Alexis Dillard went out with some of his fraternity brothers on the evening of Thursday, December 10, 1992. The 22-year-old, who was a senior business major at the University of Kansas, went to several bars with his friends, ending his evening at Johnny’s Tavern in Lawrence, Kansas. His friends lost track of him around 12:30 am Friday and were unable to find him when they were ready to leave. They searched in and around the bar, but Alexis had disappeared. He was never seen again.
Alexis had left his car at the first bar he went to that night and gotten a ride to Johnny’s Tavern with one of his friends. His car was found in the same spot where he had parked it earlier in the night; it was clear that he never made it back to his vehicle. The temperature was well below freezing, and Alexis’s friends were concerned for his safety. They called the Lawrence Police Department and reported Alexis missing.
Investigators, along with many of Alexis’s friends as well as his parents, spent the weekend searching for the missing student but found no clues to his whereabouts. Johnny’s Tavern was located less than a block away from the Kansas River, and there were initial concerns that Alexis might have ended up in the water. Deputies from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and officers from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks assisted in searching the banks of the river, but found nothing to indicate that Alexis had drowned.
Alan Lowden, one of Alexis’s roommates, told detectives that Alexis was a strong swimmer who had swum across the Kansas River at least two times in the past, but only in the summertime. He was a mature and extremely responsible young man, and they didn’t believe that he would have been tempted to enter the water on a cold December night. Andy Martin, one of Alexis’s friends who assisted in the search, told reporters, “Alexis was extremely intelligent and he had a lot of common sense. He’d been in ROTC and he knows about hypothermia.”
Alexis’s mother, Felicie Dillard, didn’t think her son would have attempted to swim across the river in December. “Alexis had swum the river before, but it had been in the summer and it had been after seasons of drought. I mean, Alexis was an adventurous person, but he wasn’t foolish or foolhardy.”
People who were close to Alexis said they hoped he wouldn’t be found in the river. He said, “If he’s in the river, I don’t think he’ll be okay, and we want to find him okay.” He could have been taken by someone, picked up by someone, or hurt somewhere. The options are endless.
As the weekend came to a close, police admitted that they were getting more and more worried about Alexis. Says Lawrence Police Sgt. Mack Pryor to the press, “He was drinking, so we don’t know how drunk he might have been.” People going missing and not being seen or heard from for three days is not common. That’s why we are worried.
More than 2,000 missing person flyers had been put up around Lawrence and the nearby city of Eudora by Sunday night. Friends had also been collecting money for a cash reward if anyone could help find the missing student. A few tips about possible sightings came in, but none of them could be proven. As Sgt. Pryor himself said, “The information we have is at best vague, and that’s all we have.”
Alexis was well-liked at Kansas University. He worked at the student union and was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. From 1983 to 1988, he went to Wichita East High School and was president of his senior class. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas. Alexis had always gotten good grades in high school and played soccer on the varsity team. He worked part-time as an accountant to pay for the rest of his costs. He had won several scholarships that helped pay for his tuition at Kansas University. He was the last person anyone thought would disappear.
Investigators talked to more than 50 people in the days after Alexis went missing, but they couldn’t find any solid clues about where he was. On Monday, it rained a lot, which made it harder to look for him in person. His friends were upset that they weren’t making any progress. Doug Draper, one of Alexis’s roommates, told the press, “We’re trying to stay positive.” There are just no hints at all. There’s no proof that he’s in the water. There’s no proof that he left.
Lawrence police sergeant Mark Warren said it was unlikely that Alexis would have gone into the river on her own after leaving the bar. “It makes no sense for you to swim in that river.” Don’t mess with that river. There are currents that make no sense above and below the dam.
Detectives didn’t think Alexis would have voluntarily disappeared after talking to his family and friends. They said it would be very unusual for Alexis to leave the area without telling anyone. Douglas Draper said, “He was a great student and led the fraternity and other student groups on campus.” He has never just up and left without calling ahead.
