Erin Leigh Foster, age 18, and Jeremy Lee Bechtel, age 17, went missing from Sparta, TN on April 4, 2000.
Jeremy was spending the night at his cousin’s home, and asked to be dropped off at a party. He apparently left the party with Erin in her 1998 Pontiac Grand Am. Jeremy and Erin were childhood friends, by most accounts, although some state they were a couple.
Erin and Jeremy were reportedly last seen in her car, outside of Sparta, at around 10:00pm. Neither of them have been heard from again, and her car has never been found.
Although there have been persistent rumors of Erin’s ex-boyfriend being involved in her disappearance, and he has been named a person of interest by law enforcement, he has been cooperative and passed a lie detector test. He was reportedly one of the last people to see Erin and Jeremy. Although I don’t know anyone involved personally, my opinion is that her ex-boyfriend was not responsible. I base this on years of reading about missing persons cases – jealousy-induced violence is generally a ‘heat of the moment’ type of thing. Since it’s been reported that Erin and Jeremy’s last confirmed sighting was at this party, and her ex-boyfriend was one of the last to see them, I would have to speculate that he was at the party. Would a jealous ex-boyfriend lure Erin and her friend away from the party, but take a separate vehicle (since Erin’s never surfaced and the ex would have had to get back somehow), meet them somewhere secluded, harm them, dispose of both of them and their car, and drive back to the party, or home, or wherever and have nobody notice anything? It just doesn’t seem likely to me. I could see a jealous ex-boyfriend possibly luring her away with him in his own car, but not another guy.
There have also been rumors that Erin was seen alive and well in Florida – several tips have corroborated this, including one sighting by a retired police officer. Tennessee law enforcement do not believe the person sighted is Erin, but someone who resembles her. The person who claimed to have seen Erin and Jeremy in the car (and apparently knew them) supports the theory that they may be in Florida, although neither of their social security numbers have been used since 2000.
I was very skeptical of this Florida theory, even with the repeated sightings, until I read that Erin’s family has declined to submit DNA. There could be many reasons for this; possibly, as the article suggested, they just don’t want to grapple with the worst case scenario, but it could also be that they have some valid reason to believe that she is alive and well. I really hope that is the case.
Yet more rumors have surfaced that the two were buried in a well in White County, which resulted in several area wells being searched by Law Enforcement.
Not much has been said about the party they attended – if either of them had any confrontations with anyone there, or if Erin’s ex-boyfriend was actually there. Were they drinking or using drugs which might have impaired her driving? Would she have driven along any waterways or on any unsafe roads on her way home? Was the location where they were seen at 10:00pm indicative of where they might have been headed? Were they headed in the direction of their homes, or away, into the vast open space that surrounds Sparta? Were they near any businesses or traffic lights that may have had surveillance?
According to news articles, the rumors keep coming… around the same time every year. I hope that buried somewhere among the rumors, is the truth about what happened to these two teenagers.