I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
A missing child. Every parent's worst nightmare. It matters not if they are children or adults, the parents of their missing child will never feel whole again and the lack of answers creates an indescribable void; one which leaves them searching the faces of strangers and wondering if the unrelenting void within them will ever be filled. In cases of adult missing persons, these feelings often extended to the children of the missing, as well.
The following five stories about American missing women are true. Every day, their parents and children wake up to a new day hoping it will be the one someone can answer the question: Have you seen her?
1. Lauren Spierer from Bloomington, Indiana
Earlier in the evening of Thursday, June 2, 2011, Lauren Spierer had went with fellow New Yorker and University of Indiana (UI) student David Rohn to Kilroy’s Sports Bar on North Walnut Street in Bloomington. Not yet having reached her 21st birthday, Lauren used a fake identification to gain entrance into the establishment.
It was about 12:30 a.m. on the morning of June 3 when Rohn left but Lauren decided to stay on and party with other UI friends at the bar. It was shortly after 2:30 a.m., these friends would later tell detectives, when a very inebriated Lauren left Kilroy’s with friend Corey Rossman, whom she had met only two days earlier at the Indianapolis 500, leaving behind her shoes and cellphone.
This is where the story becomes very convoluted.
According to video surveillance footage and statements made by Rossman, he and Lauren walked the two short blocks to her Smallwood Plaza apartments on North College Avenue. Together they took an elevator to the fifth floor but before they could enter Lauren’s apartment, someone punched Rossman in the face. Rossman claims the assault left him dazed and disoriented.
Twelve minutes later, Lauren was captured on video surveillance walking out of an ally near the Smallwood complex and into an empty lot in the North Townhomes community, where Corey Rossman resided. The missing woman's keys and purse would later be discovered along this route. She had never entered her apartment and was still barefoot.
Lauren next appears at Rossman’s apartment which he shared with Mike Beth. According to Beth, he went upstairs to put the still somewhat disoriented Rossman to bed and when returned to the lower level of the townhome, Lauren Spierer was gone.
According to statements made by Lauren’s and Rossman’s friends, Lauren went to the home of Jason Rosenbaum and called Rohn because she realized she had misplaced her own phone but Rohn didn’t answer. Rosenbaum told police Lauren then said she wanted to go home and he watched as she left on foot and turned South on College Avenue in the direction of her home. He is adamant this was the last time he seen Lauren.
Although Rosenbaum claims he was alone that evening, information would come to light which contradicts this statement. Reportedly Rosenbaum was entertaining guests from his home state of Michigan on this evening.
Beginning early afternoon of June 3, 2011, Jesse Wolff, Lauren’s boyfriend, became frustrated when he couldn’t reach Lauren on her cellphone and was surprised when an employee of Kilroy’s calls him and says Lauren’s cellphone had been left behind. Concerned, Wolff contacted Lauren’s roommate, Hadar Tamir, whom he met with on campus and got a key to the apartment so he could check on Lauren.
Not finding Lauren in her apartment and knowing she is without her cellphone, Wolff is extremely concerned. After contacting many of Lauren’s friends and being told no one knows where she is, Wolff filed a missing persons report with Bloomington Police. Robert and Charlene Spierer were notified by their other daughter Lauren was reported missing and immediately left their New York home to set up camp in Indiana, where they remained until August 2011.
David Rohn, Corey Rossman, Mike Beth, and Jason Rosenbaum have all been considered persons of interest as they were the last people to see Lauren Spierer alive. However, all four men have retained the service of an attorney which has likely kept them from crossing the fine line to becoming suspects.
If you know anything about the disappearance of Lauren Spierer, .please contact the Bloomington Police Department at 812.339.4477 or visit www.findlauren.com for additional information on how you may submit anonymous tips.
2. Venus Rose Stewart of Colon, Michigan
On April 26, 2010, Venus Stewart was living with her parents at on Driftwood Drive in Colon, Michigan, after leaving her abusive husband in Virginia, when she went outside to the residence mailbox. She was never seen again.
Signs of a struggle were obvious near the mailbox and a discarded wrapper for a Walmart-brand tarp was found nearby. A neighbor reported seeing a man hiding behind a vehicle in the empty lot across the street from the Driftwood Drive home. With all of this information, detectives were certain Venus had been abducted.
Authorities immediately began digging into the background of Venus and her husband, Douglas Harrie Stewart, and learned Venus had recently been granted an Order of Protection against her estranged husband as well as temporary custody of the couple’s children. Douglas was permitted contact with his children only via telephone pending further orders of the Court.
