ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

1997 Cold Case: The Disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel

Updated on May 5, 2013
Amy Wroe Bechtel, circa 1997.
Amy Wroe Bechtel, circa 1997. | Source
Amy Wroe Bechtel.
Amy Wroe Bechtel. | Source
Amy Wroe Bechtel
Amy Wroe Bechtel | Source
Searches looking for clues in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel.
Searches looking for clues in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel. | Source
Lisa Marie Kimmell, murdered in 1988 by Dale Wayne Eaton, whom authorities think may be involved in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel.
Lisa Marie Kimmell, murdered in 1988 by Dale Wayne Eaton, whom authorities think may be involved in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel. | Source
Dale Wayne Eaton, the man responsible for the murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell, and may have been involved in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel.  Some investigators believe that Eaton may also be responsible for the "Great Basin Murders".
Dale Wayne Eaton, the man responsible for the murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell, and may have been involved in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel. Some investigators believe that Eaton may also be responsible for the "Great Basin Murders". | Source
Government Bridge, the location that Lisa Marie Kimmell was murdered by Dale Wayne Eaton.
Government Bridge, the location that Lisa Marie Kimmell was murdered by Dale Wayne Eaton. | Source

1997 Cold Case: The Disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel

Recently, while reviewing some old newspaper headlines, I came across a story from about 15 years ago that I hadn’t heard much about recently. As I began to look into it further, I came across a connection to another infamous story from these parts that had just, not too long ago, been solved. These two crimes, seemingly connected, are two crimes that if you’re from this area and they are mentioned it elicits a response of “yeah I remember that…what ever happened with that?”

The year was 1997 and the location was Lander, Wyoming; reports place Amy Wroe Bechtel leaving the apartment that she shared with her husband Steve at approximately 9:30am on July 24th. It has been reported that it was her intention to run some errands and tend to other issues having to deal with the home that she and her husband had recently purchased. It is believed that when she was finished with her errands she had intended to go for a run on the Loop Road in the Shoshone National Forest, which is easily accessible just outside of Lander. The last confirmed sighting of Mrs. Bechtel was at 2:30pm that afternoon at a local photo shop, employees reported her as “seemingly in a hurry” and “continuously checking her watch”.

Reports have her husband Steve returning to their apartment at around 4:30pm that afternoon, when he hadn’t seen or heard from Amy by 10:30pm he called the local sheriff’s office to report her missing. JoAnne Wroe, Amy’s mother, would report later that after listening to a recording of this call that Steve’s attitude was one of indifference and lacking concern; it wouldn’t be the first or last time that Steve’s attitude would be called into question.

The search for Amy began immediately, with friends and family of the Bechtel’s searching the Loop Road, where it was believed Amy had gone running. At approximately 1am that night, a group that was helping in the search found Amy’s car, a white Toyota Tercel wagon parked along the Burnt Gulch Road turnout; two hours later an official search was underway.

The resources employed during the search included local law enforcement, FBI, Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation, Bureau of Indian Affairs helicopters, private helicopters, helicopters from the F.E. Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, scuba divers, search dogs; obviously every agency that could help was helping. The only trace of Amy that was believed to have been found was a shoe print that may have matched her shoes, but it was destroyed before a cast or match could be made, and the possible involvement of an individual related to a green van.

The FBI soon took on a prominent role in the investigation, on August 1st Steve Bechtel would cut short an interview with the FBI after an agent is reported to have accused him of killing Amy and stating “we have evidence that you did it and we want you to take a polygraph test to prove that you didn’t”. Steve would then hire high-powered Jackson, Wyoming attorney Kent Spence, son of the famous lawyer Gerry Spence, who promptly advised against taking the polygraph test; this would mark the end of Steve Bechtel’s cooperation with authorities.

The investigation into the disappearance of Amy Bechtel would continue with as many resources as could be mustered, including contacting NASA to inquire about the possibility of the Russian space station MIR having taken photos of the area on the day she disappeared, the inquiry was futile due to the weather on the day. DNA samples would be taken and thorough searches of Steve’s vehicle and their home would be conducted but nothing would be found; Amy had literally vanished into thin air.

Of course suspicion was always focused on her husband, but from what I have been able to find, which no doubt is very little in the grand scheme of things, the only evidence that they seemed to have against Steve was his failure to cooperate with the investigators and failure to take the polygraph, flimsy evidence to be sure.

The case has had little new information since Amy disappeared, the most recent was in June 2003 when a watch similar to the one Amy was reported to have been wearing when she vanished was found near the middle fork of the Popo Agie (pronounced poe-poe-juh) River. The river runs along the Loop Road where Amy had been running when she disappeared; a subsequent search of the area uncovered a collection of bones that were later determined to be animal bones.

Here is where the story takes twist; in 1988 Lisa Marie Kimmell vanished while driving from her home in Denver, Colorado to her parent’s home in Billings, Montana, she had planned to stop in Cody, Wyoming en route to pick up her boyfriend at the time. Lisa’s body would be found eight days later in the North Platte River just south of Casper, Wyoming; she had been raped and stabbed to death; this case too would go cold very quickly.

Fourteen years later, in 2002, there would be a DNA hit in FBI’s CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) system that would blow the Kimmell case wide open. The DNA hit would lead back to a man named Dale Wayne Eaton, a life-long criminal from Moneta, Wyoming who was at the time incarcerated on federal weapons charges. Eaton would ultimately be convicted of all charges stemming from the Kimmell murder and sentenced to death.

