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The Disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel

The Disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel

 

Case File Overview

 

Amy Wroe Bechtel, an Olympic Marathon hopeful, left her Lander, Wyoming apartment to run errands at 9:30 a.m. on July 24, 1997.

Amy was spotted at a photo store at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon. This is the last confirmed sighting of Amy. It’s widely held that Amy left the photo store and drove to the Shoshone National Forest to explore the course of a 10K race held by her gym that she was planning on entering.

When Steve returned home at 4:30 p.m. from rock climbing with a friend, Amy was nowhere to be found. When darkness fell, Steve called family members and enlisted neighbours to help with the search for Amy. He also alerted the police.

Shortly after her disappearance, Amy’s white Toyota station wagon was found parked off a dirt road in the wilderness of the Shoshone National Forest. Amy’s keys were in the car, but her wallet was missing. No signs of foul play were discovered in or around Amy’s vehicle.

As of July 24, 2017, Amy has been missing for 20 years. What happened to Amy?

Amy Wroe Bechtel

Image of missing person Amy Wroe Bechtel
Image source: Casper Star Tribune

Case File Theories

 

Suicide

Did Amy travel to Shoshone National Forest and commit suicide?

There is no real evidence to support this theory. No note was left and everyone who encountered Amy on the day she vanished said she was in good spirits. From the outside, Amy’s life appeared to be happy and moving in all the right directions. Amy and Steve had recently purchased their first house. Also, she had just been certified as a trainer two days before she disappeared. In addition, the month before she vanished Amy had paid off her student loans. Lastly, she was working hard and excited to try to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 2000.

Accidental Death

Was Amy’s disappearance caused by an accidental death?

Officials found no indication of an animal attack or any blood evidence or shredded clothing near Amy’s vehicle or along the 10K route. She was a skilled runner and often completed long, difficult runs out in nature. There was also no evidence that suggested Amy had injured herself during her run. It could be possible that a passing motorist accidentally hit Amy with their vehicle, panicked, and then covered up the crime. If this did occur, though, no evidence of the event was found.

Stranger Abduction

Did a stranger abduct Amy?

During the time Amy lived in Laramie, she was harassed by a middle-aged man when she waitressed at a campus coffeehouse. Nevertheless, police placed the man in question in Bangor, Maine on the night of July 23, 1997 and seem to have discounted him as a suspect. Another possibility is that an unknown opportunistic killer noticed Amy while she was on her run. Although this type of crime is statistically rare, given the isolated location, a person would’ve had the opportunity to abduct Amy without detection.

Steve Bechtel

Did Steve murder Amy?

Image of Steve Bechtel
Image source: Gordon Wiltsie

Steve has long been a suspect in Amy’s disappearance, but evidence both points to and away from Steve.

By most accounts Amy and Steve were deeply in love. After Amy vanished, Steve led an exhaustive campaign to locate her. For example, the Amy Wroe Bechtel Recovery Headquarters ensured Amy’s picture was in the media and on the internet, and it mailed more than 200,000 posters around the US to help find Amy. Moreover, at the time of Amy’s disappearance, Steve was reportedly rock climbing with his friend Sam Lightner in the mountains around Dubois, approximately 70 miles (roughly 133 kilometres) away from Amy’s location. According to officials, both cadaver dogs and luminol tests have been used over the years, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that points to Steve or indicated what happened to Amy.

Steve’s journal contained entries that outlined his need for dominance and control, as well an undated poem that contemplated how to murder someone and hide their remains. When Steve was questioned about his wife’s disappearance, he was initially cooperative. But after consulting with his lawyer, Kent Spence, Steve refused to take a lie detector test and distanced himself from the investigation. Steve proclaimed he wasn’t abusive or uncomfortable with anything in his journal. He also claimed he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance and wasn’t going to take a polygraph test “because the test is flawed and a waste.”

Steve was never charged and is remarried.

Dale Wayne Eaton

Did a serial killer murder Amy?

Image of serial killer Dale Wayne Eaton
Image source: Wyoming Public Media

Eaton is also a suspect in Amy’s disappearance. Eaton’s brother and sister-in-law told the police that Eaton camped in the Burnt Gulch area around the time Amy vanished, a location close to where Amy disappeared. A month and a half after Amy vanished, Eaton tried to kidnap a family that was experiencing car trouble. For that crime Eaton earned only 99 days in jail followed by 2-5 years of probation. He was later convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell in the Lil’ Miss case.

