clue

Officials: Killer said to camp where Wroe-Bechtel vanished in Wyoming

2013-03-06T05:00:00Z 2014-11-20T13:28:35Z Officials: Killer said to camp where Wroe-Bechtel vanished in WyomingBy MEGAN CASSIDY Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The brother of convicted murderer Dale Wayne Eaton had attempted to contact law enforcement earlier, but to little avail.

Shortly after the July 24, 1997 disappearance of Lander woman Amy Wroe-Bechtel, all eyes were on her husband, Steve Bechtel, said Detective John Zerga of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.

“I think our detectives who were working the case were so adamant that it was Steve that they weren’t looking in other directions,” Zerga said. “That upset the brother and his wife. I think that’s probably what happened.”

Zerga said he and a colleague went to talk with Eaton’s family members last summer, 15 years after Wroe-Bechtel vanished. Eaton’s brother told them that Eaton would often camp in the Burnt Gulch area around the time Wroe-Bechtel went missing.

Hours after her disappearance, Bechtel’s car was found on the Burnt Gulch Road turnoff in the mountains above Lander, according to previous Star-Tribune reports. That was where she reportedly went running the day she disappeared.

Few camped in the area, and few outside of Lander even knew about the area, Zerga said.

“If we could prove that Dale was in the area, that puts him at the number one lead,” he said.

Officials say they have no reason to not believe Eaton’s brother — he has nothing to gain by sharing this information and his wife corroborated his claims.

The idea isn’t a new one. Dale Wayne Eaton has been considered a suspect by officials and others for this and several other unsolved cases.

A month and a half after Bechtel’s disappearance, Eaton attempted to kidnap a family that had stopped for car trouble — a crime that earned him two to five years of probation after 99 days in jail, according to a Radford University study. It was after this incident that Eaton’s brother became convinced that Eaton was also responsible for Wroe-Bechtel’s disappearance, Zerga said.

On March 3, 2004, Eaton was found guilty of raping and murdering Lisa Marie Kimmell in 1988. A jury sentenced him to death but he has been appealing the conviction ever since.

He’s also remained tight-lipped.

Zerga said officials tried once again to talk to Eaton about three or four months ago.

He had a few choice words for the officials. None of them were useful.

“It took longer for us to introduce ourselves,” Zerga said. “Then he told us where to go.”

Eaton’s appeals aren’t quite yet exhausted, Zerga said. The inmate’s execution was stayed last year. The case is still tied up in federal court.

Zerga said he and others on his team have dabbled in unconventional investigative methods including the use of a psychic.

That person took authorities up to the Burnt Gulch area again in late October where she felt a “high energy.” Zerga said he’s received about a dozen of calls from psychics and takes all tips into consideration.

“I honestly believe there is someone out there with information,” he said.

If law enforcement can prove Eaton was responsible, Zerga said he doubts the death row inmate will face any further charges.

“We’re just looking for closure,” he said.

Reach crime reporter Megan Cassidy at 307-266-0534 or megan.cassidy@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @meganrcassidy.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. Vacantnoggin
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    Vacantnoggin - August 21, 2015 7:16 am
    Unfortunately, the Amy Bechtels family got Zerga to "help" crack the case. The guy couldn't crack an egg. Lousy police work to say the least. The family should have hired the best private detective money could buy. Start a fund to donate money to family to hire the best.
  2. Vacantnoggin
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    Vacantnoggin - August 21, 2015 7:13 am
    Put Eaton in a room with me for an hour. I will make sure his memory sharpens up. I would love to torture this guy in all sorts of evil, just ways.
  3. cjinvt
    Report Abuse
    cjinvt - February 04, 2015 9:09 pm
    Eaton was born twisted and evil. It's not surprising he won't address questions about Ms. Bechtel. Perhaps taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for his confession and information that leads to her whereabouts might convince this monster to answer questions.
  4. Chippewa
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    Chippewa - June 12, 2014 11:28 am
    I know some believe Eaton killed Ms. Bechtel, the mo isn't right. However, a look at Lester Van Waters, Jr. does have a similar mo and both victims look eerily similar.
  5. nathankluttz
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    nathankluttz - May 26, 2014 5:57 pm
    Dale Wayne Eaton may have a date with a needle, but more importantly, he has a date to meet the Lord. And then he will meet the real Judge, and then he will get exactly what he deserves, no more, no less. When i hear about people like Dale Eaton, who murder their fellow man- i have to ask myself, ' Do they not believe that there is a righteous Lord who's going to judge them for their wickedness'? There is nothing worse that you can do to a person-than to kill them.
  6. Seven007
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    Seven007 - July 06, 2013 12:59 pm
    Has anyone thought of the possibility (probability in my mind at least).....that Amy's remains, whether as a whole or dismembered, were disposed of in the Sinks River? Some may say "they would come up at The Rise" --but nearly nothing is known about the underground network of that river after it disappears other than it takes approximately 2 hrs to "rise again" 1/3 a mile away, that more water comes up than goes in at The Sinks etc....her remains could be lodged in any of the "narrow passages" which have "rock and branches" and other debris...totally unexplorable according to science-- and after this many years maybe some remains are passing through The Rise unnoticed.
  7. nls
    Report Abuse
    nls - March 12, 2013 1:11 pm
    ya what evidence He is a outstanding citizen in Lander a married they had nothing on him.
  8. Honesty
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    Honesty - March 09, 2013 8:21 am
    I'm embarrassed for Wyoming and "using" psychics to try and solve this.

