14-year-old Beth Miller typically went jogging with at least one other person.
Beth had been invited to try out for the varsity basketball team in Idaho Springs, Colorado, and so had set a goal to be in the best shape possible before the season started in late fall of 1983.
But on Tuesday August 16, 1983, Beth apparently went jogging alone.
She was never seen again.Listen to “Idaho Springs Jogger” on Spreaker.
Beth Miller was one of seven children born to Mike and Ilene Miller.
Mike worked for a local mining company, while Ilene worked in an administrative role for the Colorado State Patrol.
Both of Beth’s parents were initially under the impression that she was babysitting on August 16, although Beth hadn’t communicated this with a note on a chalkboard in the kitchen like she normally would. The Millers were a large family, with a schedule full of athletic, school, and social obligations. Living in a time of landline telephones and stamped letters, the family communicated their daily comings and goings by writing notes on a blackboard in the kitchen.
The last family member to have seen Beth on August 16 seems to have been her younger sister, then 13-year-old Lisa.
As Mike and Ilene learned that Beth hadn’t been babysitting, the parents asked Lisa her sister’s whereabouts. Lisa didn’t know, but it was soon determined that Beth had gone on a jog, as she often did in preparation for the coming school year’s basketball season.
Lynn McLaughlin, another of Beth’s sisters, took up the mantle of her case as the years wore on and public information dried up.
“I wanted to be a cop and I wanted to be an investigator on Beth’s case,” Lynn has said. Beth’s sister wanted to know every piece of information about the case as it came in to police; every lead, anything that had been found in the massive search efforts for Beth in the small mountain town.
And so Lynn McLaughlin became first Officer McLaughlin of the Idaho Springs PD, and then Investigator McLaughlin of the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department. She was sworn in eight years after her sister’s disappearance, and came to lead the police investigation into her own sister’s case, for a time.
Having been granted access to the internal police files upon joining the department, Lynn (now retired) probably expected some sort of private revelation or piece of information in the case she could pursue.
That’s not what Lynn found.
“I really think we would have known what happened to Beth if it had been investigated correctly,” McLaughlin, now retired, has said since.
As reported by 9 News:
A 2007 grand jury report about Beth’s disappearance bolsters McLaughlin’s claims. It points to “documents and statements … that were lost or destroyed,” and “jurisdictional disputes” that were “at fault” for “slowing and eventually sabotaging the investigation.”
… Four decades later, McLaughlin said she continues to hope that Beth’s remains will one day be found, and prays that anyone with any information about what happened to her little sister will come forward while they can.
“Please, please, don’t take it to your grave, don’t take it with you.”9News.com
The week following Tuesday August 16, 1983 brought hundreds of searchers working the Clear Creek County mountains on horseback, ATVs, and on foot in search of Elizabeth Miller. Mountain rescue teams, dogs, and helicopters would eventually become involved in the search efforts as well.
In the meantime, Beth’s sisters worked with “an investigator trained in hypnosis” in a desperate attempt to generate leads or suspects.
It was a long shot, but not entirely without substance: a witness had reportedly seen a man in a small, red pickup talking with Beth in Idaho Springs the weekend prior to her disappearance (3-4 days before).
The truck supposedly carried a white shell or topper, and out of state license plates (dark blue and white, or black and white plates).
Beth seems to have mentioned this encounter to some of her friends. After her disappearance, they provided to police that the man had given his name as ‘Claude’, and described him as being in his early 30s, with light brown or sandy colored collar-length hair.
In addition to the rugged terrain and open country surrounding the mountain community that needed searching, Idaho Springs lies along Interstate 70 between the Denver metro area and the Continental Divide. This brings more attention to the possibility of someone from outside the area being involved in the abduction.
As such, the vehicle description was helpful, to a point.
As this sampling of 1983 commercial passenger vehicle plates illustrates, the description of a vehicle driven by a man who’d been seen talking with her the previous weekend has limitations as a lead.
