Disappearance of Lauren Spierer
January 17, 1991|
Scarsdale, New York, United States
|Disappeared||June 3, 2011 (aged 20)
Bloomington, Indiana, United States
|Status||Missing for 6 years, 8 months and 14 days|
|Home town||Scarsdale, New York|
Lauren Spierer (born January 17, 1991) is an American woman who is presumed dead after she disappeared on June 3, 2011, following an evening at a bar in Bloomington, Indiana. At the time, she was a 20-year-old student at Indiana University. Her disappearance generated national press coverage and remains unsolved.
Lauren Spierer was born in January 1991 to Charlene and Robert Spierer; her father was an accountant. She grew up in Scarsdale, New York, an affluent town in lower Westchester County. Spierer graduated from Edgemont High School in 2009 and enrolled at Indiana University, where she was studying textiles merchandising.
Spierer met her boyfriend Jesse Wolff and her friend Jay Rosenbaum years earlier at Camp Towanda, a summer camp in Pennsylvania. It was there that she also met various other future IU students who later became her circle of friends when she enrolled in college in 2009.
On the night she disappeared, Spierer was drinking with several friends. Her boyfriend, Jesse Wolff, said he did not go out with Spierer or her friends that evening. He said he was texting back and forth with Spierer before he went to bed. According to witnesses, Spierer was very intoxicated. Bloomington police used video surveillance footage and witness statements to create a timeline of Spierer's whereabouts before her disappearance.
The timestamps in bold indicate surveillance footage. The other times mentioned are on the basis of witness statements.
Friday, June 3, 2011
- 12:30 a.m. – Witnesses report that Spierer left her apartment with a friend named David Rohn. The pair went to Jay Rosenbaum's apartment, and she met up with Cory Rosman, Rosenbaum's neighbor.
- 1:46 a.m. – Spierer is seen entering Kilroy's Sports bar.
- 2:27 a.m. – Spierer is seen exiting the bar with Rosman. Lauren left her cell phone and shoes at the bar. She had taken off her shoes when she walked out onto the sand-covered patio. Rosman walked with Spierer to her apartment complex.
- 2:30 a.m. – Spierer is seen entering Smallwood Plaza apartments, where her residence is located. A passerby named Zach Oakes noticed her level of inebriation and asked if she was okay.
- 2:48 a.m. – After she left the apartments, Spierer entered an alley that runs between College Avenue and Morton Street. Security cameras mounted on nearby apartments show her exit the alley at 2:51 a.m. and walk toward an empty lot. Spierer's keys and purse were found along this route through the alley. Spierer and Rosman arrived at Rosman's apartment shortly afterward. Michael Beth, Rosman's roommate, was at the apartment. Rosman himself was very intoxicated and stumbling. He vomited on the carpet on the way upstairs. Beth stated that he escorted Rosman to bed. He then tried to persuade Spierer to sleep over for her own safety. He claimed Spierer said she wanted to return to her own apartment.
- 3:30 a.m. – Beth said he then phoned his neighbor, Rosenbaum, wanting him to take care of Spierer. Beth said that Spierer was attempting to get Beth to drink with her at her own apartment. She eventually went to Rosenbaum's apartment, where he observed a bruise under her eye, presumably sustained in the falls earlier in the evening. She told him she didn't know how she got the bruise. Two calls were placed from Rosenbaum's phone shortly before she is reported to have left. Rosenbaum said Spierer placed both calls, one to Rohn and one to another friend. Neither picked up, and no messages were left.
- 4:30 a.m. – Rosenbaum reports that Spierer left the apartment. This is the last reported sighting of her. He reported last seeing Spierer at the intersection of 11th Street and College Avenue, headed south on College. She was last seen barefoot, wearing black leggings and a white shirt.
- Several hours later that morning, Wolff sent Spierer a text. He received a reply from an employee at the bar. Wolff reported Spierer missing.
In August 2011, police conducted a nine-day search of the Sycamore Ridge Landfill in Pimento, Indiana (south of Terre Haute) for clues in the disappearance. The landfill is where trash from Bloomington is hauled after a stop at a transfer station. The Bloomington Police Department, the Indiana University Police Department, and the FBI took part in the search. As of May 24, 2013, investigators had received 3,060 tips on Spierer's disappearance, 100 of them received during the first half of 2013.
On January 28, 2016, the FBI conducted a raid of a home in Martinsville, Indiana (approximately 20 miles (32 km) north of Bloomington). The raid was connected to a man suspected of exposing himself to numerous women. The FBI and other police agencies converged on the home, with Bloomington Police confirming they were involved in the search. Investigators sifted dirt removed from a barn near the property after cadaver dogs finished their work. The searchers would not discuss whether anything significant was found. Investigators towed a white truck from the property. The truck may be connected to 35-year-old Justin Wagers, who lived there with his mother and stepfather until his last arrest.
A number of theories have emerged in reference to what happened to Spierer that evening. Spierer's parents have stated that they believe their daughter is deceased. Based on her level of intoxication, they also felt that she may have been drugged while at the bar. "We felt somebody could have slipped something into her drink at Kilroy's," said Robert Spierer. The Spierer family has voiced suspicions about the men she was with that evening as well as her boyfriend, since they refused to take police-issued polygraphs and retained lawyers soon after Spierer's disappearance. While the parents have not made any specific accusations, they do believe the two know more than they have told police so far.
