013 - The Vanishing of Kyle Fleischmann
Kyle Fleischmann had grown up in Charlotte, North Carolina. When he was just a boy, the family moved to the city for his father Dick’s job with Fidelity Investments. He was intelligent and sincere, described by friends and family as kind and compassionate with a big heart and an interest in helping others. He attended Charlotte Catholic High School graduating in 2002, and would go on to Elon University where he studied business administration and management and served as an officer in the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. The official website for the Kappa Alpha Order describes the fraternity as seeking “to create a lifetime experience which centers on reverence to God, duty, honor, character and gentlemanly conduct.” Kyle is a caucasian male standing at 6 foot, weighting approximately 180lbs with brown hair and green eyes.
During his time at Elon University, Kyle busied himself with his studies but always made time for volunteerism. According to friends from Elon, Kyle volunteered to assist in the Special Olympics, the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Rides, an organization at Elon which provides free late night transportation within a one mile radius of the campus in order to prevent driving under the influence, as well as to ensure safety and security for students. All around, Kyle is defined as a good guy, someone you could depend on and who was always available to help. He was socially inclined, never too shy to meet new people. Friends say that Kyle had many friends, no girlfriend and as far as anyone knew, no enemies either.
Following his graduation from Elon in 2006, Kyle moved back to his parents home in Charlotte, but his stay there wouldn’t be prolonged. He was hired to work as a health care recruiter at Maxim Health Care Services in Charlotte, and in the fall of 2007, he moved into a condo on the south side of Charlotte with two roommates. In terms of the city itself, Charlotte is often referred to in terms of North and South. Like most cities, there are good areas of Charlotte, and there are areas people tend to avoid. While the South is the more affluent and tourist friendly area, North Charlotte is often described as having higher crime and not a place where you want to be wandering around by yourself in the middle of the night.
Kyle’s family was extremely proud of his accomplishments, and looking forward to seeing where his new career would take him. The family was suddenly struck a devastating blow when in the Fall of 2007, Kyle’s mother Barbara was diagnosed with cancer. Kyle was reported to be extremely close to his mother, and his father, Dick, has stated on multiple occasions that Kyle was there for Barbara and promised her that they were going to do everything together, and that she was going to beat the cancer. Just a few days before her first surgery is to take place, Kyle makes plans to take Barbara, his sister Noelle and his best friend, Daniel Scagnelli to a Dane Cook comedy show at Bobcats Stadium, the Spectrum Center, located in the city center of Charlotte. The comedy show would take place on November 8th, 2007.
Kyle drove over to Scagnelli’s home, where he would leave his car for the night. The group would take a taxi to the show, knowing that there would be some drinking involved and not wanting to have to leave a vehicle behind in the city. The group attend the show and have a good time, Kyle is described as being in a very upbeat mood and having a good time. Following the show, Barbara and Noelle would head home. Barbara thanks her son for the night out and says goodbye. She could never have imagined this would be the last time she would ever see her son. Kyle and Scagnelli decided to continue their night at the Buckhead Saloon, a sports bar located on East Fifth Street in Uptown Charlotte, reportedly just under three miles from Kyle’s condo. The Buckhead Saloon has since closed and a review on Yelp referred to the bar as “having peanut shells on the floor and deer heads on the wall where the guys tend to be jerks and the girls tend to be embarrassingly trashed.” Most reviews seem to be consistent with this assessment. Kyle and Scagnelli arrive at the Buckhead around 11pm.
During their time at the bar Kyle and Scagnelli share several drinks. Of Kyle’s condition at the time, Scagnelli would state “Kyle wasn’t extremely intoxicated by any means. I’m sure he was feeling pretty good, I know I was personally, but I don’t think he’d reached the point where he wasn’t aware of his surroundings.” As 1am is quickly approaching, Scagnelli decides he has had enough for the night, and decides to head home. According to Scagnelli he asks Kyle “You coming or you staying?” but Kyle is talking to a few people and tells Scagnelli that he is going to stick around a little longer and he’ll get in touch with him the next day. Scagnelli says goodbye, hails a cab and goes home for the night. This will be the last time he ever sees Kyle. It is now Friday, November 8th.
Reports of the time differ, but Kyle is reported at this time to be talking to either one or three women as Scagnelli leaves. Some have speculated that Kyle may have been talking to a small group of women, but as the evening goes on, his attention is focused specifically on one. Security camera footage from the bar shows Kyle dancing with a woman that night, and there is reportedly an altercation which takes place between Kyle and the woman’s boyfriend, and his two friends. The video is somewhat open to interpretation as nothing physical takes place, but there does appear to be a short conversation between Kyle and the boyfriend. A private investigator later hired by the family states “There was some video tape we were able to gather from the manager of the Buckhead saloon showing Kyle first speaking with the young lady and then two guys. In the footage it looked like they were in a possible argument or confrontation with Kyle.” Shortly after this incident, surveillance footage shows Kyle exit the bar at approximately 2:20am. In the moments before Kyle leaves, he places a call to his sister’s cellphone at approximately 2:19am but doesn’t leave a message.
