The evening of Oct. 11, 1993, is one Linda Dubiel will never forget.
Sandi, the mother of 9-year-old Stephanie Lyn Crane, walked into Custer County Sheriff’s Office to report Stephanie missing, Dubiel was the dispatcher on duty.
Stephanie had last been seen about 6 p.m. near Challis Lanes bowling alley. She may have been headed to Challis High School to watch a soccer practice or on her way home. She never made it to either place. A massive search was launched with up to 300 volunteers and multiple state and federal agencies assisting. All efforts during the past quarter century to find Stephanie and bring her abductor to justice have been unsuccessful.
Dubiel is now the jail administrator. At 27 years, she has the longest tenure of anyone currently working at the Sheriff’s Office.
She emails a news release every year near the anniversary of Stephanie’s disappearance to media far and wide.
“I don’t want people to ever forget,” Dubiel said. “This might be the year that someone remembers something. You never know. I don’t want to give up hope.”
Dubiel still hopes Stephanie might be found alive. It’s happened in the case of three Ohio girls, she pointed out, who were kidnapped and held in captivity for a decade. Or, human remains might be found and identified as Stephanie’s, at least bringing family members some closure.
“Personally, I don’t think any missing person case should ever be closed,” Dubiel said, especially when a child is abducted.
A television documentary about Stephanie’s disappearance was filmed in Challis last winter and aired on “Disappeared,” a program on the Discovery channel, in April and again in August.
There have been numerous leads in the last 25 years, and Custer County Sheriff’s Office staffers, working with the FBI, Idaho State Police and other agencies and organizations, have followed up aggressively on every single one, Dubiel said. It’s been very frustrating that none have panned out, although it has seemed a few times that investigators were getting close.
Perhaps the closest was in 2002, when the investigation turned again to Keith Glenn “Mark” Hescock, a hunter who had been living in Idaho Falls.
In 1993, Hescock shot and killed a bighorn sheep ram in the Challis area. It was documented at a game check station. He had been driving a yellow pickup, which witnesses reported seeing near the Challis bowling alley the day Stephanie went missing.
According to The Charley Project website, Hescock had been investigated for Stephanie’s disappearance and for the disappearance of Amber Hoopes, 20, of Idaho Falls on Sept. 14, 2001. He was a friend of one of Amber’s relatives. She has never been found.
Hescock is suspected of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl from outside her home on June 5, 2002. He had known the unnamed girls’ family, working for her grandparents, according to The Charley Project. The girl was able to escape after Hescock went to work, leaving her chained to a bed in his house. She grabbed a fire extinguisher, pounded on and broke the lock.
Hescock led police on a 40-mile, high-speed chase, which ended on a dead-end road in the mountains. Cornered, he shot and killed a police dog, shot and wounded an officer before turning his gun on himself. Since he died by suicide, officers were never able to interrogate him or link him to Stephanie’s or Amber’s disappearances. Hescock’s neighbor told authorities Hescock had been hunting in Challis the weekend of Stephanie’s disappearance.
Stephanie’s great-grandparents, Georgia and Al Skeen, were camping near Twin Peaks the weekend before Stephanie went missing and were camped next to a “weird guy” in a yellow pickup. Georgia later identified him as Hescock after seeing his photo in a newspaper.
There have been other persons of interest in Stephanie’s case over the years, Dubiel said, but never enough evidence to make an arrest. One woman refused to answer any questions without an attorney present. Another suspect took a polygraph. His answers about the case were deceptive but inconclusive.
If anyone thinks they have information that would assist in locating Stephanie, they are encouraged to call Custer County Sheriff’s Office at 208-879-2232 or the anonymous tip line at 208-879-5372. People can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-842-5678. Stephanie’s information is on the center’s website and can also be found on The Charley Project’s website. Other ways of reaching out are to Sheriff Stu Lumpkin’s Facebook page or via email to email@example.com.
A $50,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Stephanie’s disappearance.