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Fools Gold

It is quite correct that the situation is unlikely for a plot. The missing attorney had alot invested in his firm and little reason to want to start over elsewhere much less start over elsewhere under an assumed name.

Swimming under the temperature and wave conditions is absurd, irrespective of the 'up' status of the swim ladder. Nakedness is probably not due to disrobing in the water for flotation but to hypothermia which in the extreme end makes someone feel hot. Neurological confusion is likely as far as some argument over the GPS. I think they each suffered open-air carbon monoxide intoxication due to the exhaust outlet being covered by a quartering sea. This would impair their reasoning, make them feel cold at first, give them flu-like symptoms and obvious lethargy and then as their situation deteriorated they would feel very hot as their core temperature actually dropped to fatal figures. Boating incidents involving carbon monoxide in enclosed spaces or from swimming behind the stern are common, but open air monoxide intoxication is not unheard of either.


As to the blue rather than white fenders and their unseamanlike deployment, I ascribe that to poor memory of the relatives. Why would someone have left the blue fenders and taken the white ones aboard another vessel? Ofcourse another vessel would also have been a source of carbon monoxide, but I think the blue fenders were aboard to begin with.

Fools Gold

"... Sadly, the final answer in the Stempien/Rutherford case may forever elude us."

Yes. I am afraid so. We are drawn to a case wherein the victim is stunningly attractive. The history of some violence in the relationship as well as her desire and intent to end the relationship all feed our suspicions of something nefarious being afoot. It takes great courage to conclude that a young woman of great beauty who is also a super-careful and experienced boater who does not touch a drop of alcohol when she is on the water can nevertheless die in a boating accident. The 'atleast 13 percent carbon monoxide' is well below the fatal level of fifty percent but its enough for neurological impairment. It would be unlikely to have been confined to the air abaft the stern, as no one would swim in that cold water or with the engine idling.

Sometimes its hard for a sleuth to refrain from jumping to conclusions. If Chandra Levy had worked for a grocery executive, no one in the media would have gone so utterly bonkers. Well, just as a young woman in Washington about to embark on a career with the FBI can have her life cut short by a simple mugging while wearing headphones a hauntingly attractive and super-cautious sailor can have things come acropper on the water! Looking at the evidence instead of our imaginations can be difficult sometimes!

I saw the show recently about this. I think that the evidence points to an accidental drowning and most everything else is just a bereaved father trying to "do something" for his daughter after he could not be there when she needed him most. Accidents involving children often leave a parent looking for someone to blame, someone to replace grief with hate.
I very much feel sorry for the guy's parents who not only have to deal with their grief, but also with the repeated smearing and slandering of their son. Unfortunately, that is more and more common these days.

I thought the "fight witness" was utterly unbelievable, and most likely the kind of person who miraculously surfaces in any well publicized case to become a "hero" to someone.

Much of the "mystery" depends on the father's assurance that his daughter would never do anything that could possibly put herself at risk, or break C.G. boating procedure. That seems naive, given everyone's description of her as a wild spirited party type person.

Much was made about the missing body "mystery". They make it sound like a rarity, and yet an entire generation learned that "the lake it is said never gives up her dead". Just grasping at anything.

I also think that the accident investigator was being kind to the father of the girl in not pointing out some of the counterintuitive accusations he had made about the guy.

A tragedy... but the girl's father is turning it into a nightmare. Accident's happen, even to beautiful girls, despite what the previous commenter believes.

michael jones

A sad story. Unfortunately while boating people could lose a lot.

Ericka Reynolds

I was just reading the Free Press Blog and this guy mention Lana, being an attorney for the city of Detroit overseeing FOIA
maybe she came across some Kwame Kilpatrick bullshit you never know.

Chuck's body may have been found - autopsy results are pending.

A Voice of Sanity

Fools Gold mentioned: that "the lake it is said never gives up her dead". Referring to the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald? This refers to Lake Superior which the First Nations named 'Gitche Gumee' (All Powerful Lake).


