The case of Dale Kerstetter details a 50-year-old man from Bradford Pennsylvania who went missing. Dale worked at Corning Glassworks as their overnight security guard and maintenance man who, just one day, wasn’t there when the next guy came to start his shift. The police were called in and started searching all over the facility. In his truck, they found his day pack, his keys still in the ignition, a full carton of cigarettes, and the holster for his .22 caliber pistol. Suffice to say Dale wasn’t planning on going anywhere…and he was one hell of a chain smoker (a carton of cigarettes contains 10 packs which equal 200 individual cigarettes. So, yeah. Hell of a chain smoker).
The police had the initial thought that Dale suffered from some sort of stroke or medical issue (which is weird because they searched the building and couldn’t find his body) so they brought in a dog to track his scent. Dale’s scent was tracked throughout the plant — even deviating from his usual security route and ending up at the glass furnace. Of course, the immediate thought was that Dale’s body was incinerated in the furnace — especially because the dog picked up no further trace of Dale after that point. The police ruled that out, though, since the furnace hadn’t even been switched on that night. Next, the police checked out the security tapes.
When the police looked at the security footage they almost immediately saw a masked man with a winter coat walking around the back of the plant. At some point, that masked man is seen conversing with Dale but there isn’t really any indication as to whether that seemed like a volatile conversation or not. The masked man then coerces Dale to begin walking with him toward the second floor’s exit. As they are leaving, Dale looks directly into the security camera, which soon became a topic of debate. The last time the camera picks up the masked man, he is seen wheeling a large bag out of the building — a bag that most likely contained Dale’s body. Well, that depends on what theory you think is the most believable.
Theory #1 — Dale Was A Victim
This theory is, in my opinion, the most viable and straightforward. It goes a little something like this: Dale was sitting down in the cafeteria about to eat his 11:00 pm snack when he noticed something going on. He got up to check and was confronted by the masked man. At gunpoint, the masked coerced Dale into doing his bidding and then marched Dale to a section of the plant where he was going to kill him. Sensing he was about to get killed due to that gun in his back, Dale looked directly at the security camera to signal for help. You see, at the company’s headquarters, there is a worker who coordinates with all the security guards on the overnight shifts. When Dale didn’t check in for a good 8-hour time span, that should have alerted the worker who would have looked at the security cameras to see what was going on. Unfortunately, he was new and didn’t know the protocol (which…seems like a reason to question his ability to do his job) so there was no concern over Dale not checking in. Unsurprisingly, Dale’s family — aside from his son (I’ll get to that in the next theory) — align themselves with this theory. They point to the fact that his car was left in the condition of someone who was not expecting to leave as evidence of that.
His former employers — and his son — don’t really see it that way.
Theory #2 — Dale Was In On It
This theory is mostly driven by Dale’s former employers (some investigators as well). If you watched the Unsolved Mysteries segment on this, you would think there was a longstanding feud between Dale and the glassworks company. They theorize that Dale was working alongside a former, disgruntled employee to steal from the plant. The masked man appeared to move so seamlessly throughout the plant that it gave investigators the impression that he was someone with extensive knowledge of the building. As for a motive? Dale was apparently about $40,000 in debt with various payments and had just received a demotion (which landed him the security job in the first place) that saw him taking more than a $5,000 pay cut on his salary. It bears mentioning that — during this whole ordeal — $250,000 worth of platinum was taken from the plant by the masked man. Those that believe this theory see Dale’s displays on camera as him flaunting his crimes; his look directly at the camera as his lasting impression before he disappeared with their money. In one of the more odd interviews on Unsolved Mysteries, Dale’s son said that his dad probably took the money and went somewhere overseas with the plan to return after the statute of limitations had run out and “they couldn’t touch him”. Yes, he actually said that.
Theory #3 — Dale Was Double Crossed
This theory is more or less a fusion of the first two. This theory puts out the possibility that Dale was working with the masked man but was killed once he had helped him secure the platinum. This theory makes zero sense to me. My biggest gripe with that theory is that I don’t really believe Dale was in on it. I can’t imagine that Dale would parade himself all over the camera in such an ambiguous way only to give a debatable look to the camera before disappearing. If Dale were really “flaunting his crime” as the investigators and his former employers suggest, there would be way less confusion surrounding what was seen on the security footage. The one thing that does make sense to me with this theory is the state of Dale’s truck. If he showed up to work that day with the belief that he was going to be checking in, robbing the plant, and then taking off, it would make sense that he’d leave his truck in a condition that suggested he was expecting to return.
In 2019, the actual surveillance footage from that night was released to Dale’s family. Although the quality isn’t great, his family believes it was enough to exonerate him from any involvement in the theft. The family’s reaction to the footage directly contradicts the previous impression that investigators voiced during the Unsolved Mysteries segment. “Kerstetter explained the quality of the video is very poor, but it shows the intruder walking around inside the plant ‘cluelessly, really. If Dale were in on it, don’t you think he’d be helping the guy? If Dale was in on it, he would have known where the tools and implements were to break into the kiln,’ she said.”
Dale’s case remains unsolved. He was declared legally dead in July of 2014. Police have investigated several leads in the case, however, none of these theories have been confirmed. To this day, his whereabouts remain unknown.