Case File Overview
Steven Thell Koecher was born in Amarillo, Texas on November 1, 1979, to Deanne and Rolf Koecher. He was the second oldest of five children and his parents were devoted followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By all accounts, Steven was a happy and healthy all-American boy. He was a dare devil who loved playing guitar and writing songs. He played baseball and joined the Boy Scouts where he even earned the rank Eagle Scout.
Steven’s parents would eventually move to Bountiful, Utah, but Steven completed his high school education in Amarillo, Texas, finishing his courses online. He continued his studies at Brigham University and completed a bachelor’s degree in communication at the University of Utah. Steven also had a nine-month internship at the Governor of Utah’s Office, assisting the Press Secretary with daily tasks.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Steven did missionary work in Brazil, where he learned to speak Portuguese. Friends and family considered the sandy-haired, blue-eyed young man quiet but adventurous, with a very close bond to his family and community, and a deep devotion to his faith.
After his return from Brazil in 2007, Steven worked with his father, who was the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune at the time. He was a part of the digital advertising team and wrote freelance articles for the paper. Some of his work won Utah Press Association awards, but Steven was restless and felt working the night shift in the Utah winter was unbearable.
He applied for a digital marketer position at Matchbin.com and got selected for the role. So, in March 2009, armed with career aspirations and a desire to marry and settle down, Steven moved to St. George.
Unfortunately, within a month Steven lost his job. But the then thirty-year-old did not give up even though the country was in the throes of a terrible recession. He took any work he could find, even handing out flyers for Travis’ Window and Blind Cleaning and decorating houses for the coming holiday season.
But by December 2009, things were unravelling for Steven… at least financially.
To save money, Steven was renting a modest room from Brett Bishop. However, Brett and his wife were becoming frustrated with Steven because he was three months behind on the rent. Nevertheless, they were trying to work with him to come up with a reasonable payment plan. Steven did his best to hide his growing money hardships from those around him. He wanted to stand on his own two feet.
On Monday December 7, Steven, who was a Ward Councilor with his church, attended a Christmas dinner with the church members. He was in great spirits, and even arranged to start home schooling a friend from the church in around a week. The following day, Steven stopped in to see his employer at the window washing business to pick up $100 he was owed. A couple of days later, Steven chatted on the phone with his sister, and later the same evening he attended a church service.
His father, Rolf, also called Steven on this day. It turns out Steven’s landlord called Rolf since he was a reference on the rental agreement. Brett told Rolf Steven was three months behind in his rent and had stopped answering his calls. Steven, who was in the supermarket buying groceries at the time of the call, was embarrassed and frustrated his father had found out about his money troubles and abruptly hung up.
Steven was really trying to make it on his, even refusing to cash a cheque his grandmother had previously sent. He did, however, text his father the following day, apologizing and reiterating that he did not need any help – he had it under control.
Either later that evening or early the next morning, Steven got into his car and started driving.
At 6:45AM on December 10 he bought gas in Salt Lake City, already having driven 300 miles, or 480 kilometers, from home. After another refueling in West Wendover Nevada at 9:45AM, Steven made a surprise visit to his ex-girlfriend, Annmarie Neff’s parents’ home, in Ruby Valley, Nevada at 2:00PM. Annmarie, who had no idea Steven was coming, was not home, so he visited with her parents for a couple of hours.
During their conversation, he said the reason he was in the area was to visit family in Sacramento. Steven, however, had no family in the area. He eventually left without reconnecting with Annmarie, even though he had travelled 560 miles, or 900 kilometers, from St. George.
At 3:45PM Steven spoke to one of his sisters on the phone but made no mention he was on a road trip. He fueled up again at around 4:45PM in Salt Lake City and continued back towards St. George. An hour later, he stopped briefly in Springville, Utah.
And then at a couple minutes before 7:00PM he talked with his mother. During the phone call, they discussed his financial issues and she told him she had transferred money into his bank account. Overall, it was a good conversation and it ended on happy terms. But once again, Steven kept his spontaneous road trip to himself.
Steven arrived back home in St. George shortly after 11:00PM on Thursday December 10. He had driven over 1100 miles, or 1770 kilometers, and even though he had spoken to several family members along the way none of them knew about his trip.
The next day, Steven was back at work handing out flyers for the window cleaning company. But on Saturday December 12 at 9:19AM Steven’s cellphone pinged near Overton Nevada, which is about an hour and a half away from St. George. He was off on another mysterious road trip. Shortly after 5:00PM Steven stopped in Mesquite Nevada and purchased snacks and gas.
By 8:00PM Steven was back in St. George and went to a local K-Mart, where he purchased Christmas gifts for his niece and nephew. Several neighbours saw Steven return home between 10:00PM and 10:30PM, but he left shortly after he arrived. Where Steven spent the two-and-a-half hours between shopping at K-Mart and his brief stop at home has never been determined.