Actually, the snippet from the lyrics to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was not posted by me at all.

As to the recent discovery, the advanced state of decomposition made dna the only reliable means to determine what particular mishap might have been involved.

The speculation about a murder plot has never been anything more than the quite understandable refuge of a grief-stricken father and the less understandable distortions of the ratings-hungry tabloid journalists who assume that a successful attorney abandoned a valuable law practice and his license in order to kill his girlfriend. I look forward to hearing the results of the dna testing that is underway.


The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board ordered Wednesday that west Michigan lawyer John Cote's law license should be suspended for 45 days for comments he made in news articles and TV programs about the 2005 disappearance of two Grosse Pointe lawyers on a boating trip.

The board said Cote volunteered legal service to the family of Charles Rutherford Jr., then portrayed him as a possible suspect. The board also said Cote has to tell the media outlets about his suspension and ask television shows that his comments be removed from any rebroadcasts.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," Cote said, adding that he is considering an appeal to the full discipline board.

He said an appeal would delay the notification requirement and the suspension, which is slated to start July 17.

Rutherford and Lana Stempien went missing in Lake Huron, and her cabin cruiser was found abandoned and idling the next day. Stempien's body was found two days later, but Rutherford remained missing.

Human remains were found near Cheboygan during the Memorial Day weekend. Tests to identify them are pending.

kevin o'connor

Someone said it already,but she was an FOIA lawyer in Detroit at a very troubled time....

J King

Here’s my hypothesis of how the crime went down. It’s based on press reports I’ve read, and it explains details (like the jewelry) that people have had a hard time explaining:

Chuck (call him “R”) overheard Lana’s (“S’s”) cell phone call to the “other guy” that R had been jealous of in the past.

S was probably lying in the cabin naked (it was just the two of them on a romantic weekend) with her jewelry on (which explains why she had the jewelry on when her body was found).

R became insane with jealousy I base this on: a. There had been earlier reports of heated arguments between the two. b. People said he was infatuated with her in a “clinging” way–It’s amazing what insanely jealous men will do. c. He overheard that she was going to Boston to visit the man that had earlier made R jealous.

In a rage, R tried to kill or subdue S with carbon monoxide, possibly by closing off the cabin where she lay (carb. monox. was later found in her lungs). Then, he drove the boat out into the deep, cold waters of Lake Huron and threw her overboard (naked except for jewelry; alive but possibly unconscious from the carbon monoxide, which would explain drowning as the cause of death, and which would explain why there were few signs of struggle).

S may have partially awakened and she may put up an ineffective struggle (Officials say there were no signs of a struggle, and the shoe lodged in the GPS device may or may not be relevant. R looks like a big guy, and he probably could get S overboard without much struggle.)

Then, R waited until late at night, in darkness (so he wouldn’t be seen by people on shore), drove the boat to a few miles off a remote shore, and he set it adrift. He left the boat idling–possibly intended as a red herring—with the stereo on but with the running lights off (the running lights were off so anyone on shore wouldn’t see the boat in the darkness). The question remains as to how he got ashore: it is reported that R turned on the GPS five miles east of Bois Blanc Island. He probably wouldn’t swim that far to shore, so maybe there was a small raft aboard he could use with little chance of detection. On the other hand, desperate people perform acts of desperation, and R had been recognized as a strong swimmer. As a final precaution before leaving the boat, R deleted GPS data in an effort to cover his tracks. By then turning on the GPS and setting the boat adrift, R would’ve led investigators on the wrong track--away from S’s body and away from the direction that R fled.

Note: R would have had to drive the boat to the northwest from where he dumped the body–the boat wouldn’t drift there against the prevailing current while in neutral, and somebody had to shift it into neutral once the boat was driven there. (See Fig. 15 of this link for Lake Huron summer currents: R drove to the northwest of where he dumped S to a spot a few miles offshore, in the dark, and then he put the boat into neutral and somehow got ashore in the darkness, while setting the boat adrift.

