In March of 2016, a man by the name of Chip Campbell was picked up on the security cameras of a Circle K gas station in Milton, Florida. This would be the last verified footage of the man, who had been going through some serious issues in the preceding months.
December 21st, 2017 Micheal Whelan
Milton, Florida, is a little dot in Santa Rosa county, with a population somewhere around 10,000. The town is most well-known for the Naval Air Base housed within its borders, Whiting Field, which is one of the US Navy's two primary pilot training bases.
However, for others, Milton is known for a few other things: most notably it's climate, which earned the town the 19th century nicknames of "Hell Town" because of its incurable humidity and rash of living pests, like mosquitos. Some even called it "Scratch Ankle," because of the briar patches that grew below knee-level along the rivercreeks and swampbeds.
Milton is also known for a surprising amount of professional athletes that graduated from the town's school district in the 1990s and early 2000s. Football players Cortland Finnegan and Lawrence Tynes graduated from Milton High School, along with professional golfers Heath Slocumb and Boo Weekley. Casper Van Dien, the actor most notable for being the lead in the feature film adaptation of "Starship Troopers," also lived in Milton for a period of time.
However, the thing that Milton has become known for in recent years, is a rising population that is addicted to serious drugs.
Now, for the record, I am not vilifying Milton alone in this issue. The entire First Judicial Circuit, which includes Escambia, Okaloose, Walton, and the entirety of Milton's Santa Rosa County, has seen a dramatic increase of drug use in the area, which has led to some fatal results.
Florida alone saw less than 100 heroin-related deaths in 2010 and 2011. In 2014, that number had increased to over 447, according to the Santa Rosa Press Gazette, and that number continued to rise through 2016, with the death of 779 people. Many attribute this to the addition of the drug fentanyl to many heroin concoctions, but it is indeed indicative of a larger problem plaguing the area.
Outside of heroin and other opiates, Milton, has become infamous in the local area for featuring an outlandish number of stories involving methamphetamine. If you simply search for stories involving the town itself and the word "methamphetamine," you'll be greeted by a host of stories regarding meth labs being discovered, dealers arrested with hundreds of grams of the drug, you name it. Throughout my digging, I even found a meme a longtime Milton resident had made, with someone joking about being able to get meth from forty-seven different people but being unable to find any good weed.
While that may sound a bit funny, I do want to remind you that for every joke, there is an un-ironic truth behind it. That, while I may reference statistics in regards to drug casualties, for every single number that gets added to the pile, there are numerous people involved who have their hearts broken: not just family and friends, but coworkers and neighbors of those afflicted, who had no idea there was anything wrong with the person they knew until it was too late.
Every drug addict has a story to tell: something that started them on the wrong path moving forward. Very, very few addicts get to choose their addiction; they may have made a snap decision to try something, but that addiction soon consumes them, and eventually, begins to define them as a person.
I think it's important that we remember that. That while it's easy to brush off addicts as junkies or somehow lesser than us, that at the end of the day, they're just people who - at one point - were looking for an way to escape some kind of pain or turmoil.
On March 8th, 2016, in this small western Florida town, a man by the name of Chip Campbell would be seen for the last time. He was picked up on the security camera of a Circle K gas station, heading to the back bathroom.
For those that knew Chip, this video was a revelation. He looked like a shell of his former self: his hair long and unkempt, his appearance gaunt and thin. He looked disheveled, and many that knew him describe this as looking like an entirely different person from the brother, friend, and coworker they once knew.
Chip was carrying two backpacks: one he was wearing on his back, and the other he was carrying. This same security camera picked up Chip leaving the Circle K gas station, surprisingly, without both backpacks.
Chip, who had been known by everyone as a quiet, sensitive guy - a "gentle giant," as described by his sister, Laura - promptly disappeared. After stepping out of that gas station on March 8th, at some time between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, he would simply vanish.
While the content of the two backpacks he had left in that bathroom would point to a larger, more complicated mystery, I find Chip's story to be a tragedy. This is the story of someone who was misunderstood, who never quite found his place in this world: that, despite having an exterior persona of love and affection, he had battled depression and loneliness for his entire life. When he finally began to fall on hard times, he viewed it as his own struggle and refused to share his inner grief with those around him, eventually culminating in a mystery that has gone on for two years now.
This is the story of Chip Michael Campbell.
Reggie Campbell was a cookie distributor living in western Florida.