A group from the Kansas National Guard joined the search for Alexis on Tuesday, December 15, 1992. They used a helicopter to look along the Kansas River and in the area around Johnny’s Tavern, but they couldn’t find any signs of Alexis.
Investigators got several leads from people who thought they had seen the young man after he left the bar early Friday morning as word about Alexis’s disappearance spread. At least two people who saw what happened said they saw someone who looked like Alexis walking across the Kansas River Bridge just before midnight. Detectives thought Alexis might have been going back to the bar where he left his car, but he never got that far.
Friends thought it was possible that Alexis had chosen to walk back to campus. This was something that some people in their group did when they didn’t want to wait for a ride. “Lawrence is such a small town, it’s never been a problem,” Doug Draper said. I’ve done that from a lot of bars.”
Someone else told the police that he picked up a hitchhiker in Lawrence and dropped him off west of Topeka. He thought the hitchhiker might have been Alexis. “This person sounded like he wanted to go to Colorado during the conversation with the driver,” Sgt. Warren said. It might be our missing person, but we can’t be sure.
The possible sightings gave Alexis’s friends more hope. They said they had planned to go skiing in Colorado over the winter break. That being said, they couldn’t believe Alexis would have tried to get there by himself; the responsible young man would never have hitched a ride. They begged Alexis through the news media to call someone and let them know he was okay if he could get to a phone.
Alexis hadn’t been seen in a week, and no one knew what happened to him. The Kansas River was searched by helicopter several times, but no clues were found. Investigators said they had no idea what happened to the missing student. A spokesman for the Kansas National Guard, Major Jay Moser, said, “We didn’t find anything, which is good because this person might still be alive somewhere.”
Reporters were told by Sgt. Warren that investigators were fed up with how slowly things were going but weren’t ready to give up on the case. “We’ll follow up on leads as they come in.” It still doesn’t look like there was any kind of foul play. We have a person who is missing. It doesn’t look like anything more than that should be made of it.
It was still possible for Alexis’s friends to have hope, but the fact that there were no leads in the case made them nervous. Doug Draper said, “The fact that the whole thing is still open is the hardest thing to deal with.” There are no hints. “There is nothing.”
The Kansas University campus became quieter as the holidays got closer. Everyone went home to be with their families over winter break, and the search for Alexis stopped. The few tips that the police got were still being looked into, but it became clear very quickly that the case was likely to go cold. When the students came back for the spring semester, Alexis’s disappearance was no longer very important to them.
Months passed, and there was no movement on the case. Soon, it was December again, and Alexis had been missing for an entire year. Lawrence Police Detective Kevin Harmon admitted that investigators still had no idea what had happened to the missing student. “This has been a very frustrating case for our law enforcement agency. There have been people who have been gone for long periods of time, but we normally come up with something…there was never any concrete information that Alexis went into the river. In fact, some of the evidence we have indicates that he might have walked across the bridge.” Despite a year of investigation, they had been unable to trace his movements after that point.
Alexis’s mother, Felicie Dillard, told reporters, “We don’t expect good news. Good news would be a miracle.” To mark the first anniversary of their son’s disappearance, his parents established an endowed stipend fund at Kansas University. It was a small way to make sure his name lived on at the university he had loved.
As hard as it was, Felicie told reporters that she had come to terms with the fact that she was never going to see her son again. “We know he’s not coming back. We’ve told ourselves that we’re going to get on to the legacy and talking about who Alexis was. Alexis would be the first person to say, ‘Okay, I’m gone, I’m not coming back, folks.
Alexis Dillard was just 22 years old when he went missing from Lawrence, Kansas in December 1992. He was a popular student at Kansas University, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta. Alexis has brown hair and brown eyes, and at the time of his disappearance, he was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed 155 pounds. If you have any information about Alexis, please contact the Lawrence Police Department at 705–830–7430.