Details of Disappearance
Ellabeth was last seen at her home the 300 block of north Indiana Avenue in in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on the evening of March 6, 1974. Her boyfriend also lived in Sioux Falls, but was out of town on the day she disappeared. He agreed to call her between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. He did call, three times, but each time the upstairs tenant answered the phone, and he was never able to talk to Ellabeth.
She was estranged from her husband, Gene Vernel Lodermeier, at the time, and they were in the process of a divorce. It was her co-workers who told him, the next morning, that she hadn't shown up for work and they couldn't find her.
Gene went to Ellabeth's residence and found a loaf of bread rising in the kitchen, flour spilled on the floor, and a fresh pizza with one piece missing. Her car was parked in the driveway, the house was locked and nothing was missing except her coat and purse. She has never been heard from again.
Later in 1974, Ellabeth's credit cards were found in a women's bathroom at the Canadian National Railway in Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada. This is nearly a ten-hour drive north of Sioux Falls, and authorities could find no sign that Ellabeth had ever been there. They think probably someone else put the cards there in an attempt to distract the investigation.
In 1992, eighteen years after her disappearance, her purse, wallet and checkbook were found on the banks of the Big Sioux River near Highway 42 and south Riverview Avenue, east of Sioux Falls. A search of the river turned up no sign of her or her body.
Ellabeth's family had never approved of Gene, and described him as controlling and abusive. He would even disable her car occasionally to stop her from going to her college classes. In 1973, Ellabeth filed for divorce and said under oath the Gene had abused her, something he later denied.
She soon met and began seeing another man. Her boyfriend immediately returned to Sioux Falls when he realized she was missing, went to the police, and took and passed a polygraph exam. He was cleared of suspicion in her case.
Gene, who was the last person to see her, is considered a person of interest in her case; Ellabeth disappeared three weeks before the divorce case was to go to trial. In February 1978, nearly four years after she disappeared, Gene filed a lawsuit against the city of Sioux Falls, claiming he had been harassed by the six police officers and jailed for nine days. The officers were cleared of harassment, however.
Gene ran into trouble with the law numerous times after his wife went missing. The most serious conviction was in 1989, when he was sentenced to 45 years in prison for grand theft. He was also accused of putting a pipe bomb in a police officer's car in 1977, and of try to have two Sioux Falls police officers killed, although none of those charges ever it to court.
In 2002, after serving 13 years of his sentence, Gene was paroled. He died of natural causes in 2013, at the age of 66, without having ever remarried. Ellabeth's parents are also dead, and her sister died in 2016, but her brother and former boyfriend are still alive.
Ellabeth was born in Billings, Montana, and later her family moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota. She attended Northern State University in Aberdeen before transferring to Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. She graduated from Augustana in 1972, with a bachelor's degree in social work, and worked as a social worker afterwards.
During her marriage, she and her husband had traveled throughout the midwest, including all over South Dakota and in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.
Her case remains unsolved and foul play is suspected.