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Hein moved out his parents' Golden, Colorado home in 1980. For the next three years he traveled extensively and worked odd jobs, including rebuilding boats, working in oil fields and repairing cars. He was known to have visited Houston, Texas; Galveston, Texas; Clinton, Oklahoma; Neosho, Missouri; and Indio; California. Hein kept in touch with his family by postcard, and would visit his parents during the Christmas holidays every year.
In December 1982, Hein visited Colorado again, but left abruptly in January or February 1983 without saying goodbye to anyone. He was carrying his clothing and belongings in a black garbage bag when he left. According to one of his friends, Hein went to Clinton, Oklahoma. In early March 1983 he hitched a ride to California with his friend's father. They stopped to spend the night in Indio, California and that night, Hein left the hotel room and never returned. He has never been heard from again.
Hein is described as "anti-establishment" and may have been involved with drugs in 1983. He reportedly threw away his Social Security card and driver's license and may have no identification with him. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are unclear. Some agencies state he disappeared in 1986.
Jefferson County Sheriff's Department