Sam Stanton had all he could ask for. A nice house, a happy wife, and a beautiful healthy newborn daughter. However, one day his life turned around. Sam got involved in a car crash that took the life of both his wife and his son. It was a tragic incident where Sam also got seriously injured. The story made headlines all over the country, the search went on for several months but the bodies were never found.
Three years later without any resolution in the case, a miracle occurred.
At the grocery store
One afternoon in San Clemente, California, Sam had driven to the grocery store to buy some essentials, and while waiting in line he was faced with a life-changing sight.
He wiped his eyes to make sure that what he was seeing was real.
He glanced once again to confirm and his jaws dropped…
Could that be them?
It had been three years since the fatal car accident took the lives of his wife and daughter.
Even though Sam was still attached to the memories he had of them, he never thought they could still be alive.
Yet, that day at the grocery store changed it all…
Still in awe of possibly witnessing a true miracle, Sam vividly remembered what his close family looked like, he knew exactly what he was seeing.
Many questions circled his mind but he had a gut feeling that his wife and little girl were alive, especially after that.
Still in shock, trying to get a hold of himself, he decided to wait outside in his car.
Three years before this strange unfolding of events, Sam, his wife Tammy, and his newborn daughter, Elenor were involved in a terrible car crash.
He survived but suffered serious injuries from that accident.
The accident made headlines all over the country and after the collision, Sam took years to recover.
Doesn’t hurt to ask
At the grocery store, Sam was certain that he recognized his baby girl and wife even though it had been years since he had seen them.
So, out of desperation, as he saw them leave the store he got out of his car and approached them.
But to his surprise things did not go as he expected. Were those the beloved people he thought they were?
“Who are you?”
Sam no longer looked like the corporate-clean-looking guy he used to. He sported an unkempt, lengthy beard that needed grooming.
When Sam came up to talk to his supposed wife and daughter they did not seem to recognize him. As a result, they got frightened and ran away.
Sam was disappointed with the outcome and wondered how did they not recognize him.
Who was Tammy Tornbruck?
Tammy Tornbruck was a California girl. She was an intelligent young woman who always wanted to have a family.
She was a graduate student at the University of California and was on her way to becoming a psychiatrist.
She dreamed of getting married and having a bunch of kids.
Who was Sam?
Sam was originally from North Dakota but moved to California with the dream of becoming a visual artist.
He was very talented and already had found some success with his paintings, however, that did not pay his bills.
So, to make a living he became an insurance agent and quickly climbed up the corporate ladder.
Three years before that miraculous encounter, Sam was laying in a hospital bed when he received the worst news.
The police could not find his family’s bodies therefore they were both declared dead.
Even though that upset him, he still felt a blind sense of hope. Deep down, he suspected that they were still alive.
What were they doing there?
During a long walk at the beach, Sam reflected upon what had happened in that grocery store.
He began questioning himself. Was he seeing things? Were those Tammy and David? Could they still be alive?
These questions lingered in Sam’s mind as he continued soul searching…
Recovering from the accident
A year earlier, surviving the car crash had proven to take a toll on Sam’s life. His mental and physical health were severely impacted.
It took years of rehabilitation and physical therapy for him to start walking again and to find the motivation to get out of his house.
Although his treatment was evolving physically, he also needed to focus on his mental health since he had just gone through a traumatic event.
Down the coast
Sam and his family would always drive down to San Clemente when they wanted to get away from busy Los Angeles.
But this time he went there with a different intention. He had a mission.
He wanted to see if his family was still alive and in his mind that was the place he could find them. But could they be there?
Sam decided to visit all the places he would go with Tammy and Elenor on their previous trips to the small coastal town.
He did that every day and took the same route every time. That became his routine and a few days later something unexpected unfolded right before him.
Something totally out of the ordinary happened to Sam…
A strange sight
During his regular stroll, there remained but one place left for him to explore—the pier.
As he was casually strolling toward the pier, he saw something strange on the other side of the street.
He spotted a large crowd, and something intriguing grabbed his attention so he decided to take a closer look.
As the traffic light switched to green, Sam dashed across the street, eager to get closer, and lo and behold, there they were once again.
To his amazement, the very same girl and woman he had encountered at the grocery store appeared to him again.
As he mustered the courage to approach them, they mysteriously vanished into the bustling crowd, leaving a sense of suspense in the air.
The recovery continued
Years earlier, during Sam’s recovery, the doctors were impressed with his progress but his family was worried.
They knew how much he loved his wife and newborn and were afraid of the potential consequences of such a loss.
After all, Elenor was only 1 year old when the accident happened. Yet, their ultimate concern revolved around the looming possibility of his past habits eventually catching up to him.
