Vest, Darwin K. – Idaho Falls, Idaho 1999

Idaho Falls, Idaho – On the night of June 2, 1999, Darwin Vest went out to the Frosty Gator with friend Eric Seneff, later joined by James “Lee” Curtis. Darwin then moved on to the Golden Crown Lounge on Shoup Street for a nightcap. Curtis joined him and Seneff went home. At some point, Curtis left to get money at an ATM and when he returned, Darwin was gone. Curtis may have been gone as long as 30 minutes according to his own statement. A waitress stated she saw Darwin leaving via the stairs to the alley. This happened roughly between 12:30 and 1:00AM, June 3, 1999. There are discrepancies as to which cab company and driver took Lee Curtis home.

Rewind back to March of 1996. Don Ellingford of Idaho Falls is arrested on charges of beating up a man, taking his wallet, then using the victim’s credit card to pay for a hotel room. The victim? Darwin Vest. Ellingford was sentenced to 3 years, and released from the state penitentiary on those charges a few months before June of 1999. Ellingford was on daytime work release at the Community Work Center when Vest disappeared, checking in the night of June 2, 1999. Reports indicate he was accounted for at 21:45, 02:05, and 04:15. Vest’s mother reported Darwin was upset Ellingford had been released to the Idaho Falls Work Center and not notified. Ellingford was questioned and denied any knowledge of Vest’s disappearance.

The next night, Edward Sangston, an inmate at the Community Work Center, slipped out undetected from a bedroom window sometime between 10:45 PM June 3rd and 2:00AM June 4th. He was eventually found and charged.

In the summer of 2000, an Idaho Falls police officer recalled asking a male subject (described as possibly a transient and intoxicated) to move away from the edge of the river. This occurred June 3, 1999 after 10 PM, almost 22 hours after Darwin went missing.

A woman in Shelley thought she saw a body floating in the water on June 3, 1999 and called police. The river was searched and only a large barrel was found.

In July of 2011, a prison inmate reported to Detective Grimes he had further information about Vest’s case. Prosecutor Bruce Pickett advised police he was aware of the inmate’s information, and that he (Pickett) had been in touch with the man’s attorney and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. Pickett stated that when a decision was made as to what actions should be taken, he would contact the officer. There are no further additions to the report after this statement and it became inactive. (current info as of April 2015)

When Darwin Vest went missing, he was wearing a black leather jacket, Levis, the watch in the attached photo, a brass snake belt buckle, a wallet, keys, and a key chain made of bike chain links.

Note – Darwin had also given testimony in the case of Leo and Mary Downard, an elderly couple murdered in Ammon, Idaho in 1992. Darwin’s testimony contradicted Jeff Smith’s testimony.   Lanny and Jeff Smith of Idaho Falls were charged, later the case against Jeff was dismissed and Lanny convicted.

Darwin liked to walk along the river and some believe he fell in. Others believe his disappearance is suspicious.

Contact the Idaho Falls Police Department or Crime Stoppers of Bonneville County/Idaho Falls  if you have information about the disappearance of Darwin Vest.

View his NamUs record

1999 Vest collage
1999 Vest