A popular theater student disappears from a party and is later found dead.

Black and white headshot of William Hendrick

William Hendrick

In the backseat of a car, a man finds William's portfolio and keys

His portfolio and keys were found

CASE DETAILS

The University of Idaho sits in the picturesque rural setting of Moscow, Idaho. Little happens out of the ordinary here, so when a local university student suddenly disappeared, the town was in shock. On an early January morning in 1999, Wil Hendrick mysteriously vanished without a trace.

Investigators looking into the back seat of Hendrick's car

Was Wil picked up by a trucker?

At 25, Wil Hedrick seemed very happy about where he was headed. He was well-liked in the theater department and had a good job on campus. Some believed his disappearance was related to the fact that he was openly gay. But all that was known was that he disappeared after a college party. That evening began with hard work. Wil and his partner of five years, Jerry Schutz, were remodeling their kitchen:

“Wil decided he wanted to go to Katie’s party. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to go to sleep. And at about midnight, he said, ‘OK, I’m going to go and I’ll be home in a few hours.’”

Car parked outside of a house next to a mobile home

Finding the car only raised more questions

When Wil arrived at his friend Katie Payne’s house, two parties were in full swing. On the third floor there were mostly former athletes from the local high school. According to Katie, her party on the second floor was for her friends from the college theater department:

“Because of the two different worlds that were kind of colliding that night, my concern was that there could be a possibility for some sort of confrontation since Wil has no problem being open with how he is and with every opinion.”

Throughout the night, Wil was concerned about another friend, Karen. Karen was having trouble with her boyfriend, a local resident who was attending the third-floor party. According to Wil’s friend, Kathy Sprague, Wil would often become belligerent if he had too much too drink:

“If somebody yelled a slur at him, he’d respond. He takes the bait.”

By about 2:30 AM, Karen had gone home, leaving Katie to keep Wil from getting into trouble:

“And then I thought I want to make sure that Karen got home OK, so I called her house, found out that she was OK, found out she was asleep, and I walked back outside on to the porch, and Wil was gone.”

Katie noticed Wil’s car was still parked out front and assumed he had gone upstairs. By the next morning, the car was gone. Wil’s partner, Jerry, was immediately concerned when Wil didn’t come home:

“It was about 11:30, 12:00 when I called Katie’s, and I said, ‘Can you wake Wil up and send him home? We’ve got some stuff to do today.’ And she said, ‘Well, he’s not here. He didn’t stay here last night.’ And I started calling around to all the theater students, trying to find out if he’d gone to somebody else’s house, continued drinking, passed out on their couch. And nobody had seen him.”

Smiling William leaning back in a chair with a black hair on

Police believe Wil was murdered

When Wil hadn’t shown up by Monday morning, nearly 36 hours after the party, his friends combed the city searching for him. A big break came when they found his car parked on a downtown street. Jerry examined the car and was surprised to find it was unlocked and that Wil had left his portfolio inside:

“That portfolio carried all of Wil’s artwork—his drawings, his make-up sketches. Everything that was important to him was in that portfolio.”

On the dashboard were his work keys from the university. According to Dan Weaver, Chief of the Moscow Police Department, Wil’s car was thoroughly searched for any evidence that may have suggested foul play:

“We did go through the car with a fine-tooth comb with crime lab folks. There wasn’tt any blood or any hair samples that weren’t Wil’s. There wasn’t anything in there that would indicate that any kind of foul play occurred, at least in the car.”

Finding the car only raised more questions about Wil’s disappearance. Wil’s friend, Kathy Sprauge, thought it was possible that Wil left voluntarily to start a new life:

“Wil had a lot of trepidation about school, and I think he shared that with me because we had that in common. Sometimes you just get overwhelmed, and his comment was, ‘I’d like to tour the country. I’d just like to take off someday.’ I was like, ‘Wow. And not tell anyone?’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘Not even your parents? You know, what about your commitments?’ He’s like, ‘No, I’d just go.’”