Definitely motive worthy, investigators believed.
Spouses are always the first person of interest in missing persons case, especially where foul play is suspected; even more so in cases such as the Stewarts’ where protection orders have been filed. So it comes as no surprise Douglas came under intense scrutiny by investigators immediately.
The day after Venus was reported missing, Douglas was located in Newport News, Virginia, where he was living and which was the home he had formerly shared with Venus and the children. When questioned by police, he was adamant in his denial of knowing anything about Venus’ disappearance. According to Douglas, he had not left Newport News as of late and most certainly not on the day Venus went missing.
Yet investigators didn’t believe Douglas and a search of his vehicle produced evidence to contradicted his claims; specifically, an Walmart receipt from a store in Ohio, dated the same date Venus disappeared, showed Douglas had purchased a tarp, shovel, cap, and gloves. Blood was also found in the truck, although later tests would prove it belonged to Douglas rather than Venus.
The receipt was obviously strong evidence in disputing Douglas’ claim he had not been outside Newport News but it wasn’t enough to guarantee a conviction, especially since several people claimed to have seen him in the Newport News area on the day in question.
Continuing their investigation, detectives unveiled a man who claimed to have served as Douglas’ alibi by way of impersonation on the day Venus went missing. The man’s name was Ricky Spencer. The 21 year-old Spencer claimed not only to have to provided an alibi by impersonating Douglas but to have also helped to plan the murder.
In June 2010, Douglas was arrested for the murder of his estranged wife. The following Spring, a jury found Douglas guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Spencer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to one year in prison.
Fast forward to today -
In the eyes of the law, Venus Stewart is dead and justice has been dealt to her killers. But for her mother, Therese McComb, every day is still a day of much sorrow.
She understands her daughter is probably dead. She understands Venus was probably killed by Douglas amid their divorce and custody dispute. Deep down, she knows Venus will never return home alive.
But there is no body. What if?
It’s those what-ifs which overwhelm Therese. She needs to know where Venus’ body is. She needs that closure.
Although her husband has already been sentenced for her murder, let’s bring Venus Rose Stewart home to her mother and her children. Let’s give them the closure they deserve.
If you have any information about Venus Stewart, please contact the Michigan State Police at 269.483.7611. Also be sure to like the Venus Rose Stewart Facebook Page and the Venus Rose Stewart Tribute site.
3. Leah Rachelle Peebles of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Life hadn’t been been easy for Leah Rachelle Peebles by the time she moved from Houston, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the first week of May 2006. She had been molested as a toddler by a relative and raped at the age of fourteen by an acquaintance.
But for all of her parents’ efforts to raise Leah in a Christian, middle-class home, in the end they could not overcome the damage done by the traumatic sexual abuse. Although Leah had been active as a cheerleader, in drama, and a member of the yearbook staff at Carter-Riverside High School, by the time she was a sophomore, she had began to abuse alcohol and drugs – dropping all of her extracurricular activities she had once dearly loved.
Desperate to save their daughter, Leah’s parents enrolled her in a Christian-based residential treatment center for women known as Fort Worth Teen Challenge at the age of eighteen. After staying at the facility for 21 months, Leah graduated with a cosmetology license and soon took a job at a local beauty salon. Sadly, Leah would relapse and end up serving two short jail sentences for a couple of drug offenses. She lost her job at the hair salon, as well.
Leah’s parents begged their daughter to return to the rehabilitation facility which had served her so well before but she was adamant in her protests and decided to move to Albuquerque instead. With the recovering addicts old adage that one can no longer play on the same playgrounds once they are clean on her mind, Leah believed a new city and new people would be just what she needed to get sober.
Leah was temporarily staying with friends on May 22, 2006, when she went on a date with a guy she’d met at the Flying Star Cafe where she was to start work the following week. She never returned and no one, including her parents, have heard from Leah since.
Leah’s father made several trips to Albuquerque trying to find his daughter before his untimely death in 2014, but they were to no avail. However, he gained information which he hoped will one day help bring his daughter home, such as Leah was working as a prostitute for her crack cocaine dealer and pimp known as A.J. and she may have been sold to a pimp in another city. Definitely not the things a father wants to hear but it gave him hope Leah may one day be able to return home where she is loved and missed dearly.
If you have information about the whereabouts of Leah Rachelle Peebles, please contact the Albuquerque Police Department at 505.242.2677
4. Latoya Natasha Thomas of Hayward, California
Although it wouldn’t be official for two more days, Latoya Natasha Thomas and her friends celebrated her 25th birthday on Saturday, September 30, 2000, in San Fransisco, California. It’s likely Latoya didn’t live to see the birthday she had just. Instead it would come not to represent her life but as a reminder another anniversary has passed and no one is any closer in understanding what happened to Latoya.
