The Veronica Blumhorst Case, Part 5: A key phone call and a few bunk leads

Editor’s note: The following is the fifth installment in a series about the disappearance of 21-year-old Veronica Blumhorst, who vanished Sept. 20, 1990, after finishing her shift at a Mendota, Illinois, grocery store. Her car was found in her garage less than a mile away. It is believed she had only $10 on her when she vanished. 

By Jim Hagerty
Reporter

MENDOTA – For all but one employee of Dempsey’s SuperValu, Sept. 19, 1990, was just another day. For Veronica Blumhorst, it marked the last time she’d ever punch in at the small-town grocery store.

Blumhorst, 21, arrived at work just before 5 p.m. and began her shift like she always did. However, Sept. 19 was Veronica’s first day back after being out with mononucleosis and, according to co-workers, she hadn’t fully recovered. Sharon Vandiver, who worked with her that night, repeatedly mentioned how sick she appeared.

“Sharon said several times that (Veronica) was really sick and did not think she would be in on Sept. 20,”  Menodta Police officer Lonnie Kent said in a report. “(Veronica) took one of her pills at 12:00.”

According to Vandiver, Veronica’s older sister visited her around 9:30 p.m., presumably to discuss a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the next day. That was about the time Veronica’s boyfriend says Veronica called and told him about that appointment.

Police also followed up on a report that co-worker Jason Stephenitch was overheard at 11 p.m., telling Veronica he’d be back at 1 a.m. to pick her up. Stephenitch denied the claim.

“Jason stated that he did talk to her but does not remember saying anything like that,” Mendota Police Investigator John Pakenham’s report said. “Jason sated that he would like to take a polygraph.”

When their shifts ended around 1 a.m., Veronica rented a movie before she and Vandiver exited the store.

“They walked to their autos, which were parked on the west side of the SuperValu parking lot,” Pakenham said. “Sharon stated that Veronica left the parking lot first after they warmed their autos up to get fog off the windshields. Veronica drove north out of the parking lot onto Meriden Street and went east. That’s the last time Veronica was seen.”

Todd Blumhorst told The Times before his death in 2013 that the nature of his sister’s Sept. 20 doctor’s appointment is steeped in speculation. Some, including their mother, Betty, say it pertained to lingering mono. Others, because her boyfriend told police about a possible pregnancy, believe it was something else altogether. Although whether Veronica was in a delicate way may never be confirmed, the conversation she had with her boyfriend Sept. 19 could be a key to unlock important evidence. Does the time of her sister’s visit coincide with the phone call? Did her boyfriend “lose his mind” as he speculated, when he learned he may have fathered a child?

Sightings

No missing persons case is without an occasional lead that goes nowhere. In facts, they’re ample, sometimes too many to count. Veronica Blumhorst’s disappearance was no exception. Soon after she vanished and missing posters were distributed throughout northern Illinois and beyond, people who claimed they’s seen her began to emerge.

In October 1990, a Rockford woman reported seeing a woman matching Veronica’s description at a nearby park. Immediately canvassing the area, Rockford officers did not locate anyone.

Dec. 3, 1990, a truck driver stranded in Madison, Wisconsin, said he had been speaking to a blonde woman at a truck stop. The woman was driving a red, two-door Ford Escort and told him she was from Wisconsin Rapids. After seeing Veronica’s missing poster at another truck stop two days later, the man told police she was the woman he spoke to in Madison. She was wearing blue jeans and a long coat. She was approximately 5-6 or shorter, the trucker told police.

“(He) stated that if it wasn’t Veronica, she has a twin,” Pakenham said.

Veronica’s car was a blue 1989 Chevy Corsica, found parked in her garage the morning of Sept. 20.

In April 1991, police received a tip from a woman in Chicago, a bartender at Clark Street tavern, who said a woman matching Veronica’s description had been coming in for the past week. The woman, about 5-feet, 100 pounds, wore a leather jacket and would arrive 1 a.m., and stay for an hour or two.

“(The bartender) said that in speaking to this female, she believes that the female is trying to look ‘tough,’ but does not seem to be that kind of girl,” Pakenham said.

According to the bartender, who saw Veronica’s picture on a milk carton, the blonde produced an Illinois ID bearing the name Joy. She could not remember the woman’s last name, only that that she went by Jan.

Asking another patron for help gleaning information from the woman, the bartender said the woman stated that she attended public high school in Oak Lawn. The bartender, who grew up in Oak Lawn, mentioned the name of the only public high school. The stranger’s answer further puzzled the barmaid.

“The female said that was not the high school she went to,” Pakenham wrote in his report.

Police later spoke to the woman and concluded she was not Veronica. Another possible Chicago sighting also did not check out, nor did a report out of Montgomery, Alabama.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Veronica Blumhorst is urged to contact the Mendota Police Department at 815-539-9331 and mendotapd@mendotapolice.com.

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