Erin Pospisil was in a great mood when she left to go to her friend Brit’s house on the evening of Sunday, June 3, 2001. It was the first weekend of summer vacation, and the 15-year-old was thrilled that she wouldn’t have to think about school for a while. She left her Cedar Rapids, Iowa home around 8:45 pm with Curtis Padgett, a friend of her older brother who had agreed to give her a ride over to Brit’s home. When she arrived, however, no one was home. As Erin started to get back into Curtis’s truck, another vehicle pulled up to the curb in front of Brit’s house. Erin spoke briefly with the car’s occupants, then told Curtis that she was going to get a ride home with them. She climbed into the backseat of the car, but she never made it home and she was never seen again.
Erin lived with her father, Jim, and stepmother, Carolyn, as well as her three siblings. Since she had told her stepmother that she planned to spend the night at Brit’s house, Carolyn wasn’t concerned when Erin didn’t return home that night. When she didn’t see her stepdaughter at all on Monday, however, she called Brit’s house looking for her. Brit told her that Erin had never shown up and she hadn’t spoken to her since early Sunday evening.
Brit had briefly left her home to get some snacks in anticipation of her sleepover with Erin; this was around the same time that Erin had gotten a ride over. The two friends had missed each other by only a few minutes; Brit hadn’t even realized that Erin had stopped by. Carolyn called Curtis next to see if he knew anything about Erin’s whereabouts.
Curtis told Carolyn that Erin had gotten into the back of a black Chevrolet Cavalier that had dark-tinted windows. He had been unable to see who was driving the car, but it had been clear from Erin’s reaction that she knew the car’s occupants. Carolyn started calling all of her daughter’s friends, but none of them were able to think of anyone who drove a car matching the description provided by Curtis.
Members of Erin’s family spent the rest of the night searching their Cedar Rapids neighborhood for any sign of the missing teenager, but they found no clues to her whereabouts. Erin had relatives in the tiny city of Nevada, Iowa, located about 90 minutes west of Cedar Rapids. There was some speculation that she might have traveled there to visit them, but a few phone calls confirmed that no one there had spoken to Erin.
Erin’s parents wanted to believe that the teen had simply taken off with some friends to enjoy the first days of her summer vacation, but it was completely out of character for Erin to go anywhere without calling home. On Wednesday, Carolyn called the Cedar Rapids Police Department and reported her stepdaughter missing.
Although Erin’s family members were clearly distraught by her disappearance, police classified her as a runaway and initially refused to help look for her. They told Carolyn that since Erin had willingly gotten into the Chevy Cavalier, there was nothing they could do. They tried to assure the family that most juvenile runaways return home after a short period of time, but Erin’s relatives were not comforted. They launched their own intense search for Erin.
The family printed thousands of missing person flyers and posters and started canvassing Cedar Rapids. They went door-to-door, speaking with residents and distributing flyers. They hung posters in the windows of downtown businesses and bus stops. They plastered them on telephone poles and bulletin boards across the city. A few tips about potential sightings of Erin trickled in, but none of them led to the missing teen.
Three weeks after Erin was last seen, there had still been no word from her. Those who knew her didn’t believe she was a runaway; she hadn’t taken any of her belongings with her and didn’t have the means to survive on the street. Carolyn pointed out that Erin even left her prized day planner behind; it was an item she was seldom seen without. “Erin’s a very social kid. It’s not like her. She has friends she calls every single day, and they haven’t heard from her…we hope she ran away. Isn’t that bad? But it’s better than the alternative.”
By the middle of August, Carolyn was certain that Erin, either voluntarily or against her will, had been taken out of the area. “If she was in Cedar Rapids, we would know. There’s no way a kid goes 10 weeks without talking to somebody.” Several of Erin’s friends from Metro High School had friends or relatives in Chicago, so the family decided to expand their search into that area.
The holidays came and went without any word from Erin. Her younger sister, Amber, noted, “I wanted to get her presents, just in case she came back. Instead, we hung up her stocking.” The longer Erin was gone, the harder it was for her siblings to deal with the situation. Like many brothers and sisters, the Pospisil kids had fought with each other, but they missed Erin intensely and just wanted her to come home.
