Family prays for Mitchell native missing in WyomingCASPER, Wyo. — No trace has turned up of a Mitchell native who went missing last month. Michael Melvin “Mike” Bender, a 1976 Mitchell High School graduate, disappeared while walking home from a Casper, Wyo., bar on Dec. 17. The last of two official searches Saturday ended with no evidence of what happened to him.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
CASPER, Wyo. — No trace has turned up of a Mitchell native who went missing last month.
Michael Melvin “Mike” Bender, a 1976 Mitchell High School graduate, disappeared while walking home from a Casper, Wyo., bar on Dec. 17. The last of two official searches Saturday ended with no evidence of what happened to him.
Bender, who is 54, is the son of Melvin and Dorothy Bender, of Mitchell.
According to published reports, the Casper Police Department and five K-9 units — one each from Cody, Clark and Cheyenne, Wyo., and two from Weaver County, Utah, looked for Bender all day Saturday.
“There’s been two unofficial searches that involved Mr. Bender’s co-workers and friends, and then this would be the second official search,” Detective Joe Moody told the Casper Star-Tribune. “I would also say it’s the final search of the area.”
Moody said Bender walked home intoxicated and possibly succumbed to cold weather, according to the newspaper story.
“Today’s search was searching for a body,” he said. “We were using cadaver dogs specifically for that purpose, but the investigation as a whole has not presumed him dead.”
Bender was last seen leaving Taylor’s Sports Bar in Evansville about 10 p.m. Dec. 17. He was believed to be headed to the Virginian Motel in Casper, where he lived. It was a two-mile walk on a not especially cold night.
Bender’s sisters Cheryl Kunkel, of Mitchell, and Dawn Bender, Oklahoma City, Okla., went to Casper last month to help in the search.
Dawn Bender said family members, friends and co-workers have come to accept the official theory that Mike Bender is dead.
“It would appear that would be the case, because it’s not like my brother to be gone,” she said. “It just isn’t his character to disappear.”
Bender is single, but he has a step-daughter, Veronica, who is 31, whom he raised since she was 3, and two sons, Blaine, 20, and Mikey Jr., 16.
He worked at Defense Technology, in Casper, a job he had held since 1998.
Dawn Bender said she doesn’t think Mike Bender vanished on purpose, left the area, or committed suicide.
“My brother valued his life, he valued his children,” she said. “Leaving his children behind, we can’t fathom that, and neither can his kids.”
She said he was in good health, although last year he was bitten by a cat that was caught in a Venetian blind cord. The wound became infected and he had to seek medical attention.
Bender had suffered a mild heart attack at a prior date, doctors discovered.
She said family and friends have been “blowing up Facebook” and making every effort they could to locate him.
Dawn Bender, her voice choked with emotion, asked people to “continue to pray” for her brother.
Mike Bender is 6 feet tall, weighs 150 pounds and has blue eyes, long brown hair and a beard. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, black boots, a light blue denim jacket and a black “ZeroXposur” coat.
Bender may have been wearing his wire-frame glasses and a gold and silver colored watch. He has a tattoo of a wizard with an ax on his left arm and the initials GH on his chest.
If you have any information on Bender, please call the Casper police at 307-235-8278.