When Fitness Becomes Dangerous: Three Women Who Went Missing While Exercising

When Fitness Becomes Dangerous: Three Women Who Went Missing While Exercising

It’s not uncommon for women to jog alone. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for women to go missing while jogging or exercising.

Millions of women exercise daily while alone, and most come home safe. However, imagine your friend goes out for a jog or bicycle ride and is never seen again. Women who go missing while jogging are not an isolated event. It may be hard to comprehend, but sadly, stories like this are becoming more common in today’s society.  

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), there are approximately 100,000 people missing in the United States right now. As of May 31, 2018, there were 19,183 women over the age of eighteen listed as missing in NCIC. Many of them go missing while jogging or exercising.

Stories like Molly Tibbets, who was abducted and murdered, make national news headlines, creating fear throughout the country. Women being attacked or kidnapped, or going missing while jogging is a nightmare we cannot run away from and one that continues to haunt families of the missing.

The Disappearance of Rachel Cooke

Our first woman who went missing while jogging is Rachel Cooke. Rachel Cooke, 19, was visiting her parents in Georgetown, Texas, during her winter break from college. No one knew that would be her last trip home. On January 10, 2002, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Rachel went out for her four-mile daily run and was last seen 200 yards from her family home. Somewhere in that short distance, the beautiful young college student with a smile that could light up the Texas plains—vanished.(Northlake subdivision in Georgetown, Texas, where Rachel Cooke vanished while taking a morning run.)

Northlake subdivision is a quiet place, about 45 minutes from Austin, where streets are named after Native American tribes and the only people there are residents and their visitors. The houses are set back on several acres of property with expansive drives. The serenity is rarely disturbed by strangers, making it a perfect storm of cirumcstances to go missing while jogging.

224 Navajo Trail was the Cooke family’s dream home, and they loved its spaciousness and tranquility. Robert and Janet Cooke raised Rachel and her little sister Joann there while Janet taught English at a nearby high school. Robert was a long-time software engineer for IBM and commuted daily to Austin. It was a place where people felt safe going outside alone and kidnapping did not happen—until Rachel.

The Cooke family’s idyllic life came to an end that fateful Thursday, but the day started like any other. Robert and Janet left early to work, and Joann went to her classes at the local high school. Rachel was enjoying her winter break as a freshman at Mesa Junior College San Diego, and her family let her sleep in.

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(Rachel Cooke was last seen at her parent’s home in Georgetown, Texas on January 10, 2002.)

When the family left that morning, Rachel was asleep on the living room sofa. Her mother kissed her goodbye.

Authorities believe Rachel got up and left the home at approximately 9:30 a.m. for her morning run. She went missing while jogging that morning.

When Robert got home at 5:00 p.m., Rachel was still not there and had no contact with anyone in the family the entire day. At first, Robert was not that concerned thinking Rachel was out with her friend Shannon, who she had plans with that evening. But, as time went by, Robert began to worry. He called Wildfire, a local restaurant, Rachel sometimes worked at while visiting. To the worried father’s relief, they told him Rachel had worked a shift that evening. However, morning came and there was still no sign of Rachel, so Robert called the restaurant again. To his horror, they told him, in fact, it was another Rachel that had worked the previous night shift.

Rachel was missing—and a sinking feeling overcame her father.

In the days following Rachel’s disappearance, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search with help from hundreds of volunteers. After the initial search efforts concluded, Robert and Janet continued to organize searches on weekends.

“We carried on for nine months, but at some point, we thought we’ve done our best,” Robert told the Guardian. “If they took her 12 miles, there is no reason why they wouldn’t take her 15 miles. We could search the entire state of Texas and still not find her.”

Robert Cooke passed away in November 2014, never knowing what happened to his daughter.

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(The FBI erected billboards of Rachel Cooke in the state of Texas offering a $100,000 reward for information.) 

In May 2019, the FBI erected billboards throughout Texas offering a $100,000 reward for any information about the whereabouts of Rachel.

As drivers passed Rachel’s smiling face along I-35, it read “Missing but not forgotten,” and placed there on Rachel’s 37th birthday. Janet Cook saw it as a Mother’s Day gift as well. Time has not lessened the mother’s hope of finding her daughter—and at least knowing what happened.

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(In 2020, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office released two suspect composites in the disappearance of Rachel Cooke.)

In 2020, for Rachel’s 38th birthday, deputies met with Rachel’s mother Janet and released two new composite sketches of potential suspects in the case. 

Her mother had a remembrance ceremony at the campus of Georgetown High School where they planted a tree in memory of Rachel. Sheriff Robert Chody spoke at the ceremony to remind the public his investigators are still working the case.

