Amber Wilde was involved in a car accident on Wednesday, September 23, 1998; she rear-ended a woman while she was driving to class. Although the 19-year-old wasn’t seriously injured in the accident, she smacked her head on her car windshield hard enough to crack the glass. When she got back to her apartment in Green Bay, Wisconsin that evening, Amber called her father and told him that she felt okay but had a headache. She told him she was going to lie down and asked him to call her the next day to make sure she got up in time for her 1:00 pm class at the University of Wisconsin. Steve Wilde tried to call his daughter the next day but didn’t get any answer; Amber had vanished from her apartment and she was never seen again.

Steve had a feeling something was wrong when he wasn’t able to get a hold of Amber on Thursday; he drove to Green Bay from his home in Maryville, Wisconsin that night and found Amber’s apartment locked tight. There was no sign of Amber, her car, or her purse, but all of her other belongings had been left behind.

At the time of her disappearance, Amber was five months pregnant and was not on good terms with her baby’s father, Matthew Schneider. He was in a relationship with another woman and initially denied that the baby was his; after Amber told his fiancée about her pregnancy, Matthew had been furious with her and tried to convince Amber to have an abortion. He was enraged when she refused to do so; he told Amber he didn’t want anything to do with her or the baby.

Although she was only 19 years old, Amber was mature for her age and told her friends and family that she planned to keep her baby. She had started taking college classes when she was still in high school and had just started her junior year at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay; she wanted to eventually go to medical school and didn’t intend to take any time off from school after the birth of her baby.

Amber’s mother, Julie Ketter, was certain that her daughter hadn’t disappeared voluntarily. She said the teenager hadn’t been at all depressed about her pregnancy and had been making solid plans for her future. “I think she was disappointed in herself, but six weeks ago, she was already dealing with it. She had all of us helping her and supporting her. She looked at it as another new challenge — to go to school and be a mother, too.”

A week after Amber went missing, investigators still had no idea what had happened to her. They hadn’t had any luck locating her or her car, and they were worried that she might have suffered some kind of head injury that caused her to lose her memory. Although she had gone to the nurse’s office on campus to get checked out after her car accident, it was possible that her injuries had been more severe than initially thought and investigators were desperate to find her. Investigators believed it was possible that she was confused and had wandered off because of it.

Detectives said they had no reason to believe that foul play was involved in Amber’s disappearance, and her family held out hope that she had just needed to get away for a little while. Steve made a public plea for his daughter to contact someone so everyone would know that she was okay. “We can’t help her unless we know where she is…we’re hoping she’ll come forward and say, ‘Here I am.’”

A detective with the Green Bay Police Department said that they had received tips about a potential sighting of Amber in the Shawano area and were working to confirm it. He noted that Matthew, the father of Amber’s baby, worked at a construction site in Shawano and investigators planned to travel there to speak with him.

Steve was keeping an eye on his daughter’s bank account; he hoped that she would access it or use her credit card so he would be able to track her location. She had around $2,000 in the bank and had received a paycheck from her work-study job shortly before she went missing. “It would be enough money to sustain herself for a little while…if she was living out of her car, eating and filling up the gas tank, she’d have enough to survive.”

As the search for Amber entered its second week, local television stations and newspapers picked up the story, providing some much-needed publicity. Drivers for QuadGraphics volunteered to distribute copies of Amber’s missing poster at truck stops, toll booths, and rest stations in Wisconsin and Illinois. Steve said that the family was grateful for all the help. “It’s been pretty amazing.”

On September 30, 1998, Steve paid October’s rent on Amber’s Green Bay apartment. A few hours later, he learned that her car had been found near Lambeau Field. The car had been left in a parking lot near the Fifty-Yard Line Sports Bar; police were called to the scene around 6:00 pm Thursday. Employees said the car had been in their parking lot since at least Tuesday; when it was found, the keys were in the ignition and Amber’s purse and cell phone were inside the locked trunk.

