Steven was born on November 1, 1979, into a large devout LDS family. The family home is in Bountiful, UT, in northern Utah. His parents are Deanne and Rolf Koecher and he has four siblings.
Steven was a college graduate and aspired to a career in public relations and communications. He played guitar and tried his hand at writing music. He served a mission in Brazil, as had his father before him. He enjoyed genealogy and often took his parents on cemetery tours to show them his discoveries. An Eagle scout, Steven was a genuinely good person and tended to think the best of people.
From September 2003 through May 2004, Steven worked as an intern at the governor’s office in Salt Lake City. Before moving to St. George, he had worked as a stringer for the Davis County Clipper newspaper in Bountiful, UT, where his father was the editor. Steven sometimes published his stories as Steven Thell (his middle name) to distance himself from his father’s position at the newspaper. In March 2007, he took a job working for the online version of the Salt Lake City Tribune, but was laid off in July 2008.
After losing his job at the Salt Lake City Tribune, Steven took a sales job with MatchBin.com in Salt Lake City in October 2008. He moved to St. George, UT, in March 2009 to get away from the northern Utah winters while continuing to work for MatchBin.com. He was let go from his job in April 2009 because the company felt he was not working out as a sales rep. In December 2009, Steven found a job working part-time for Travis Window and Blind Cleaning Company, distributing flyers. Also during the month of December, Steven was subcontracting to put up Christmas decorations to earn extra money.
After his move to St. George, Steven did not having much luck finding a full-time job. His family said he was depressed and having financial problems, and that he refused an offer of financial assistance from his father to help him with his rent just days before he vanished. Steven was also feeling pressured to live up to his family's expectations for a successful career, marriage, and family of his own, as his siblings and cousins had all done. On December 9, a few days before arriving in the Las Vegas area, Steven drove 500 miles to Ruby Valley, NV, to visit the family of a girl he had briefly dated. The visit was unannounced and the young woman was not even home. Steven visited with her parents, John and Kathy Neff, and stayed for lunch, then returned to St. George, making stops at Wendover, NV, Springville, UT, and Nephi, UT en route. He drove 1,200 miles in three days without any specific purpose. It appears to be random or stress-induced behavior. His behavior and mental state prior to his disappearance could have been leading up to amnesia (amnesia is rare in disappearances, but Steven had some of the classic behaviors).
Steven contacted both of his parents on December 10, sending his father a text message and speaking with his mother. They talked about the holidays, and Steven told her that he expected to arrive in Bountiful to spend Christmas with the family on December 23. That was the last time his parents heard from him.
On December 11, Steven assisted two children who were locked out of their St. George home. Steven was seen leaving his residence on December 12, 2009. He stopped for gas in Mesquite, NV, about 40 miles away from St. George. No one knows why he was in Mesquite in the first place. He bought Christmas presents for his brother’s children on the same day at the K-Mart in St. George – this was his last financial transaction according to bank records. He was seen arriving home in St. George at 10 p.m. by a neighbor; the same neighbor saw him leave about a half hour later at 10:30 p.m.
He spoke with several men from his church the next day via cell phone and told them he was in Las Vegas, but did not state why he was there. One of his friends called about a church meeting, and Steven offered to return to St. George. The friend told him not to worry about it. No one spoke to Steven after that call.
On December 14, Steven’s car, a white 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier, was found abandoned in the 2600 block of Savannah Spring Avenue, a cul-de-sac, in Henderson, NV. The area is part of an upscale retirement community known as Sun City Anthem. Video footage from two security cameras shows Steven parking the car on December 13 and then walking away with a firm step as though he had a specific destination in mind. Approximately 6 minutes elapses from the time Steven's white car is first seen at 11:54 a.m., until he walks past the first security camera at exactly 12 noon. The second video camera picks up Steven's car in the background at 11:54 a.m., and then the image of Steven walking at about 25 seconds after 12 noon. So he waited in his car for six minutes before getting out. It seems pretty obvious that he had an appointment with someone for 12 noon and wisely arrived a few minutes early. We will never know what Steven did while he waited - it's a shame he didn't make a couple of cell phone calls while he sat in the car.
The surveillance footage shows Steven walking down the sidewalk, turning left, then crossing the street, and moving out of sight. There is nothing unsure or hesitant about his demeanor. He is dressed casually in sneakers and jeans, certainly not business attire that would be appropriate for a job interview. Steven was carrying a folder, which could have contained resumes or flyers or sales contracts for the company that he worked for. Possibly he had been contacted about putting up Christmas decorations for one of the houses in the area. He appears to know exactly where he is going, as he is not approaching any of the houses to leave a flyer or pausing to look for a house number. The two sections of video footage may be viewed on YouTube.
Steven’s shaving kit, clothing, pillow, and blanket were found in the car, and it appeared he had been sleeping in his car while driving around during the days before he disappeared. The car also contained wrapped Christmas presents that he had purchased a few days earlier. His cell phone, wallet and driver’s license were missing. He had left his laptop computer and cell phone charger at home, indicating that he did not intend to be gone from home longer than a day or two.
About five hours after Steven was seen on the surveillance video, his cell phone signal was picked up several miles north of where his car was found. Two hours later, his cell phone signal was picked up again, this time in Whitney Ranch, a Henderson subdivision. At 6 a.m. on December 14, the day after Steve was last seen, someone used the phone to check for voice mail messages at a third location. The signal remained in that location for two days, and then was lost, probably because the charge on the phone ran down.
