On the 11th of January 2018, at around 11am, nineteen year old Austin Colson walked out of his apartment in Royalton, Vermont and was never seen alive again.
Clad in a camouflage jacket, a white baseball hat with his company logo and blue jeans, he set off for the day with the intention of collecting scrap metal around the area. Austin wound never return.
In interviews with the media Colson’s family describe him as a good kid who was doing well for himself in life. He had started up his own company named “A & C painting” and when the winter months rolled around and jobs were few and far between, he would do other odd jobs, such as scrapping metal. Austin had a girlfriend who he had been with for two years and the pair planned to get married and start a family together. He was also working towards a GED.
The missing teenager’s mother and girlfriend are confident that Austin did not just walk away voluntarily- it just wasn’t like him. His loved ones are unsure of the route Austin took that morning, or where he intended to go, but they were aware of his intentions to haul scrap metal back home and concluded that to do so, he had to stop off at his father’s residence along route 14, in Sharon to borrow a trailer. Austin would also need a vehicle that was up to the task, as his small Sedan wasn’t fit for the job; besides, it didn’t even have a tow hitch. The nineteen year old asked his dad's permission to use the trailer in advance.
Two hours and forty minutes after he left his Rainbow Street apartment his mother drove by his father’s property and noticed that Austin’s sedan was there but the trailer was absent. This aroused the suspicion that someone else, with a much a larger vehicle able to tug a trailer, met Austin at his dads place and picked him up that afternoon.
Several days later the trailer was discovered abandoned near Downer Road. It did appear to have been at least partly loaded with scrap metal. Photographs of the scrap were released to the public in the hope that someone could identify it and provide additional information to the police.
None of Austin’s personal effects have been recovered, such as his maroon cellphone which was turned off on the day he went missing.
Austin often did odd jobs to make up for the lack of painting jobs that came with the winter months and scrapping was a suggestion from his dad. His grandmother taught him how to produce handmade soap and candles and he turned his creations into a small business that likely generated a modest profit. Austin Colson also had another more secretive side business, which was likely more lucrative than all three of his other businesses combined- Cocaine.
So far, there is one person of interest who features heavily in online articles relating to the missing boy, his name is Richard P. Whitcomb Jr. and he’s a 38 year old resident of White River Junction- just a 25 minute ride from Colson’s apartment.
In recent articles we learn that Whitcomb informed Austin’s mother that he was supposed to meet her son on the day he vanished, but after he was unable to contact him via cell phone, gave up and went about his own business. Apparently Whitcomb sent Austin a message about collecting scrap metal together, which they had done several times in the past, but he never replied.
So what did Whitcomb do that day? He claimed that he went to Manchester with a friend, Mark Rupple, but this turned out to be a fabrication. He said he was nowhere near Sharon that day, but cellphone data suggests otherwise. Whitcomb even neglected to give the correct surname of his friend to investigators. Rupple told the court that Whitcomb had called him asking for an alibi.
A couple of days before the reports came out naming Richard P. Whitcomb Jr as a suspect, he was taken into custody for possession of firearms and was detained in the West state correctional facility in White River Junction. Following the arrest, police gained possession of his cell phone and searched the contents to discover a Safari search inquiring about how long gunshot residue lasted before breaking down. Almost everything else on the phone had been deleted.
Whitcomb has been on the local police radar for some time, having committed a string of previous offences including a history of drug and alcohol abuse, aggravated domestic assault, violating probation, federal gun charges and drug trafficking.
On the 23rd of May 2018 police discovered human remains during a search in Norwich on Beaver Meadow road. Although the remains have not year been identified (as I write this) they were found during a search for Austin Colson.
The land on which the remains were discovered belongs to an individual called Bukk Carleton (of “Carleton family trust” in Norwich) who is a broker for the North East commercial realty. Carleton said in an interview that he only stayed at the West Lebanon home occasionally and didn’t have much else to say on the matter. The property is approximately 8 miles from the location of which the abandoned trailer was found. An online search attempting to find a connection between Whitcomb and Bukk Carleton turned up this article, which states that Whitcomb actually worked on the property at one point.
More information has recently come to light, including the fact that Whitcomb apparently dealt cocaine with Austin Colson. This article in Valley news states that the federal firearms charges he is currently facing derive from a cocaine deal he was involved in along with the missing teenager, where a handgun (presumably in his possession) was used as collateral.
What happened to Austin that day? Did he and Whitcomb, the only person of interest in the case so far, have a dispute over a drug deal that ended in the death of the teenager?
Austin has been missing for several months now, evidence and possible remains have been concealed beneath a blanket of snow that settled over Vermont during the winter months. Now four months after his disappearance (currently) unidentified remains have been found in an unstable barn on a semi-vacant property, just 20 minutes from where his trailer was found abandoned in mid-January. Austin’s family suspect foul play and just want to take him home and finally put him to rest.
For now, all they can do is wait.
UPDATE: The remains have been identified as that of Austin Colson.
If you have any information please contact Vermont State Police on 802-234-9933.