Sam needs a helping hand
As time went on, Sam convinced himself that he had to stay in San Clemente until he deciphered this mystery.
Having already secured a small studio and settled in, he found himself tired of being alone. So he mustered the courage to reach out to his brother Mike and share his current situation.
Confused by all the information his brother had just thrown at him, Mike’s thoughts immediately gravitated toward the worst-case scenarios.
A good brother
As the conversation progressed with his brother, Sam delved into the specifics of what he had recently witnessed, causing Mike’s concern to intensify.
He thought that Sam might be spiraling into depression, drawing from his own experiences where things had only worsened from such points onward.
So, as the caring brother he was, he decided to take action instead of just waiting to see what would happen.
From a young age, Mike and Sam would do everything together. They were very competitive with each other, yet they were truly best friends.
As they matured and started families of their own, their once-close relationship changed.
The distance between them grew and their interactions were reduced to occasional holiday gatherings.
Shortly after the call with Sam, Mike reached out to his friend Richard, a therapist, and confided in him about his brother’s situation.
A few days later, Richard made a thoughtful follow-up call to Sam to check in on him.
am trusted Richard since they knew each other for a long time. They had a lengthy conversation, and Richard tried to comfort him during the talk.
During their conversation, Richard explained to Sam that he might be experiencing a range of emotions, with grief being the primary source of his distress.
Suspecting some kind of urgency, Richard kindly asked Sam to visit his office in San Diego for a comprehensive evaluation. However, Sam brushed it off, not fully grasping the seriousness of the situation.
He was convinced that what he had seen was true and nothing could prove him wrong.
As the sun was setting, the bottles of booze accumulated. Sam found himself sinking deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of his vice.
That night turned chaotic as he kept drinking without stopping. He caused significant damage to his once-peaceful studio, leaving it in disarray.
In those late hours, his frustrations and loneliness took the best of him.
An act of desperation
Sam hadn’t slept for three days and was mentally unwell. So one morning, he decided to visit the grocery store again.
Still drunk from the night before, he stumbled inside the store and asked everyone in the store if they had seen a child and a woman.
Creating major embarrassment for himself, the cashier called security which lead to his prompt removal from the store.
Mike tells the family
After a few days, Mike became increasingly worried about his brother so he decided to call his parents.
It had been a year since they hadn’t talked. So while talking to his mom he explained everything that was going on with Sam.
Surprised by the news, his mom was in disbelief and did not know how to react.
Following the embarrassing day at the store, Sam had some time to reflect and decided to get sober.
He thought to get what he wanted, he needed to think straight.
It had been weeks since he hadn’t consumed any alcohol and he was starting to feel more alert.
A worried family
The news about Sam’s situation eventually spread out through the entire Stanton family causing everyone to be alert. Worried about his son, his dad decided to call him.
During the call, his dad expressed how concerned he was. Sam convincingly explained that his wife and son were still alive while also mentioning that he was sober.
His dad was relieved with the news that Sam was sober but was concerned with his mental health.
An uneasy pregnancy
Lonely at home, Sam was having flashbacks of the moments before David was born.
He remembered that during that time, they were both facing difficulties. He was struggling to pay the bills and Tammy was having issues with her pregnancy.
They both couldn’t stop thinking about the future of their child. Would David be born healthy? They were very anxious about it.
Walk in the Park
Convicted, Sam felt that this was going to be the day he would see them again, so he decided to change things up a bit.
He started his day by investigating a park near Trestles Beach, which was Tammy’s favorite beach. During his walk, he noticed a woman reading a book in the grass with a child in her lap.
Even though it could’ve been anyone, he recognized the book and the dress. It was all too familiar for him…
A different approach
Confident with the possibility of being face-to-face with his family once again, Sam approached it differently.
Trying not to scare them he remained distant, merely observing what they were doing. The more he observed, the more certain he was that that was them.
He took a picture with his phone and what he did next was uncalled for.
Sam decided to let them in peace instead of approaching them as he did in the past.
He understood that his old plan wasn’t working. He thought it was the moment to try something different and realized he couldn’t do it alone.
Sam understood that he needed help, and needed a different plan.
A productive night
With a picture to prove his missing family was still alive, Sam spent the whole night plotting different ways to finally be with them.
He came up with a plan to finally get them back…
He was feeling optimistic and knew that the truth would eventually reveal itself, however, he still had to surpass a few obstacles.
A few backlashes occurred after the day that Sam was kicked out of the grocery store but he only realized it while watching the local news.
The news headline on the TV read, “Crazy homeless guy invades a grocery store in San Clemente and is taken out by the police. Watch out next time you see this guy!”
