Kortne Stouffer5’8″ tall115 lbs.Green eyesLong blond hairAnyone with information regarding Kortne?s disappearance is urged to call 717?272?2054
A $100,000 reward awaits the first person with a conscience who is willing to come forward and tell investigators what happened to Palmyra, Pennsylvania, resident, Kortne Stouffer, seven years ago in July.
On July 29, 2012, Stouffer?s family waited for Kortne to show up at the Lebanon County Fair for a night of fun and food. The fun-loving flower child never arrived.
I chose this particular story as my first, as it ? whatever ?it? is ? occurred close to home. I was aware of Kortne?s disappearance, but became much more familiar with the story after moving to Lebanon County, where Palmyra is located.
Four or five years ago, I walked into the local K-Mart one evening and decided to make a pit stop at the lady?s restroom before I shopped. There was a little girl and an older woman talking over by the sinks, and I could hear a woman talking on her cellphone in one of the bathroom stalls.
The older woman grabbed me by the elbow and said, ?The woman in that stall says she is a witness in the Kortne Stouffer case, and someone else involved in the case drove by in the parking lot and threatened her. She?s calling the police, and I?m watching her daughter.?
The woman looked positively terrified. I said I would stay with her until the police arrived, which they did only a few minutes later. I was begging God to keep us safe among the pee-covered toilet seats and reams of damp paper towels littering the filthy floor. (It was K-Mart, after all.)
It is the first, and hopefully last, case I?ve ever had a brush with. Hardly enough to change the course of the investigation, but enough to intrigue me.
So far, no one has been man enough (or woman enough) to come clean about what caused Kortne to seemingly disappear off the planet, but it?s believed that something awful happened to the 21-year-old. I never would have guessed that a K-Mart bathroom trip would be what piqued my interest in this sad, open-ended tale.
According to BringKortneHome.com, both family and law enforcement believe Kortne was abducted from her home sometime on July 29. The last time the young woman was seen alive by friends or family was around 3:45 a.m. that morning. Prior to that, she was seen at the Hardware Bar, located on Second Street in downtown Harrisburg.
A Chaotic Night and Morning
It?s common in the early days and weeks of an investigation for tips to flood law enforcement officials and family. Most people genuinely want to help, and the public starts to reexamine minor observations, and conversations or remarks they overheard, thinking there might be some connection. The intentions are good, but since the vast majority of these tips lead nowhere, it also sends the family and investigators into a bit of a tailspin, as they sort out which ones hold potential and which ones donot.
By August 2012, law enforcement had gathered enough reliable evidence to execute a number of search warrants, according to Pennlive.com, but none of them led to an arrest, or to Kortne?s location.
Kortne?s own father, Scott Stouffer, uncovered information which suggests that three separate sets of circumstances may have led to his daughter?s disappearance.
At the time of her disappearance, Kortne was living with her boyfriend, who was on house arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol. Now, if you know anything about being on house arrest, you know that the individual must wear an ankle monitor. Being on house arrest isn?t exactly something you can hide, unless you physically stay in your home the entire time.
Also, people who are on house arrest have to report to a probation officer. If your neighbor gets angry with you for some reason and catches you in the act of doing something you?re not supposed to be doing ? like drinking, or doing drugs ? a simple call to your PO can land you right back in jail, and fast.
That very scenario may have played a role in what happened to Kortne.
Scott explained to Pennlive that mere hours before Kortne went missing, on July 28, his daughter and her boyfriend threw a ?gathering? at their apartment that included beer.
No judgement, but I was 21 once, and I?ve had young neighbors. It?s doubtful they were quietly sipping Stella Artois and playing Go Fish.
Shortly thereafter, Kortne?s boyfriend got a visit from his PO and was arrested. (He would go on to spend approximately a week in prison.)
How did his PO know there was beer at this little soiree? Either one of the attendees reported it, or one of the neighbors did. Unless one of the couple?s friends had a beef with Kortne or her boyfriend, it?s more likely one of the neighbors dialed the cops during or after the get-together and blew the whistle.
This assumption, whether true or untrue, not only angered Kortne, but also terrified her, since she assumed the arrest would lead to a long prison sentence for her partner.
Frustrated and desperate to clear her mind, Kortne went out with friends that night, the 28th, to various hot spots in Harrisburg, including the Hardware Bar.
