Effort to find missing Otsego woman seeks help with flier

3-19 Kathy flier

March 17, 2015 – 15:40

The latest chapter in the attempt to find Kathy Sue Wilcox could begin with someone seeing a flier and making a call.

Her sister, Karen Ortegel, and a group of supporters are continuing to spread the word online—mainly through a Find Kathy Sue Wilcox Facebook group—and in person.

“At this point, all I can do is continue to promote her being gone and efforts to support tips that would lead to finding her,” Ortegel said.

She’s seeking to let people know that a fund has been established through Silent Observer that would collect donations to be used as a reward for information that lead to finding her sister. Wilcox disappeared from their home in Otsego in 1972. In 2011, an Otsego native, Shannon Froeber, revived interest in the missing person after first learning about it and finding information online. Froeber created the Facebook page with Ortegel’s permission.

“The main thing I’ve published on Facebook and the avenues I have is not everybody will be called to contribute to this,” Ortegel said. “I’m asking them to prayerfully consider to share the flyer and promote awareness of Kathy and of the Silent Observer fund.”

Ortegel, who lives in Montana, said she is very thankful for all the people who have helped her.

“I am overwhelmed with the growing number of people who are joining the work we’re doing to try to find Kathy,” she said. “I still get messages from people who say ‘Wow, I never knew.’

“The support has been just incredible, just people writing and saying they keep Kathy in their prayers and other people who support me though some difficult times with their offers of ‘Please call,’ ‘We’re here for you,’ things like that.”

Checks and correspondence can be sent to Silent Observer of Allegan County C/O Allegan County Treasurer, P.O. Box 259, Allegan, MI 49010. Checks should be made out to Silent Observer of Allegan County.


Checks need to be followed by an email to mlarsen@allegancounty.org so Capt. Mike Larsen can tally the amount earmarked to help find Kathy Sue Wilcox.

Gathering held for Kathy Sue Wilcox sees a good turnout

Daniel Pepper, Interim Editor

Kathy Sue Wilcox may have been missing for 42 years, but more than that many people cared to remember her.

A gathering organized by those who have been pushing to bring attention to Allegan County’s oldest missing persons case had about 50 friends, family and others at Northside Park in Otsego Thursday, July 17.

“I’m blown away,” said Karen Ortegel, Wilcox’s sister. “I worried they wouldn’t come.”

Ortegel, came from her home in Montana, said she found the event different than she’d thought, or feared.

“It’s been very different than what I thought,” Ortegel said. “I thought I’d cry the whole time, but I’ve been too busy talking to people.”

She spent the evening speaking to person after person, hearing different things about her sister. A box for people to add memories on notes was also offered.

Shannon Froeber, the Otsego native who went about raising interest in the case after learning about it a few years ago, said she was glad to be there.

“I’d hope someone would do it for me if I went missing,” Froeber said. “Keep bringing me up.”

Otsego Police Department Det. Bruce Beckman is the officer assigned to the case. He attended and spoke to the crowd.

“I’m here asking for information,” Beckman said. “If someone hasn’t said something in the last 40 years, now’s the time to do it.”

Beckman said he hoped someone would be moved to come forward.

“I’ve always been told it’s not a secret if two people know about it,” he said.

Anyone with information can contact Beckman and the Otsego Police Department at (269) 692-6111 or call Silent Observer at 1-855-SILENT-O.

David Schock, who runs the website Delayed Justice, repeated the truism “Somebody knows something” as he spoke and talked about hope.

“There’s no such thing as false hope,” Schock said. “If it’s hope, it’s true.

“It can be dashed or disappointed, but hope is always worth having.”


Remembrance planned for Kathy Sue Wilcox

July 7, 2014 – 15:10

tumblr_n8plh4waXU1ra61lmo5_r1_400Daniel Pepper, Interim Editor

Those seeking to remember Kathy Sue Wilcox plan to mark the anniversary of her disappearance this year.

Shannon Froeber is organizing a community gathering for Thursday, July 17, at 6 p.m. in Northside Park in Otsego.

“It’ll officially be 42 years that day,” Froeber said. “Hopefully people will want to get together and discuss memories.”

Froeber is an Otsego native and was inspired to start trying to raise awareness of Wilcox’s disappearance after learning about and realizing it was not widely known—or widely-discussed—in the community.

“We just want to get together and continue to spread her name, spread our faith and just spread awareness,” Froeber said.

Karen Ortegel, Kathy Sue Wilcox’s sister, said she plans to come to Otsego for the gathering.

“The purpose and the goal is to honor my sister, whose life mattered,” Ortegel said. “To give people everywhere that knew her, know her and ever thought about her an opportunity to join in person or in spirit and let her know that her life mattered.

“It’s a day to celebrate her life. It’s a day to share stories about her… A day to join hands together in spirit and promote awareness that she’s been gone for 42 years.”

Wilcox was 15 in 1972 when she left home after an argument one afternoon and wasn’t seen by her family again.

Police at the time found a few people who said they’d seen her around town, but were unable to find her.

Ortegel said for her the habit of not speaking about her sister has been broken. She said staying silent was fed by alcoholism in her family and its effects on those nearby.

“I’ve been silent for too many years because of the huge no talk rule with alcoholism and the power of the dark side,” Ortegel said.

She credits her faith both with helping her and inspiring others to talk about her sister.

“I’m walking on in faith and walking in the great spiritual light,” she said.

She intends to keep doing so.

“It’s kind of amazing, the healing that comes from talking,” Ortegel said. “It’s powerful, it changes lives.

She also gave credit to Froeber for what she’s created.

“She continues to say yes, yes and let that light shine brightly,” Ortegel said.

