Circumstances: Newspaper article
Missing - Without A Trace
Monday, September 12, 1983
By Diane Pettit
of the Tribune
Police still get leads, but lack answers
It was Sunday instead of Monday, and it rained on this date one year ago, when three people vanished from the Normal Hill section of Lewiston without leaving a clue.
"It's real frustrating," said Lewiston Sgt. Don Schoeffler, his hand resting on a pale blue binder grown fat with information on the case. Pictures of the missing people, pictures of their apartments, transcripts of police interviews, reports on the searches of the area, reports on leads followed, crime laboratory results, lots of teletypes of inquiries and responses from other law enforcement agencies, copies of the flyers sent all over the Northwest, to the National Crime Information Center at Washington, D.C., to Canadian authorities, to the national clearing house for the missing persons at Salt Lake City.
"It's all led nowhere," said Schoeffler, who has been on the case since the three were reported missing. "We haven't learned anything more than the first day as far as where they are or what happened to them," he said.
The three people who are missing are Kristina Nelson, 21, and Brandy Miller, 18, who were stepsisters, and Steven R. Pearsall, 35.
Pearsall and Nelson were acquainted. They lived just four houses apart on the same side of the street, both in basement apartments on the 200 block of 4th Street. Both attended art classes at Lewis-Clakr State College. Both were associated with the Civic Theater.
Pearsall was a janitor at the theatre at the time he disappeared. Nelson had the same job the previous year. But Pearsall was hired independently of Nelson's leaving the position, Schoeffler said, and there is no evidence they were more than acquainted, nor that they were together at any time during the evening that they both disappeared.
Miller lived on 8th Avenue, but she had spent the weekend with her stepsister. They had left word with friends Sunday evening that they intended to go shopping together at the downtown Safeway store and then do their laundry.
Police found freshly washed and dried clothes on Nelson's bed. They also found the women's purses, their checkbooks and contact lenses at Nelson's apartment.
Nelson's only means of transportation, her 10-speed bicycle, still was there. Her cat was there. Nothing seemed out of place, or to have been disturbed. Nothing appeared to be missing, except, ofcourse, Nelson amd Miller.
Nelson talked to her boyfriend on the phone Sunday night, Schoeffler said. She told him she was going to an apartment building where she used to live, about a block away from her current address, to use the dryer in the basement to finish drying some towels. The towels were noticed by someone who lived at the apartment the next day. They were dry and left in the dryer. Later, someone folded the towels and placed them on top of the dryer, presumably to use it, Schoeffler said. But by the time the connection was made and residents of the apartment told police about the towels, they were gone.
Police talked to everyone in the building, Schoeffler said. But they knew nothing more about the towels or the two missing women.
Pearsall was last seen about midnight Sunday, when his girlfriend dropped him off at the Lewiston Civic Theater. She left him at the basement door. He told her he was going to do his laundry in the theater washing machine and practice his clarinet.
Police found Pearsall's clarinet at the theater. But his duffle bag, presumably containing his dirty clothes, has never been found. Pearsall's uncashed paycheck was found at his apartment. His car remained parked at his father's home where Pearsall had left it.
Pearsall's father, Fred E. Pearsall of Lapwai, has heard nothing from his son.
Harold Nelson of Boise, father of Nelson and stepfather of Miller, has heard nothing. Schoeffler said he remains in contact with the families, "but I don't talk to them as often anymore."
He said none of the three who are missing had any motive for disappearing. During the course of the investigation, Schoeffler said he has talked to more than 100 people about Pearsall, Nelson and Miller. "I've probably gotten to know them better than their friends and relatives," he said.
"They were all considered to be responsible people, who would not leave their commitments and possessions and just drop out." Their relationships with their friends and family seemed good. "There is no indication at all that anything was wrong," Schoeffler said.
In fact, there is no evidence that anything actually happened to them, Schoeffler said. There are no bodies, no signs of violence or abduction. In fact, there are no clues at all.
"We have nothing to follow up on. That's what's so frustrating," Schoeffler said. "With most cases you have some type of physical evidence."
Six detectives were assigned to the case in the week following the disappearancees. A month later there were only two.
But the case is still active. The afternoon Schoeffler was interviewed, he said that the most recent information he'd received in the case was " 20 minutes ago." He'd gotten a call from another law enforcement agency, asking for some details on the case. There was a certain similarity to a case they were investigating, Schoeffler said. But the details didn't fit, he added.
Schoeffler said he gets or makes some sort of inquiry about the case almost weekly.
"You get your hopes up every time," he said. "You think, "We found themn," he said. "Then it's always a let down when it's not them."
He makes inquiries into anything that might have a connection with the disappearances.
"We follow up on everything that comes in. We follow up on it immediately. The case is still high priority, and it will be kept open until we have a final disposition."
At the beginning of this month, there was an inquiry from Canadian authorities who had found the body of a man whose description fit Pearsall. Pearsall's dental charts were sent. The body was not Pearsall.
Last month, someone who knew of the disappearances sent Schoeffler an Austin, Texas, newspaper story about Henry Lee Lucas, a man who has confessed to 100 killings in 16 states. Schoeffler queried Texas authorities about Lucas, but found that he had never been in Idaho.
He said other law enforcement agencies are intrigued by the case. "They're flabbergasted." - three disappearances at once, with no apparent connection.
Schoeffler said he's puzzled it over in his mind hundreds of times. The laundry connection, Just a coincidence, he has decided. Abducted by some cult? He contacted the Cult Awareness people. Nothing.
He said thoughts come to him about the case even when he's watching television. he said he saw a program recently with circumstances that vaguely resembled the disappearances.
"Could that be the way it was? I ask myself."
Schoeffler still talks about the case with his partner, Willie Russell, who has retired from the force.
But though they remain baffled, Schoeffler is confident something will break. "Eventually there will be something. I don't believe people can disappear from the face of the earth without a trace," he said. "Someday they will be found."
transcribed from the Lewis-Clark State College microfilm library of the Lewiston Tribune.
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