The morning of the 29th, Kortne spotted some of her neighbors in a first-floor apartment and, believing that they had called the police on her boyfriend, decided to angrily confront them.
Janice Riemenschneider and Rich Sheetz, who lived in the apartment below Kortne, reported seeing Kortne kick and swing at Todd Saksek, who lives in the other half of the duplex. A friend of Kortne?s got between the feuding neighbors, but also made hostile remarks, Pennlive reported. He would end up spending the night at Kortne?s apartment.
The argument led police to visit the duplex, arriving around 3 a.m. and staying close to an hour, until everyone had returned to their apartments. But approximately 30 minutes later, the police showed up yet again after receiving a call from Saksek, who said that Kortne had stomped on her apartment floor in anger.
When police knocked on the doors of both Kortne and Saksek, no one answered. According to Saksek, he went to bed after he heard Kortne stomping above him and, he assumed, Kortne herself also hit the sack.
Jump ahead to about 7 a.m. Kortne?s overnight visitor awoke to find that Kortne was not there and assumed she was sleeping in another room. He left the apartment and purchased food and a beverage at a local mini-mart, and texted Kortne that he couldn?t find her when he awoke, and that he would see her later.
That friend submitted to a polygraph, passed, and was ruled out as a suspect. That doesn?t mean he absolutely didn?t do something, it just means he?s not at the top of the police?s suspect list.
Kortne was long gone. She left her car, her wallet, her cellphone (which was charging), and two dogs, only one of which belonged to her (the other belonged to her friend), behind.
But did the fight between neighbors result in a kidnapping and murder? Not so fast, says dad Scott, who later found out that Kortne had argued with a man and his girlfriend at a bar she visited the night before, and was subsequently thrown out of the establishment. There was also a rumor that another man was angry with Kortne for owing him money.
Is it possible that the couple Kortne argued with followed her home in a fit of rage and waited for the opportunity to snatch her? Did the man Kortne allegedly owed money to come to collect on the debt?
2014 Brings a New Lead
In March 2014, friends and family of Kortne Stouffer were briefly excited about a new lead.
A young woman contacted Scott saying she knew what happened to his daughter. She claimed that Kortne was murdered, rolled up in a carpet, and dumped in Memorial Lake, nestled in Memorial State Park, adjacent to the Fort Indiantown Gap military installation. (Was this the witness in the K-Mart bathroom?)
A thorough search of the lake turned up empty, but Scott said at the time that the woman?s timeline of what happened matched the timeline of Kortne?s disappearance, and she accurately listed the people that Kortne was with the night before she disappeared. Moreover, her explanation of what happened seemed to align with a plausible motive, and she knew details that only investigators and the Stouffer family were privy to.
Unfortunately, the lead brought investigators no closer to finding Kortne.
It?s also important to note that, according to police, the woman who came forth with this information changed her story three times, though she denies that?s true.
Additionally, while the lake was searched ?somewhat,? Lebanon County does not have a scuba diving team, and law enforcement says it would need more concrete evidence that Kortne is in the water to ask for assistance from outside agencies.
I took a fairly in-depth look at the theories being discussed online, particularly on Reddit and WebSleuths. As you read this, keep in mind that they are worth considering, but should be taken with a grain of salt, as with most things on the Internet.
I have excluded theories proposed by psychic mediums. I respect that people believe in the ability of mediums, but I personally do not. Hence, I won?t be covering them here.
Drugs and Biker Gangs
One post really stood out to me on Reddit. Someone claiming to have been a neighbor of Kortne?s wrote that it?s possible the disappearance might have occurred due to a drug dispute. The poster wrote:
(This sounds so weird and I don?t yet know what the hell to make of this? ) But my bf was installing cable for a state trooper. When asked where he lives, my bf said Palmyra. This is when the cop said he remembers peers working the missing woman case and that though they?d likely never prove it, she was taken upstate by a biker club and buried in a basement. Motive unknown.
As odd as this sounds, it?s not entirely crazy.
I recently learned that an extremely dangerous biker gang has moved into a small town in a neighboring county, where it is currently working to take over the drug market. (Quit selling, only sell our product, or die.)
However, I haven?t seen any other information that frames this as a likely theory. It?s just sort of ?out there.?
Was Kortne stomping on the floor, was she being attacked?
