Chuck Rutherford

Lana Stempien

Lana Stempien (1969–August 11, 2005) was an American lawyer, licensed to practice in Michigan and Florida, who drowned under mysterious circumstances. Her boyfriend Charles Rutherford Jr. (born 1970, presumed missing August 11, 2005, declared legally dead August 3, 2006), commonly known as Chuck Rutherford, was also on the boat when Stempien went into the water. He was ruled dead by a court of law in 2006, but his body was never found.

The couple were on a trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan and left in a boat owned by Stempien. Stempien called her father 24 hours after the couple departed to assure him they were all right. They stopped at Presque Isle for gasoline and Stempien made a congenial phone call to her Aunt. The couple then departed onto rough seas. After another boater saw the couple's small boat, he became concerned and called the Coast Guard. They later located the couple's boat, which was found unoccupied with the engine still idling. Stempien's body was found floating by the shore several days later. The case contained several unusual facts. She was found naked and wearing only her jewelry—Stempien's family members commented that Stempien always removed her jewelry before swimming, putting it in the same location on the boat each time. Additionally, the temperature on the lake that day——made swimming in the nude unlikely.


Rutherford and Stempien were both lawyers; in addition, Stempien worked as a model who often appeared at car shows. They shared a home in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. The couple outwardly appeared to be in a committed, happy relationship, however family members and several witnesses have reported that Rutherford was repeatedly verbally and physically abusive to Stempien. While watching a news piece about Laci Peterson when she was drinking with friends at a bar, Stempien reportedly commented, "if anything happens or if I disappear, Chuck would be a person of interest."


In early August 2005, the couple embarked on a boat trip to Mackinac Island in a boat, Sea's Life—a 27 foot Wellcraft Cruiser, owned by Stempien. Stempien called her father 24 hours after departing, assuring him that the couple were safe. Stempien's father is a retired Coast Guard officer who has stated on several occasions that he informed his daughter of proper boating and open water safety techniques. Her father described her as an avid and experienced boater, saying "[a]t times I said [to her] ‘You’re so good with this boat, you ought to join the Coast Guard!" They stopped at Presque Isle for gasoline and Stempien made a congenial fourteen-minute call to her Aunt Pat, of which the aunt commented, "I didn't hear anything wrong." The couple then departed, however, the seas were unusually rough. After another boater saw the couple's relatively small boat, he became concerned and called the Coast Guard. During Stempien's call to her Aunt she reportedly acknowledged the roughness of the open seas, and due to the cold temperatures of the lake that day, the couple were spotted by witnesses wearing several layers of heavy winter clothes. When the boat was found the swim ladder was still up, which was considered unusual had the couple decided to go for a swim. Stempien's body was found days later, floating by the shore.

In a puzzling occurrence, she was found naked and wearing only a watch, a ring, and a necklace. Stempien's watch was an Omega, worth approximately $1500.00, which she had recently paid $300 to have refurbished. Friends and family members say the watch was a prized possession. Stempien's family members also commented that she always removed her jewelry before swimming, putting her ring and necklace interlocked into her watch's band, which she would then clasp around the steering wheel. Additionally, the temperature on the lake that day — — made swimming in the nude unlikely. Her shoe was also found with the knob from the GPS system wedged into the bottom of it.

It is considered unlikely by them that she would go into the water wearing the watch. The boat was also found with blue fenders tied to the boat which the couple reportedly did not own (the couple reportedly owned white fenders) and which family members have stated indicates that another boat was tied to theirs. Additionally, nearly a day after the couple were last heard from, the GPS was turned on or may have recorded over itself.

Stempien's preliminary autopsy report cited her cause of death as "asphyxia by drowning" and ruled her death an accident. However three months later the toxicology report indicated that Stempien had an elevated level of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas, in her system when she drowned. This led to speculation that the couple had swum behind the boat while it was idling and inhaled the gas until passing out or that there was a carbon monoxide leak that seeped the gas into the cabin. The report also showed Stempien had negligible amounts of alcohol in her system, disputing the theory that Stempien and Rutherford were partying and simply fell overboard.


Authorities have not found Rutherford's body despite repeatedly searching Lake Huron. Investigators also found no activity on any of Rutherford's bank or email accounts after his disappearance. They have ruled his death as an accidental drowning. Less than a year after his disappearance, Rutherford's parents went to court in an attempt to have him declared dead in absentia. Normally, an individual has to be missing for five years to officially be considered dead in Michigan. In court proceedings attended by relatives of Stempien, who feel Rutherford is alive and may have murdered Stempien, and Rutherford's parents, Rutherford's status was debated. The sole witness was a State of Michigan Police Detective who stated that their investigation determined Rutherford was dead. On August 3, 2006, the court declared Chuck Rutherford legally dead.

On May 28, 2008, The Detroit News reported that human remains were found near the Lake Huron shoreline, and near the Cheboygan and Presque Isle county line. The remains were taken to Grand Rapids for identification.


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