(By the way, a swimming accident is out of the question—expensive jewelry still on, swimming ladder up, relatively cold water, S was very safety-conscious.)

Knowing he had committed murder, R couldn’t reveal himself. I’m convinced he is hiding out with a means of sustenance from someone he trusts. I believe he is being aided in hiding by his family, who R knew would not turn him in. He probably called them immediately after reaching shore.

Why his family?

1. R’s family was in too much of a hurry to have him pronounced legally dead—if he’s legally dead he can no longer be brought to trial and the search for him would end!.
2. The press reported that R’s family seemed “relieved” when the judge pronounced R dead. Wouldn’t they be crying? They were probably relieved to know that R could no longer be prosecuted and that searches would be called off or at least reduced in scope.
3. The R family refused to allow anyone from the S family into the house R and S had shared. R may have lived at the R and S house secretly for a short time after the incident, until he could find a permanent hideout. He probably soon moved away from the Detroit area, since his photo was too well known around Detroit.
4. R’s family rebuffed S’s father’s pleas to work together to find R. If they didn’t know R’s whereabouts, wouldn’t they want to do whatever it takes to find him? He’s their son! It sounds extremely suspicious. Of course, parents never want to believe their kid did anything wrong, and they will hide him/her if necessary.

Possibly R moved to Virginia, as a Mr Colwell claims in his post on a blog that discusses the case:
George Colwell’s blog post:
June 10, 2008 at 5:30 pm
Charles Rutherford, Jr. is alive and well living in the Warrenton, VA area and frequenting the Applebees bar in the evenings there where he is pursuing a bartender who looks a lot like Lana, and her name is Laura.

According to reports, R had been totally infatuated with S, so his pursing a woman who “looks a lot like Lana” adds credibility to Mr Colwell’s claim. Regardless, it wouldn’t take much effort for Warrenton police to check it out.

I believe the blue bumpers are not significant, although I have no explanation for them. The Coast Guard didn’t find them, and eyewitnesses sometimes make mistakes, so who knows?

David Yonson

Hey Kevin, you posted 3 years to the day they disappeared - around the possible hour too.
Anyway, accidents on the water happen, sometimes leaving few answers. We tend to let our imaginations run, usually assuming the worst.

I believe strongly that "accident" is not one of the few choices available here. I feel that an accident is ruled out only because of the GPS. I'm not a boater and don't know much about GPS systems, but if it had to be turned on manually, this would bring on two basic scenarios which could have happened in multiple ways.
The first is what Kevin has covered in an earlier statement here so I won't repeat it, although I may have issues with some of the details. It is plausible, but I don't agree with it from the standpoint where he says that Chuck ended Lana’s life for whatever reason and has now escaped. Chuck could have murdered Lana made up a host of excuses as to what had happened to her and gone on with his life. This first version could be put to rest by investigation into the Rutherford family because contact of some sort would have eventually been made.
The facts, as we see them on the various forms of media, may not be right, altering our perception of this mystery. The Rutherfords purported “rush” to have their son declared dead, may simply have been their need to move on, and the acceptance that he would not be coming back regardless of what happened. Unfortunately this attitude and how their relationship with the Stempiens was portrayed in the media, creates additional questions.
He may have ended Lana’s life as well as his own. Finding Chuck’s body would have been convenient, but Huron an awfully large lake. I believe Chuck and Lana were victims and the GPS is the one mistake, necessary as it might have been, that the perpetrator(s) made.

Just one side note. If the police had followed up on clients and cases that each of the attorneys were working on, and also impounded the boat immediately, at the very least, other more diabolical scenarios could be eliminated. But his isn’t T.V. and the investigators do as much as they can with the limited resources they have.

