Home > Searching for Risk

Searching for Risk
Author: Tonya Burrows


part one






I am only a spark: Make me a fire.

Amado Nervo



episode 1: what happened to darcy?



Hey there, Truth Seekers! Welcome to Cold Truth, the podcast that's all about uncovering the mysteries of cold cases. I'm your host, Alexis Summers, and I'm thrilled to be taking you on a journey into the baffling case of Darcy Cantrell - a teenage girl who vanished without a trace.

Now, I know true crime can be a bit heavy, but don't worry - I'm here to guide you through the twists and turns of this intriguing case, and I’ll try to keep things as light as possible.

So, pop in your earbuds and get ready to join me each week as we unravel the chilling truth behind Darcy's disappearance.

Darcy Cantrell never expected to live a long life. She never expected to be famous, either. Not with where and who she came from. Her mom, Sissy, had struggled with addiction her whole life and died of a heroin overdose when Darcy was only nine. Her dad, Franklin, was an abusive asshole when he was home—which, thankfully, as a commercial fisherman, wasn’t often. She was mainly left to fend for herself, and she preferred it that way.

I know we say this next thing a lot in true crime—so much, it’s become a cliche—but in this case, there’s no other word to describe Darcy. She was stunning and she could light up a room—when she wanted to. At eighteen, she wore her dark hair in a shaggy, shoulder-length bob and had piercing gray eyes that changed color with her mood. She was tall and thin and if she’d been born into another family, she might have gone on to be a model or an actress, capitalizing on her beauty. All of the boys wanted her. Many of the girls were jealous of her and, in the way of teenagers, were often petty and mean.

But Darcy was a tough cookie—she had to be to survive—and she didn’t tolerate bullies. Trevor Ponce, one of her classmates, recalls the time in middle school when she received a school suspension for punching Mark Salas, the class bully who stole Trevor’s new iPod. When I spoke to Trevor via phone, it was obvious he still looked up to Darcy as a hero. All of the outcasts did because she stood up for them when nobody else would.

“She was cool,” Trevor said. “But not like in the same way as the popular kids. She didn’t try to be—she just was. Effortlessly.”

Even Mark Salas, now a CEO, came to respect her: “Everyone knew you didn’t mess with her. She’d take you down and not think twice about it, but she’d also have your back if you needed her to.”

Darcy made okay grades in school, but teachers often said she could’ve done better if she’d applied herself. She didn’t participate in sports or after-school clubs. She was fine with admirers, but she didn’t want friends. All she wanted was out.

Out of the cliquey school.

Out of the shabby trailer she lived in.

Out of the small town of Steam Valley, California.

But she never got the chance to leave.

On the chilly, windy night of October 26, 2007, Darcy’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Donovan Scott, convinced her to go to Hidden Beach—a difficult-to-access strip of sand tucked away in a cove under the bluffs of Lost Coast Lighthouse, where local kids often had parties. It was their senior year, and the roughly one-hundred students from Redwood Coast High’s Class of 2008 had a mean case of senioritis. There were parties every weekend, and this weekend was no exception. The teens lit a bonfire, drank cheap beer and wine coolers, reminisced about the last three years, and wondered what life would be like after high school.

Darcy hated it. By all accounts, she wanted to leave within minutes of arriving. Her boyfriend wanted to stay and drank heavily, ignoring her pleas to take her home.

Around 1:30 AM, witnesses saw a fight break out between Darcy and Donovan, a troubled kid from a troubled home with a hair-trigger temper. She reportedly slapped him and ran off into the vast wilderness of the Northern California redwoods. Drunk and angry, he followed her.

She was never seen again.

Fifteen years later, Darcy Megan Cantrell is famous. She’s an urban legend local kids tell each other around a campfire on Hidden Beach. She’s a ghost story, an unsolved mystery that has plagued law enforcement for years. But ask anyone in town, and they’ll tell you the cold truth: she was murdered, and they know exactly who got away with it.

So, what really happened to Darcy? Did she finally run away as she’d always dreamed? Did she get lost on her way home and succumb to exposure in the rugged mountains? Or did something more sinister happen? And if she died that night, is Donovan to blame, or were there other suspects who were never investigated?

One thing's for sure—this case is anything but simple.

Stick with me this season as we delve deep into Darcy’s story to see if we can uncover what really happened to her.

In the meantime, make sure to hit that subscribe button so you don't miss out on any future episodes of Cold Truth. And, as always, if you have any information that could help solve this case or the others we’ve discussed, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Until next time—stay safe, stay curious, and never stop seeking the truth.



chapter one



Present Day

“Figured you’d be here.”

Donovan Scott bit back a growl of annoyance as his former best friend and current pain-in-the-ass boss emerged from the winding path onto the beach. He picked up the stick his border collie, Spirit, dropped at his feet and gave it a hard toss. She streaked after it in a blur of black and white and endless energy. “You wasted your time tracking me down. I’m not going to that fucking costume party.”

“It’s not a costume party. It’s a masquerade ball,” Zak Hendricks said as he crossed the sand. His dog, Ranger, raced out in front of him to join Spirit in the surf. “I’m assured there’s a difference. And, yes, you’re going.”

“What are you going to do, Leg-o-less. Carry me there?”

“If I have to. My wife wants all of Redwood Coast Rescue in attendance. The whole team, and, like it or not, you became part of the team when you accepted Spirit’s leash.” Zak stopped next to where he sat in the sand and watched the dogs play. “She’s doing well?”

“She’s perfect.” Nobody would know Spirit had a benign tumor removed from her brain six months ago. It had affected her balance and ability to walk, but she recovered fast as soon as it was gone. Now she was a happy, healthy dog who loved to run and lived to sniff out explosive materials for a bite of her favorite treat: hot dogs. She was originally supposed to be a search and rescue K9, but her knack for bomb detection had been a welcome surprise since Donovan would’ve made a shitty SAR K9 handler. Explosives, he knew. He had been an EOD tech in the Marines, and even though he’d gotten himself blown up, he still liked bombs better than people. In his experience, they were less volatile.

“No more dizzy spells?”

He didn’t know if Zak was asking about him or his dog, so he kept his mouth shut and his gaze focused on Spirit. Still, he could see the shine of Zak’s prosthetic leg out of the corner of his eye. While the guy seemed to have accepted the disability now, it was an uncomfortable reminder of how broken the whole so-called team was.

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