"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tale of abduction under shroud of doubt

Remember that news item about five years ago about the woman abducted from a truck stop and left in a ravine? The reported incident happened out west. The woman was part of a husband-wife long haul trucking team. Interesting profession, to constantly traverse the U.S. One would hope it's a reasonably safe profession.
Tales of abduction make anyone a little fearful about long-distance travel. It was a sensational story. Katie Erdman of the Hancock Record wrote an article. The article relates the power of prayer for getting yourself extricated from such a situation. "She got up and successfully made her way out of the deep gully where she had spent the night and made her way back to safety." Ah, the power of prayer, of Christian conviction.
The site of this reported incident was a truck stop in Hot Springs SD. Lanny and Connie Beyer made the usual stop to refuel and rest. The story continues as Connie departed to use the restroom. Lanny awoke a few hours later and Connie had not returned. The story turns sensational. It also appears to have questionable credibility. I am not going to state in this post that it was a fabrication. Rather I will share about how law enforcement made statements questioning the veracity of the story. I'm inclined to go along with law enforcement's skepticism.
Erdman
, bless her heart, was a trusting person and writer and went with the sensational stuff. Trusting people can be a nice attribute. My long career in the media taught me that people can tell tales based on a personal agenda. Many of our crime articles are filled with the word "alleged." I remember when a local hardware store family had a son nearly killed in a criminal incident. Initially the Sun Tribune article, before going to press, related the whole tale with little or no use of the word "alleged." I tapped Jim Morrison on the shoulder and advised him that the writer needed to insert that magic little word in numerous places. It was done.
The recent sensational resolution of the Jacob Wetterling case included a little story told by the perpetrator, of how Jacob spent his last moments. We are asked to believe the perp who reached a plea deal, never having to confess to the murder at all. Maybe Jacob's death wasn't as sudden as he related. Maybe there was prolonged suffering. There was only one witness. The media and at least one book author shrugged, in effect, and went with Danny Heinrich's account. Frankly we should never be so trusting.
Why should Connie Beyer not be believed? Well, Fall River County Sheriff Rich Mraz noted that Lanny admitted getting into a verbal argument in their truck prior to their arrival at Coffee Cup. An argument could cloud normal good reason. So we have the story about how two individuals sped up in a car and came to a stop, whereupon one of the men threw her into the back seat and held her down. She reported her money being taken. The men joked about it being "an easy $20," Connie said.
So prayer took over, an appeal to the Almighty, which Erdman made into sort of a theme. The virtue of Christianity!
The story has Connie falling into a deep gully or ravine after being let out of the car by the alleged abductors. A case for "Websleuths," right? Yes, we did see speculation of that nature. The story concludes with Connie walking back to the truck stop 28 hours after disappearing.
After more than a week of investigation, Sheriff Mraz said there was no evidence to support Connie's story. "Based on the information we have received, physical evidence found in the area of the truck stop and security video footage, we haven't found anything that supports Mrs. Beyer's story she was abducted."
From the Rapid City Journal:
 
Mraz said that Constance Beyer said she was abducted on the north side of the truck stop, between the first row of diesel pumps and the store structure itself, by two men in a dark car. "You can see that there is no dark car at any time where Mrs. Beyer said she was taken," Mraz said as video from the security cameras played, showing a brightly lit fueling station.
When two deputies responded to the first call from Lanny Beyer at 4:21 a.m., they took his statement and began a search of the area. Mraz said he was called in around 8 a.m. and he immediately called two Division of Criminal investigation officers and brought in two teams of search dogs. "The dogs picked up her scent at the back of the truck," Mraz said, "but instead of following it toward the truck stop, the dogs followed the scent to the south and east, toward some buildings in the area."
Mraz said that shoeprints found in the dust of a small road approximately 100 yards away were consistent with shoes that Constance Beyer was wearing at the time. Mraz said that the dogs lost the trail about a quarter-mile further down the road. The back of the Beyers' truck is outside the frame of the video camera. At no time does Constance Beyer or a dark car appear on the truck stop security video.
The search continued the rest of the day on Sunday, and grew to include 30 volunteer fire fighters and an airplane, but nothing further was found. The next day Beyer came walking back toward Coffee Cup, around 8:30 in the morning, cold, dehydrated and telling a story of being abducted.
During the course of the investigation, Mraz noted that some things didn't add up, for instance, Beyer couldn't give a better description of her alleged abductors or their vehicle. "She couldn't say they were white, black, anything," Mraz said. "She did say she remembered crossing two cattle guards before being dumped out, but had no time frame for the time she said she was in their car." He said that when she was first seen the next morning, she was walking down a road from the general area to where the dogs had tracked her the previous day.
Mraz added that as the Beyers were coast-to-coast truck drivers, they had been to the Coffee Cup stop before on occasion. He said that Constance Beyer knew from previous trips that there was a pen with horses east of the truck stop, the direction from which she was walking when she was found.
"Lanny Beyer's story is consistent with the security video and such," Mraz said. "Based on what information and evidence that we have received and recovered thus far, Constance Beyer's story is not supported."
 
A questionable impression of Constance Beyer is certainly made. We'd all like to think a cross country motor vehicle trip is a reasonably safe proposition. A sensational account of being abducted is chilling. If it's false, it's most unfortunate, and it casts an unfortunate light on "the power of prayer."
The way I'm going, with Donald Trump acting like he's a spokesman for Christianity, I'll be an agnostic.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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