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Thread: Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

  1. #1

    ice Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

    Kent County (WZZM) - This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the disappearance of Deanie Peters. The 14-year-old Forest Hills student was last seen at Central Middle School in February of 1981.
    The case was re-opened by detectives with the Kent County Metro Cold Case Team in 2008. "So, we basically start from February 5th, 1981, going back to the school where it all started," says Det. Rob Davis.
    Peters was at her brother's wrestling match. She told her mother that she was going to the restroom, but never came back.
    Deanie's friend, Kathy Kingma says, "There is not a day that goes by that I don't pray that this is solved." Kingma says Deanie was supposed to call her when she got back from the wrestling match.
    In the days that followed, investigators searched the area, but found nothing. In 2009, the cold case team searched an area in Ionia County. Lt. Kevin Kelley says, "The investigation has reached a point, where they need to excavate here in order to eliminate this spot and move on with this investigation."
    Investigators have said that they do believe Deanie Peters is dead, but they haven't given up on finding her body or solving the case. Friends and family are anxious for that day to come.
    "All you want is closure. You want closure, that pain that you bury in your soul. It's always there. It's always there," says Kingma.
    Detectives say Deanie was in a physical altercation at the school just days before her disappearance.
    If you have any information, you are urged to call Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345. There is a $25,000 dollar cash reward for new information leading to an arrest.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say they're hopeful that they'll be able to solve the case of a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from her brother's Grand Rapids-area wrestling practice 30 years ago.
    The Kent County Metro Cold Case Team reopened the Feb. 5, 1981 disappearance of Deanie Peters in 2008. The Grand Rapids Press reports there's a $25,000 reward in the case.
    Searches of a school incinerator, shallow pond and a Lowell-area schoolhouse have taken place without authorities saying they found anything significant.
    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has issued an alert that contains a rendering of what she could have looked like at the age of 40. The rendering first was sent out four years ago.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

    A look back: the investigation of missing Deanie Peters

    This story originally was published Feb. 12, 2006

    In the quarter-century since 14-year-old Deanie Peters disappeared from her little brother's wrestling practice at Forest Hills Central Middle School, the investigation has led detectives to a school incinerator, divers to a shallow pond and, as recently as last year, cadaver dogs to a mound of rocks.

    Detectives locked up a school janitor overnight, interviewed a man on Florida's death row and questioned suspects from the Lowell area.

    More recently, a psychic provided GPS coordinates to look for Deanie's body, while another drew a picture of a former camp where she might be.

    But, no matter which direction the investigation has taken, it keeps circling back to where it started -- Forest Hills Central Middle School, where the 14-year-old told her mother's friend: "I'll be right back."

    By some accounts, those were her last known words. And Deanie -- the dark-haired eighth-grader who should turn 40 in September -- hasn't been heard from since.

    "It's been terribly frustrating," said Ken Kleinheksel, 67, the retired Kent County sheriff's detective initially assigned to direct the investigation. "I lost a lot of sleep on this, wondering why can't we move forward, why aren't there more clues."

    Deanie's disappearance on Feb. 5, 1981 -- 25 years ago last Sunday -- is one of the most baffling mysteries Kent County sheriff's detectives have faced in recent memory.

    There is no body, no sign of foul play, no indication whether she's alive or dead. Televised pleas by her mother and stepfather went unanswered.

    Kent County Undersheriff Jon Hess said the case remains open. He said his department has considered creating a regional team to explore cold cases such as Deanie's, but "to this point, it hasn't come to fruition."

    Deanie disappeared two years after another high-profile murder mystery -- the January 1979 kidnapping, rape and murder of Hope College senior Janet Chandler, whose body was found the next day in southwest Michigan. State police cold-case investigators last week announced an arrest in that murder, which is unrelated to the Peters case.

    The frustration over Deanie's case has led one woman, who had used Deanie as a baby sitter, to team with the retired Kleinheksel as the duo conduct their own probe.

    "Nobody just vanishes from a school," said Ardene Herbert, who was the person to whom Deanie waved at the gym that day and told she'd be right back.

    "What in the world do you do when someone disappears off the face of the Earth without a trace?" said former Kent County sheriff's Capt. Jack Christensen, who questioned the death-row inmate in Florida.

    Independent investigations
    The case has raised new questions about the performance of the Kent County Sheriff's detective unit, which has been criticized in recent years over its handling of other old, high-profile cases.
    Sgt. Chet Bush, the former lead detective who said supervisors erected roadblocks during the investigation of millionaire businessman Robert Fryling's 1993 murder, revealed this month he was kept from pursuing some leads in Deanie's disappearance.

