Mountain Disappearances

Samantha Sayers - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Samantha Sayers, Disappeared August 1st, 2018, Vesper Peak, North Cascades Mountains, Washington State

Samantha Sayers, Vesper Peak disappearance

Samantha "Sam" Sayers, 28, went missing whilst on a solo hike on the Vesper Peak trail in the North Cascades mountains in Washington on Wednesday, August 1st, 2018.

Sam left on the trail at around 8am and was expected to head home and check in with her boyfriend, Kevin Dares, that evening by 6pm. He couldn't accompany Sam because he was working but headed to the trail that evening with darkness coming to search for her when she hadn't returned. Around 1am the following day her family reported her missing.    

The Washington Trails Association describes the Vesper Peak Trail as "Vesper Peak is definitely not for the novice hiker, but for those thirsting for one step beyond hiking into backcountry adventure, it's a good leaping off point. The potential consequences of stumbling here are decidedly lesser than they are on other summits along the Mountain Loop. Some hikers have said that the Vesper Peak trail is “hard to follow,” implying that Sayers might have accidentally strayed from the trail.

Vesper Peak, Washington

She was last seen wearing light grey hiking pants and a black sports bra with green eyes, and bald due to alopecia, that causes hair loss. She was an experienced hiker and had hiked the Vesper area before. 

The Snohomish County Sherrif's Office undertook a search which was one of the longest and largest rescue efforts authorities have undertaken in years. 70 searchers, fourteen dog teams and helicopters searched the area to no avail. At one point, drone operators and the sheriff’s Marine Unit were involved. In addition, volunteer searchers from around the state spent thousands of hours of time, leaving bags with a note saying "Stay Strong! We're looking for you. Everyone is thinking of you" with a poncho, socks, energy bars, compass, flashlight, fire sticks and a lighter. The sheriff’s office spoke with witnesses who saw Sayers the day she went missing, but none saw her come back down the trail.

Her boyfriend said she had lunch with an unidentified male before she disappeared. This unidentified person checked in with searchers and reported that after seeing the news of the disappearance that he had lunch with Sam near the summit on that day at roughly 3 pm. He also said that after they parted ways he later saw her from a distance making her way down the west side of the mountain towards Spada Lake.

The sheriff’s office said since August 2, search operations had included 357 hours of air operations from the sheriff’s office and other agencies, 105 hours for drone operations in the search area, 82 hours for the marine unit to support search teams in Spada Lake, 329 hours for sheriff’s office search-and-rescue personnel and thousands of volunteer hours from search and rescue teams from around the state.

Sam's car was found parked at the trailhead, 27 miles south of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

After three weeks, on August 23rd, 2018, the official search was called off with no sign of the hiker. Search and Rescue Sgt. John Adams said “We have exhausted all leads and tips. We’ve interviewed all witnesses who have come forward. We have checked and double checked the possible routes we believe Sam could have taken. If there was a place we thought she could get to, we put people there to look for Sam, often putting our volunteers and personnel at great risk due to the rugged, remote, and dangerous terrain.”

Vesper Peak Area, Washington state

Family members however continued the search, with private helicopters, dog teams and a professional tracker using the $39,000 raised on a GoFundMe page. Members of a Facebook group set up by the family helped with tasks such as searching through hours of drone video for any signs.

Despite the extensive search, no evidence relating to Sam's whereabouts has been found as of the time of the writing of this article. Another baffling disappearance. 


Thomas Mullarkey - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Thomas Mullarkey, disappeared March 14th, 2018, Bear Valley Ski Resort, california

Thomas Mullarkey disappearance

UPDATE May 15th 2018: Body discovered May 2018: See link

Thomas Mullarkey, 65, went skiing March 14, 2018 in California's Bear Valley Ski Resort, south of Lake Tahoe. He failed to return from the trip, which he had made many times before. For Tom this was very unusual as he was an advanced skier, experienced outdoorsman and backcountry visitor. Bear Valley has been the scene of several strange disappearances and deaths including that of Dr. Katherine Wong in June 1999.

He was last seen boarding a chairlift up the mountain in the morning. At 11.30 pm that day, his wife, Jane Drummond-Mullarkey, informed authorities her husband failed to return to his Arnold cabin. He was last seen wearing a blue ski outfit with yellow and red details. Tom was considered to be in good health.

Teams were unable to search the area that night due to extreme avalanche conditions, but at around 7 am on  Thursday, March 15th, rescuers began searching for Mullarkey. 

