Unsolved Mysteries: What Happened to Julie Weflen?

PX00149_9Out of all the true crime stories I’ve read, one sticks with me and won’t let go. It’s the strange case of Julie Weflen, who went missing near Riverside State Park in Washington state in 1987.

Gentle, good-hearted, and strong-willed, Julie was one of the few female operators for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Her job required her to work at power substations in remote locations.

On the day she disappeared, there was a report that nitrogen was low in one of the transformers at the Springhill substation.

Her coworker told Julie she could let it go for the day, but she told him she had time to resolve the issue. The twenty-eight year old disappeared at about 3:30 p.m. from the substation near where the Four Mound and Coulee Hite roads meet, northwest of Spokane.

Her hard hat and toolbox, a water bottle and a pair of sunglasses lay on the ground next to the truck. Her purse was still in the work rig. The truck’s driver-side door and back hatch were open.

Randy Ridenhour, who was BPA’s liaison for law enforcement, said police told him at the time it appeared Julie had been overpowered by two people.

Gravel showed signs of a struggle, including what appeared to be drag marks. A fresh tire pattern, not belonging to Julie’s vehicle, was found near the substation.

Mike Weflen, Julie’s husband, was originally a suspect, even though he was painting a house fifty miles west of Spokane when she disappeared. He searched for his young wife for years with a devotion bordering on obsession, until finally accepting he would most likely never find her. Weflen eventually remarried and had a family.

A retired BPA engineer sparked new interest in the case three years ago when he decided to investigate Julie’s disappearance with a group of fellow retirees. The group has amassed a list of about fifty women who went missing or were killed in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene, Idaho area from the mid-1960s through 2011. Among them:

— Laurie Partridge, 17, disappeared while returning home from Spokane’s Ferris High School in 1974.

— Kathryn R. Gregory, a 24-year-old nurse, disappeared Nov. 5, 1981, from a parking lot in Spokane’s South Hills.

— Schoolteacher Debra Jean Swanson, 30, failed to return from a popular lakeside hiking trail in nearby Coeur d’Alene on March 29, 1986, and hasn’t been seen since.

— Sally Stone Ries, 22, vanished May 16, 1986, while employed as an exotic dancer at a Coeur d’Alene resort-tavern.

Julie is not believed to be a victim of notorious serial killers Robert Lee Yates Jr., the so-called “Spokane Killer” who confessed in 2000 to thirteen murders beginning in 1975, or “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgway, who murdered forty-nine people between 1992 and 1998.

So what happened to Julie? Even though she was tiny, at five-foot-two and just over one-hundred pounds, she was strong and34740052_125195051762 competent. Those closest to her are certain she would have fought for her life. This could explain the signs of a struggle, which made it seem like two people kidnapped Julie. While there have been cases of murderous pairs, most crimes of this nature are committed by one person.

Local police no longer consider Julie a missing person. Her disappearance is regarded as a homicide. But if she was killed, where is her body?

Sadly, Julie’s mother passed away in 2006 without ever knowing what had happened to her daughter.

BPA is offering a substantial award of $25,000 to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to the resolution of this troubling case.

Julie is Caucasian with brown hair and brown eyes. She has a scar on her back, and a metal rod implanted in her spine. If you have any information concerning Julie Weflen, please call the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office at (509) 477-4760.

What do you think happened to Julie?

With files from The Spokesman Review.


    • Lynn Berk

      I wrote a story for the Coeur d’Alene Press about the disappearances of Julie, Swanson, and Ries. I was told off the record that the investigating officer for the Swanson case was counting the days to his retirement and bungled the case. I was ALSO told by numerous people, after the damn story ran, that there was a prime suspect in all three who was, and may still be, a member of the Spokane Mountaineering Club who sued the Spokane cops for harassment when they couldn’t pin anything on him, and so he still goes about his everyday business. Don’t know his name–just repeating what I was told.

      • JH

        Wow, Lynn, thanks for your input. To be honest, I was disappointed with the lack of response this post received compared to the other unsolved mysteries I’ve written about. Perhaps it’s just too cold, and a lot of people have given up hope.

        I’d read that there was another suspect. I will never forget Julie, and hope that one day justice is done.

