On the 1st of July, 1995, Erin Marie Gilbert (24) disappeared after attending the Forest Fair in Girdwood Alaska. Erin had attended the fair with David Combs, whom she had just met recently at a bar called Chillkoot Charlie's in Anchorage.
Erin was last seen by someone other than David Combs at around 18:00 in the beer garden at the fair. She was wearing a black leather jacket, a black and white shirt, mountain boots, and black jeans. Her sister Stephanie said that her sister had chosen to leave her mobile at home.
According to David, he and Erin went to his car only to find that the battery had died because he'd left the headlights on. He told Erin he was going to walk to a friend's house to get help. However, again according to his story, he walked around for 2 hours unable to find said friend's house. Supposedly, when David returned, Erin was no longer in the car and he assumed Gilbert had returned to the fair. Surprisingly, he was then able to start the car engine. According to his account, David then returned to the fairgrounds and searched for Erin until approximately 1:00 a.m
According to Erin's sister whom she had been living with (Stephanie), David didn't call them until 7 am the next morning and 'casually' asked if Erin had made it home ok. On the 2nd of July after receiving the phone call, Stephanie reported Erin missing, and a police investigation was launched. Alaska State Troopers conducted a search by foot and air, utilising search dogs, and they were unable to find any trace of her.
Erin was born on the 4th of May 1971, and while she had originally lived in San Fransisco with her dad (Curt Gilbert), in 1994 she moved to Alaska and moved in with her eldest sister Stephanie, her husband, and their two young children at the Elmendorf Air Force Base. It was there that she began working as a nanny for a family who knew her sister.
With no physical or even circumstantial evidence, any thoughts or theories on this case are purely speculative. However, after so many years of no sign of Erin, the biggest theory is that she is dead. Though whether she died through foul play or an accident/exposure is not known.
We know Erin travelled in the car with David from the Air Force Base to the Fair, which is around an hour's drive. Stephanie also claimed that Erin didn't plan on staying out too late and it was planned that David would drop her home after their date. Stephanie also didn't feel the need to bring her mobile phone (cell phone), meaning that besides David, she would have had no way of getting home, and walking in the cold Alaskan forest would not have been a sensible option she would have taken.
Theory 1 - Foul Play at the hands of her Date
There are a few things in David's story that cause me to take pause. For example, David claims the car battery had died because he'd left his headlights on. However, the typical sunset time in Alaska in July is past 11 pm. If David picked up Erin around 4 pm and they drove the almost-hour journey to the fair, they should have been driving in light conditions by the time they got to the fair around 5 pm. So why would David have had had his lights on in the first place?
However, let's say it had been dark, or he hadn't realised he'd been driving with his lights on. If he realised the car battery was dead, why wouldn't he wait for a while before trying again - to let the battery recharge? Even if he didn't know you could do this, why would he decide to walk to a friend's house for help - when there were hundreds of people at the fair who could have given them a jump start?
Then, after leaving to find the friend's house but realising you can't find it - why would you continue to search for two hours? Especially when you've left your date behind. David then claims that when he returned Erin was gone. What we don't know is whether Erin was left with access to the car (doors unlocked) or whether David had her wait outside the car. If the former is the case, you'd think Erin would have thought to try the engine while David was gone.
However, what makes me take pause the most, is that David supposedly cared enough about his date to look for her back at the fair, but not enough to report her missing or drive back to her sister's house to make sure she got back ok. In fact, he never even text her phone (which we knew she'd left at home and could have answered if she had made it back.) If you know you're your date's only way home (and it's an hour away), wouldn't you worry if that person was gone? Wouldn't you ask around at the fair, or make some phone calls right then and there / as soon as you got home?
Apparently not David.
So, in this speculative theory, I think that David brought Erin back to his car and wanted more from the relationship. I think he either drove her somewhere, or walked her away from the fair, and 'tried something'. When Erin refused, it's not impossible that her Date could have murdered her either out of rage or for sexual pleasure.
Afterward, David could have returned to the fair to build an alibi and prove that he attempted to search for her. He went home, destroyed any evidence that may have been on him or in his car, then called Stephanie the next morning to again create the alibi of the 'concerned' boyfriend.
Theory 2 - Foul Play at the hands of a stranger
As we know, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and it is possible that David really has told the truth about the events of that night. Perhaps the car battery had died, and perhaps David (maybe a little tipsy from the beer garden / or trying to impress his date) did go in search of his friend's house for help. In that scenario (not knowing where the car is parked in relation to the main fair), it's understandable that Erin may have headed back to the fair after David had been gone for too long. Perhaps she had gotten frustrated, and wanting to be home at a reasonable time, had approached fair-goers to find a lift home. It's possible that the wrong person offered to help Erin, or that she was taken without any choice.
Theory 3 - Accidental death (with her Date)
The third theory is that somehow an accident happened while Erin and David were alone. Perhaps he had walked her into the forest to "try it on", and Erin had tragically died in an accident. However, if that were the case, you'd think David would have called for help.
Theory 4 - Exposure / Accident alone
The final, and weakest of theories, is that Erin tried to get home alone. After getting fed up with waiting for David, and wanting to get home at a reasonable time, perhaps she could have started walking back herself. In this scenario, she would have gotten lost and had an accident. However, with the searches happening so quickly after she disappeared it's unlikely that she / or some sign of her wouldn't have been found.