After leaving the party, Latoya stopped at the Provident Central Credit Union before returning to her Riverside Terrace apartment in Hayward. The complex manager told police he observed the young woman around 10:00 p.m. doing laundry.
Some reports say Latoya was seen departing the complex parking lot at approximately 10:30 p.m. this same evening and she was followed by her boyfriend, whose mother was overnight babysitting her four year-old daughter.
Latoya failed to pick up her daughter as promised on Sunday morning and on Tuesday, October 3, her boyfriend filed a missing person’s report. The following day, Toya’s gray 1986 Mazda 626, with her driver’s license on the front seat, was found unlocked by a public transit worker on B Street, one block away from the Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART) station.
Six months following Toya’s disappearance, the Carole Sund Foundation offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to whereabouts of the young woman but the monetary incentive has failed to produce any helpful information.
In 2007, Toya's boyfriend, Nathan Ellry Noel, who had been so cooperative in her disappearance, was shot and killed by police after fleeing the home where he had murdered his latest girlfriend. While his arrest certainly indicates who may responsible for Toya's disappearance, it will never be known for certain.
It’s been more than a decade since Latoya disappeared and her daughter is now a grown woman. She, as well as many others, would like to know what happened to Latoya Natasha Thomas. If you have any information, please contact the Hayward Police Department at 510.293.7034 and reference case number 00-29686 as well as NCIC number M351068430.
5. Alicia Amanda Stokes of Oakland, California
Alicia Amanda Stokes - Mandy, as she preferred to be called, had argued with her brother on the morning of Saturday, November 25, 2007, but according to Aaron Stokes everything was fine when the 33 year-old psychology major left their apartment to run errands.
“I yelled from the shower ‘I love you …’ She just tapped on the door and said goodbye,” the 28-year-old Aaron recalled.
Two days later, Mandy’s car was found locked and abandoned near a ravine on Park Boulevard. Her purse containing her wallet, identification, iPod, and cell phone, was found in the vehicle. A check of cell phone records revealed Mandy had been talking with her boyfriend in New York while she would have been driving. Further investigation uncovered the call had been disconnected but investigators are unsure of whether it was because of disrupted service or the phone was turned off. The car’s battery was dead. It had been towed because it was blocking traffic.
In December 2007, investigators collected potential evidence which they believe indicates Mandy was murdered at the apartment. As a result, suspicion has fallen heavily on Mandy’s brother who was known to have a serious drug addiction problem at the time of Mandy’s disappearance. However, Aaron endured a nine hour interrogation with investigators and walked away a free man – as he still is today.
During a March 2010 interview, Deborah Murray, Mandy’s mother, stated, “No one has heard from or seen her since. There has been no activity on her cell phone or bank account. Up until she disappeared, we never went a day without talking unless she was camping or otherwise unavailable. It is not like her not to communicate with someone in the family, especially me, but not one person has seen or heard from her since the morning she went missing.”
Mandy is originally from North Carolina and had relocated to California to study psychology at John F. Kennedy University but had taken a semester off from school with the intent to relocate to the East coast to be closer to her boyfriend and mother. Mandy’s father had died four years prior to her disappearance and friends and family say she continued to grieve her father’s death at the time of her disappearance which, along with other personal issues, had lead to a “mental breakdown” but none believed it to be to the point of being suicidal.
If you have information about the disappearance or possible whereabouts of Alicia Amanda “Mandy” Stokes, please contact the Oakland Police Department at 510.238.3641.
© 2016 Kim Bryan
Are You Searching For Someone?
Sanxuary on January 07, 2017:
I had a weird moment years ago. I knew a woman from ohio. She moved and she gave me her parents number. After she moved I saw a missing person flyer and it looked like her. I wrote her and sent the picture and asked her if the picture was her. The letterv came back return mail. So I looked at the picture with my children present and I said she is in ohio with Castro. My children did not forget and I kept that missing picture. One day I got a call from my daughter and she said you have to see whats on the news. Apparently the missing girl on that flyer had been found. She was found in Ohio with two other girls held by a man named Castro. I always wondered what would had happened if i had looked for my missing friend in Ohio? I do not know if this psychic but being close to God I would love to tell these girls that people were hearing their prayers or knew of their hopelessness. When i was looking at Venus the name Michael keeps coming up.