Janet Cooke, who also spoke, said she is just “seeking closure” on the case. “At this point I just want Rachel and to be able to tell her sister it’s over,” she told the Statesman.  

If you have any information about the disappearance of Rachel Cooke, please call the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office at 512-943-5204 or email coldcasetips@wilco.com.

The Disappearance of Suzanne Morphew

Suzanne Morphew was another woman who very recently went missing while jogging or exercising, except she was on a bicycle. Suzanne Morphew, 49, went out biking alone on Mother’s Day and never returned to her central Colorado home. Just after 6 p.m. on May 10, 2020, a neighbor alerted the Chaffee County Communications Center that Suzanne had not returned from her bike ride.

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(Suzanne Morphew is missing from the small community in Maysville, Colorado, approximately 120 miles from Colorado Springs.)

An avid cyclist, Suzanne was biking near her home in Maysville, a small community in Chaffee County, approximately 120 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. Her disappearance has spurred nationwide press coverage and a Facebook page with over 16,315 followers.

There have been reports that Suzanne’s bicycle was found just west of County Road 225 and West U.S. Highway 50. However, the Sheriff’s Office has only publicly confirmed a “personal item” was found that they believe belonged to the missing biker.

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(Barry Morphew, Suzanne’s husband, made an emotional plea to the public offering a $200,000 reward for his wife’s safe return. Photo courtesy of Inside Edition)

Suzanne’s husband, Barry Morphew made a dramatic plea offering a $200,000 reward for the safe return of his wife. “No questions asked,” said Barry. “However much they want. I will do whatever it takes to get you back. I love you and I want you back so bad.” Barry, a volunteer firefighter is said to have been 150 miles away in Denver when Suzanne vanished. 

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(Suzanne Morphew has been missing from Maysville, Colorado, since May 10, 2020.)

Suzanne is a mother of two daughters and a cancer survivor. A former English teacher, Suzanne is described as “happy and active” who was always at the gym, hiking, or biking. She is loved in her community, and fliers dot the windows in the local businesses. Hundreds of volunteers have helped with the search efforts, organized by her nephew Trevor Noel, who has also become the family spokesperson.

“As time goes by, it gives us concern, but we are searching as if she is still alive and we think she could still be alive,” Sheriff John Spezze of the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office told Inside Edition. In an earlier interview, the sheriff also said they are not ruling out foul play.

Initially, authorities had seized the Morphew home but confirmed on May 26, 2020, that the house has been released back to the family. Investigators have also searched a local home construction site in Salida, approximately 11 miles east of Maysville, spurring rumors that Suzanne Morphew had been located and the husband arrested. The sheriff’s office issued a press release in response to the speculation.

“In response to the widespread rumors, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office relays that Ms. Morphew has not been located and there have been no arrests in the investigation,” the release said.

Authorities say they have received over 400 tips and continue to encourage the public to call in with leads.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Suzanne Morphew, please contact the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office at 719-312-7530.

The Disappearance of Amy Bechtel

Amy Wroe Bechtel, 24, vanished on July 24, 1997, while jogging in the Wind River Mountains approximately 15 miles south of Lander, Wyoming. 

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(Amy Wroe Bechtel vanished on July 24, 1997, while jogging in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming.)

Amy Bechtel went missing while jogging in a little hamlet of middle America. Lander, Wyoming is located in Fremont County with a population of under 8,000 people. A popular tourist destination with guest ranches, it is located just below the Wind River Mountains where people go hiking, rock climbing, and backpacking. 

That Thursday morning of July 24, Amy told her husband, Steve Bechtel, that she was planning on running several errands in town after teaching a children’s weightlifting class at the Wind River Fitness Center. Steve planned to drive with his yellow lab, Jonz, to Dubois, 75 miles north, to meet his friend Sam Lightner, and scout some possible new climbing areas at Cartridge Creek. 

After teaching class, Amy stopped at the Camera Connection, a photo store near her home in Lander, and then stopped by Gallery 331, where she spoke to the business owner about submitting her photographs into a competition. Amy was an amateur photographer, an avid runner, and a marathon hopeful who loved the outdoors and pristine beauty of Wyoming. 

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(A quaint mountain town, Lander is located in Central Wyoming just south of the Wind River Indian Reservation.)

Steve and Amy lived on Lucky Lane, a hipster community where many rock climbers live, drawn by some of the most difficult mountain walls in the United States. Lander is a quirky town with funky shops and art galleries, old school watering holes, and small home-town restaurants. Steve and Amy both worked part-time at Wild Iris Mountain Sports, a local outdoor equipment store.

