Ah, to be young and have no cares in the world! The life of a 17-year-old is truly amazing. You have few responsibilities, unlimited potential, and if you’re lucky, a car and the ability to drive it. For best friends Jay Pringle and Robert Kellogg, the open road held more allure than anything else.
Jay and Robert were high school seniors, getting ready to enter into the world of higher education in a time when college aspirations weren’t exactly commonplace. They wanted to close out their final year in style doing the thing they loved. But their Las Vegas road trip would end up being more life-changing than either of them could ever have expected…
Jay Pringle was born on July 2, 1959 in Medford, Oregon. Despite being a country boy at heart, Jay had a fondness for rock music that bordered on the obsessive. By the time the 1970’s hit, Pringle had decided that, like many high schoolers, he wanted to do something musical with his life.
17-Year Old Life
Of course, as a Medford High School Senior, the 17-year-old was not exactly thinking clearly. Music was a fine hobby of course, but it wasn’t a career you can bank on. Still, it was a great way to spend your time. Jay loved hanging out with his friend Robert Kellog just listening to the great 70’s rock artists of the time…
Both new to the driving world, Jay and Robert loved going on road trips. They’d cruise around the state, heading over county lines and just tuning into any rock and roll they could catch on the airwaves. In fact, as winter gave way to spring in 1977, the two friends decided they’d use Spring Break to go on the whopper of all road trips.
Robert suggested that he and Jay take his car all the way from Oregon to Las Vegas. They could spend their Easter break on the road and make it to the Vegas before they had to go back to school. It would be the perfect week away from their parents. Just friends, road, and Rock n’ Roll. Their first stop, Northern California…
Everything was going great as the two made their way through Oregon, they had the road and the Rolling Stones to guide them. Nevertheless, by the time Jay and Robert hit Gardena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, tensions were beginning to come to a head. Two days on the road with little sleep was beginning to take their toll.
Jay and Robert got into an argument to end all arguments that ended with Robert driving away and leaving Jay just where he left him. Jay had refused to travel any further with him and began walking down a California highway carrying a suitcase, a wool blanket, and the clothes on his back. It was the last time he was ever seen…
On April 19, 1977, a young man from Oregon disappeared somewhere in the southwestern U.S. Jay Pringle left Oregon with at least one friend (there may have been others but I can’t find definitive mention of them). This person’s name was Robert Harry Kellogg, who was 23 in the spring of 1977 for Spring Break.
The situation is this: Jay Pringle and Robert Kellogg traveled somewhere together. Halfway through their road trip, Jay disappeared. Yet, no one, including Robert Kellogg, seems to know what happened to him. Of course, Kellogg could always have been lying. When Jay didn’t call his mother to check in, she called the police and reported him missing…
As police began combing the highways of the Pacific Northwest for signs of Jay, they also kept their eye out for Robert Kellog, who was still sticking to the original plan and was heading to Las Vegas. Once he hit Nevada, he made his way back to Jackson County, Oregon, where the police caught up with him. What they found was slightly disconcerting.
A Bad Friend
During the course of their investigation, the police discovered that not only had Kellogg abandoned his best friend, but he’d also stolen a whole bunch of money that belonged to Jay whilst he was in Las Vegas. The question still remained, though: had Robert Kellogg killed his friend Jay Pringle?
The police of course believed that Kellogg was somehow involved with Jay’s disappearance, though they couldn’t prove it. There was no body and therefore no evidence, no links between Kellogg and Jay besides Kellogg’s own admission of leaving his friend behind in Gardena. They had to find Jay, if they did, they could prove Robert’s innocence…or guilt.
One of the main points of contention in the case is that no one really knows where Jay vanished. Robert of course indicated Gardena, California, but there are some witnesses who say that he did indeed make it to Las Vegas and disappeared there. With no other witnesses, the police had no choice but to lean harder on Robert Kellog…
After weeks of questioning and investigation and months of searching, the police were still coming up empty. Kellogg was the only person who placed Jay in Gardena and so the trail went cold there. He explained the argument and told them that Jay had chosen not to continue the road trip. In the end, they had to believe him. But then what happened to Jay?
There are some who believe that Jay Pringle was the victim of serial killer Randy Kraft, who preyed upon young men in California and Oregon through the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps Jay got out of the car and was picked up trying to hitchhike home by Kraft, who saw the boy as the perfect target, his favorite target: a lonely teenage boy…
However, there were some issues with the Randy Kraft theory. For one, the killer kept a meticulous account of his personal kills on his person. That account had no indication of Kraft having killed, or for that matter even met, Jay Pringle. He also almost always dumped his victims on the sides of freeways, in public places. He made every attempt to draw attention to his misdeeds. So why couldn’t they find Jay?
On top of that, Kraft was in southern California in April 1977, not northern California. Even if Jay disappeared in Vegas it would still have put Kraft too far away to have killed the young hitchhiker. There was just no proof that the criminal had killed poor Jay Pringle. Years later, a strange group of people came forward with what they considered “evidence” of Jay’s fate…
Over the next several decades, few clues emerged that might have shed new light on this frigidly cold case. Nevertheless, some self-professed “psychics” have weighed in on the unsolved mystery. Several believe that they have solved the case. One of them claimed that he was killed in 77’ buried behind an Italian restaurant in California. No body was ever found.
Not Widely Covered
It would be surprising if you heard about Jay Pringle before reading this story. His is not a well-known disappearance. Little of what is known about his disappearance has been made public and the rest of the information has been kept under wraps by the police. It seems the only one who really knows anything about it, is Robert Kellogg…
Meanwhile, in September of 2011, Robert Harry Kellogg passed away. He had moved to Washington State following Jay’s disappearance and lived a quiet life. His only crimes in his 51 years of life led to two minor arrests, but he was never successfully connected to the disappearance of his friend.
In the end, we may never know what happened to Jay Pringle, the music-loving teenager who just wanted to spend his last year of highschool on the open road. It’s been 40 years since he was last seen and his remaining family members still grieve for him. But officials will keep looking, until the case is finally solved.