Scenario number two, and what I believe to be the case, involves a third party. Although I think that there were two to three persons in the third party, even if there was just one, it really doesn’t change the key points of how August 11th 2005 unraveled for Chuck and Lana and why the involvement of the GPS will help solve this case.
During one of Lana’s calls, she said that they would be at their destination in two hours if I remember right. I believe that after that last call was made, Chuck and Lana, crossed the path of a boat in distress, smaller without a GPS system. This boat would have been drifting southwest along the coast if their engine was inoperable. Shortly after that, things went horribly wrong. Chuck was the first to go as his size made him more intimidating. They held onto Lana for awhile trying to figure out what to do. She may have jumped or been thrown over, regardless, she entered the water. Even in August, offshore the water does not get warm enough to encourage a swim. The perpetrators now have a working boat and slowly tow their own craft back to the area of Bois Blanc Island. Why here? Because this was roughly the area where the GPS was turned on, and the key to how to find these people. If nothing was stolen, the engine was left running, the lights off, and GPS on, one might believe that they were washed over or drowned while swimming, and this is what the assailants want us to believe, but this is not the case.
When they had command of the boat and brought it back up the Michigan coast to the Bois Blanc Island area, night had fallen. Remember, as my theory goes, they were towing another vessel so the trip may have taken much longer bringing them into the evening hours. This creates an enormous problem for them. At this point if they are not back into very familiar territory, they essentially will be lost along the northern Michigan coast on the boat of two people that will soon be reported missing. They can’t be seen on this craft and the sun might be up in a matter of hours. As my theory continues, they make a call to a party on land (at least one of them has a cell phone and they are now within tower range) who has a boat and will come out to meet them. As far as this party on land knows, his friends are simply on their own boat which is having engine problems. He asks them where exactly they are and at this point they make the necessary decision of turning on the GPS to give him the exact coordinates. He would plug in their location and have no trouble finding them. If they don’t do this, their friend may not be able to find them until daylight. Even experienced boaters get lost at night as there are not many distinguishing landmarks in the darkness to give bearing to. Remember, they need to get off of “Sea’s Life” soon.
If someone comes out to pick them up, they would probably need the correct coordinates and that would mean communication was made with shore and that more than likely would take place via cell phone. If, and here is the big if, the phone service providers in the area would give the information of all cell phone calls made off of the cell towers located within that area at between 12 and 3 am. in the morning, this could possibly give a clue as to who is involved with this. This was the evening of August 11th 2005, which is a Thursday. From midnight to 3 a.m. Friday there could not have been a tremendous number of calls – not at that time, in the middle of the week, in that location, even in a vacation area.
The GPS was switched on because the murders were lost and beginning to panic.
Another variation would be that they turned the GPS on, pulled the boat back to their familiar port, towed a small motor boat out two or 3 miles and left Sea’s Life to drift in the current. This could explain the short tow rope with the blue buoys if in fact they exist.
If there is any substance to my speculation, the third party didn’t make many mistakes, but the GPS and possible calls to the mainland or Bois Blanc Island could be two of them.
I have explanations for some of the nagging details throughout but decided to present the short version.
How’s that for a theory?



I doubt Rutherford would have abandoned his law practice after a heat of passion killing. He could so easily have claimed a boating accident due to rogue wave or something.
Nothing really mysterious about the GPS since it over-writes its memory.
Intercepted by an evil third party? Good material for a Hollywood script. Not so good for real life.


If you look at the Dateline show there is a scene where they are flipping through a photo album that seems to be an evidence book. There are pictures of Lana’s shoe with the knob embedded into it. The knob struck me as looking very odd because it is driven into the shoe almost level. The knob is almost perfectly centered left to right in the arch of the shoe. The black plastic knob doesn’t look like it was scuffed as if it where stomped on or whacked into the shoe. It looks like someone methodically pushed or screwed the knob into the sole of the shoe. It really does not look like something that would happen in a struggle.

J King

Mr. Yonson's hypothesis is interesting, but I hold to my earlier posting: having killed Lana by throwing her overboard in deep waters, Chuck is alive and is being harbored somewhere by his parents.