    Bush, who is retired and working security at the Kent County Courthouse, said he wasn't allowed to travel to Arizona to interview Deanie's mother and stepfather, who live there, and wasn't given the time to track down and reinterview the first identified suspect -- a school janitor.
    The Press, however, found that man living in a small house on Grand Rapids' Northeast Side, about a mile from the sheriff's department, where he has been for the past 15 years.

    Besides the independent investigation Kleinheksel is conducting, others, too, have been working on it, including a pair of women teaming with psychics who believe they have promising leads.
    Undersheriff Hess had no comment on Kleinheksel's continued involvement and said "I don't know anything about that" in reference to Bush's criticisms.

    Sgt. Jeff McAlery is now handling the case. Hess said McAlery was "not available" for an interview.

    At least two men interviewed as possible suspects in the case -- former Central Middle School janitor Arthur Diaz, now 65, and former Lowell resident Bruce Bunch, now 42 and living in Kentucky, say they continue to live under suspicion.

    Both proclaim their innocence. And both want their names cleared.

    "If somebody accuses you of doing something, how do you clear yourself?" asked Diaz, who said he spent a night in jail and was questioned by a grand jury, an appearance confirmed by the Kent County prosecutor at the time, David H. Sawyer, now a state appellate judge.

    Hope fades
    Deanie's mother, Mary Peters, who was 34 when her daughter disappeared, said she is disappointed that she hasn't heard from Kent County detectives in five years. "They probably don't want to call me to get my hopes up," she said.

    Deanie was at the middle school with her mother to attend a wrestling clinic for youngsters, including her 4-year-old brother. At some point, she crossed the gym floor and exited a doorway. Stories differ as to whether she was headed to the restroom, sneaking out for a cigarette or bound for a friend's nearby home.

    What everyone agrees on is only this: She was never seen again.

    It quickly became apparent she hadn't run away. She left behind several hundred dollars in Christmas money, her purse, jewelry and clothing.

    As time passed, hope faded for her safe return. In July 1991, more than a decade later, Deanie's mother filed a petition for a "presumptive death certificate."

    The death certificate, filed in January 1992, has a chilly aura about it: "Cause of death: unknown. Place of death: unknown."

    Following the leads
    Arthur Diaz, then 40, figures he was the first suspect. He clearly remembers Deanie, though he said he never spoke with her. "She was a sharp kid, a good-looking gal," he said.
    Diaz said he believes detectives targeted him because he is Hispanic. His criminal record in Michigan includes drinking and driving convictions since 1992.

    About a week after the disappearance, Deanie's mother and stepfather approached him at school, and he offered condolences. He said he told them what he also told detectives: Three high-school-age boys, one wearing a green-and-white Forest Hills Central jacket, banged on the locked doors of the school during the wrestling practice. He said he refused to let them in because he didn't recognize them.

    Diaz still wonders whether that was important. He said he was never asked to give a description or look at mug shots.

    The lead detective and Deanie's mother said they don't recall talking to Diaz about the boys.
    Detectives for a time focused on the possibility that Diaz cremated Deanie's body in the school's incinerator. Diaz said he never was asked about the gas-fired incinerator, which was used to burn food scraps and school papers.

    Christensen, the former sheriff's captain, said detectives later determined the incinerator wasn't hot enough to "burn up paper books." Using it to dispose of a body, he said, "was an impossibility."

    Diaz said he was in the school bus garage about a month after the disappearance when detectives handcuffed him to go before a secret citizens grand jury. He said he spent the night in the Kent County Jail before testifying the next day.

    Diaz quit the school job in 1984 for construction work. He said police haven't bothered him since, though he heard that Kleinheksel and a woman were looking for him three years ago at his ex-girlfriend's house.

    Sgt. Chet Bush, who helped with the case from almost the beginning, said detectives soon developed leads on Lowell-area suspects. That led divers to search a shallow pond along Grand River Drive near Lowell, he said.

    Bruce Bunch, a former Lowell High School student who was 17 when Deanie vanished, said he had a dream about Deanie after watching a TV news report about her disappearance but insists he never knew her.

    "When I was a kid, I used to have this mental telepathy thing," Bunch said during a phone interview from his home in Somerset, Ky. "I could tell things, like when a bird comes into your house and tells you someone's going to die."

    He said he can't remember details of the dream, only that he told friends about it, and it somehow mushroomed into how he had killed Deanie and buried her. Some say they've heard he struck her with his car or truck.

