Baylee, and their infant son traveled from their home in Moorcroft, Wyoming to Baylee’s hometown of Gering, Nebraska for the Fourth of July holiday in 2019. Chance spent Saturday, July 6, 2019, playing golf with his father-in-law and brother-in-law. When Baylee met up with him later that afternoon, Chance was upset. The 25-year-old hadn’t liked some of the comments Baylee’s relatives had made about him during their golf outing, and he told Baylee he wanted to go back to Wyoming. When she drove back to her grandparents’ home where they had been staying, Chance hopped out of the car as soon as they pulled into the driveway and walked away. Baylee thought he was just taking a walk to calm down, but Chance never returned to the house and was never seen again.

Chance and Baylee, along with their infant son, Banks, lived in Moorcroft, Wyoming, around 220 miles away from Gering. Baylee spoke to her husband on his cell phone at 7:46 pm and he told her that he was walking south of her grandparents’ home, but when he spoke with Matt Miller, one of his friends, he told him he was walking towards Torrington, Wyoming. He asked Matt if he could come pick him up but Matt said he had a few drinks and couldn’t drive; he told Chance he would try to find someone else who could pick him up.

Matt called Chance’s mother, Dawn Englebert, and told him that Chance “had a little run-in in Gering and wanted to get out of there.” He asked her if she could pick him up, and she said she would try to contact her son and see what he wanted to do. Multiple relatives texted Chance but he didn’t reply to any of them until 9:08 pm, when he sent a text message to his aunt that was indecipherable; it read “ibdesereallyg” and included an emoji, which Chance was never known to use. It was unclear if Chance tried to send a text message but his phone was wet or damaged, or if someone else had his phone. It was the last time the phone was used.

A severe thunderstorm swept through the area around 9:00 pm; it’s unclear if Chance was still walking when it hit. Chance’s parents called Baylee to see if she knew what was going on and she assured them that she and her family were looking for Chance and she didn’t think there was any need for his parents to drive down to Gering that night. Her grandfather drove around looking for him after the storm had passed but wasn’t able to find any trace of him. Worried that something had happened to him, Baylee called the police at 11:00 am Sunday and reported her husband missing.

Members of Chance’s family, most of whom lived in South Dakota, drove to Gering to assist in the search for him. They created a “Help Find Chance Englebert” Facebook page so they could raise awareness about his disappearance and keep people updated about the search efforts. Baylee was certain that Chance would never have voluntarily abandoned her or their son, and she told reporters that the family was offering a cash reward for information leading to his whereabouts.

Dawn said that it was common for Chance to walk around for a few hours if he needed to clear his head, but he always returned home. Like Baylee, she didn’t believe her son would have willingly walked away from his family. “He’s a family man. He loves his whole family. He wouldn’t have done this to us.”

Baylee and Chance dated for about two years before getting married in October 2018. Their son had been born in April, and Chance had been thrilled to be a father. Baylee noted, “He loves being a dad. He was more excited about finding out I was pregnant than I was. He was jumping up and down…I couldn’t have been blessed with a more supportive husband.”

Chance had grown up on a ranch in South Dakota and fell in love with bareback riding when he was still in middle school. He continued throughout high school and was skilled enough that he earned a bareback riding scholarship to Laramie County Community College, where he earned a degree in diesel mechanics and welding.

Chance had worked as a welder for Blackjewel LLC, but he had recently been laid off when the company closed two coal mines in Campbell County, Wyoming. The unexpected move had caught everyone — including state officials — off guard and resulted in around 600 people losing their jobs. Chance had already found another job, however, and was supposed to start there the Monday after he went missing.

Investigators determined that Chance’s cell phone had last pinged off a tower on County Road 19 near Scottsbluff, Nebraska, a few miles north of Gering. Their initial search efforts were concentrated in that area. Although they didn’t find any clues about what had happened to Chance, they received several credible tips from people who believed they had seen him walking in Terrytown, right outside of Scottsbluff.

Law enforcement took the case very seriously from the beginning. They noted that the storm on Saturday night had caused heavy rain and lightning throughout the region; if Chance had been stuck outside when the storm hit, he was at an increased risk of developing hypothermia. Flooding was also a concern due to the intense rain.