Eaton refuses to speak with investigators, and given that he currently doesn’t face the death penalty, officials lack any bargaining leverage to convince him to cooperate.

Interestingly, Steve, Amy’s husband, is pessimistic that Eaton was involved in Amy’s disappearance. Steve stated, “As much as Eaton makes an attractive suspect, I don’t think we’re ever going to learn anything from him. I think trying to point the finger at him just [provides] a convenient answer in a situation where there are no answers.” You’d think that if Steve was guilty of Amy’s disappearance he’d have quickly jumped on board the Eaton bandwagon.

What do you think happened to Amy?

Even though Amy has been missing for 20 years, her loved ones have never stopped searching for the truth. Amy’s mother has struggled with her daughter’s disappearance, explaining, “A part of me is realistic, and I’m aware that she is probably not alive. I have learned to live with the fact that Amy is gone. But I have not accepted it, and I will not until I know what happened.”

If you have any information about what happened to Amy, please contact the Lander Police Department.

Related reading and listening

Frozen Truth Podcast – podcast exclusively dedicated to Amy’s case

Amy Wroe Bechtel – The Charlie Project case overview

“Long Gone Girl”Runner’s World article

Amy BechtelUnsolved Mysteries case overview

Lisa KimmelUnsolved Mysteries case overview

Interested in missing person cases? Check out the bizarre vanishing of Ray Gricar and the unexplained disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.

 

Published inMissing Person FilesTrue Crime

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22 Comments

  1. Good blog you have got here.. It’s hard to find good quality writing like yours these days.
    I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Sherry. Thank you for your kind feedback. I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

  2. Gracie Gracie

    I did watch an episode of the Disappearance of Amy on Investigation Discovery, Disappeared. Even though this case is 20 years old, it is still an open case. Apparently there is another lead officials are following up on. It seems very suspicious that her keys, her to do list and expensive sunglasses were left in the car, but her wallet was missing. The poem that her husband Steve wrote is very chilling. I feel that the only way this crime will be solved is through an informant. Someone knows something. There really is not enough evidence that leads to any particular suspect.

    • Christine Christine

      I also saw that episode of Disappeared! It’s how I first learned about this case. The poem is especially chilling, and the items left in the vehicle sure are suspicious. I agree that someone knows something, and it’s time for them to talk so Amy can get some justice. Also, locating her remains might help solve the case, given wherever it might be found and if there was any evidence at the scene. I, for one, am not giving up yet. Thanks for reading the post and for your insightful comment!

  3. Gracie Gracie

    I agree. It would really be great if her remains were found. At least then, cause of death may be determined. This case baffles me because there is not much of a timeline to go on. I doubt Amy even made it down the trail because she left her sunglasses behind and why would she even think about leaving her keys in the vehicle. Where there any eye witnesses that seen her drive to Shoshone National Forest? Footprints? What do you think about Dale Eaton as a suspect Christine?

    • Christine Christine

      There was an eyewitness who saw a woman matching Amy’s description running in the area, and then a few hours later the person drove by again and thought they saw a vehicle that resembled Amy’s parked where it was later found. Not sure how reliable this witness was, as these sightings are not included in many of the articles on the case. Given that, I decided to leave it out. However, I do think it was likely she was running. Maybe she made it back to the vehicle after her run and that’s when she ran into trouble? That might explain why her keys were there. Although Eaton is a possible suspect given his history, for some reason I doubt he was involved. It seems too convenient. I’m also surprised that Amy’s husband thinks Eaton is an easy person to pin it on. I’d think if he was guilty he’d be the first person to want to blame the serial killer and deflect attention away from himself. It’s all so strange. Although there are so many possibilities that it’s impossible to be sure, I can’t get over the idea that it could’ve been an opportunistic killer who stumbled upon her in an isolated area. Rare, for sure, but sadly possible.