Kyle forgets his jacket and debit card behind at the bar, which many use to suggest his level of intoxication at the time he leaves. The private investigator alleges that following his exit from the bar, Kyle sees the young woman again and engages her in a conversation as the two cross the street. The investigator indicates that he doesn’t believe Kyle left his things behind as a result of drunkenness, but out of a desire to exit the establishment quickly. Whether that was to catch up with the woman, or to avoid another altercation is a matter of speculation. Having exited the bar, Kyle is now on College street. Several minutes later Kyle would be caught on a surveillance camera one last time. He is seen walking down College Street towards a pizza shop. It should be noted that the temperature that night is reported to be around 30 degree farenheit and Kyle is without his coat. The camera footage shows Kyle moving from the right side to the left, wearing a long sleeve white shirt and blue jeans. He doesn’t appear to be stumbling or having any difficulty, which others suggest points to him not being quite as drunk as some have stated.
There is a large discrepancy online which purports false facts that Kyle rode away on a bike that night. It’s unknown where this alleged bike came from, since Kyle took a taxi into the city with his friends and family, and no surveillance footage exists of him on a bike. Strangely, this is frequently reported but according to all official sources, Kyle was not on a bike that night. Some people have used the bike argument to say that Kyle couldn’t have been very drunk if he was able to ride the bike several blocks without incident, and whether that is true or not, doesn’t seem to matter since there is no evidence that Kyle had access to any bikes that night. There have also been reports that Kyle got into a cab that night, but again, there appears to be no official verification of this claim.
Kyle stops in Fuel Pizza, just out of the view of the camera, within minutes of exiting the Buckhead Saloon. According to a cashier at the pizzeria, Kyle entered without a coat on and order two “extreme” slices of pizza, which have everything on them. The cashier stated “He came in alone. Normally not many people come in alone. But I took his order. I put his order in. I rang him up, he went to the bathroom.” Kyle’s father says that he frequently ordered his pizza in extreme syle and later stated “As soon as he told my investigator that Kyle had a pizza with everything on it I knew it was him.” The cashier loses track of Kyle after this, saying that the restaurant became very busy as local bars were closing and late night customers were coming in to grab a slice. At some point during the rush, Kyle exits the Pizzeria without anyone else noticing.
No cameras throughout the city of Charlotte catch another glimpse of Kyle. A strange series of phone calls are made from Kyle’s phone over the next period of time. At 2:42am Kyle makes a ten second phone call to a local business that he had visited earlier in the day, and then immediately hangs up and dials his voicemail. Between 2:43 and 2:57, Kyle calls his father’s office number three to four times, but receives no answer. At approximately 3:25am, a cab driver claims to have seen Kyle walking. According to the driver, he spotted Kyle in an area known as NoDa which is short for “North Davidson.” College street, which Kyle was walking on, becomes North Davidson street as you continue down it. The driver would state that he saw “a kid with no jacket who was not in the right place and looked to be intoxicated.” The private investigator who spoke to the cab driver relayed his information, stating “The cab driver said he recalled seeing a white male that looked similar to the description we were putting out on Kyle Fleischmann. He told us he was traveling outbound on North Davidson Street approaching the 1100 block, approaching the railroad tracks near Hunter Wrecker Service. He knew enough about the area that he gave details.”
Several minutes after this reported sighting, at 3:28am, Kyle places a phone call to Daniel Scagnelli, his best friend with whom he spent the earlier part of the evening. The phone call lasts a total of four seconds and Kyle leaves no message. Less than sixty seconds later, at 3:29am, Kyle places a call to one of his roommates, Bruce Mottern, but this call only lasts for six seconds and again Kyle leaves no message. According to all reports, by 4am, Kyle’s phone has died and there is no more activity on it. The reasons for his call have been the subject of a lot of speculation, with some believing that Kyle was in trouble, and was calling for help. Some think that Kyle may have simply been trying to get a ride, while others think its possible that the calls may not have been made by Kyle at all.
The next morning, Scagnelli awakens to find a missed call from Kyle. He calls back, but it goes straight to voicemail. He doesn’t think too much of the missed call and figures Kyle is sleeping the late night off. As the day progresses, though, Scagnelli begins growing concerned. He hasn’t heard from Kyle since he saw him the previous night and Kyle’s car is still parked in his driveway. He places a call to one of Kyle’s roommates to ask if Kyle is there, but he is quickly informed that Kyle never returned from his outing the previous night. Scagnelli decides to call Kyle’s parents, and when they also have missed calls from him, but have been unable to get in touch with him that day, the decision is made to call the police and report him as missing.
In the hours following notification of Police, they began investigating in the areas surrounding the Buckhead Saloon looking for any signs of Kyle. Scagnelli created a Facebook page reporting Kyle as missing and within twenty-four hours the page had over 60,000 people following for updates. Several of Kyle’s friends made an appearance on “The Today Show” discussing the case, and putting out the word about Kyle’s disappearance. Kyle’s sister, Noelle, made an appearance on Fox News also.
