Details of Disappearance
Peggy was last seen in Grove, Oklahoma on January 17, 1998. Her husband, James Lee "Jim" Sweeten, stated he returned home from a work-related conference to find her gone. He stated Peggy left their wedding rings, along with a note saying she was leaving him for a man she met on the internet. She has never been heard from again.
Peggy left behind all her personal belongings, including her car and clothing. James filed for divorce three weeks after Peggy went missing, and the divorce was granted in April. The couple's adult son, Patrick, had last spoken to his mother in December 1997. James didn't tell Patrick that Peggy was missing until March 1998, and it wasn't until June that Patrick convinced his father to file a missing persons report. By then, the goodbye letter Peggy allegedly left for her husband was gone.
Patrick doesn't believe his father's story about Peggy's disappearance and thinks James may have harmed his mother; he stated Peggy didn't use the internet, didn't have an email address and could not have met anyone through there. James worked as a Kansas school superintendant at the time of Peggy's disappearance, and his story about attending a conference of Kansas school superintendants was untrue; the Kansas Department of Education confirmed there was no such conference.
James was having an affair with a married woman at the time of Peggy's disappearance. The woman divorced her husband in April 1998. She and James moved in together in June and married in December, and they subsequently moved to Welasco, Texas.
Authorities believe Peggy was a homicide victim, and James is considered a person of interest in her presumed death. They searched his property in September 2011, but didn't find any evidence there.
In 2023, after another search, authorities found a 55-gallon barrel submerged in 15 feet of water in Grand Lake, near Peggy's home. According to Patrick, a similar barrel, which had been used as a burn barrel, disappeared at around the same time Peggy did, and James had no explanation for its absence. Authorities didn't find human remains in the barrel, but stated they would continue searches of the area.
Two days after the recovery of the barrel, James called the police and said he was going to take his own life. Authorities rushed to his home in Welasco, but arrived too late: they found his body in a shed, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 79.
It's unclear whether his suicide has any relation to his first wife's disappearance, but his phone records showed he made many online searches for news articles about Peggy's case in the three days leading up to his death. The day before his death he texted his second wife details about their finances and which credit cards were used to pay which bills, suggesting his suicide was pre-planned.
Another item found on James's phone was a journal-type document titled "14 Years Ago" which described the circumstances of Peggy's disappearance. The account on his phone had inconsistencies with what he had told the police happened.
Peggy was a special education teacher at the time of her disappearance. Her case remains unsolved.