A popular theater student disappears from a party and is later found dead.
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.
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:
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:
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:
By about 2:30 AM, Karen had gone home, leaving Katie to keep Wil from getting into trouble:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Jerry believed the car might hold the most important clues to Wil’s disappearance. When the police released the car, he discovered disturbing details:
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:
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.