An investigation into the disappearance of American Fork resident Paul Swenson remains focused on his abandoned SUV — and on the as-yet-unidentified person whose belongings were found inside.
Two American Fork police detectives remain devoted to the case full time, despite a volunteer search effort being scaled back several days ago, Sgt. Josh Christensen said. A Unified police detective also recently joined the team, Christensen said, because many of the tips and sightings being reported to the department are originating in the Salt Lake Valley.
Family members have said Swenson, 30, complained of chest pain and wasn’t acting normally July 27 before leaving his home for an appointment in Salt Lake City. His family believes he never arrived.
The next morning, his car was found abandoned on the side of the road near Parkview Elementary, 970 S. Emery St. (about 1150 West), in Salt Lake City. Police believe several people did, in fact, see Swenson around Salt Lake City in the days immediately following his disappearance — but there have been no confirmed sightings.
Several odd items were found in Swenson’s car, such as a cellphone and a backpack full of clothing. Swenson’s family told police the items weren’t his.
Christensen said police believe their best bet in cracking the case is to track down who owns the items in the SUV. Police have worked to recover fingerprints and DNA from the vehicle, he said, and are awaiting results.
“That‘s our best [lead] we’ve got right now,” Christensen of the SUV and belongings.
Police continue to track Swenson’s phone and credit cards, but there’s no sign that they have been used.
Meanwhile, tips from around the Salt Lake City region — and around the country — continue to pour into the department daily, Christensen said. The detectives are working to follow up on many of them, he said, pulling video surveillance footage from various places where people say they have seen Swenson.
Investigators also warily keep an eye on Facebook and other social media, where tips and theories on Swenson’s disappearance spread. Christensen said many posts are so outlandish that they are easy to ”skim over.” And police are frequently tamping down rumors arising from the online chatter, like when reporters called last weekend, asking whether Swenson’s body had been found.
But police feel they can’t ignore the multiple Facebook pages dedicated to the search altogether: There could be a useful piece of information here and there, considering the widespread participation.
A primary ”Bring Paul Home” page has about 15,000 followers — but there are about a dozen other public and private Facebook pages also dedicated to the mystery, from a so-called ”Uncensored Discussion” page that has 16,000 members, to a page with 52 members called ”Where in the World is Paul Swenson?”
Swenson’s family, too, has been communicating about the case over social media, with his mother and brother writing lengthy Facebook posts about his disappearance in recent days. His wife, Ashlee Swenson, is a blogger with more than 50,000 followers on Instagram. She has been posting about him daily.
Christensen said he can’t recall an American Fork police investigation quite like this one.
“It‘s definitely up there with the top ones, in the attention it’s gotten,” he said.