Investigators were processing the car for evidence, and Steve was hopeful they would find something useful. “We really hope they pull some prints out of the car. I told them to check the seat. She always had that seat forward as far as it could go. If it was back, then she didn’t drive it to where it was found.” Detectives later confirmed that the driver’s seat was pushed back much further than normal, indicating that Amber might not have been the last person to drive her car. There were also several fingerprints found inside the car that belonged to an unidentified person.

Detectives determined that Amber’s car had been driven 600 miles after she went missing; they were never able to account for these unexplained miles.

A group of around 20 of Amber’s friends and family members went to the Green Bay Packers game on Monday, October 5, 1998, and handed out a total of 10,000 missing person flyers in the parking lot. Steve was hoping someone might have seen Amber and not realized she was missing. “There’s a lot of people like me, that when the news comes on, I turn something else on.”

During the early stages of the investigation, Steve said he didn’t think that investigators were focusing on Matthew, the father of Amber’s unborn child. “The detective has talked to him a couple of times and he doesn’t see anything there.” Investigators, however, noted that they had hit a roadblock because one of Amber’s friends was refusing to cooperate with them; they declined to identify this individual and it was unclear if they were talking about Matthew or not.

Green Bay Lt. Craig Van Schyndle told reporters, “We’ve talked to individuals who had been her boyfriend in the past, but I don’t know if any of them are her current boyfriend. One of these individuals will no longer give us voluntary information.” Lt. Van Schyndle said that the uncooperative person was “more than an acquaintance” but declined to provide any further details.

A month after Amber was last seen, her family hired a private detective to assist in the investigation. Steve, who had taken a leave of absence from his job to search for his daughter, admitted that he didn’t think there was any way Amber would be able to finish the semester at school even if she returned, and he planned to start cleaning out her apartment so he could have all of her things out by November 1.

Although detectives said they still hadn’t found any evidence of foul play, as weeks went by without any sign of the missing teenager they were growing increasingly concerned. They reiterated that one of the people they wanted to talk to was refusing to cooperate with them but wouldn’t say who this person was. Steve feared that foul play was involved but didn’t think Matthew had anything to do with it. “He’s not that smart.”

Amber’s parents held a press conference on November 6, 1998, at the Green Bay Police Department. They wanted to remind the public that Amber was still missing and they were still doing everything they could to find her. They noted that deer hunting season was going to start in two weeks, and they asked for hunters to be on the lookout for anything suspicious in the woods. Julie admitted, “The fact that there’s going to be deer hunters out there is good, because there aren’t enough police.”

In late November, Green Bay investigators decided to form a task force to look into Amber’s disappearance. They noted that they had spent a lot of time traveling outside of the jurisdiction to interview people, and they hoped that enlisting the help of other departments would benefit the investigation. Representatives from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Shawano County Sheriff’s Department, Everest Metropolitan Police Department, Portage County Sheriff’s Department, West Bend Police Department, the State Division of Criminal Investigation, and the FBI agreed to take part.

Lt. Van Schyndle said that detectives were growing more concerned about Amber with each passing day. “There are very few missing persons from here that we have no information on. We have enough concern that we developed a task force and we’ve been following up on every tip we’ve gotten.”

As 1998 drew to a close, Amber’s family worried that they would never know what had happened to the teenager. Green Bay Police Lt. Greg Urban admitted that the case was unlikely to have a happy ending. “Each day that passes reduces the possibility that she’s going to be found alive and well. Each day we don’t hear from her…don’t see a trace of her anywhere…we become more inclined to believe she met with foul play.

In January 1999, detectives said that the focus of their investigation was shifting from Green Bay to the Washington County and West Bend area. Detective Michael Zettel said that the department had checked into a number of potential sightings of Amber but had been unable to confirm any of them. “We cannot put Amber Wilde anywhere after September 23rd.” Her disappearance was believed to be the result of foul play.

