Investigators Solve the Mystery of Missing Daniel Buckwalter, Suspect in Jail


Daniel Buckwalter and his vehicle as seen in the 2015 Missing Persons poster
Daniel Buckwalter and his vehicle as seen in the 2015 Missing person poster

After a five-year investigation, troopers report that the case of missing Big Lake man, Daniel Roy Buckwalter has finally been solved and the main suspect in the case is in custody.

Buckwalter was last known to be alive on August 4th, 2015, and was reported missing on August 12th of that year. It was thought that Buckwalter was traveling to the Meadow Lakes area and his vehicle was soon located abandoned along Three Bees Road in Houston. The investigation at that scene would discover blood evidence in the vehicle which was found, through DNA testing, to belong to Buckwalter. Investigators determined that the vehicle had been moved there from the initial crime scene.

Through time, over 50 individuals were interviewed and over 30 search warrants were issued with over 30 pieces of evidence submitted to the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory. That evidence would determine that Buckwalter was likely murdered at a Kerry Lynn Lane residence in Wasilla two miles from where the vehicle had been dumped.

Investigators identified a prime suspect in Buckwalter’s disappearance as 55-year-old Jay Osmond Gardner, who made several inconsistent statements throughout the investigation.

Investigators searched several locations throughout the Mat-Su Valley to no avail.

Then on March 25th, 2020, Gardner, who was at the Ted Stevens Airport waiting to leave on a jet, was contacted and arrested on an outstanding felony arrest warrant for Misconduct Involving Weapons III. During that arrest, Gardner was also charged with fraud/identity theft when it was found he was fleeing the state under an assumed name.

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On April 6th, another warrant was issued for the search of Gardner’s property and equipment was brought in to excavate the property, but nothing was found. But, investigators didn’t give up and on April 20th another search warrant was issued. This time, investigators targetted the interior of the residence and would dismantle the floorboards of the home. There, under three feet of dirt and rocks, heavily decomposed remains were found.

Those remains were taken to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage for autopsy. It would be determined that the remains were those of Buckwalter and further examination would find that he died from a combination of a gunshot wound and asphyxiation.

On June 30th, a grand jury in Palmer indicted Gardner, who was still in custody following the March arrest, for Murder I, Murder II and Tampering with Physical Evidence.

Gardner remains in jail with no bail.