After the confrontation with her neighbors ended in the early morning hours of July 29, the police were called to the duplex a second time after Kortne?s upstairs neighbors reported that she was angrily stomping on the floor. Remember, when the police arrived, there was silence. Neither Kortne, her overnight friend, nor the neighbors answered the door.
This has always bothered me. One would think that after a near-violent confrontation involving alcohol, the police would have done more to ensure that everyone was safe. It?s a small town, and few terrible crimes occur here. Even so, I believe the police should have investigated that second call more aggressively.
Despite the fact that Kortne?s friend passed a polygraph and was ruled out as a suspect, there is a question of whether or not Kortne was actually stomping on the floor in anger, or being attacked.
If that was the case, did her friend attack her? Did the neighbor attack her, and her friend kept it quiet?
This is one of the more popular and plausible theories floating around the Internet.
More about that argument at the bar?
Again, we have to take these Internet theories with a grain of salt, but it?s important to leave no stone unturned.
A self-proclaimed close friend of Kortne and her boyfriend stated on Reddit that the couple Kortne argued with at the Hardware Bar in Harrisburg was a ?large and dangerous drug dealer that provided drugs to a large portion of Dauphin and Lebanon counties? and his girlfriend. (Harrisburg is located in Dauphin County, which borders Lebanon County.)
This individual adds that she is almost certain of what happened to Kortne, based on the above information. Of course, many people who know Kortne likely think they have the mystery solved, too.
Is there a serial killer stalking and nabbing young, beautiful, petite women?
A private investigator in Florida believes Kortne?s disappearance could be linked to numerous abductions of young women throughout Kentucky and neighboring states.
Like Kortne, the abducted women were petite, and had long, blonde hair. One of them was from Pittsburgh, Pa., which is in the western part of the state.
The District Attorney said there was no evidence linking Kortne to the disappearances, and the PI?s blog, where he wrote about the potential link, is no longer active.
To me, this seems unlikely, given the circumstances. It would be a coincidence of outlandish proportions that in the same span of time Kortne argued with people at a bar, and later her neighbors, that a random serial killer got his hands on her, but never say ?never.?
Another plausible theory presented online is the possibility that Kortne overdosed on drugs and/or died as a result of alcohol poisoning. Her friend, believing he would bear the brunt of the blame, got rid of the body, instead of calling 911. There is no evidence to suggest this, however.
She most likely didn?t walk away voluntarily?
It?s unlikely that Kortne simply walked away without her car, wallet, or phone. The fact that her air conditioner and TV were still turned on suggests something happened abruptly and took her by surprise. Did she open the door to somebody she knew? Was she lured to someone?s car, thinking it would only be a minute? Friends and family say Kortne adored her dog and would never have left him alone without the proper care.
It is at least somewhat possible that Kortne did walk away, but why? I have no idea how much she drank on July 28 when she was out and about in Harrisburg, but it?s not much of a stretch to say drinking might have fueled her anger at the neighbors, and possibly gave her a bit of liquid courage when it came to confronting them. It?s not beyond the realm of possibility that Kortne went for a walk and met her demise, perhaps falling in a creek or tumbling down an embankment.
But if that were true, why hasn?t a body been found? How far could she have gotten in the wee hours of the morning after a night of drinking? And in the age of social media, it is extremely difficult to simply disappear without a trace.
Perhaps, in her angry and inebriated state, she got into the car of someone she knew after her friend fell asleep, and something happened that nobody reported.
Most assume foul play is involved, including the Stouffer family, as well as a private investigator hired by Kortne?s parents.
Sergeant Mike Dipalo of the Lebanon County District Attorney?s Office told NBC News recently:
?When someone has been missing for seven years, it?s a safe assumption that foul play is involved, and there?s also a possibility she?ll come walking in tomorrow.?
Dipalo added that they do have persons of interest in the case, but have not named them publicly.
And based on my K-Mart experience, there was indeed foul play involved. I would be absolutely stunned to find out that was not the case.
It is disturbing to know that, on any given day, I could be looking at or walking past someone who participated in the kidnapping and murder of Kortne Stouffer. The world is a dark place full of unsavory people, but we don?t like to think about how close those individuals might be to us.
Hopefully, someone with a soul will choose to stop being a coward and come forward with information that will lead to the location of Kortne Stouffer.
?For there is nothing hidden that won?t be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.? Luke 8:17 (NIV)