A String Of Disappearances In Rural Idaho Remain A Mystery Four Decades Later

Between 1979 and 1982, five young people went missing from rural Idaho. Their cases remain cold four decades later.

From left to right: Kristina Nelson, Steven Pearsall, and Brandy Miller.

Kristina Nelson, Steven Pearsall, and Brandy Miller all went missing from Lewiston, Idaho in 1982. They still have not been found.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from "People Magazine Investigates")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from "People Magazine Investigates")

When the boyfriend of 21-year-old Kristina Nelson arrived at her Lewiston, Idaho, apartment on September 13, 1982, and saw the “be right back” note left on the counter, he didn’t think anything of it. He wasn’t even worried when neither Nelson nor her stepsister, Brandy Miller, didn’t return that day.

The next day, however, when Nelson didn’t show up to class or work, he realized that there was something very wrong. The ambitious young woman didn’t skip class at Lewis-Clark State College, and she definitely didn’t miss work at the Lewiston Civic Theatre, where she was employed as a janitor.

Her boyfriend reported her missing and informed Nelson’s stepmother that the women were gone. As police combed the apartment the stepsisters shared, they noticed some very important clues.

First, there was no luggage or clothing missing, meaning their disappearance didn’t appear to be a prearranged trip. Second, one of Nelson’s uncashed paychecks was left in the apartment. Finally, the cat was left to fend for itself.

As authorities searched Lewiston for the girls, a third person was reported missing.

A Strange Link

35-year-old Steven Pearsall was last seen around midnight on the night of September 12. He had worked late that evening but took a break for a few hours to attend a retirement party. After the party, he had gone back to work.

After he was reported missing, police searched Pearsall’s home where they found no signs that he was planning to be gone long. Like the two young women, he had also left an uncashed paycheck at his home. It was then that police realized a connection — they all worked at the theatre.

The rumors swirled around town. Pearsall had been at the theatre the same night the women went missing — and they had likely walked past the theatre on their way to a grocery store. When Pearsall had gone back to the theatre after the retirement party, he was carrying a duffel bag of clothes. He told his girlfriend he was planning to do his laundry while he worked, but a search of the theatre did not recover the bag or the laundry.

Some people theorized that Pearsall could have something to do with the missing women. Had he abducted them and left town? Were they murdered and then he fled?

It was unthinkable to Pearsall’s family. He was a slight man, just 5-foot-six-inches tall. He was kind and gentle, they insisted. Not even Miller’s mother believed the small man stood any chance against her daughter if he had tried to harm her.

Police considered the theories, but they soon realized there was another strange link between the theatre and some other missing persons cases.

Find out who else is still missing on People Magazine Investigates “Valley of Death” on ID on June 27 at 9/8c. See more episodes on discovery+.

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