The couple had just closed on a new house and were busy planning a move. Amy was also organizing a 10k hill climb scheduled for September 7. She planned that the runners would climb a series of mountain switchbacks not far from town, then jump into the Frye Lake and finish with a picnic. On the day she vanished, Amy’s “to do” list included a run and lifting, recycling, get photo mounted, get more boxes, mow the lawn, and get flyers.

John Strom, the owner of Camera Connection remembers Amy wearing a yellow shirt, black shorts, and running shoes that day. He said she seemed busy and cheerful when she left at about 2:30 p.m.

After completing several of her afternoon chores and leaving the camera shop—Amy’s life becomes that of speculation.

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(Steve and Amy Bechtel with their dog Jonz.)

Steve returned from his day out with his friend at about 4:30 p.m. and found the house empty. He had returned earlier than planned and was not concerned but at about 10 p.m. he called her parents to see if Amy had driven to their house on the spur of the moment. She had not.

By 11 p.m. Steve had called the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office who sent two deputies to the house. They alerted the following shift who began to organize a search and rescue team to head out at daybreak. Steve and his neighbor Todd Skinner went to look for Amy’s car on Loop Road, a 30-mile road through the Shoshone National Forest. 

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(Amy Bechtel’s car was found alongside the road in Burnt Gulch, about 45 minutes from town.)

At approximately 1:00 a.m., Steve received a call that Amy’s white Toyota Tercel station wagon was found alongside the road at Burnt Gulch, about 45 minutes from town in the mountains, so he headed there immediately. Her car unlocked, the keys under her “to do” list on the front passenger seat, along with her sunglasses.

Steve and a small group began searching the woods with flashlights, calling Amy’s name. By the time the official search party arrived, a dozen people were searching for Amy and the site had not been preserved for evidence. Thinking Amy was just lost, no one could have imagined the site might be a crime scene,

For years, evidence remained elusive, and over the last two decades, law enforcement has only developed theories about what happened to her. They believe Amy left the camera shop and then went to scout the location for the 10k.

In recent years, national television and media interest in the case has waned and generated little leads that have been useful to authorities. A $25,000 reward went untouched and was eventually converted into two college scholarship funds in Amy’s name.

Fremont County Sheriff Sgt. Roger Rizor has been the lead investigator and told the Billings Gazette in 2007, that Amy’s case was cold, but it is still an open case. “I believe it was a homicide, and I believe that’s what happened on the day she disappeared.”

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(Jo Anne Wroe wanders in the meadows of her log home above Red Lodge to feel close to her missing daughter Amy Wroe Bechtel. Photo courtesy of the Billings Gazette.)

As years passed, Jo Anne stopped marking the anniversaries of Amy’s disappearance with yellow ribbons. She does not have a grave to visit so she loves to meander near the mountain creek among the aspen trees and wildflowers to feel close to her missing daughter. 

Amy’s disappearance has deeply affected every facet of Jo Anne’s life and that of her three other children. 

“A part of me is realistic, and I’m aware that she is probably not alive,” she said. “I have learned to live with the fact that Amy is gone. But I have not accepted it, and I will not until I know what happened.”

If you have any information about the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel, please call the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office at 307-332-5611.

Kym served as CEO of the National Center for Missing Adults from 1994 to 2010 and advocating for missing persons and their families for over 25 years.

Kym has worked with national media to raise awareness and featured on Anderson Cooper Live, Greta Van Susteren, Montel Williams, the John Walsh Show, CNN, BBC, FOX, L. A. Times, People Magazine, Ladies Home Journal.

Lori Vallow Daybell arrested, fights for reduced bail

Lori Vallow Daybell arrested, fights for reduced bail

Lori Vallow Daybell has been arrested after failing to produce her two missing children in compliance with a court order.
Lori Vallow Daybell has been arrested after failing to produce her two missing children in compliance with a court order.

The nation has been feverishly following the dramatic events that surround the disappearance of two Idaho children, whose mother and stepfather fled the state following a request for a wellness check by a family member. Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were last seen last fall, around the time their mother, Lori Vallow pulled J.J. from public school, citing a new job that would require the family to move out of state.

Authorities tracked Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell to the island of Kauai in Hawaii at the beginning of 2020. Authorities told her that she had until January 30th to produce her children to a state office to prove they were alive and well, but that date came and went—still no sign of J.J. or Tylee.

