16-year-old Karlie Lain Gusé lived with her father Zac, stepmother Melissa and two younger brothers in Chalfant Valley, California, a small rural town with a population of less than 700. Karlie's biological mother, Lindsay Fairley, lives in Nevada.
Karlie held a part-time job as an assistant and attended Bishop Union High School, but was suspended shortly before her disappearance after being caught with marijuana on school grounds. She was forced to attend mandatory counseling sessions and reportedly phoned a suicide hotline a month before she seemingly fell off the face of the earth, never to be seen or heard from again.
On October 12, 2018, Karlie asked her stepmom Melissa Gusé if she could go to a school football game. Instead, she went to hang out with friends at a home in Bishop, 14 miles away, with her boyfriend Donald.
While there, Karlie purchased marijuana from 18-year-old Jaymes Dulin. A short time later, she began sobbing inconsolably, paranoid she was being tracked through her cell phone and was in danger.
As the night went on, Karlie grew increasingly anxious and eventually told Donald she wanted to leave and go to his house.
At 7:30 pm, Melissa called Karlie and asked if she needed a ride home. Karlie said she would hitch a ride back with Donald, but just a half-hour later, she called Melissa back and in a panic-stricken voice said:
“Nevermind, hurry up, I changed my mind. Come get me. Hurry, hurry hurry, I’m scared!”
Donald later wrote that they were halfway to his home when Karlie suddenly turned, gazed at him with a terrified look on her face, and began screaming his name:
“Me and Karlie did smoke. It was at my friend’s house, at like 7 pm, not a party. She got very scared, so we started walking back to my house. Karlie got scared and ran from me and called Melissa. That was the last time I saw her. She got scared of me and started screaming my name and then pushed me away and told me not to come near her and stay away, and that was when she called Melissa and started running. I tried to hold her and calm her down.”
The remainder is Melissa’s account of what happened on October 12 and 13. She was the last known person to see Karlie alive and has changed her story several times.
Karlie asked Melissa to pick her up from a trailer park in Bishop, but when she arrived a half-hour later, Karlie wasn’t there.
As Melissa continued driving down the road in search of her, she saw a small glimmer of light. Karlie was running down the street with her cellphone in her hand.
Karlie jumped in the backseat. She looked as if she had just seen a ghost. She was pale, her eyes were dilated, and she was behaving erratically, constantly moving from seat to seat, paranoid the car was going to kill her.
At this point, Karlie admitted she had not been at a football game and had smoked marijuana. She told Melissa she was afraid but when asked what was wrong, she said she didn’t know.
Some sources say that by the time Melissa and Karlie got home, Zac was heavily intoxicated and that both he and Melissa have a problem with drugs and alcohol and allowed Karlie to smoke marijuana in front of them since age 13.
Melissa claimed she spent the entire night trying to calm Karlie down, who flip-flopped between bouts of hiding in the corner afraid of her parents, to telling them how much she loved them.
At 10:30 pm, Melissa secretly recorded Karlie. She claimed her intention was to show Karlie how she behaved while on drugs.
Melissa refuses to release the full 8-minute and 45-second recording because she doesn’t want to embarrass Karlie:
Karlie: “I really messed up today.”
Melissa: “We all do things in life that we regret, drugs especially.”
Karlie: “If something were to happen, would you call 911?”
Melissa: “Of course.”
Later, Melissa told Karlie she should try to get some sleep.
Karlie: “No, I don’t want to go to sleep. You’re going to kill me.”
Melissa: “Why would I kill you? That’s preposterous.”
Karlie: “I’m just thinking all this demonic stuff. I can’t help it.”
On the recording, Karlie kept apologizing and saying “I love you” and “Hi” to her stepmother.
Melissa then made Karlie a salad, hoping it would help sober her up. Karlie took one bite, spit it out, and said, “I’m eating the devil’s lettuce!”
Karlie remained in a incoherent and disoriented state for the rest of the night, scribbling notes on a piece of paper. What exactly was written on the paper, remains a mystery to this day.
Melissa texted Donald and asked him about the marijuana Karlie had smoked. Donald claimed it was the same marijuana they always smoked, but that Karlie hadn’t smoked in a while and it may have triggered a bad reaction. Donald appeared concerned and asked Melissa to take care of Karlie. Melissa asked Donald to pray for her.
Karlie asked Melissa to spend the night with her coloring books, painting her toenails, and reading the bible. She insisted she could not be left alone. The pair eventually drifted off to sleep.
