Details of Disappearance
Stefanie dropped her youngest son off at his day care in Lakin, Kansas at approximately 9:15 a.m. on February 28, 2001. Earlier, she had dropped her older child off at preschool.
Authorities believe that she drove back to the mobile home she was preparing to vacate shortly afterwards. Stefanie may have returned to the property to remove some of her and her children's personal belongings. She has never been heard from again.
Stefanie was engaged to Roy Moore in early 2001, and was planning to move out of her mobile home and into his house. She was driving his silver 1990 Mazda 626 at the time of her disappearance. Moore's vehicle was discovered abandoned in the private driveway of a mobile home park in southeast Lakin at approximately 11:00 a.m.
Witnesses said that an unidentified man dressed in black walked away from the car shortly afterwards. Authorities do not believe Stefanie knew anyone inside the park and theorize that someone else drove Moore's car to the location. Her jacket and her wallet, which contained $500, were discovered on the front seat of the vehicle. The wheel wells were covered in snow and mud and someone drove the car for miles before parking it in the driveway.
Moore picked up Stefanie's son from the day care after she failed to return by 6:00 p.m. He learned that his vehicle had been abandoned earlier in the day after reporting Stefanie's disappearance later during the evening.
An extensive search of the area produced no clues as to Stefanie's whereabouts. Investigators believe that she may have been murdered between the time she dropped off her son and the time Moore's vehicle was discovered. Authorities said that her remains could have been hidden in numerous locations; several abandoned wells are scattered throughout the area. The man who was seen leaving her car is considered the prime suspect in her disappearance.
Stefanie was in the process of divorcing her husband, Brian Welch, at the time of her disappearance. He has since been awarded custody of their two sons. Brian claimed that they were attempting a reconciliation in early 2001. He said that Stefanie did not intend to marry Moore, although the latter claimed she was planning a July 2001 wedding.
Neither Welch nor Moore are considered strong suspects in her case. One of Stefanie's friends was also in the midst of a divorce in February 2001. The friend's estranged husband allegedly threatened Stefanie sometime beforehand. Investigators questioned the individual, but he is not believed to be involved in her case.
Stefanie was employed at a cattle processing plant in Lakin in 2001. Her case was reclassified as a probable homicide in February 2002. Her loved ones stated she would not have willingly abandoned her two children. There have not been any arrests in connection with her disappearance.