Sam initially panicked but then he tried to keep his cool.
The first part of the plan
Sam was aware that he was in the public eye, so he had to be careful with his next moves.
Wary of being recognized on the streets, Sam decided to shave his beard and hair.
After that, he printed some fliers with a picture and descriptions of his missing family, and what happened next was very well thought out by Sam.
Putting up the fliers
Fulfilling a crucial part of the strategy to get his beloved family back, and with the help of some kind-hearted locals. Sam began putting up fliers of his daughter and wife around town.
He spent the whole day doing that while making sure that every corner of town was covered by fliers.
At this point, Sam already hadn’t slept properly for a week and his exhaustion was starting to set in.
It had already been three weeks since he had put the fliers up and nothing had happened. He then began questioning what else he needed to do.
To clear his head, he concluded it would be better if he took a small break from the strenuous mission.
As the days went by, no evidence pointed him in the right direction.
Since the fliers were up, his phone didn’t ring once and no one had reported anything.
Hopelessness was starting to set in. But then out of the blue, he had an idea.
Friends and acquaintances
Sam decided it was time to get in touch with Tammy’s friends and acquaintances to see the last time they had seen her.
Running out of people to call and expecting some kind of miraculous revelation, there was only one person left for him to call.
He wondered, could that be the light at the end of the tunnel?
Meanwhile, wondering how his brother was doing after the chat with Richard, Mike decided to call his friend to see how their talk went.
Richard said that he was perturbed by the chat since Sam never showed up at his office for the full evaluation.
But Richard tried to console Mike by saying that Sam was still going through the grieving process.
Checking in the hospitals
With not much luck reaching out to Tammy’s Friends and acquaintances, Sam drove to the nearby hospitals to check if his wife and daughter had checked in at some point. But luck was not on his side.
However, Sam was not going to give up easily. On his way to the last hospital on the list, Sam’s phone rang.
Who could that be?
Problems with the brothers
Alert by what Richard had told him, Mike decided to call Sam to check up on him. Sam answered with a certain kind of urgency in his voice.
Knowing him well, Mike knew something was up. Mike began interrogating and Sam revealed to him that he had gone to every single hospital in town but had no luck finding his daughter and wife.
Mike thought that his brother was going crazy and decided to be more proactive about the situation.
A surprise visit
Concerned about his brother’s well-being, Mike checked Sam’s location on his phone and it looked like he was home.
With Sam’s address typed in his phone, Mike decided to drive from Los Angeles to see him.
After a few hours, he reached Sam’s studio, knocked on the door, and was taken aback by Sam’s unexpected reaction when he opened it.
Initially, Sam’s reception wasn’t what Mike had anticipated it to be. Sam was angry at his brother because he sensed that he lacked belief in him, and that was precisely what he didn’t need at that moment.
So they found themselves shouting at each other uncontrollably. Rage had consumed both of them.
But shortly after, they came to their senses and forgave each other. Sam invited his brother in and they settled things.
Is it true?
After their talk, Mike was still suspicious of Sam. He wasn’t buying the fact the two people who were declared dead magically came back to life.
To back his claim, Sam showed him a picture he had taken of his daughter and wife at the park. Although it took Mike a moment to recognize them, he eventually did.
In sheer astonishment, Mike asked Sam something he had never considered before…
Who was Mike?
Since he was young, Mike was a talented athlete. In school, he excelled in almost every sport he played. He was certainly Mr. Popular!
Given his passion for sports, Mike became a sports agent who managed high-level athletes in different sports. He was married to his high school sweetheart Angelica who he had two beautiful kids with.
His relationship with his parents faded over time but he remained deeply caring toward his brother, especially after the tragic incident he had experienced.
Are they running away?
The brother talked for hours and Mike brought something to light that Sam had not thought of.
He asked him if there was a possibility that Tammy could be running away from something. Sam, immediately shut him down but Mike insisted with more questions.
As Mike inquired about Tammy’s past, Sam’s increasingly got angrier and upset. He hated the way his brother spoke about his wife but thought it could’ve been a possibility.
Mike and Sam’s mission
With Mike onboard Sam was no longer a lone wolf hunting for evidence of his “dead family”. Mike wanted to help him at all costs and believed in the mission.
Sam was more hopeful than ever and was certain that it was going to work out. But Mike was sacrificing a lot to be there.
He had left his family in Los Angeles and was uncertain about the duration of his absence. He feared that they might discover the true purpose of his trip.
A friend’s curiosity
Sam reached out to Tammy’s friends, but not much progress occurred. During these calls, he didn’t disclose much information and only inquired about the last time they had seen his wife.
