By Jim Hagerty
MENDOTA, Ill. – It’s been 29 years since a 21-year-old grocery clerk left her shift and disappeared into the darkness of a fall Midwestern night.
That’s seemingly what happened to Veronica Blumhorst in late September 1990 when she walked out of Dempsey’s Super Valu.
Although it has been known for women to fall victims of the Ted Bundys of the world or meet other grisly fates depicted in horror movies, Veronica’s case doesn’t appear to have those makings at least not according to how events began to unfold the day her family discovered she was missing.
It was the morning of Sept. 20. Sixteen-year-old Todd Blumhorst was waiting for his sister to come downstairs to drive him to school because his car needed a brake job. But she never did.
“Her car was in the garage, and I figured she was getting ready up in her room,” Todd said before he died from cancer in 2013. “When I realized she wasn’t home, I called Dad and said, ‘Veronica isn’t here.’ Dad told me to just take my car to school and he would look for Veronica.”
Paul and Betty Blumhorst eventually realized that morning that their daughter parked her car in the garage but never came into the house after her shift at the store. Droves of Mendota residents also got word and gathered outside their Monroe Street home willing to help. The crowd included local police officers, neighboring law enforcement and emergency teams.
The crowd included a man Veronica was dating, who seemed to oddly insert himself into the situation from the onset. He also made chilling statements to the Mendota Police Department but was never taken into custody.
Some of those statements were centered on his theory about what may have happened to his girlfriend and how he may have had something to do with it. He couldn’t be sure though, because he experienced memory loss after an injury suffered in a motorcycle accident.
“Maybe I thought when she told me on the phone that night her sister was taking her to a doctor’s appointment that she was pregnant,” the boyfriend said. “And I drove down there, pulled up in (the) alley and she got into a van–no, a truck– and we argued. And maybe I was afraid of what our parents would say, and I did something. I don’t remember.”
The man went on to say, “Maybe I was the person who picked her up, and I thought she was pregnant, and she thought she was pregnant, and I lost mind.”
He also placed himself with Veronica the day she started her shift at Super Valu, making him one of the last people to see her.
On Sept. 19, he said, he drove his father’s van to Veronica’s house. He then used Veronica’s car to run errands. He later returned to car to the Blumhorst home.
He said he was in his van at around 4:40 p.m., when he saw Veronica leaving for work, so he drove to Super Valu and waited for her to park. When Veronica pulled into the lot, he said he inched next to her vehicle and the two mouthed “I love you.” He then drove home to nearby Sublette, Illinois, and didn’t talk to Veronica until 9:30 p.m. She called him the work, he said, and they discussed having lunch after her Sept. 20 doctor’s appointment. He then watched a move and fell asleep at 1:30 a.m.
Veronica’s boyfriend, an employee at a local newspaper, said he called Veronica’s house the next day to confirm their lunch date but was told by Paul Blumhorst that she was not home. He says he then started looking for her around town, checking in with people who may have seen her. Nobody had. He then called police and gave a series of bizarre statements.
“(He) gave reasons why he might be involved in Veronica being missing, and he also gave ways he thinks it might have happened,” Mendota Police Investigator John Pakenham said in a report.
Those ways included a third-person theory like the one he laid out about his possible involvement.
“Maybe someone she knew in a van–no, a truck–drove up by her garage, and she got into the vehicle with them,” he said. “Maybe they got (to) fooling around, and maybe she said ‘no,’ and she was pushed or shoved and got hurt real bad. And then he dumped her somewhere where no one would find her. Also, it’s possible that when she got off work, she took her red smock and placed it over the passenger’s front seat, and someone may have taken it and put it around her head and did something.”
Veronica’s work smock has never been found, neither has a video she rented from Super Valu before she punched out.
In the days after police interviewed Veronica’s boyfriend, her family said his behavior raised some red flags.
“He wouldn’t leave our house,” Paul said. “We didn’t think much of it at first, but then he would just lay on our couch in a fetal position. I think he went home to shower but other than that, he was at our house all the time.”
Then things got more peculiar, Paul said.
“He was constantly asking how the investigation was going,” Blumhorst said. “Then he started answering our phone when it would ring. We thought that was very strange.”
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Veronica Blumhorst is urged to contact the Mendota Police Department at 815-539-9331 and firstname.lastname@example.org.