On the afternoon of July 24th, 1997, Amy Wroe Bechtel, 24, stopped by a photo store in Lander as she ran errands around town. Wearing black running shorts, Bechtel, a competitive long-distance runner, was believed to be going to the Shoshone National Forest to practice the course of a 10k run she’d be competing in later that year.
Amy was never seen again.
Steve Bechtel, Amy’s husband of one year, called the authorities when she failed to come home that night. At 1:00 am the next morning, her car was discovered parked at Burnt Gulch in Lander. No sign of Amy has ever been found, save for a Timex Iron Man digital watch that may have belonged to her, discovered in 2003.
The case has appeared on the television series, Unsolved Mysteries, as well as the podcast The Frozen Truth. Despite the FBI requesting satellite photos from NASA on the day of Bechtel’s disappearance and an extensive search of the surrounding area- including searching mines and lakes in the Lander area, no one knows what happened to Amy Wroe Bechtel.
There are three prevailing theories regarding her disappearance. The first, formulated by the local authorities, postulated that Amy may have fallen victim to a bear, mountain lion, or the elements while on her run.
After discovering journals belonging to Amy’s husband Steve that detailed violence towards women and specifically, Amy, investigators turned suspicion towards him. Steve Bechtel, a current business owner and world-renounced rock climber, was able to provide the alibi that he and friends had been rock climbing at the time of Amy’s disappearance.
Finally, the most compelling theory says that Amy might have been a victim of the infamous Great Basin Serial Killer, Dale Wayne Eaton. Eaton’s brother originally contacted authorities with information that Dale might have been involved, but the police ignored the lead. Eaton had been camping in the Burnt Gulch area at the time of Bechtel’s disappearance, the same area where her car was later recovered.
Eaton was arrested 14 years after the abduction and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell in 1988, when DNA evidence linked him to the cold case. There was a pattern of several murders following similar circumstances in the Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado area during the time, and some investigators believe Eaton could have been captured earlier, had authorities followed the lead from his brother.
Eaton remains silent about both cases. He is currently the only inmate on Wyoming’s death row after his conviction in 2004. The same year, Steve Bechtel had his wife declared legally dead, despite a body not being recovered. If you have any information that may lead to information regarding Amy Wroe Bechtel, please contact the Lander Police Department.