On Sunday, December 13 Greg Webb called Steven at 8:00AM to ask him to stand in for him during their 11:00AM church service. Steven explained he was in Las Vegas, but he suggested he could travel back to St. George to help if needed. Greg declined the offer since he was also in Las Vegas and could just as easily make the trip back himself.
Steven received another call at 10:54AM from another church member asking him to announce the start of the church ward’s baseball season. Steven explained to the caller he would not be officiating the 1:00PM church service he was scheduled for and could not make the announcement. At 11:15AM Steven got yet another call asking him to stand in for Greg, and once again he explained he was in Las Vegas.
This is the last confirmed conversation anyone had with Steven.
At 11:54AM a home security camera captured a man believed to be Steven pulling his 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier into a cul-de-sac located in the 2600 block of Savanah Springs. This area is an upmarket suburb housing mostly retirees, situated outside Las Vegas in Henderson. Steven was seen exiting his vehicle at exactly noon. He was holding an object that appeared to either a folder or file of some kind.
The camera recorded Steven walking purposefully in the opposite direction of where he parked. A second camera trained on the driveway of a home on Evening Lights Street also documented Steven walking north and crossing the street.
Steven Koecher’s Abandoned Vehicle
After that, Steven disappeared. But the fact he had vanished went unnoticed for several days.
Finally, some diligent members of the Homeowner’s Association in the area where Steven parked his car made note of the abandoned vehicle on December 17. They contacted the number on the flyers visible through his car window. When Steven’s boss received the news, he contacted the Koecher family and explained their son’s car had been found abandoned. The car was in working order and had plenty of fuel, and it contained food, toiletries, bedding, flyers, job applications, and the Christmas gifts he had picked up at K-Mart the night before.
Steven’s family, consumed with worry, reported his disappearance to the police. They went to the area where he was last seen and started their own search. They printed flyers and distributed them around the neighbourhood. They also went to morgues, hospitals, and jails, but Steven was nowhere to be found.
There was some electronic evidence that could have helped locate Steven, but it never amounted to anything viable.
Almost five hours after he left his vehicle, Steven’s cellphone pinged a tower near Arroyo Grande Boulevard and American Pacific Drive, an area known for having a rough reputation. Two hours later, his cellphone pinged again in a subdivision near Sunset Drive and Stephanie Street.
Shortly after 7:00AM the next morning Steven’s voicemail was checked somewhere in the vicinity of U.S. 95 and Russell Road. The cellphone stayed at that location for two days before the battery died and the signal was lost. Evidence of Steven was never found at any of these locations, and he may well have not been the person in possession of the cellphone during these times.
The fact there was no crime scene to process also complicated the investigation, but the authorities did not give up. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police canvassed the neighbourhood, but no new leads were found. By Christmas, local news outlets in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas broadcast stories about Steven’s disappearance. As a result, the search intensified, with volunteers, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters, and sniffer dogs being fully utilized.
As months, and then years, passed, several searches were launched, social media platforms were leveraged, and Steven’s missing person information was even printed on cartons of milk to try to elicit leads.
Despite all efforts, no trace of Steven has ever been found.
Case File Theories
Did Steven run off to start a new life? This is one of the least likely theories.
Steven had strong ties to both his family and his church, and it is unimaginable he would have just up and left. Also, although things were difficult for him financially, the bishop of his church had lined up a job for him that was set to start in January, so it does not make much sense he would leave the area. Steven also left his passport, laptop, and cellphone charger at home, as well as perishables in his fridge and clothing in his closet.
This all suggests he was not planning on leaving permanently. Although bedding and toiletries were found in his vehicle, it appears that he made no other preparations for an indefinite trip. Perhaps he was staying in his car to hide out from his landlord because of the overdue rent.
One far-fetched theory about Steven’s disappearance involves another missing person—Susan Powell. Susan was also a member of the Mormon church, happened to live in the area, and went missing a week before Steven disappeared. Her husband, Josh Powell, and his father publicly claimed Steven and Susan could have run off together.
This theory was debunked when investigators found no evidence the two knew each other and their last known locations were pinpointed to be 400 miles, or 644 kilometers, apart. Josh later killed himself and his two young children during a scheduled family visit, strengthening the theory he murdered Susan himself and disposed of her body.
Did Steven die by suicide? Maybe, but this is far from the strongest theory.
Steven was struggling with depression due to his financial hardship – he could not seem to get his life on track. But, according to those closest to him, this would never have caused him to take his own life. With the support he had available from his family and church community, he most likely would have reached out to them for help before ending his life.
