Missing for 20 years, Central York HS grad Jason Knapp declared dead
It's been two decades since Jason Knapp parked his car at a rugged state park in South Carolina and disappeared.
The 1996 Central York High School graduate was 20 years old and a student at Clemson University when he vanished without a trace April 11, 1998.
His white Chevrolet Beretta was found more than a week later at the 3,000-acre Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, about 30 miles from the Clemson campus. Numerous searches over the years have not only failed to find Knapp, they've also failed to find any sign of what might have happened to him.
"We have no more clues now than we did 20 years ago," said his mother, Deborah Boogher of York Township. "It's very frustrating."
On Jan. 31, 2018, she and Knapp's father, John Knapp, signed papers to have their son declared dead, according to Boogher.
"We're still not (finished with) the process," she said. "You can't issue a death certificate without a body, so there's more paperwork to go through. But he is declared legally dead."
Never given up: Boogher has never given up trying to solve the mystery and never strayed from her goal of someday bringing her son home.
"I pray to God every day that we do," she said.
Boogher estimates she spends six months a year on efforts to find Knapp, including annual trips to South Carolina.
"I refer to it as going into 'Jason Mode,'" she said. "I do it alone, and I have done it ever since Jason disappeared. ... This is about me and Jason, and that is what I focus on."
Boogher used to drive but has flown for the last 10 years.
"You can't drive a car when you're crying all the time," she explained.
During her annual treks south, Boogher takes time to sit on the South Carolina Botanical Garden bench that's dedicated to Knapp. The garden is on the Clemson campus.
She said she had the bench placed there in her son's name as a way not only to remember him but to give her some comfort.
Boogher said she has met with the park manager of Table Rock annually. For many years, that's been Poll Knowland, although he retired in December, she said.
"We'll talk about what searches they've done in the past year," Boogher said. "They've continuously searched that park for Jason."
Too rugged: Knowland kept extensive records of which areas had been searched, she said.
"This is a very rugged, very harsh park — too rugged for me," Boogher said.
She said her son wasn't the kind of person to go hiking alone, and he never spoke to friends or acquaintances about going to Table Rock.
"That's the one thing to this day that I don't understand," she said. "It's all a mystery to me."
Boogher doesn't let herself dwell on what her son's fate might have been.
"That puts you in a very dark place," she said. "And that's a place I don't want to go."
Knapp would be 40 years old now.
Wanted daughters: His mother suspects that had he not disappeared, Knapp would now be happily married and have children. He always told her he wanted two daughters and even had their names picked out.
"I used to laugh and tell him to get a wife first," Boogher said.
Knapp's dream was to become a pilot, she said, but he changed course after learning he was colorblind — a condition that prevents people from flying planes.
He then dreamed of being a NASCAR racer.
"Jason was kind of a speed demon. ... He was always driving too fast, and I was always fussing at him about it," Boogher said, adding she used to think that if something bad happened to her son, it would be a car crash.
She described her son as a private person who wouldn't like all the publicity his disappearance has generated.
Engineering student: When Knapp went missing, he was carrying a 21-credit school schedule, was part of Clemson's ROTC program and had pledged into the Pershing Rifles, the university's elite rifle program.
He was majoring in general engineering.
In 1999, the FBI revealed that a fingerprint found on a Table Rock State Park parking stub was matched Knapp's fingerprint, proving he was in his car when he entered the park.
When the Pickens County Sheriff's Department took over the case in 2007, several suspected killers were questioned about Knapp — particularly those who targeted hikers — but the questioning yielded no answers.
Authorities even installed cameras at the bottom of the park's watershed in search of evidence, but they found nothing.
Service information: A public visitation in Knapp's honor will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at First Church of the Brethren, 2710 Kingston Road in Springettsbury Township.
A memorial service will follow and is expected to begin about 3 p.m., Boogher said.
An invitation-only service will be held at Clemson University, she said.
Anyone with information on what happened to Knapp is asked to call the Pickens County Sheriff's Department at 864-898-5500.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.