Nancy Moyer, mother of 2, vanishes on cold Washington night
05/19/2017 1:55 pm PDT
UPDATE August 30, 2019:
After Eric L. Roberts allegedly confessed to killing Nancy Moyer and appeared in Thurston County Superior Court in July 2019, what seemed like a potential break in the 10-year-old Tenino cold case quickly went quiet, The Olympian reports.
Roberts, 53, first appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on second-degree murder charges July 11. According to court documents, Roberts had called 911 and confessed July 9 to killing Moyer, his former coworker and neighbor, in 2009. He later told a detective he strangled her accidentally with a scarf during a sexual encounter at his house, according to court documents.
A divorced mother of two winds down after a long day and pours herself a glass of wine at home. What happened next is still a mystery.
On the freezing cold Friday night of March 6, 2009 in Tenino, Washington, an exhausted Nancy Moyer kicked off the weekend by pouring herself a glass of wine. The single mother of two worked full-time for Washington's state Department of Ecology as an accountant.
Her young girls were her everything. Since leaving her husband Bill Moyer two years earlier, Nancy's daughters had been her top priority.
"She wanted the kids to have a mother and a father both. So she was trying real hard," said Nancy's mother Sandra Hedlund.
Co-parenting seemed to be working well. Nancy had the girls during the week, Bill had them on weekends. With two young kids and a full-time job, Nancy's weeks were busy. But on weekends she was free to live the single life.
"She had a few dates here and there that I was aware of," said Nancy's sister Sharon Wilbur.
But that Friday evening, there was no date planned. Tired, Nancy planned to just relax at home. After work, she dropped off a co-worker, then stopped at the grocery store.
"It was around 6 p.m. on that Friday, there was a Tenino police officer that I interviewed that was running radar right there at the corner where her house was, and he saw her pull up, and she was alone and he saw her get the bags out and take them into the house," said retired Thurston County Sheriff's Detective David Haller.
But that was the last time anyone has reported seeing Nancy Moyer, though a neighbor believes he heard her later that night.
"He heard her car, he heard a car door, and just before the car door closed, she said 'Hurry up, let's get going,'" said Haller.
Nancy's neighbor assumed she was talking to her kids and didn't think much about it -- until two days later when she was reported missing.
It was a normal Sunday night. Bill Moyer was dropping the kids off at his estranged wife's house. But when he got to the house he noticed something off.
"I never missed a drop-off or a pick-up, and neither did she," said Bill Moyer. "So this was a hundred-percent out of character for her to be missing, and it just, it felt wrong instantly."
Despite the cold outside, Nancy's front door had been left open.
"It wasn't unusual," said Bill. "She'd walk in the neighborhood sometime. So I took the kids in and we waited for a few minutes, thinking oh, she'd come back from a walk. But she didn't."
When Nancy didn't show up, Bill took the girls back to his house and returned a little later.
"So we came back again, but realized that she hadn't taken her purse or her keys or her cellphone, all the normal things you would expect to take with you are, there, still sitting in the house," said Bill. "I remember a glass of wine was half-drank on the table, and you know, just things were just kind of in their usual places. It was just, it was just like she just vanished."
Right away, Nancy's sister Sharon knew something was wrong.
"After being away from them for the weekend, she would never miss meeting them that night to hug them and say hello to them," said Sharon Wilbur.
Late Sunday night Bill filed a missing-person report with police. And the next day the case was turned over to the Thurston County Sheriff's Department to now-retired detective David Haller.
First up, Detective Haller needed to determine exactly when Nancy disappeared.
"From what I was able to find in my investigation, it appeared to me that somewhere around 11:30, 12 o'clock," said Haller. "It was a really cold time of year. The front door of the house was found open by Bill. I decided to check the utility bill, because she has gas heat in the house, and I could see where it spiked."
Detectives didn't find anything missing in the house. There was no sign of forced entry and no evidence that anyone else had even been inside.
"We fingerprinted two glasses and her fingerprints were on both those glasses," said Haller. "The hope was if somebody was in there and having a drink with her or something, that we'd pick up some fingerprints that weren't hers. We didn't find any."
With so few clues in the case, detectives immediately turned their attention to Nancy's estranged husband Bill.
"I kind of know how it works. Statistically the husband's always the suspect number one, but also I saw it as an opportunity to clear my name very quickly," said Bill Moyer.
Bill agreed to a polygraph test right away and passed with flying colors.
"They even went on TV and said 'The husband is not a suspect,'" said Bill.
Cops then turn their gaze on a co-worker.
"The weekend that she disappeared he had called and left a message on her phone or on her answering machine, so he was of high interest," said Haller.
The co-worker claims he and Nancy had a date set for that Saturday night.
"He was just absolutely infatuated with her from what he told us," said Haller.
He says when he arrived, her front door was open but Nancy was nowhere to be found. He called out for her, then left. At the time, Detective Haller says the co-worker's alibi for that Friday night checked out.
