Suspect Arrested and Charged in 1986 Cold Case Disappearance of Indiana Teen Denise Pflum

The Fayette County Sheriff's Department have arrested and charged Shawn M. McClung with voluntary manslaughter in the 1986 disappearance of 18-year-old Denise Pflum

click to enlarge Shawn M. McClung has been arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter in the 1986 disappearance of 18-year-old Denise Pflum - Photo:
Shawn M. McClung has been arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter in the 1986 disappearance of 18-year-old Denise Pflum

On July 9, investigators in Fayette County made an arrest regarding the 1986 cold case disappearance of Denise Pflum. Shawn M. McClung was charged with voluntary manslaughter, Fayette County Sheriff Joey Laughlin said in a press release.

Nearly 35 years ago, 18-year-old Pflum went missing on March 28, 1986, leaving behind only her Buick Regal in a neighboring township. Without any substantial evidence, Pflum’s family offered a $25,000 reward for any information about what happened to their daughter. 

At the time of her disappearance, Pflum was living at home with her parents and younger sister in Connersville, Indiana. The day of her disappearance, Pflum visited a farm to retrieve her purse, which she had forgotten after attending a high school party the night prior. She never returned home, her parents told TV show Dateline.

As a straight-A student with aspirations of becoming a scientist, it was unusual for Pflum not to return home without first alerting her parents. 

“We knew right away that something was wrong because she had never been out without our knowledge about where she was going to be. When the time unfolded into the next day and the subsequent next days then we knew we really had a problem,” her father, David, told NBC affiliate WTHR in 2018.

For years, the case went unsolved until recently when police arrested and charged McClung, Pflum’s ex-boyfriend, with voluntary manslaughter. Sheriff Laughlin, who led the investigation along with Detective Chad Blaes, says he was only 7 years old when he began searching for Pflum with his grandparents. 

“The information and probable cause alleges that McClung previously claimed that Pflum was still alive, but has recently admitted that he killed her in March of 1986,” the Fayette County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

The investigation is ongoing. McClung pleaded not guilty during a court appearance, according to records. His bond was set at $500,000.

“This is just a start, there will be more to follow, which we cannot comment on at this point,” Pflum’s parents said in statement on the Facebook page Justice for Denise Pflum. “We appreciate all of the love and support that you have shown us. We appreciate that Denise has become like family to all of you. Our daughter was a special person whom we will never forget, and we know that this community will not forget.

"We are so grateful for all of those who have followed her story, who have helped with the investigation, and who have shown support and love. At this time we ask that you respect our privacy, and allow us the time we need to mourn and grieve our beloved daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin and friend. Denise was a wonderful young woman, her light is never gone. Her love will always remain with us, and with all of you. Thank you for all of your help. We love and appreciate every one of you.”

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