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Spierers recount past 6 months without their daughter


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By Jake Wright



The hundreds of search party volunteers that once crowded the sidewalks outside the Smallwood Plaza apartments have dwindled, and the articles of Lauren’s disappearance have left the front pages. 

But Robert and Charlene Spierer are still searching for their daughter. 

Every time they return to Bloomington, the Spierers see Lauren’s face. Staring at them from store windows and lamp posts, Lauren’s crystal-blue gaze is a constant reminder of who they are missing. 

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15-year-old Danville resident Kailyn Brown sings a song dedicated to missing IU student Lauren Spierer to at a prayer and support event Saturday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Spierer has been missing for six months since disappearing early in the morning on June 3, 2011. Rabi Abonour Buy Photos
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Junior Amanda Roude speaks about her friend, missing IU student Lauren Spierer, at a prayer and support event Saturday in front of Smallwood Plaza. After attendees spoke, the crowd walked to Fountain Square Mall to write messages to the Spierer family. Rabi Abonour Buy Photos
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Charlene Spierer talks about her missing daughter, IU student Lauren Spierer, at a prayer and support event Saturday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Spierer has been missing for six months. Rabi Abonour Buy Photos
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A picture of missing IU student Lauren Spierer sit next to a poem dedicated to the search for her at a prayer and support event Saturday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Saturday marked six months since Spierer's disappearance. Rabi Abonour Buy Photos
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Junior Blair Wallach and Charlene Spierer hug at a prayer and support for event for missing IU student Lauren Spierer on Saturday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Saturday marked six months since Spierer's disappearance. Rabi Abonour Buy Photos

Robert and Charlene didn’t want to discuss how often they go out and search or where they go, but six months later, they still don’t know what happened to their daughter.

All they need, Charlene said, is for one person who knows where Lauren is to 

speak up.

“You just can’t believe that someone this very second knows where Lauren is, and they are just going on their day,” Charlene said. “It’s inconceivable.”

***

Six months ago, Charlene Spierer was staring down at a picture of her daughter Lauren on the counter of Mr. Copy. With Lauren’s face looking back at her, Charlene wrote in bold letters at the top of the paper: “Missing”.

Next to the photo she wrote: “Last seen June 3rd, 4:30 a.m.”

She was writing what would be the first of many posters of her daughter. Posters she hoped would help bring Lauren home.

It was June 4, and Charlene and her husband Robert had been in Bloomington for only a few hours, but they had already begun the search for Lauren.

Charlene and Robert were hundreds of miles apart when they found out their daughter was missing. Robert was at home in New York, where he works for an accounting firm, when he received the call. He then called Charlene, who was visiting family in Huntsville, Ala., to tell her what had happened.

“‘Lauren is missing, and we need to get out there right away,’” were the first words Charlene said her husband told her. “We didn’t have any information.”

Once the two had met in Indianapolis the following morning, they headed directly to the Bloomington Police Department.

On their way from the airport, Robert said, they were already on the phone trying to find her. They called hospitals, the IU Police Department, anyone they could think of, 

he said. 

“I spoke to someone at the IU Police Department, and she didn’t really know anything about it,” Charlene said. “So I gave her our information and asked her to please call us back because this is pretty big for us.”

Their phone calls made little progress, but after they made it to Bloomington, they were finally able to speak with police. But there was still little information they could be told. When your child is missing, Charlene said, you expect to drive into the town where she disappeared and see evidence that she’s not there.

“There is a lot the police don’t tell you to protect the information they have,” Robert said. “What we knew at the beginning were the persons of interest from the night she went missing.”

A serious panic mode set in. Adrenaline rushing, Robert said the only thing on his mind was looking for Lauren. 

But first they needed to get the word out, so they headed to print posters. They had only the few photos of Lauren that Robert grabbed from the mantle when he rushed out of their home in New York.

Handwriting the poster, Charlene put the description of her daughter.

“5’ tall, approximately 90 pounds. Blue eyes — Blonde hair.”

She handed the poster to the workers, but the news had not spread, so they had no idea about Lauren. She didn’t expect the man helping her to read the poster he was copying, she said. But he did, and Charlene said he became their hero when he printed 300 posters at no cost.

Charlene and Robert started putting posters up and down College Avenue and Walnut Street. Once they ran out, they began their search. Joined by some of Lauren’s friends, including her boyfriend, Jesse Wolff, Robert said they extensively searched the general vicinity of 11th Street.

They searched for a few hours but came up with nothing. Charlene said they had no idea where to begin or where to go next. Then someone suggested going to Brown County State Park.

“We had no idea what that was, but we went,” she said.

Charlene and Robert drove around the unfamiliar woods, still with Lauren’s friends. They got out of the car on occasion, calling to Lauren, but without maps or an organized search, there was little progress.

“We drove around Brown County park, and as we were driving, I was thinking, ‘This is impossible,’” Robert said.

But they were desperate to find Lauren. Robert said he felt searching for Lauren was the best way he could use his energy and the best effort he could make. But in hindsight, he said, the first searches were a little frantic.

“They were disorganized, and they didn’t yield any results, but at that time, you just react,” Robert said.

The sun was setting as Robert and Charlene returned to Bloomington from the first day of their search. The day wasn’t through, though. They said they immediately starting planning for the next day. 

Through the Facebook group and posts Lauren’s friends made, the Spierers said they ended up meeting more people that Sunday in front of Smallwood.

They searched the local area a little, Robert said, but people were mostly focusing on Lake Monroe, Griffy Lake and Lake Lemon. Keenan Gill, who owns a few local tanning salons, volunteered his knowledge of the area and took the Spierers and about a dozen other volunteers around Lake Monroe, Charlene said.