Despite failure to produce her children, Lori Vallow Daybell was not immediately arrested on a contempt of court charge, much to the public’s bewilderment. However, there are legal experts who said that law enforcement must build a strong case before taking a legal swing at Vallow Daybell. Samuel Newton, an assistant law professor at the University of Idaho said, “I’m willing to bet what everyone is trying to do is get enough evidence to get an arrest and prove some sort of felony. What they don’t’ want to do is file a charge and then have it get dismissed because there’s nothing to support it.”

Lori Vallow Daybell was finally arrested last week on the island of Kauai where she fled with her husband. The couple had been seen “island-hopping” while law enforcement built a case against her. When she appeared in court on her bail hearing, the judge handed down a judgement of $5 million dollars. Vallow appeared in court again on Wednesday to have that bail reduced to $10,000. Her extradition from Hawaii is being reportedly expedited by Idaho governor, Brad Little, who told a local news station, “I hope there is justice, and I hope the children are found.”

Who is Paul Flores? The Last Person to See Kristin Smart Alive

Who is Paul Flores? The Last Person to See Kristin Smart Alive

Paul Flores was the last person to see Kristin Smart alive on the morning she went missing in 1996
Paul Flores was the last person to see Kristin Smart alive on the morning she went missing in 1996

As true crime continues to climb the cultural ladder into mainstream culture, there has been a wave of true crime documentaries, television shows, and podcasts that revive interest in cold cases. A recent example has been the true crime podcast Your Own Backyard, hosted by Chris Lambert, which focuses on the disappearance of Kristin Smart—a Cal Poly freshman who went missing after a friend’s birthday party in spring of 1996. The podcast has listeners questioning the involvement of one of Kristin Smart’s friends, Paul Flores, who escorted her back to her dormitory after the party and was allegedly the last person to see Kristin Smart alive.

Paul Flores was instead labeled a “person of interest,” by authorities in 1997 and has remained so for over 20 years. The sheriff at the time, Ed Williams, told the media that there were “no other suspects” in Kristin’s disappearance. Law enforcement was only able to interview Flores once when Kristin was first reported missing and since then he had remained uncooperative in the investigation. During that interview, Flores gave conflicting accounts of how he had received a black eye that investigators observed, first stating that he got the shiner playing baseball and then later said he got it while working on his truck moments before he shut the interview down.

Flores was subsequently sued by Kristin Smart’s family in 1996, stating that Flores was the man responsible for their daughter’s disappearance and murder. Cal Poly was subsequently added to the lawsuit, with the family citing that the university did not do enough to keep their daughter safe while living on their campus. In a 1997 deposition, he repeatedly cited his right against self-incrimination, according to periodical archives. The lawsuit remains unresolved, as documents that could prove any of the family’s allegations still remain sealed in interested of preserving the criminal investigation. The family’s attorney, Jim Murphy, said in 2016, “In civil law, it’s what’s reasonable based on a preponderance of the evidence, not within a reasonable doubt as in criminal cases. Here, I believe there’s enough circumstantial evidence to prove to a civil jury that Flores is responsible for Kristin’s death.”

The popularity of Your Own Backyard has coincided with a recent break in the cold case, with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s office announcing that they have issued warrants to retrieve potential evidence from Flores’s mother’s home, including two vehicles and electronic devices, with authorities commenting only that these were “items of interest.”

Kristin Smart was legally presumed dead in 2002, but the community still holds out hope that law enforcement will find answers in her disappearance. A new billboard has been erected in Murphy’s front yard, urging anyone with information about her disappearance to contact the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s office at 805-781-4500.

Into the Night: The Bizarre Disappearance of Student Brandon Swanson

Into the Night: The Bizarre Disappearance of Student Brandon Swanson

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(Brandon Swanson vanished May 14, 2008, from Marshal, Minnesota while driving home late at night.)

Shortly after midnight on May 14, 2008, Brandon Swanson mysteriously vanished in Marshall, Minnesota. Brandon had been celebrating the end of the spring semester with friends from Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s Canby campus. 

Between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m., Brandon left the celebration and drove to another friend’s home in Canby to say goodbye to a classmate that was also having a party. Friends say Brandon did not appear intoxicated when he left shortly after midnight to go home. Canby is approximately 45 minutes away from Marshall where Brandon lived with his parents. 

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(Brandon Swanson called his parents and told them he believed he was near the town of Lynd, Minnesota, after crashing his car into a ditch.)

Brandon’s parents received a call from Brandon at approximately 1:54 a.m. telling them he had gotten stuck in a ditch on a back road that ran north of Highway 68, the main road he would normally take to get home. He told them he was not injured but needed help to get home. 

