Where is Jon Weiland?

Published 9:00 am Monday, April 12, 2010

When the sisters of 43-year-old Jon Weiland stepped onto a plane March 31 to start a second aerial search for their missing brother, they hoped they’d find some answers.

It had been more than three months since the 6-foot-tall, brown-haired man was last seen at Rathai’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill in Walters on the night of Dec. 19, 2009.

“You go up in the plane and you want to find something, but then again you don’t,” said sister Judy Weber, of Corwith, Iowa.

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After the spring thaw, the trees were bare and the snow had melted; the sisters hoped they’d find traces of their brother, who resided in Britt, Iowa, or his red 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup shining up to them from an otherwise barren landscape.

They searched as far north as Interstate 90, as far east as Albert Lea and as far west as Walters, flying back and forth, east to west, ending in Britt. They flew over what they considered to be the logical places he might have encountered on his way back home from the Walters bar.

But they found nothing.

“I think we were all waiting until the snow melted,” Weber said. “We thought we would find him, but we don’t have any answers. All we have is a lot of questions.”

‘It was a concern’

Tracy Rathai, owner of Rathai’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill, said he remembers seeing Weiland in the bar the Saturday night of Dec. 19, 2009.

It was opening weekend for the bar. The first night was Dec. 15. It had new owners and was newly renovated. It was packed.

But amid all the people there on that opening Saturday, there was something about Weiland that stuck out to him, the owner said.

Rathai said he remembers Weiland stepping off his stool and walking to the men’s bathroom.

Being a sports fan himself, he noted that Weiland was wearing an Iowa Hawkeyes jersey.

“The biggest thing I remember — and I didn’t even know his name was Jon, of course — was when he got off his stool and went to the men’s bathroom was his limp,” Rathai said. “It was of concern. When he came out of the bathroom, I noticed him holding his leg.”

He found out later that Weiland had a prosthetic limb on his right leg, but at the time, Rathai noted, he made sure to pay attention to Weiland because he thought maybe he had too much to drink.

Rathai said he didn’t see who Weiland came into the bar with or when he left, but he thought he was there for roughly an hour or perhaps 90 minutes. The owner estimated that Weiland left between 10 and 11 p.m.

“He was well out of there before last call, which is at 12:30 a.m.,” Rathai said.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says he was at the Vinje Pub & Grub during the evening hours before going to Walters, and there are multiple accounts of seeing him at the Rathai’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill.

‘Something’s just not adding up’

The next Monday, Dec. 21, Rathai said some of the man’s friends came into the bar asking about him.

“They were so sincere,” he said. “For him to miss work and to be gone, that’s not Jon, they said.”

Weiland, employed at Monson & Sons Inc., a trucking company in Britt, was a talented painter of custom motorcycles and golf carts. The Mason City Globe-Gazette did a feature on his custom-painting skills in 2003. The headline was “Putting pizzaz into motorcycles.”

“Common sense tells me he has a full-time job, he’s not into drugs, he’s not a real heavy drinker, and all the sudden he disappears,” Rathai said. “Something’s just not adding up.”

The bar owner said he believes there was foul play involved.

“I definitely do,” Rathai said. “That’s just a gut feeling. I don’t know what, but I do believe something.”

The same Monday Weiland’s friends came looking for him, his sisters said they also found out their brother was missing.

“He was on call for the drivers, and he wasn’t answering any of the calls,” said Pat Frayne, of Clear Lake, Iowa, another of Weiland’s sisters.

On Tuesday, the family went out searching.

“We just thought since the roads were kind of bad, he could have gone off the road,” she said. “Monson had already sent out some trucks, too, to look.”
43 years old

White man

230 pounds, 6 feet tall

Brown hair

Hazel eyes


Prosthetic limb on his right leg

Drives a Red 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup with the license plate No. 588WOS.

Last seen Dec. 19, 2009, in Walters, wearing a black pullover jacket with Iowa written across the front, blue jeans and a Kenworth cap

The Britt Police Department began their wintry search for Weiland, with the assistance of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa State Patrol aircraft and ground units, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office and the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office.

Iowa DCI Special Agenct Chris Callaway said searches were completed by officials by squad car, snowmobile and airplane.

“So many of these searches were done in horrible weather conditions, but they were done,” Callaway said.

Officials also asked for help from the public — especially snowmobilers in Iowa and Minnesota — to be on the lookout while on the trails. They asked snowmobilers to pay close attention to drainage ditches, creek beds and rivers.

But there had been a snowstorm the week before Dec. 19 and another the week after. Weiland’s family searched all the gravel roads that were able to be traveled, and authorities conducted the first overhead search.