Beth’s parents found it unlikely that she could have been abducted by a stranger. All the Miller children had been taught “since they were babies” to avoid strangers, Beth’s parents said, and they believed Beth was capable of putting up a fight, or at least create a commotion if someone attempted to forcibly abduct her.
They did acknowledge it was possible that Beth may have entered the vehicle of someone she knew or trusted (or had reason to trust) on her own.
Volunteers and professional searched Devil’s Canyon near Mount Evans. Southwest of Idaho Springs, near Lamertine Mine, Trail Creek and Spring Gulch Road over several days.
The formal search for Beth Miller was scaled back after week, but lasted longer in some form as Beth’s friends and family continued combing the mountain surrounding Idaho Springs on their own.
All search efforts were ultimately fruitless.
Desperate for leads, police began accepting information from psychics across the country. More than 300 calls were fielded from individuals claiming to have some sort of clairvoyant knowledge of the case.
By the following summer, police claimed to have pursued “thousands” of leads in the case.
Writing On The Wall
(Idaho Springs and Colorado Springs are separated by 100 miles, or a 90 minute drive)
Nearly a year following Beth Miller’s disappearance from Idaho Springs, Colorado events in a different part of the state brought new attention to the disappearance of the ‘Idaho Springs jogger’.
On July 24, 1984, a written message was found on a metal panel at a Colorado Springs car wash. The message was a purported confession from Beth Miller’s killer.
The message was signed “Robert Storm”, and it took credit for Beth Miller’s murder the previous summer, as well as announcing plans to murder again.
The killer claimed in the writing to already have another victim in mind: a 17-year-old girl named Shawna Webb.
And, indeed, by the time this communication at the car wash had been found, Shawna Webb had been murdered.
Her body was found alongside a rural road 10 miles outside of Colorado Springs. She’d been shot in the temple with a single .22 caliber bullet. No other trauma to the body was indicated from her autopsy.
Shawna’s murder had occurred on May 5, 1984. The following day, 18-year-old Robert Arnold Storm had been arrested and charged with second degree murder, for which he was later convicted.
Friends of Arnold Storm testified that he had recently been upset with Shawna’s refusal to go to prom with him. One of Shawna’s friends testified that Arnold had called Shawna a week before her murder and told her that she would be sacrificed to the devil.
All of the above occurred months before the communication, ostensibly written by Storm himself, had been found at the car wash; but when the dots were finally connected, authorities expressed great skepticism that Storm had anything to do with Beth Miller’s disappearance the summer prior.
Of these developments, a sheriff’s lieutenant told the media: “it does not appear to be the same Beth Miller.”
Sightings And Sidetracks
Distribution of approximately 100,000 fliers containing Beth’s image and information across the country generated a December 1984 lead of a female in Little Rock, Arkansas who resembled Beth.
She was questioned by police, but was not Beth Miller.
A similar sighting the following year prompted the Millers to drop everything and fly to Florida in the middle of the night to meet another girl who’d reluctantly admitted to local police that she was Beth Miller.
She also was not Beth Miller, and Mike and Ilene flew home to Colorado freshly heartbroken and devastated once again.
In 1985, police in San Francisco received an anonymous tip that Beth was being held captive at a specific apartment building in the Bay Area. The apartment complex mentioned was never located, and police believe the tip may have been a hoax following recent publicity of the case in Parade Magazine.
Human trafficking was also explored in Beth’s case. Authorities investigated a “highway slave ring” believed to be operating at various interstate truck stops. That possibility, while terrifying for any parent, would also suggest a hope of Beth still being alive, and Mike and Ilene Miller believed it might have a connection to her case.
Most of the Millers’ hope for finding their daughter alive had evaporated by 1985. But the Millers used their experience and perspective to counsel families of other missing girls. They shared tips and advice, and pooled resources when possible.
After more than 10 years, Beth Miller was declared legally dead, and a memorial service was held for her in August 1995.
X Marks The Spot?