Why Brandon chose to turn off Highway 68 and take gravel back roads home is but one of the mysteries in this story. 

Unsure of his exact location, Brian told his parents he thought he was near Lynd, a small town in Lyon County with a population of only 445 people. 

Brandon’s parents, Brian and Annette Swanson, decided to go get him and went to the location but were unable to find him or his car. 

The Disappearance

The road was dark and the area remote. Annette called Brandon on his cell phone and they both agreed to flash their lights to let each other know they were in the area. On the phone, Annette could hear Brandon flashing his car lights and told him, “We are flashing our lights” We are flashing our lights!” Brandon replied. “Don’t you see me?” They never did see him. 


(Brandon Swanson’s parents drove to Lynd to search the dark gravel roads for any sign of their son or his vehicle.)

Frustrated, Brandon hung up on his mother. She quickly called back, and they both apologized to each other for becoming annoyed. 

Brandon said he would leave the car and walk toward Lynd and they agreed to meet him at the Lynd Tavern parking lot. 

While talking to his father, Brandon described seeing lights in the distance and continued to walk down the gravel road. He described hearing rushing water and saw two fence lines, all the while continuing to talk to his dad. 

The call lasted 47 minutes when suddenly Brian yelled, “Oh shit!” and the call disconnected. His parents tried to call him back numerous times, but the phone rang each time until the following day when calls went straight to voicemail. 

The Search for Brian

At 6:30 a.m. the following day, Brian’s parents called the police to report him missing. To their dismay, the police told them to wait as it was not unlike a young man Brian’s age, to disappear for a bit. 

Later that day, cell phone records showed Brandon was near Porter, Minnesota, not Lynd when he called them. Porter is between Canby and Marshall along Highway 68.

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(During a search, for Brandon Swanson, his vehicle was found on a gravel road just north of Taunton, Minnesota.) 

A search began and at approximately 12:30 p.m., Brandon’s Chevrolet Lumina was found about a mile and a half north of Taunton, right on the border between Yellow Medicine, Lincoln and Lyon Counties. 

According to True Crime Files, the car was found with no physical damage and no evidence of physical injury. 

“It was off the side of a field approach, and the vehicle was hung up,” Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky told CNN. “It’s sort of a sharp incline, nothing major but enough that the car would get hung up, so the wheels are too high off the ground to gain traction.” 

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(Searchers combed the countryside and the Yellow Medicine River for any sign of Brandon Swanson in May 2008.)

In the months following Brandon’s disappearance, law enforcement, volunteers, and emergency personnel search the area by ground, horseback, and all-terrain vehicles to search all three counties in the vicinity of where Brandon disappeared and the Yellow Medicine River.

Authorities believed Brandon may have fallen into the river and drowned, but canines followed his scent to the river’s edge but did not signal and continued walking on. To the police, this suggested Brandon may have fallen into the water but managed to get out and continued walking. However, the temperature that evening was around 39 degrees, and he could have succumbed to hypothermia.   

Cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human remains during several searches, in the area of Porter near Mud Creek, but a body was ever found. 

Police do not have any evidence of foul play and believe Brandon’s body would be found within a 122 square-mile search area. 

“It’s by far the biggest search I’ve ever been involved in terms of length of time, the number of missions and number of searchers involved said Jeff Hasse, founder of Midwest Technical Training Associates. 

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(Brandon Swanson with a friend, prior to his disappearance in 2008.)

Porch Light is Still On

Brian and Annette turned on their porch light on May 14, 2008 – the night Brandon vanished.

The light remains on every night. “There’s no reason to turn it off now,” Brian said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to find him alive, but I still want to believe that we will find him. That’s probably a stretch, but I still want to believe that.” 

One positive thing has come out of Brandon’s disappearance. Brian and Annette spearheaded legislation that was signed into law in 2009. Brandon’s Law requires police to make a report whenever a person of any age, is reported missing and investigation must ensue. It also clarifies jurisdiction. 

The Swansons face a life of ambiguity, never really being able to move forward, no way to gain closure. “They call it ambiguous loss,” Annette said. “It’s that state in your life – in our case it’s the loss of our son – without knowing what happened. It’s extremely challenging. It’s really hard to grapple with and to come to terms with. I think for Brandon’s father and I, and for his sister, we’ve kind of figured out how to live in that gray area. But it’s really not someplace you want to live.” 

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Brandon Swanson, please contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 507-537-7666.

Vanished: Missing Beauty School Student Deanne Hastings

Vanished: Missing Beauty School Student Deanne Hastings

On a frigidly cold night in November 2015, Deanne Hastings vanished. Her disappearance would open a life struggling with bi-polar and leave a family with mysterious questions. What happened to Deanne Hastings?