But upon receiving Sam’s call, Tammy’s friend Barbara became curious and decided to delve into the true nature of his inquiry.
Could Barbara’s curiosity possibly interfere with Sam’s mission?
Back at the studio, Mike and Sam were formulating a plan to find Sam’s missing family. The plan wasn’t too elaborate, however, it required hard work.
They started by checking the social media of literally everyone that knew Tammy but got nothing out of it.
They then proceeded to check the U.S. government’s online death records, and what they discovered left them utterly shell-shocked.
The search continues
Sam and Mike were pulling an all-nighter searching the web for any updates on Sam’s missing family.
They looked online in the U.S. government’s online death records and didn’t find any records on either Tammy or his daughter.
A spark of motivation ignited within both of them, as the confirmation of their existence renewed their hope. They were confident that this search would yield something positive.
Sam and Mike had already endured numerous sleepless nights. Despite the challenges, they made some progress but it was taking more time than they thought.
The nights were getting longer and the days were getting shorter, their minds weren’t as sharp as when they first settled their master plan.
They needed some rest urgently and that’s what they decided to do. After sleeping for about 12 hours, Sam woke up to inconvenient news.
Bye bye studio
Fully rested, Mike and Sam were ready to take on the day but as Sam woke up he noticed there was a letter under the front door.
Upon opening the letter, he read the following message: “Dear Samuel Stanton, we wish to inform you that the studio has been sold, and the new owners will be moving in four days. Thank you.”
Sam panicked and consequently told the news to his brother. How were they going to accomplish their mission in four days?
A detective in the case
With time ticking, Mike suggested that they hire a detective to help them in the case.
Sam agreed and they started looking for one. A few hours later, they hired a detective by the name of James Logan who had worked on a similar case before.
With plenty of experience as a private detective, the brothers were relieved to have another helping hand. But how helpful could this detective be?
The brothers didn’t have much time to lose so they paid the detective a portion of the money upfront so he could get started quickly.
on the other hand, Sam’s family’s resurgence story began to garner media attention, which became his greatest fear. He didn’t want the police to get involved.
He wondered how the media had heard about his story since he hadn’t told many people about it…
The investigation commences
Detective James Logan started conducting the investigations. He began by getting to know the town and talking to the locals.
He proceeded to visit the grocery store where Sam had mentioned seeing his wife and daughter last.
James entered the store, introduced himself to the cashier, and presented a picture of Tammy and Caroline. He inquired whether the cashier had ever come across them.
At home, furthering their research. Sam decided to check social media again while Mike was talking to the detective on the phone.
While browsing through Barbara’s social media profile, Sam noticed that her most recent post featured an older picture of her alongside his wife, Tammy.
The caption provided some insight into the possibility of Tammy still being alive and urged people to search for her. Sam couldn’t help but wonder how Barbara knew about it.
The Detective was doing his job
While on the phone, Detective James told Mike that he had found a lead that could potentially link to Sam’s missing family.
He went on to elaborate, recounting his visit to the grocery store where Sam had mentioned seeing his wife and daughter for the last time.
Upon showing the cashier a picture of Tammy and Caroline, the cashier replied, acknowledging that they indeed looked familiar and that he had seen them more than once.
The story makes headlines
Amid their focus on the case, Sam, Mike, and the detective remained oblivious to the escalating attention their “back from the dead” family story was receiving from news channels.
It wasn’t until Mike switched on the television and witnessed the story making headlines across the country that they realized it had grown out of proportion.
They were caught off guard and their anxiety instantly became grew. They knew that being in the spotlight could impede their progress.
How did Barbara know?
As Sam’s story became national news but how did it spread so quickly? He then concluded that it must’ve had something to do with Barbara’s social media post.
He remembered that during the call, Barbara displayed a strong sense of curiosity, posing several questions.
He had a hunch that she became curious and conducted her investigation.
After all, she was a highly connected woman with a past as a news anchor. Being one of Tammy’s closest friends, she wanted to help; however, her involvement ended up complicating things.
The police get involved
The next day, Mike and Sam decided to get their feet on the ground and do some detective work themselves.
Yet, the morning took an unexpected turn as an unanticipated visitor arrived at their front door.
The police arrived at Sam’s studio with a warrant and invited themselves in, leaving Mike and Sam concerned. Could they be in danger?
Unaware of what was going on with Sam and Mike, Detective James continued his investigation diligently, yet he was struggling to uncover any additional pieces of evidence.
With that, the mission was at a stall since he also couldn’t get a hold of them. So he decided to drive by the studio to check on them.
He parked at a distance from the studio and used his binoculars to spot them and was taken aback to find the presence of police officers there. What could’ve happened?