Details of Disappearance Reachelle was last seen by her aunt and legal guardian, Stephanie Smith, at 10:30 p.m. on May 16, 2006. Reachelle was asleep on the couch at the time. When Stephanie woke up the next morning, the child was gone. Her roommate, Leigh Cowen, stated his mother had picked up Reachelle and would be keeping her for a few days.
A photograph of Cowen is posted with this case summary. He was very close to Reachelle and claimed to be her father, although he wasn't related to her. Stephanie believed his story, but she became concerned as days passed with no word from either Reachelle or Cowen's mother.
On May 22, Cowen apparently stole Stephanie's teal 1995 Ford van with North Dakota license plates numbered HAY 548 and disappeared. Stephanie called his mother at this time and discovered that Cowen's mother did not have Reachelle and had no idea where the child was. Stephanie reported her niece as a missing child at this time, and Cowen became the prime suspect in her disappearance.
It was thought that he may have taken Reachelle to Kansas where his family lives, but this theory was disproved when the stolen van was located in the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge on May 23. Cowen's body was inside; he had died by suicide, by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide. An extensive search of the area turned up no sign of Reachelle, but police did find a large red cooler her family had owned. Inside the cooler was ammonia, rags, and a "substantial" amount of Reachelle's blood, indicating she'd suffered a serious injury. The cooler had disappeared at about the same time Reachelle did.
In 2021, fifteen years after Reachelle's disappearance, authorities stated there was "compelling" and "overwhelming" evidence that Cowen had murdered her, and that "there is no other explanation" for her disappearance that's plausible. Her body has never been recovered, however, and her case remains unsolved.
- Minot Police Department
Updated 7 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 29, 2021; picture added, details of disappearance updated.