Police conducted a massive footsearch of the area, but were unable to discover any signs of Kyle. During the course of their investigation, they looked into his cell phone records and began the process of pinging the location from where the calls were made. Police have not officially released the record of these pings, though Kyle’s father Dick has since stated that a ping of the phone at approximately 3:28am places Kyle in the NoDa area where a cab driver had previously reported sighting him the night he vanished. Dick Fleischmann stated “The cab driver couldn’t 100% identify him. But my feeling is that the guy made a comment of compassion and was worried about somebody, which means he saw him pretty good. He saw a kid with no jacket, a kid he felt was not in the right place. He did say he was intoxicated. And the time of day he said he saw him was exactly when Kyle’s cell phone was going off in that area. So I believe he saw him, absolutely.”
On Saturday, November 17th, Firefighters and nearly 300 volunteers, including Kyle’s friends and family, conducted a massive search spinning out in a wide 9 mile area around Charlotte. Fliers were handed out with Kyle’s picture on them and search dogs were brought in by the family and lead by Linda Dunn and Mike Craig from Public Safety Dogs Inc. The jacket Kyle had left behind in the bar was used to give his scent to the dogs who almost immediately began following his trail. The Dogs followed Kyle’s scent down College Street, passed the final surveillance camera to spot him. Outside of the Pizzeria, two dogs walked in a small circle before continuing on. Linda Dunn has said that the circular loop that the dogs walked is usually an indicator that the missing person may have “been looking for something or trying to hide.” The path continued down College Street as it turns into North Davidson Street, leading to a small bridge which connects to Cordelia Park located just shy of two miles from the Buckhead Saloon.
Cordelia Park is a 24 acre park which sits in North Charlotte in the Villa Heights neighborhood on North Davidson Street. It has several walking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, swimming pools and a full basketball court. While during the day this park is well traveled and populated, at night it becomes the hangout of a rougher crowd and is known to be frequented by drug dealers and gang members. The park connects to the main streets of Charlotte via the 17th street bridge which traverses Little Sugar Creek. It is considered to be an unsafe area to enter at night, especially alone. Kyle, having grown up in Charlotte, is well aware of the reputation it carries and his family has said he would never willingly enter that area alone at night. The handlers of the search dogs, Mike and Linda, walked across the small bridge leading to Cordelia park, but had to call the search off. They saw several suspicious characters in the park and it was growing later, with the sun going down. The park was known to be frequented by members of MS-13. Mara Salvatrucha is a large gang that originated in El Salvadorand began spreading throughout the united states, mexico and south America in the 1980s. In America alone it has been reported to have as many as 40,000 members involved in activities such as racketeering, sex trafficking, extortion, child prostitution, drug trafficking and murder. The gang has over 70,000 members worldwide and is feared everywhere they choose to invade. In 2012, the Obama Administration listed MS-13 as not a gang, but an “International Criminal Organization.” Concerned about their safety, they call off the search until the next morning.
On their way out of the park, Mike Craig meets a homeless man who he engages in conversation about what they are doing there with the dogs. According to Mike, the homeless man was very open with him, as opposed to the police who had previously been in the area canvassing for information about Kyle. Mike has stated that the homeless man told him “Kyle had been killed over at the park, but he did not know where his body had been taken to.”
The next day the dog team returned, beginning the search at the edge of Cordelia Park. The dog followed Kyle’s scent into the park, and eventually, to a nearby construction site located at 16th Street and North Davidson, just 200 yards from Cordelia Park. According to the Linda Dunn, when they arrived at the construction site they were immediately struck by what she refered to as “the scent of death.” They felt this site was a likely location for the possible disposal of Kyle’s body. They were just beginning the construction of a new apartment complex and the dirt was all over turned and fresh. Dunn would state “I ran all over this huge lot like a crazy person trying to locate the source of that odor because I knew it was something that was dead.” In relation to the construction site, Mike stated “If he had been killed over there, burying him over here would have been easy.”
Linda and the dogs searched the construction area, digging through piles of dirt in hopes of finding some trace of Kyle, but their efforts were fruitless. Frustrated and tired, Linda had to call off the search for that day. Linda said “This place is going to haunt me for a really long time.” Linda and Mike both believe that Kyle is either buried at the site, or had been buried there at some point in time. As a result of their search efforts, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department went to the construction site and conducted their own search. They brought in cadaver dogs and employed ground penetrating radar and “poking sticks,” searching every pile of fresh dirt. Within a few months of Kyle’s disappearance, the developers moved forward with their project and constructed a new apartment complex over the site.
In the years following Kyle’s disappearance, private investigators have managed to find a few witnesses, but little else. The cab driver who alleges to have seen Kyle walking that night, as well as the cashier at Fuel Pizza were both initially found and questioned by a private investigator. Police subsequently followed up on these leads, but strangely, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have been extremely tight lipped in regard to the disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann. Kyle’s family has grown frustrated with the lack of developments, and feel that the answers are out there, but that those who know them aren’t coming forward. Kyle’s father, Dick, stated in an interview: “I find it hard to believe that nothing to this day has ever come forward with anything about my son. We feel very strongly this is a local issue and the people who know what happened to him are still in town. I really believe if we ever find out anything, it’s going to be because of a local and not a national report.”
