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Utahn Steven Koecher's disappearance remains a mystery
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Christmas lights on his mother's tree will be lit again this year for Steven Koecher, a symbolic gesture for a family who still hopes for news of the missing man.

On Dec. 13, 2009, Steven walked away from his car in an upscale Henderson, Nev., neighborhood and seemingly vanished into thin air.

To mark the anniversary, family members will gather Tuesday at the Bountiful home of Steven's mother to light the tree he decorated just before he moved to St. George, seeking to escape the northern Utah winters.

"There is absolutely nothing new to help us know where our son is," said his mother, Deanne Koecher, who this year lost her husband, Rolf Koecher, and her father. "Every time I look at a picture of the family, I realize three important men in my life are gone."

Memories of her son, who was 30 when he disappeared, are summoned these days by something as simple as hearing a guitar, which Steven "was getting quite good at," and any reference to Brazil.

"That is where he went on his mission," said Deanne Koecher. "His father went on a mission there, too."

She has no idea why her son was in Henderson, where surveillance video on a private residence captured the last known image of him walking away from a car filled with wrapped Christmas gifts. Theories that he became involved in something unexpected are "all conjecture," his mother said. "But I can't imagine he is voluntarily staying away from us."

After Steven disappeared, a network of relatives descended on Henderson and the Las Vegas area to look for him, posting fliers and canvassing restaurants, hospitals, jails and even the morgue, to no avail.

A large search of a rocky vacant lot in south Las Vegas by about 70 volunteers also turned up nothing.

Police conducted an extensive search of open areas near where Koecher disappeared with all-terrain vehicles and helicopters and on foot. Keith Paul, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department, said the case remains open, but there are no new leads and no evidence of foul play.

"We will follow up on any credible leads," he said.

Capt. James Van Fleet of the St. George Police Department also said the case remains open.

Steven's younger brother, Dallin Koecher, said the family has grown closer as a result of Steven's disappearance. This year the Koechers traveled to Louisiana to share Thanksgiving with a sister. Steven has four siblings.

"It's been a crazy two years," he said. "We heard from a couple of people who thought they saw him, but [both times] they turned out to be nothing."

Dallin said his brother, who worked for the Davis County Clipper newspaper and The Salt Lake Tribune's online edition before moving to St. George, said he believes his brother went to Nevada looking for a job.

"I think he was told of an opportunity [for work] and decided to go down there," said Dallin. "He may have got to a place where he sensed something wasn't right and decided not to go forward with it. Maybe he knew too much about something and was taken."

Dallin said there were no indications that Steven planned to disappear, such as money withdrawals or mysterious cell phone calls. His passport was found in his apartment.

"There's nothing conniving about him," he said.

He also does not believe his brother took his own life.

"I don't think he committed suicide," said Dallin. "He was depressed, but even though I'm not a psychologist, he did not exhibit the rapid mood swings people who commit suicide [demonstrate]. Another thing is a lot of times people [commit suicide] for attention and leave notes behind, but nothing with Steven was ever found."

Dallin said he hopes the lights on his mother's tree, which last year remained on until they burned out in July, will serve as a reminder not only of his brother but all other missing Utahns.

Steven's cousin KC Naegle especially remembers Steven at this time of year and around his birthday on Nov. 1.

"Not a lot has happened, but everyone is still hopeful," said Naegle.

Members of the family have supported one another throughout the ordeal, she said. "They have handled everything very gracefully. It is obviously hard."

Once her cousin went missing, Naegle launched a Facebook page, Help Us Find Steven Koecher, but eventually turned over maintenance of the page to her friend, Kris Baker.

Baker said new postings are made to the page regularly. "I'm just helping from the sideline."

She said posters have suggested everything from hiring psychics to a possible connection with Susan Powell, who went missing around the same time as Steven. But nothing has advanced the investigation.

She believes any connection to the Powell case is "nonsense."

Steven's mother, meanwhile, is looking forward to Tuesday night's lighting ceremony, saying it signifies the care and concern people have exhibited since her son disappeared.

"When I got home from work the other night someone had dropped off 12 strings of lights anonymously," she said. "If he is out there, we want him to know we miss him."

mhavnes@sltrib.com

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About Steven Koecher

Koecher was last seen Dec. 13, 2009, in Henderson, Nev. He had been living in St. George. He is 5-foot-11 with an average build and has blond hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information can contact St. George police at 435-627-4300 or Henderson police at 702-267-5000.

A tree-lighting ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of his disappearance is Tuesday, 7 p.m., at 334 W. 3100 South, Bountiful. —

About Steven Koecher

Koecher was last seen Dec. 13, 2009, in Henderson, Nev. He had been living in St. George. He is 5-foot-11 with an average build and has blond hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information can contact St. George police at 435-627-4300 or Henderson police at 702-267-5000.

A tree-lighting ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of his disappearance will be 7 p.m. Tuesday, at 334 W. 3100 South, Bountiful. —

Learn more about the missing

The Utah Department of Public Safety maintains a "Utah's Missing Persons" list at http://1.usa.gov/fsf3R.

Lets Bring Them Home tracks missing adults in the country. It lists 11 Utah adults missing under suspicious circumstances at lbth.org.

The list does not include missing West Valley City resident Susan Powell. It does list St. George resident Steven Koecher as missing out of Henderson, Nev.

Anniversary • Steven Koecher disappeared two years ago, leaving family with no answers.
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