Six months ago, IU student Lauren Spierer disappeared, leaving behind her shoes, purse and cell phone.
The three items were among the few clues police first discovered in the case.
But there are things Lauren left behind that can’t be filed away inside an evidence locker. Things like a family, a circle of friends and a community of more than 80,000 who, 183 days later, are still wondering what could have happened.
The University has helped in any way it could, IU Dean of Students Harold “Pete” Goldsmith said. Awareness events were planned and a $50,000 fund was created to help defray costs of the search.
But now, Goldsmith said, the money has essentially run dry.
“There may be a few hundred dollars in it, but it’s depleted,” he said, noting there are no plans to add more money to the fund.
Goldsmith said there are also no current plans for any University-sponsored events, but he remains in regular contact with Lauren’s parents, Charlene and Robert Spierer.
“They let me know what’s going on, and I let them know what’s going on,” he said.
Other campus assistance has come in the form of Rabbi Sue Silberberg and the IU Helene G. Simon Hillel Center. Silberberg is the director of Hillel.
She helped organize many of the large volunteer searches, and the Hillel Center created a fund for people to donate money. The fund is still accepting donations, Silberberg said.
Though Silberberg said the Spierers are no longer staying in Bloomington, the center remains in touch with them and offers support whenever the family comes to town.
“It’s very sad she still hasn’t been found after all this time,” Silberberg said. “We just really still hope someone will come forward. The Spierers are wonderful people, and it’s been so painful.”
The story of what occurred in the early morning hours of June 3 has been told and retold by police officers, newspapers and news broadcasts.
Police said they know Lauren left her apartment at Smallwood Plaza and met friends at Kilroy’s Sports Bar.
She left the bar at about 2:30 a.m., leaving behind her shoes and cell phone. She briefly returned to Smallwood with another IU student, Corey Rossman. A physical altercation reportedly occurred with some of the complex’s residents, and the pair left.
Lauren and Rossman then allegedly went to Rossman’s friend’s apartment at 11th Street and Morton Avenue.
She reportedly decided to return to Smallwood at about 4:30 a.m. and was last seen at the intersection of 11th Street and College Avenue, just a couple of blocks from her apartment.
Surveillance footage of the building’s entrance shows Lauren never made it home, Bloomington Police Capt. Joe Qualters said. Six months later, it’s still not clear what happened to her.
“The Bloomington Police Department continues to actively investigate the disappearance of Lauren Spierer, which occurred six months ago,” Qualters said in a press release Thursday.
“The Department continues to receive tips from the public and from other law enforcement agencies with information about what they have heard or with names of individuals that should be considered as possibly being involved.”
In the weeks after Lauren’s disappearance, thousands of police officers, civilian volunteers and professional search organizations scoured Bloomington and the surrounding area.
The investigation grew to include the IU Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Indiana State Police, the FBI and Team Adam of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Lauren’s face appeared on hundreds of posters around Bloomington and on the Fox Network television show “America’s Most Wanted.” Police have received more than 2,400 tips, Qualters said.
There were false leads and dead ends.
A white pickup truck and its driver, caught on the surveillance cameras of nearby businesses, were sought.
The driver came forward,but police determined he was not involved in the disappearance, Qualters said.
For nine days in August, BPD officers and FBI agents searched a landfill near Terre Haute, where all of Bloomington’s trash is transported. They picked through 4,100 tons of waste, but no evidence was found.
Despite the setbacks, Qualters said police have made progress in the case and progress will continue to be made.
“The Bloomington Police Department remains as committed to this investigation as we were on June 3, and our vigorous efforts will continue as we seek to provide answers to Lauren’s family and the Bloomington community,” Qualters said.
Dean Goldsmith called the disappearance and its six-month anniversary “a tragedy.” He said the University will continue to offer support to the investigation and Lauren’s family.
“Our commitment remains unchanged from day one,” Goldsmith said. “I’ve been so privileged to try to help them as much as I could. We hope for a resolution for them as soon as possible.”
— Colleen Sikorski contributed to this report