It wasn’t until authorities started digging into Eaton’s background and his whereabouts that they would discover exactly what kind of monster that they were dealing with. It was discovered that Eaton was in and out of jail for most of his adult life, the most serious of which came in 1997 when he attempted to abduct the Breeden family in the Red Desert of Wyoming. The Breeden’s vehicle was having mechanical problems and Eaton offered them assistance, when Eaton made his move on the family the mother and father fought back nearly killing Eaton. Eaton would be sent to prison for this assault as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm, while serving his sentence he would kill his cellmate which would lead to his DNA being entered into the CODIS database.

While preparing for Eaton’s trial the investigation would turn up some very interesting facts about Eaton and his activities. The most significant information to be uncovered is that in July of 1997, Dale Wayne Eaton was found to be in Lander, Wyoming on personal business, at the time it was determined that Eaton owned a green Dodge van.

There is no conclusive evidence linking Dale Wayne Eaton to the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel, for his part Eaton isn’t talking. Some investigators point to typical serial killer behavior in their analysis of Eaton’s murder of Kimmell, making a public spectacle of her body and keeping her car buried on his property as a trophy, to conclude that he is clearly a serial killer; coupled with the fact that he was in Lander at the time of Amy’s disappearance seems to indicate that he may very be the man responsible for Amy’s disappearance.

Some investigators believe that Eaton is a perfect suspect for the “Great Basin Killer” a series of murders that took place between 1983 and 1997, the year that Eaton was sent to prison for attacking the Breeden family. The murders stretch from Nevada to Wyoming and there is more than one link to Eaton in the case files of the murders, no evidence has been uncovered to garner charging Eaton for these crimes. Dale Wayne Eaton’s execution date draws ever closer and unfortunately it looks as if, if there is any connection to be made, Eaton will take any knowledge he has of Amy’s disappearance to his grave.

If anyone reading this has any knowledge of the whereabouts or information of any kind dealing with the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel, please contact the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office at (307)-332-5611.


Copyright© 2012 R.L.B; all rights reserved.

The Charley Project: Amy Wroe Bechtel. Retrieved from: http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/b/bechtel_amy.html

Amy Wroe Bechtel case timeline. Retrieved from: http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_f289eca2-a639-5a75-a565-814f41b5249c.html

Unsolved Mysteries: Amy Wroe Bechtel. Retrieved from: http://unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com/wiki/Amy_Wroe_Bechtel

“Lil Miss” Murder: Lisa Marie Kimmell. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lil_Miss_murder

Dale Wayne Eaton: The “Lil Miss” Killer. Retrieved from: http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Psyc%20405/serial%20killers/Eaton,%20Dale%20Wayne.pdf


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • chanroth profile image

      chanroth 5 years ago from California, USA

      I enjoy reading such case like this because I am currently studying in Criminal Evidence. I am currently watching the video and totally enjoy it!

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      I remember the case when I lived in Denver in the '80's and the fact that his neighbors remember that he dug a huge pit in his front yard to hide the car in.

    • LadyLyell profile image

      LadyLyell 5 years ago from George, South Africa

      Time seems to have run out in having Eaton admit to the murder in question. What about the "Truth" drug? Does it really work at least in a last attempt?

      I would really like to hear the end of this story so keep all the readers up to date.

      Thanks for relating the story!

    • rlbert00 profile image
      Author

      rlbert00 5 years ago from USA

      Unfortunately protections afforded to U.S. citizens by the Constitution prevent us from being able to use the "truth serum",it could be a very useful tool in this case. The fact that there seems to have been no movement on this case leads me to believe that updates will be few and far between but I will certainly relay any new information I come across.

    • rlbert00 profile image
      Author

      rlbert00 5 years ago from USA

      Right. The car was there the whole time, he had even kept and sold some of the parts from it. That car took on a mythical aura around this area, with her Montana license plate that read "lil miss" was seen everywhere but nowhere, that case is still epic here. The community breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was solved.

    • MikeSyrSutton profile image

      MikeSyrSutton 5 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      Interesting read! Where I live, there is an investigator with the D.A.'s office that specializes in cold cases. Quite a few have been solved in the last 5 years. Voted up!

    • profile image

      Marcia Ours 5 years ago

      Interesting and well-written.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Unsolved cases always fascinate me - I keep hoping we will eventually know the answers. And I pray for the family members who live with the lack of closure. Thanks for sharing this story. Voted up and interesting.

    • rlbert00 profile image
      Author

      rlbert00 5 years ago from USA

      Unfortunately there has been no movement on this case for some time, everyone seems convinced that her husband is responsible but they can't prove it. I wonder if, like some many times, their tunnel vision looking at her husband allowed the perpetrator to get away with this.

    • rlbert00 profile image
      Author

      rlbert00 5 years ago from USA

      I hope that there is some closure for this family, her father has already passed away not knowing what happened to his daughter, hopefully they solve this thing before her mother is gone as well.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted interesting and up. You are a very good example of what a true crime writer does. Excellent job!

    • rlbert00 profile image
      Author

      rlbert00 5 years ago from USA

      This story is one that just does not go away, regardless of the length of time that has passed. I think that if they don't get any information from Dale Eaton before they execute him this case may never be solved; Eaton is the key. Again, I thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

    Click to Rate This Article