WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
Lauren Spierer was a 20-year-old woman who disappeared from Bloomington, Indiana on June 3, 2011. She had gone to a bar that evening, a student at Indiana University, but never came home.
Her disappearance garnered extensive coverage, drawing some criticism for the amount of media attention she received in comparison to missing women of color.
Lauren has been missing for 9 years and is presumed dead, her case still unsolved.
BACKGROUND AND TIMELINE OF EVENTS (1)
Lauren was born in January of 1991 to her parents Charlene and Robert Spierer. She grew up in Scarsdale, New York, but moved to Indiana when she began studying textiles merchandising at Indiana University. She was heavily involved in the Jewish community at her school.
Lauren met her friend Jay Rosenbaum and boyfriend Jesse Wolff at camp a few years before starting at IU, along with many of her other friends who were also IU students. These people became her primary circle of friends in college, where she started in 2009.
Lauren went out the evening of her disappearance, but her boyfriend stayed home. They were texting throughout the evening until he went to bed. Authorities have pieced together Lauren's night through surveillance footage and witness statements.
At around 12:30 AM on the early morning of June 3, 2011, Lauren left her apartment with her friend David Rohn. They went to their other friend, Jay Rosenbaum's, apartment, and met up with Cory Rossman, Rosebnaum's neighbor. A group of them went to Kilroy's sports bar, and then Lauren left with Rossman at about 2:27 AM. She did not have her shoes or her cell phone when she left. Rossman walked Lauren to her apartment complex.
A few minutes later, Lauren is seen entering her apartment complex, and a passerby named Zach Oaks asked if she was okay, as she was extremely drunk. In another article, it says that Rossman and Lauren ended up not going to her apartment because Zach was combative and punched Rossman in the face. In some articles, it says the altercation was because Rossman was trying to take advantage of Lauren, and they stepped in. Unclear as to what the fight was about. (2)
They left her apartment complex and walked through an alley and found her purse and keys that she had dropped earlier. Rossman picked her up and carried her at one point because she was unable to walk. He carried her along, and they arrived at his apartment, greeting Rossman's roommate, Michael Beth.
Rossman was also very drunk, throwing up on the carpet. Beth escorted him to bed and then told Lauren she should stay over, because she was very drunk, but she wanted to go to her own apartment.
So, Beth called Rosenbaum, asking him to take care of her. She was very drunk at this point, asking Beth to come over to her apartment to drink together. But, she eventually went over to Rosenbaum's apartment next door, and he saw a bruise under her eye, but she said she did not know how she got it.
When she was at Rosenbaum's apartment, he reports that she made 2 calls from his phone, one to David Rohn, and one to another male friend, but neither person answered, and no messages were left.
Rosenbaum reports that she left the apartment at 4:30 AM, the last time she was ever seen alive. She was barefoot, wearing black leggings and a white shirt. When Lauren's boyfriend texted her the next morning and a bar employee responded, and he was not able to get in contact with her, he reported her missing.
INVESTIGATION AND THEORIES
The article I read says that a 9-day search took place in the Sycamore Ridge Landfill for clues in August of 2011. It is not clear what type of investigation was done right away. (1)
Lauren's parents believe that she is dead. They also think that she may have been drugged, given her extreme level of intoxication seen on much of the footage. They have suspicions about all of the men she saw that evening, as well as her boyfriend, because they all retained lawyers and refused polygraphs. (I've recently read that if you didn't commit a crime and you're asked to submit a polygraph, you actually shouldn't because they can be unreliable, but still used to assert your guilt.) However, refusing them does seem suspicious. Though her parents have never accused anyone, she does believe that they know more than they've shared. (1)
Others, including her boyfriend's mom, believe that her downfall was drug abuse. Her friends, and Jesse, claimed that she used drugs and alcohol on the night of her disappearance, and her boyfriend's mom alleges that Lauren was asked to leave summer camp because of drug abuse. She said, "this poor little girl is not here with us today because of her drug abuse," which seems super wrong given that using drugs doesn't make you vanish into thin air. (1)
Rosenbaum told police that she had drank, and snorted cocaine Knonopin tablets that evening, and in combination with her rare heart condition, she could have overdosed. Some believe perhaps she died of an overdose and the guys hid her body so they wouldn't get in any trouble, but Bo Dietl, the family's private investigator, doesn't believe that anyone would hide a body because of drug use given the amount of drug use on IU's campus. (1)
However, other articles state that the guys she was friends were were known drug dealers on campus. Perhaps they felt if she overdosed on something that they had given her, that they would be charged with her murder. In that event, hiding her body would be better than her being found dead of an OD in the home of a known drug dealer. Additionally, the black eye and repeated falls could have lead to her death, as well, and the men panicked and hid her body so it didn't seem like they were involved. (3)