The police also combed through journal entries Steven wrote shortly before he went missing and found no evidence of suicidal thoughts. In fact, the opposite was true. Steven displayed a positive attitude and was focused on the future. He was home schooling a friend from the church in the coming weeks and visiting his family in Bountiful over the Christmas holidays. There was also the job his bishop had found for him that was starting in January.
At least on the surface, Steven had a lot to live for at the time of his disappearance. And, of course, it is hard to explain why his body was never found if he did, in fact, take his own life.
Did Steven meet with foul play? This theory most likely explains what happened to Steven.
The private investigator hired by Steven’s family concluded he had been murdered. And at least two persons of interest were identified.
There were those who thought that Steven, desperate for money, got caught up in something nefarious like drug trafficking to make some quick cash. He did go on a lot of unexplained road trips in the days leading up to his disappearance, especially for someone with little money to needlessly waste on fuel.
His landlord, Brett, was involved with some notorious people. He had numerous run-ins with the law, including drug possession, illegal firearm possession, fraud, and grand theft auto. Perhaps Brett offered Steven some illegal work, like running drugs, to pay off his overdue rent. Brett did make thirteen calls to Steven’s phone between December 13-16. Was he looking for his rent money… or was he worried about Steven when he failed to return from a courier job? Or could it be as simple as Brett killed Steven during an altercation over the unpaid rent?
The authorities never formally announced Brett was a person of interest in Steven’s disappearance, but there was enough evidence for his father to seriously consider the possibility. Rolf had two different narcotics dogs go over Steven’s car, but they did not alert. As a result, their handlers concluded the car had never been used to transport drugs. Also, a forensic examination of Steven’s bank account turned up no unexplained funds or suspicious activities.
Given all of this, as well as Steven’s deep moral beliefs and close ties to his church, it would be surprising if he was killed due to involvement in the drug trade. Nevertheless, there is still a chance Brett knew more about Steven’s disappearance than he let on.
The DiMaggio family.
Another potential explanation for Steven’s disappearance is that he met with foul play shortly after leaving his car. The Koecher’s private investigator determined Steven was going door-to-door either to search for work or to find a particular person he was supposed to meet about a job. Apparently, Steven knocked on the door of one homeowner and asked, “Do you need money?” The person was confused, and Steven seemed to realize he was at the wrong house. He abruptly left, crossed the street, and walked north to the second house from the corner.
This house was owned by Sal DiMaggio and his wife, with their son Mark living in a guest house on the property. Neighbours often complained about the noise and the constant traffic at the house, and at least one person reported unusual activity there on the actual day Steven vanished. Police made numerous attempts to speak with the DiMaggios, but they moved away shortly after Steven vanished. The police eventually connected with Mark, but he denied any knowledge of what happened to Steven.
It is possible this family had a hand in Steven’s disappearance, and documents showed they were a focus of the investigation; however, just like with Brett Bishop, the police never officially named them as persons of interest.
What do you think happened to Steven?
For more than a decade Steven’s friends and family have diligently searched for him. Every lead has been followed up on, but no resolution has ever been found. The hopes of Steven’s loved ones are continually raised, just to be repeatedly shattered.
The Koecher Family
In 2009, when Steven disappeared, he was 30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighed 180 pounds. Steven has blond hair and blue eyes, a birthmark on his abdomen, and surgical scars behind his ears. He was last seen wearing “a white button-down shirt, jeans or Dockers, white sneakers, and a hooded sweatshirt.”
Someone out there knows something. If you have any information about Steven’s whereabouts please contact the St. George Police Department at (435) 627-4300, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at (702) 229-2907, or the Henderson Police Department at (702) 267-5000.
Interested in unsolved true crime cases? Check out our audio file on the disappearance of Trever Andrews and our article on the murder of Christina Kettlewell.
Sources and Related Material
The Mysterious Disappearance of Steven Koecher, Part 1. YouTube, June 28, 2021.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Steven Koecher, Part 2. YouTube, June 30, 2021.
Steven Koecher. Eyes on Justice, 2021.
Steven Koecher. Disappeared Blog, May 10, 2021.
Lost in Las Vegas: What Happened to Steven Koecher? Medium, February 3, 2021.
Operation Tsunami. Cold, January 23, 2019.
Chasing Leads. Cold, February 27, 2019.
Nine Years After His Disappearance, Family Still Hopes to Find Steven Koecher. 3 News, November 10, 2018.
Steven Koecher. Trace Evidence, 2018.
Utahn Steven Koecher’s disappearance remains a mystery. The Salt Lake Tribune, December 12, 2011.
Secret of a Son. Disappeared, April 11, 2011.
#MP4889 – Steven Thell Koecher. NamUs, n.d.
Help Us Find Steven Koecher. Facebook Page, n.d.
Steven Thell Koecher. The Charley Project, n.d.