Throughout the first half of the 1970s, Reggie seemed to have a great life. He was married, with four kids - three daughters, named Laura, Lesa, and Donna - and one son. Despite the children varying in age, the family was very close-knit.
In 1975, Reggie's wife passed away from leukemia. He found himself on the verge of being a young widower, with four children to care for. Family members would ask Reggie whether he wanted to have the kids live with them for a short period of time, just until he got back up on his foot, but Lesa recalls Reggie telling them "my children are my reason for living."
This would become a theme that has run through the Campbell family in the years and decades since: care for those you consider family, even when you don't have the means to help them.
While Reggie was struggling to recover from the loss of his wife, another story was unfolding nearby.
A woman named Shirley Gray had been married to her husband, and the two had struggled to have a child throughout their marriage.
Shirley would find out from doctors, after a series of miscarriages, that she would likely never be able to have kids. So she and her husband decided to adopt an infant daughter, who - funnily enough - was also named Donna.
When baby Donna was three years old, Shirley's husband passed away from an illness. Just like Reggie, she found herself as a single parent, struggling to find her way through life.
Reggie and Shirley ended up falling in love, in what their family recall as being a whirlwind romance. Before long, they were married, becoming a full family once again.
As luck would have it, Shirley soon found herself pregnant. This would be the only child from their union, but it resulted in a son, whose story I am bringing to you today: that of Chip Michael Campbell.
Chip Michael Campbell was born on December 18th, 1979, at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, which is roughly an hour southeast of Milton.
As his sisters describe it, Chip was the baby of the family in more ways than one. He was the youngest of six children, from two separate families, completing their "Brady Bunch" set. He was also brought home in a Christmas stocking, becoming the family's little "Christmas miracle."
Things remained happy for a short period of time, but before long, tragedy would strike at this young, burgeoning family. Chip's mother, Shirley, continued to suffer from her medical ailments, ultimately culminating in her untimely passing when Chip was just seven years old.
Many think that Shirley's passing may have altered the trajectory of Chip's life, turning him into the quiet man he would eventually become.
After his mother's passing, Chip would become morbidly obese, which earned him a good amount of taunting and bullying from kids at school. His best friend, Dennis, and his older siblings would try their best to defend him when they could, but even that would further cement Chip into the role he had earned within the family: that of the baby, of the one everyone cared for.
Many consider this time period, following the death of his mother and when his issues began to present themselves, that Chip began to pull into himself. He had never really been outgoing, so-to-speak, but he began to withdraw and become overwhelmingly quiet and shy.
His obesity eventually turned into an actual health concern for Chip, when he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in elementary school. This meant that he would require daily insulin shots, something that would impact his daily life.
Chip loved to play video games, starting with the Atari as a child, and continuing to make his way through various consoles in his life. His sisters recall being unable to keep up with the many "Playstations and Nintendos" he played with, but they do recall one of his major passions in life being music.
While in school, most notably at Milton High School, Chip began to play the saxophone. And, according to those that heard him play, he excelled at it. They say that he was able to create sounds with the saxophone that they had never heard before, bringing all of his inner turmoil into the music itself, creating something that was equal parts tragic and beautiful.
Throughout his life, Chip always remained close with his father.
Being the baby of the family, Chip was the last one still living at home in his formative teenage years. He remained close with his siblings and other family members, of course, but his father Reggie was the one that always seemed to understand Chip. To hear Chip's siblings talk about it, it seems like the two had a bond that the others didn't.
Chip would continue to live in Reggie's house, on-and-off throughout his life, finding odd jobs in the area, but never really seeming to find a career. Like he had as a child, it seems like Chip had a hard time trying to establish his own identity.
A term that many use to describe Chip is "gentle giant." From everything I've learned about Chip, this expression fit him to a 'T'. He had grown up quiet and thoughtful, indulging in quiet hobbies that allowed him to be on his own. He continued to play the saxophone, eventually being able to pull off a beautiful rendition of "Set Fire to the Rain" by Adele. His sister Lesa says that song now holds a special place in her heart, because of how much emotion Chip was able to put into it.
Chip loved to garden, growing plants and vegetables in the yard. He gave out cactus plants for Christmas one year, and his sisters still have some of these plants. He loved to collect antiques, and he loved to do water-related activities, such as fishing.
To hear his friends and family talk about him, it makes you feel like you know Chip... or at least someone just like him.