Authorities located his vehicle at the resort with a cellphone inside shortly after the search began. Efforts were concentrated within the 1,700-acre ski resort. But no other clues emerged, including no sign of his gloves, ski poles or other equipment. He was not known to go off piste or into areas areas prone to avalanches and searchers believed he did not leave the resort area voluntarily.

Heavy snowfall hindered the initial search efforts and searchers were limited to using skis and snowshoes during daylight hours only. A Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard and another helicopter volunteered by the California Highway Patrol were grounded for two days because of the weather.

Around 150 representatives from El Dorado, Tuolumne and Marin counties, the National Ski Patrol, Bay Area Mountain Rescue, the California Office of Emergency Services, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and others assisted in the search.

When the weather improved, a fixed-wing military RC-26 surveillance plane with infrared imagery was used to search the hillsides outside the boundaries that had been covered the day before.

Bear Valley Ski resort California

After five days the search was called off on Tuesday March 20th as a storm dumped heavy snow in the area.

The authorities thought it  was unlikely that Tom was hit by an undiscovered avalanche which may have occurred within the boundaries of Bear Valley, where ski patrollers clear likely avalanche spots on a regular basis.

Tom's nephew, Markus Mullarkey said "He's been at this mountain many times. We've been snow camping literally at Tamarack right around the corner here. So there's still that possibility that he can survive this, and build a snow cave and stay warm enough until we find him."

Thomas mullarkey disappearance Bear Valley

"A lot of people in the family have said, if there's anybody in the family who could figure out how to weather this and make it through, it would be him. But it's tough you know, obviously (for) the family. It's nice we have a very big family, so there's a lot of people up here kinda holding it together with each other as much as we can."

His niece, Andrea Mullarkey, says he was skiing alone and may have been in the backcountry. "There's a lot of country out there and it's really hard to get around in this weather but we're really hopeful because we know he's smart and has experience and there are lots of people out looking. He has a really good head on his shoulders. He knows a lot about being outdoors."

Alpine County Undersheriff Spencer Case said “Search and Rescue personnel have conducted a thorough and methodical search operation during periods of heavy snowfall, white-out conditions, and single-digit temperatures.” 

Following the end of the search on March 20th, Tom Mullarkey remains missing somewhere in the  Bear Valley resort. If not an avalanche, what caused the disappearance of this outdoors savvy guy in good health?


Steven Paul Thomas - Strange disappearances on U.S. mountains

Steven Paul Thomas, disappeared April 12, 1976, Mount Marcy,  Adirondacks, New York State.

Steve Thomas Mount Marcy disappearance

Steven "Steve" Paul Thomas, 19,  was hiking with a group of five college students in the vicinity of Mount Marcy on April 12, 1976. The group was composed of Mark Seymour, James Thackaberry, Ken Sherwood, Robert Bromley and Bruce Weaver. At the last minute, Bruce Weaver had invited his childhood friend, Steven, making a group of six. 

On Sunday morning, April 11th, the day Steve left Kayuta Lake to begin the hike, his mother, Mary Thomas, had put too much baking soda in the pancakes whilst cooking breakfast and saw it as a bad omen. She was worried over Steve camping with a group he didn’t know, except for Bruce Weaver and also concerned with the snow. 

When Steve left Kayuta Lake with Bruce Weaver and Kenneth Sherwood, the three drove to Lake Clear to meet the rest of their hiking companions, Mark Seymour, Robert Brom­ley and James Thackaberry. According to reports from the group, Steve didn’t like these guys and he wouldn’t talk to them. Steve's family also said he could have an antagonistic manner. The result was that when Steve and Bruce left Lake Clear for the Adirondak Loj, 37 miles away, they parked the car and hiked the 2.3 miles to Marcy Dam for the night. They stayed in a lean-to which was 87 yards from the junction of the blue (to Indian Falls) and yellow (to Avalanche Lake) trails and 28 yards from the water behind the dam.

Indian Falls trail mount marcy

Steve woke early at 6am, but Bruce only woke at 8am and they followed the blue trail to Indian Falls to meet the rest of the group, Robert, Ken, Mark and Jim.

The six of them hiked from the Adirondack Loj, a lodge near Lake Placid and Thomas had some Colombian marijuana buds which they smoked on the way up to the mountain summit. Apparently, Steve was quiet and hardly talked on the hike, lost in his thoughts for some reason.

