Mark Burleigh was released from the Humboldt County Correctional Facility in mid-October 2017. From this point Mark’s movements become murky. On October 15, Mark’s mother, Jennifer, spoke with him on the phone where she said he told her, “he loved me and he was looking forward to Thanksgiving”. Some of Mark’s friends indicate he ascended the infamous Murder Mountain. Others have indicated he was homeless in the Eureka to Arcata corridor. As far as his mother knows, after receiving her son’s phone call he was “never been seen or heard from since”.
Humboldt County had been Mark’s home since he was 8-years-old. The Burleigh family moved to Miranda in 1992. His mother Jennifer recalls Mark’s childhood passion for chess, basketball, and swimming. At 17, she said, an adult in the neighborhood “gave him his first line of meth” injecting instability into Mark’s adolescence. The influence of drugs led Mark to attend an alternative school in Southern Humboldt where he explored woodshop, poetry, and mathematics. Though “kind and loving”, the drug use led him to be “in and out of jail since he was 18 for nothing really big: drunk in public, not taking care of court issues.”
According to a friend of Mark’s since childhood who asked to remain anonymous, his adult life consisted of itinerant homelessness throughout Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. He stayed with his mother in Miranda until he was 24 when he began a nomadic life living with friends and employers. His employment in the Emerald Triangle’s marijuana industry was punctuated by periods of jail time where he sought completion of his GED. Mark became a father in February 2014 and expressed a desire to “sober up” so he could be a part of his child’s life.
The last time Jennifer saw Mark in person was in September 2017. He was released from the Mendocino County Jail and she picked him up in Willits to take him north. Before departing Willits, they stopped at a gas station that had agreed to give Mark a unique Red Bull cooler. The pair proceeded to Alderpoint where Jennifer dropped him off.
Zach Harrison, the convicted murderer of Robert “Bob” James Holtsclaw, was one of Mark’s friends in the Alderpoint area. According to a conversation Jennifer had with Zach in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility, Zach gave Mark a ride to Fields Landing during this period of time.
Mark’s childhood friend questioned the accuracy of Zach Harrison’s claims. According to this friend, there had been rumors Mark was associating with a known Eureka methamphetamine dealer at this time and was seen at the Arcata Plaza on Halloween night 2017.
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Sam Williams offered insight into Mark’s last confirmed interactions with law enforcement: “As to his last known whereabouts, it is really not known for sure. What we know is that Mark was in custody at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility from the middle of September 2017, until the middle of October 2017 when he was released.”
After not hearing from her son for months, Jennifer reached out to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Williams recalled taking “a report from Jennifer Burleigh in February of 2018. She reported her son, Mark Burleigh, as a Missing Person. She had not seen him since September of 2017 and had not heard from him since December of 2017. The Patrol Division took a statement and completed the Missing Persons report, including having Mark added to the nationwide Missing Persons System.” Jennifer questions the accuracy of Lt. Williams timeline insisting there was no contact with Mark after the October 15 phone call.
HCSO’s investigation into Mark’s disappearance was stymied because of Mark’s history of substance abuse: “At the time the report was made, and even in the months after it, there was no mention of any foul play involved. Mark has had a long history with substance abuse problems, and this may have been an influencing factor in why it took so long for someone to report Mark as a Missing Person to begin with.”
Jennifer expressed confusion regarding the status of HCSO’s investigation of her son’s disappearance. Lt. Williams clarified HSCO’s personnel that have dealt with the search for Mark: “In January 2019, this case was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division. Detective Brawner was the investigating detective. He conducted a follow up investigation during the time he was assigned to the case. Detective Brawner transferred to the District Attorney’s Office as an investigator, and the case was re-assigned to Detective Taylor. Detective Taylor continued to work on the case with now DA Investigator Brawner. They conducted follow up as well, working together and sharing information. During the months of June through September, Sergeant B. Massaro also investigated the case. However, Detective Taylor is still the lead investigator.”
Mark’s fate remains unknown to law enforcement. Lt. Williams reported, “We have investigated several leads/tips in the case. We will continue to investigate any leads we get. As the case has progressed over time, there have been rumors that Mark may have been killed, although no evidence of that has been discovered.”
Jennifer Burleigh, Mark’s mother, longs for closure in the disappearance of her son. She remembers how he would always get off the phone “saying ‘I love you’ and thanking me for giving birth to him.”
Mark Burleigh was known by “Burley” to most of his friends. He was 6 feet tall, weighed 120 lbs, had a mole on his left cheek, and a 6-8 inch scar on his upper right arm. He was known to frequent Southern Humboldt but had connections as far south as San Francisco and as far north as Crescent City.
If you know anything about the location of Mark, Lt. Williams urges anyone who knows of Mark’s whereabouts to come forward: “We do not have a particular area for the public to look for Mark. He was generally in and around the Southern Humboldt area. We would encourage anyone with any information regarding Mark’s whereabouts to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.” Other reporting options include contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, message via Facebook, or call in a tip at (707) 560-1543.
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