BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Thursday marks a heartbreaking milestone in the case of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer. It has now been 10 years since she disappeared in Bloomington.
For 10 years, her face, her story, has been seared into our memories. Spierer was a 20-year-old sophomore at IU when she vanished after a night out with friends in Bloomington in 2011. Her parents, Charlene and Robert Spierer, have never given up hope they'll find their daughter and find out what happened to her.
It's a high-profile and heartbreaking mystery that remains unsolved and continues to resonate with families across the country.
Bloomington Police stress this is not a cold case.
Chief Michael Diekhoff provided a pre-taped update on the investigation Wednesday, sharing that they continue to investigate leads and work with the FBI to find Lauren.
Police say they've received more than 36,000 tips since Lauren disappeared June 3, 2011, 1,100 of which were described as "actionable." They also say in just the past three to four years, they've executed at least 10 search warrants related to the case and received 800 tips, 100 of which required some sort of follow-up.
Yet still, it's another June without answers, and the baffling mystery continues for Lauren's family.
Along with her parents and police, another person has been fighting for justice on the Spierers' behalf for a decade. The woman behind the @NewsOnLaurenS Twitter account, who has stayed anonymous — until now.
"Lauren feels like all of us, right? She's me. She's your daughter. She's my best friend from college. She's my little sister," explained Kristin Goetterman, creator of the account and the hashtag #FindLauren. "I think it's just terrifying to think that something like this could happen in a small town. And I think it's even more terrifying that we don't have answers today that we need."
For 10 years, Goetterman has been helping to seek those answers on social media. She's stayed anonymous until now, waging a Twitter campaign to share Lauren's story, be her voice and find that key tip that leads to finding the Spierers' daughter.
"At its greatest, it grew to 25,000. Today, 10 years later, it's a little over 19,000," Goetterman said about the social media account. "We got folks like Kim Kardashian and Ryan Seacrest and the major news outlets to retweet that information, and that was critical to the story. It did spread like wildfire because of the interest of Lauren."
Like many people, Goetterman learned about Lauren scrolling through social media the day after the IU sophomore disappeared. She saw a video of Rob and Charlene Spierer calling out Lauren's name in the woods.
"They were just yelling Lauren's name over and over, and I think just hearing, you know, their desperation in their voice alone in those woods really was truly haunting to me. I just thought I need to stop and figure out a way to help this family as quickly as I can," Goetterman said.
She didn't know the Spierer family. She didn't even live in Bloomington.
But Goetterman's mom and dad went to IU. Her brother was in Lauren's class. Her sister is a soon-to-be freshman at the university.
So, she treated this disappearance personally, traveling to join those heartwrenching searches, retracing Lauren's steps and sharing them on social media and asking for help from the public on Twitter.
"I started tweeting out Lauren's picture, information about what had happened. I created the hashtag #FindLauren and really thought it was something that would last maybe 48 hours until they found her," Goetterman said.
It's lasted much longer.
Over the years, Goetterman has become like family to the Spierers. They exchange Mother's Day and birthday cards.
Lauren is never far from Goetterman's mind, even 10 years later.
"I think about Lauren all the time," she said. "I think a lot of us do. I think about what would she have done with her career in fashion? What sort of fun aunt would she have been to her two nephews? The mother she would have been. But I really mostly think about Rob and Charlene and Rebecca (Lauren's sister) and the life they have to live without her. It's not just a life without her, but without knowing the truth."
The Twitter account she created has generated thousands of shares over the years, along with offers from searchers and psychics and hundreds of potential leads. Bloomington Police used some of those leads, too, calling occasionally for clarification on a tip she received and shared with the family.
But here's all we know after a decade:
"Lauren was out with her friends that evening, stopping at a couple of different places, including a bar and a friend's apartment, and landed at another sort of small house party very late in the evening and left for her apartment around 4 a.m.," Goetterman said.
That's when she walked to the corner of 11th and College and was never seen again.
Goetterman doesn't have any personal theories of what really happened to Lauren, but she's certain someone knows, and she pledges to keep sharing Lauren's story until she's found.
"Some way, somehow, I believe that truth will come out," she said. "Someone can't live with this forever. It will just be a matter of time. I'll be forever an advocate for Lauren and the Spierer family. They deserve answers, and Lauren deserves that justice."
The family maintains their slogan, "anything small can be big," will lead to the truth: even a tiny tip could lead to answers and find Lauren.
Spierer family statement
On Thursday, Charlene Spierer posted a statement on Facebook marking ten years since her daughter's disappearance. It reads:
Ten years ago today in the early hours of June 3, 2011, Lauren became a missing person. What started as an evening with friends ended tragically for Lauren and for our family. There is no video evidence proving Lauren ever turned the corner at 11th and College Avenue around 4:30AM. There has never been any suspect named.
My heart goes out to anyone searching for a missing loved one. When you are “in it” you can’t see beyond it. You try everything humanly possible to get answers. You are willing to work from first light until you collapse exhausted at the end of the day. You read everything written, every blog, every Facebook post, every tweet, every comment at the end of every article you have access to, just hoping someone will post something to move your case forward. You open your door to the worst of humanity. desperate to believe their convincing lies, but I think the worst offense comes from those who hold the answers and refuse to share them. You are gullible. You are exposed to things you’ve never known about and wish you had never learned about. I empathize with you. I walk in your shoes; I carry the same burden. I wish we never had to experience this.
If you are fortunate, you will find that there are just as many compassionate people. They work beside you just as tirelessly. They step in when you cannot. They take risks. They put their lives on hold. They use every avenue at their disposal to help you. They keep in touch on those most difficult days. They remind you that you are not alone in this nightmare. They ask for nothing in return.
This is what I know. What happened to Lauren was shocking. It is inconceivable to have spoken to Lauren hours before discovering it would be for the last time. Shocking that someone so loved could vanish without a trace but entirely possible. It did happen and ten years later I still struggle. The space that once held hopes and dreams for Lauren will never heal. It is replaced by an ache fueled by the not knowing. I have learned to manage my days, months and years, but in an instant, something will happen which sends me reeling back to the day it all happened. I try my best, I will survive, I will never forget. I do not need a day like today to remember because every day is a day of remembrance.
I am especially grateful to Rob and Rebecca, my husband, my daughter, who share in this tragic loss and without whom I could not have survived.
I end as always, hoping today is the day and reminding the reader that anything small could be big. Lauren, lost but never forgotten, forever in our hearts.
Tips can be shared anonymously by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the Bloomington Police Department at 812-339-4477 or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-TIPS.