David Koenig, a 25-year-old amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighter, went missing in Missouri almost two years ago.
The search came to a close this week, when human remains found near Branson earlier this month were officially determined to be Koenig’s.
The police department announced its findings Monday, after the Taney County Coroner’s Office concluded its examination of the remains. No cause of death was given, but authorities said they saw no evidence of foul play.
“Our department and the amazing group of volunteers never stopped in our efforts to find Mr. Koenig,” said Branson Police Chief Jeff Matthews. “While this is not the ending we hoped for, we offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Koenig.”
David Koenig Disappeared Last Year
Koenig was 25 years old when he was last seen at a Branson motel in February 2020. His family waited until March to report him missing, reportedly because the amateur MMA fighter was known to go “off the grid” for lengths of time without contacting loved ones.
According to his mother, Tracy Koenig, David was friends with the owner of the Peach Tree Inn, where he was staying in the days before he disappeared.
She told Dateline last July that he “messaged a few of his friends asking for help” and “thought he might be in some sort of trouble” just before he went missing.
“But by the time they read the messages and tried to respond to him, he had stopped messaging,” Tracy told reporters. “There was no answer from him.”
Branson police worked with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to track down the fighter, spending thousands of hours combing the Ozarks. But the investigation proceeded with little progress for almost two years.
Remains ID’d as David Koenig
On Dec. 22, a Branson man was searching the forest floor for deer antlers near the 3700 block of Fall Creek Road, when he discovered what he suspected were human remains.
The man reported his findings to authorities, who said they “conducted a meticulous search of the area, recovering most of the remains and several other personal articles” from the scene.
On Monday, Branson police said a forensic odontologist completed their examination of the recovered items and announced their findings — the remains were human, and were definitively identified as David Koenig.
Medical examiners determined “that there was no trauma and that the death did not appear to be the result of foul play,” the department wrote in a statement.
The discovery brings the manhunt to an end, but the fighter’s final days are still clouded in mystery. It’s not clear why Koenig believed he was in danger before his disappearance, or why he was in the forest at the time of his death.
Family and Friends Mourn
On a Facebook page called “David Koenig Search Party,” loved ones expressed grief Monday.
“We are in pain,” the page admins wrote. “We need time and we need some peace right now. Please and thank you for your prayers.”
On another page called “Mystery of the Missing Fighter,” David’s mom Tracy said the finding brought closure after her son’s disappearance. There was no sign he had been killed or even robbed, she said, as had been speculated during the year-long search.
“All the rumors were false,” she wrote in a post Monday morning. “Nobody killed Dave […] He left the Peachtree on foot and never made it home.”
She continued: “Why he was in distress, and why he walked through the deep woods…..we most likely will never know. But he is gone. So please, no more rumors, no conspiracy theories, no blaming Branson [police]. We do not want or need to hear your thoughts on what could have happened. It won’t bring him back, and we are in enough pain already.”