It's just TOO coincidental that, right after an infatuated, known-to-be-jealous Chuck overheard Lana's cell phone call to her male friend in Boston arranging a visit with him, that suddenly some bad dudes showed up and killed them both. (And what's the bad dudes' motive? Chuck certainly had a motive.) Remember, Chuck and Lana's friends had seen them get into violent arguments at bars etc.

"Nobody's" comment that the knob looked as though it had been pushed or screwed into Lana's shoe's sole is also interesting (I didn't see the Dateline show). Chuck might have thought he'd make it look as though there had been a struggle, to throw authorities off track.

I still think he just threw a sleeping (or unconscious) Lana off the boat then drove away, leaving her to drown (it's a very big, cold lake).

Laura James

All I can say to this is: DNA is our hope for finality here. I am keeping an ear out for those results.


More logical explanations:

The GPS system on the Stempien family boat was not switched off and then on....or reset manually. It overwrote itself when it ran out of the appearance of being reset. This was reported in and on the news.

The whole shoe thing:

The GPS system was afixed to the dash of the boat and held together by duct tape.

There were a few knobs strewn about the boat...and it had been like that for a few weeks at least by most accounts.

Only friends of Lana and Chuck and others who have been on the boat know this. Dateline and others chose to not include it...kind of takes away from the mystery.


I too think the "mystery" was perpetuated by Dateline. I don't think is adds up to a murder. GPS switching on is explained, now there are comments about the GPS being taped to the dash and knobs strewn about the boat? I think both of their deaths were accidental. I think it is ridiculous that Lana is portrayed as methodical, careful, etc. by stating things like she always put her jewelry in the same place every time, she never owned blue bumpers, she always checked in with her family, she was always a safe boater, she was a great swimmer. The boat sounds like a pig sty and I am sure she was a wonderful person and made occasional mistakes.


I am sure someone could figure out the wind direction the day they went missing and see if the wind was blowing from the back of the boat toward the cabin hatch? If the weather were cold they would have had all of the windows closed in the cabin and only the hatch open -- apparently a deadly combination. It appears that carbon monoxide poisoning is frequent with boating and not having cross ventilation is the main reason. The carbon monoxide get sucked or blown from the back of the boat into the cabin. If you Google it you will find dozens of recent stories of this happening to boaters. Interestingly they all say that this never happened before on their boat and it seemed safe...


I will make a final comment however. I think Kevin O'Connor's version of the story is well thought out if it were a murder (although I clearly think not) but I would add to his version that Rutherford may have used the blue bumpers to swim ashore with. This would explain why there was a witness who saw them then they are gone. That boater may have come upon the boat while Rutherford was still there trying to make his final escape.

Ed Deering

I just wondered if anyone thought to see if any satillites were above Lake Huron that day. Maybe there's photo evidence of where the Sea's Life was, or any other boats in the area.


Neither a torso found in Benton Township on May 26, 2008 nor a foot found in Ocqueoc Township on July 28, 2008 belong to the missing attorney Rutherford accordng to a recent news release. The determination was based on mtDNA testing.

The most likely explanation remains accidental drowning after open-air exposure to excessive levels of carbon monoxide.


Some comments on a variety of matters that were raised in prior comments:

Dateline: Yes, Dateline clearly wanted an interesting story and mystery sells, simple accidents don't. Spousal abuse sells, accidents don't.

Moxoxide: Its not just wind but also wave action. Enclosed areas are ofcourse worse but much of the carbon monoxide intoxication takes place in the open air, not the enclosed spaces.

Rutherford Finances: With his major asset his law practice, I don't see him as swimming away into oblivion as a short order cook rather than attorney at law. If he acted in rage, the victim's corpse would have shown it.


Frist of all there is no doult that lana was murdered, most likly by chuck. 90% of the time when a women ends up murdered it is the man in her life.They did not go swimming the water was to cold and her later 2 phone calls she said she wanted to get to land and was an hour way. The very thought that the little bit of carbon m intoxication cause them to both go over board is just laughable.Why would not one of them end up still in the boat, plus they had a sinser on the bout whitch did not go off.The knob in her shoe shows that she was fighting for her life after he lost it after her last phone call she made to another guy. One must remeber that he was seen hitting her 2 weeks before out side the moter city casino. all so there was other times where he lost it. She once told her friends that if anything happens to her to look to him.

