Real Names: Larry Dale Dixson, Russell Dixson, Jason Dixson, Caleb Dixson, and Michael Goergen
Nicknames: Red (Larry); Rusty (Russell); Mike (Michael)
Location: Crescent City, California
Date: August 28, 1986
Occupation: Shrimpers (Red and Mike); Students (Rusty, Jason, and Caleb)
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Married (Red and Mike); Single (Rusty, Jason, and Caleb)
Characteristics: Caucasian males.
Details: In the small fishing community of Crescent City, in northern California, the summer was ending. Forty-year-old shrimp boat captain Red Dixson’s three sons, eighteen-year-old Rusty, fourteen-year-old Jason, and six-year-old Caleb, would soon be back in school. There was only time for them to go on one last fishing trip with their father. When Red arrived at his former wife Pamela’s house on August 26, 1986, his boys looked forward to four days at sea. At first, Pamela was reluctant to let Caleb go on the trip. But, she eventually relented and allowed him to go. She helped him pack his bag and reminded him to be careful.
Red and the boys said their goodbyes and left. They were excited to go with their father on the trip. However, as the car drove around the corner, Pamela had a fearful feeling overcome her. She assumed it was because it was the first time she was letting Caleb go on the trip without her.
Red was captain of a eighty-foot, twenty-year-old shrimp boat named “The Liebling”. Besides him, it was crewed by twenty-five-year-old first mate Mike Goergen, an experienced shrimper from Brookings, Oregon. On this trip, Red’s boys were accompanied by their Springer Spaniel. Everyone onboard looked forward to an enjoyable time at sea. The boat left the harbor in Crescent City at dawn and headed north to fish off Cape Blanco, Oregon. It was accompanied by two other boats. The sea was unusually calm and the elements seemed to be cooperating to ensure an uneventful voyage. But the elements can be deceptive.
Sometime during the night of August 27 into August 28, 1986, the Liebling disappeared. They were last seen by the shrimp boat Cape Sebastian at about 1am, fifteen miles south of Cape Blanco and three miles offshore. Although they had radio equipment onboard, no distress signals were broadcast. It was simply there one moment, and gone the next. In the years since its disappearance, no evidence has surfaced to explain its fate. The family and friends of those onboard have no idea what happened to their loved ones. Somehow, not knowing is the worst part of all.
On the morning of August 28, when the Liebling did not answer radio calls, a visual search was conducted. Strangely, it was nowhere to be found. By 10am, the Coast Guard had been brought in. They found no evidence that the boat had sunk. According to fisherman Chuck Tweed, when a boat like the Liebling sinks, if it has 5,000 to 17,000 gallons of diesel fuel on it, its slick can be seen for miles on the water. However, no slick, oil leakage, or debris (like wooden boxes or net floats) were found.
An initial search was called off a few days later due to strong winds. However, family members asked their congressman to intervene; as a result, the Coast Guard launched an expanded search using cutters, small boats, helicopters, and long-range C-130 aircraft. The searches occurred on the shore, in the air, and in the sea for over a week. However, no evidence was found to show what happened to the Liebling.
Tweed speculated that Red may have gone back to Colombia and taken his sons with him. For the last year-and-a-half, Red had been living and fishing there. He had recently remarried and was planning to start a second family there. Could Red have taken the boat and his three sons to South America? Pamela does not believe this theory because Red was welcome to visit his sons and take them with him whenever he wanted.
While it is conceivable that Red might have abducted his sons, it is unlikely that Mike would have left his family behind. According to his wife, Kim, he was very devoted to her and their three children. She believes that they would have had to kill him because he would not have gone along with them to Colombia.
Red’s brother, Lorin, also does not believe that he fled to Colombia. The two were together the night before the Liebling left. They stayed up until 2am talking about life in general. Lorin believes that if Red was planning to leave the country, he would have said something to him like, “If you don’t hear from me for awhile, don’t worry about it.” He wishes that Red is alive and in Colombia. However, he believes that there are too many things that prove otherwise.
The night before the Liebling vanished, D.J. Cole, a fisherman sailing with the boat about five miles behind, talked to Mike on the radio. Mike told him to beware of a tugboat and barge in the area. According to Tweed, if the Liebling had been hit by the barge, the tugboat would probably not even know that it got hit. The Liebling would go under within seconds. The weight ratio would be so different, it would be like hitting a log with a large boat or bowling over a matchbook.
If the Liebling had collided with a barge, why was no debris found on the ocean surface? One afternoon, a fisherman named Troy Vought might have run into the only major clue to the Liebling’s fate. One day in September 1987, his net snagged on an obstruction 700 feet below the surface. An experienced fisherman, Vought is certain that the object had not been there prior to the Liebling’s disappearance.
About a month later, Vought and his crew went back to the spot. This time, they took a video camera along. Again, they got caught on the same obstruction. When they got loose, they found a net hanging onto their net. It was a shrimp net. It then occurred to Vought that the Liebling had gone down around there the previous summer. He wondered if the object they had encountered was the Liebling. He was certain that the object was a boat, based on the net found and the fact that it was such a solid object in an area that was fairly clean. D.J. Cole looked at the shrimp net and was certain that it was the spare net from the Liebling. He knew that because he had actually sold Red the net.
Does the Liebling lie 700 feet below the ocean surface? The icy, turbulent waters of the north Pacific prevented a close examination of the ocean floor. Pamela holds on to the hope that her sons, Red, and Mike are somehow still alive. She notes that she will have hope until she has some proof of what happened. The sea almost seems to be willfully hiding the real story behind what happened to the Liebling on that August night. Until it decides to give up its secret, then the last voyage of the Liebling will remain a story with no ending.
Suspects: Red was living in Colombia shortly before the Liebling vanished. There was some speculation that he abducted his children, killed Mike, and took them there. However, his family and friends do not believe this theory. Pamela noted that he was allowed to visit and take the children whenever he wanted. Also, his new wife was living with his relatives in the United States at the time. Furthermore, he had two daughters from his first marriage that he did not take with him on the trip.
Another theory was that the Liebling had been struck by a large tugboat. Before the boat vanished, Mike told another boat about the tugboat in the area. However, no debris was found to support this theory.
- This case originally ran on the January 18, 1989 episode.
- It was excluded from Film Rise release of the Robert Stack episodes.
- Some sources spell Mike's last name as "Georgen" and Red's last name as "Dixon".
Results: Unsolved. Red's family members positively identified the fishing net found in 1987 as coming from the Liebling. They are convinced that the Liebling sunk and that all onboard perished. They believe that the boat is located where the fishing net was found. They hope to raise money to have an underwater camera or similar underwater vehicle try and locate the boat on the ocean floor.
- Search For Missing Boat With Five Aboard Expanded - August 31, 1986
- Boat search hampered by wind and choppy seas - September 1, 1986
- Coast Guard seeking boat with 5 aboard - September 1, 1986
- Coast Guard ends search for shrimp boat - September 2, 1986
- Search for lost boat resumes - September 4, 1986
- Shrimper search resumes - September 4, 1986
- Oregon Search Resumed for Missing Shrimp Boat - September 5, 1986
- CG jet joins search for missing shrimper - September 6, 1986
- Fog hampers search for missing shrimper - September 6, 1986
- Search for boat suspended - September 7, 1986
- Search for missing shrimper suspended - September 8, 1986
- Coast Guard ends search for 5 on boat - September 8, 1986
- Mystery of missing vessel unsolved nine months later - May 19, 1987
- The Liebling Facebook Post - April 24, 2015
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of the Liebling (includes comments from family members)