The family said there were many places along their search that they had to turn around because of the snow. Along the way they would also get out of their automobiles and look under bridges and into ravines.

All searches came back with no success. They found neither him nor his Dodge Dakota.

‘He’s not the kind of person to take off’

At the time Weiland went missing, his divorce with his wife, Janelle Weiland, was almost complete after three years of separation. The couple had been married for 20 years and had three children.

“He was a good dad,” Janelle Weiland said. “Our kids meant everything to him. It’s just really hard for our kids right now.”

She said she last talked to her husband on Dec. 18, when he made arrangements to spend Christmas with his children.

“He seemed completely normal,” she said. “I don’t think he would just take off. His kids were so important to him.”

Also at the time Weiland was last seen, his father — who has since died — had been sick in the hospital.

“He wouldn’t take off,” Weber said. “Dad was sick, he loved his kids, and it was Christmas.”

Weber and Frayne said there was nothing else they knew of that Weiland was going through that would have been hard on him.

They described him as an easygoing, happy-go-lucky person, who had his children at the centerpoint of his life.

Weber said he was a hard worker and was always busy. He was a music buff who loved a variety of music, from rock ’n’ roll to country.

“He had a big heart and would do anything for anybody,” she said.

Skip and Jim Miller of Miller & Sons in Britt described Weiland as a perfectionist with extraordinary talent.
The family of Jon Weiland is offering a reward for information that directly leads to finding Weiland or his truck. People who have seen him or his truck or who have any information that may help find him are encouraged to call the Hancock County dispatch at (641) 923-2621 or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (641) 423-2600.

Weiland worked for Miller & Sons on a contract basis doing custom painting for golf carts.

The two brothers, who said they’ve known him for 10 or 15 years, said they didn’t want to talk about Weiland in the past tense because they’re still hopeful he will show up.

“He’s not the kind of person to take off,” Jim Miller said. “Someone just doesn’t disappear.”

Skip Miller said Weiland’s disappearance is something that’s in the back of everyone’s minds in the community.

“You have a tendency in rural Iowa to feel safe, so you get surprised when you’re not,” he said.

‘What’s frustrating’

Though almost four months have passed since Weiland’s disappearance, his family has printed out several posters and distributed them, to places including the Minnesota Welcome Center just north of the Iowa border, at the bar in Walters and at Northbridge Mall, among others.

The posters list Weiland’s physical description, where he was last seen and where to contact with information that directly leads to finding him or his truck.

“We are still hopeful,” Frayne said. “I mean we have to be hopeful.”

They said every time they hear about a missing person being found, their ears perk up — but so far the people found have not been their brother.

They asked the public to keep their eyes open, especially now that the snow is melted.

“We’re thankful for everyone who has helped already and offered support either in a search form or in thoughts and prayers,” Weber said.

The family also has set up a Facebook page called “Bring Jon Weiland Home,” where they have gained much support.

The two sisters said, though they understand the authorities may not be able to tell them every part of their investigation, they do wish they could get more updates and more communication about the status of the case.

As far as they know, there haven’t been any leads. And the flight this spring — that was paid for by the family.

Callaway said the DCI, Britt Police Department and Hancock County Sheriff’s Office continue to follow up on any leads that come in.

“It’s an ongoing investigation into his disappearance,” he said. “Whether or not there’s foul play, it doesn’t appear to be the case.”

He said he thinks the area between Walters and Britt has been “scoured pretty thoroughly.”

“That’s a big search area itself,” he said. “You start expanding in all directions away from there, how far do you go?”

Callaway also asked for the public’s cooperation in finding the man.

The Tribune made multiple calls to the Britt Police Department and Hancock County Sheriff’s Office without any returned calls.

At the end of February, Britt Police Chief Dan Nelson resigned from his position for a new job with the Iowa Department of Transportation, and the Hancock County sheriff took over as acting police chief.

The sheriff was reportedly at a conference the first week the Tribune tried to contact his office, in the office on Monday and then on vacation the rest of this week. He, no one else from his office or from the city police department returned calls or seemed willing to comment in the sheriff’s absence.

“What’s frustrating for us is they could let us know that there are things they are trying to do,” Weber said. “To let us know it’s not on the back burner.”

Weiland was last seen wearing a Kenworth cap, blue jeans and a black pullover jacket with “Iowa” written across the front.

He wears glasses and weighs about 230 pounds.

The pickup he drives has the license plate No. 588WOS.

Weiland is listed on the National Crime Information Center missing persons database, along with the Missing Persons Information Clearinghouse, handled by the Division of Criminal Investigation with the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

These missing persons databases are accessed worldwide.