« Back to blog

Where is Wade Steffey?

From the Indy Channel:

Purdue University on Wednesday released information about a student who has been missing since early Saturday morning.

Wade S. Steffey, 19, has not had any contact with his friends or his father since Saturday.

Steffey, a freshman from Bloomington, has short, brown hair and brown eyes. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds…

Last time anyone saw Wade Steffey, he was at a fraternity house on the Purdue campus. He used his ATM card around 1 a.m… and he hasn’t used it since.

In the Indianapolis Star, Sopia Voravong wrote about the worry and dismay expressed by Wade’s family and friends. Wade Steffey wasn’t the kind of guy who would just up and disappear:

Steffey, an aviation technology major from Bloomington, is a straight-A student on a full-ride, academic scholarship, Cox said.

He has no known health problems.

The FBI in Lafayette, the West Lafayette Police Department and the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department all are assisting in the search.

K9 units from the Tippecanoe County and Porter County sheriff’s departments tried to track Steffey’s scent Wednesday from the fraternity to an ATM in the Ford Dining Hall at 1122 W. Stadium Ave., where his bank card was last used, then to his nearby residence hall.

All locations are within a half-mile on the northern edge of campus.

Investigators do not know whether Steffey was the person who withdrew $50 from the walk-up ATM at 1:11 a.m. Saturday because the machine’s camera was broken, Cox said.

Police also found no activity on Steffey’s student identification card, which he would need to swipe to get into Cary Quad after hours…

In short, Wade Steffey’s disappearance is completely at odds with his past.

That’s the conundrum when a missing persons case comes up for me as a crime blogger — this may not be a crime. It may be misadventure, it may be a personal choice.

So I have to go with expressions of suspicion by police, and such an expression is present here: “This is suspicious because it’s completely out of character…” ~ Capt. John Cox of the Purdue University Police Department.

Wade Steffey’s MySpace has already begun to receive worried comments. Early this morning, a young woman with the screen name “Spicoli” wrote, “Wade, we all love you and miss you. Come home, safely.”

Wade wrote a few blog entries in the weblog attached to his personal profile. On September 29, 2005, Wade wrote about getting into Purdue:

woo soo i got into purdue. no big surprise there. they are giving me 9500 dollars in merit based scholarships just cuz im smart. im not positive im going there but i think i might be able to go for freeee and thats quite tempting…

Apparently the temptation took.

While the National Honor Society member and graduate of Bloomington High School South was obviously smart, as evidenced by his academic achievements and scholarships, he was also an athlete and an Eagle Scout.

Do achievers walk out on life? Sometimes. But a lifelong pattern of responsibility rarely breaks one day at 19.

And as evidenced by “Spicoli’s” comment, Wade would not do that sort of thing.

In her MySpace weblog, another friend of Wade’s, Laura, was clear on that point:

His name is Wade Steffey, he’s 19 years old and has been missing since early Saturday morning. He was last seen at a party on Purdue’s campus Friday night or early Saturday morning. His ATM card was last used at 1:11am on Saturday morning. His roomate returned to campus on Monday and found the lights on, his computer on, but no Wade. Nothing was gone, so he hadn’t packed anything for a trip. It’s not like him to just pick up and leave without telling anyone where he is going. He’s a straight “A” student and has always been a great kid…

Wade Steffey’s cell phone goes to voice mail, and that 1 a.m. transaction on Saturday, January 13, there’s been no other activity on his account. He’s vanished into thin air.

Stories of missing young men, regardless of their skin color or station, do not often receive the attention given to stories about missing young women. That’s because there’s a perception, frequently true, that young men may often be the ones responsible somehow for their vanishing.

I read about a developing story like the disappearance of Wade Steffey and vividly recall something that happened when I was in college.

I was pulling into the parking lot across from the on-campus apartment where I lived with three other guys. It was 11 at night, and early spring.

A tall guy wearing a leather coat was walking down the sidewalk that bordered the lot. He was nice-looking, clean-shaven, and his dark clothes looked more expensive than mine. He could have been a student. But the moment my headlights crossed him, he cut his eyes towards me and slowed his pace. I didn’t know the guy, and up until that moment, he’d been walking off-campus, towards the main road. Immediately, I became suspicious.

He angled towards me, and I could tell by the direction of his gaze and his pace that he was coming around to talk to me.

It was raw instinct, but I backed out of the space and drove off, exiting the parking lot on the opposite side from where I’d entered. I circled campus for 15 minutes, feeling anxious and cowardly and stupid. Until I saw the same guy stalking down a main boulevard out of town, glaring at every car that passed. That was when I realized my instincts, raw as they were, had probably been correct — I’d spotted a predator spotting me. Likely just to mug me, maybe take the car — something I’d survive, physically. But still, I have wondered ever since who might have encountered the guy later and not felt that sense of alarm, or if they were alarmed, ignore the feeling out of self-doubt or guilt.

In Wade Steffey’s disappearance, the last transaction at the ATM with the broken camera… was that the beginning of a tragedy? Was Wade perhaps approached while his guard was down?

Let’s hope not, for Wade’s sake.

UPDATE 1, 1/19/07

From the Purdue Exponent, the University newspaper, an article just published this afternoon:

Dale Steffey and Dawn Adams, parents of missing freshman Wade Steffey, are hoping to drive the case to a national scope. After a community search Thursday afternoon, police are looking to expand the search to include a larger area.

Police haven’t ruled out alcohol as a factor, but several students’ stories are weakening the lead. Sources from the fraternity party and friends said that Steffey was not intoxicated. Police believe it is unlikely Steffey was drunk and wandered off, as some speculated.

A prayer service is being held Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Purdue Bell Tower.

Fliers are available on the Exponent Web site, and police and Steffey’s family are encouraging people to post them around town…

I added the link in the last paragraph of the quote.

I made some media contacts aware of Wade’s disappearance yesterday, so let’s hope his parents are able to do what they wish and make this case national. He was 19, but at this point in my life, that makes him a kid to me. Pray his family is able to bring the kid home safely.