In response to Kyle’s disappearance, several social media attempts were made to gain tips and information. A website was made, helpfindkyle.com, but as of this recording, it is no longer active. The original Facebook page still exists, but is somewhat inactive and all contact links connected to it are no longer usable. I did request to join the group, but as of yet have not been approved. A foundation was made in Kyle’s honor to help others who are unsure of what to do in the critical first few days when someone goes missing. The Foundation was hosted at the webite KFF.org, but this site also no longer exists. In the nearly ten years since Kyle vanished, Police have said they still receive tips, but that they are fewer and fewer each year. Sadly, as the years have passed, the Flesichmann family have become more convinced that it is unlikely they will ever see Kyle alive again.
In an interview, Kyle’s father Richard stated “I think someone probably tried to rob him and it unfortunately got out of hand and they probably took his life.” His mother, Barabara has referred to the disappearance as likely the result of “Kyle being the victim of opportunity, a crime of opportunity.” When asked about locating Kyle, his best friend Daniel Scagnelli stated “Who knows what, I’m not sure, but I think that we lost Kyle that night. The hardest thing to stomach with this is the unknown. When you’ve lost someone you want to mourn them, you want to be able to move on and have that closure and we don’t have that today.”
In 2010, three years after Kyle vanished, his parents moved out of Charlotte, first to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and finally to Florida, where they currently reside. Barbara had joined a group in Charlotte known as KinderMourn. It is a nonprofit organization which brings together grieving families through support groups and counseling. Since leaving Charlotte, she remains in contact with many of the families she grew close to while attending KinderMourn programs. Despite this, they remain ever vigilant for information regarding Kyle, and although Barbara has stated that Charlotte was her home, and she thinks well of the city, Dick doesn’t share her sentiments. When asked about the city, Dick responded “When someone says Charlotte, I get a sick feeling.”
Several theories have been developed in the years since Kyle Fleischmann walked into the darkness of Charlotte and was never seen again. As is often the case with adult disappearance, Police have suggested that it is entirely possible that Kyle simply chose to walk away. It has been rumored that police were not as devoted to the investigation initially as they should have been, sighting that this was a twenty-four year old man who had been drinking for much of the night and may have made the choice to travel elsewhere. It is believed in many circles regarding this case that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police considered the case to be of a lower priority because of Kyle’s age, and because of the lack of evidence that a crime actually took place.
Some have theorized that Kyle’s disappearance was linked to other disappearances. They have sighted the case of Max Walker. Walker mysteriously disappeared after a night at the Buckhead Saloon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Very similarly to Kyle’s case, Max was last seen by a friend at 1:45am just outside of the Buckhead, and security camera footage captures his exit and he is reported to be extremely intoxicated. Max was reported missing the following afternoon when a co-worker noted that he had never returned tohis hotel room since the previous night. Sadly, his body was recovered in the Milwaukee river the next day. His death was ultimately ruled to be the result of an accidental drowning when no signs of trauma or foul play could be discerned. Another similar case drawing parallels to Kyle’s was that of Justin Gaines who vanished from outside of Wild Bill’s nightclub in Deluth, Georgia just a week prior to Kyle’s disappearance. A career criminal would later say that he and a friend had shot and killed Justin, disposing of his body, though it has never been recovered. Although these cases show odd coincidences, they appear to share no link to the disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann, but people find the coincidences hard to ignore.
The most common theory in the disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann is that he became the victim of a random act of violence, whether done by one or more individuals. The theory suggests that Kyle, somewhat drunk and wandering into a bad area of Charlotte, came across one or more persons who had the intention of robbing him. Kyle had left his debit card behind at the Buckhead that night and it has been reported that he had his wallet on him when he vanished, but that it only contained six dollars. The theory follows one of two separate lines of thought: Either Kyle ran into a person or persons who intended to Rob him, discovered that he didn’t have much on him and decided to murder him for reasons unknown, or that Kyle ran into members of MS-13 who saw him as an easy target that night. Either way, whether murder was the intention or not, it is believed that Kyle was murdered and his body was disposed of. In terms of the disposal of his body, if indeed he were in the area of Cordelia Park, that places him not too far from the fresh construction site where both investigators and search dog team leaders believed it would be extremely easy to bury a body. Some have even argued that the phone calls mad from Kyle’s phone were not placed by Kyle, but by someone who had taken his phone in a robbery.
Some believe that Kyle may have been the victim of a hit and run. Under this belief it is theorized that Kyle, drunk and walking down the street, may have stumbled into oncoming traffic, or perhaps even been victimized by a drunk driver. In a panic, the driver stops and puts Kyle’s body into the car or perhaps even the trunk and disposes of him in any number of desolate areas in the surrounding landscape of North Carolina. Whether or not investigators checked city cameras for suspicious vehicles in the area at the time is unknown, though it seems likely that this would be part of a routine investigation.
The final theory that has come up in this case is that Kyle was murdered during a drug deal gone bad. As I reported earlier, Cordelia Park was known to be a bad area frequented by gang members and drug dealers. Kyle had grown up in Charlotte and knew the area well, well enough to know what goes on in Cordelia Park after the sun sets. Some have suggested that Kyle walked to Cordelia park in order to score drugs. Though Kyle was not known to be a drug user by any accounts, people often leave Marijuana off this list. When describing whether or not someone uses drugs, people often think of crack, cocaine, heroin. Marijuana, at this particular time, is considered by many to be something a lot of people do and they don’t consider it a drug. The proponents of this theory put forward the idea that Kyle used marijuana from timeto time and had possible gone to the park to make a purchase. If Kyle only had six dollars in his wallet this is an unlikely possibility, but that all depends on the level of intoxication he was under at the time. It’s a thin theory, but in a case where there are no answers, it’s as much a theory as anything else.
The disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann is one of those tragic stories that happens too frequently. A young man with his whole life ahead of him goes out for a night of fun and disappears into the night. Witnesses spot him in the moments before he vanishes, footage from security cameras show haunting video of his last known moments. Despite a large search, an outpouring of social media attention and media coverage, little is found and all leads result in dead ends. It has been nearly 10 years since Kyle vanished, and for his friends and family, the lack of answers only make each day harder. His parents have since moved away, unable to walk the streets of Charlotte each day never knowing if the random people they pass in the street might know exactly what happened to their son. His best friend, Daniel Scagnelli, operated the Facebook group as well as several websites, but in the years since, seems to withdrawn from the tragedy and tried to push forward with his life.
In a case riddled with rumor, speculation and contradictions, the answers may never present themselves. The case is certainly solvable, but until a new piece of evidence can be found, or someone comes forward who has the answers, the disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann remains a disturbing example of how easily someone can disappear without a trace.
[Thoughts & Theories]
The disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann is one of those sad stories that can haunt you if you get caught up in it. I find myself, late at night, just wondering what happened here and why nothing has ever been found to provide any answers. When a twenty-four year old man graduated from college, has a career path lined up, moved into his first home outside of the family house and seems to have it all, you don’t ever expect that to just disappear over night. Tragic things happen every day, people are murdered, have accidents and leave this world before their time. The difference is, in those cases, we have answers, and whether or not we think it’s fair, or heartbreaking, we have the ability to grieve, to mourn, to say goodbye. Kyle’s friends and family have never had that chance and that is incredibly horrifying. To not know what happened to your son, your brother, your best friend, is a terrible fate that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
The case of Kyle Fleischmann has been on my list for a while now. I wasn’t originally planning to touch on it yet, since I’d recently done the Asha Degree case, which also takes place in North Carolina, and I like to spread the cases out more in terms of location. I received an email from a listener named Brian Klein. He had a friend who knew about Kyle’s disappearance and lived in the Charlotte area. He told me that the case has always bothered him, and he expressed his sympathy for Kyle’s family and friends. I felt that if I were going to cover this case at some point, now would be the time. So thank you Brian for suggesting it to me and giving me the extra push to get into it.
Kyle grew up in Charlotte, it was a city he knew well. He knew which places were safe, and which places to avoid. He certainly knew that when he went to the Buckhead Saloon that night that he was less than three miles from his condo. So how does someone so well informed of his surroundings end up wandering towards a location he knows is dangerous and should be avoided? That is one of the key questions whose answer might be able to shine a new light into the void of this case. It’s also a question that everyone who has looked at this case asks him or herself eventually.
Kyle’s case reminds me of two others I’ve covered in the past: Lauren Spierer and Jesse Ross. In both of these case you have two people who just vanish into nothing and nobody seems to have any answers. In all three cases the missing person is captured on surveillance camera in the moments before they are last seen. In Lauren’s case, there appears to be a connection to a man convicted of murder who stalked the streets she was walking that night. In Jesse’s, the police believe he fell victim to a river that has taken many others before. In the case of Kyle Fleischmann we simply don’t know. His disappearance is mired in speculation with debated facts and contradictory statements.
I tried to get in touch with members of Kyle’s family, and with his best friend Daniel Scagnelli. There is a Facebook group called “Help Find Kyle Fleischmann – Missing.” I submitted a request to join well over a week ago and still haven’t been accepted into the group. The last post there took place on July 20th, and didn’t get a lot of responses. On the group page there is an email which they direct you to for questions or media inquiries. I wrote an email and sent it, but immediately got the email back as that address no longer exists. Scagnelli also created a website, helpfindkyle.com but it also appears to have been disabled. Trying to visit it during the course of this episode resulted in an error stating that the website may either be temporarily down, or have moved, but after a week or so of attempts, it appears as though it isn’t active anymore. I found a video on YouTube which says it is made by a family member of his, and the first video is dated within days of his disappearance but I failed to receive any response on there either.
It’s been nearly ten years since Kyle vanished, and over that time, the world has continued moving. His family has had to move forward with their lives, and though everyone who cared about him still hopes to have an answer some day, they cannot dedicate every waking moment of their life to searching for him. Part of the grieving process, which is certainly what the family went through, is to accept that they may never know the truth, but they can’t allow their lives to end because Kyle is gone. He certainly wouldn’t have wanted his family to give up their dreams and desires to live in a constant state of depression and sadness over his disappearance. You don’t ever forget, but you can’t dedicate your entire life to it either. I would imagine this is what has happened here, and whether it is part of the healing process, or simply the result of not being able to focus on it so sharply anymore, most of that which sprung up in the years after Kyle disappeared has been left behind. Even the Kyle Fleischmann Foundation website doesn’t exist anymore.