Gill’s directions were to go wherever the road pulled off. So every time the Spierers saw a side road, they stopped and searched. They searched wherever they were told, 

she said. 

“As time is passing, you just want to be everywhere at the same time,” Charlene said.

As the news about Lauren spread and more and more people arrived to volunteer, there was a need for more organization, Robert said. 

After the first few days, the police started to lend their expertise, and a group of the Spierers’ friends came to Indiana, some staying more than four weeks.

The Hampton Inn, where the Spierers were staying, graciously gave its conference room to become what Robert described as their war room. He said every wall of the conference room was covered with maps, papers — anything that might help aid in the search.

With a core group of about 17 of the Spierers’ friends, Robert said everyone was working 20-hour days for weeks. The Spierers’ operation had people responsible for every part of the search for Lauren. The reward, bank accounts, contributions, the media and supplies — there was someone in charge of everything.

In a nearby room dubbed the “Bird’s Nest,” Charlene said, was the social media hub of the Lauren Spierer search. Ran by Lauren’s sister, Rebecca, and some of her own friends, there were people constantly posting to Facebook and tweeting to spread news of Lauren.

Robert said he heard and read things asking why Lauren’s story was getting so much attention. It was because there were people working their butts off for three weeks creating the machine, he said. 

In those early weeks, little time was spent sleeping.

The Spierers’ typical day started with an 8 a.m. meeting until about 9:45 a.m., they said. Then it was off to the police department to discuss updates and that day’s press conference. The conferences would start between 11:30 a.m. and noon, and then it would be off to another interview or to join the searches.

“Then after dinner, we would call our evening meeting, and it would start anywhere between 8 and 10 and last anywhere from midnight to 3 a.m.,” Robert said. “That was basically the schedule day-in and day-out.”

After about three weeks of the same exhausting schedule, people were getting tired. They started shortening the evening meetings because people were running on fumes. As the weeks went by, the daily volunteer searches ended. Soon, the Spierers said they started feeling there was less and less they could do.

Especially after the Shine for Lauren concert Sept. 22, Charlene said there wasn’t more she could do by remaining in Bloomington. The concert was amazing and helped, but it was extremely emotional, she said.

“It’s almost like every time you have an awareness event, you are depleted, and you have to rebuild yourself.”

***

Just remaining in Bloomington is becoming more and more painful. As you walk around campus, you think that Lauren should be here, she said. 

Now, as the Spierers’ stays in New York become longer and there are less leads, Charlene said the investigation is key.

What the Spierers are waiting for is the person who knows where Lauren is to come forward. Robert said they have been reaching out to the persons of interest in the case. Of the three men who Lauren was last seen with, only Jay Rosenbaum, the last person to see Lauren, has sat down with them.

Even after repeated efforts, Corey Rossman, who was seen on video with Lauren the night she disappeared, has so far refused to speak with the Spierers. Robert said they have also not met with Mike Beth, who lives in the apartment that Lauren visited the night she disappeared.

“They don’t even give a reason why they won’t talk to you,” Charlene said. “They don’t have to.”

Some of the persons of interest have taken polygraph tests, but they were not administered by the police. A third party administered the test, and although the results were given to police, the Spierers said they were not told what questions were asked or what the exact results were.

“It didn’t comfort us at all,” Robert said. “It just frustrated us.”

All Robert said he wants is for them to take a police-administered polygraph test so they can possibly be eliminated from the investigation and resources can be redirected.

As they find themselves less useful in Bloomington, they try to have some normalcy with Lauren’s older sister, Rebecca.

“It’s very hard because everyday we wake up and think about Lauren,” Robert said. “You never stop thinking about your child and the circumstances, so there is very little that is normal in our lives.”

But the Spierers have a wedding to plan. Rebecca is recently engaged. 

Robert said even after Lauren’s disappearance, he told his future son-in-law to propose to Rebecca. It is important to the family, he said. During Thanksgiving, Charlene said she and Robert were able to go to dinner and a movie with Rebecca.

“I would say that is the first normal thing we have done in six months,” she said.

In June, the Spierers’ lives were uprooted, but Charlene said it has in no way been a sacrifice. You learn to give up a private life, Charlene said, and whatever they do is for 

Lauren. 

“I hate having my picture taken, so it’s hard for me to be in front of all those cameras,” she said. “But you just have to say, ‘Whatever is hard for me, it’s harder for Lauren.”

They had to forget about their own comfort and insecurities, Robert said. Now they are trying to figure out what the next best step is.

The Spierers ask themselves every day what they should do next. As soon as they figure it out, they will act, Robert said.

“Right now, we are just two parents trying to find our daughter,” Charlene said. “That’s what our lives are about.”

***

On Saturday, Charlene and Robert stood among a crowd of people dedicated to finding Lauren. At the “Support the Spierers” event outside Smallwood, poems about Lauren were shared. During one poem, “Lauren, Dear Lauren,” Charlene’s eyes began to fill with tears. 

She wiped away drops trickling from her eyes. She felt the grip of Robert’s hand on her right shoulder. He rubbed her neck as the poem went on.

Blair Wallach, Lauren’s friend, took the microphone. She broke into tears as she talked about Lauren to the crowd. Robert leaned in, resting his forehead on the back of Charlene’s head. In a mass of people, it was just the two of them and their thoughts of Lauren.

At the end, Charlene made her way through the crowd and took the microphone. She thanked everyone for coming and for their continued support for them and Lauren.

Holding back tears, she gazed off into the distance and spoke to her daughter.

“I love you, Lauren.”

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