    "Everybody just keeps carrying it different ways," said Bunch, who owns an auto-repair shop.

    Roadblocks to closure
    Sgt. Bush took over the case from Kleinheksel in 1993. He interviewed more than 50 people and looked at a dozen or so possible suspects in Deanie's case, he said. "I wasn't able to eliminate anybody (as a suspect) on paper," he said.

    He talked to Deanie's mother and stepfather once by phone but only to get a photograph for a missing-persons poster. Bush refuses to say who kept him from going to Arizona, or why.

    Bush said he never found Diaz, whom The Press tracked down in 30 minutes and interviewed this past Tuesday.

    Christensen, the former sheriff's captain, said he was vacationing in Florida when he visited a man on death row for killing his wife and children. The man was of interest because he had lived near Central Middle School, but Edward Zakrzewski II had moved from Michigan before the disappearance.

    Back to Lowell
    For reasons not completely clear, the case keeps returning to the Lowell area.

    A woman interviewed by The Press said she was canoeing and drinking with friends on the Flat River in 1989 when a Lowell man in her canoe talked about how he and two others had struck a girl named Deanie with a car in a school parking lot. They got scared and hid her body in the trunk. They later buried her along the Flat River, the woman said she was told.

    Bruce Bunch was not among those identified by the man in the canoe, said the woman, who asked she not be named.

    Joseph Fallstrom, one of the three men identified in that scenario, said he was questioned twice by sheriff's detectives in the early 1990s. At first, they listened to the story that he had heard:
    That Bruce Bunch had talked about Deanie Peters during a kegger near the sod farms off Grand River Drive near Lowell.

    The story was that her body was buried near the old one-room Standard School about five miles north of Lowell, Fallstrom said.

    Acting on a tip, former Lowell Police Chief Barry Emmons said he'd poked around the schoolhouse grounds shortly after Deanie's disappearance but found nothing.

    Fallstrom, now 43, said Kent County detectives turned it around on him, saying, "We heard you and your brother ran her down at a party."

    "I'm like, man, this is scaring me," said Fallstrom, who denies any involvement.

    The story told on the canoe trip led the woman and her sister -- and, eventually, cadaver dogs and Kent County crime-scene investigators -- to the former Young Marines Camp. It's located in a hilly area at the end of Heether Road in Ionia County's Keene Township, not far from the one-room schoolhouse.

    Toni Schaefer, who owns and lives on the former Young Marines Camp with her husband, Patrick, said a team of Kent sheriff's detectives dug on the property four years ago and again last spring for Deanie's body.

    A short time after detectives left, a psychic visited her land, Schaefer said.

    The psychic had told Schaefer a body had been stored somewhere on the property before the ground thawed enough to bury her.

    Undersherrif Hess said he helped search an area at 92nd Avenue and Whitneyville Road SE about a year ago. He said they've also searched in Montcalm County.

    Somber anniversary

    Mary and John Peters said they have no place to mourn. "We can't bury her," Mary Peters said. "We have no place to go."

    Sgt. Bush said he has marked past anniversaries by driving to Forest Hills Central Middle School. He'd park his unmarked vehicle, then sometimes take down license plate numbers.

    "They always say the perpetrator returns to the scene," he said.

    However, last Sunday, for the first time since 1993, he did not visit the school.

    Bush said he'll leave that for detectives now on the case.

    "It's time for them."

    Search site: One theory is that Deanie Peters' body was buried near the old one-room Standard School about five miles north of Lowell. Former Lowell Police Chief Barry Emmons said he found nothing near the site shortly after the disappearance.


  4. #4

    Default Re: Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

    Peters' family friend says she knows what happened to Deanie

    CASCADE, Mich. (WZZM) - Saturday was the 30th anniversary of the night Deanie Peters disappeared from Forest Hills Middle School.

    Three decades later, the case remains unsolved, but a woman who was there the night Deanie vanished says she knows what happened.

    Those close to the Deanie Peters case know Ariadyne Herbert. She and her husband organized searches for Deanie 30 years ago.

    Since then, Herbert and Ken Kleinheksel, the original detective on the case, teamed up to do their own investigation. In fact, the Kent County Metro Cold Case team that was assembled in 2008 wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Ariadyne Herbert's non-stop mission to find answers and closure for the Peters family.

    "My husband and I woke up this [Saturday] morning and looked at each other and said, 'can you believe it's been 30 years?'" says Herbert, during a rare interview Saturday afternoon from her home in Cascade.