A total of 17 law enforcement agencies, including the Gering Police Department, the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department, and the Nebraska State Patrol took part in the initial search for Chance. In addition to the ground search, law enforcement used drones and helicopters to survey the area from above. The water level in the Gering Central Canal was lowered so crews could search it, while boats and K9 units searched the nearby North Platte River. Although everyone involved hoped that Chance would be found quickly, by Tuesday night they were starting to wonder if he had managed to get a ride out of the area.

Officials said they had determined the best areas to search based on Chance’s cell phone data and local surveillance cameras; crews completed grid searches of each area to ensure that nothing was missed. Investigators obtained surveillance video from local businesses; Chance had been captured on camera walking past Domino’s Pizza in Gering at 7:49 pm and at the intersection of 10th Street and Martha Drive at 7:51 pm. This indicated that he had been heading north in the minutes leading up to his disappearance. Detectives also asked any residents who had surveillance cameras to review their footage from Saturday night for any sign of Chance.

Gering Police Capt. Jason Rogers asked for residents of Scottsbluff and Gering to conduct a walkthrough of their property to make sure Chance hadn’t sought shelter in a barn, shed, or other outbuilding and gotten stuck or injured. He was also hoping to find someone who had witnessed Chance walking on Saturday night. “If anybody saw anything, heard anything, or just happened to be driving through Gering, Terrytown, or Scottsbluff and saw someone walking from around 7:30 pm until as late as midnight, just give us a call. We’ll run down any information that someone can give us.”

By Wednesday night, searchers had covered hundreds of miles on foot and by air but hadn’t found any trace of Chance. Gering Police Chief George Holthus noted, “We can say with relative certainty that Chance isn’t in those areas…we are going to be transitioning from an actively searching phase to a phase focusing more on investigation — doing more with cell phones, interviews with family, co-workers, and other people.”

Detectives had determined that Chance’s last cell phone ping had been in the vicinity of the Riverview Golf Course located just west of Scottsbluff. They had no idea where he had gone after that, as his phone was either turned off or the battery had died. Chief Holthus said they hadn’t ruled out the possibility that Chance had left voluntarily and stressed that he wouldn’t face any criminal charges if he had done so. “If Chance needed a break, to decompress, whatever…he has not committed a crime. He is an adult.”

Chance’s mother said she didn’t believe that her son would simply abandon his family, but if he had taken off voluntarily, it was time for him to come home. She just wanted to know that he was okay. Baylee was adamant that Chance wouldn’t have abandoned her and Banks. “Honestly, I think he’s either severely injured or de*ad.”

A woman reported seeing someone she believed to be Chance at a Walmart in Caspar, Wyoming, on Friday, July 12, 2019, around 6:00 pm. Gering Police Officer Shawn West said that they had requested surveillance video from the store so they could check to see if it was indeed Chance, but noted that it was only one of around a dozen sightings that they were investigating. They had been able to rule some of the potential sightings out but were still following up on others.

Two weeks after Chance was last seen, investigators were running out of leads. They had been unable to confirm any of the reported sightings of the missing man and admitted that they had no idea what had happened to him. He hadn’t tried to contact any of his friends or relatives and they were gravely concerned about his safety.

Baylee said that Chance’s loved ones were continuing the physical search for him while police concentrated on tracking down investigative leads. They were combing through some heavily wooded areas that hadn’t been included during the initial search effort, hoping to find something that would point to Chance’s location. “We’re going out further than the cops did and are retracing a lot of our steps.”

Although detectives said they hadn’t found any evidence pointing to foul play, Baylee worried that he had injured himself and had been unable to contact anyone. “Obviously, something bad happened to him or he’d be home. I believe he’s lying somewhere hurt…we’re searching every nook and cranny.”

Chance’s friends and family held a vigil for him on Saturday, July 20, 2019. They gathered at the Fall River County Fairgrounds in his hometown of Edgemont, South Dakota to pray for his safe return. Dawn’s heartbreak was evident as she pleaded for help in finding her son. “Someone has to know what happened that night. We are begging for them to come forward…we just need answers. Please.”

Law enforcement resumed their physical search for Chance during the last week in July, when they returned to the Stable Club Canal after a cadaver dog indicated that he had picked up a scent in that area. They spent several days combing through the canal but didn’t find anything.