At the time of his disappearance, Chip was working at a Denny's diner in Cantonment, a small town roughly 20 miles away from his home. His sister Laura has described his omelets as being the best on the planet, and I'm inclined to believe her.
Chip lived on-and-off at his father's home in Milton, until his father started suffering from health issues. His father, Reggie, was sent to live in a assisted-living facility after suffering a stroke in April of 2015.
This meant that, for the first time ever, Chip was living in a home by himself. Well, at least, he was mostly by himself. You see, while having that house to himself, he met the love of his life... no, not a woman, but a young pup named Harley.
On Chip's Facebook page, which is still live and hasn't been touched in nearly two years, you can find a handful of pictures. Roughly half of them feature Harley. Many think that Chip's love of Harley was indicative of Chip's nature: he loved to care for others, and that shined whenever he was around Harley.
His friend, John Claudio, who went through a nasty divorce and custody battle a couple of years ago, describes Chip as being a friend who helped him out in his time of need. Chip allowed John to stay in the home for a matter of months, before things started to get sketchy.
In the year before his disappearance, things began to fall apart for Chip Campbell.
According to his friends and family, Chip had begun associating himself with people that - many believe - were bad influences. These friends began introducing toxic elements to his life, such as drugs.
However, many think that this backslide may have begun beforehand, as the loneliness of living alone began to creep into Chip's life.
To hear his family talk about Chip, they were never really aware of any romantic relationships in Chip's life. He was very quiet about things, but he never really talked about girls he was close to, or having a serious fling with anyone.
In the years before his disappearance, Chip had begun to slightly unravel. While his father Reggie still lived at home, he had begun binge-drinking, turning into something that was deemed a problem.
At one point, Reggie had apparently found Chip outside the home, passed out behind the wheel of a car. That was when Reggie sent Chip to go live with his oldest sibling, sister Laura, for a period of time. She recalls trying to get him into rehab and Alcoholic's Anonymous. It worked for a short time, but then the loneliness and the shadier acquaintances in his social circle began to creep back in. He had two DUI-related incidents happen in the years prior to his 2016 disappearance, including one that I'll get to shortly.
Chip had a couple of good friends in his life, such as John Claudio - who knew Chip as an adult, and his buddy Dennis, who had grown up with Chip. But outside of that, he only really had his family - who all lived relatively close, but had their own families to care for and careers to nurture.
Chip began hanging out with friends that were deemed "bad influences" by his longtime friends in the following months. This friends were apparently somewhat open about their drug use, at least to the point of his friend John not wanting to be around them.
In November of 2015, through this group of friends, Chip met a young woman that goes by the name of Tainya Rios.
Tainya was apparently a friend of a friend, who Chip met through his friend, who I'll only refer to as "Gabe" in this episode. Gabe has apparently had run-ins with the law, as has Tainya, but I won't mention his full name.
Chip apparently took to Tainya really fast. So much so that she was living in the Milton home with Chip by December or early January.
That Christmas, while visiting family, Tainya was brought up by Chip in conversation. When asked about their relationship, Chip was pretty mum on details, but told his siblings that she was a nurse who was currently out-of-work.
This would later turn out to be false, but there's no way to verify whether Chip knew this at the time.
It seems like, to outsiders, that Chip was developing feelings for Tainya. To hear his friend John describe it, Chip had begun to change for Tainya.
However, besides the subtle cosmetic changes, like dying his hair or wearing different clothing, Chip was also beginning to experience more stark changes in his personality.
Chip received text messages in December of 2015 that caused him a great amount of stress. He began to inquire about arming himself for protection, and was worried about a debt being owed to someone; a debt that could have belonged to either him or Tainya.
As if that wasn't enough, it was at this point that Chip began experimenting with drugs, resulting in him becoming a different person altogether.
On January 2nd, 2016, just after 6:00 PM, Chip was pulling out of a Circle K gas station, located at the junction of Stewart St. and the Munson highway in Milton.
As he was pulling out of the Circle K, he almost immediately crashed into a blue Chevy Silverado. His black Chevy Neon T-boned the other vehicle, but Chip's car began backing up and continued South on Stewart Street.
He then rear-ended a white Ford Fusion, before crashing into a bike shop named Truly Spokin'. Thankfully, no one else was harmed in these accidents, but Chip was rushed to Sacred Heart of Pensacola Hospital, where he was monitored for what authorities called a "medical emergency." This would later be clarified as "diabetic seizures," which had resulted in Chip's blood sugar dropping dangerously low and him losing control of the vehicle.