David Schock, who operates the website Delayed Justice, also helped and inspired the idea of a community gathering, she said.

The gathering could also remind other people with missing loved ones of what is possible.

“For those other people who have a family member or a friend missing, I have a great hope that one of the things we’re doing might possibly inspire hope for those families,” Ortegel said.

The gathering could also serve a purpose of getting someone to come forward with something they know.

“Someone knows something, that’s the possibility I hope that it will touch someone’s heart and they’ll make an anonymous call,” Ortegel said. “But mostly it’s to celebrate her life and get together to celebrate who she was and that she touched other’s lives.”

She said she still thinks her sister’s disappearance is somewhat unknown in Otsego and hopes the efforts can continue to work on that.

Froeber said, “42 years is long enough. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Somebody knows something.

“I’m hoping anybody who knows anything. Even if it’s just something little, they may not think it’s useful, but you never know.”

For her also, though, that wasn’t the only reason, but rather an adjunct to remembering Kathy Sue Wilcox.

“That’s part of the reason we’re going to do the gathering, besides Facebook, is to still spread her face and keep the fire going,” Froeber said. “And, of course, to remember her and who she was and why she’s an important person and she shouldn’t be forgotten.”

She said everyone was welcome at the gathering, whether they had a memory they wanted to share or just wanted to show support.

Northside Park is located at 330 16th St. (Watson Road) in Otsego.

Clues sought in Otsego teen’s 1972 disappearance


Kathy Sue Wilcox is the longest missing person case in Allegan County
Daniel Pepper, Interim Editor

Among Allegan County’s missing people, Kathy Sue Wilcox—last seen in Otsego in 1972—has been gone the longest.

Wilcox, then 15, apparently ran away from home after an argument and has not been heard from by her family since.
“We assumed that she was angry and would just walk around the block and come home—that kind of thing,” said Karen Ortegel, her sister.
But it didn’t happen and it’s now 42 years since anyone is known to have seen her.
The police investigation at the time didn’t find her. According to records, officers talked to a few people who’d seen Wilcox around town near that time, but no trace of her was located.
In 2011, a Hamilton-area woman, Shannon Froeber, noticed the name Kathy Sue Wilcox on a state missing persons web site.
“I was in shock, because the whole time I was in school I’d gone to Otsego and I’d never heard anything about her,” Froeber said.
She eventually decided to create a Facebook page to get people talking and try to encourage any information to come out by spreading Wilcox’s face and story.
“I just couldn’t believe a person can just walk out of her home and just not be seen,” Froeber said.
Initially, Froeber left a few comments on web sites, trying to encourage television stations to pick up the story and asking for information.
One of those comments led Ortegel—who now lives in Montana—who said she often does Google searches on her sisters name, to Froeber and they talked back and forth.
“For some reason, she’s been inspired to pick up this cause and she’s doing it,” Ortegel said. “As far as I believe she has no personal gain, she’s just been inspired to do it.
She said Froeber had asked her if it was okay to create the Facebook page.
“I think this is the first time ever there’s been any interest in promoting awareness,” Ortegel said.
David Schock, who runs the website Delayed Justice, also spent time communicating with her, Ortegel said, and helped her come up with a way to deal with her feelings about her sister.
“His website is so full of hope,” Ortegel said.
She always assumed her sister had run away and started a new life somewhere.
“I’ve always had the great hope that she’s out there somewhere,” Ortegel said. “I always shut out the fact of allowing myself to think otherwise.
“Maybe that sounds unrealistic, but I didn’t have any other answers and I couldn’t think otherwise.”
Recently, she has come to think much more about the possibility her sister is dead. The first time it really hit her was when she went to give a DNA sample to join ones given by her brother and her late father so law enforcement could have all three on file.
“It was hard to sit there for a few minutes and realize that I’m not doing this to prove that she’s alive, this would be to verify remains,” Ortegel said. “As that awareness was washing over me, tears came to my eyes. I held it together until the end; he asked me a question and  I just started crying.
“I got out to my car and I just was sobbing. I had an awareness that I had to look at that as a possibility. It was really hard, because it was the first time I thought that might be a possibility.”
Still, she says that isn’t all she thinks.
“I have great hope, period,” Ortegel said. “I still have great hope, even though I have that awareness, I still have great hope.
“Hope remains. I’ve always said that. I want to hold onto that hope. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I have hope for today.”
She hopes someone will come forward and tell what they know.
“I believe with all my heart that somebody knows something and that’s my great hope,” Ortegel said. “It’s my great hope that somebody will find it within themselves to come forward. “
Det. Bruce Beckman is the contact at the Otsego Police Department who has charge of the case. He agreed with Froeber that it didn’t seem well-known in town.
“I started in (19)77 and I had no idea about this until someone mentioned in 1993,” Beckman said.
The main steps taken recently on the case have been to get DNA for the database. Beckman was part of a countywide cold case team a few years ago which solved several decade-or-older murder cases. He said they’d started to look into Wilcox’s disappearance right around the end of the team, when funding ran out.
Doing much reinvestigating, he said, was also complicated because some of people named as possibly seeing Wilcox after she left home or being seen with her are out of town.
“There may be a possibility of interviewing a few different people, but they aren’t in this state,” he said. “It’s a matter of sending someone to talk to them.”
Beckman said he’d spoken to a woman recently who’d called because she thought she was Kathy Sue Wilcox, but the details she gave didn’t match anything and it became clear she couldn’t be but thought she resembled an age-progressed photo.
He said it certainly couldn’t hurt to have the case publicized again.
Froeber said she wants to accomplish getting it talked about again, as a way of maybe finding out what happened.
“I just thought, this is the least I can do, as far as post her picture and do something to raise awareness,” she said.