But Katie Payne was not as optimistic. She believed that Wil’s sudden disappearance was somehow related to the events that took place in her apartment building the night of her party:

“My hypothesis, I guess you should say, is that something happened, and it got out of control. And it probably didn’t mean to happen, but then whatever happened got covered up simply because… it became so huge.”

Jerry believed the car might hold the most important clues to Wil’s disappearance. When the police released the car, he discovered disturbing details:

“I found out that there was mud caked on the inside wheel wells of the car. So, there was no reason for mud to be caked on the inside of the wheel wells. And then the other odd thing was that somebody had moved the seat all the way to its far back position, indicating to me that a large person may have been the last person to drive Wil’s car.”

Desperate for answers, Jerry pursued a theory that someone they both knew might have crossed Wil’s path early that January morning. Two months prior to Wil’s disappearance, Jerry had fired a van driver who worked for his shuttle service. According to Jerry, the man became angry and used a sexual slur:

“He subsequently went to work for a long-haul trucking outfit. And on the morning of Wil’s disappearance at approximately 4:30, 5:00 in the morning, he checked out a refrigerated truck from the dispatch in Lewiston, 30 miles south of here. There is a coincidence there in that the last time Wil was seen was about the time this driver would have been going to Lewiston.”

Update:

More than two years after Wil disappeared, two hunters found his skull and jaw bone in a rural area outside Moscow, Idaho. No other remains were found. The cause of death could not be determined, but police believe Wil was murdered. They also suspect that Wil knew his attacker.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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16 Comments

  1. Monica

    Just finished watching I believe the friend knew he went upstairs got into a fight and was hurt to cover it up they all got together and hid his body and nobody was found to be involved because they made sure they had matching stories

    Reply

  2. Julia

    Hi everyone, I think the truck driver did it.

    Reply

  3. Chaz

    The lesbian looking friend, she looks like and acts like she is hiding something.

    Reply

  4. Jan Ljungström

    Yes, and they took polygraph tests.

    Reply

  5. thinkingoutloud

    someone at that party knows what happened and they are too scared to tell. How could 2 very close friends of Wil’s come up with 2 different scenarios on what happened to him based on what they knew about him? why would one friend believe he randomly took off to start a new life and another say something terrible happened? these people know but they do not want to get involved.

    Reply

  6. Rich

    Katie’s comments about Wil’s disappearance are pretty bizarre

    Reply

    • Rae

      Kathy did it.
      She offered TWO contradictory explanations for what happened to him: The upstairs party-goers, AND the “running away” theory. She is the ONLY source of the “running away” theory. Only a killer would suggest that someone ran away, in order to put suspicion off of them.

      Reply

  7. Carl

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Moscow PD failed to question everybody who was at that party. Good chance something got out of hand that night and resulted in murder.

    Reply

    • Rae

      Kathy did it. There is already the leading the leading theory that he was killed by someone he knew. But Kathy offered TWO contradictory explanations for what happened to him: The upstairs party-goers, AND the “running away” theory, both of which were confirmed to be false. She is the ONLY source of the “running away” theory. Only a killer would suggest that someone ran away, in order to put suspicion off of them.

      Reply

  8. Samanatha Adair

    I was with will the night he was killed, I begged and begged the bar tender to make him stay I begged I had a bad feeling I remember this tall well built guy that was with him I remember him frowning at me because I was begging the bar tender then I see the flyers of him missing I couldn’t believe it his uncle was sitting on the other stool it’s been in my heart for years so sad

    Reply

  9. Chanita

    He’s A Handsome Young Man Why Was He Murdered? I Think He Was Murdered By Someone He knew That’s Terrible William God Bless U My Friend God Knows Who Your Killers Are And They Will Be Brought to Justice For U! And To The Family of William I Am Terribly Sorry For Your Lost Just Stay Strong! Love U! From Your Friend In Jesus Christ Chanita Jackson!

    Reply

  10. Michael

    His boyfriend did it

    Reply

  11. Kay

    Have those guys on the third floor ever been questioned??

    Reply

    • Steve

      I’m thinking the police did a shotty job on the investigation doubt they questioned everyone up stairs the jocks probably didn’t give up all the names that were there
      And is bet they knew something
      They missed something I bet

      Reply

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