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(Deanne Hastings mysteriously vanished in November 2015, from Spokane, Washington.) 

In November 2015, Deanne Hastings, 35, vanished in Spokane, Washington. The mother of three, and a beauty school student, was engaged to get married before she disappeared. She seemed to have it all. 

Deanne was born on February 27, 1980, in Pahrump, Nevada. Deanne was the second child and Carson was her older brother.  

According to Trace Evidence Podcast, Carson said they had great parents and wonderful childhood. “We would go everyplace together, on picnics, hikes, and bike rides,” said Deanna’s mother Patricia. “We were always a team.” Friends described them as the typical All-American family. 

Growing up. Deanna was a very compassionate child and always behaved very caring to others. But she also wasn’t afraid to pick up lizards and play in the dirt. Her mother describes her as amazing, bright, and fearless. Deanne excelled in school and was highly praised by her teachers. 

While Pahrump offered the family a quiet place to raise children, when Deanne was in the fourth grade, her parents decided to move 1,200 miles north to Spokane, Washington. There, the children would have the opportunity to grow up in a more typical environment, with houses right across the street instead of a mile down the road. 

Deanne thrived in her new home in Seattle, but things would take a turn for the worse when Deanne turned 15. Deanne’s brother was joining the Navy and preparing to move to Texas, and their parents were preparing to inform the kids they would be separating. Deanne took the news very hard. “After that, she really turned,” said Deanne’s mother Patricia. “It’s like something in her spirit broke.” 

Deanne’s father moved out and Patricia and Deanne lived alone. While circumstances were not ideal, they did well and were very close. Patricia described Deanne as her best friend. 

All that would change, however, when Deanne went to her mother at work and told her she was pregnant with a son she would name Hayden. The father of Hayden was a young man who went to school with Deanne and though they were young, they would be described as very good parents. 

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(Deanne Hastings moved to Spoke, Washington where she would be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.)

Deanne moved in with the father, and they spent the next nine years together but after a decade together they decided to separate. Deanne seemed to struggle with the separation due to her own parents splitting up. So, Deanne returned to live with her mother and shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder that would quickly go out of control. 

Patricia described her breakdowns as “episodes, “She would have periods where I almost didn’t recognize her and I was afraid of what was happening to her,” said Patricia. “Sometimes she could come back and she would be Deanne and be bright, and happy and lovely and then other times, most of the time, she would be very different and so it was like I had just lost my friend. I lost my daughter.”

Deanne would begin to disappear for days at a time. However, while she would be out of sight during these episodes, she always kept her phone with her and responded to texts. 

Hoping things may get better, Deanne decided to move to Texas with her brother. There she thrived, even finishing school to become a nurse’s assistant. It was also in Texas she met her new love and she would end up marrying and having two more children. 

But soon, Deanne’s episodes returned. The decision was made that Deanne and her children would return to Washington and live with her mother. And, it was in Washington where Deanne’s episodes would become worse than ever before. Eventually, she would check herself into in psychiatric center in Idaho. Always very proactive with her mental health, when she completed the program, she began thriving once again. 

With life finally looking up, Deanne met Mike Tibbets, a successful HVAC technician who made a good living and could provide Deanne the opportunity to pursue her goals. They talked of marriage and she enrolled in cosmetology school at the Glen Dow Academy. Life had turned around once again. 

The Disappearance

November 3, 2015, Deanne was scheduled to begin her first day at the cosmetology school. “She was spunky, she was ready to go.” Mike Tibbets said. “She was happy. I mean she was getting ready, running around and excited.” 

Mike worked late that evening and returned to find a note that Deanne had written telling him she had a great day and she was running to the store located just five miles away. Hours went by and he heard nothing, and Deanne wasn’t responding to texts. Mike decided to drive to the store to look for Deanne but when he arrived at the store it was closed. He began driving around searching for Deanne and suddenly realized he could use the phone’s GPS to locate her phone.

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(Using GPS, Mike Tibbets, Deanne’s boyfriend, found her car parked in a public parking lot in a rough part of Spokane, Washington.)

Mike found Deanne’s car parked in a public parking lot at 919 West Sprague Avenue, directly across the street from the Knitting Factory, a venue for local musicians and comedians. 

The doors were locked, so Mike looked in through the windows but did not see anything that seemed out of the ordinary. Mike decided to call Deanne’s phone, assuming Deanne was close. His stomach turned when he heard her phone inside the car. He looked down and saw the light from the phone inside. Where could she be? Deanne never left to go anywhere without her phone.