        I really appreciate your comment and the information!

          • JH

            If you’re serious, feel free to email me. I get lots of strange messages and requests, so it’s difficult to know which are legit.

  1. Gosh, that is a frightening scenario… because you just don’t know what happened, and it’s been so long. I admire her husband and the BPA retirees for searching & investing for clues.

    • JH

      Thanks for commenting, Carrie. It has been way too long. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose someone you love that way.

      Her husband looked for Julie for years, but finally realized he had to put her disappearance behind him and move on with his life. Her coworkers have never given up. They recently put together a list of eleven suspects for the police. They’re convinced that whoever took Julie is a local.

    • JH

      One of my greatest wishes is that we’ll find out what happened to Julie one day. It’s so troubling that she could disappear in the middle of the day, and never be seen or heard from again.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa.

  2. Frank

    The man being investigated from the Spokane Mountaineering club had the first name of Will. He used to own and run the ropes course off of River Road (I think)… It leads from the valley to Hillyard… Perhaps Euclid?

  3. Richard

    I found a Will Parks who runs something called Adventure Outdoors, does that sound right? Did all three women have a connection to that course?

  4. Scott

    I live about 2 miles from that sub-station. I was in 8th grade when Julie disappeared and I still remember all the posters and billboards around the area. Seemed like everyone was searching for her. I wanna know what was in the footlocker they found at the main office she was based out of. The contents has never been made public that I know of. I think the poor girl knew something she was not supposed to know. The truth and time walk hand in hand and I hope someday, somebody finds you! 🙂

  5. Susan Jordan

    I read about Julie in one of Ann Rule’s books and the case has stayed with me also. I cannot imagine the number of people who seem to just vanish into thin air. I also can’t imagine what her family has been going through, not knowing what happened to her.

    • JH

      Welcome to my blog, Susan, and thanks for commenting. Sorry it’s taken so long for me to reply–I was out of the country.

      I first read about Julie in Ann Rule’s book as well. It’s such a sad case. I hope lots of people read this post and share it. You never know who might be reading…someone out there must know something!

  6. Athena

    I remember seeing the posters for years at the substation. I always looked for the poster and wondered about her.

  7. Melody

    This saddens me too no end, as well, there are many missing women on my small town of La Grande, Oregon…and recent unsolved missing or dead women. We need good investigators!! Or I’m suspicious of them as well….

  8. Kimberly

    I remember this case well. My father was also a substation operator for Bonneville at the time, and he was devastated, as were all of the BPA employees Julie had worked with. It was unusual back then for a woman to be a substation operator, but she was smart and well-respected by her fellow employees and I’m sure she paved the way for more women being hired in that position by the BPA. I remember my father being anguished that they hadn’t instituted a buddy system for operators prior to her disappearance; it had been something that had been discussed.

    I remember hearing my father talk about how a psychic had been brought in on the investigation. I’m not sure I buy all of that mumbo-jumbo, but the psychic ‘felt’ that Julie had passed shortly after being abducted, that the perpetrator (just one person) was probably an old boyfriend, and that she was buried on his property. Apparently the police were never able to search his property, though, lack of probable cause, or something? I’m sorry I can’t remember more details…I was just a teenager at the time and this was a conversation I only overheard bits and pieces of.

    I hope that progress is eventually made on this case. For all involved, it would be nice to have some resolution.

    • JH

      Thanks so much for providing all this history, Kimberly! I feel sympathy for your father and all the other BPA employees. It must have been so hard on them when Julie disappeared, not to mention scary for the women who came after her!

      Interesting insights from the psychic. I have a medium friend who helps the police from time to time, so although there are a lot of scammers out there, I believe some of them are legit. Unfortunately, I suspect she’s right about Julie dying soon after her abduction. I’ve never heard of an adult woman being kept alive this long, but I still hope this case is solved. Not knowing is the worst.

      Welcome to my blog, and thanks so much for commenting.

    • JH

      I’ve never heard of Cold Justice, Gené. I’ll have to look into this. Thanks for the suggestion, and for commenting. Welcome to my blog!

