IDAHO FALLS — Twenty-two years ago, on September 14, Amber Hoopes went missing in Bonneville County.
Hoopes had been staying with her grandparents next door to a business called Classic Auto Body on East Lincoln Road. She was working late inside the body shop that evening.
She never returned home, and when her grandparents went to check on her, she was gone. According to the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, deputies believe Hoopes was abducted.
“Sept. 14, 2001 was the day my niece was abducted,” said Audra Burgener on Thursday during an event in Idaho Falls. “It not only marks the anniversary of her abduction but it is now proclaimed as Idaho Missing Persons Day and also the day chosen on bringing awareness, education and community outreach.”
Burgener was one of a handful of people who spoke at an awareness service for people who have disappeared. The service happened outside the Bonneville County courthouse on Thursday. Dozens of people gathered to show respect and honor those who have gone missing in Idaho.
The Hoopes case was the catalyst in marking Sept. 14 as Idaho Missing Persons Day and was first signed and authorized via proclamation by Gov. James Risch in 2006.
“There’s more than 130 missing persons cases throughout the state and nine of those missing persons are from Bonneville County,” said Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Bryan Lovell.
He read the names and the age they were when they went missing:
- Donald Butler, 59
- Rex Hill, 6
- Toni Schiess, 10
- Laddie Schiess, 38
- Larry Hill, 38
- Randall Leach, 20
- Wayne Heath, 37
- Darwin Vest, 48
- Amber Hoopes, 20
Sgt. Lovell invited everyone to join him in a moment of silence to remember those missing.
“The fact that we are here is a somber moment, a somber reason but the fact that we are all here is also a fantastic reason because the fact that we are all here means that everybody here remembers,” said Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Tony Glenn.
Glenn added that from the sheriff’s office perspective, investigators come and go, while some retire. One thing that doesn’t change is their dedication to the cases that involve all those that are missing. New eyes are on the cases while the sheriff’s office reassigns new investigators, Glenn explained.
Retired Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde said the sheriff’s office is committed to helping find the people who are missing.
“We remember these names and we remember these people and we commit to them,” Wilde said. “I don’t let a day go by that I don’t hear and talk to people and realize that these cases are still very much part of our community and we will continue to work these cases even after we are gone.”
Emily Downey from the “She’s Missing” podcast said Sept. 14 is about honoring those who have gone missing and acknowledging pain that families have gone through.
She added that there are ways the public can help in missing persons cases.
“What often gets overlooked is the power that each one of us has to assist in these investigations. We can help with the searches, we can help with distributing flyers, organizing community efforts, and even offer emotional support to the families going through a horrendous ordeal,” Downey said.
Hoopes, along with the eight other missing persons cases that were mentioned at the service, continue to be active cases.
If you have any information about any of the cases, call the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office at (208) 529-1200 or report anonymously to East Idaho Crime Stoppers online or download the P3tips app on your mobile device.