So what happened to Kyle? On the night of November 8th, 2007, Kyle, his best friend Daniel Scagnelli, his mother Barabara and sister Noelle went into the city center of Charlotte to catch a Dane Cook comedy show. The entire night was planned to raise up Barbara’s spirits as she had just recently been diagnosed with cancer and had her first surgery coming up. Kyle parks his car as Scagnelli’s place, and the group take a taxi to the show. They know they’ll be drinking and partying a bit, and they don’t want to have to worry about how they’re getting back, or having to leave a vehicle in the city that night. From all accounts they arrive at the show, have a great time and after exiting the venue Barbara and Noelle decide to return home while Kyle and Scagnelli make the choice to go over to the Buckhead Saloon.
The Buckhead Saloon is a local sports bar with a low reputation. It’s the kind of place we’ve all been to at some point in time, but didn’t spend too long at. Low prices draw a large crowd, but typically not the kind of crowd you want to be around. It’s described as having peanut shells all over the floor, poor lighting, animal skulls on the walls and is a strange mixture of college kids, locals and tourists. The two men arrive at approximately 11pm and share several drinks. At some point during the night, Kyle engages in conversation with a woman. Some reports say he talked to three women, others say one. I’ve also read reports that Kyle may have known the woman from college and was catching up with her. We know, according to witnesses, that Kyle dances with her sometime during the night. Some point during his conversation with her, Scagnelli approaches and asks Kyle if he is ready to leave. Kyle reportedly tells Scagnelli that he’s going to stick around for a little while longer and the two say goodbye.
It’s reported that the woman’s boyfriend and two friends show up and there is an altercation with Kyle. It’s honestly hard to tell because the only witness we have is a surveillance camera with no sound. I’ve watched the video, and it certainly seems that there is a back and forth discussion, but it doesn’t look to be heated or confrontational. Either way, she leaves with her boyfriend and his friends. Kyle is seen on the video walking out shortly after she does. This has led a lot of people to speculate that Kyle may have been assaulted or attacked by the boyfriend and his friends, but I haven’t seen any evidence to support this. We know that one of the private investigators hired by the family says he spoke to witnesses who stated that Kyle crossed the street with the aforementioned woman and the two talked a little more. We don’t know what happened after this, but we do see Kyle later on surveillance cameras and he doesn’t look roughed up in anyway and there’s no woman to be seen so it’s unlikely to me that anything that happened to him that night is connected to her in anyway.
Kyle leaves his jacket behind at the Buckhead, and in his jacket is his debit card. The temperature that night was around 30 degrees, and it’s November in North Carolina. It’s not a warm night by any stretch of the imagination. Bars and clubs in North Carolina shut down around 2am, so Kyle walks down the street and ends up at Fuel Pizza. A surveillance camera catches him heading towards the pizzeria and this will be the last verifiable piece of evidence we have to support that Kyle was alive and well at this moment. Interestingly, there’s a strange contradiction here. In both the video at the Buckhead, as well as the one on his way to the Pizzeria, Kyle is clearly wearing a white, long sleeve shirt, jeans and shoes. All descriptions from that night, including his entry on the Charley Project page say he is wearing a black shirt. I’ve never understood the contradiction here. You could say his friends and family remembered his clothing wrong, but they have since seen the surveillance videos but have never corrected the description.
At this point everything is based on witnesses and hearsay. We have the cashier at the Pizzeria who alleges that Kyle came in alone, ordered two slices of extreme style pizza, and disappeared sometime during the rush of other customers flooding in from the closing bars. The next time anybody claims to have seen Kyle is a taxi driver who reports that a man fitting Kyle’s description is walking on North Davidson Street in a bad area of town. The Taxi driver can’t say with certainty that it was Kyle, but the description matches. We get another slight discrepancy here as the taxi driver says the man was obviously intoxicated but in the surveillance footage, Kyle doesn’t appear to be intoxicated. The cashier at the pizza place doesn’t report anything odd about his behavior or movements either. It should be the opposite. Kyle is at the pizzeria within minutes of leaving the bar, and seen by the cab driver an hour later. He should have been intoxicated at Fuel Pizza, and much less so on North Davidson street. He couldn’t have gone into another bar in between, since they were closed, and even if he had, someone would have seen him and a camera was likely to capture his image.
That’s another strange aspect of the case. I don’t know for certain how many surveillance cameras existed in Charlotte in 2007, but I do know there are a lot more now. If Kyle wandered into such a bad part of town, it’s strange to me that there weren’t more business or street side security cameras around to spot him. The only information we have in regard to his locations following his exit from the Pizzeria are based on cell phone pings, and even those are debated. Kyle’s father, Richard, confirms that there is a cell phone ping which places Kyle in the location where the taxi driver claims to have spotted him. The problem is, the police don’t confirm this. The police, in general, don’t have a great deal to say about Kyle’s disappearance at all. In almost every article I found the police chose not to comment because there had been no new developments in the case.
Strangely, this case is often referred to as one of the most well publicized disappearances in North Carolina history, but research suggests otherwise. I found a lot more information when I did the Asha Degree case than I have for Kyle Fleischmann. A few newspaper articles, a website or two that wrote about the case and a very sensationalist video done by a television show are about the extent of it. It took a lot of digging to even come up with enough information to make this a feature length episode and in a situation where you normally have a lot of input from the authorities, that just isn’t the situation here.