  9. Linda

    The ladies from Cold Justice can be found on YouTube. Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McCleary look at police files and try to solve old cases. I have also heard about Will Parks as a suspect which others have mentioned. He has a home and/or business (outdoor adventure ropes course, etc.) which is located very near the BPA SpringHill substation where Julie was taken from. I suspect that Julie was buried on private property and that’s why she was never found.

  10. MC

    I worked for BPA when Julie went missing, although I never met her because I worked at one of the Tri-Cities locations. I sure wish they would find out what happened so the family could have some sense of closure.

  11. Barbara

    1st time I have stumbled on your blog. I love cold cases and love your willingness to look into suggestions!
    From my limited reading of cases such as this it seems many times a small connection between victim and committer. Seems could be a case here because if not someone had to know she would go to that spot that afternoon to be there to get her! At least if not it sure was “luck” that the committer happened upon her.
    Perhaps the foot locker never released contents would give a clue for the right person!

    • JH

      Thanks for the kind words, Barbara. I suspect Julie was taken by someone who had been stalking her for a while. Still hope they catch him one day.

  12. I have studied serial killers in great depth for many, many years (as a sociologist, one of my major areas of emphases is deviance). After reading your list of some of the other disappearances in the area, the actions seem indicative of a serial killer, especially since so many of those missing vanished without a trace, including that of Julie Weflen. Far more serial killers have been practicing their captures and kills for longer than we care to believe (or want to think about). If Julie was kidnapped and murdered by a stranger, it would be far more difficult to find the murderer than if she was killed by someone she already knew. Of course, sometimes serial killers get arrogant and then get lazy and soon they’ve killed close to home or someone close to them, so it could be one of those prime suspects, too, I suppose. Either way, it’s absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying. I’ve shared this on Twitter (where I have the greatest number of followers to reach). Thank you for all you do. I love your posts.

    • JH

      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing, Michelle. You made my day!

      It seems like we have the same area of interest. I’ve studied serial killers in depth as well, but just out of personal interest.

  13. Jennifer

    I was 12 years old when Julie Weflen went missing, and it wasn’t too far from our house. I remember the story and her face so well. I also remember shortly after she went missing seeing a guy burying something over by Red Lake when we drove by, and for some reason I always thought he was burying her body. Most likely, he was burying garbage, but my 12-year-old mind wouldn’t let the idea go. It haunts me to this day. I just wish they would get some answers, or find her so there might be some peace to her disappearance.

    • JH

      Me too, Jennifer. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for you, thinking about stuff like that at twelve.

      No kid should have to worry about that stuff.


  14. Eric S.

    I remember this case well- even as a teenager. I lived only a mile from where Julie lived and I remember seeing the case in Unsolved Mysteries at that age- at home alone of course- and being terrified. It’s always haunted me. The fact that people just disappear to me is a crazy notion. There are answers and clues out there- somewhere. I hate to think that this case could get any colder. Please keep up the great writing for justice!

    • JH

      Thanks so much for commenting, Eric. I can only imagine how terrifying that was.

      I would love to help find Julie. It’s such a sad case. Her loved ones deserve to know what happened to her.

  15. jody

    I’ve done extensive research on this case. It has captivated me for years. Many of the articles you used from The Spokesman-Review were authored by me. I’d be happy to talk to you. I can answer several of the questions posed in this blog.

  16. Paul Cahill

    As someone who’s worked in law enforcement, I find it strange that more evidence wasn’t found at the scene if indeed it was suspected 2 attackers participated. Footprints and nearby tire marks are clearly what you’d look for first. Even if the attackers were living in the wilderness, you’d think that a thorough search would have found discarded evidence, a campsite, blood, shell casing, food stuffs, nearby trails, etc. I would think a group of bloodhounds or search dogs would have found something.

  17. John C. Stark

    Julie and I graduated from U.S. Grant High School in 1977. It was my only year there as I’d been in a private school before but wanted to attend my final year with friends from my neighborhood. Julie and her friend helped me be comfortable in a business machines class where I was only 1 of 2 guys in the class.
    Julie was a charming and warm hearted girl with an endear spirit and gentle nature that made anyone she me feel warm and cared for.
    It breaks my heart thinking of her and her family and what they have endured. I pray for them and all those who continue to work for a resolution to this heartbreaking and needless crime.

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