By 3.30 pm,  they'd climbed to a the Lower Plateau lean-to (Hopkins), heading for Upper Plateau and could see the summit, about a mile away. But by now, they were cold and wet and the group decided to stay put, build a fire and tackle the summit the next day.

But Steve didn't feel like calling it a day. As the others made camp, Steven lit his Svea stove to make Darjeeling tea and looked at a map. He hung his rucksack in the back right corner of the lean-to and asked Bruce “You want to go for a walk?”. Bruce didn’t want to go.

He then told the rest of them that he going alone out further along the trail . He was wearing just a t-shirt and jeans with a yellow rain slicker over his blue down jacket and boots. He left his backpack with the others and took no provisions or equipment apart from his knife, having not eaten since breakfast. He was without a pack, snowshoes, compass or map.

Mount Marcy is the highest point in New York State, with an elevation of 5,343 feet (1,629 m). It is located near the Town of Keene in Essex County and is is in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks Region of the High Peaks Wilderness Area. April is the toughest month for hikers on Mount Marcy with extreme weather changes. Marcy's upper trail wanders on and off the crest and at that time of the year the cairns and yellow-paint blazes that mark the trail are buried under snow. Hikers who reach the summit can easily take a wrong turn coming down and can hike into a dangerous 50-foot snow dump known as Panther Gorge.

mount marcy

At that time in April 1976, the snow was hard packed and offered ideal walking conditions with a full moon aiding visibility. It was around 10 degrees, but windy. 

When Thomas walked away from the lean-to, nobody gave it a thought. "As far as I know, he was just checking to see how far he had to go to the summit," Sherwood said. "We just started putting up tents and talking and having a good time. Then it started getting late, and it was like: `Where is he?'"At 6 pm, Weaver told the group not to worry since Steve knew what he was doing.

When Steve didn't return the Robert and Bruce tried finding him by setting out at around 10 pm with flashlights with 55-60mph gusts of wind howling around them.  But with no luck. With a wind-chill of minus 40, exposed skin could be badly frost bitten. They were quickly driven back by the freezing temperatures and unfortunately obscured Steve's trail with their footsteps. On the way back down they took a wrong turn but found their original trail and fortunately made it back to the lean-to.

They had a dog with them "I remember the dog freaked out that night," Sherwood said. "He just kept whining. He wouldn't leave the tent." They got into the lean-to in their sleeping bags and hoped that Steve had found shelter. Nobody slept that well.

As daylight broke on Tuesday the group decided to keep searching for Steve. Weaver said. "The thought was, rather than burn up four or five hours" hiking for a ranger, "with someone who's hypothermic, it would be better to find them right then."

They formed two groups to look for him. Bruce and Ken followed the red trail to Bushnell Falls, looping back to the lean-to along the yellow trail. The others climbed to the top of Marcy, circling as they searched. Neither group found any trace of the lost hiker. 

At 3 pm, Thackaberry, Bromley and Seymour decided to hike out for help as Weaver and Sherwood were exhausted and they decided to stay at the lean-to in case Steve returned.

The three tired members of the group went to get help and hiked back towards the Adirondak Loj where shortly after they met Ranger Gary Hodgson at 8.45 pm on April 13, 1976, to report Steve missing. Unfortunately, it had been two nights since their companion vanished, reducing the chance of a succesful rescue. 

Searchers didn't reach the mountain until the morning of Wednesday April 14 leaving Steve with no gear or food, if he was still alive in the cold temperatures.

Retired DEC ranger, Pete Fish said "You've got 360 degrees to choose from. About 2 degrees are right. If it's snowing, you haven't a clue where to go."

Depart­ment of Environmental Conserva­tion (DEC) rangers and volunteers searched on foot with specially-trained German shepherd dogs and three helicopters. DEC’s chopper flew five days, the State Police’s for three and the Air Force’s for two. The choppers dropped men to likely spots where they’d be fresh to fight through the vegetation. The searchers searched the area around Little Marcy, the Ausable Lakes, the stream valleys of Johns Brook and Feldspar. On the first day of the search, the state helicopter made an air search of the Marcy area, twice circling the area between the Ausable Lakes and Mount Golden. “There was no track,” a ranger said afterward, “no sign of him.”