The police, the family, volunteers and private investigators have all searched for answers in Kyle’s case, but short of the statements of a few witnesses from that night, little has come as a result of those searches. The family paid to have a privately owned search dog team brought in, and the dogs were able to obtain Kyle’s scent from the jacket he left behind at the Buckhead that night. The dogs led to Cordelia Park at the end of North Davidson street. According to the handlers, the dogs led across a wooden bridge, into the park, and eventually to a nearby construction site where they claimed to have smelled decomposition. Despite exhaustive searches conducted by both the dog handlers and the police, no evidence of Kyle was located in the construction site. Many theories revolve around the park and the construction site, and the park itself was known as a hotbed for gang activity, drug dealers and other criminal elements.
Theories have been developed over the years, some from the family, some from online researchers. It’s hard to put a theory together in terms of the official police viewpoint because it’s extremely difficult to know the police viewpoint. It’s understandable that they would keep details close to them as it is an ongoing investigation, but to have said almost nothing is hard to comprehend and must be frustrating to the family.
The first theory follows the thought process that Kyle, well versed in the city of Charlotte, purposefully chose to walk to Cordelia Park because he was looking to get his hands on some drugs that night. I have known plenty of people who have put themselves in bad situations trying to score some marijuana, and in Kyle’s case, marijuana is the only drug I can really imagine him possibly pursuing. No one reports Kyle as being a habitual user of any kind of drugs, not even marijuana. He has no record for indulging in any kind of drugs and seems to be a drinker, but moreso a socially one than anything else. The baseline for this theory has to be that Kyle willingly entered Cordelia Park. He knew what was there, and so the logical assumption is that since he knew what went on in that park, there could only be one reason that he would choose to enter it.
If the tracking dogs are accurate, then we know that Kyle went to Cordelia Park that night. Tracking dogs can make mistakes, or signal false leads. Immediacy is extremely important in terms of the use of tracking dogs. There have been rare cases where a dog has picked up and followed a scent days after a disappearance, but in most cases, you want them to be there as soon as possible. The dogs used in this search were brought in five days after Kyle disappeared, and although they appear to have followed his scent, there is no way to know for sure. What makes me lean more towards the possibility that they did have the right scent is that two separate dogs were used, from beginning to end, and both dogs followed the same path.
So this theory would lead us to believe that Kyle entered the park of his own volition in order to purchase some drugs, but there’s a lot of flaws here too. The main flaw is that Kyle was known to only have six dollars on him that night, and had forgotten his debit card back at the Buckhead. It doesn’t make sense that he would be looking to make a purchase without having the money to cover it. When you factor in the ideas that he couldn’t afford the purchase and wasn’t known to use drugs, that makes this theory extremely unlikely from my point of view. Some have suggested that Kyle, still drunk, didn’t know he was so short on cash and when he went to buy drugs the dealer became angry and thought he was trying to rip him off and so he took action and murdered Kyle. This is possible, also, but again seems unlikely. We know that a private investigator spoke to a homeless man who reported that Kyle had been murdered in the park, but without having a name or background on this individual, it’s incredibly hard to corroborate the statement. I’d also like to know if this information was given willingly or if the homeless man was paid for information. Some people will say anything for a few bucks. Ultimately, I don’t put a lot of weight into this particular theory.
Another theory is the one which almost always comes up in cases where adults go missing: Kyle willingly chose to walk out on his life. This does happen, more than you would think, but does it really apply to Kyle in a logical way? He had just found out his mother had cancer and had sworn to her that they were going to fight it together. He graduated from college, landed a good job, moved into a condo with some roommates and was seemingly living the life he had always wanted. This doesn’t fit the profile of someone who chooses to walk away. In addition to that, we know he only had six dollars on him, he’d forgotten his debit card at the bar, he left his car at Scagnelli’s home and he had gone out to a Dane Cook comedy show. If he had made the choice to move on, it would have had to have been spur of the moment because there was absolutely no planning for it. He wasn’t in a position where he was equipped to just pick up stakes and move forward. He’d had a few drinks and was walking through the cold Charlotte night without appropriate clothing, this just doesn’t spell out run away to me. I think most people, even if they had chosen to leave, not long into that bitter winter weather would have decided that it might be best to go home and maybe leave another time.
The biggest indicator to me that Kyle did not make the choice to walk away is that there has been absolutely no activity on his social security number or bank accounts since the moment he vanished. We live in a much more complex world than the world of fifty years ago. Back then, someone could move to a new town, assume a new identity and begin again. By 2007, I don’t think a twenty four year old kid has the skills or abilities to start new and somehow acquire a new identity and social security number with which to do that. I know that this always has to be a theory when someone vanishes, but I do not believe for one second that whatever happened to Kyle that night was by his own choice. Some people have argued that his mother’s diagnosis may have traumatized him and he may have wanted to run off to avoid it, and though this is possible, he seemed to handle it well and was hopeful for the future. Barbara is alive and well today, and if he had been driven away out of fear, I don’t believe he would still be gone. The police have perpetuated this by arguing that it’s been extremely difficult to investigate due to a lack of evidence that any crime was committed, but this is often a point of view taken by law enforcement in these cases. With nothing to investigate, they are limited in their abilities. Regardless, this is the most unlikely theory out there, in my opinion.