This would result in his car getting totaled, and his license getting revoked by the state of Florida due to the seizure diagnosis. Without a car, and without any reliable public transportation options, he was now unable to get himself to work.
Chip's family would find out, later on, that Chip had been forced to quit his job, and he filed for disability benefits because his medical diagnosis made it hard for him to get a proper job nearby.
Despite the medical diagnosis being "diabetic seizures," those that know Chip think that something else might have been going on. You see, Chip had been a longtime diabetic, and had maintained his insulin and blood sugar levels for approximately thirty years. It was odd for him now, at nearly forty years of age, to go through such a dramatic change.
When speaking to his sister, Laura, she brought up the possibility of Chip beginning to use methamphetamine at this point in time. If you're like me, and never thought about the effects of methamphetamine on someone with diabetes, then the results would be shocking. Meth, in essence, can greatly increase or decrease blood sugar levels, to the point where someone would feel fine one second and suffer a debilitating change a moment later.
Needless to say, many point to this accident as being the beginning of Chip's major downward spiral.
By March 5th, 2016, things had continued to spiral downward for Chip Campbell.
He had been out-of-work for two months now, and even though he had just gotten an EBT card to help pay for groceries and food, he had been struggling. His older brother gave him some odd jobs to do, which he would get paid for. But that was barely enough to scrape by, especially since so much had changed in Chip's life.
By this point, he had lost an incredible amount of weight. Once called the "gentle giant," he was still tall, but had lost at least forty pounds, and was under two-hundred pounds for the first time in his life. His hair had grown long and shaggy. If you had compared this version of Chip to whom he had been less than a year beforehand, you would barely recognize them as the same person.
In the preceding two months, he had begun walking over to family member's homes on occasion just to get a bite to eat, which was more than often sandwiches, but he relished any hot meal he could get. After all, at this point, he had no job, no money, and no car.
But, at least on March 5th, he had family. His older brother had hired him to do some mundane work for him, and was getting ready to drop Chip off at his home. Chip asked his brother if they could stop by a nearby Family Dollar, because Chip wanted to get some things. At this Family Dollar, Chip bought some groceries, some cleaning supplies for the home, and some dog food for Harley.
At around 6:45 PM, Chip was dropped off at the home owned by his father, on Milton's Ward Basin Road. This would be the last time that any of Chip's family would get to see him, on the first Saturday of March, a little under two years ago as of this episode's recording.
On March 8th, 2016, at 7:49 PM, a Facebook post was made by Chip's roommate, Tainya Rios.
Tainya claimed that the last time anyone had seen Chip was on March 6th, at around 10:30 PM. She had apparently come home the next day, and found the home in a state of disarray. Chip's phone was found in the bathroom, with the battery pulled out of it. He had taken none of his insulin, a necessity for someone with diabetes.
Even more troubling, Chip's dog, Harley, had been left out in the house. This is something that Chip would never do, as verified by his sister, Lesa.
In her Facebook post, Tainya had tagged Chip, so his family and friends were alerted to his disappearance. After all, most of them were unaware of Chip's association with the woman, so they were just as surprised to find out he had a roommate as they were to hear he had been missing for a matter of days.
After finding this out on Facebook, Chip's siblings began to react. They began to call Chip's phone, and much to their surprise, Tainya answered. She told the Campbell family that she had found Chip's phone in the bathroom of the home, and was now trying to figure out what had happened to him.
When Chip's family proposed calling the police, Tainya rebutted. She said that she did not want the police to get involved, and for good reason. More on that later.
Chip's oldest sister Laura, who lived six hours away in Alabama, drove to Milton that evening. When she arrived, she found two cars in the driveway: one belonging to Tainya, and the other belonging to a man named Don. This is the Don that Tainya mentioned in her Facebook post, who was a mutual friend of both her and Chip. I've since tried to reach out to this Don, but haven't heard back.
The police were called, and Officer Danny Tusler was the one who responded. He conducted a search of the home and took a statement from everyone involved.
In her statement, Tainya painted a much more alarming picture of Chip's home. She claims that on the day she returned to the Campbell residence, she found a reclining chair blocking the front door. She was able to push the door open, but upon entering, discovered that the home was a mess and the side door had been left wide open.
The door to the refrigerator had also been left open, and there were vials of Chip's insulin laying on the kitchen floor. And he had allegedly packed a dufflebag of clothing, which had been left in his bedroom.
