New documentary looks into 1986 cold case

Missing

(NewsNation Now) — A new documentary is turning the spotlight on a cold case that has haunted an Indiana town for more than three decades.

Denise Pflum, 18, was a senior at Connersville High School in 1986 and planned to study microbiology in college.

But on March 28, 1986, Pflum told her parents she was running out to get something and she never returned. She was at a bonfire the night before and forgot her purse.

The next day, a farmer reported her car along a road, but with no sign of Pflum.

Her family suspected Pflum’s high school boyfriend, Shawn McClung, knew something about what happened, but the case went cold. After 34 years, no body had been recovered and no one arrested.

McClung was later jailed on charges unrelated to the disappearance. In July of 2020, McClung, who was terminally ill, agreed to confess to killing Pflum and lead police to her body in exchange for his freedom.

But Pflum’s mother said McClung’s information didn’t quite fit and he wasn’t able to lead police to her body.

A few months later, he recanted his confession and said he only made it to gain his freedom. McClung died in September of 2020.

Pflum’s parents told NewsNation they never believed McClung’s confession, but they think he knew something about what happened to their daughter.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department said it continues to investigate the case and hopes to find justice for Pflum and her family.

Gianna Toboni, the co-director of Vice’s “Small Town Secrets,” which reexamines Pflum’s disappearance, said on “NewsNation Prime” on Monday that she and her co-director investigated the case for about three years.

The directors spoke to three persons of interest in the case, including one police had yet to speak with, Toboni said. Still, she said, despite the efforts of investigators and Pflum’s family, no one has been directly connected to the disappearance yet.

“We think that the confessions that we know about are some version of the truth, but I think that we’re not sure exactly what happened,” Toboni said. “It’s hard to know unless one person (who was) responsible comes forward.”

Toboni added that Pflum’s parents are concerned they may never solve their daughter’s case.

“For them, it’s not about putting someone behind bars,” Toboni said. “It’s not about convicting someone and giving them a long sentence. It’s just about bringing their daughter home. They just want to have a memorial service to celebrate her life that ended too soon.”

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