By Christian Bringhurst
January 28, 2005
As snow levels dropped in the rugged hills near Tenmile earlier this month, so did Brian Flynn’s chances of surviving the raw wintry weather.
Snow began falling just hours after the Winston man left the shelter of his friend’s pickup near Ben Irving Reservoir on Jan. 7, striking out alone on foot. The 25-year-old was last seen around 1 p.m. that day, and a snow flurry had started by that evening.
Family members say fear of being seen by police with his friend, a suspected marijuana trafficker named Joseph Oliveri, drove Flynn to set out alone in the cold. Oliveri and Flynn had driven up to Oliveri’s Camas Valley home to find police searching it, prompting them to flee.
Nobody knows how long Flynn survived, though temperatures in the area remained cold enough to keep snow on the ground in some areas for more than a week. Flynn was found by a mushroom picker last Sunday, lying on a gravel road about two miles southeast of the spot where he’d last been seen.
An autopsy Tuesday confirmed he died of hypothermia, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
Flynn, who was an avid outdoorsman, may have walked several miles before collapsing on the Bureau of Land Management road where he ultimately was found, said sheriff’s Deputy Travis Terry.
“He was laying there, and it looked like he crossed his arms and crossed his legs and went to sleep,” said Terry.
Flynn’s father, Bob Flynn, said the only winter clothing his son was wearing was some insulated Carhartt overalls and a coat, and boots.
“I don’t understand why he didn’t make a fire. He had a lighter on him, and he knew how to do all that,” Bob Flynn said.
Little is known about the paths Brian Flynn wandered before he finally succumbed to the elements. What is certain is he had little time to consider carefully the consequences of his actions.
Family members say Flynn was only helping Oliveri, 46, repair his mother’s home the afternoon he disappeared.
When they discovered police searching the Quiet Mountain Road home — where officers allegedly found over three dozen marijuana plants — they sped off toward Tenmile, turning off Highway 42 at Benedict Road and onto Berry Creek, a Bureau of Land Management road near the reservoir.
Flynn, who was on probation for a previous drug possession conviction, grew worried he’d be punished for being with Oliveri, so he bailed out of the pickup on Berry Creek gravel road.
“He was just about off of (probation), and that was why he was scared to be caught with this guy,” said Bob Flynn. “He really didn’t have nothing to hide from. I talked to his probation officer, and he said he wasn’t even going to (sanction) him if he wasn’t involved in the marijuana grow, which he wasn’t.”
Devon Inge, Flynn’s probation officer, was unavailable for comment before publication of this story.
Oliveri turned himself in to police about a week later, as the search for Flynn was ongoing.
Bob Flynn immediately joined the search for his only child, spending day after day in the mountains from daybreak until well after dark, often joined by friends, law enforcement officers, and search and rescue volunteers.
“The police kept thinking he went downhill. I just had a premonition that he went uphill,” Flynn said. “I almost got to where they found him. I just didn’t quite make it that far.”
At first Flynn held out hope that his son’s hunting experience in the Camas Valley area would provide him with the skills he needed to survive. However, as the snow melted from the mountainous terrain, Flynn’s hopes of finding his boy alive began to fade.
“I wanted to think that maybe he was hiding, or somebody was hiding him, but the conditions ... for that weren’t right — he wasn’t wanted, he wasn’t really in that much trouble, and that’s why I don’t understand why he tried to run that far, except that he was scared ... he was afraid that he’d get (sanctioned) and have to start all over again. He didn’t wanna disappoint everybody,” Flynn said.
“I knew after the first night because of my outdoor experience that he wouldn’t have made it through the night.”
As Flynn and others searched, Brian’s fiancee, Jamie Atteberry, and his mother, Denise Bough, felt a nagging sense of dread. Both women insisted he would have called to let them know he was OK.
“You’re always trying to hope, but no phone calls, no messages — you know, you just kind of knew,” said Atteberry, tearfully. “He loved his boy so much, and everything was going so good for us.”
Brian’s son, 3-year-old Kyle Flynn, has taken his father’s death particularly hard.
“He’s just real clingy — he misses his daddy,” Atteberry said.
Bough, who flew out from her home in Indiana after her son went missing, explained, “He knew that (his father) was missing and that he was trying to find his way home ... We did tell him (Tuesday) morning that he did die.”
Atteberry has sought grief counseling to help her and Kyle deal with their loss. She and Brian were high school sweethearts who had been dating for about eight years.
Flynn spent most of his youth in Camas Valley, attending Camas Valley High School, where he played football. He worked most recently as a lumber grader at Keller Lumber in Roseburg.
“He got along just about with everybody, everybody liked him,” Flynn said. “I think he just, he had this characteristic where he would act before he thought things out, and I think that had something to do with him ... thinking the situation was worse than it was.”
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Foursquare Gospel Center in Winston.