Apparently, Chip's dog, Harley, had been roaming loose, and mud had been tracked throughout the home. Both of these things were alarming, and you don't have to take my word for it. All of his siblings have spoken at-length about Chip's relationship with Harley, and how he would never let her roam free when he wasn't home.
Harley had been found in the house, not put into a kennel or a bedroom as Chip would normally do if he left. And according to some reports, she was aggressive to the first family members to show up at the home, which was very unlike her.
However, other than Harley, the family knew that the person who would take Chip's disappearance the hardest would be Chip's father, Reggie. Reggie still technically owned the home Chip was living in, but was in an assisted living facility after having medical issues in 2015.
The family members called the workers of the facility, and asked them to avoid the news in the morning. They didn't want that to be how Reggie learned of his son's disappearance... even though it would break their hearts, they had to tell him in person.
They did just that. Chip's sisters have talked about that being the hardest part to deal with in the wake of Chip's disappearance: their elderly father, bedridden and stuck in a wheelchair, being unable to do anything to help find his son. Apparently, those that look after him had to stop him in the parking lot of the facility, when he tried to wheel himself away to look for Chip.
The police investigation to find Chip began, but it unfortunately didn't have much information to go on.
There was a three-day window in which Chip might have gone missing: from when his brother had last seen him, at around 7:00 PM on March 5th, to when Tainya made her ominous Facebook post, on the evening of March 8th.
Tainya claims to have seen him on Sunday evening - the 6th of March - before leaving to babysit, so police began to operate under the assumption that he had disappeared between then and when Tainya returned home.
After scouring the area, police quickly evaporated most of their leads. Nobody that knew Chip had seen him, other than Tainya. His quiet nature had gotten the better of him.
However, they quickly found evidence pointing to a suspicious sighting of Chip at a nearby Circle K.
The Circle K, located on the corner of Stewart Street and Munson Highway, is right across the street from Milton High School. It's also just a stone's throw away from the Milton City Hall, and is approximately three miles away from Chip's home on Ward Basin Road.
This Circle K produced video evidence of Chip walking into the store on Tuesday, March 8th, sometime between 2:00 and 4:00 PM. In this footage, which is somewhat grainy, Chip looks entirely different from the photos taken of him just months prior.
He had lost a good amount of weight, his clothes looking baggy on him. His hair, which had always been cut short and graying, was now long and shaggy. He had apparently died his hair a darker color in the preceding months, according to his friend John, because he wanted to fit in with Tainya and her group of friends.
In this footage, Chip is wearing a backpack and carrying another. He walks from the front of the store towards the back bathrooms, where the area of the recording cuts out. A minute or two later, Chip returns from the bathrooms, with neither backpack in his possession.
Many have pointed towards Chip potentially having a black eye in the Circle K video footage, but - in my opinion - the footage is too grainy to try and pick apart his features. It is possible that he has a black eye, but this could also be due any number of reasons: drug use, lack of sleep, a physical altercation, etc.
Both of the backpacks he had been carrying would be discovered by police. The security footage from Circle K that captured Chip saw two people enter the bathroom after him, and the second of these men reported the backpacks to the employees. They were held behind the counter for a period of time, before being thrown into the dumpsters. Almost two weeks after Chip disappeared, the police were able to recover these backpacks from the dumpster, and their belongings has been one of the oddest parts of this mystery.
In the first backpack, Chip had been carrying an assortment of documents. He had his EBT card, which he had just gotten days beforehand, along with his own social security card, a copy of his father's birth certificate, and two blank bank deposit forms. He had also been carrying some medical supplies, such as diabetic testing lancets, a single vial of insulin along with its injector, and something useful for Chip's asthma - most likely an inhaler.
In these backpacks were also clothing, food, and some small supplies that someone would need should they be heading off to parts unknown: rope, pens and pencils, a steel blow dart, etc.
As police began to decipher this newfound evidence, Chip's family began to focus their attention on those they suspected of leading Chip down the wrong path over the preceding months. And at the top of that list was Chip's roommate, one of the last people to admit seeing him... none other than Tainya Rios.
Tainya Vanessa Rios was born on December 17th, 1982. This birthday was one of the things that made her relateable to Chip; his birthday was December 18th, so it had immediately become a neat little icebreaker for the two of them.
According to most records, it looks like Tainya grew up in Florida. She has family living in Key West, Florida, and was married at one point. Her ex-husband, named Chris, was a military veteran who had two children with Tainya in their short-lived marriage: a boy and a girl.