Chance’s friends and family seemed to think that police weren’t doing enough to find Chance so they continued organizing their own searches. In November 2019, Matt Miller, one of Chance’s friends, told reporters, “I felt like we needed to look for Chance a little bit harder, and I didn’t feel like anybody else would do the job like I could, so I’m going to try myself.” He started a Facebook page and recruited volunteers to help him search the area near where Chance’s phone had last pinged. They conducted multiple searches but all came up empty.

On November 27, 2019, the Gering Police Department issued a press release to update the public on the state of the investigation. They said that the last confirmed sighting of Chance was a surveillance video showing him walking near the intersection of Terry Boulevard and Stable Club Road in Terrytown on the night he vanished. No other reported sightings of him could be verified.

Since the start of the investigation, detectives had followed up on leads in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nothing had come of any of the leads. Multiple agencies were still participating in the investigation, but the FBI had declined to get involved as there was no evidence of any federal violations.

Detectives stressed that they had not found any evidence of foul play. “What we know at this point is that Chance was walking in Gering and Terrytown on his own free will.” Because of that, Chance was still classified as a missing person and not a homicide victim. Investigators would continue to follow any and all leads they received.

A rift formed early on between Chance’s family and Baylee’s family; a couple of weeks after Chance went missing Baylee and her parents hired a lawyer and stopped giving interviews. Much of this had to do with the fact that Chance’s family seemed to believe that Baylee and her family were hiding something; Baylee herself was ripped apart on social media for acting “too nonchalant” in early interviews. While some people pointed out that Baylee was only 20 years old and struggling to care for a three-month-old baby on her own while going to nursing school and was likely just stressed and unsure how to handle herself, others took it as an indication of guilt. Police continued to say that there was no evidence of foul play but this didn’t stop rumors from spreading

Chance’s family and friends continued to hold sporadic searches for him over the next several months, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant they couldn’t hold any large events to raise awareness about the fact that he was still missing.

As the first anniversary of her son’s disappearance approached, Dawn said she felt like she was living in a nightmare. “We go on and try to act like everything is good…there are so many firsts and we’re trying to get through them.” The family hosted a prayer vigil to mark the grim anniversary and more than 150 people attended.

Detectives said the case was still open and active but admitted that they weren’t any closer to learning what had happened to Chance. Capt. Rogers said the department was still optimistic that the case would be solved. “We’re going to keep digging, keep plugging along, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get answers for everyone.”

Over the next year, the Gering Police Department continued to receive tips about the case but detectives were unable to develop any substantial leads. One investigator seemed to imply that the only way the case was going to be solved was if someone started talking. “Somebody’s conscience is bothering them. Identify that person and work on that.”

In October 2021, the reward for information in the case was raised to $14,750, and Amanda Waldron, a private investigator who had recently started working on the case, said that she was following up on some new information and possible leads. “Multiple people have come forward.”

Gering Detective Brian Eads told reporters that they still had no evidence that a homicide had taken place — but admitted there was no evidence to suggest that one hadn’t taken place, either. There was simply no evidence at all. He said that both families had been completely cooperative in the investigation and both had allowed searches to be done at their properties.

Chance should have been celebrating his 29th birthday on December 2, 2022. To mark the occasion, his maternal grandmother, Linda Kluender, donated $200,000 to the reward fund, bringing the total amount offered to $220,000. She had recently inherited some money and her husband joked that she could buy anything she wanted. She told him, “Well, there’s only one thing I want, and I can’t buy that. And that’s finding out where Chance is and what happened to him.” She hoped that the increased reward would finally bring the answers everyone wanted.

As of May 2023, Chance is still missing and investigators still have no idea what happened to him. The $220,000 reward for information will expire on December 2, 2023, Chance’s 30th birthday.

Chance Leslie Englebert was just 25 years old when he went missing from Gering, Nebraska in July 2019. To date, there has been no evidence found pointing to what might have happened to Chance, and detectives have no idea if he had some kind of accident, was a victim of foul play, or simply walked away from his life. Chance has green eyes and brown hair, and at the time of his disappearance, he was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 170 pounds. He was last seen wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt, blue jeans, boots, and a black and white trucker’s cap. If you have any information about Chance, please contact the Gering Police Department at 308–436–5088 or the Scottsbluff Police Department at 308–630–6261. There is a $220,000 reward available in this case.

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