Rumors swirl after Duluth teen's disappearance
Duluth --The day he disappeared was spent swimming, watching playoff football, eating and drinking alcohol at a Superior, Wis., motel.
It wasn't a big party Sylvester McCurry and Keegan Couillard had Jan. 17 at the Superior Inn; it was two friends sharing a day before heading out to a Superior nightclub's no-alcohol party.
Later, McCurry, 18, was kicked out of the Stargate Nightclub for being intoxicated and, it seems, vanished. Police haven't said where the teens got the alcohol they drank at the motel, but they say they didn't get any from the Stargate. Police dogs tracked McCurry's scent to an outer door of the Superior Inn. There, the scent stops, and rumors begin.
All week, rumors have circulated at East High School, where McCurry is a senior, that his body was found in Lake Superior or frozen by a grain elevator. There have been rumors about his disappearance having a connection to gang activity, or that McCurry is hiding out at this house or that.
None of them are true, said Capt. Chad La Lor of the Superior Police Department.
No bodies, let alone McCurry's, have been found. And there is no credible information linking McCurry's disappearance to gang activity, he said, although police have looked into it.
"Potentially -- rumors are one thing -- but if people further those rumors and provide false information to police, they'll be facing criminal charges," La Lor said. "It's not helping find him by any means."
And it's hurting McCurry's friends and family, who have received text messages and phone calls alerting them to rumors.
"It's a little bit irritating that people would just make things up about somebody's life," said Couillard, 18, a 2009 Central High School graduate and a certified nursing assistant in Duluth.
McCurry has been friends with Couillard for several years and has lived with his family since August. A tightly knit relationship has formed between the family and McCurry.
Jennifer Couillard, Keegan's mother, has had a hard time sleeping, likening the rumors to "torment." She's thought about taking her kids' phones away and keeping them out of school so they don't hear what's being spread.
"I feel bad that I couldn't protect Sylvester from whatever happened to him, and now I feel like I can't protect my kids and family from these rumors," she said.
Police have followed dozens of leads during the past two weeks, "all of which basically fizzled out," La Lor said.
Dogs searched the area of his disappearance again Tuesday, interviews have been conducted and phone records searched. The St. Louis River bay area was searched by plane, and dogs and people searched the waterfront. No concrete information regarding his whereabouts or his disappearance has turned up.
The investigation will remain open until McCurry is found, La Lor said, and "as long as we still have leads to work on it will remain actively open."
Keegan Couillard recounted on Friday the day McCurry disappeared. He went to the Superior Inn at noon, and McCurry was dropped off at 3 p.m. They meant to have friends come to the room, but that fell through. McCurry couldn't swim because his finger was bandaged and in a splint. He was in a good mood, Couillard said, but was tired and napped for a while. They walked to Stargate around 10 p.m. and separated inside. Club video shows McCurry leaving at 11 p.m.
Couillard said he heard from a friend that McCurry's finger was bleeding through the bandage while at the club. When he left at midnight, he called McCurry's cell phone and got no answer. He assumed that his girlfriend had picked him up, or he'd left with other friends.
The next day, a school holiday, he called McCurry a few more times and checked with McCurry's girlfriend and other friends. He returned home and told his parents he didn't know where McCurry was.
McCurry had told the Couillards he was staying at the Superior Inn that night, but he told them it was for a birthday party. He respected Paul and Jennifer Couillard and liked having someone to be accountable to, they said.
McCurry struggled in school in past years and has had family troubles, but Paul Couillard said he has seen McCurry's "strong desire to change." McCurry maintained relationships with his family, had a financial aid meeting planned for last week, and was looking toward college and possibilities of becoming an attorney or going into real estate.
The gang-related rumors have been hard on the Couillards.
"You don't want to believe them, but they are always in the back of your mind," Jennifer Couillard said. "When Keegan wasn't home right away after work last night, my husband mentioned, 'Do I have to worry? Did they get Sly and they're now after Keegan?' You don't really believe it, but it puts in a little bit of doubt and a little bit of fear."