Early in the morning of January 23, 1992, Dean Curtis Mortensen disappeared. He had been in a pub called ‘The Ship’ at Lister Hall on campus.
Dean was a first year general science student at the University of Alberta St. Joseph’s College (SJC) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His case remains unsolved.
Ever since he vanished, the Rangers, his dorm’s intramural hockey team, have held vigil.
Around the date that Dean went missing in January, all residents and alumni gather in the St. Joseph’s College Chapel for a service to remember Dean. As a sign of respect, they dress in semi-formal attire.
Aside from this, SJC residents have the tradition to hang their hockey jerseys out their windows of the Men’s Residence Hall on Dean Mortensen’s Day. SJC staff, students, and residents wear blue ribbons. It is a very touching tribute to their teammate who played defense.
Every year the Dean Mortensen scholarship is awarded to a student who is active in intramural sports, has shown leadership skills, and who contributes to a safer campus.
Dean Curtis Mortensen
Dean Curtis Mortensen grew up in Grande Cache, a coal-mining town west of Edmonton. His father was a coal miner. He loved to play hockey and graduated top of his class. In some papers, Dean’s age is listed as 18, in others, including the Edmonton Police website, he is 19 years old. I have no exact date of birth. As soon as I do I will update this part.
Dean was in his first year when he disappeared. According to Stephen Beland, Dean “was a super-bright guy, and really responsible.” Beland also grew up in Grande Cache and lived down the dorm hall from Dean. “He was the only guy in the whole dorm who made his bed every day.”
On Jan 22, 1992, Dean used an ATM to withdraw $20 and that was all he carried that night. What exactly happened that night and in what order? Here are three issues that bother me.
In this article, it says that a groups of students went to ‘the Ship.’ The article says that Dean was 18 years old. He apparently was not a drinker but he did “down a couple of vodka slimes as the music blared. Beland specifically remembers watching his friend bob his head to AC/DC’s latest hit, Thunderstruck.”
However, in this article Dean had two or three beers and a couple of shots of vodka in five hours. It doesn’t mention any food that he might have eaten. The reason why I point this out is that the combo of beer and vodka for a person who is usually not a big drinker on an empty stomach, or without any additional snacks, can be disastrous combined with cold temperatures. More on that below.
2: how many people were in Dean’s party?
According to this article, Beland left the Ship before the others so he didn’t see in what condition Dean was when the latter left the pub.
The article also says that Dean left with two other friends. “They were halfway back to the dorm when the others decided to turn around and return to the pub. Mortensen kept walking.” Someone had forgotten something in the pub.
However, the Edmonton Journal of January 28, 1992 says that Dean “left just after midnight with another friend” from SJC. Just one. Apparently, they were near the Butterdome. They agreed to meet there says the paper but in other newspaper articles Dean just walked on. Waiting at night in those cold temperatures? I’d think that Dean would walk on towards the dorm and there, inside, wait for his friend)s). But, no paper states what happened for certain.
Last, according to this article, Dean left the pub alone.
3: the next morning and who opened Dean’s door
The story about the next morning has some vagueness too. Obviously, Dean was missing classes.
In this article, It says that when Dean “didn’t show up for supper that night, a frantic Beland convinced the prefect to unlock his friend’s door. The bed was still made. Nothing was missing or out of place.”
In this article, Beland forced the door open around 1pm after Dean had not shown up for his morning classes.
So when was Dean’s door opened and by whom? When was he really noticed and reported as missing?
An extensive search party was launched and questions were asked. Was Dean depressed? Did he ever mention suicide? Did he have any enemies? Detective Murray Scott who handled the case back then thought that Dean might have wondered into the river and drowned. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for suicide though and Dean did not lead a dangerous lifestyle.
The night that Dean Curtis Mortensen vanished he was wearing the following clothing: Nike running shoes, faded blue jeans, and a dark blue St. Joe’s Rangers hockey jersey. He also wore his “Grande Cache Bantam Elks Hockey” crested leather jacket with white leather sleeves, gold leather shoulders, and white leather collar. One sleeve has ‘Dean’ printed on it, the other sleeve has ‘Defence’ on it.
I have not read anywhere that this very unique leather jacket was ever found. I hope that the Edmonton Police are still keeping an eye out on websites such as Ebay to see if it pops up.
As for the St. Joe’s Ranger crested dark blue baseball cap, it was later found, see below. As always, I think this cap should be examined for touch DNA with the M-Vac.
According to the papers, the overnight low was -10C so around 14F. If Dean fell somewhere, was unconscious, the cold alone would be enough to eventually kill him. However, if Dean just passed out outside, why was he never found? He was not that far from the dorm.
I read that the nearby Saskatchewan river valley was searched but nothing was found. On January 31, 1992 however, a librarian found the St. Joe’s Rangers cap that Dean was wearing that night. This is the only clue that police have in this case.
The above-mentioned cap was found in an alley near 108th street and Saskatchewan Drive close to High Level bridge. This only clue might hint at Dean wandering around and off campus. At the same time, someone could have stolen it from Dean and discarded it elsewhere. But either way, no remains were found in that area either.
On February 7, 1992 the Edmonton Journal posted that City Police have ended their search for Dean. “Police consider his disappearance unusual but not suspicious.”
The Edmonton Journal of January 21, 1993 mentioned that his parents watch over his bank account. It had about $3000 in it. No withdrawals, no movement, nothing.
There is of course the chance that Dean is buried somewhere as a John Doe. According to Edmonton Police he was 19 years old, the papers say 18. I will update this as soon as I know his date of birth. Dean is white, his height was 6′ 1″ and he was approx. 165 lbs.
If you have any information about Dean Curtis Mortensen please contact the Edmonton Police Service Complaint Line at 780-423-4567 or the Edmonton Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or leave your tip online. Dean’s EPS file number is #92-11461.
1: Hat tip to my Canadian friend HKS a.k.a. Klayoven on Twitter. She alerted me to Dean’s case.
2: I emailed SJC on July 1st, 2020 to ask for the exact photography credit for Dean’s picture. They responded and advised to contact the family. I am working on that. In the meantime, according to the rules of Fair Use and the fact that this is a research website, I leave the picture here. As soon as I have more information, I will make adjustments.