Steve's brother, Bob Thomas, returned again and again to the mountain after the authorities failed to locate him or his body after 2 weeks of official search and rescue operations finished on April 21, 1976. He walked a total of 2,500 miles and reached the summit of Mount Marcy 600 times, dropping down each time to search the terrain in the area. “Sometimes I’d do it five or ten times a day,” he said, “just back and forth, back and forth, up the trail to the summit and down again. I was possessed. …You’ve got to understand, no longer are we normal human beings.”

Steve's hiking companions were questioned in detail about his disappearance but the authorities did not believe there was anything suspicious about their story. 

There was some speculation that Steve had vanished intentionally as he had returned from an extended western trip only a month earlier and was secretive about it, hinting at future plans which he would not reveal. But there has been no sign of Steve elsewhere in the United States. A cassette in the tape deck of Steve’s car was pushed in weeks after his disappear­ance. Bob said “It was a strange song. It ends, ‘all you hear is the blowing…the lonely wind blowing.’ Weird. It really struck me.” He be­lieves the song was called “Obscured by Clouds.”

Steve's brother Bob said the family was annoyed with the search effort. His frustration had begun with the late notification of his brother’s disappearance. “I was mad about that,” he says. “They took so long to contact us, up all day Wednesday in the helicopter and we didn’t hear about it until night.”

When the intensive search ended, the Thomas family continued to press state and federal officials for more organised efforts and they got four helicopters, which extended the search area, although unsuccessfully.“You know how guys can endure,” Bob said. “I thought Steve hurt himself way the hell out there and he’s just waiting…I could feel what he’s going through, just waiting for somebody to come.” He respected the rangers but still holds a bitterness toward some deskbound officials who called off searches.

Still refusing to give up hope, the Thomas family continued their own efforts. With Sue, sister Marilyn and William Gurley, Bob found the camping gear and then later the remains of a man missing for more than three years.

What happened to Steve? Was it similar to the story of Captain Lawrence Edward Grace "Titus" Oates, British army officer, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition with Captain Scott. Oates, who had gangrene and frostbite, walked from his tent into a blizzard and famously said to his companions on March 17th, 1912, "I am just going outside and may be some time". Like Oates, Steve seemed unusually quiet that day on the hike. Did he walk onto the mountain and intend to disappear and commit suicide. Alternatively, did he intend to start a new life somewhere and vanish off the mountain, but why did he leave his backpack and other gear behind lessening his chances of survival? Maybe it was just bad luck as the wind whipped up that day up to 60mph? The dog in the lean-to seemed very uncomfortable and distressed that night indicating something more sinister. A strange, sad and disturbing story.


David Koch - Strange deaths on Canadian mountains

David Koch, disappeared May 25th, 2005, Body found June 7, 2005, Grouse Mountain, British Columbia

David Koch Grouse Mountain death

Dave Koch, 36, a publisher for the technology magazine DM Weekly called his wife at 7.30 pm on Wednesday, May 25th, 2005 to tell her he was on his way from a business meeting in Seattle to one in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He told her he planned to watch the sunset on Grouse Mountain once he got into town.

Grouse mountain

Grouse Mountain is one of the North Shore Mountains of the Pacific Ranges in the District Municipality of North Vancouver and is 1,200 m (4,000 feet) in altitude at its peak. It is the site of an alpine ski area, Grouse Mountain Resort, which overlooks Greater Vancouver with four chairlifts servicing 26 runs.  Public access to the mountain top is by a Swiss Garaventa aerial tramway, or the Grouse Grind hiking trail (Open for hiking May-October.)

Grouse Grind trail

Grouse Grind trail

Credit card slips and video show that Dave purchased a ticket for the Skyride tram at around 8pm. The Skyride operates 365 days a year, departing every 15 minutes from 8.45am to 10.00pm. He was seen riding up by other passengers at 8.30pm, then walking for about 10 minutes in the atrium at the top of the mountain. Later, video revealed he left the atrium and headed to either the visitor's booth or the bathroom. He was wearing sandals and light clothes and no hiking boots. At that point he vanished. 

Dave's laptop, business suit and cell phone were left in the rental vehicle, which was found Friday, May 27th in the parking lot near the tram.

He had been to Grouse Mountain by himself and with his wife Suzanne before as he travelled to Vancouver around twice a year due to his business. Though it was late in the day, he probably knew the route he had in mind and that he could make it back down before it got dark.  

CCTV footage showed him taking long and purposeful strides, knowing he would have to hurry to make his desired destination as he glances at the clock at the upper gondola terminal. Sunset that night was just half an hour later, so he checked the time as he never wore a watch. The clock located near the surveillance camera made it seem like he was glancing around, when in fact he probably was looking directly at the clock. 

