Details of Disappearance Van Alstine was last seen in Polk County, Iowa on the evening of March 26, 1976, when she put her young children to bed in their home in the 4300 block of northeast 29th Street. When her children woke up, Van Alstine was gone. She has never been heard from again.
Although the nighttime temperatures were close to freezing, Van Alstine didn't take her coat or shoes with her. She also left behind her purse, her money and her car, with the door open and the keys in the ignition. Neighbors reported her missing on April 4.
There was a broken bottle on the floor of Van Alstine's apartment after her disappearance, as well as some bullet casings, but this may not have been significant. She was a very good sharpshooter who had been on on the rifle team at Iowa State University. She and her first husband, Lee Harlow Andre, would practice shooting indoors, using the walls, mattresses, and piles of magazines to absorb the bullets.
A photo of Andre is posted with this case summary. He was violent towards her and beat her while she was pregnant; two of their four children were born handicapped as a result, and a third suffered from epilepsy. At the time of her disappearance, three of the children lived with her and another resided in a state institution.
Van Alstine married Andre in 1967. She divorced him on January 3, 1975 and married another man that same day, but got a divorce from him less than a year later. After her disappearance, the police issued a warrant out for her arrest for child desertion.
Andre wanted custody of their children and he admitted he'd stopped by her house the day she went missing to discuss the matter. He said he didn't believe foul play was involved in her case.
Van Alstine had been a member of Minutemen, a right-wing paramilitary organization. The group believed Communists would take over America and they armed themselves and prepared for an anticipated counter-revolution. Andre had also been a member of the group.
Van Alstine left the Minutemen not long before her disappearance and gave the police information about their stockpiles of weapons, ammunition and explosives. Her family believes she was assassinated by its members or sympathizers as a result; Van Alstine had allegedly feared for her life.
There's no hard evidence to support this theory, however, and the Minutemen organization remains active in Iowa.
Van Alstine graduated from Albia High School in 1965 at the top of her class and enrolled in Iowa State University to study veterinary science, but had to drop out of college due to financial problems. She enjoyed art and poetry writing and hoped to illustrate a veterinary textbook someday.
Although there's no hard evidence of foul play in Van Alstine's case, she was a devoted parent and close to her family and her disappearance is completely out of character.
Authorities believe she may have been taken against her will, but the case has grown cold and many of the original records in the investigation were destroyed in a flood in 1993. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance, which remains unsolved.
Some agencies give the date of Van Alstine's disappearance as April 2, 1976.
- Polk County Sheriff's Office
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated July 1, 2015; name corrected, distinguishing characteristics and details of disappearance updated.