Another theory is that, while passed out at one of their homes, the group, or at least one of them, tried to rape her but then she woke up and then panicked and killed her. This seems to be a less widely accepted version of events than the former, in which the guys tried to cover it up, but didn't actively murder her. (3)
Jesse, Lauren's boyfriend, is the star of another theory. Not because he is really suspicious, but some believe because his mother's pretty insane comment about it being Lauren's fault brings some level of dysfunction into the family. Maybe Jesse stayed in because he was fighting with Lauren, and wasn't too happy about her getting wasted with a bunch of other men. Even the person who presented this theory doesn't really believe it, but does cite that many a jealous man has killed their girlfriend before, so there is at least some semblance of motive for him. But, probably not. (2)
And of course, it is possible that someone completely unrelated to her friend group had something to do with it. She could have left her friends' apartment complex just as they said, and been snatched on her way home. A pretty, extremely drunk woman is a desirable target for any predator, and there is a chance that the things many people believe her friends did were done by a stranger: He tried to kidnap her or rape her and she died, and he hid the body as to not be charged with murder. Or, he raped her and she woke up, and killed her to keep her quiet. Or intended to kill her all along. It certainly seems like her friends know more, but a small, defenseless woman walking alone late at night can certainly attract a predator. (3)
What seems most likely is that Lauren drank and did drugs on the night of her disappearance, perhaps fell and hit her head or was hit, and all together, these things lead to her death. There were many calls placed that evening, with reasonable explanations: Beth calls Rosenbaum, Lauren calls Rohn and another friend from Rosenbaum's phone... But maybe she passed out and died at Beth's house, and he called Rosenbaum in a panic, who called 2 friends to help him out?
Lauren was really short and small, fell a lot of times, took a lot of drugs and drank a lot of alcohol, and had a serious heart condition. It seems like she probably died as a result. And instead of calling the police, they hid her body to be absolved of any guilt. Instead of letting her parents mourn the loss of their beautiful daughter, they have to wonder for the rest of their lives what really happened to Lauren.
LEGACY AND BEYOND (1)
The press coverage surrounding Lauren's disappearance brought attention to the discrepancy in coverage between missing white women and missing women of color, leading to the "Missing White Woman Syndrome" phenomenon. I won't spend much time on this, but there certainly is a discrepancy between how missing, kidnapped or murdered victims are reported on based on their race or socioeconomic status. That isn't to say that Lauren should not have gotten the media attention she did, but that news outlets, and the sharing public, should treat the disappearances and murders of all people the same.
Lauren's parents filed a civil lawsuit against Rossman, Rosenbaum and Beth, claiming that they should not have supplied her with alcohol in her state, and should have assured her safety by helping her to her apartment. Despite none of the men being named as suspects in her disappearance, the family (and most internet sleuths) believe the men know what happened to her.
The case was dismissed in 2013, ruling that none of them had any duty to care for Lauren. If you see someone dying and don't help them, you can be charged, but without the information to know what happened, it is nobody's legal obligation to help you walk home safely, or to cut you off from alcohol (unless you're a bartender). Lawyers for all of the men say they have passed private polygraph tests, though Lauren's parents have appealed the ruling.
There was, what seemed like, a beak in the case in 2015 when an IU student, Hannah Wilson, was abducted and murdered. A local man named Daniel Messel was arrested for the murder, but it was concluded that the 2 cases were unrelated.
This is a case where I feel the need to say that even if you are responsible for factors of your death, what happened to Lauren should not happen to anyone. Even if she drank and did drugs and made "bad decisions" (i.e., the decisions that a very high percentage of college students make), she is not responsible for what happened after.
Her level of inebriation is not a welcome sign for assault, in the event she was assaulted. If she was abducted, it is the fault of the kidnapper, not a college student on a night out. And even if the death was ultimately her doing: drinking and doing drugs to the point of death, to have her body taken and hidden, never allowing her parents and loved ones any real chance for closure, is not her fault.
If Lauren did overdose, or die from something related to what she ingested that night, her parents deserved to bury her. To hold a funeral for her. To mourn her. They may never find her body. They think she is dead, but may never know for sure. And they'll probably spend the rest of their lives fighting for justice and trying to get some answers out of her friends. It is a heartbreaking scenario.
If Lauren was killed by a stranger, I hope one day that person is found and apprehended. But if she died accidentally and her "friends" made a pact to cover it up, I truly hope that one day they decide to tell the truth to allow those who loved Lauren to get some semblance of peace and closure.