Koch's wife, flew to B.C. from Wisconsin shortly after her husband went missing and maintained her determination to find him throughout the frustrating search. She said during the search that her husband was an avid outdoorsman who would "rather be in nature than go for a beer or a round of golf."

More than 400 people spent 10 days scouring the trails and bush on the mountain looking for Dave.  

Grouse Grind trail

On Monday, June 6th, 2005, a solo searcher who had been combing the trails and woods of Grouse Mountain for more than a week looking for clues in disappearance of Koch noted the location of a circling eagle and returned first thing Tuesday morning. That day he had hiked up and down the mountain three times. The 50 year old, worked independently of North Shore Search and Rescue, but cooperated and communicated with the team and was very familiar with the trails on Grouse Mountain.

Just before noon, the anonymous searcher discovered the body in a drainage gully east of the Grouse Grind, 650 metres east of the Bluffs Trail, where it had likely been carried down the mountain by rainwater and snow melt run-off. The steep gully was strewn with rocks, logs and other debris.

Strangely, searchers and dogs went over the area where Koch's body was found several times but failed to turn up any clues. The team speculated it was because the body was submerged in a pool of water. George Zilahi, the operations manager for the volunteer-based North Shore Search and Rescue said "Those gullies are usually dry except in areas where there are depressions in the rock where there may be pools of water. He more than likely was in a pool and then when the heavy rains came on Sunday the water level would have risen and then he would have been carried downstream and then onto this portion of the creek-bed."

It appeared he had left the tram station and walked towards the top of the Bluff Trail, arriving at around 9pm, sunset. The authorities believe he fell at that point due to his footwear. 

Dave's body was airlifted out to the coroner's office Tuesday afternoon, where the precise cause of death was determined as hypothermia. 

North Vancouver RCMP Const. John MacAdam said there was no evidence of foul play and "it appears to have been an accidental death."

What happened to Dave Koch that day? He was clearly in a rush to get to somewhere on Grouse Mountain since he arrived at the Skyride terminal late in the day at 8.30pm, with sunset less than half an hour later. Did he trip whilst on the Grouse Grind trail in fading light and fall into the steep gully? As MacAdam said, probably accidental death but who knows what happened on that mountain that evening.

It was strange that his body was discovered in an area searched twice before, but the search and rescue blamed the fact that Dave's body was apparently obscured by water. A case which on the face of it appears to be misadventure whilst hiking without the right footwear and clothing but who knows.


Janet Castrejon - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Janet Castrejon, disappeared June 19th, 2015, Rustler Park, Chiricahua Mountains, Southern Arizona

Janet Castrejon disappearance

On June 19th, 2015, Janet Castrejon, 44, vanished from a camping trip in the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona with her parents, Dr. Eduardo and Lydia Castrejon, all of Las Cruces.

Janet, the oldest of four siblings, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in 1988, when she was 18 years old causing memory problems and partial blindness. At the time of the crash, she had just completed her first semester at New Mexico State University, where she was studying computer science. She remained in a coma for three months. 

Janet was last seen outside a campground bathroom in Rustler Park. It is is a wildflower-carpeted meadow high in the Chiricahua Mountains, rimmed with Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. Campsites at Rustler Park are scattered along access roads that have been purposefully kept out of the meadow to avoid damaging fragile plants and soils. Larger animals, including black bear, are frequently spotted there and trails lead from the campground into the Chiricahua Wilderness and to other places of interest.

Rustler Park, Chiricahuas

 As planned, Janet and her parents left for the park from their Las Cruces home on Thursday, June 18. By that evening, the three had arrived in Deming, where they stopped at a church and stayed overnight in their motor home. The following day, June 19, they departed for Arizona after eating breakfast at an IHOP.

The family arrived at the Rustler Park campground between 1.30 and 2 pm and when they finished setting up their camp, Eduardo made lunch for his family of quesadillas, beans and rice around 4 pm.

About an hour later, after their meal, Lydia, who speaks mostly Spanish, said she wanted to go for a walk and asked Janet to join her. She initially declined but Eduardo told her to go to take the payment to the pay station and Janet agreed.

