[Note: this is one of my “pet cases” so I’ll be posting a follow-up to this case with more analysis.]
Wrapped Christmas gifts. A pile of resumes. A shaving kit. Blankets and pillows.
The items found in 30 year old Steven Koecher’s car were more than a random assortment of items. They were symbols of a life frozen in time. Steven’s car was found abandoned on a cul-de-sac in a retirement community in Henderson, Nevada, 135 miles away from St. George, Utah, where he lived. Steps away from this car were two home security cameras which showed Steven walking down the streets of this community, evaporating into thin air, and never to be seen or heard from again.
The year was 2009, and the college-educated Steven, eager to make a name for himself away from his family, had been laid off from his sales job, and couldn’t find work. He was passing out fliers for a local window washing company, and doing odd jobs to make ends meet. Those jobs weren’t cutting it, as Steven reportedly had $2 in his bank account, and was three months behind in his rent. The desperation of not being able to find work and the humiliation of not being able to support himself, may have ultimately led to his disappearance.
It’d be easy to write off Steven as someone who simply fell into the hands of a Craigslist scheme gone wrong, if it wasn’t for his mysterious movements the days before his disappearance. He made several road trips for seemingly no reason through out the Utah / Nevada border. His reason for his visit to Las Vegas on that December day is also not known.
It’s these details that draw me to this case. The private moments which no one ever sees, the secrets we keep while just trying to get by. I think of those moments of Koecher alone in his car, driving to nowhere, while the people in his life had no clue.
Steven’s case is also remarkable in that even the most promising of leads don’t go anywhere. Steven was a clean-cut, devout Mormon. He had no connection to drug activity. His cell phone records had no unknown numbers. He used the Internet at libraries, so forensic investigation of his laptop yielded nothing. His diary had no indication of what was going on in his life. There weren’t even directions in his car that led to the Anthem community.
Weeks of omitted details, actions Steven probably thought would spare his family embarrassment, has led to a situation in which no one can really pinpoint what happened to him. His acts of self preservation have directly led to this tragic situation.
When a case has this few clues, speculation runs wild. Some think Steven was in the closet and is now living with “Big Daddy Warbucks” (an actual phrase used on WebSleuths) in Vegas. Others think he simply got fed up with his unsatisfying life and committed suicide somewhere in the desert. Some think he witnessed a crime in Henderson and was killed. Others think he was involved in delivering drugs and got caught up with the wrong people.
It’s possible we’ll never know. Did anyone know the real Steven Koecher? Did he confide in anyone these dark moments, what led him to take those drives, what led him to Vegas? One one of his road trips, he stopped at an ex-girlfriend’s house. The woman wasn’t home and he had lunch with her parents. Could she have known what was going on?
I think someone in St. George knows something and isn’t talking. I think someone in Henderson knows something and isn’t talking. The twist of fate here is that the one thing Steven didn’t want — his secrets coming out — is the one thing that could lead to giving his loved ones a modicum of peace.
A very common theory in true crime communities when it comes to missing adults is that they ran away to start a new life. I don’t think Steven has run away. He planned to go to church that evening. He’d bought gifts for his relatives. He had resumes in his car. He had a shaving kit to make himself presentable for interviews. He continued to try. And it was this persistence, this insistence on remaining proud, that I believe led him to that cul-de-sac, and whatever happened next.
[Postscript: You may notice I did not bring up Susan Powell, another Utah Mormon resident who went missing at the same time as Steven. Susan’s husband planted stories in the media that their appearances were connected to deflect attention from his own involvement. Given what happened in the Powell case, it’s obvious there was no connection, and I decided not to include those theories in this post.]