Missing Bismarck man: Did he die and was buried on Oil Patch work site?
Nearly eight months to the day after his friend was last seen, Rick Lemke said he believes he knows what happened to Eric Haider, although the missing person investigation that was the talk of the town last summer has remained stagnant.
Haider, of Bismarck, was working at a construction site in Dickinson last May when he was reported missing. Although tips from the public filtered into the Dickinson Police Department and rumors circulated about the nature and cause of his disappearance, the mystery of what happened to Haider is apparently no closer to being solved.
Lemke -- and many others -- believed last spring that Haider was likely the victim of a jobsite accident and was buried, likely inadvertently, he said.
"To this day, I'm still 99.9 percent sure Eric's body is buried at that worksite," Lemke said Thursday. "I know there were rumors about him taking off because he owed money and things like that, but that never made sense to me. They never found his hardhat and he had a paycheck in his lunchbox."
An employee of Bismarck-based Cofell's Plumbing and Heating, Haider was last seen May 24 near Baker Hughes in Dickinson. Although authorities initiated the excavation of an area at the site where Haider was working the day he disappeared, Lemke said the dig was targeted at the wrong spot.
"There was a witness who said the area where (authorities) dug was not the same location where they were working that day," Lemke said. "I believe Eric's death was an accident, but I just think they were looking in the wrong place. Now that area is mostly paved over, so I don't know if they'll ever be another chance to look for him."
Haider said the witness lived near the worksite, although he doesn't remember the man's name. Although Lemke seems certain of his friend's whereabouts, Haider's family doesn't seem as sure. Maryellen Suchan, Haider's mother, has launched a new Facebook page titled "Eric Haider We Miss and want you home."
The family has also made flyers, which detail plans for volunteers to comb an area within a "100-mile radius" of Dickinson this spring in hopes of finding Haider, who's 32nd birthday would be in June.
"No, Eric did not walk off the job site like everyone is saying," Suchan said. "To this day, I have not heard one word from Cofell Plumbing and Heating and that's frustrating. I was Eric's emergency contact and I was never contacted. No, I don't have proof that Eric was buried at the jobsite, but I do know they only dug where Cofell told them to."
Suchan said her son's disappearance and the fact that there has been no closer has been extremely difficult for Eric's family and friends, especially his 12-year-old daughter Brynn Hastings.
"This has been an ongoing living nightmare for all of us," Suchan said. "This has turned our family upside down. I do believe in my heart that he's no longer with us, but I just pray that somebody has the decency to come forward, out of respect for his daughter if nothing else. We'll never stop looking or hoping until we find Eric."
Suchan also said she suspects funds and items donated to the family may have been misused. Lemke -- who no longer considers himself the family's spokesperson -- said he has no knowledge of donations being mishandled and added that "a couple hundred dollars" is what he remembers being raised.
Several phone messages left for the Dickinson Police Department last week requesting an update on the investigation into Haider's disappearance were not returned.