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(Missing person posters of Deanne Hastings, missing from Spokane, Washington, on November 3, 2015.)

Mike stayed and waited at Deanne’s car until daylight on November 4. At 8:00 a.m. he called the cosmetology school hoping she was there. The man on the phone explained she had not arrived for her second day of classes. Mike explained what was going on and the man on the phone offered to make missing person posters. He called several friends to help.  

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(A credit card belonging to Deanne Hastings was used in Cheney, Washington, about 15 miles from where her car was parked in Spokane.) 

While canvassing the town, Mike received an alert from his credit card company that his card was being used at the Trading Company, a grocery about 15 miles southwest in Cheney. Instead of rushing to the grocery store, Mike staked out Deanne’s vehicle thinking she should be coming back since she went to the grocery store. This is a decision Mike would come to regret, and one of many that would raise the eyebrows of police. 

After several hours of waiting, Mike finally decided to drive to the store where the credit card was used. He showed the flier around, but nobody recognized Diane. He decided to ask if he could see the surveillance video of the timeframe when the card was used but employees told him they needed the manager’s permission and would call him.

The following day, 36 hours after Deanne went missing, Mike contacted the Spokane Police Department and filed a missing person report. He explained that Deanne was bipolar and that she had a history of vanishing for days at a time, but this time was different. According to Trace Evidence, Mike would later say he felt the police were dismissive of Deanne’s disappearance after telling them about her psychiatric history. 


(Local news began reporting about Deanne Hasting’s disappearance in Spokane, Washington in November 2015.)

Media Intervention
Thinking there was a possibility that this may be one of her episodes, rather than concerning her family, Mike contacted the media instead. 

Carson, Deanne’s brother found out because a friend called him and told him his sister was on the news. “I figured Deanne was having another manic episode,” said Carson. “That was my initial thought, and she would be back in a day or two.”  However, when Patricia found out, it was different. Be it a sixth sense or something, Patricia knew something was not right. She reminded everyone that in the past, Deanne would “always” take her phone with her and stay in touch with someone.

Deanne’s last text was sent approximately 10:00 p.m. on the night she vanished. The text was to her son, 17-year old son Hayden, and said she had had a great day at school, and she hoped he was proud of her. 

Drugged and Kidnapped

On November 6, the grocery store called Mike back and invited him in to view the surveillance video. Mike saw Deanne on camera at approximately 12:00 p.m. on November 4, acting erratically and waving her hands while continuously looking over her shoulder. Even more baffling was the items that Deanne bought that included four energy drinks, string cheese, birthday cake candles, cigarettes, and a bottle of vodka. 

There were also eyewitness accounts. A nearby salon owner said Deanne walked in and seemed disoriented and addressed the woman as “Mommy,” and told the woman someone had drugged and kidnapped her. 

The next sighting occurred only minutes later. Two women saw Deanne sitting nearby and offered to call her family for her and even to drive her home, however, Deanne was combative and refused. So, they called 911. 

Spoke Police Department dispatched an officer and EMT’s who tried to treat her but found her belligerent. Again, she told them that someone had drugged and kidnapped her. Deanne ended up leaving and began walking toward a coffee shop and the officer let her go. 

This infuriated the family. The Spokane officer would later tell the family that Spokane does not have a public intoxication law and had no reason to detain her. 

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(Media coverage of Deanne’s disappearance generated several leads including a call from a man who said he had picked Deanne up at the Knitting Factory on November 3, 2015.)

On Sunday, November 7, Mike received a strange phone call from a man who he had shown Deanne’s flier to on November 4, at the grocery store. The man was an employee at the Trading Post and claimed he had spent time with Deanne the night she vanished. They arranged a meeting and Mike brought his sister along to meet with the man. The man explains he met Deanne outside the Knitting Factory and spoke to her and they smoked a cigarette together. He claims Deanne went home with him, but no sexual interaction occurred. The next morning, he claims he and Deanne drove to the store and he went inside to buy cigarettes but when he returned Deanne was gone. 

Her car keys were inside the man’s car, so he gave them to Mike who went and picked up the car. Inside he found Deanne’s purse and wallet and noticed several credit cards missing. Later, police would become frustrated as Mike moving the vehicle removed any chance at finding any forensic evidence in or around the car where it had been parked. However, the frustration worked both ways as Mike did not feel the police took him seriously after divulging Deanne’s psychiatric history. 

Shortly after the meeting with Mike, the man moved to Florida which many have found suspicious. 

Police Investigation

A detective would not begin investigating the case until Monday, November 8. 