Regarding Spierer's level of intoxication, Spierer's friends and boyfriend told police that she used drugs in addition to alcohol on the night leading up to her disappearance. Wolff's mother alleged that Spierer was asked to leave the summer camp where she met her son and Rosenbaum years earlier because of drug use. "This poor little girl is not with us today because of her drug abuse," Nadine Wolff said.
Rosenbaum told investigators that Spierer consumed alcohol, snorted cocaine and crushed up Klonopin tablets that evening. Spierer's rare heart condition—long QT syndrome—added to the danger of drug use. Police addressed rumors that implied Spierer may have overdosed and those with her may have hidden her body to avoid criminal charges. The police also acknowledged that they have not ruled out other possibilities, such as abduction by a stranger.
Bo Dietl, a private investigator hired by the Spierer family, is dubious that a drug overdose death could be enough motive to hide her death; he cited the prevalence of drug abuse on the IU campus. "Every kid's buying pot, cocaine, drinking, pills," he said. "I mean, it's all over the place. So that really can't be the motive behind it."
On September 2, 2010 (nine months before her disappearance), Spierer was arrested on charges of public intoxication and illegal consumption. After her disappearance, police found a "small amount of cocaine" in her room.
Missing white woman syndrome
The heavy press coverage of the disappearance has been dubbed an example of missing white woman syndrome, a phenomenon wherein the news media disproportionately covers missing-person cases that involve young, white, upper-middle class females. The Indiana University paper ran a story that documented the disparity between their own coverage of Spierer's (who was enrolled at the university) disappearance and their coverage of another local disappearance, a woman named Crystal Grubb (who was not a student of the university). Grubb, 29, was also Caucasian, but came from a working-class family wherein many relatives had criminal histories. Following Grubb's disappearance in 2010, the student paper ran a total of seven stories on the case compared to multiple front-page articles and the extensive volunteer presence and national awareness of the Spierer case. An acquaintance of Grubb's commented: "When Crystal went missing, it was in the newspaper like once. For Spierer's disappearance, everyone's here and there's posters everywhere, people walking around. Definitely nothing like that was afforded Crystal. I don't want to say it's because she was of a lower economic class, but that's what it seems to me."
Lauren Spierer's parents filed a civil lawsuit against Cory Rosman, Jay Rosenbam, and Michel Beth. The suit accused the men of negligence, alleging that Rosman and Rosenbam supplied Spierer with alcohol after she was already "visibly intoxicated," and then neglected to assure she returned safely to her apartment, which likely led to her death. The family has stated that they hope the lawsuit will lead to the men's coming forward with more information about what occurred that night. "I truly don't think it was a random abduction, I think that somebody that Lauren knew was responsible for the events of that evening," Charlene Spierer said. Spierer's parents also told Katie Couric, in December , that only one of the men had agreed to meet with them. As part of the suit, Spierer's parents subpoenaed private cell phone and academic records spanning 134 days before and after the night their daughter disappeared, a move that the men have called a "fishing expedition". None of the men have been named as suspects in her disappearance.
Federal Judge Tanya Pratt dismissed the suit against all three men. In 2013, Pratt dismissed the suit against Beth, ruling that he had no duty to care for Spierer. Spierer's parents had alleged in the suit that Beth had assumed "duty of care" for her when he offered her a place to sleep and then escorted her to Jason Rosenbam's apartment." The judge said on public policy that it would dissuade people from rendering assistance to someone that's obviously sick on the side of the road, that's lost in the street," said Beth's attorney Greg Garrison. "You dissuade folks from being involved at all by punishing them if somebody decides later on that they didn't do enough." In 2014, Judge Pratt dismissed the suit against the other two, stating: "Unfortunately, there could be any number of theories as to what happened to Lauren and what, if any, injuries she may have sustained. Without evidence to prove these theories, it would be impossible for a jury to determine if whatever happened to Spierer was a natural and probable consequence of her intoxication, without any other intervening acts that would break the causal chain." Spierer's parents have appealed the ruling.
Lawyers for the men have stated that their clients have cooperated fully with police and the private investigators hired by the Spierer family, and that all of them have passed private polygraphs. "They've been interviewed and interviewed and interviewed, and to say they've been less than forthcoming is just not accurate," said Chapman, who represents Beth and Rohn.
In April 2015, the Bloomington Police Department announced that they were investigating a possible link between Lauren's disappearance and the murder of another IU student, Hannah Wilson. Wilson went missing on April 24, 2015, after visiting the same bar that Spierer was at the night she disappeared. Wilson was last seen getting into a taxi in front of Kilroy's and driving away. Her body was found the next morning in Brown County, Indiana. A local man named Daniel Messel was arrested for the murder after his cell phone was discovered near the body. Spierer's parents have previously stated that they do not believe Lauren's disappearance was a random abduction. In July 2015, private investigator Bo Dietl concluded that the two cases are unrelated and any similarities between the two cases are coincidental.
On January 28, 2016, the FBI and other police agencies investigated a property in the 2900 block of Old Morgantown Road in Martinsville, Indiana. According to a statement released by the FBI, the investigators were "following up on leads and tips in Morgan County today regarding the disappearance of Lauren Spierer". Investigators searched the property with cadaver dogs, which indicated potential evidence. Anthropologists conducted a dig, but found nothing.
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The 20-year-old had been arrested for public intoxication nine months before her disappearance...
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