He is either still alive or later after he killed he he killed his self, but one thing is for sure she is dead because of him. His father truly knows the truth, the way he acted tells me that, but he would tell. I know more about this case than most of you people and i will debate anyone on this case that it was not an actident.
Hopefully for her family we fined the truth out.
There is much more i can go into that shows she was murdered, but for now i will end here.


FoolsGold's comments remind me of a quote attributed to Vladmir Lenin, noted Russian Communist and revolutionary:

"A lie told often enough becomes the truth".


>there is no doubt that Lana was murdered
There is considerable doubt.
>They did not go swimming
Probably not.
>the water was too cold
>The very thought that the little bit of carbon
>monoxide intoxication caused them to both go
>over board is just laughable.
Its not particularly laughable to the families in this case nor the families in all the many other cases wherein people succumb to carbon monoxide intoxication.
>a sensor on the boat whitch did not go off.
The sensor was a carboard patch that turns pink. It does not sound an alarm and it must be noticed as well as carefully located. Most such sensors are unreliable and not particularly sensitive.
>The knob shows she was fighting for her life
The knob shows she stepped on it but does not reveal under what circumstances.
>he was seen hitting her 2 weeks before
IF you believe the witness.


Mark: 30% of women murdered in the United States in 1999 were murdered by a husband, former husband or boyfriend. According to: (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends in the United States, Intimate Homicide, 2001) So, your first statement is incorrect.

Your second statement: "They did not go swimming the water was to cold" Maybe they did...maybe they did not. No one will ever know for sure...

As for your third statement: "a little bit of carbon m intoxication cause them to both go over board" Suck in carbon monoxide until you have 13% in your blood stream...then try and stand up straight on a boat out in the lake...

You mention a "sinser"....assuming you meant sensor...and I have not read any reports of a sensor on board...functioning or not.

You write, "The knob in her shoe shows that she was fighting for her life..." If you look at the Dateline show there is a scene where they are flipping through a photo album that seems to be an evidence book. There are pictures of Lana’s shoe with the knob embedded into it. The knob struck me as looking very odd because it is driven into the shoe almost level. The knob is almost perfectly centered left to right in the arch of the shoe. The black plastic knob doesn’t look like it was scuffed as if it where stomped on or whacked into the shoe. It looks like someone methodically pushed or screwed the knob into the sole of the shoe. It really does not look like something that would happen in a struggle." WIth that being said....anyone with intimate knowledge of the boat, which you say you do, knows that the GPS system was duct-taped to the dash because it was loose and missing all the screws that secured it to the dash. Where were the screws? Strewing about the boat. Where were the shoes found? Neatly placed on the fact:as Police mentioned, there was no sign of a struggle.

As for the call to the shown on Dateline, it was a message she left, no conversation took place.

You write that "he was seen hitting her 2 weeks before outside the casino"....and from dateline, we saw this observation was according to a homeless guy.

So far you are batting 0%

Telling her friends yada yada....sounds like a typical drama queen.

"Not doing as well as an attorey"...assuming you meant attorney, how is one supposed to know either way? Reports never indicated he missed a mortgage payment...public records and news reports show no he could not have been doing that bad.

"Drugs"? Well, ask Lana's friends about her habits. The news reported that Rutherford had a clean, again you are wrong. Go to and look up Lana's record. And look up her history with law license.

They died because of each other. That's the obvious thing.

And we will not even mention the time she was driving her boat and got lost in her own harbor. That's for another time and for another friend to tell.

The speculation about a murder plot has never been anything more than the quite understandable refuge of a grief-stricken father and the less understandable distortions of the ratings-hungry tabloid journalists who assume that a successful attorney abandoned a valuable law practice and his license in order to kill his girlfriend.

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