JANET CASTREJON disappearance

She and her mother then walked about 1,000 feet from their motor home, down a curved path, to the pay station, where Janet deposited the payment envelope. About 300 feet from the pay station, Lydia decided to go to the bathroom but Janet didn’t need the restroom. Janet was going to wait outside, but when her mother came out of the bathroom, she was gone. Lydia estimated that she was in the bathroom only for a few minutes and soon became worried when she returned to the motor home and discovered Janet was not there.

Eduardo said “My wife ran up to our camping spot to see if she had made it back up here, but I was here and never saw her. She never got back. We immediately started searching for her, asking other campers. On her way over there, she just disappeared."

Janet was never seen again. Janet was 5’3” tall, weighing 250 pounds.  She was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with black lettering, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes with a red stripe on them.

There were no footprints leading off the main path, the family said. There were no signs of a struggle to suggest that Janet had been attacked or had attempted to fight off an attacker. No screams or cries for help.

By 8 pm, Janet's brother Oscar arrived and called 911 to report his missing sister. But help, he said, did not arrive until after midnight Saturday, June 20.

A search-and-rescue team with Cochise County Sheriff’s Office began searching for Janet around 12:30 am and the team searched until 6 am and resumed around 9 am. A search helicopter was dispatched later that day, but was unsuccessful in finding any signs of Janet. The search continued well into Sunday and over the next several days. But there was no sign of Janet and no evidence of clothing or blood which may have indicated a bear attack.

The family were convinced Janet was abducted.

Fabian Castrejon, Janet’s other brother said “There wasn’t enough effort to begin with,” referring to the search efforts by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. Soon after Janet disappeared, Fabian said a search team from New Mexico offered to assist the Cochise County authorities, but he said that offer was rejected.

Fabian took on a lead role in the search efforts, often finding tips and leads for the detectives assigned to the case. He spent about three weeks searching for Janet immediately after her disappearance and helped organise extensive search parties. He and his sister, Xochitl Castrejon, continued to search the area on a regular basis until the park closed for the season in late October.

Oscar, meanwhile, believes the search was largely hindered because authorities did not take into consideration Janet’s disabilities. “They assumed too quickly that she was a competent person,” he said. “They told us that she either left with someone or ran away. … We told them specifically she’s disabled, she isn’t capable of many, many things, and I don’t even think they took that into consideration.”. She was “completely dependent” on her parents, her brother said.

Detectives did not have any particular theory for Janet’s disappearance.“There’s no way she could have strayed too far. That campground is land-locked. The only way to get out of that campground is the same you came in,” Fabian said., adding, “There’s no real cliff you could fall off or river to drown in. We believe that somebody took her out or that she got into a car.”

A strange disappearance in the Chiricahua Mountains area where ranger, Paul Fugate, vanished in 1980 and has never been found.


Amy Wroe Bechtel - disturbing disappearances in U.S. forests

Amy wroe Bechtel Shoshone forest disappearance

Amy Wroe Bechtel, disappeared July 24, 1997, Shoshone National Forest, Lander, Wyoming.

On July 24, 1997, Amy Wroe Bechtel, 24, from Lander in Wyoming, went for a run and never came back.

On the morning of July 24, Amy told her husband, Steve, she was planning on doing several errands in town after teaching a children's weightlifting class at the Wind River Fitness Center. She called at the Camera Connection photo store at 2.30 pm after teaching her class and then stopped by Gallery 331. Her conversation with the owner, Greg Wagner, was the last confirmed sighting of Amy before her disappearance. 

After leaving the photoshop, she drove to the area near Shoshone National Forest to map out the course of a 10K run she was organising with the local gym.

At 4.30pm, Steve, returned home and reported her missing to police at 10.30pm that night with a strange message, "Uh, yeah, hey, I’ve got a person missing here, I think, and I wondered if you had a spare around anyplace?” 

The next day, her unlocked white Toyota Tercel wagon was found around half a mile away from Frye Lake, which was to be the end the 10K hill climb, where the Loop Road joins the Burnt Gulch turnoff. There was no sign of Amy but her sunglasses, a to-do list and car keys were left on the passenger seat. Her wallet was not found and there was no sign of a struggle either inside or near the vehicle.

Amy was a strong distance runner with a marathon personal record of 3:01 and had aspirations of qualifying for the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials.

The search began with just Steve and two dozen of his friends, but later that day there were ATVs, dogs, dirt bikes, and over 100 volunteers looking for any sign of her. The next day horses and helicopters joined in, and by the third day, the search area had been expanded to a 30-mile radius. But it took until a week after Amy’s car was found for the area around it to be declared a crime scene.

