It’s now been more than 18 months since Tracy Koenig has been able to see her son.
MMA fighter Dave Koenig went missing on Feb. 8, 2020. He was last seen at the Peach Tree Inn, 2450 Green Mountain Dr, Branson. Koenig was friends with the owner of the Inn, and had stayed there for a couple nights before his disappearance.
On the night he disappeared, Koenig had sent text messages asking friends to help him because he felt he might be in danger. Koenig could only send messages because he had a used phone which could only connect to Wi-Fi.
Dave’s mother Tracy Koenig, however, didn’t know about those messages until her son had been reported missing in March to the Branson Police Department.
“Nobody told me about them until after the missing person report was made,” Tracy told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “There were two friends who got messages from him. One I didn’t know until all this happened, but we tracked him down and he fully cooperated and sent me all the messages from that night. The other guy was a very good friend of Dave’s and I don’t think he realized what was going on and never told us about the messages either until it all became public. But he also turned the messages over to me.
“I don’t think either of them read too deeply into those messages at first because Dave was not a person to be scared. Dave was the person other people called when they were scared. He never said someone is after me. He said I think I might be in some trouble and could use some help. He asked for a ride. But he also mentioned he needed to keep ‘hands free’. We all thought it meant ‘off the grid....no phone for awhile’. Now when I think about it....I think he meant he needed to keep ‘hands free’ to protect himself.”
Tracy explained the delay in reporting Dave’s disappearance to his having gone “off the grid” in the past because of addiction issues and an argument two days before he disappeared.
“Dave has battled addiction for many years on and off,” Tracy said. “It wasn’t uncommon for him to go off somewhere and not communicate with us for days and even weeks. We really thought at first it was exactly what he was doing.
“We had a big argument before he left on I believe the 6th. So when he wasn’t communicating we figured he was just ‘pulling a Dave’ as we called it. After a couple weeks I really did start to worry, but my husband kept reminding me if we made a big deal about him being gone it would push him away even more. We finally decided this time was different and we needed to make some moves. So we filed a report and started an aggressive search to find him.”
At the time he went missing, Dave Koenig stood six feet, six inches tall; he was 240 pounds, and with his MMA training would have had the skills to fight back if someone tried to subdue him. Still, nothing known has been found to indicate what happened to him and investigators are looking for the “big piece” which will break the case open.
The Branson Police Department tells Branson Tri-Lakes News the investigation is still active.
“The investigation remains as an open investigation - our team continues to seek leads,” the Branson Police Department said in an email to the Branson Tri-Lakes News. “We continue to work with highway patrol detectives and investigate all leads. Detectives are still seeking the one piece of evidence which will help us locate Dave Koenig. We ask anyone with information about Dave Koenig to contact the Branson Police Department at (417) 334-3300 or via our on-line crime tip submission link.”
Tracy said she is frustrated with the lack of progress, but believes the Branson PD and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are doing what they can do on the case.
“Frustrating is a very mild way of putting it,” Tracy said. “There have been so many different stories. Some are different variations of the same story and some, I feel like, people have pulled them out of thin air. I do, however, feel the Branson police and Missouri State Highway Patrol are working hard to find Dave. Some have become emotionally invested in him and the case.
“I have expressed my frustration toward them and have had my doubts. However, it’s become very clear there is much which goes on behind the scenes they can’t talk about.”
Investigators have given Tracy information that she cannot reveal to the public.
Tracy said she is also frustrated the FBI will not become involved because Dave’s case doesn’t meet the criteria of foul play being proven and the case going over state lines.
The family have been receiving tips and messages from people who claim to have information about the case, but those people will not talk to the police because of legal issues or because of their drug addictions.
“Sometimes I wake up to a private message,” Tracy Koenig said. “These people mean well, but have no filter. It’s enough to make me throw up from the emotion.”
A private investigator who has had success finding other missing persons has taken Dave’s case and will soon be coming to the area to investigate, according to Tracy.
Tracy said Dave’s case is the focus of a passionate Facebook group called Mystery of the Missing Fighter. She gave praise to the members, saying she was “very thankful” for all of them.
“I believe we have 12,300 members,” Tracy said. “And so many of the members are very emotionally invested even more as time goes on. Some have even become friends. Of course there are those who are just curious. But the Facebook group has brought us many leads and connections.”
A documentary film about the disappearance is being produced by director Damian Costello called “Finding David.” Tracy said the film is “in the early stages.”
A $25,000 reward has been offered to anyone who can provide information which leads to finding Dave Koenig. Tracy said the money is coming from fundraisers and concerned area residents, not from the Koenig family.
Tracy said the situation has brought a weight on her mental health, where she sometimes has trouble “holding it together.” She credits exercise as a therapy to help her through the hard days, but she also said she knows she has to press on for Dave’s sake.
“All I want is my son back, or at least to be able to know what happened and learn to go on,” Tracy said. “We can’t even mourn him. I refuse to. As long as we don’t know for sure, I will remain somewhat hopeful. I’ll never ever give up on him.”
The Branson Police Department asks anyone with information about Dave Koenig to contact investigators at (417) 334-3300.