In 1998, authorities investigating the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado encountered a possible lead in the Beth Miller case.
In December 1997, 35-year-old James Partin of Columbus, Ohio was arrested for distributing child pornography. He came to the attention of investigators in the JonBenet Ramsey case when it was learned that Partin possessed a photo of JonBenet Ramsey.
JonBenet had been murdered in her home a year before Partin’s arrest, and her case ignited one of the largest media firestorm in American true crime history. Thus, it may not be suspicious that Partin possessed a photograph of JonBenet. Police do not believe Partin was involved in the JonBenet Ramsey homicide.
However, among the items found in a search Partin’s Ohio home was a much more intriguing potential link to the Beth Miller case: a 15-year-old newspaper clipping covering Beth’s disappearance, as well a map of the Idaho Springs area, reportedly containing three X’s at different locations.
Police learned that James Partin had once lived in Idaho Springs, and was serving in the Army and stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado when Beth disappeared.
Partin faced up to 21 years on the child pornography counts in Ohio.
He was sentenced to five years, and released after serving two months. He was required to serve five years probation after release.
In addition to Colorado authorities’ interest in speaking to Partin about the Beth Miller case, police in Ohio were interested in speaking with him about the disappearance of Erica Baker.
9-year-old Erica Baker disappeared from Kettering, Ohio while walking her dog on February 7, 1999. Erica was never seen again, and her case remains unsolved today.
At the time of Erica’s disappearance, police say James Partin was living with his parents in Kettering, just a few miles miles from Erica’s last known location.
Partin was found to be in possession of additional child porn images in 2004, and was sentenced to a mandatory 10 years in prison following a second offense.
A Sister’s Investigation
“I’m not young anymore, and I’d like to know what happened to Beth,” Miller’s sister, Lynn McLaughlin, told Fox News Digital in 2023.
“And I want to be able to tell Mom, who’s not a spring chicken, either — I’d like to be able to tell her, ‘This is what happened to Beth, and this is where she’s buried. Let’s go get her and give her a good Christian burial.’
McLaughlin named two potential suspects in Miller’s disappearance who were never charged as Edward Apodaca, a former law enforcement officer, and his former girlfriend, Viola Moya. Apodaca lived nearby, and owned a red pickup truck similar to the one the witness described at the time of Miller’s vanishing.
Moya apparently gave a statement to an investigator in 1993 saying they had dismembered the 14-year-old and buried her remains.
So McLaughlin, as a CCCSO investigator, went to the alleged burial site with other investigators, began to dig and eventually found a “t-shirt similar to the one Beth was wearing at the time of her disappearance.”
She went to the sheriff at the time and told him what she had discovered. When she returned to the scene, a large piece of equipment had been moved over the apparent burial site, obstructing McLaughlin’s access to anything of potential importance in her sister’s case. The man operating the equipment told McLaughlin that he was taking “orders from the sheriff,” she said.
“I can’t remember if it was a bulldozer or a backhoe or what it was, but it was covering up everything, and it completely — the trees, bushes, everything was gone where we had markers [that] the bloodhounds had alerted,” she recalled.
When McLaughlin confronted the sheriff, she was told she “would be charged with interfering with an investigation, with trespass and a list of charges” if she “ever went back to that site again.”
“That was the end,” she said.
Apodaca’s wife and her mother killed him in New Mexico in 1990, according to The Denver Post. Moya had grown old and was considered too incapacitated to be questioned or charged, McLaughlin said.
… “I know whoever did it — they’ll still face their best judgment time when they die,” she said.FOX News Digital
Beth Miller was described as being blonde, blue-eyed, 5-foot-4 and 105 pounds in 1983. She was last seen wearing a blue t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes.
According to officials, to date, no physical evidence or remains have ever been found.
Anyone with information regarding this case, is asked to please contact the Idaho Springs Police Department, or the CBI at 303-239-4244.
Sources for this post & episode include: KUSA-TV/9 News, the Associated Press, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, and the Rocky Mountain News.