When their marriage fell apart, so did Tainya's life, seemingly. She lost custody of her children, who have been raised by a family member in the years since.
Tainya has gone on to be known as "Braidz," with a 'z' at the end, and worked as a DJ in Florida and California. After her divorce from Chris, she apparently began dabbling with illegal activities, as the Campbell family would later learn. When going through Chip's belongings, they found ID cards and documents with the social security number of one of Tainya's ex-husband's cousins.
Chip had told his family members that Tainya was an out-of-work nurse, but nothing I have found indicates that she ever worked as a nurse. This, to me, implies that it was something she made up, or an excuse Chip was giving to make her more relatable to his family.
After police were called to examine Chip's home on the night of his disappearance, the responding officers had looked into Tainya. According to some rumors, she had given the police a fake name, and police were able to find out why she had done so.
You see, Tainya Rios had been arrested at least once before, and had an outstanding warrant from Escambia County.
Police went and arrested Tainya on this outstanding warrant on the day after Chip was reported missing, on March 9th. It looks she was able to bond out just a few days later, and after her release, she returned to the home she had been living in, which was owned by Reggie Campbell.
Chip's family, aware that Tainya had returned to the home, wanted to kick her out. However, she began claiming squatter's rights, and they had to go through the legal process to get her evicted. This took weeks, over $500, and an endless amount of paperwork, and throughout that time, the family would do drive-bys of the home to ensure that nothing overly sketchy was going on. They made sure to post eviction notices on the exterior of every door.
It was during this period of time, as Chip's siblings were doing what they could to track down Chip and try to regain control of the family home, that they received some bad news.
Chip's older brother, who was the power-of-attorney for their father, Reggie, received a call from their bank. It seemed like the account belonging to Reggie had been overdrawn, due to some recent activity. When Reggie investigated, he discovered that someone had forged his father, Reggie's, name on seven different checks.
This someone, it would later be determined, was none other than Tainya Rios, Chip's mysterious roommate.
Tainya, who had been living alone in Chip's home for the better part of a month, was arrested again on April 15th, 2016. The charges included larceny, exploitation of the elderly, fraud, and possession of drug equipment.
You see, now that the family were able to get back into the home, they discovered what a mess it was.
The entire home was in disarray, and was covered in filth. There was paraphernalia everywhere, with most of the dishware and silverware being permanently damaged. The spoons, in particular, were bent and broken, and several pots and pans had been used outside in a fire pit.
To the family, this made one thing crystal clear: that the home had been used as a drug den in the months beforehand, and that Chip was likely involved.
Despite Tainya's arrest, she wasn't in prison for long.
Tainya was arrested in April, and it looks like she was released on bond a short time later. She was then arrested in July, but - again - was able to make bail.
Chip's friends and family recall this as being a very odd series of events. Normally, when someone is arrested, they're given the option to post bond and make bail. This always depends on the crimes they've been arrested for, as well as their criminal history.
At this point, Tainya had been arrested a handful of times. The charges filed against her were mostly drug-related, but now including some felonies that could put her behind bars a few times. Despite her history of running away and skipping out on bond, she was allowed to make bail once again.
This time, in 2016, Tainya decided to run away once again. She disappeared entirely, falling off of the grid. She stopped using her primary Facebook page, but created a few others, which allowed her to communicate with family and friends of various social circles.
Rumors reached Chip's family that Tainya had moved out to Sacramento, California, where she had begun posting online once again as "Braidz," her DJ persona.
In August and September of this year, after evading police for over a year, Tainya was captured in Sacramento. She was transferred back to Santa Rosa County, where she has been awaiting trial for the past few months. I will be updating you further on any developments in her case, and whether or not it pertains to Chip Campbell, but I would just like to state that Tainya has not been officially accused of any wrongdoing in the disappearance of Chip. While it's very easy to point out her flaws, I stand with Chip's family and friends who want Tainya to get help.
Hopefully, in her recovery, she'll be able to provide a clearer picture of the troubles she and Chip were facing before his disappearance, and whether she knows something more than she's letting on.
In the aftermath of Chip's disappearance, his family and friends banded together to try and piece together the mysteries he left behind.
His older sister, Laura, stayed in Milton for the next six weeks, trying to stay close to the investigation. She wanted to be there to help out however she could, and try to serve as a point-person for the search parties.