    Herbert says she and Deanie's mother were best friends. A day didn't go by that they didn't spend time together, until Deanie disappeared on February 5, 1981.

    That day, Ariadyne Herbert came to Forest Hills Middle School to pick up her son, Deanie Peters and Deanie's brother from wrestling practice.

    "I asked Mary Peters to take my son, Paul, to wrestling practice," recalls Herbert. "We get there and I saw Deanie come down the steps with her mother, and she waved at me and said, 'I'll be right back,' and she walked out through the gym. That was the last time I ever saw Deanie; she literally disappeared."

    After numerous failed searches, and no arrests, the nightmare continues for the Peters' family and their friends, 30 years later.

    Ariadyne Herbert lives with the nightmare everyday.

    Soon after the case went cold, Herbert, along with retired detective Ken Kleinheksel, launched their own personal investigation, interviewing more than 100 people who were somehow connected to Deanie Peters.

    "I really thought the cold case team was going to solve it," says Herbert. "I turned everything over to them and had this idealistic view that they [cold case team] were going to be able to find Deanie and we were going to be able to bury her, but then that didn't happen, and the case is sort of in limbo now."

    During Herbert's and Kleinheksel's investigation, they began to learn more about a physical altercation that Deanie was involved in, which took place a few days prior to Deanie's disappearance. Based on all the data they have collected and the interviews they have conducted, the two believe that Deanie's disappearance was a direct result of that physical altercation.

    Prior to handing over their findings, Herbert says that she and Kleinheksel interviewed individuals who were both involved in and witnessed the altercation.

    "There is one particular woman who knows all about it," says Herbert. "I've talked to her, and her family, so I do know people know what went on and what happened to Deanie."

    Herbert didn't want to divulge much regarding her findings of the altercation because she says that part of her investigation put her own life at risk.

    "I've been threatened," says Herbert. "All I will say was there were two girls; I would also say there were people who witnessed what happened."

    "There's a small group of people who know," adds Herbert. "I think there's basically three [people], possibly a fourth. I think one actually did the act, one sort of forced them to do it and I think the other ones helped get rid of the body."

    "I believe I have a real good idea of what happened to [Deanie]," Herbert says with conviction.

    When asked if any of the three or four people were actually involved in the altercation, Herbert responded by saying, "I can't answer that for you because the cold case team really doesn't want me to answer that."
    But Herbert vows to never give up until this case is cold no longer.

    "I really want to find her body," says Herbert. "It's 30 years; it's long enough. That little girl, if she's dead, has been laying in a very cold grave for 30 years and it's time for someone to come forward, and it's time to let that little girl have a proper burial, and that's what I'd like to see happen before I die."

    If you have any information on the disappearance of Deanie Peters, you're asked to call Silent Observer (616) 774-2345.

    Police say the statute of limitations has expired for those who helped hide Deanie's body, or who know about it and have refused to say anything.

    There is a $25,000 cash reward for any new information leading to an arrest in the case.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

    There's a small group of people who know," adds Herbert. "I think there's basically three [people], possibly a fourth. I think one actually did the act, one sort of forced them to do it and I think the other ones helped get rid of the body."

    And for 30 years none of them decided to tell what happened to Deanie and where she could be found so she could get a proper burial.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Deanie Peters, Vanished 1981

    Investigator uses P.O. Box for 36-year-old cold case

    GRAND RAPIDS It's one of the longest cold cases in west Michigan: What happened to 14-year-old Deanie Peters?

    She's the teenager who disappeared now 36 years ago from Forest Hills Central Middle School.

    Vic Weeks has experience in law enforcement with the Lowell Police Department and the Kent County Sheriff's Department. Now, working as a private investigator, he placed an ad in the Lowell Buyer's Guide find 14-year-old Deanie Peters' body.

    "The parents are old now, have been suffering all of this agony of not knowing where their daughter was," Weeks said. "It won't be much longer until we're all gone and nobody will be interested anymore."

    So, Weeks opened a P.O. Box.

    "Post Office Box 4, Lowell, Michigan 49331 for anybody that may know the exact location of her remains, to send a letter or diagram," Weeks said.

    That's to help her family and the community find closure in hopes someone out there will come forward.

    "Deanie Peters' name comes up often, every year," Weeks said. "Anything.

    " Anything that would tell us where she's at, so I can take a cadaver dog over there and find her."

    In 2011, WZZM 13 set up a Facebook page dedicated to to helping the community discuss the case and share memories of Deanie.

    There is also galleries of old photos, letters she wrote and even a copy of her official death certificate.

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