Investigators at first thought Amy had fallen and been injured in the forest, been run over on the road or been attacked by a bear or mountain lion. But then focus turned to Steve Bechtel, especially as many murders are committed by spouses.  

Amy and Steve had been married for just over a year and both worked part-time at Wild Iris, the local climbing shop. Amy also waited tables at the Sweetwater Grill and taught a youth weight-lifting class at Wind River Fitness Centre They had recently bought a house in Lander and planned to move in during the coming weeks.

What happened to Amy? - the theories

Mother nature

It's possible that Amy fell during her run or was attacked by wild animals whilst in the wilderness. But no evidence of torn clothing, blood, body parts or bones has ever been found. However, there are many cases of people in the outdoors as highlighted on this blog that has vanished without any evidence being left behind.

Murdered by Husband Steve Bechtel

Steve and Amy Wroe Bechtel disappearance Shoshone forest

After a search of the couple's property, detectives discovered Steve Bechtel's journals which contained poetry or song lyrics sometimes with violent overtones, describing violence towards women and specifically, Amy.   A week and a half after Amy vanished, Steve employed lawyers and refused to take a polygraph test which further raised suspicions for many residents of Lander as well as the media.

Detectives interrogated Steve on August 1, 1997, falsely claiming to have evidence proving he had murdered his wife. A woman driving through the area from where Amy disappeared claimed to have seen a truck matching Steve Bechtel's in the area with a blond haired woman in the passenger seat but she was unable to positively identify it was him.

On August 5th, an FBI agent, Rick McCullough, accused Steve of murdering Amy. But Steve had an alibi. He was with Sam Lightner scouting a climbing spot the day Amy had vanished in the mountains above Dubois and since it was grizzly country he took their dog Jonz as well as a firearm. Questions remained whether Steve had an opportunity during the day to get to Shoshone and carry out the crime, despite the distance from Dubois. 

loop road, shashone national forest

Amy's brother, Nels, was especially angry at Steve’s reluctance to take the polygraph test and cooperate fully with investigators. When her sisters, Casey Lee and Jenny Newton, appeared on The Geraldo Rivera Show on February 3, 1998, the host made a plea for Steve to be more cooperative with authorities.

Nels Wroe, Amy's brother

Nels Wroe, Amy's brother

Nel told the sheriff about one night when Amy and Steve were over for dinner. Nel noticed that Amy was bruised. Amy made a joke, saying that Steve can get a little rough sometimes. Nel found Amy’s reaction odd: saying “Amy just laughed it off, would not look me in the eye, and I said, that is not a normal reaction, particularly for Amy.”

Eventually, Steve had Amy declared legally dead, and in 2004 he married Ellen Sissman, with whom he now has two children.

Steve Bechtel remained the prime “person of interest” in Amy’s disappearance for many years. In July 2007, the 10-year anniversary of her disappearance, Roger Rizor, the detective who succeeded Dave King on the case, commented on the cold case to the Billings Gazette. “In my mind there is only one person that I want to talk to, only one person who has refused to talk to law enforcement,” he said, “and that’s her husband.”

Murdered by Dale Wayne Eaton, the Great Basin Serial Killer

Dale Wayne Eaton

Dale Wayne Eaton

A tip came from a man named Richard Eaton, who told the Sheriff that his itinerant brother, Dale Wayne Eaton, may have been involved. But the investigators ignored the information as they were focused on Steve Bechtel at the time. By not pursuing the lead, they may have allowed the notorious Great Basin Serial Killer to get away as on July 30, 1998, nearly a year after Amy’s disappearance Dale Eaton was finally arrested for another murder.

In an area called Patrick Draw, less than a three-hour drive from Lander, Shannon Breeden, her husband, Scott, and their 5-month-old baby, Cody, were travelling when their van broke down at a pullout along Interstate 80. Eaton stopped his off-green ‘85 Dodge van and offered them assistance and asked Shannon to drive. Eaton then pulled a rifle from the back of the van, kidnapped the family at gunpoint, and directed them south of the highway into the desert.

Shannon accelerated and turned in a tight circle instead, which enabled Scott to jump out of the van with the baby and Shannon to get out the other side. Scott grabbed Eaton and hit him over the head with the rifle butt. After a  struggle, Eaton was stabbed with his own knife and left whilst the family drove away at speed.

