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. And Amy has never been found. What happened to Amy?
Amy Wroe Bechtel
Case File Theories
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.
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.
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.
Did Steve murder Amy?
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?
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 Bechtel – Unsolved Mysteries case overview
Lisa Kimmel – Unsolved Mysteries case overview