For nearly three decades the Fox Valley community has wondered what happened to Laurie Depies. The 20-year-old vanished from an area parking lot on August 19, 1992 and the search for answers continues today.
Now retired from the police department, Jason Weber was a Town of Menasha patrol officer the night Laurie disappeared.
“It is frustrating. There’s several cases, really, at least over my career that hit close to home,” Weber said as he reflected on the case. “Fox Crossing, or Town of Menasha it was at the time, was a relatively small community and [there] really wasn’t anything like that in 1992.”
The Night Laurie Disappeared
The last night she was seen, Laurie had left her job at the Fox River Mall and headed to her boyfriend’s apartment in the Town of Menasha, an area that is now Fox Crossing, Wisconsin. The three people waiting there for Laurie knew she had pulled into the parking lot because of her car’s notoriously loud exhaust.
Laurie never made it to her boyfriend’s doorstep.
“Nobody saw her pull in, but they could hear the car pull in. When she did not come up to the apartment after a period of time then they went and checked,” Weber said.
Little evidence was left behind, except for a Styrofoam cup atop Laurie’s vehicle.
“Just that nobody saw anything. This was in the summer, August, a nice night. People would have been out, people would have had their windows open. You would have thought that people would have heard something, maybe would have seen something,” Weber said. “It wasn’t too terribly late at night, 10 – 10:30. So you think people would still probably be out or up watching the news or something. But nothing.”
The Search for Laurie
“We learned in small town USA what nobody should learn,” missing persons advocate Jay Breyer said.
Just one year before Laurie went missing two-year-old Amy Breyer was abducted and killed in the Town of Menasha. Following the tragedy in his own family, Amy’s uncle Jay Breyer got involved in the search for Laurie.
“We had just come off a child murder and abduction. Now we have a young woman missing and we worked hard. I give the Depies family, the Wegner family all of the friends and volunteers credit. We pushed hard for a year; developed concepts, ideas, and looked for Laurie, but Laurie is still missing,” Breyer said.
Police and volunteers poured their resources into the search for Laurie. The investigation continued, but with little evidence and no new leads police had little to go on.
“We did receive tips, countless tips throughout the next year, or so. Then they just kind of fizzled out.” Weber said.
A Convicted Killer’s Confession
In 2010 there was a possible breakthrough in the case. Convicted killer Larry Hall confessed to murdering Laurie. However, investigators were never able to substantiate his claims.
“We did follow up on some of the information he provided, which was unique,” Weber said. “But I think it comes down to the absence of any physical type of evidence.”
Hall has never been charged in Laurie’s case.
Keeping Laurie’s Story Alive
In 2012 the lead investigator retired and handed Laurie’s case over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). Local 5 reached out to the DOJ for any new information in the search for Laurie, but they declined an interview because this is an active and open investigation.
“I think the more that we can keep this case out there – somebody knows something. There’s no doubt in my mind – no doubt in the other investigators minds. I mean, somebody knows. Somebody doesn’t just vanish,” Weber said.
Laurie has now been missing for longer than she was home, but her story is not over.
“Until she’s home my hope is that we will not forget. Laurie doesn’t deserve that. The family doesn’t deserve that. Nobody deserves to be forgotten. Nobody,” Breyer said.
Changing the Way Missing Persons Cases are Handled
“Wisconsin didn’t have a clearinghouse for missing persons,” Breyer said. “Fox Valley Tech, even in criminal justice, is not teaching about missing persons. The effort to find Laurie was our first catalyst of a major missing persons case that wasn’t resolved in a small period of time.”
Laurie was not the first nor the last young person whose disappearance has shocked Northeast Wisconsin, but Breyer says her case helped create a road map for police and advocates working to bring the missing home.
“Laurie’s story started the effort to enhance the training and awareness for law enforcement. It enhanced the communication, the response from media. What Laurie’s story has done is brought a young woman’s face and heart and story to every table, to every street corner. Laurie’s story has brought the awareness where it could be and where it should be,” Breyer said.
Breyer went on to form the organization Youth Educated in Safety to help local families of missing children.
“When I showed up a year after Amy disappeared, I didn’t know what to do. We learned looking for Laurie what could be done,” Breyer said.
Laurie’s Case Remains Open
Laurie’s case is an active and open investigation within the Wisconsin DOJ. Police say that even small details that you may think are insignificant could be the final piece of the puzzle that brings Laurie home.
If you remember anything about Laurie’s disappearance please call 608-266-1671.