Most of those searches were done by volunteers from KlaasKids, a search and rescue organization set up to find missing children and family members. Partnering with Milton's K-9 Academy, the groups have not only put up flyers and hosted public events to inform the public about Chip's disappearance, they have also conducted searches of the areas around Chip's home and where he was last seen.
Unfortunately, the groups had no real luck. Even when using accredited, trained cadaver dogs and highly-specialized search canines, they were unable to find anything that suggested a death or even a struggle within his home.
Hope was raised in May of 2017 when remains were discovered by Milton's K-9 Academy German Shepherds, Gunner and Maxwell, but those remains were later determined to belong to an animal.
The Campbell family were able to get Tainya legally evicted a little over a month after Chip disappeared, and that's when they found the home in its poor condition. However, that wouldn't be the only strange state of affairs regarding the house.
After getting Tainya evicted, Chip's older sister, Donna, moved into the home. She began to box up belongings of the prior tenants, including Tainya, Chip, and their father, Reggie. During this, she found several odd items in Tainya's possession, including the ID card and social security paperwork belonging to Tainya's ex-husband's cousin - which I mentioned earlier - as well as a receipt for gloves and ammunition bought at a Pensacola Wal-Mart, a short time before Chip's disappearance.
And if that wasn't enough, the month of June would see one of the strangest revelations regarding the story.
On June 6th, 2016, Chip's family found a makeshift meth lab in the attic of the home. This gave the family almost insurmountable evidence that someone had been maintaining a drug operation in the preceding weeks.
This lab, which contained ingredients needed to make methamphetamine as well as cooking tools, had not been in the home when it was searched by the family, police, or KlaasKids in the aftermath of Chip's disappearance. This meant it had been put together recently, in the weeks before June.
Theories regarding this meth lab would be given more fuel when Donna, the sister living in the Campbell home, reported the presence of a strange man. He had apparently knocked on the front door, asking if he could help out by mowing the grass. Donna said no, but this apparently did not deter the man; before she could answer, he had already gone off to the yard, and seemed to be scoping out the house.
He left, but rumors have since surfaced that Donna caught him once more, attempting to break into a bathroom window of the home.
I have been told the name of this man, but I don't want to reveal it through this podcast, in case the criminal investigation into discovering what happens to Chip includes him in the future. I will say, though, that he has been arrested twice over the past year or so, including once for battery and obstructing justice, and another for DUI. He has a criminal history, and many believe him to be involved in the drug operation... hence, why he was trying to get into the house. Perhaps he knew about the upstairs meth lab, and was trying to recover whatever he could.
It's possible that if he was informed about the drug operation, then he might have more knowledge about what Chip Campbell was potentially tied up in, and what may have caused him to go missing.
It's hard for me to talk about Chip Campbell without getting emotional. I see so much of myself in him: the issues with depression, loneliness, self-confidence, you name it.
Whereas so many stories I've featured on the podcast have scared me, reminding me to lock my doors and windows at night, this is one of the first that made me examine my life and make me thankful for all of the advantages I have. I hope many of you feel the same.
It does warm my heart somewhat that someone like Chip - who kept so much of his personal life secret and closely guarded his emotions - has warranted such a response from those lucky enough to know him.
Everyone that knew Chip Campbell has nothing but great things to say about him. They all have different nicknames for him: the "Gentle Giant," "the Silver Fox," "the Chuggernator." All come from a place of love.
Those that did love him hope that he is still out there, alive, ready to return home at any moment. They hope, with their heart of hearts, that he may have just found himself in something too insurmountable to overcome, so he decided to run away and live in the woods.
However, the friends and family I have spoken to, are more realistic in their expectations.
Chip was a diabetic, and without any insulin, it would be almost impossible for him to make it.
Between his downward spiral, his burgeoning substance abuse problems, and his worries of being in danger, his loved ones have accepted that Chip is most likely not with them anymore. But, even though they've accepted that, they have not accepted the fact that there have been no answers to any of their questions.
Chip was last seen in a Circle K. Circle K serves almost as a beacon of his downward spiral: his home, on Ward Basin Road, was located down the street from a Circle K. His life-changing car accident, officially caused by his diagnosis of diabetic seizures, happened right outside of the Circle K where he was last seen, on Milton's Stewart Street.
Many, including his own family, think that the car accident was the alarm that should have told them something was wrong. That, perhaps, the trigger wasn't necessarily Chip's worsening diabetes, but perhaps his drug use, which would go on to consume his life.