Three days after his car was found abandoned, Steven’s parents were contacted by the Henderson parking police. Steven’s father and brothers drove to Nevada to look for Steven just hours after they were notified, searching the Henderson and Las Vegas areas, posting flyers, and checking with hospitals, restaurants and even the Clark County jail and morgue. They were baffled by the car’s location, since the area was not easy to find and off the beaten path for the casual visitor. The car started and had a half tank of gas, so car trouble was ruled out. Since he was not seen leaving the area, possibly Steven was meeting someone there and got into a car and drove off with this person.
Extensive searches were conducted near the last place Steven was seen and in other areas near Las Vegas. No evidence turned up. The case remains open and police are investigating any leads or tips. Obvious places to search would include the area where Steven's car was found, and the locations where his cell phone signal was detected after he was seen on the surveillance footage. Also, where was Steven when he talked to the members of his church earlier in the day? His cell phone records might give a clue to where he spent the night. If he left St. George at 10:30 p.m., he should have arrived in the Las Vegas area shortly after midnight.
The Koecher family believes Steven went to Nevada to follow up a job lead. Although he did not specify to his friends why he was there, he made no secret of the fact that he was in Las Vegas. His disappearance does not appear to be intentional or planned, since he took no money and his passport was found in his apartment, as well as his computer and phone charger. His bank account has not been touched since he vanished, and his cell phone has not been used. If Steven did disappear voluntarily, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Although his random driving in the days prior to his disappearance appears erratic and secretive, his family says he was just trying to stay busy.
There has been speculation that Steven was gay and could not reconcile his sexual orientation with his LDS beliefs, or that he left to start a new life, or that he had met a guy online. It IS odd that Steven was 30 years old, a devout LDS, and not married. He was a good looking guy, and marriage at a young age is encouraged in the Mormon church. Even his mother made a remark about how he just needed to find the right girl. There are a lot of guys out there who are straight, have never married, and just don't know how to connect with women (I have two brothers-in-law who fall into this category). They feel lonely and left out at family gatherings. So while it's unusual that Steven was 30 and not married, it doesn't mean he was gay.
Initially, an attempt was made to tie Steven’s disappearance to the disappearance of a Utah woman named Susan Powell who vanished the same week that Steven did, but no connection was made since Steven and Susan did not know each other. Susan’s disappearance received far more media attention than Steven’s did. Susan’s father-in-law was obsessed with her and it is possible he had something to do with her disappearance. Her husband Josh had a suspicious alibi and is suspected of involvement, but he died in a fire in February 2012.
A Henderson man reported to police that he spoke to Steven twice in the parking lot of the Best Buy store in Henderson on Super Bowl Sunday 2010, over a month after Steven was last seen. The man’s wife and another person were present and agreed that they were positive that it was Steven. When he went to the Henderson police to report the sighting, the detective assigned to the case treated the information with suspicion, particularly regarding the date, even though the man had a date-stamped receipt from the store. When the man related the conversation to Steven’s parents, they said it sounded exactly like Steven would have acted.
Workers at the International House of Pancakes in Flamingo also reported seeing Steven several times. They believed he was homeless and disoriented. Although his family staked out the restaurant for several days, they did not see Steven there. Bus riders in the Las Vegas metro area reported seeing Steven riding buses there, but the sightings were never verified.
It seems like Steven's computer should have provided more clues. Nowadays, people rarely do things like travel without leaving some sort of trail on their computers: Google searches, websites, blogs, travel reviews, etc. If Steven was short on cash and planned to sleep in his car, it seems like he would have checked out inexpensive restaurants and places to wash up in the morning (especially if he was planning to keep an appointment about work). You can plan to eat breakfast at McDonald's but if you don't find out where one is located, you may not be able to follow through with that plan.
Steven’s car was not checked for DNA and other evidence, so it is unknown if anyone was with him during the days he was driving around or when he was in Nevada. The Koecher family had a Salt Lake City police narcotics dog sniff over Steven’s vehicle, with no hits for drugs. They hired a private investigator to canvass the residents in the Henderson neighborhood. Other than the security footage, no one admits to seeing Steven. A real estate agent who was driving a white SUV in the area that day does not remember seeing Steven (her vehicle appears on the surveillance tapes).
Steven’s mother Deanne thinks he may gave committed suicide based on his mental state, but other family members disagree and believe he was the victim of foul play. They do not believe that Steven disappeared by choice and that he would have contacted them by now, even if he had decided to embark on a new lifestyle. He was particularly close to his younger brother Dallin. Rolf Koecher passed away suddenly in February 2011, without ever learning what had happened to his son. Every December, Steven’s family and friends gather for a tree-lighting ceremony to mark the date of his disappearance. For them, not knowing is the worst thing. The police do not know what to think about Steven's disappearance: there is no evidence of foul play, but they have no evidence or explanation about what happened to Steven or where he is.
Steven Thell Koecher was 30 years old at the time of his disappearance; today he is 32 years old. He is 5’11” tall, of average build weighing around 180 lbs. Steven is Caucasian and has blond hair and blue eyes. He has a surgical scar behind each ear. At the time he vanished, Steven was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans or Dockers pants, and white sneakers. He is a clean-cut young man with no criminal or drug-related history.
Anyone having information about Steven should contact the Henderson police at 702/267-5000 or the St. George police at 435/627-4319.