Steven Koecher had high hopes for his future when he moved to St. George, Utah in the spring of 2009. By December, however, the 30-year-old was struggling to make ends meet. He was unable to find a full-time job and his bank account was nearly empty. Despite numerous setbacks, he maintained a positive attitude, leading his family to believe that everything was going to work out for him. Then, on December 13, 2009, he vanished.
Steven was born in Amarillo, Texas. He was the second oldest of five children, and was raised in the Mormon church. He graduated from the University of Utah in 2002 with a degree in communications, and worked for a while as a journalist at the Davis County Clipper, where his father was the executive editor. In 2007, he got a job at the Salt Lake Tribune. Although he liked the job, he wasn’t thrilled about working the third shift hours it required. In 2009, he decided to quit his job and relocate somewhere a little warmer.
Steven moved to St. George in April and found a job in advertising. He was quickly accepted into the church community there and made a lot of friends through his local LDS singles ward. He became a mentor for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and coached several different youth sports. He remained close to his family and visited with them in Bountiful often.
Unfortunately, Steven was laid off from his job shortly after he moved to St. George and had a hard time finding a new one. The country was in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and there were far more people looking for work than there were available jobs. To try and keep himself afloat, Steven took a part-time job handing out advertisements for a window cleaning business. He wasn’t earning enough to pay all his bills, though, and he quickly ran through any savings he had.
Steven’s grandmother was aware of his tenuous financial situation and sent him a check in October. He never cashed it. He was adamant that he would find a way to make it on his own. His parents pleaded with him to return to Salt Lake City where he would be close to family, but Steven declined.
When Steven signed the lease on the room he was renting, he used his father, Rolf Koecher, as a reference. The first week in December, Steven’s landlord called Rolf and told him that Steven was three months behind in his rent and had not returned any of his calls. Rolf had no idea things had gotten so bad, and he called Steven on December 9th to offer him financial help. Steven got upset with his father and hung up on him, but texted him the next day to apologize. He told his father he was okay and that he wanted to handle things on his own. He spoke with his mother the same day and told her that he would be returning home for Christmas and they could expect to see him on December 23rd. He seemed upbeat and excited about the upcoming holiday. He told his mother that he also planned to attend their annual family reunion on December 26th and would head back to St. George after that.
An officer from Henderson, Nevada’s Parking Enforcement called Rolf and Deanne Koecher on December 17. Because Steven’s car had been left on a street in a Henderson retirement community since December 13, it was now thought to have been abandoned. The police officer had been trying to get in touch with Steven for two days but couldn’t. He was hoping that Steven’s parents would know where he was. People like Rolf and Deanne Koecher were shocked. Henderson was about 150 miles from Steven’s home in St. George. Henderson was southeast of Las Vegas. No one knew why Steven would be in that area. Since the religious Mormon didn’t drink or gamble, Vegas didn’t seem like a likely place for him to go.
When someone called Steven’s cell phone, it went straight to voice mail. Deanne called the phone company to see if they could find the phone, but the phone was either turned off or disabled, so they couldn’t find it. Rolf and two of Steven’s brothers started driving right away to St. George to check out Steven’s apartment because they were sure something terrible was going on. When they got there, Rolf slowly opened the door with his spare key because he didn’t know what they would find inside. Everything looked fine. It looked like almost all of Steven’s things were there, like his laptop and cell phone charger. There was a lot of food in the kitchen. There were no signs that Steven had been forced to leave; everything looked clean and in order.
Rolf found Steven’s spare car keys, and the group drove to Henderson, where they quickly found Steven’s car. It had been parked on a quiet cul-de-sac in Sun City Anthem, a high-class neighborhood for people 55 and older. A lost tourist wouldn’t just happen upon this spot; it wasn’t directly connected to any major road, and getting there required making a number of turns within the subdivision.
You could tell Steven had slept in the car before because there were pillows and a blanket inside. There were also coats, snacks, a shaving kit, and what looked like Christmas gifts for Steven’s niece and nephew in a bag. Steven had a stack of flyers from his part-time job on the dashboard and many copies of his resume in the trunk of his car. Steven’s car keys, wallet, and cell phone were the only things that didn’t seem to be there.
Rolf didn’t see anything in the car that led him to believe there had been foul play. He also couldn’t figure out what Steven could have been doing in Henderson. It was easy to start, and the gas tank was only half full. There was no mechanical reason for Steven to leave his car behind if he did.
Rolf called the Henderson Police Department because he didn’t know what to do. When police arrived, they took a quick look at the car but didn’t see a reason to do a forensic examination of it or its contents. In order to disappear for a while, a lot of people came to Las Vegas, and they told Rolf that Steven would be back in a few days. Even though Rolf was sure this wasn’t true, he didn’t push the police. The family would go on their own search for Steven.
