I recently read about Diana Braungardt, an 18-year-old who disappeared in 1987 after a shift at a Venture store (similar to Target in the 80s) in Crystal City, Missouri.
Diana completed her shift, and by all accounts, was planning to go home to study for a test. When she didn’t show up, her parents began calling her friends in the middle of the night. Her yellow Ford Escort was found untouched in the parking lot. Her purse was missing.
Another interesting fact I read in an old article: Two weeks prior, another Venture employee had their tires slashed.
As of 2012, there is one unnamed local suspect whom police haven’t completely cleared, but he hasn’t been charged, either, and is currently in prison for another crime.
A woman claims she saw Diana talking to a man in the parking lot at the end of her shift. This unnamed person matches the description of the man in the parking lot.
I also read that police were interested in finding her last customer of the day, a short-ish (5’5″) man with dark hair and acne, but I couldn’t find any information as to if he had ever been found.
My first thought after reading her story was the I-70 Killer, since as a child I lived in Missouri and I remember I-70 running through the St. Louis area.
Not an exact match up, but not crazy dissimilar either. I couldn’t find anything about the height of the man seen in the parking lot of Twin City Mall. The I-70 Killer is described as average height (5’7-5’9). Considering the sketches were four years apart, it isn’t a bad match-up. They are also both described as in their 20s.
There is also a discrepancy in appearance– the suspect at Twin City Mall was described as brunette while I-70 is considered to have “sandy blonde” hair.
Festus/Crystal City isn’t exactly on I-70 though. But it is fairly close, about 38 miles. He is also a suspect in a 1992 murder that happened in St. Charles, Missouri, which was about 22 miles from I-70.
Of course, there are other problems with this theory. I can’t find an evidence that the I-70 killer abducted anyone. All of the other suspected I-70 victims were killed in their workplace, not removed.
I also haven’t seen any evidence that he was active anytime other than 1992-1994. And, obviously, we don’t know who the I-70 Killer is, or where he accessed I-70 from– who knows, he could have been a resident of the St. Louis area.
I still think it is a worthwhile theory, considering Diana was a clerk, and the Venture store wasn’t that far off of I-70. The I-70’s victims tended to be petite, dark-haired women, which describes Diana Braungardt, who only weighed 108 pounds.