Another theory is the hit and run theory. Much like in my coverage of the Asha Degree case, I found a lot of information where people suggested that a driver had struck Kyle and taken the body with them to conceal the crime. Kyle was last seen by the taxi driver, assuming this is an accurate sighting, at approximately 3:28am. The theory has two different branches to it, one being that Kyle was struck by a driver and the other that Kyle was struck by a drunk driver. Bars in North Carolina stop serving alcohol at 2am, and though it’s possible, I don’t think someone would have hung around for over an hour before decided to drive home. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of someone leaving a party, or a friends house, drunk and accidentally striking Kyle. Either way, whether you think the driver was drunk or sober, it’s certainly possible that Kyle could have been hit. I do think it’s strange that someone would hit him, and then make the choice to take the body with them. I think most people would simply keep driving, as is often the case.
Under the belief that someone did hit him, and then loaded his body into the car, there are so many factors here which make it unlikely that no one would know about it. There would be damage to the vehicle, likely blood and other evidence in and on the vehicle, as well as people who may have heard the accident, seen a suspicious vehicle in the area. Also, I believe, that if someone had struck him, they would have opened their mouth at some point in time. They may have even called someone that night, looking for assistance with the problem. There are definitely people out there who could keep a secret, but more often than not, the more people who know something, the harder the secret is to keep. It’s hard to know exactly what investigative steps police took, but I’d have to believe they checked for suspicious vehicles in the area and any reports of vehicles damaged in what could have been an accident such as this. Then again, if the person could have known a mechanic or had the damage fixed out of state. The hit and run is certainly a viable theory, though not necessarily the most likely. I do believe it could have happened this way, but I also think someone would have spoken up by now. Maybe that’s a little naïve.
So that leads us to the most popular theory, even among Kyle’s own family, that he was subject to a random act of violence or a robbery gone wrong. It’s been well established that Kyle was in a bad area that was populated by drug dealers and gang members. The theory suggests that Kyle, while walking down the street, was approached by one or multiple individuals who either attempted to Rob him and things went bad, or that their original intent was murder. Being that they would likely be locals, it wouldn’t be surprising that this person or persons would know of some place they could have taken Kyle to commit the murder where no one would be aware, or where no one would open their mouth. We know that MS-13 was in the area at the time and they are well known to be a brutal gang to whom murder is a normal activity.
Kyle may have tried to resist, or he may have gone along without a fight, and at some point the decision was made to kill him. This brings into question the cell phone pings. I have often wondered if the calls made from Kyle’s phone were made to notify someone that he was in danger, but I have also considered the possibility that the calls weren’t made by him at all. It’s not entirely impossible to assume that someone could have taken his phone and been going through it when they made calls, whether on purpose or accidentally. The one piece of evidence which makes me question this is that the calls were all made to people close to Kyle, and a stranger wouldn’t have known this. However, we don’t know for a fact that other calls weren’t made. I’d have to assume that police pulled the cell phone records from that night, but again, they have been so tight lipped about evidence in this case, there is no way to know for sure.
If indeed Kyle was murdered in this way, it isn’t beyond comprehension that his body could have been disposed of. The dog handlers strongly believed he had been buried somewhere in the construction site, which is today an apartment complex. Certainly possible, especially considering its proximity to the park, but in North Carolina there are many other possibilities. Just outside of Charlotte there are many thinly populated areas and dense forests where it wouldn’t be hard to hide a body and have it never be found. In addition to this, there is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though its proximity to Charlotte isn’t exactly right next door, it’s an area well rumored to contain a large assortment of buried bodies. A former member of Law Enforcement that I spoke with told me that if they ever began digging in the areas around the parkway, they would probably be able to solve a large quantity of their missing person’s cases. The problem is that there isn’t a budget to go on such a hunt, and the landscape of the parkway is unforgiving and difficult to navigate.
There have been other theories, such as the idea that Kyle was but one victim in a line of more, but I haven’t come across any evidence to support this. There were other crimes committed in the area at the time, and other disappearances with similarities, but nothing solid has ever developed to contact Kyle to any of those cases. To me, the random act of violence theory is the most likely. I think that Kyle unknowingly walked into something that he couldn’t get out of. Whether it was a robbery, or just some terrible people looking to do something horrible that night, I don’t believe that Kyle survived that night. There are people out there who are responsible for whatever happened to him, but whether or not we ever find any answers remains to be seen.
It’s a sad story that has impacted an entire community. The disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann is still talked about in North Carolina, though less and less over the ten years that have passed. In those years, very little has come to the surface. What happened to Kyle remains a mystery, and while his loved ones have tried to move on with their lives, they still live every day wondering what happened to their son, to their brother, to their friend. Someone knows what happened that night, and could alleviate so much of the pain and doubt by coming forward and speaking up. We can only hope that that something like this will happen, or that new evidence will be found to provide answers. Maybe someone with the answer is even listening right now. Until then, the disappearance of Kyle Fleischmann remains unsolved.