  4. Gracie Gracie

    I also think I read that they found a shoeprint matching Amy’s. Makes more sense that she did make it back to her vehicle. I would not rule out Steve. There was an eye witness account of a vehicle in the area resembling his with a blonde seated in the passenger seat. Although he did do a lot to try and find her with posters and keeping her in the media, that could have been to keep suspicion off of himself. He admits that he has a need for “dominance and control”. Amy seemed very independent and focused. As for Eaton being suspect, maybe. The answers are somewhere.

    • Christine Christine

      Great points. I shouldn’t dismiss Steve so quickly. If someone disappears against their will, it usually is due to the actions of someone they know. I hope you have a terrific weekend! 🙂

  5. Thomas Thomas

    Great post! Have nice day! 🙂

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks so much. You too!

  6. Thomas Thomas

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Thomas. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  7. Todd Todd

    I actually am from Douglas Wyoming where. Amy grew up part of her childhood, and my sister-in-law was in the same class as Amy so I’ve been following this missing person case since the very beginning. I believe her husband Steve is involved and no one can convince me otherwise.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Todd. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I find this case especially upsetting and perplexing, and it’s not in my backyard. I can’t even image what it must be like for people who knew Amy or those from the region. I really hope that someday there can be justice for Amy. And like you, I definitely have plenty of suspicions. Thank you again, and all the best.

  8. Na85 Na85

    What about the people who said they heard gunshots at a nearby lake? She definitely could of been kidnapped or her husband but what if they took her there because it’s far out and shot her and put her in the lake? Or near the lake?

    • Christine Christine

      Great point. In my research, I didn’t see the shots mentioned very often, so I decided not to include them. Also, I’ve seen them discounted as hunters or people doing some target practice. But thanks for bringing this up. If the shots really were heard, they could be related to the case. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Have a great day!

  9. jessica jessica

    After watching a documentary on this case I’m concluding that Steve was the cause of her death prior to either of them leaving their home, he then phoned his climbing buddy and confessed asking for help covering his crime. They drove Amy’s car to the location it was found and took her body to the town they were supposed to have been scouting and buried her there. I don’t believe she was seen by anyone else on the day she went missing. Perhaps the folks who said they’d interacted with her were mistaken.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Jessica. Thanks for reading and commenting. Like you, I also lean towards Steve being the perpetrator in Amy’s disappearance, but I do still think there is a small possibility that it could be someone else. Sadly, we all know that when women are murdered, oftentimes it’s their partner who is responsible. I hadn’t thought of Steve’s friend being so involved in the cover-up. I think the more people who know about something the less likely it’ll be kept quiet, but good point! He very well might have helped out if Steve did commit the crime.

  10. Louise Louise

    I have always had the gut feeling that her husband is involved. I often wonder if she ever left the house and went running up there at all. My heart absolutely breaks every time I see her mum and I wonder why this case seems to have attracted so very little publicity compared to others.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Louise. Thanks for reading and commenting. Like you, I’ve always wondered about Steve’s role in Amy’s disappearance. Perhaps if Steve did something to Amy you’re right and he did it earlier in the day, so his alibi for later in the day doesn’t matter. But I did read that a witness thinks they saw her running in the area where her vehicle was found. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, though, so I don’t give it much credit. If it wasn’t her husband, then I think I’m leaning towards someone accidentally hitting her with their vehicle and taking the body to cover their tracks. Not sure, of course, and my theory fluctuates nearly daily. My heart also breaks for Amy’s loved ones, and I hope that writing about this case focused at least a little more attention on it.

  11. Todd Todd

    Louise and Jessica, I agree with you both 100% on your Steve theory.. the journals he wrote were telling and he refused to cooperate because he thought they were treating him like a suspect.. damn man, your wife has disappeared and your more worried about yourself than you are her???? Come on Steve!!!
    Anyway, great article Christine!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Todd. Steve’s journals are unsettling! I know that if one of my loved ones disappeared I would do anything possible to help find them. He certainly didn’t help his cause with his apparent lack of complete cooperation. Not sure what to do with his alibi other than think he must have committed the crime earlier in the day, if he did indeed do it. Sadly, it usually is the partner who is guilty in cases such as this. I do wonder why he didn’t eagerly cast blame on the other killer when the man became a suspect. Thanks for your kind words, Todd. Focusing some attention on unsolved cases and discussions like this one make all of the writing and research worthwhile. Have a terrific night!

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