Nick McKay was born and raised in Bozeman, Montana. According to those who knew him, he was polite and well-mannered and had no enemies that anyone knew of. But one morning in May of 1994, his body was found in a parking lot in Longview, Texas, his head bashed in. To this day, no one knows what he was doing in Texas, over 1,600 miles from home; or how he came to meet such a violent end. His murder remains a mystery. The story unfolds as follows:
When Nick McKay graduated high school in 1988, he got a job working at a meat-packing plant in Bozeman. He was a hard worker and was well-liked by his boss and co-workers. He had a large circle of friends, and everyone who knew him spoke very highly of him.
His mother, Jane McKay, was proud of her son's easy demeanor. He was close to all his family, two brothers and a younger sister. His father passed away when Nick was 22 years old, and though the family felt the void left by his absence, it brought the family closer together.
Nick had been born in Bozeman, and had spent his entire life in the heart of the Rock Mountains of Montana. Travel never seemed to interest him; he seemed happiest when he was surrounded by friends and family. But shortly after Nick's twenty-fifth birthday, his friends and family noticed a marked change in his behavior. His mother described her son as "moody" and at times "irrational", a serious change in the young man who had always been so easy-going. Even his closest friends admitted that Nick now seemed paranoid and edgy. No one knew what might have been the cause of his sudden unusual change in behavior.
A close friend of Nick's, Beth Calloway, later testified that she once asked Nick about his mood swings and paranoia. According to her testimony, Nick's answer was simply, "I better not tell you." Concerned, she asked if he had gotten involved with drugs or gambling. He assured her it was "nothing like that," and then suddenly got in his car and left.
By February 1994, Nick's behavior had gotten so outlandish that his mother feared he might be suffering from some kind of mental illness such as schizophrenia. She asked the advice of psychiatrist friend of hers, Dr. Brenda Elroy, who suggested that Nick undergo a psychological examination and get on a possible treatment plan. Nick refused, insisting that he was "not crazy."
By the end of April, Nick was habitually missing work at the meat-packing plant. According to his immediate supervisor, Terrance Lively, "Nick would miss several days of work without calling in, then show up looking unkempt and acting bizarre. This started to happen every other week, then every week, and eventually became a real problem." On May 4, after repeated warnings, his boss fired Nick for "excessive absence."
According to his mother, during the days that followed, Nick became even more paranoid and elusive. She stated that during one phone call with her son, he started crying uncontrollably and shouted over and over: "I won't let it happen." She could not get him to elaborate and say what "it" was.
On the afternoon of May 12, growing concerned that she could not reach her son by phone, she drove to his small apartment some five miles from her home. The door was locked and she spoken to him. After speaking to his friends and the rest of the family, she found that no one had spoken to Nick in the last thirty-six hours. She immediately notified the Police.
The following is a time line of the mysterious last hours of Nick McKay's life. The information is garnered by the official police records of the thorough investigation that ensued:
May 10, 2:15 PM: Nick speaks with his friend Calvin on the phone. The conversation lasts about 5 minutes. Calvin later said Nick sounded restless and a little agitated, but was unsure why. This was the last time anyone of close relation spoke to Nick.
May 11, 1:52 AM: In the early morning hours, Nick tries to drive into Canada near Sunburst, Montana but is turned away by border patrol because he “acted suspicious." Subsequently, none of his friends or family can offer any reason why Nick would try to enter Canada. Was he trying to flee from someone or something?
May 11, 3:34 AM: Nick is spotted on a convenience store security camera near Billings, Montana fueling his 1990 Ford Taurus. In the span of several hours he had driven to the northern-most part of the state to the southern-most part . During this time he contacted no one, nor did he leave a note at his apartment offering an explanation of his movements.
May 11, 8:31 AM: Nick tries to cash a paycheck at a pawnshop near Riverton, Wyoming. He is turned away by the broker.
May 11, 8:57 AM: Nick is caught on surveillance video outside the First National Bank near Riverton. He paces back and forth on the sidewalk for several minutes before getting in his car and driving away. He never enetered the bank.
May 11, 2:25 PM: Nick is found on surveillance video back in Montana at the Great Falls International Airport. He attempted to buy a one-way ticket to London, England, but did not have enough money. He walks back and forth for twenty minutes near the main entrance before finally getting into his car and driving away. Witnesses reported him looking anxious and nervous.
May 11, 3:15PM: Nick cashes his paycheck at the First National Bank in Great Falls.
May 12, 8:45PM: (6 hours after his mother reported him missing) Nick McKay's body is found near his car in an abandoned parking lot in Longview, TX. His shirt is missing, his shoes have been removed and placed on the cab of his car. His belt is later found approximately fifty yards from the parking lot in an empty field. The front part of his head has been bashed in and is later ruled the cause of death by an autopsy.
Police never recovered the murder weapon and are unsure what object was used that may have caused such horrific trauma to Nick's head. Investigators found no signs of a struggle and no foreign fingerprints in his vehicle or on any items of his clothing. To this day, his family and friends are unable to offer any reason whatsoever why Nick had driven to Longview, Texas. He had no apparent acquaintances anywhere in Texas or any other state besides Montana.
Investigators were baffled by the scene of the crime; they could not determine why his belt had been removed and left in a field, or by whom it had been removed. Police were also puzzled by the positioning of his shoes on the cab of his car. "His Nikes were placed neatly and evenly on the cab. So far, we are unable to determine the significance of this positioning and whether or not it has anything to do with his death."
Besides Nick's missing shirt (which has never been recovered), there was another curious item missing; his Ford Taurus keys. Police found a single key resting in the console of his car, but to date, officials have not been able to find who the key belongs to, nor have they been able to locate Nick's personal set of keys.
The mysterious matter of Nick McKay's death is now 17 years old, and the police are still baffled by the case. So many questions surrounding the incident still need to be answered. What was the cause of Nick's growing paranoia? Did he really suffer from some type of mental illness or was there someone or something causing him to live in fear? Why had he twice tried to leave the country just within hours of his unexplained death? And perhaps most importantly, why had he driven over 1,600 miles to Longview, Texas?