Details of Disappearance
Amanda was last seen walking to school during the morning hours of October 13, 1997 in Gillette, Wyoming. She never arrived for classes that day and has not been heard from again. The school didn't notify her parents she was absent and it wasn't until 6:00 p.m. that her family realized she'd never made it to class.
Amanda had moved to the area only about six weeks prior to her disappearance. At the time, investigators believed she'd run away with her 20-year-old boyfriend, Patrick Ghering. When questioned about Amanda's disappearance, Ghering said he had last seen her at 7:15 a.m. the day she vanished. Police believed he was concealing her.
On October 19, Ghering also disappeared. His vehicle was found abandoned on the wrong side of the road, facing the wrong direction. He was never seen again.
Wyoming authorities reopened her investigation in 2000 after being contacted by Montana investigators. Nathaniel Bar-Jonah was arrested that year for the 1996 abduction and presumed murder of Zachary Ramsay. A photo of Bar-Jonah is posted with this case summary.
Authorities discovered unidentified bone fragments on Bar-Jonah's property during a search and compared Amanda's DNA to the remains. The fragments did not match Amanda, Zachary or Janice Pockett, a child who disappeared from Connecticut in 1973. Officials have also investigated the possibility that Bar-Jonah was involved in the 1978 Massachusetts disappearance of Andrew Amato.
Bar-Jonah, whose given name was David P. Brown, had a lengthy criminal history. He was convicted of sexually abusing children in the past and has confessed to cannibalistic activites. He was scheduled to be tried for Ramsay's presumed murder in 2002, but the charges were dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Zachary's remains have never been located. Bar-Jonah was never charged in connection with Amanda's case and it is unknown if he was involved. He died of a blood clot in a Montana prison in April 2008, at age 51.
In January 2007, James Strahl, an accused murderer from South Dakota, allegedly confessed to Amanda's murder. A photograph of Strahl is posted with this case summary. He was in jail awaiting trial in connection with the 1998 death of another man, William O'Hare, when one of his cellmates, Aloysius Black Crow, stated Strahl had bragged about killing Amanda.
Strahl allegedly stated he picked up Amanda hitchhiking after she ran away from home, and raped and killed her after she resisted his sexual advances. He said he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the murder. His employment records indicate he was absent from work around the time of Amanda's disappearance. Strahl, however, maintains his innocence in her case and stated he never confessed anything about her disappearance and Black Crow's story is a lie.
Black Crow testified against Strahl at his trial for O'Hare's murder, although he was not allowed to mention Amanda. Stahl was convicted in September 2007 and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was overturned, however, because of false testimony given by Black Crow in another case.
In early 2006, Black Crow told investigators that one of his other cellmates, David Lykken, had admitted to killing Pamella Jackson and Cheryl Miller, seventeen-year-old girls who disappeared together from South Dakota in 1971. Black Crow said he had obtained a taped confession from Lykken, who was charged with murdering both girls in July 2007.
However, in February 2008, it was discovered that Black Crow had framed Lykken by getting another man to pose as him and confess in the tape recording. The murder charges against Lykken were dropped as a result, though he remains incarcerated for an unrelated kidnapping and rape. In March 2008, Black Crow pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury and was sentenced to ten years in prison.
In 2013, authorities found Jackson and Miller's vehicle submerged in Brule Creek, with their bodies inside. They believe the young women didn't meet with foul play and instead accidentally drove their car into the water, where it lay undiscovered for 42 years.
In May 2010, shortly before he was scheduled to be tried a second time for O'Hare's murder, Strahl reached an agreement with prosecutors: he pleaded no contest to grand theft and manslaughter and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He also agreed to take a polygraph about his alleged involvement in Amanda's disappearance.
Although many agencies continue to classify Amanda's disappearance as a runaway case, investigators believed that other factors may have been involved in Amanda's case since her Social Security number has not been used since her October 1997 disappearance. Ghering's Social Security number has not been used either, indicating neither of them has gotten jobs, credit cards or driver's licenses.
Amanda enjoyed playing the violin and singing country and western music in 1997. Her case remains open and unsolved.