Detective Jeff Barrington of the Major Crime Unit at Spokane Police Department got the case. Barrington pulled Deanne’s phone records and pinged her phone activity but found nothing suspicious. He also monitored Deanne’s credit cards, a move that quickly paid off. 

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(A man, along with two other individuals were seen on surveillance video using Deanne’s credit cards in Spokane and Spokane Valley.) 

Deanne’s credit cards had been used November 7, and in the days following, at several locations in Spokane and Spokane Valley, primarily at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. Barrington viewed surveillance video and found a male individual, along with two other unknown individuals using Deanne’s credit cards. 

Releasing the photographs to media quickly identified the man as Randy Riley. Barrington found out Riley had a minor criminal past and had recently been evicted from his home. The detective began his effort to locate Riley. 

On November 28, Riley’s former landlord called the police and told Barrington that she had seen Deanne still with Riley and lying in the street. Another witness called saying she saw Deanne in the same area, seemingly disoriented and asked her if she was okay. 

With these leads, Det. Barrington quickly found Riley hanging around outside a restaurant he frequented and questioned him. 

According to Riley he and a friend, James, met Deanne near a storage unit and they hung out with her and drank. Riley told the detective Deanne “gave” him her credit cards and told him to go get himself something to eat. Riley said he had no knowledge of where Deanne could be but Barrington wasn’t satisfied.

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(Deanne Hastings driver’s license was found several weeks after her disappearance in front of a local deli.) 

Several weeks after Deanne’s disappearance, her driver’s license was found on the ground outside of Sonnenberg’s Deli in downtown Spokane. 

On December 10, 2015, Riley was arrested on identity theft charges and brought in for an official interview about Deanne’s disappearance. This is when his story changed. 

He claims that in the frigid cold of November, Deanne went up a hill to go to the bathroom and never came back down. Riley then tells investigators, the following day while he was moving his belongings from his former apartment he and James went back to spot where Deanne had been in the woods. He claimed they found her coat and shoes, so he picked up the items and found Deanne’s credit cards inside her coat. He also admitted being the one who threw Deanne’s license on the ground near the deli. 

When questioned, James claimed that when Deanne went to relieve herself in the bushes, she didn’t return right away so he went to check on her, but she didn’t want to move from the spot. He told investigators Riley was up there for 10-15 minutes and came back alone and that he never saw Deanne again. 

The location where the men showed investigators this all took place was only 300 yards from Deanne’s home. 

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(Volunteers search for missing Spokane woman Diane Hastings. Photo courtesy of KREM.)

Barrington organized a search to canvass the area on foot with cadaver dogs, also using a plane with heat sensors. Nothing was found. 

At a dead-end, Detective Barrington began investigating Mike Tibbets. Mike claimed he and Deanne had no marital issues, however, this was contradicted by a text Deanne had sent a friend in October that said, “I want out. Honestly, Amanda, I’m 99% sure he drugged me the other night.”

Mike told investigators that Deanne had been agitated in the weeks preceding her disappearance and that she had accused the neighbors of drugging her water supply. He claims the mental health issues were probably due to a gap in her medication usage because she could not get her normal medication due to an insurance issue. 

It seemed Barrington’s investigation was at a standstill. 

A Cold Case

In January 2016, Deanne’s friend Amanda received a message from Riley’s friend James via Deanne’s Missing Facebook page. James claimed to be having a mental breakdown and was adamant he needed to speak to one of Deanne’s family members and he would tell them anything they needed to know. Carson and James spoke, and the call became confrontational and James hung up without telling Carson anything new. However, Carson believes he was going to confess to something but changed his mind of chickened out – something Carson may never know. 

After that, the case has gone as cold as the night Deanne vanished.

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(Deanne’s case has become a cold case with few leads or evidence.)

Dealing with The Loss

The family has made public pleas for Deanne’s safe return and fear she met an unimaginable end while struggling to hold onto hope that she will one day call or walk through the front door. “Deanne was an amazing family member,” Carson said. “She cared more about others than she did herself.” 

Carson speaks about Deanne in the past tense as he believes too much time has gone by to hold onto hope she is still alive.

Though Deanne had fallen off the grid before, her family agrees she would have never abandoned her children. 

“Her son was getting ready to graduate high school and go into the military, she wouldn’t have missed that,” Mike Tibbets said. “I think about her every day.”

The family believes someone knows something and will be forever haunted wondering what James really had to say that day. 

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Deanne Hastings, please call Spokane Police Department-Major Crimes Unit at 509-456-2233 or 509-242-TIPS (8477).