The brothers of Rolf and Steven began their search by looking in every house on the street where Steven’s car had been found. They walked up to people’s doors and asked if anyone had seen Steven or heard anything strange. Not a single one. One man, on the other hand, told Rolf that he had several security cameras on his property, and at least one of them was pointed at the spot where the car was found. He was glad to tell them about it.
The video had to be downloaded, analyzed, and then given to the Koechers. This took a few weeks, but it was well worth the wait. There was surveillance video of Steven’s car going by at 11:54 a.m. on Sunday, December 13th. The camera couldn’t see where the car was parked, but at noon, a man could be seen walking in the direction of where the car was parked. He looked like he had something in one hand, maybe a folder. Two security cameras caught him as he walked down the sidewalk in front of the house. He crossed the street to get to Evening Lights Road and kept walking down the sidewalk until no one could see him anymore.
The Koechers were thrilled; it was clear that the man was Steven. He moved pretty quickly and looked like he knew where he was going. He also didn’t look like he was in any kind of danger. They still didn’t know why he was in Henderson, but they were sure that he was the last person to drive his car and that it hadn’t been stolen. The trail ended here, which was a shame. Steven did not show up again on the surveillance video.
Steven’s family looked at his phone records and bank statements to try to figure out what he was doing in the days before he went missing. Steven had been on a lot of trips in the 72 hours before he went to Henderson, which caught them off guard. Steven had driven from his home in St. George to Ruby Valley, Nevada, on December 10th. It took him more than 6 hours. He stopped to see the parents of a girl he had dated for a short time while he was there. They were shocked when he showed up without warning, but they invited him to join them for lunch. They were told that he was going to go to Sacramento. He left soon after lunch, but not in the direction of Sacramento. He went west instead. He stopped in Springville, Utah, to get gas and then Nephi, Utah, for dinner at Taco Time. After that, he finally went home to St. George. Steven got on the phone with his mom while he was on the road, but he didn’t talk about his trip.
Steven’s cell phone records show that he was near Overton, Nevada, in the morning of December 12th. This is about 80 miles from his home. It’s not clear what he did. Late that afternoon, he bought gas in Mesquite, Nevada. From there, he probably drove the 40 miles to St. George. He bought some Christmas presents at the Kmart in his hometown that night. He went back to his house around 10:30 pm that night, but he only stayed there for 30 minutes before leaving again. No one knows where he slept, but the next morning he was in the Las Vegas area.
On Sunday, December 13, Steven talked to two different people at church. Around 9 a.m., the president of his ward called to see if he could lead the meeting at 11 a.m. that same day. Steven said that he was in Las Vegas but that he could go back to St. George on the spot. He wasn’t to worry about it, the president told him. It was Steven’s job to lead the service at 1:00 that day, and he didn’t say anything about not being able to make it. It’s interesting that his phone records show he was much farther south than Las Vegas at this time.
Around 11 a.m., another church member called Steven with something he needed to add to the announcements for 1:00 p.m. Steven told him he couldn’t make it to the service. Members of the church were shocked by this because Steven always let someone know ahead of time if he couldn’t make it to a meeting. There was one more call with Steven after this one, but it wasn’t the last time the phone was used. Steven was last seen on surveillance video on December 13th. His phone was used to call his voicemail on December 14th in the morning. The family says that the phone was still in the Las Vegas area at the time. No one knows if Steven or someone else made this call.
The family hired a private investigator because they thought the police weren’t taking Steven’s disappearance seriously. They also got a local dairy to put Steven’s picture on half-gallon milk cartons to get more people interested in the case. It was a smart move, because the public’s interest grew, and the Henderson Police Department finally sent detectives to look into Steven’s disappearance.
The police checked out the neighborhood where the car was found but didn’t find out anything new. Police did a big search on December 30th because they thought Steven might have ended up in the desert. Three different police departments took part. They used ATVs, search dogs, and helicopters to look through the rough desert area around Henderson. Volunteers went door-to-door and talked to people and handed out flyers with Steven’s information on them. Detectives called airports and bus stations to see if Steven had left the area, but there was no sign that he had.
A cousin of Steven’s made a Facebook page about his disappearance. She would get calls from people who thought they had seen Steven, and her family would follow up on the most likely leads. It’s too bad that none of them led to Steven.
The family heard from someone else in April 2010 that Steven’s body was in the desert south of Henderson Executive Airport. The family and their private investigator searched the area thoroughly with the help of more than 70 volunteers and under the watchful eye of a Henderson Police Department detective. A few pieces of bone and some clothes were found, but forensic tests were not able to connect the clothes to Steven. It turned out that the bones belonged to an animal.
