The last time Ken Schaper saw his wife, Gayla, she was preparing to feed her two horses. Ken had dropped her off at a field near the couple’s Moscow, Idaho dairy farm around 7:00 pm on Friday, June 29, 1979. While Gayla tended to her horses, Ken planned to drive into the town of Moscow to run a few errands. He told Gayla that he would be back within the hour to pick her up, but when he returned 45 minutes later, Gayla was nowhere to be found.

Ken wasn’t overly concerned at first. Gayla’s parents lived in Woodland Hills, about three miles away from the field where Gayla kept her horses. Assuming that Gayla’s father had picked her up, Ken made the short drive to their home. He was startled to learn that they hadn’t spoken to Gayla that night.

Ken and Gayla’s parents spent the next several hours checking around the dairy farm looking for her. By midnight, there was still no sign of Gayla and her husband grew worried that something was seriously wrong. He called the Latah County Sheriff’s Department and reported his wife missing.

Deputies immediately searched the area around the field where Gayla was last seen but found no clues to her whereabouts. Although her family was adamant that Gayla wouldn’t have simply taken off without telling anyone, investigators found nothing to indicate that foul play had been involved in her disappearance.

The search for Gayla continued over the next few days. Investigators were unable to find any trace of her, but still weren’t convinced that she had been abducted. As they started to interview her family members and friends, however, detectives admitted that it seemed unlikely that Gayla had left voluntarily.

As Gayla’s husband, Ken was considered a suspect during the early stages of the investigation, but he would eventually take and pass a polygraph examination. Investigators interrogated him intensely but finally determined that he had nothing to do with Gayla’s disappearance.

Ken feared that Gayla had been abducted; he told investigators that she had received several disturbing phone calls in recent months, usually in the middle of the night. The caller would usually just hang up, but Gayla was unnerved by the calls. Ken stated that it seemed as if someone had been out to get the couple, but he had no idea why.

The couple had also received an odd letter in the mail with an ominous message on it; it had arrived on Good Friday, more than two months before Gayla disappeared. The letter, which contained only one line, stated, “You sold out to Satan.” The sender had used letters cut out from newspapers and magazines to form the phrase.

Investigators were unable to determine the origin of the creepy letter or the phone calls; although intriguing, they were unable to conclusively link them to Gayla’s disappearance.

Weeks went by with little progress made on the case. There were no reported sightings of Gayla and officials determined that she had most likely been abducted. They noted that the pasture where Gayla kept her horses was adjacent to State Highway 8; they theorized that someone might have seen her while they were driving along the highway and forced her to get into their car. With no witnesses, however, the case soon stalled.

More than twenty different law enforcement agencies participated in the search for Gayla, but none of them were able to find anything pointing to her location. In an attempt to bring in new leads, officials announced that they were offering a cash reward for information leading to Gayla’s recovery; unfortunately, they received few tips.

About two months after Gayla went missing, her mother, Connie Nelson, reported receiving two phone calls from a female she believed to be her daughter. Both times, a female’s voice had asked for help as soon as Connie picked up the phone, but then hung up before Connie could respond.

Connie was convinced that the caller had been Gayla, but the sheriff’s department wasn’t so sure. Hoping that the female would call Connie again, officials installed a tape recorder on Connie’s phone; unfortunately, there were no further calls after the device was in place.

In March 1980, officials with the Latah County Sheriff’s Department spoke with New Jersey psychic Dorothy Allison; she had worked with various law enforcement agencies around the country and agreed to help out with Gayla’s case. She flew to Idaho and consulted with the sheriff for several hours; although the sheriff said he found her to be extremely credible, it’s unclear if she was able to provide investigators with any useful information.

According to Sheriff Mike Goetz, Dorothy provided them with some details about Gayla’s abduction and gave them several leads to follow up on, but Gayla’s location remained a mystery. She seemed to have vanished into thin air.

There was a persistent rumor that Gayla had voluntarily left to start a new life in another part of the country, but investigators determined that this was unlikely. They noted that Gayla had been close with her family and husband; they didn’t believe she would walk away from them.

A year after Gayla went missing, it was clear that the investigation into her disappearance was at a standstill. Detectives had conducted hundreds of interviews and administered polygraph examinations to several people, but nothing led them any closer to Gayla. The case went cold, and would remain that way for more than a decade.

In February 1994, Gayla’s disappearance made its way back into the headlines. William Hagedorn, whose father had once owned property near the Schaper’s dairy farm on State Highway 8, was convicted of killing his live-in girlfriend, Joanne; a police informant claimed that William had killed Joanne because she had learned that he and his father, Larry, had mur*dered Gayla 15 years earlier.

Shortly after William was charged with Joanne’s mu*rder, Larry Hagedorn was arrested for illegally possessing a firearm. After his arrest, police obtained a search warrant for his former property along State Highway 8 and immediately started excavating an area of the property that was close to where Gayla had last been seen.

Investigators spent several days searching the property for Gayla’s body. They found some clothing that had been wrapped in a curtain; they sent the items to the FBI’s crime lab for analysis but testing failed to link them to Gayla. They also unearthed two small bone fragments that they believed might be human; these were sent for further testing but never mentioned again, so it’s likely they were animal bones.

Larry refused to speak with investigators about Gayla’s disappearance. Detectives who interviewed William attempted to have him confirm his father’s involvement in the case, but William told them, “I don’t want to hurt my dad.”

Larry’s attorney told reporters that his client was being railroaded by a young detective who was trying to make a name for himself by solving a cold case; he noted, correctly, that Larry had never been linked to Gayla’s disappearance prior to the accusation by a police informant. He pointed out that informants are not always the most reliable witnesses and maintained that Larry was simply being harassed by police because they were unable to determine what had happened to Gayla.

It should be noted that Larry owned an excavating business at the time of Gayla’s disappearance, and it was common knowledge that he had done a lot of excavating on his property. Neighbors stated that he was always digging holes and burying trash, and at one point he buried a car.

Investigators were never able to determine if William or Larry had anything to do with Gayla’s disappearance and neither of them was ever charged in connection with the case. Detectives admit that they have been frustrated by the fact that they have little to work with; they have no crime scene, no physical evidence, and no real suspects. Although they believe that Gayla was likely mu*rdered, they have no way to prove it and have no idea where her body might be. She remains listed as a missing person.

Gayla Schaper was 27 years old when she went missing in 1979. She has blue eyes and blonde hair, and at the time of her disappearance she was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, a gold shirt, a blue sweater, and sneakers. If you have any information about Gayla, please contact the Latah County Sheriff’s Department at 208–882–2216.

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