According to Detective Zettel, “We do have specific people we want to talk to…there are suspects in the Washington County area, and we need to find out more about them.” Although he declined to name any potential suspects, reporters noted that one person Amber was associated with in the West Bend area was Matthew Schneider.

Amber should have been welcoming her first child into the world in mid-February 1999; her due date came and went without any progress on the case. Green Bay Police Lt. Allen Van Haute admitted that Amber’s disappearance was suspicious but said they still had no concrete evidence to prove she had been killed. He asked for hospitals in the area to keep an eye out for anyone matching Amber’s description.

In March 1999, Amber’s family announced that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to her recovery. Steve noted, “Somebody knows something, they’re just not coming forward with the information.” Amber had been missing for six months and her family was growing increasingly desperate to learn her fate. They hoped that offering a financial reward would finally compel someone to come forward and tell investigators what they knew.

Months went by and Amber’s fate remained a mystery. By September 1999, she had been missing for a year and detectives were still trying to determine exactly what had happened to her. Detective Zettel told reporters that he believed the case could still be solved. “We know that we have been lied to and we can prove that. There are people who basically have obstructed this investigation.” He admitted that he didn’t think Amber was still alive. “I think something terrible had happened to Amber. I don’t believe she’s coming back.”

Through their investigation, detectives learned that Amber had received a phone call at her apartment on the night she vanished; they believed she voluntarily left her apartment after taking this phone call. They refused to say who the call had been from but indicated that this person hadn’t been cooperative with detectives.

In April 2001, investigators drilled holes in the ground at a former construction site along State Highway 29 about 15 miles west of Shawano, Wisconsin. Cadaver dogs had alerted at the site, leading detectives to believe that human remains might be present. Although they didn’t find anything, they said they would continue to follow up on all leads as they struggled to determine what had happened to Amber.

As years went by, it became clear that detectives didn’t believe Matthew was telling them the truth about what had happened between him and Amber. He never fully cooperated with police; he denied having any kind of relationship with Amber and never provided an alibi for the night of her disappearance. In May 2016, detectives publicly named Matthew as a suspect in Amber’s presumed mur*der for the first time. Nick Petit, one of Matthew’s friends, was also named a person of interest.

In September 1998, Matthew had been working in road construction; one theory was that he killed Amber and buried her body underneath Highway 29, which was under construction at the time. Some of the investigators believed that Amber was killed because she refused to have an abortion as Matthew demanded.

At the time Amber went missing, Matthew was engaged to marry his high school sweetheart, Heidi. By 2020, the pair had been married for two decades and Heidi insisted that Matthew had nothing to do with Amber’s disappearance. “I’m not a dumb woman. I wouldn’t stay with someone if I thought he did [that]…I think it was easy for them at first to point a finger at Matt.” She believes he was unfairly targeted by investigators from the start.

Green Bay Detective Lee Kingston said in 2020 that Matthew’s failure to cooperate had hindered the investigation. “We’ve been able to eliminate everybody else…he won’t speak to us and answer our questions.”

Amber has been missing for almost 25 years now and her case is still considered active. In 2020, Brown County District Attorney David Lasee noted that not having a body can make it difficult but not impossible to file murder charges against someone. He wouldn’t rule out the possibility that charges might one day be filed. Amber’s family, however, is less concerned with punishing the killer; they just want to bring Amber home.

Amber Lynn Wilde was just 19 years old when she went missing from Green Bay, Wisconsin in September 1998. Amber was five months pregnant at the time of her disappearance; the father of her unborn child, Matthew Schneider, was engaged to another woman and had told Amber that he wanted her to get an abortion. Shortly before she went missing, Amber had called Matthew’s fiancée and told her about the pregnancy. Matthew had reportedly been enraged by this, making him an obvious suspect in Amber’s disappearance. Amber has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds. Amber wore eight small gold hoop earrings in each ear and she had a slight head injury when she went missing. If you have any information about Amber’s disappearance, please contact the Green Bay Police Department at 920–448–3221.

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