The next morning at 9:35 am, Zac called Lindsay in Nevada and told her that Karlie was “gone.” He then called the police and reported her missing.
In an interview with NBC Dateline, Melissa stated Karlie slept alone in her own bedroom. She claimed she woke up at 5:45 am to get the kids ready for school (two sons, ages 9 and 10), and that she checked on Karlie who was still asleep. When she checked on Karlie again at 7:30, she was gone. Melissa then went out to search for Karlie on her own. It was a story that never made sense since October 13 was a Saturday and schools would be closed. Four months later while on the Dr. Phil show, Melissa admitted she had lied.
Dr. Phil: “Melissa, you told NBC, the next morning that at 5:45 a.m., you did your usual routine of opening up the kids’ doors, saying good morning, getting them ready for school — that sort of thing. Did you — she was still in bed at that time. Did you go back and lay down?”
Melissa: “No. That — the Dateline NBC? Yeah, that was a false story. Because I wasn’t — it was a lie about checking in on Karlie. Because it was in the beginning, and I didn’t know what to say and — I shouldn’t have even done the interview.”
Zac defended his wife’s actions to Dr. Phil, “It was too early. You don’t know what to do. There’s no handbook for this, man.” He insisted Melissa played no part in Karlie’s disappearance.
Melissa’s second account is that she spent the entire night next to Karlie in her bedroom. When she woke up at 7:15 am, Karlie was gone and the front door was ajar. There was only one footprint consistent with Karlie’s found in the driveway. Her glasses, money and phone were all left behind.
Melissa then woke Zac up and they drove around together for two hours searching for Karlie, but could not locate her. When they returned home, Zac called Lindsay and the police, while Melissa posted a video about Karlie’s disappearance on Facebook Live.
Since Karlie’s disappearance, Melissa has posted several videos on Facebook Live. She appears to wipe away tears that aren’t there and her head and eyes dart around constantly, which some sources say is a clear sign of deception.
In the Facebook Live video, Melissa claimed Karlie was wearing a dark t-shirt and blue skinny jeans when she vanished, but when a neighbor reported seeing Karlie leave her neighborhood on the morning of October 13 wearing dark grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt, Melissa changed her statement and said Karlie was in fact wearing dark grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt. On the Dr. Phil show and on Nancy Grave, Melissa gave a third account, stating she last saw Karlie wearing a “t-shirt and underwear.”
In total, three eyewitnesses reported seeing Karlie the morning of October 13: a former teacher at Bishop High School who claimed to have seen her walking past his home at 7:30 am, a retired law enforcement officer who claimed to have seen Karlie walking by while he was in his enclosed jacuzzi between 6:30 and 6:45 am, and a man cutting firewood who claimed to have seen Karlie standing near a barbed wire fence on Highway 6 at 6:30 am.
Two out of the three eyewitnesses claimed that Karlie was walking around with a piece of paper in her hands, looking up at the sky.
A few days after Karlie vanished, Melissa and Zac reportedly took their car into an autobody shop. Melissa claimed she damaged the front bumper while “driving in the boonies.”
#1: Lindsay believes Karlie overdosed on October 12 and her body was disposed of by Melissa and Zac. She believes Karlie never left her home alive.
#2: Karlie was abducted while walking down Highway 6.
#3: It was still dark at 6:30 am. Karlie was disoriented and was hit by a vehicle while walking down Highway 6. The driver panicked and hid her body.
#4: Melissa and Zac harmed Karlie after they discovered she had lied about the football game and had done drugs.
#5: Karlie got lost, fell into a ravine/ditch and succumbed to the elements.
#6: Karlie was a victim of child sex trafficking. She is still alive but has been stripped of her identity.
#7: Karlie ran away from home
After a week-long foot, helicopter and horseback search, there was no sign of Karlie, and a year later the Mono County Sheriff’s Office stated that they were no closer to finding Karlie and that no one, including her family, has been cleared as suspects.
Karlie’s last text was to Donald. She wrote that she believed the marijuana she had smoked the night before was laced. The only arrest in the case has been that of Jaymes Dulin, the teen who sold the marijuana to Karlie. In January 2019, he pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
On February 11, 2021, Zac was arrested on an unrelated felony charge of corporal injury to a spouse. He was released from custody after posting a $50,000 bond.
Karlie’s case is still open. Tips can be called into the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at 760–932–7549 or 760–932–5678.
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