HENDERSON, Nev. (KLAS) — Steven Koecher’s phone continued to ping off a Las Vegas-area cell phone tower — miles from where he vanished — for days in 2009, leading a team of private investigators to believe someone alive may be involved in the 30-year-old’s disappearance and presumed death.
Koecher, who was living in St. George, Utah, at the time of his disappearance, came from the Salt Lake City area. A surveillance camera captured Koecher driving into the Anthem retirement community on Dec. 13, 2009. Steven walks past several houses before moving out of view.
“What did you see in that video?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Steven’s younger brother, Dallin Koecher.
“If that is Steven, to me, it looks like he is going somewhere with a purpose,” Dallin said.
The timestamp on the video puts Steven driving down Savannah Springs Avenue at 11:54 a.m. At the strike of noon, one camera catches Steven walking eastbound on Savannah Springs before turning onto Evening Lights Street.
No one has seen Steven since.
$1,500 behind in rent
“He was always just a kind person,” Dallin said about his brother, adding Steven moved to St. George for a fresh start. Steven, who graduated from college with a degree in communications, volunteered in church, was learning to play guitar and was trying to make money washing windows, his brother said.
“It would have taken him a lot, in my personal opinion, for him to have planned all this out to disappear without a trace,” Dallin said.
With no new clues into what happened to Steven, a team from Utah-based EyesOn Private Investigations is working to find answers.
“I think he was trying to make it on his own. That was the biggest thing,” James Berk, who is working on the search for Steven, said.
Berk, along with Danny Livingston and the owner of EyesOn, Kevin Wyatt, are interviewing potential witnesses and combing through documents at no cost to the Koecher family.
“There’s not one shred of evidence that suggests that Steven did this to himself or that Steven walked away,” Wyatt said.
The investigation into what happened to Steven begins before he drove into the Henderson neighborhood and before he vanished. Steven was 3 months, or $1,500, behind in rent at the time of his disappearance, records the 8 News Now Investigators reviewed said. Money from his family, meant to help pay the rent, went undeposited, records showed.
“I think Steven had some debt that he needed to clear up, and someone made him an offer and he took it probably not knowing what that was, and it resulted in his disappearance and what we believe is his death,” Wyatt said.
In the days before his disappearance, financial statements put Steven in St. George; then Washington, Utah; then Mesquite, Overton and finally the Las Vegas valley.
On the day of his disappearance, records show Steven was in the Las Vegas valley for several hours before ultimately parking his car at the end of Savannah Springs Avenue and walking toward his destination, which is unknown.
“He didn’t have any money,” Wyatt said. “He couldn’t afford to drive back and forth, so he is doing something for someone.”
“What’s he doing in an upscale, over-55 neighborhood?” Livingston said.
There is no record of why Steven ended up in Anthem.
Police found Steven’s car abandoned days after his disappearance. Inside the car, they found gifts for his family, frozen food, a pillow and a blanket – items his family and the private investigators reveal Steven intended to return to his vehicle.
“Steven was coming back to that car,” Berk said.
In the minutes between 11:54 a.m. – when the camera catches Steven’s car driving into the complex – and noon – when the camera records Steven presumably walking to a house on Evening Lights Street, Steven had a conversation with a man on the street.
“He says, ‘Hey do you want some cash?’ something about money,” Wyatt said. The private investigators suspect what happened next sealed Steven’s fate.
“I think he went to the home that he was supposed to go to and actually says, ‘Oh, kind of funny, I told the guy and asked him if he wanted some money,’” Wyatt said. “I think that’s what resulted in Steven’s disappearance — was that error.”
Potential clues in the neighborhood
A police report indicates officers interviewed one neighbor after Steven’s disappearance. Police said the neighbor appeared “nervous when contacted and while being questioned about Koecher’s disappearance,” documents said. The person said they did not recognize Steven, had no friends and did “not trust anyone due to the drug lifestyle that people tend to have.”
Police have not named that person as a suspect nor have officers charged him or her with a crime.
Another neighbor told police shortly after Steven’s disappearance that another neighbor moved out of the neighborhood on the same day. When police attempted to talk to the resident, they noticed there was no furniture in the house, a report said.
The private investigators also obtained photos from a home in the neighborhood taken shortly after Steven’s disappearance, which show several holes in the walls and other damage. It is the same property the men suspect Steven was heading in those last moments caught on video.
“We have photos of a room that was destroyed at about the same time,” Berk said. “Is that based on a struggle and a fight and a death? Is it based on a struggle, a fight and a kidnapping? Is it based on somebody who is just mad? I don’t know.”
Because Steven disappeared 13 years ago, many of the neighbors who owned homes and who spoke to police in those days and months after Steven’s disappearance are no longer there.
Steven’s cell phone
While Steven vanished on Dec. 13, his digital footprint lived on.
“He and/or his cell phone was moving around — whether he was alive or not,” Wyatt said.
On Dec. 14, someone called Steven’s voicemail box from his cellphone, records showed. The cellphone signal then continued to ping off a tower near U.S. 95 and Russell Road for three days until the device died.
More than a decade later – 13 years – Steven too is silent.
“For me, this is what we call a missing-body homicide and law enforcement needs to start over,” Livingston said.
“If he’s alive and he knows who he is, I have a hard time imagining he would be gone and be away from our family,” Dallin said, adding he accepts the fact his brother is not coming home.
“I honestly don’t think he is alive anymore,” Dallin said.
Over the years, witnesses have called police thinking they have seen Steven living in the Las Vegas valley. Not one of the tips has successfully led to Steven.
“If you’re watching, we — there’s always a spot here in this family for you. It’s never closed, and it never will close,” Dallin said.
Both St. George police and Henderson police are investigating the case. Neither department has arrested anyone nor has either department filed charges or named any person of interest in Steven’s disappearance.
St. George police agreed to be interviewed for this story, but the interview could not be conducted due to a scheduling conflict. Henderson police declined to be interviewed for this story, writing in an email: “We are unable to accommodate your request for an interview. Please be advised, there are no updates on this case to provide.”
Tips can be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 702-385-5555 or at crimestoppersofnv.com/report-a-crime. Information can also be sent via text by sending “CRIMENV” and then your message to “CRIMES” (274637). Crime Stoppers offers a reward for information that leads to an arrest.