Details of Disappearance Sara was last seen after exiting her school bus at the end of the driveway of her family's residence at 4:00 p.m. on April 3, 1996 in rural Spooner, Wisconsin. She was at the foot of her driveway, about 100 yards from her house. One of Sara's stepbrother's was home at the time, by her mother and stepfather were both out.
There was a dark-colored pickup truck driving behind the bus, and when she got out it pulled up next to her. Some of the others on the bus thought the vehicle belonged to Sara's 21-year-old boyfriend. From Sara's body language, the witnesses realized she knew the truck's driver. Some of them saw her speaking to the driver, while others claim she actually got into the truck. The truck backed out of the driveway and started off in the direction of the nearby town of Trego.
At 4:37 p.m., Sara's stepbrother called his father and mentioned Sara wasn't still home yet, but nobody was concerned at the time because they thought she was at a friend's house. She disappeared on the last day of school before spring break, and the first day she was not grounded; she had been grounded for several weeks and hadn't been allowed to leave the house except to go to school and school-related activities.
When Sara still wasn't home by 6:20 p.m., her mother went back home and started calling her friends. None of them had seen her since they left school. By 8:00 p.m. her mother was driving around the local area looking for her.
Sara has never been heard from again. Both authorities and her mother and stepfather initially thought she had run away, but now they are unsure what caused her disappearance. She didn't take any clothing or money with her, and she had no history of running away from home, and her father and older sister never believed she ran away.
Sara's parents divorced when she was a toddler and her parents had joint custody of her and her older sister during their early childhoods. Both girls went with their father when he moved to Colorado in 1990. In 1994, after Sara was caught shoplifting and her father grounded her, she decided to move back to Wisconsin to live with her mother, stepfather and two older stepbrothers.
She became friends with a new group of people older than herself after she moved to Wisconsin, and began dating the 21-year-old man. Her parents were unhappy about this and told her she wasn't allowed to date until she was older, but Sara continued to see the man anyway.
Sara and her boyfriend did have lunch together on the day of her disappearance and he drove her back to school for her afternoon classes. He said this was the last time he saw her. Sara's family believes she was harmed by someone she knew, as they don't think she would have gotten into a stranger's vehicle. It's worth noting that there was some tension and allegations of sexual abuse between Sara and her stepbrothers around the time of her disappearance, and Sara was thinking of moving back in with her father and sister.
There's speculation that Crystal Soulier's death may be connected to Sara's disappearance. Soulier, who was eighteen years old, disappeared from Cable, Wisconsin in October 1996. Five months later her body was found in Rock County, Wisconsin, but it wasn't identified until 2002. Her murder remains unsolved.
Soulier and Sara were both blonde young women in the same age group. They knew each other and they also had at least 19 mutual friends, all of them young men in their twenties. Both Soulier and Sara attended parties held by these men, and Sara's school friends were unaware of this. None of the men have been named as suspects in Sara's disappearance or Soulier's murder, which is also unsolved.
Sara was a sophomore at Spooner High School in 1996. Investigators believe she's probably no longer alive, but haven't named any suspects in her case. Both her mother and her stepfather died in 2017.
- Washburn County Sheriff's Office
Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated June 30, 2021; details of disappearance updated.