The police looked through Steven’s laptop and didn’t find anything odd on it. The man’s family could get into his email and Facebook, but there were no signs that something was wrong. He didn’t use social media much and most of the emails in his account were responses to job applications. The house he rented didn’t even have internet, so he had to go to the library to check his email. There was no proof that he had ever met someone on the internet.
When police looked at Steven’s journal entries from right before he went missing, they didn’t find any red flags. He had a good attitude and didn’t seem like he was thinking about killing himself. He was worried about getting a job, but this was only going to last for a short time. The bishop at his church told him that he would be hiring in January and pretty much promised Steven the job.
Steven’s phone records were carefully looked over and it was found that he hadn’t made any strange calls before he disappeared, and there were no signs that he had been talking to someone new. One call had been made to a number that no one knew, but when police called that number, they found that it had nothing to do with the disappearance. Steven was handing out flyers in St. George on December 12 when he came across two girls who were locked out of their house. He let them use his phone to call their mother. The investigation died down because there were no new clues.
Steven’s family still hadn’t found him a year after he went missing. They checked out every tip they got, but they all led nowhere. The case stopped being in the news as much, but investigators said it was still going on. The family kept searching in random places and made frequent trips to the Henderson area. They also offered a $10,000 reward for information that led to Steven’s capture.
The family lost another member in February 2011. It took Rolf a long time to find his son, but on February 9th, he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He died the next day in the hospital because the bacteria were too strong for his immune system to handle. Even though they needed time to grieve, Steven’s family never stopped looking for him.
There was no progress on the case for years. The case was taken over by Red Rock Search and Rescue in May 2015. They planned to search the hilly areas outside of Henderson, which is about 25 square miles in size. The people at the non-profit organization thought Steven had gone to the Henderson area to kill himself and would have done it from a higher place. The family wasn’t sure if they agreed with the suicide idea, but they were glad that the group was going to do another search. It’s too bad that nothing related to Steven was found.
There have been many theories put forth as possible explanations of Steven’s disappearance. Some are more easily dismissed than others: Josh Powell’s family tried to convince police that Susan Cox Powell was missing because she ran off with Steven. There is absolutely nothing to suggest Steven and Susan ever met, and though they disappeared within a week of each other their last known locations were 400 miles apart. Josh Powell would later kill both his children and commit suicide; he is believed to have murdered Susan as well.
Many people have suggested that Steven committed suicide due to his financial situation. He was under a lot of financial stress but according to his family he was staying positive and showed no signs of being depressed. When he is seen walking past the surveillance camera in Henderson, he seems to be walking with a purpose. It looks like he’s on his way to a job interview or another planned meeting. He doesn’t look like someone about to kill himself, and he parked right in the middle of a residential area. He would have had to walk miles to find anywhere remote enough for him to commit suicide undetected.
Steven is definitely carrying something in his hand as he walks down the street. His father believed it could be a resume or job application. Steven waited in his car until exactly 12:00 pm, suggesting he may have had a noon appointment with someone. Yet there is nothing in his email or phone records to indicate he made plans to meet anyone, unless it was arranged through a friend.
If Steven did have a job interview or other type of appointment, what happened to him? He never made it back to his car, and police found nothing to indicate Steven was the kind of person who would voluntarily leave. He was extremely close with his family, was excited about the upcoming holiday, and had already started doing some of his Christmas shopping.
Some people have suggested that Steven, desperate for money, got caught up in drug dealing as a way to make some quick cash. He did a lot of driving in the days leading up to his disappearance; his actions made some think he was working as a drug courier. His father considered this possibility, and had two different narcotics dogs go over Steven’s car. They showed no reaction at all, leading their handler to conclude that the car had never been used to transport drugs.
Foul play seems highly likely. In December 2020, police released close to 200 pages of documents pertaining to the case, providing a small glimpse of what went on behind the scenes in the earliest days of the investigation. Although the surveillance footage doesn’t show which house Steven actually entered, police seemed to focus on one house in particular and made numerous attempts to speak with the people who lived there. At least one neighbor noted suspicious activity at this particular house on the day Steven went missing, and the occupants moved away shortly afterwards. It’s possible they had a hand in Steven’s disappearance, though police have never named any suspects.
Although Steven’s family continues to cling to the hope that he’s still alive, they know there is little chance this story will have a happy ending. They continue searching, however, and are hopeful they will one day know what happened to Steven.
Steven Koecher was 30 years old when he went missing in 2009. He has blond hair and blue eyes, and at the time of his disappearance he was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 180 pounds. He has a birthmark on his abdomen and a surgical scar behind each ear. When last seen, he was wearing a white button-down shirt, jeans or Dockers, white sneakers, and a hooded sweatshirt. If you have any information about Steven, please contact the St. George Police Department at 435–627–4300.