Richard Eaton knew that Dale had been camping in the Burnt Gulch area at the time of Amy Bechtel’s disappearance, at an average elevation 7,860 feet, where she was marking her 10K running route, and coincidentally this was a favourite elk hunting and trout fishing spot of the Eaton brothers. But after Richard Eatons called police with his suspicions, the detective dismissed the tip, choosing to believe instead the word of Dale Eaton's niece, who said he was visiting her in Greeley, Colorado on July 24th. A $100,000 reward out for information leading to a resolution of Amy’s case, meant that investigators were suspicious of Richard’s motives.

A plea bargain deal for the attempted kidnapping of the Breeden family meant Eaton would serve just 99 days in jail. But a sample of his DNA was taken whilst he was incarcerated. He was allowed to continue work on welding and construction jobs whilst in a half-way house due to prison overcrowding. On June 16, 1998, he failed to report to work despite strict parole conditions and a warrant was put out for his arrest. Police finally spotted his van more than a month later near Dubois in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. He was arrested and a shotgun was found in his van, leading to his imprisonment on federal weapons charges.

On March 25, 1988, 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell was driving alone from Denver to visit a friend in Billings, Montana, in her black 1988 Honda CRX Si, which had a Montana plate with  LIL MISS on it. She was planning to visit her boyfriend in Cody, but never got there. Eight days later, two fishermen found her body in the North Platte River near Casper. Autopsy results showed that she had been raped, bludgeoned, and stabbed. After her family buried her, a strange note signed “Stringfellow Hawke” was found on Lisa's grave.

In July 2002,  investigators researching cold cases examined the seminal DNA from Lisa's rape and found a match for Dale Wayne Eaton. Eaton was due to stand trial that fall on a manslaughter charge after killing his cellmate with a lethal punch to the man’s vertebral artery.

A handwriting analysis from the note left on Kimmell’s grave also matched Eaton. Then, following a tip from neighbours who remembered seeing Eaton digging in his yard, Lisa's car was found buried on his property in Moneta, just an hour-and-45-minute drive east from Lander. He'd been using the car as a septic tank. A portion of the Montana plate LIL MISS was found nearby. Inside his trailer, authorities also found women’s clothing and purses, and newspaper reports about other murdered women.

Investigators determined that Eaton had kidnapped Lisa at a remote rest area in Waltman, then held her captive in a converted school bus and repeatedly raped her before murdering her. An FBI profiler who examined the case said Eaton's behaviour all fitted with that the of a serial killer.

In the subsequent trial, Eaton was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection in March 2004. He had a stay of execution in December 2009 with his lawyers arguing that he was mentally unfit to stand trial In November 2014, a U.S. district judge overturned his death sentence but he continues to serve a life sentence, plus 50 years. 

Amy's brother, Nels, was especially angry at Steve’s reluctance to take the polygraph test and cooperate fully with investigators. When her sisters, Casey Lee and Jenny Newton, appeared on The Geraldo Rivera Show on February 3, 1998, the host made a plea for Steve to be more cooperative with authorities.

Nel told the sheriff about one night when Amy and Steve were over for dinner. Nel noticed that Amy was bruised. Amy made a joke, saying that Steve can get a little rough sometimes. Nel found Amy’s reaction odd: saying “Amy just laughed it off, would not look me in the eye, and I said, that is not a normal reaction, particularly for Amy.”

Eventually, Steve had Amy declared legally dead, and in 2004 he married Ellen Sissman, with whom he now has two children.

Steve and Amy Bechtel

Investigations in recent years

Detectve Sergeant Zerga

Detectve Sergeant Zerga

In 2010 Detective Sergeant Zerga’s travelled with an FBI agent to Colorado to try to interview Eaton but he refused to speak with them and with the threat of the death penalty no longer hanging over him the investigators had little leverage.

Authorities visited the Bechtel's old house at Lucky Lane in Lander with a search warrant to conduct Luminol searches with the FBI and brought in cadaver dogs. They found nothing. A tip that Steve had buried Amy below the driveway of their would-be new home at 965 McDougal Drive before the concrete had set also came to nothing. 

In late August 1997, the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested satellite photos from NASA of the area on the day of Bechtel's disappearance, but the satellite images provided no information. In January 1998, satellite images taken by the Russian space station Mir were also obtained by the FBI, but they also revealed nothing of value as cloud cover had obscured the area of interest.


Disappeared TV series "Missing in the mountains"