Michael VanZandt: What Could Have Happened to the Missing Father of Three in Hermosa Beach?

Michael VanZandt went to Hermosa Beach with his friends on the weekend of March 5, 2016. He was last seen stepping out to buy some liquor. Over two years later, VanZandt is still missing. A documentary on Investigation Discovery that attempts to shed new light on this disturbing case will air on May 20.  

It was a rainy Saturday evening in the resort town of Hermosa Beach, a beachfront city in the Los Angeles County, when then 36-year-old Michael VanZandt, who lived in Lancaster, met his friends at The Underground bar to watch a UFC fight. There are videos of VanZandt watching the fight, and having a good time with his friends.

About Michael David VanZandt
GenderMale
Height6 feet
Weight190 lbs
SiblingsTyler VanZandt, Charles Nazaruk
ParentsRobyn Gretz, Keith Gretz
MISSING SINCEMarch 5, 2016
LAST KNOWN LOCATIONHermosa Beach, Los Angeles County
AGE AT THE TIME OF DISAPPEARANCE36 Years

The group planned to stay at a nearby motel that night. After the fight, they went to Hermosa Beach’s Pier Plaza, a very popular hangout spot that VanZandt previously went to. 

A War Veteran

At the time, VanZandt worked as a Unit Training Manager. He was responsible for training security forces at Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County, Southern California, about 22 miles from Lancaster. VanZandt was in the midst of an amicable separation from his wife, Krishain VanZandt, with whom he had three children. 

By all accounts, Michael VanZandt was a loving father to his children. The veteran returned unharmed after completing two tours in Iraq. 

Michael VanZandt with Kids

Michael VanZandt with his Kids (Photo: @HelpFindMichaelDavidVanzandt/Facebook.com)

Just Stepping Out

Later that night, VanZandt got in line at American Junkie with some friends. Needing to use the bathroom and not wanting to wait in the bar’s long line, he went next door to Roberts Liquor for a bathroom. He was seen on film going to the parking lot towards the back of the liquor store. He is then seen looking out, before going back to Pier Plaza.

In the meantime, his friends went to other bars, and tried to call his cell phone, but it died. VanZandt’s brother, Tyler, claimed that there were at least 20 outgoing calls to VanZandt that night. Cameras captured VanZandt walking around Piers Plaza for the next two hours looking in bars, presumably searching for his friends.

Last Confirmed Visual

He then returned to Roberts Liquor where he bought a drink. Though the store’s records confirmed how much he paid, it reportedly did not include what he purchased. VanZandt eventually headed back to the beach, and was seen on camera heading northeast in the parking lot of The Mermaid bar at 11:27 p.m. Then, he vanished. For over two years, Michael Van Zandt has not been seen or heard from.

His brothers Tyler VanZandt and Charles Nazaruk, mother Robyn Gretz, stepfather Keith Gretz, three children, and their mother Krishain VanZandt, have been waiting for any news about Michael’s whereabouts.

Tension Rapidly Builds Up

The next day, Sunday, March 6, 2016, when VanZandt did not return to the hotel and his car was not moved, his friends worriedly called hospitals and jails, hoping to find some information about him. When VanZandt did not show up for work on Monday, a colleague, and a friend who was out with him on Saturday night filed a missing person’s report.

Another of VanZandt’s friends drove down to Hermosa Beach, looked at his car and searched around for him before going to the Hermosa Police Department and reporting VanZandt missing. In the meantime, Tyler VanZandt, who was living in Baltimore, Maryland, got the call that Michael was missing. He knew that his brother was supposed to take his son for surgery that Monday,  and never would have missed that.

Brothers Join the Search

Tyler did not want to alarm his family, so he did not immediately tell his parents about Michael’s disappearance. Instead, he booked a flight to Los Angeles for Tuesday, March 8, 2016, and was soon joined by Charles. They met Michael’s estranged wife, who helped with the search. 

Tyler went to Hermosa Beach and immediately met Detective Joshua Droz, who told him that Michael’s disappearance was the department’s top priority. However, Tyler had a feeling that an adult missing in Hermosa Beach would not cause much panic, because it happened often.

Michael VanZandt

Michael VanZandt (Photo: @HelpFindMichaelDavidVanzandt/Facebook.com)

Hiccups in the Investigation

The investigation soon met obstacles. There were no witnesses, nor were there sightings of Michael VanZandt on camera past 11:27 p.m. A search dog was not brought in until weeks after VanZandt’s disappearance. Had police brought the dog in sooner, his family believes it may have been able to find VanZandt’s scent past Roberts Liquor.

The Hermosa Police Department has been investigating VanZandt’s disappearance, but has still not found anything. The Air Force and Coast Guard also conducted their own investigations, but could not find clues about Van Zandt’s mysterious disappearance.

Likely Scenarios of Disappearance

In a recent interview, Detective Droz said that they could not find any evidence that pointed to suicide or foul play. None of his belongings were found, and his cell phone records showed no updated calls. Droz added that he assumes an accident is the most likely cause of VanZandt’s disappearance. He believes that the father of three may have been hit by a wave, or possibly fell off the pier while at the beach.

There are several theories about VanZandt’s disappearance. Some believe he might have gone for a swim after drinking, and could have drowned, or had his body dragged off by a current. However, in these cases, a body typically shows up. 

Hoping for a Breakthrough

Michael VanZandt’s family has a glimmer of hope in discovering what happened that fateful night, thanks to a new episode of Investigation Discovery’s documentary series, Disappeared that is scheduled to air on Sunday, May 20, 2018.

While Tyler VanZandt moved to Redondo Beach in July 2016 to search for his missing brother, Robyn and Keith Gretz went to Hermosa Beach for the first time in May 2018. Their intention was to make peace with their monumental loss, and go to the place where their beloved son was last seen. Many who are following the case are hoping that new details may be discovered, and new light can be shed on this case.

Michael VanZandt’s disappearance will be the focus of Sunday night’s episode of Disappeared, which will air at 9:00 p.m. EST. 


Advertisement