The disappearance of Lena Chapin from Dent County will be the subject of an UNSOLVED MYSTERIES episode premiering July 1 on Netflix. The episode, titled “Missing Witness,” will be one of six released through Netflix relaunching the series on its online streaming service. An additional six episodes are to be released later this year.
Chapin was last seen at an apartment outside Steelville on Valentine’s Day 2006. The Dent County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating the incident as a missing persons case since 2012. Its investigators report Chapin has not been seen since, nor has her social security number been active.
As reported by The Salem News in 2015, the circumstances leading up to Chapin’s disappearance include her being recorded confessing to helping her mother cover up the alleged 1999 murder of her stepfather, George McCollough, in Barry County.
The official episode description of “Missing Witness” further describes, “At age 17, a guilt-ridden Lena Chapin confessed to helping her mother dispose of her murdered stepfather’s body four years prior. In 2012, Lena was issued a subpoena to testify against her mother in court, but the authorities were never able to deliver the summons — because Lena had disappeared, leaving behind a young son.”
Among the local residents interviewed for the UNSOLVED MYSTERIES episode are Detective Rick Letchworth of the Dent County Sheriff’s Office and Staff Writer Andrew Sheeley of The Salem News and Phelps County Focus.
As part of the episode’s release, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES will forward any investigative tips it receives to the Dent County Sheriff’s Office. In announcing the relaunch of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, producers Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove of Cosgrove/Meurer Productions [CMP] cite this aspect as central to the series’ purpose. A CMP press release states:
“CMP is proud that UNSOLVED MYSTERIES was the first television series to ask viewers to help solve actual mysteries — and the concept worked. At the end of each episode, we had a 1-800 number for viewers to call with tips. On the night of a broadcast, 30-40 operators were ready to take calls at our phone center, and law enforcement was usually on hand to vet leads when the phones lit up. Whenever a cluster of calls originated from a single region, that was a good sign that the case would be solved. Sometimes police even made an arrest the same night as the broadcast. One fugitive captured as the result of the series actually exclaimed, "UNSOLVED MYSTERIES! That's my favorite show,” as he was led away in handcuffs.
“We’ve seen how unanswered questions can haunt families and detectives for decades. People reach out to us because they appreciate the life-changing power of our show, and trust that we will present each case’s facts in an honest, balanced way. Thus far, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES has helped solve over 260 cases. Just this spring, our thorough research and record-keeping aided in solving a 30-year old case. It's gratifying to know we’ve had an impact on people’s lives.”