'Alaska Unsolved' podcast revisits 24-year-old cold case
It's been almost 24 years since Erin Marie Gilbert went missing near Girdwood. On July 1st, 1995 she went on a day trip to the the annual Forrest Fair with a man she'd met the day before at the local watering hole, Chilkoot Charlie's. That's the last time she was ever seen.
Back then, Evan Philips was living in a cabin on the Kenai Peninsula, working as a park ranger's assistant. Fast forward to 2019 and Philips is a musician and podcast producer based in Anchorage. He still can't stop wondering what happened to Erin Gilbert. A few weeks ago, during a visit to Evan's basement-turned-studio, he took some time to discuss Gilbert's case and his newest project -- a podcast titled "Alaska Unsolved."
The seven part series focuses on the events that led up to Gilbert's disappearance and the investigations and media coverage that followed. Philips made it clear during our talk that he isn't trying to solve some uncrackable case for fun. For him, it's about bringing closure to those that need it.
There are signs dotting the area surrounding Girdwood that read: "Please tell us where Erin Marie Gilbert is located?" Her family has relocated out of state since her disappearance, but they return to Alaska as often as possible to continue the search. On Facebook, they maintain a page called
, which is updated regularly.
Due to the personal nature of this case, Philips was initially reluctant to commit. In an earlier episode of the podcast, he recounts one moment during a phone call with Erin's older sister, where he questioned whether or not this case was something he should become involved in. In the end, seeing the family continue to search for answers gave him the motivation to go through with "Alaska Unsolved."
Randel McPherron is the only member of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation's Cold Case Investigations Unit. At the time of Erin Gilbert's disappearance, Girdwood fell into trooper jurisdiction. They led the investigation, which McPherron described as "organized and thorough," but in the end they came up empty-handed.
Today, McPherron juggles about 100 open cold cases at a time and he vaguely remembers when Gilbert's case first started to unfold, but in 1995 he was stationed in Ketchikan. He first picked up Gilbert's case file in 2017 and he quickly realized that the lack of physical evidence was a major issue.
Philips met with McPherron during his initial research for Alaska Unsolved. One of his primary drives for completing the series was to bring attention back to the case, and hopefully drum up new leads for McPherron. New episodes of the podcast are being released weekly and can be streamed or downloaded for free on both Apple and Android devices, or you can follow along on Philips journey to uncover new details about the 24-year-old cold case.
Anyone with details or information that could be of interest to investigators should contact trooper headquarters at (907) 269-5511.