Early on Jan. 22, 1980, Andy Viater walked out the door of his family's Ashland home, and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Twenty-eight years later, police continue to seek answers to what happened to the 22-year-old former Navy seaman.

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Detectives with the Ashland Police Department didn't have much beyond a missing person report filed by Viater's parents, Frank and Ida Viater, two days after he disappeared.

"They hadn't seen or heard from him," said Lt. Greg Bebeau, who started with the Ashland department in 1986. "They called in, wanted to know if our department or any of our officers had seen or dealt with him."

In the early '90s, Bebeau became an investigator, and that's when he started looking into Viater's case. It's always in the back of his mind, he said.

"I pull the file out occasionally and I reread through some of the stuff to see if there is anything I missed," Bebeau said. "I'll have other officers take a look at it to see if they can pick out anything that I missed, and we just haven't been able to generate anything."

Viater's dental records have been sent to agencies with unidentified remains, but none has turned out to be a match.

There has been no activity on his Social Security number since January 1980.

"I know that, talking to the family, they haven't given up hope," Bebeau said. "They are hoping he is still alive. [With] the research that I have done in this case, I'm not convinced that he's still alive -- but I'm not convinced that he's not, either. But when somebody has been missing this long, the odds are not in favor of that."

He hopes someone will come forward with information that could help solve the case for Viater's family.

"Whether or not Andy is still alive, at least they'll have the answer," Bebeau said. "At least they'll know; there'll be some closure to this mystery."

In New Auburn, Wis., Viater's sister, Harriet Kuepfer, holds out hope her brother will be found.

"It's like he's out there lost," Kuepfer said. "He needs to come home. ... If he is dead, there is a place for him; he needs to be with mom and dad.

"I always hoped that he'd come home before mom and dad passed away. It didn't happen."

"I know that Andy's parents are no longer with us," Bebeau said, "and I know that it bothered them dearly right up until their passing. They always wanted to know what happened to their son."

Kuepfer remembers the day her brother disappeared as if it were yesterday.

There was a blizzard that night, she said. At 4 a.m., her dad heard the front door slam. He looked outside and saw footprints in the snow.

"He followed the footprints off the porch and down the sidewalk," she said. "The footprints turned right toward the railroad tracks, and dad followed the footprints. ... He got to the railroad tracks and then there was nothing, and I said, 'What do you mean, there was nothing? You were following these footprints.' He goes, 'Yeah, but they just ... they were gone.' "

According to the missing person report, at the time Viater disappeared he was being treated for psychological problems he suffered while in the Navy.

Viater would be 50 years old today.

"Where is he? What happened? What would he be doing?" Kuepfer wondered. "You don't know."