Details of Disappearance
Dean was last seen at at Forest Hills Central Middle School in the 5800 block of Ada Drive southeast in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 5:00 p.m. on February 5, 1981. She was at her six-year-old brother's wrestling practice with her mother when she said she was going to the women's restroom and would be back shortly. She never returned and has not been heard from since.
Dean apparently never arrived at the restroom; no one saw her anywhere near there. She was last seen walking out the door of the gymnasium; accounts differ as to whether she was going to a friend's home or merely wanted to smoke a cigarette. She left her wallet, purse, makeup, jewelry, clothing and several hundred dollars behind at home.
Arthur Diaz, the school's custodian, was considered a possible suspect in Dean's disappearance for many years. He stated he was cleaning a school office the night of her disappearance and never saw her. Authorities checked the school incinerator on the theory that someone might have tried to burn her body, but found no evidence. Diaz is no longer a suspect in Dean's case.
Two days before she went missing, Dean had a physical altercation at school with two other girls. They were fighting over a boy, and the two girls allegedly threatened Dean and told her to stay away from him. Bruce Bunch, who was a seventeen-year-old high school junior in 1981, knew one of the girls. On the day of Dean's disappearance, he supposedly saw Dean and drove his car at her to scare her, but hit a patch of ice and accidentally backed or ran over her, killing her. He may have hid her body in the brush and then later buried it, possibly in the Snow Avenue area.
Bunch told versions of this story to numerous people, including his first and second wife. His first wife stated he was violent and abusive towards her and, after drinking heavily, would sometimes black out and have no memory of what he did. She stated he once pushed her out of a moving vehicle and broke her ankle, and on another occasion threatened to run her off the road. Bunch died of a heart attack in 2008. He was never charged or questioned in Dean's case.
In 2021, authorities announced they believe Bunch was responsible for Dean's death. They have never been able to verify his statements, however, and think there are still people out there with undisclosed information which could solve Dean's disappearance. One woman believed to have information still lives in the area, and she failed a polygraph about Dean's case.
In July 2021, James Douglas "Jim" Frisbie was charged with perjury in connection with Dean's case. A photo of Frisbie is posted with this case summary. He was 21 years old at the time of Dean's disappearance and has a criminal record dating back to 1978, although he's never been convicted of a felony.
According to court documents, he is suspected of lying about information, knowledge and/or statements he made to police about possible suspects or witnesses in a "cold case homicide". Investigators have confirmed the homicide was Dean's, but they haven't said precisely what it was he lied about. Frisbie also allegedly "willfully impeded and interfered with other witnesses" in the case.
Dean wasn't having any serious problems with her family when she disappeared, she was a good student, and she does not have a prior history of running away from home. She was an eighth-grader in 1981, and aspired towards a career as a model. She's originally from California, and her biological father lived there in 1981. Her mother and stepfather, with whom she lived, moved to Arizona after her disappearance. Her stepfather has been ruled out as a suspect in her case.
Dean was declared legally dead in 1991. Her case remains unsolved.