"The kids said 'No, dad was home all that night, he didn't go anywhere,'" said Haller.
But when a new detective re-interviewed that same co-worker about his relationship with Nancy, he heard a much different story.
"When he was interviewed by Detective Heller he said he tried to have sex with her but he couldn't, he couldn't perform. She stayed the night, got up, had breakfast with him," said Thurston County Sheriff's Detective Ben Elkins. "When I interviewed him, he had sex, she went home that night. Just totally the opposite."
And that's not the only thing Detective Elkins found suspicious.
"I asked this person 'If you knew where Nancy Moyer's body was, would you tell me?' And this person said 'No,'" said Elkins. "I looked at him, 'Wait a minute here. No, seriously: Would you tell me where Nancy Moyer's body was?' And he chuckles 'No.'"
And when first questioned, the co-worker submitted to a polygraph test, but the results were inconclusive.
So is he willing to take one now?
"He basically said 'I don't know,'" said Elkins.
The co-worker has never been named as a suspect or charged in Nancy Moyer's disappearance.
But Det. Elkins plans to question him again. And he's not the only person cops have in their sights.
As investigators try to solve the disappearance of Nancy Moyer, they make a disturbing discovery inside the truck of a man who lived just down the street from the mother of two.
Eight years after Nancy Moyer disappeared, there's still no trace of the mother of two.
"We call it a 'no-body homicide' because we don't have a body," said Det. Ben Elkins.
Police were never able to find evidence for a murder in Nancy Moyer's home, or develop a suspect in the case. But a gruesome murder in her hometown leads cops to a person of interest.
The tiny town of Tenino was stunned when a local man selling meat was caught riding around with a dead woman in the passenger seat of his delivery truck. Her body was still warm.
"This guy came up behind her, hit her on the back of the head with a hammer, dragged her down into the ditch, took a knife to her, tried cutting her head off when she was still alive, killed her, wrapped her up in a sleeping bag, put her in his pickup truck and started driving down the road," said retired Detective David Haller.
At first, Bernard Keith Howell denied killing 60-year-old Vanda Boone. He claimed he'd found her dead on a popular hiking trail and was going to dispose of her body to save her family the burial costs. Howell eventually confessed to killing the woman and was sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison. He says he was high on methamphetamine at the time.
Cops wondered if Howell could be tied to Nancy's mysterious disappearance.
"I did interview him because of the close proximity to Nancy's place," said Haller.
The door-to-door meat salesman lived less than a mile from her house, and there was another possible connection.
"In the inventory of Nancy's refrigerator we found a package of that meat in the freezer, and it was the same company, everything," said Haller.
So detectives showed photos of the confessed killer to Nancy's two daughters.
"And one of the daughters, the older one, said yeah, she recognized him," said Haller.
Detective Haller was eager to question Howell about the missing mother.
"He just absolutely refused to cooperate in any way. No polygraph, wasn't going to give any statements, denied ever selling her meat, denied ever knowing her," said Haller. "Just in all of that just kind of run the red flag up even more 'cause I know he was there."
Nancy's family still suspects Howell could be involved.
Unfortunately, a frustrated Detective Elkins has not been able to bring charges or even re-question the admitted killer -- who sits in prison.
"I would like to at least talk to him and see if he will talk to me, and if he does, obviously I want to interview him," said Elkins.
But frozen meat possibly purchased from a confessed killer wasn't the only thing in Nancy Moyer's home that piqued investigators' curiosity about what happened to her.
Detective Haller was stunned by what he found inside a bag in the closet of the mild-mannered mother of two.
"There were sex toys in there, all kinds of 'em, gels," said Haller.
Detectives learned that sex was in fact a big reason why Nancy left her husband.
"She got married to William younger, they had kids," said Det. Elkins. "So the way Sharon, her sister, had explained it was that Nancy expressed how she wanted to go out and do things she hadn't done.
"She was out playing the field, she was out bar-hopping. She was out drinking with friends, co-workers from work," said Elkins. "When someone's doing that and they're not sharing it with a best friend or a sister, the victimology when it comes to that, is very difficult to retrace those steps of who she was associating with, where she was going."
Cops discovered things that indicate Nancy Moyer may have been living in a secret world of sexual fantasy.
"I found some other stuff in there that kind of makes me think that she could have decided to take off and live a life that she's been fantasizing about," said Haller.
As much as Nancy's family wants to believe she's still alive, it's not something that seems possible to them.
"She would never leave her daughters," said sister Sharon Wilbur. "Her daughters were her world."
One thing everyone agrees on, someone out there knows what happened to Nancy Moyer. And her sister Sharon has a message for that person.
"I would just ask them to remember that she was a mother and a daughter and a granddaughter and a sister and a friend, and she doesn't deserve to be forgotten, she deserves to be put to rest and for her kids to be able to mourn her properly," said Sharon.
Detectives are hoping the person responsible for Nancy's disappearance has bragged to someone about what they've done, and now that person is ready to come forward and help solve this case.