If you look on Google Maps, you'll notice that many of the locations in Milton were last updated in April of 2016. This was just a month or so after Chip disappeared; mere weeks later. It's odd, being able to see the world as it was then, when Chip's friends and family still held out hope that he would return home without issue. Now it's been nearly two years, and the world looks a lot colder than it did then.
Before I begin to wrap things up, I just want to touch on a theory I haven't really addressed so far: the theory that he is still alive... out there, somewhere.
In the immediate aftermath of Chip's disappearance, police began to focus on him as a runaway. Unlike some other stories I've covered, this did not just appear out of nowhere.
His family members reported to police that Chip had suffered a long period of depression, especially in the months after his car accident outside of the Circle K where he would later last be seen on security cameras. They were worried that, in his latest bout of depression and with the fear for his life, that he might do something drastic.
These family members reported that Chip may have taken a handgun belonging to family members. These were the same family members that lived close to Chip, where he would go for sandwiches or meals after losing his car and job.
Surprisingly, these family members did report the pistol missing. The gun, a Taurus .380 ACP High Point handgun, is still missing to this day, and has been reported to all of the available agencies.
Police were contacted by Chip's lifelong friend, Dennis, who told them that Chip had talked to him about going "off of the grid" in the days and weeks before his disappearance, and with the theft of the handgun, police began to become convinced that Chip had followed through on this.
Later, they would find a text from Chip to another of his friends that claimed to have gotten ahold of the pistol, cementing this idea in the early investigation.
I've told you about the footage of Chip, which was taken from the Circle K on the afternoon of March 8th. Well, police would later find additional security footage of Chip from the surrounding area. This footage showed Chip walking north from that Circle K, towards the area of the Blackwater Heritage Trail.
This trail, which is approximately eight miles in length, runs through woodlands and lead up to the Blackwater Wildlife Area, which is - in itself - a giant swath of land. It would be a prime place for someone to live "off the grid," as Chip had mentioned to his friends.
Police investigated this trail, and found no trace of Chip... but then again, there are countless foot trails that lead further into the woods. Is it possible that Chip went off to live as a mountain man? With his asthma and diabetes, it's unlikely... but many of the stories I've covered have taught me that anything is possible.
On April 23rd, 2016, a witness at Lenny's Sub Shop in Mary Esther, Florida, reported seeing a man that looked like Chip Campbell. Mary Esther is a town about an hour southeast of Milton, right along the Florida coastline. This witness saw a man matching Chip's description wearing a white hat, a black jacket, black pants, and old-looking white and black tennis shoes. This incident was reported over a week later, so the security footage had been written over, but the incident occurred at roughly 6:20 PM.
Is it possible that this mysterious man was Chip Campbell? Absolutely. But at this point, Chip's family and friends don't think that he would be so cruel and withhold his whereabouts from them for so long.
Chip's story has been featured on three other podcasts over the past few months: the Vanished, the Apex & the Abyss, and Unfound. All have offered opinions and insight into the case, and I - along with Chip's friends and family - are grateful to them for featuring his story.
Chip Michael Campbell was approximately six-feet-and-two-inches tall, and weighed roughly a hundred-and-ninety pounds at the time of his disappearance. He was thirty-six years old, with graying brown hair and brown eyes. He had a tattoo on his upper left arm, which was a frog with bat wings set in outer space. He had once worn a nose piercing, but hadn't been seen with it in some time before his disappearance.
Chip had gotten into a fight roughly eight or nine years ago, and he broke his jaw as a result. This may match up with some records somewhere, so please keep it in-mind.
Chip was last seen wearing a long-sleeved camo-print shirt, blue jeans, and size thirteen white sneakers.
If you have any information about Chip Campbell, you can contact the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office. The official in charge of the case, Detective Duron Nelson, can be phoned at 850-983-2234.
Chip's family are still hoping to raise funding to hire a private investigation, who will hopefully be able to do some digging and conduct research that they, themselves, are unable to do so. If you have been touched by this story as I have, you can head to gofundme.com/findchip to support their efforts.
And, of course, KlaasKids - the nonprofit organization that helped conduct searches for Chip - could always use an extra bit of help. You can head to their website, klaaskids.org, to learn more and donate.
As I've told those I've spoken to regarding Chip, I hope to be able to bring you an update in the near-future, telling you that Chip's case file has been closed. However, until such time, I can only say that the story of Chip Michael Campbell remains unresolved.