    As far as Eaton- kill him today. This type of person will only give misinformation and lies to prolong his existence on this earth. Don't waste any more money on him. Plain and simple.
  9. why_oming
    Report Abuse
    why_oming - March 06, 2013 6:35 pm
    If there's any truth to this, and Eaton IS involved, hopefully no evidence was lost when Lisa Kimmel's family burned the buildings on his property down in 2005. That should be the first place Zerga heads instead of following psychics on a hike.
  10. Right
    Report Abuse
    Right - March 06, 2013 4:15 pm
    What evidence was that Sage?
  11. sage
    Report Abuse
    sage - March 06, 2013 3:48 pm
    There was very good and incriminating evidence against the husband.
  12. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - March 06, 2013 3:27 pm
    Nick- I totally agree...Zerga is being played like a chump
  13. Right
    Report Abuse
    Right - March 06, 2013 2:10 pm
    I think its highly unlikely that Eaton would give up any details about other crimes he has committed, not truthful information anyway. But it will be interesting to see if his execution day draws near whether he might try to bargain information. I suspect he could clear up quite a few missing person's cases and unsolved murders.
  14. Brutus
    Report Abuse
    Brutus - March 06, 2013 12:55 pm
    That would be awesome but our beloved Cheney is no longer in charge of the Water Boarding Program.. That has been shelved and replaced with giveaway entitlement programs and OBAMA CARE
  15. 99Savage
    Report Abuse
    99Savage - March 06, 2013 10:23 am
    Water board Eaton until he talks then stick the needle in him.
  16. Brutus
    Report Abuse
    Brutus - March 06, 2013 9:28 am
    Can we please somehow wipe this waste of skin from our planet. Each time I see his face on the news or in the paper it makes me want to throw up.. I cant imagine what Lisa's Mother must feel each time she sees this scumbags face.. Enough already with the waste of our money and BS programs.
  17. Nick M
    Report Abuse
    Nick M - March 06, 2013 8:14 am
    Quoting from today’s WPM article:

    “Detective John Zerga [of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office] says Eaton, who was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell in the Lil’ Miss case, has always been on the list of suspects. Eaton’s execution was stayed last year and he isn’t talking. But Zerga says a tip from Eaton’s brother may help prove he was in the Lander area when Bechtel went missing.

    “We’ve talked with his family members, we’ve talked with some FBI profilers,” he says, “some cold case workers in Colorado, the detectives that did the Lil’ Miss case, and we believe through all our interviews there’s a good reason to believe Dale was involved with this.”

    “Zerga says the profilers believe Eaton could also be a good match for the Great Basin Serial Killer responsible for a slew of murders of women in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado in the 80s and 90s.

    “Zerga added that detectives plan to pursue another lead from a woman claiming to be psychic surrounding two possible areas of in interest near where Bechtel disappeared.

    “‘This summer, we had a tip come in. It was a gal, she said she’s a psychic. And she took us to two areas up there that she felt that we should search,’ says Zerga, ‘And I don’t know how their psychic stuff works or what it does, but granted, we follow up on all information that comes in.’

    “Zerga says they’ll take cadaver dogs to search the area once the snow melts.”

    A marvelous scramble of raw speculation with a psychic thrown in for good measure. Well done, Detective Zerga. Eaton’s family is playing you like a guitar. Every time you babble to a reporter, you delay his execution by at least a year.
  18. Nick M
    Report Abuse
    Nick M - March 06, 2013 7:59 am
    Eaton's brother "has nothing to gain?" Eaton has a date with the needle. If enough interest can be generated purportedly connecting him to Wroe-Bechtel's murder, theoretically, at least, his execution could be delayed for a good, long while.

    Someone is being very naive here.
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