Shawn M. McClung has allegedly confessed to killing Denise Pflum

By Harriet Sokmensuer
July 10, 2020 04:00 PM
Denise Pflum, Shawn McClung
Credit: Fayette County Sheriff's Department

The boyfriend of an Indiana teenager who went missing in 1986 has been charged with manslaughter in connection with her presumed death.

On Thursday, Shawn M. McClung was charged with voluntary manslaughter decades after the disappearance of 18-year-old Denise Pflum, Faytette County Sheriff Joey Laughlin announced in a press release.

McClung and Pflum dated for three years but broke up shortly before she went missing, her mother, Judy, told Dateline NBC earlier this year.

According to the sheriff's office, McClung had previously claimed that Pflum was still alive. But he allegedly recently confessed to killing her in March 1986, when she was reported missing.

At the time of Pflum's disappearance, she had been living at home in in Connersville with her parents and younger sister. The night before she vanished, she attended a high school party on a farm, where she left her purse. When she went back to get her things the next day, she never came home, her parents told Dateline.

“We do not believe that she ever went back to that area — something or some person interrupted that opportunity to do that," her father, David, told NBC affiliate WTHR in 2018. "We knew right away that something was wrong because she had never been out without our knowledge about where she was going to be. When the time unfolded into the next day and the subsequent next days then we knew we really had a problem.”

Pflum's Buick Regal was found the next day on a farm, but investigators recovered no other evidence.

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Pflum was set to graduate high school that summer and in the fall attend Miami University in Ohio. She hoped to major in Microbiology.

“She had everything going for her,” her mother, Judy, told Dateline. “If she were here today, she’d be working on a cure for cancer. Or, well, maybe even a cure for this coronavirus. She just wanted to help people.”

On Thursday, Pflum's family released a statement to WTHR, saying, "This is just a start, there will be more to follow, which we cannot comment on at this point. We appreciate all of the love and support that you have shown us. We appreciate that Denise has become like family to all of you. Our daughter was a special person whom we will never forget, and we know that this community will not forget. We are so grateful for all of those who have followed her story, who have helped with the investigation, and who have shown support and love."

The investigation into Pflum's disappearance remains ongoing, according to the news release. Her body has never been found.

It was not immediately clear if McClung has entered a plea or retained an attorney.