October 17, 2016

LAURA VAN WYHE

AGE: 21

DIED: OCTOBER 26, 1996

Location: Iowa City, Iowa / Kahoka, Missouri

In the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 26, 1996, a truck driver found Iowa City resident Laura Van Wyhe alive but incoherent, alongside Highway 136 near Kahoka, Missouri. Van Wyhe died three hours later in a Quincy, Ill., hospital. She died of brain trauma, massive blood loss and blunt force trauma to the head and legs. An autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in Van Wyhe’s system.

Troopers initially thought Van Wyhe may have been hit by a car, but said whatever had happened to the young woman did not occur where she was found. Very little blood was found at the scene, though Van Wyhe had suffered massive blood loss.

There were no marks in the gravel to indicate she’d pulled herself to the edge of the highway, and there was no vehicle debris, such as headlight pieces or chrome fragments, to indicate Van Wyhe had been struck there. Nor had paint chips found embedded in Van Wyhe’s clothing been matched to a vehicle.

On Friday evening, Oct. 25, Van Wyhe and her 14-month-old son had gone to Bonaparte, Iowa, to celebrate her birthday at the home of Rebecca Reynolds-Knight, the mother of Donald Knight — Van Wyhe’s boyfriend and her son’s father. Knight had family members living in both Kahoka and in Bonaparte, which is about a half-hour drive from Kahoka.

Van Wyhe spent the night with Tony and Sarah Bergman — Donald’s Knight’s sister — in Kahoka because there weren’t enough beds for everyone in Bonaparte. Van Wyhe and her son rode with the Bergmans from Bonaparte to the Bergman home in Kahoka. The plan was for the Bergmans to drive Van Wyhe back to Bonaparte the next morning for a parade.

When Van Wyhe was found, she had several items with ?her, including baby food on a paper plate, a baby bottle and a blanket, suggesting she’d had to leave in a hurry. Her belongings were found in trees and in a cornfield near the highway where her body was discovered. Her young son? was found unharmed at the Bergman residence in Kahoka. Officials found a cocklebur branch lying next to Van Wyhe’s body, and cockleburs stuck to her body. There was a cocklebur bush in the cornfield across the highway from where she was found, indicating a struggle may have occurred there.

The Bergmans lived about one-tenth of a mile east and two- tenths of a mile north of the cornfield. One footprint found in the cornfield matched Van Wyhe’s shoes, though she was not wearing any shoes when found.

Tony and Sarah Bergman refused to take lie detector?tests and stopped talking to police early in the investigation. Investigators say the case is at a standstill until? new evidence is obtained.

Sgt. Randy King of the Missouri Highway Patrol said in 1999, “I’m not convinced that Laura was intentionally struck, but I’m convinced she was struck and left alongside the road and her child was taken from her along the road.”