On August 14, 1986, Jeremy Bright and his sister, S’te (pronounced ESS-TEE), embarked on an activity familiar to countless American children – they ventured to the fair. It was the 75th annual Coos County Fair and Rodeo in Myrtle Point, Oregon, an event that the Bright siblings eagerly anticipated every year. This particular summer held special significance as the duo had recently relocated with their mother, Diane Beatty, to Grants Pass, Oregon, following her separation from their stepfather the previous year. While their stepfather, along with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, still resided in Myrtle Point, Jeremey and S’te spent the week with their extended family before Jeremy commenced his freshman year in high school.
By all accounts, it was an unremarkable day, but at some point that evening, something went awry, and Jeremy vanished without a trace. The most reliable sighting of the boy occurred that night when he stopped by his grandmother’s tavern to request some money.
He was never seen again.
Jeremy and S’te spent the early afternoon together before parting ways around 1:30 PM. They arranged to rendezvous at the Ferris wheel at 5:00 PM. While S’te arrived as planned, Jeremy did not. She waited, eventually reporting his absence to a police officer, who reassured her that Jeremy would “eventually appear.” However, as the evening progressed, there was no sign of him.
It was later discovered that Jeremy had been seen at various locations that afternoon and evening, leaving uncertainty as to whether he was genuinely missing when S’te reported it to the police officer. He was supposed to be with his friend, Johnny, but the timeline of their togetherness remains unclear.
In truth, much of this story remains shrouded in ambiguity. There are conflicting reports regarding whether S’te spotted her brother near the Ferris wheel or witnessed him entering a pickup truck that afternoon. Moreover, contradictory accounts from family members suggest that he was still safe that evening. Jeremy’s mother claimed he called her from a payphone at the fair at 4:45 PM, a mere 15 minutes before he was scheduled to meet his sister. According to her, he sounded fine and gave no indication that anything was amiss.
Other relatives recounted that he visited his grandmother’s tavern at around 9:45 PM to acquire some money. If this account is accurate, it represents the last credible sighting of Jeremy.
It was later that night when Jeremy’s family began suspecting his disappearance. They contacted the police, who initially conducted minimal investigation. The case did not receive substantial media coverage initially either. The local newspaper eventually featured a brief article about Jeremy’s disappearance on the second page, five days after he went missing. The headline simply read, “Youth is missing,” accompanied by a concise description of Jeremy and the circumstances surrounding his vanishing.
Family members continue to believe that both police and media delays impeded the investigation, resulting in Jeremy never being found.
The local police, believing Jeremy had run away on his own, relegated the case to a lower priority. They surmised that he had used the fair as a means to disappear, citing his mother’s separation from his stepfather as a potential motive for escape.
When Jeremy’s mother arrived in Myrtle Point to aid in the search, she discovered that Jeremy had left his wallet, keys, and watch at his stepfather’s house, a peculiar act considering he would have needed his money and watch at the fair. Furthermore, the watch was new and held great sentimental value to Jeremy. She struggled to comprehend why he would abandon these possessions. The local police exploited this to further their theory that Jeremy had run away and would eventually return.
However, the Coos County Sheriff’s Office did not share this opinion. Sergeant Steve Dalton, assigned to the case, exhaustively pursued every lead available and asserted that he did not believe Jeremy had voluntarily departed. After extensive interviews with Jeremy’s family and friends, Dalton stated, “He was not the kind of young man to strike out on his own.”
The sheriff’s department shifted its focus to suspects and revisited S’te’s account of Jeremy entering a pickup truck. Allegedly, the driver of the truck was Jeremy’s former babysitter, Terry Lee Steinhoff. There were rumors that Jeremy might have attended a party with Steinhoff on the night of August 14, although these stories were never substantiated.
Another rumor suggested that Steinhoff’s brother, David, was seen with bloodstains on him the night Jeremy disappeared, but this claim also lacked verification.
While Steinhoff and his brother underwent police questioning, and their property was searched, they never became official suspects.
Nonetheless, Steinhoff had a propensity for violence. Several years later, he pleaded guilty to the murder of a woman named Patricia Morris. He ruthlessly stabbed her multiple times in the throat, leaving her lifeless body behind a bar in Coos County. Steinhoff died in prison from a drug overdose in 2007.
He remained a person of interest in Jeremy’s case until his demise.
Although decades have passed since Jeremy Bright vanished, his story continues to generate theories and conjecture. Some witnesses have suggested he was accidentally shot at a nearby lake, while others claim he was drugged at a party. The Coos County sheriff’s department pursued a tip that a man named Jeremy Bright was employed by a traveling circus in Florida. While authorities questioned the individual, it turned out to be a different Jeremy Bright.
One recent lead proposed that Jeremy’s remains were disposed of in a well in Coos County. Authorities searched the specified well but found no trace of him.
Jeremy’s friend, Johnny, reportedly experienced distress on the night of Jeremy’s disappearance and subsequently suffered from nightmares. Johnny passed away in 2011 without ever disclosing any knowledge of the events that transpired on August 14.
He was not the sole individual tormented by nightmares. When confronted with the myriad theories surrounding Jeremy’s case, his mother, Diane, revealed, “Each time I heard a new one, I’d be plagued by nightmares for a week or more.”
In 2011, on the 25th anniversary of Jeremy’s disappearance, the family held a memorial service to commemorate his life. While they assumed he perished on the day he vanished or shortly after, they still cling to the hope of closure. They firmly believe that his remains lie somewhere in Coos County, awaiting discovery.
Sheriff Craig Zanni has affirmed that his department diligently pursues every tip received regarding Jeremy’s case. He maintains a photograph of Jeremy in his office to forever memorialize the lost boy. Zanni once remarked, “I always think of the family, imagining them sifting through crowds, gazing at faces, wondering if they just missed him.”
Sheriff Zanni, haunted by Jeremy Bright, mirrors the sentiments of Jeremy’s family, as they all yearn for the day when the truth of his fate will finally be unveiled.