While police still insisted that Erin was a runaway, her family members couldn’t believe that she would willingly stay away from home for so long. In January, Carolyn noted, “It’s been over seven months. The chances that this is a runaway situation are less and less…we literally have not heard anything at all.”
Months turned into years, and still there was no sign of Erin. Two years after her disappearance, her family moved away from Cedar Rapids, but they returned to the area often to distribute missing person flyers and make sure people didn’t forget that Erin had never been found. In 2004, Carolyn admitted, “Being gone as long as she has been, it’s frustrating for us. Most people don’t know that she’s still missing.”
Years after she was last seen, police still listed Erin as a runaway, but her family was certain that she had been taken against her will. They knew there was no way Erin would have gone so long without contacting at least one of her friends or relatives to let them know that she was okay.
Erin would have celebrated her 20th birthday in 2006, and Carolyn wanted to believe that she was still alive somewhere. “I always have hope that she’s still alive and that we’ll be able to bring her home.” It was hard to stay positive, however, as there had never been any solid leads in Erin’s disappearance. Although investigators with the Cedar Rapids Police Department had followed up on a few tips over the years, they were never able to confirm any sightings of Erin. Her trail went cold immediately after she got into the black Cavalier.
Erin’s friends and relatives gathered in Cedar Rapids to mark the sixth anniversary of her disappearance in 2007. They released a total of 150 balloons, each one containing a picture of Erin, as they prayed for her safe return. Carolyn admitted that the family was frustrated by the lack of progress on the case. “Not only is Erin still missing six years later, we are no closer to learning what really happened to her than we were on that Sunday night six years ago.”
Erin’s loved ones returned to Cedar Rapids each year on the anniversary of her disappearance. Carolyn told reporters, “It is our hope that by continuing to hold events in her honor that someone will remember something and come forward with that all-important lead that will help us bring Erin home.”
By 2021, Erin had been missing for two decades. Her father, Jim, stated, “She’s always in the back of our minds, thinking there’s something we might have missed.” He and Carolyn continued to do everything they could to make sure the public didn’t forget about Erin, holding yearly vigils and documenting the facts of her disappearance on a website. They were certain that there were people in Cedar Rapids who knew exactly what had happened to Erin on the night she went missing, and they were determined to get answers.
Since Erin had been considered a runaway from the start, police didn’t conduct any type of investigation when she first went missing. They simply took Curtis’s word that Erin had gotten into the backseat of a Cavalier and driven off. Had they taken her disappearance seriously, they would have known immediately that none of the neighbors recalled seeing either a black Cavalier or Curtis’s truck in the neighborhood that night. Was it possible that Curtis had been lying about that night all along?
In 2016, a man who had attended high school with Curtis contacted the Iowa Cold Cases website and told them that Curtis had been bullied in school and retaliated by becoming a bully himself. The man, identified on the website only as Adam S., said that Curtis would “absolutely explode with anger if teachers or other students upset him.” He described his former classmate as “a quiet person that would snap in an instant.”
In March 2023, Curtis was arrested and charged with a cold case mu*rder from 2007. He is accused of beating and fatally stabbing his neighbor, 64-year-old Dennis First, in an altercation that took place in May 2007. At the time of his arrest, police finally admitted that he was also a person of interest in Erin’s disappearance. They have not commented on whether or not they believe Erin is dead or alive.
Erin Kay Pospisil was just 15 years old when she went missing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa in June 2001. She was a social teenager who had a lot of friends and loved spending time with them. She had dreams of becoming a singer, an actress, and a veterinarian — all by the time she was 23 years old. Although police initially classified her as a runaway, it now appears that foul play was involved in her disappearance; the last person to see her alive was Curtis Padgett, now accused of mur*der in an unrelated case. Erin has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. She was last seen wearing beige short overalls and a light-colored tank top. If you have any information about Erin, please contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department at 319–286–5400.